Top Comics to Buy for March 13, 2019 - Catwoman, House Amok, Little Bird, and more

By Zack Quaintance — Phew, I just flew home from SXSW and boy are my arms exhausted! Kidding. That was incredibly lame and also I’m still physically at SXSW for one more day, but, you know, you can use the Internet from anywhere, so let nothing get in the way of our comics recommendations. How are the comics this week? Well, we’ve got a good mix of solid beginnings and exciting endings.

In the finale column, we have Cover and House Amok, which regular readers will likely recognize as two of our favorites around these part, with the former being an intimate and gorgeous meta take on the industry and the latter an unnerving dive into shared familial psychosis. Most notably in the debuts column we have Little Bird, which is quite possibly poised to be the best new comic of the year (stay tuned for an interview with the book’s creators later this week). So there, stage set for another great week.

Now, let’s take a look at the comics!

Top Comics to Buy for March 13, 2019

*PICK OF THE WEEK*
Little Bird #1 (
read our full review!)
Writer:
Darcy Van Poelgeest
Artist: Ian Bertram
Colorist: Matt Hollingsworth
Letterer: Aditya Bidikar
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99
MINISERIES PREMIERE!
Director/screenwriter DARCY VAN POELGEEST boasts a long list of awards and accolades for his storytelling prowess and brings the same writing finesse to IAN BERTRAM's breathtakingly detailed artwork in the gorgeous, hyper-detailed miniseries LITTLE BIRD.
Why It’s Cool: Is it enough to just say that this debut issue absolutely rules and these creators are destined to be stars? Because that’s first and foremost why this book is cool, but if you need more (and still haven’t read our Little Bird #1 review), I can also go on to tell you that this is a new #1 that absolutely brims with electric story, as ambitious as it is tense and beautiful, this is as imaginative as a comic as we’ve seen all year. It’s very very good, and you’ll want to get a copy now before it sells out and starts going for major bucks on eBay.

Catwoman #9
Writer:
Ram V.
Artist: John Timms
Letterer: Josh Reed
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99
When crooks break into the pawn shop where Catwoman has set up her secret headquarters, they make off with a personal item that she has to get back. The trail of loot leads her to the Broker, the man who moves all illicit merchandise in Villa Hermosa. Now, Catwoman could just walk in and ask for her property back, but that's never been Catwoman's style. Instead, she's going to pull off a heist that will teach her foe a lesson, making sure the Broker never crosses the Cat ever again. This special one-off issue is written by acclaimed writer Ram V. (BATMAN: SECRET FILES) and artist John Timms (HARLEY QUINN).
Why It’s Cool: We’ve been calling this run of Catwoman underrated for weeks, and we’d like to reiterate that again here before moving on to discussing this individual issue. Catwoman #9 is essentially a break issue for the normal creative team of Joelle Jones (singular...although she’s been spelled lately by Elena Casagrande and Fernando Blanco), presumably so she can write and draw forthcoming issues. What’s nice is DC has brought in rising star writer Ram V., fresh off a fantastic Batman one shot story in the recent Secret Files one-shot. Ram V. is a favorite of ours from his creator-owned work, and this one-off issue is a great example of why. Highly recommended!

House Amok #5
Writer:
Christopher Sebela
Artist: Shawn McManus
Letterer: Neil Uyetake
Publisher: IDW - Black Crown
Price: $3.99
Read our review of House Amok #1
Ten-year-old twin Dylan Sandifer is now in the driver's seat of more than the converted old school bus her family called home for a summer murder spree. Will she turn on her family and the sacred bond between twins and break free from the shared madness? Conspiracy theories, organ thieves, and secret histories collide in the explosive final issue!
Why It’s Cool: This second wave of IDW - Black Crown titles—Euthanauts, Lodger, and House Amok—can do no wrong, as far as we’re concerned. They’ve all been consistently excellent while also bringing something new to the imprint. In the case of House Amok, that something has been nuanced and complex psychological drama, centered on an actual affliction that has to do with shared psychosis...and then filtered back by a little girl protagonist who breaks free and recognizes something is wrong. It’s a lot, and it’s all written and drawn to nigh-perfection by Christopher Sebela and Shawn McManus, respectively. This issue marks the House Amok finale, and we are as delighted as we are scared to find out what it holds.  

Livewire #4
Writer:
Vita Ayala
Artists: Raul Allen with Patricia Martin
Letterer: Saida Temofonte
Publisher: Valiant Comics
Price: $3.99
Read our review of Livewire #3!
Once, Livewire dreamed of devoting herself to the betterment of humankind. Now, her most steadfastly held ideals are about to be tested like never before as she struggles to stay alive in the clutches of a fearsome new foe! But who is the mysterious psiot mercenary hunting her...and more importantly, who do they work for?
Why It’s Cool: The summary text really nails it when it says, Livewire’s “most steadfastly held ideals are about to be tested like never before as she struggles to stay alive…”...which could really be a tagline for this entire run to date. Last summer during Valiant’s Harbinger Wars 2 event, protagonist Livewire took some drastic (and violent) measures to protect those close to her, and now this creative team is hellbent on simultaneously making her earn redemption while not backing down from the injustices that forced her hand in the slightest. It’s a tour de force in powerful storytelling, and it’s making Livewire one of our favorite superhero comics, month in and month out.

Superman #9
Writer:
Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Ivan Reis, Brandon Peterson
Inker: Joe Prado
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Josh Reed
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99
The secrets of the house of El are revealed as the Unity Saga continues! Traveling through space, young Jon Kent has faced everything the universe could throw at him, but after an accident sends him and his grandfather Jor-El across dimensions, the new Superboy comes face to face with a terrifyingly evil version of his own father: Ultraman and his horrible version of the Justice League, the Crime Syndicate! Find out what happened to Superman's father and how Jon made it back home from this strange and crime-ridden alternate world.
Why It’s Cool: There is just no upper limit on the grandiosity of this run. In fact, the regular creative team of Brian Bendis and Ivan Reis have been upping the scale of this ongoing Unity Saga every issue, introducing more (and more bonkers) ideas into the plot, be it an out-of-his-mind Jor-El, a newly-powerful (and controversially older) Jon Kent, or the evil alternate reality Justice League known as the Crime Syndicate. They’re all coming together here as we get more of the backstory about what transpired in deep space between the three of them. This outsized Superman comic is a nice compliment to the more character-heavy and grounded Action Comics, another current favorite around these parts.

Top New #1 Comics

  • Age of Conan: Belit #1

  • Age of X-Man: Apocalypse and the X-Tracts #1

  • Assassin Nation #1

  • Batman Who Laughs: Grim Knight #1

  • Magnificent Ms. Marvel #1

  • Uncanny X-Men: Winters End #1

Others Receiving Votes

  • Age of X-Man: Marvelous X-Men #2

  • Amazing Spider-Man #17

  • By Night #9

  • Cover #6

  • Hawkman #10

  • Laguardia #4

  • Long Con #7

  • Murder Falcon #6

  • Oblivion Song #13

  • Prodigy #4

  • Shuri #6

  • Supergirl #28

  • Tony Stark: Iron Man #9

  • Wonder Twins #2

  • Wonder Woman #66

Check back to the site later this week for reviews of Assassin Nation #1 (which has a character named F*ck Tarkington), House Amok #5, Magnificent Ms. Marvel #1, and more!

See our past top comics to buy here, and check our our reviews archive here.

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.

Top Comics to Buy for January 16, 2019

By Zack Quaintance — This was an interesting week for comics, in that many of the best creator-owned books coming out were well into their runs or midway into their first arcs. There are, of course, some interesting new #1 titles (there always as are, as that’s where the money is at, and all), including Adventure Time: Simon and Marcy, Black Widow, and Invaders. There’s also Marvel Comics Presents #1, which is the one I’m personally most interested in.

Still, great creator-owned books like Black Badge, Gideon Falls, Lodger, and Wic + Div all seem to be caught mid-arc. So, we’ve done what any good comics recommender would...read the issues and sorted them out and come up with some recommendations—even if there aren’t any good jumping on points to be had, except for Isola (more on that in a moment). We hope you’ll find it all helpful!

And now, onward to the comics!

Top Comics to Buy for January 16, 2019

*PICK OF THE WEEK*
Babyteeth #14
Writer:
Donny Cates
Artist: Garry Brown
Colorist: Mark Englert
Letterer: Taylor Esposito
Publisher: AfterShock Comics
Price: $3.99
So, hey, welcome back, folks. How about that issue 13, huh? I told you it was bananas. Anyway, look, I'd like to be able to tell you this one is easier or nicer somehow, but real-ly...have any issues of this book not been insane and weird? Would you even believe me If I said it was? No. You wouldn't. So, yeah, this issue is more of all that. Plus: BETRAYAL! (Dramatic music cue!)
Why It’s Cool: This issue really teases out writer Donny Cates’ abilities as a humor writer, which were last seen this directly during his first Marvel work on Doctor Strange and Thanos. Meanwhile, artist Garry Brown also gets some great chances to shine here in what is the first issue back after a bit of a break, using his design skills to also get in on the humor tip. It’s not all laughs though—this issue also raises some pretty stark questions about the devil and God, and, by extension, about our concepts of good and evil. Basically, this is the first issue in a while that really makes good on the immense promise Babyteeth had at launch way back when, so much so it makes me absolutely elated I stuck with this series.

Black Panther #8
Writer:
Ta-Nehisi Coates
Artist: Kev Walker
Colorist: Stephane Paitreau
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99
"THE INTERGALACTIC EMPIRE OF WAKANDA: THE GATHERING OF MY NAME" Part 2 For years, the Maroons have lain dormant, planning the next stage of their rebellion. At last, it is time to strike - with a treasure hunt for unstable Vibranium! And with the Black Panther once again in their ranks, they're certain of victory. But what will victory cost? When the chips are down, will the Maroons rise to heroism, or are they doomed by the trauma of their past?
Why It’s Cool: Writer Ta-Nehisi Coates just keeps getting better and better at the comics game, and while his best work may be taking place over in Captain America, his current bonkers intergalactic arc on Black Panther is really no slouch. It’s a bit hard to make out what exactly is going on here—my guess is something funny with a wormhole...thank you to the Shuri title for the tip—but the imagination involved with the story is absolutely off the charts. Kev Walker also returns for another issue, which I’m all about because I thought Black Panther #7 was stunning.  

Electric Warriors #3
Writer:
Steve Orlando
Artist: Travel Foreman
Colorist: Hi-Fi
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99
The revolution starts now! Inceptor accidentally digs too far into the memories of the Electric Warrior from Gil'Dishpan and uncovers a conspiracy at the heart of the Covenant. The planet games are meant to bring profit and keep the various peoples across the galaxies in check, rather than encourage peace and cooperation. If Inceptor can convince the other Warriors of what he's learned, it might just spark the revolution that will free a galaxy.
Why It’s Cool: Simply put, Electric Warriors is the Big 2 comic right now that not enough people are talking about. It’s an impeccably-told future-set tale with a savage sci-fi concept. This issue pushes that concept a step further by—well, I won’t tip into spoiler territory but I will tell you that you should without question be reading this book. Especially if you fancy yourself any sort of DC Comics continuity buff, or even a hardcore DC fan.  

Isola #6
Writers:
Brendan Fletcher / Karl Kerschl
Artists: Karl Kerschl / Msassyk
Letterer: Aditya Bidikar
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99
Olwyn has returned from the land of the dead, but did she return alone? The journey to Isola continues...NOW BI-MONTHLY!
Why It’s Cool: Isola is the best-looking comic coming out today (with apologies to The Dreaming), and this is the start of a new arc. The first trade is out there at the super reasonable $9.99 Image introductory price. It’s also a fairly decompressed comic, which means that with $10 and an afternoon, you can get caught up for this new jumping on point. And trust me when I tell you it’s very much worth. Not only is the art absolutely stunning, but the world is well-built and the characters compelling. The narrative is also paced with a rewarding rate of revelation, doling out enough to stay interesting without ever tipping into overly wordy dumping of exposition.

Superman #7
Writer:
Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Ivan Reis, Brandon Peterson, and Jason Fabok
Inker: Oclair Albert
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99
It's the moment you've been waiting for: the shocking return of the son of Superman! A year spent traveling the stars changed Jon Kent. Are parents Clark and Lois ready for the all-new, all-different Superboy? Secrets are revealed, a new look debuts and Superman's world is changed forever!
Why It’s Cool: There’s a reason that Brian Michael Bendis dueling runs on Action Comics and Superman made our Top 5 Comics of 2018: they’re both really really good. Action grabbed me right away, but I must admit it took just a tiny bit longer for Superman to really reel me in. Now that it has, however, I just can’t get enough of this book. Superman #7 is another fantastic installment with top-tier art and a plot that keeps the pages turning. It also has something that Bendis is proving himself impressively adept at: a new iconic moment largely shaped by logical ways in which the rest of the city, Earth, or galaxy would come to view someone as powerful and benevolent as our guy Clark Kent. These are exciting and special superhero comics, and I feel lucky to be reading them in real time as they come out.

Top New #1 Comics

  • Adventure Time: Simon and Marcy #1

  • Black Hammer Director’s Cut #1

  • Black Widow #1

  • Invaders #1

  • Marvel Comics Presents #1

Others Receiving Votes

  • A Walk Through Hell #7

  • Amazing Spider-Man #13

  • Black Badge #6

  • Catwoman #7

  • Conan the Barbarian #2

  • Detective Comics #996

  • Gideon Falls #10

  • Hawkman #8

  • Ironheart #2

  • Lodger #3

  • Middlewest #3

  • Supergirl #26

  • Venom #10

  • Warning #3

  • Wicked + Divine #41

See our past top comics to buy here, and check our our reviews archive here.

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.


Top Comics of 2018, #1 - #5

By Zack Quaintance —  A difficult thing about a strong year for comics (like this one) is doing a retrospective Best Of list. Now, to be sure, no one mandates websites do rankings. That would be a clear violation of civil liberties. There is, however, a part of the pop culture blogger brain that goes wild for it, whispering all year long...where does this one rank...and if you don’t satisfy that beast—well, bad things happen.

So, here we our with ours, freshly formulated for 2018 by our committee of one. Before we dive into the third and final and (let’s face it) best part, which features in descending order selections #5 to #1 (Top Comics of 2018, #16 - #25 and Top Comics #6 - #15 are also up now, btw), let’s rehash our ground rules:

  • No trades or OGNs: Building out our OGN coverage is a priority for 2019. We’re just not there yet. So, while I absolutely loved work like Tillie Walden’s On a Sunbeam, Box Brown’s Is This Guy For Real? The Unbelievable Andy Kaufman, and Ryan Lindsay and Eric Zawadzki’s Eternal, you won’t find them here. Ideally, next year’s we’ll have an entire post dedicated to OGNs.

  • No webcomics, manga, or newspaper strips: Again, our site is a bit deficient covering these (if you are into these things, we’d love to chat about you writing for us!). I should, of course, mention that in 2018 someone under the pen name Olivia James took over the long-running Nancy strip and did amazing things with it (Sluggo is lit), but, again, you won’t find it on our list.

  • Longevity matters: New this year, you will find what I consider a key stat—how many issues were published this year. Late debut series like Die, Electric Warriors, and Bitter Root have tons of promise. They just haven’t been around enough to be a definitive comic of 2018. Ditto for comics that ended in April or earlier.

There you have it: guiding principles of our Top Comics of 2018. Now, without further adieu, let’s finish this bad hombre!

Top Comics of 2018

The Immortal Hulk by Alex Ross.

5. Immortal Hulk
Writer:
Al Ewing
Artists: Joe Bennett
Inker: Ruy Jose
Colorist: Paul Mounts
Letterer: Cory Petit
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Issues in 2018: 10

The first of the Big 2 titles to make my Top 5 Comics of 2018 is the Al Ewing and Joe Bennett-driven Immortal Hulk, a startlingly-blunt take on a long-time hero that reads more like a creator-owned book than a shared universe corporate story. We’re late in the superhero trajectory, with comics having constructed, deconstructed, and exported the concept to other mediums plenty. Our best modern stories are those that get closest to capturing a character’s core, and rarely has a title done this as well as Immortal Hulk.

At the same time, this book has found a darker place that was always there, taking existing elements and extrapolating them so thoroughly they feel novel. It’s found ground not possible for the sensibilities of the 1960s, Hulk’s heyday. Both artwork and audience have evolved, becoming more sophisticated and thereby allowing Ewing, Bennett, and others to push Hulk further into monster territory while at the same time making Banner the emotional blank slate he was perhaps always meant to be. In this book, Banner is backgrounded, standing in for humanity at large as darker base impulses drag him places no one wants to go (ahem, hell). The Hulk is not the hero—that honor goes to anyone who can live a contented and peaceful life.

On the surface, this comic has also benefited from consistent artwork from Bennett who has needed few guest replacements, plus early chapters that provide satisfying narratives independent of what came before or will come after. This is a bit of a lost art, but still very much welcome, and it’s something that Immortal Hulk did expertly.

This gem by Ryan Sook and Brad Anderson from Action Comics #1006 is quite possibly the comic book page of the year.

4. Action Comics / Man of Steel / Superman
Writer:
Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Patrick Gleason, Yanick Paquette, Ryan Sook, Ivan Reis, w/Doc Shaner, Steve Rude, Jay Fabok, Kevin Maguire, & Adam Hughes
Inkers: Wade Von Grawbadger, Joe Prado, & Oclair Albert
Colorists: Alejandro Sanchez, Nathan Fairbairn, Brad Anderson
Letterers: Josh Reed
Issues in 2018: 5 / 6 / 6

In 2017, Brian Michael Bendis—a leading voice at Marvel Comics for almost 20 years—announced a jump to the distinguished competition, leaving fans with questions that ranged from whether Bendis could thrive there to which titles he would take over. Some suggested this would spark a creative rejuvenation for Bendis, a chance to recapture energy from bygone days. Here’s the thing, though: Bendis had quietly been doing some of his best work at Marvel. Following the stumble that was Civil War II, his Infamous Iron Man, Jessica Jones, and Defenders titles were all excellent.

This is my way of saying I predicted Bendis at DC would be successful. He’s generally praised most for early work on Daredevil, as well as for creating Jessica Jones and Miles Morales (who’s having a moment with new film Into the Spider-Verse). What gets lost is that Bendis is likely the most prolific comic writer of a generation, consistently producing three to five monthly titles and rarely (if ever) suffering delays. As I’ve written, part of what I love about comics is the deadline-driven schedules force creators to just do the damn work, to put forth ideas without belaboring them as one must in film or prose writing. When it comes to embracing child-like excitement, love of comics history, and just doing the damn thing—Bendis is the best.

Still, even I didn’t predict what he’s doing with DC’s Superman titles. Flanked by the best artists to work on the character in decades, Bendis is telling a story that breaks this hero and his mythos down to its core before (seemingly) building it back up with slight tweaks for 2018. His Action Comics, Superman, and Man of Steel miniseries have all felt both classic and progressive as he revels in iconic stature while viscerally having a blast using the DC Universe that’s been off limits for so long. The end result is that both Action and Superman continue to rise, as satisfying as they are epic.

From Monstress #18. Artwork by Sana Takeda.

3. Monstress
Writer:
Marjorie Liu
Artist: Sana Takeda
Letterer: Rus Wooton
Publisher: Image Comics
Issues in 2018: 6

This was the year of Monstress, with Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda’s expansive creator-owned fantasy hitting big at the Eisner’s and (presumably) finding a much larger audience. For fans of the book from the start, it was incredibly rewarding to see this story get its due. Liu’s world-building is phenomenal, drawing loosely from traditions while first and foremost exploring original elements. Takeda’s artwork, meanwhile, is second to no artist keeping as regular a release schedule (save for possibly the great Fiona Staples), with an intricate manga-influenced look that makes every panel of Monstress feel like the product of months of design work.

This year saw Monstress play out its third arc, a grandiose story heavy with confidence. The world-building continues, but it’s not as noticeable as it was in earlier arcs (both of which were also phenomenal, btw). The real focus of the story now is the journey of the main character. Given this is a fantasy comic (the fantasy comic of the decade), we wouldn’t have it any other way.

What started as a revenge story in 2015, has grown into a powerful young woman reckoning with a range of life: her relationship with her history, with her mother, with the mysterious power inside her, with the most responsible way to use it, and with the repercussions for noble actions that grew out of a simple desire to escape oppression and survive.

Black Hammer: Age of Doom, Quantum Age, Doctor Star, and Chtu-Louise.

2. Black Hammer
Black Hammer: Age of Doom / Doctor Star and the Kingdom of Lost Tomorrows /  Quantum Age: From the World of Black Hammer / Black Hammer: Cthu-Louise
Writer:
Jeff Lemire
Artists: Dean Ormston, Rich Tommaso, Max Fiumara, Wilfredo Torres, Emi Lenox
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Letterer: Todd Klein
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Issues in 2018: 7 / 4 / 5 / 1

This past year also saw the establishing of a new superhero universe: Black Hammer. Technically, this homage-heavy universe was created back in 2016 with the advent of Black Hammer #1 from writer Jeff Lemire and artist Dean Ormston. That issue was the start of a specific story. The wider universe grew later, doing so with an adjacent miniseries that broadened the plot in 2016 (Sherlock Frankenstein and the Legion of Evil from Lemire and artist extraordinaire David Rubin).

In 2018, however, we got an even broader expansion. This past year, the Black Hammer universe continued with its main title, while adding two more miniseries and a one-shot. Add to that all kinds of rumors about what’s coming in 2019—from Lemire himself writing/drawing a 12-issue series, to a crossover between Black Hammer and DC Comics—and all signs point to this universe being here to stay. I had a chance to interview Jeff Lemire at San Diego Comic Con, and he agreed, saying as much.

I point this out as a way to note Black Hammer is so well-done that it has found a strong foothold in a market over-saturated by superhero concepts since basically 1970 (if not sooner). This is Lemire in all his brilliant Lemire-ness, following his deepest ideas and tragic lonesome sensibilities. He’s created a tone that allows him to write a few pages of funny before lapsing into full-blown meditations on the nature of generational comic book stories. Shared superhero universes function best with a strong guiding voice or perspective (see Marvel in the ‘60s). Black Hammer is doing just that, and I for one feel lucky to experience it in real time.

Saga #50 (cover by Fiona Staples) finds the family in happier times.

1. Saga
Writer:
Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Fiona Staples
Letterer: Fonografiks
Publisher: Image Comics
Issues in 2018: 6

I’ve written about this often, but it’s easy to take long-running creator-owned comics for granted, forgetting what a rare thing it is to have talented writers and artists string together wholly original stories with only their keyboards and pencils. For many of us, our lifetimes have been marked with a mainstream comic selection dictated by corporations and distributors, plus whatever experimental work was on the fringes. In recent years, this has changed, and, leading that change, has been Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ familial sci-fi epic, Saga.

This year, however, was one in which we were all but forced to stop taking Saga for granted. The first reason for this was Saga’s latest story arc (which ran in issues #49 - #54, and wrapped up in July) was obscenely consequential. I don’t want to give anything away, but $@#% goes down and it’s bad, so bad I wrote about why it hurts, partially to make sense of why I was so devastated. It’s a testament to this story that it can hit such intense emotional beats so far into its run.

Second, the book announced it would be going on a year-long (minimum) hiatus. Obviously, you can’t take something for granted once it leaves you. Kind of bummer (we’re compensating with a year-long Saga re-read), made all the more bumming (is that a word? ah well) by how good the comic got before the announcement. There really is, quite simply, nothing else like Saga, not in terms of the scope of the story, the artful thematic explorations undertaken within, or the industry-best action and design graphics generated a whopping six times a year (or more!) by the massive talent that is Fiona Staples.

This site is dedicated to discussing comic books in thoughtful and analytical ways as the medium enjoys a new golden age. To us, Saga remains the leader of an ongoing renaissance, and a big part of the reason we think it’s so important to volunteer time to cover the artform. It is an absolute honor to give the book and its devastating 2018 story (kind of fitting, in sooooo many ways) our Top Comic of 2018 honor.

Check out Best Comics of 2018, #16 - #25 and Best Comics of 2018, #6 - #15! And check back later in the week for more year-end lists, including our Best Single Issues and our Top Creators of 2018!

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.

Top Modern Superhero Artists: The Sultans of Style at Marvel and DC

By Taylor Pechter — In comics, there’s always debate over what is more important: writing or art. These discussions can go either way, but they almost always conclude that both are equally important in different ways. Writers give characters their personalities, desires, and struggles, while the artists give motion and create a flow to the story. Artists also give characters different body types, faces, and ticks that writers can’t show with words alone. They are, simply put, storytellers in their own right.

Through the many decades of comics history individual artists have helped inform the style of the time. From legends like Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby in the Golden and Silver Ages, to the sleek photorealism of Neal Adams in the Bronze Age, to the incomparable detail of George Perez that helped usher in the Modern Age of comic art. However, in the past 20 years, a handful of artists have helped push the medium forward, while defining the company they belong to. This has been dubbed house style.

Exactly what is considered house style has changed during the past few years, but, even so, what I’d like to look at today are the artists who who have helped define their respective superhero universes.

DC

1. Jim Lee — Arguably the most popular artist of the 1990s, Jim Lee rose to fame drawing the X-Men for Marvel in the early years of the decade before breaking away to form Image and his company, WildStorm Productions. In the late 90s, he sold his company to DC, bringing his signature style over to the brand. Lee’s style contains heavy linework, chiseled jawlines, extreme detail, and dynamic action. This style has helped define the look of the modern DCU by making it grander and more epic in scale. Currently, Lee serves as Chief Creative Officer of DC Entertainment.

Notable Works:

  • Batman: Hush

  • All-Star Batman and Robin: The Boy Wonder

  • Justice League: Origin

  • Superman: Unchained

2. Ivan Reis — Coming to American comics all the way from Sao Paulo, Brazil, Ivan Reis has quickly become the go to event artist for DC of the past decade. Combining the sleekness of Neal Adams, the cinematic flair of Bryan Hitch, and the sheer scale of George Perez, Reis is a defining artist of the current generation. He’s also a notable collaborator with modern DC architect Geoff Johns, and his delicate-yet-cinematic style has helped bring new prominence to characters like Green Lantern and the Teen Titans. He’s currently drawing Superman, which is written by Brian Michael Bendis.

  • Infinite Crisis (With Phil Jimenez, George Perez, and Jerry Ordway)

  • Green Lantern: The Sinestro Corps War

  • Blackest Night

  • Teen Titans: Titans of Tomorrow

3. Gary Frank — English superstar Gary Frank is a roughly 23-year veteran of the business. Frank got his start at DC helping co-create the Birds of Prey team with legendary Bat-scribe Chuck Dixon. He later honed his craft at Marvel, drawing the Incredible Hulk and also collaborating with J. Michael Straczynski, but he eventually returned to DC to become one of, if not the defining Superman artists. With his keen eye for detail, simple-but-effective panel layouts, deep shadows, and expressive faces, Frank has become a favorite of mine and of many others.

Notable Works:

  • Superman: Brainiac

  • Superman: Secret Origin

  • Batman: Earth One

  • Doomsday Clock (currently ongoing)

4. Alex Ross — Arguably the most recognizable artist of this bunch, Chicago-based painter Alex Ross combines the photorealism of Norman Rockwell with the grandeur of the DCU. Ross depicts superheroes the way they were always meant to be seen: standing taller than life in the face of adversity. Using vast landscapes, strong postures, and smiles galore, Ross has become a multimedia sensation, not only drawing comics but also creating posters for film and video games.

  • Kingdom Come

  • The World’s Greatest Super Heroes

  • Justice Society of America: Thy Kingdom Come

5. Jason Fabok — The newest artist on the DC block, Canadian Jason Fabok rose to prominence during DC’s New 52. While starting on smaller stories in Detective Comics, he later became popular via the mega Bat-event Batman Eternal followed by a run on Justice League with Geoff Johns. With his blend of realism, glossy texture, cinematic layouts, and brutal action, Fabok has fast-become one of the most acclaimed DC artists of the decade.

  • Batman Eternal

  • Justice League Darkseid War

  • Batman/Flash: The Button

  • Three Jokers (upcoming)

Marvel

1. Joe Quesada —  Coming from New York City, Joe Quesada, much like his contemporary at DC Jim Lee, had a hand in crafting Marvel’s signature style coming out of the 90’. With inker Jimmy Palmiotti, Quesada redefined what street-level Marvel meant, fueling the creation of Marvel Knights. Quesada’s use of overly exaggerated proportions, dense and heavy shadows, and cartoony-yet-expressive faces is part of the blueprint for Marvel to this day. He now acts as Chief Creative Officer for Marvel Entertainment.

  • Daredevil: Guardian Devil

  • Spider-Man: One More Day

2. David Finch —  Another comics superstar hailing from the Great White North, David Finch started drawing in the late 1990s for Marc Silvestri’s company Top Cow before moving to the House of Ideas in the 2000s. An early collaborator with a young Brian Michael Bendis, Finch’s heavy shadows, musclebound heroes, and cinematic action helped Marvel craft a denser and darker universe. He now works as a freelance artist and is husband to writer Meredith Finch. Most recently he has drawn issues of Tom King’s ongoing run on DC’s Batman.

  • Avengers Disassembled

  • New Avengers: Breakout

  • Moon Knight: The Bottom

  • Ultimatum

3. Steve McNiven — This is the last Canadian artist on this list, I promise. McNiven has been a Marvel mainstay since the early 2000s, when he did many covers for the publisher. His big break, however, came in 2006, when he was tapped for Marvel’s biggest event of the decade, Civil War. After that, McNiven started a partnership with Mark Millar. He is a king of rendering, using different styles of fabric and metal to do so. He adds many layers of texture that help lend to his somewhat stylized photorealism. His explosive panel layouts and eye for epic moments have led him to become one of Marvel’s blockbuster exclusive artists.

  • Civil War

  • Wolverine: Old Man Logan

  • Death of Wolverine

  • New Avengers: The Sentry

4. Olivier Coipel —  Magical, mythical, grandiose...these are all words that have been used to describe French artist Olivier Coipel’s work. Rising to prominence as a frequent collaborator of Brian Bendis, Coipel helped tear down and rebuild the Marvel Universe many times over. With his delicate linework, his characters move with a certain grace along with detailed architecture and lush landscapes that help create truly stunning comics.

  • House of M

  • Thor (2007)

  • Siege

  • Unworthy Thor

5. Leinil Francis Yu —  Last but not least we come to Filipino artist Leinil Francis Yu, who got his start his start in the late 90’s, his claim to fame being a major stint on Wolverine and other X-Men titles. His style is much looser than the others on this list. Yu uses many different lines to add intricacies. During Marvel’s big resurgence in the 2000’s, he became, much like Coipel and McNiven, a go to artist for the blockbuster events and headlining books. His action is frenetic and that helps greatly set the pace for the books that he draws.

  • Wolverine

  • Secret Invasion

  • Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk

  • Captain America (currently ongoing)

In the end, these artists have all been mainstays of certain universes with styles that while influenced by many great artists before them, are still uniquely their own. They have all played significant roles in creating the house styles that differentiate the two superhero universes, with DC having a more detailed, almost photorealistic look, while Marvel features a more exaggerated, cartoony, and fantastical aesthetic. These artists have helped redefine their universes; they are true sultans of superhero style.

Taylor Pechter is a passionate comic book fan and nerd. Find him on Twitter @TheInspecter.