Top Comics of 2018, #16 - #25

By Zack Quaintance —  The most difficult thing about a strong year for comics (like this one) is doing a year-end 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 part 1, which features in descending order selections #25 to #16 (the other two parts are coming tomorrow, worry not), let’s lay down 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 get this bad hombre started!

Top Comics of 2018, #16 - #25

25. Snotgirl
Writer:
Bryan Lee O’Malley
Artist: Leslie Hung
Colorist: Mickey Quinn
Letterer: Mare Odomo
Publisher: Image Comics
Issues in 2018: 4

In 2018, Snotgirl returned from hiatus with an every-other-month schedule, which ended up spreading four issues over the year. Its steady publication schedule gave it a decidedly 2018 feel. We also saw the plot in this story evolve, using its Instagram-driven L.A. ego hellscape motif to dip a toe into ideas of the supernatural.

Moreover, this book has a singular look and feel. O’Malley’s scripting is satirical and biting, using our increasingly-intense desire to appear perfect online as fertile ground for true existential horror. More credit, however, is owed to the art of Leslie Hung and colors of Mickey Quinn. From Hung’s disheveled-yet-shapely men and women—all of whom are equally gorgeous and barely hanging on—to the vibrant greens Quinn lands somewhere between snotty and stylish, the visuals work in perfect harmony with the story. It’s really something special.    

24. Abbott
Writer:
Saladin Ahmed
Artist: Sami Kivela
Colorist: Jason Wordie
Letterer: Jim Campbell
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Issues in 2018: 5

Our committee of one won’t be able to sum up this book better than contributing writer Maya Kesh in our Best Comics of 2018: Contributor Picks. So, go check that out. When you’re done, I’ll be here trying to add to Maya’s excellent thoughts on this series. Like our #25 pick before it, Abbott is a singular comic in everything from its protagonist to its setting to the concerns of its characters.

It’s set in the ‘70s in Detroit—a place and time dismissed as of late by most stories in pop culture. Add a black female protagonist who works as a reporter, and you’ve got a collection of story elements that stand on their own as different and intriguing. Writer Ahmed and artist Kivela don’t, however, rest on that. The story they tell is tense and mysterious, rich with themes of oppression and the paranormal. Basically, I’m with Maya when she says she hopes we haven’t seen the last of this character.

23. Long Lost Part 2
Writer:
Matthew Erman
Artist: Lisa Sterle
Publisher: Scout Comics
Issues in 2018: 5

This is, perhaps, cheating, seeing as the finale to this series is due in 2019 but I’ve already read (and loved) it. I won’t, however, let the ending slip. Long Lost is a poetic and understated story about change, the past, and family. From husband-wife team writer Matthew Erman and artist Lisa Sterle, Long Lost is a literary and confident comic with much to say about our transient generation, so bent on putting withering hometowns behind us.

And it says these things with a mix of ideas and imagery. The penultimate issue came out on 12/19, and as I wrote in my Long Lost Part 2 #5 review, it saw the creators expressing what this story is about: “Long Lost is about leaving your hometown...yet feeling a pull to return, a call home from our past. When we arrive, the place is nigh-unrecognizable. Relatives we thought we knew are so different as to be irreconcilable with who they once were in the past. They’re acting in strange ways, motivated by the hopes of enticing a magic cure for suffering, unemployment, sickness...with methods making them all uglier.” It was a great read in 2018 will be collected in trade this spring.

22. Skyward
Writer:
Joe Henderson
Artist: Lee Garbett
Colorist: Antonio Fabela
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Publisher: Image Comics
Issues in 2018: 9

My reaction to Skyward #1 was: where did this comic come from and how is it so polished and fully-formed? The answer on both fronts is that this book was written by Joe Henderson—a TV veteran who most recently oversaw Lucifer—who I came to find out (via the Word Balloon podcast) has a long history of involvement with comics dating back to Bendis’ message board. He’s teamed with powerhouse artist Lee Garbett on this one.

There’s a lot to like about Skyward. It’s narrative structure is ironclad, leaving no holes or lapses to distract reader attention. The science within extrapolates a world-altering event similar to how Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra did in Y: The Last Man, and it’s characters’ tones are so earnest and hopeful that one could probably even read this comic with family. It’s also kept to a regular release schedule, which is so key for creator-owned books like this one, jockeying for attention on a crowded rack.

21. Euthanauts
Writer:
Tini Howard
Artist: Nick Robles
Letterer: Aditya Bidikar
Publisher: IDW Black Crown
Issues in 2018: 4

This is another book that a contributor summed up so perfectly earlier this week (this time it was Allison and you can and should read it here). Yet, once again as the official committee of one, I will do my best to inject something new into this conversation. Euthanauts is, quite simply, one of the most gorgeous books on the stands. It’s the type of story you let wash over you like a poem, finding intense ideas and moments of beauty as you page through it.

Writer Tini Howard and artist Nick Robles are both powerful talents, destined for greatest things in the industry. Before they get there, however, I for one feel lucky to be around to see their beautiful book of life and death unspooling in real time. There are many great books right now on Shelly Bond’s Black Crown imprint (House Amok and Lodger both could have made our list had they published more issues), but Euthanauts is the crown jewel of that collection.

20. Royal City
Writer/Artist:
Jeff Lemire
Publisher: Image Comics
Issues in 2018: 7
Royal City wrapped up in August, which I found surprising, possibly because the ever-prolific Jeff Lemire (who pulls double duty here both writing and doing art) has put out so much work since this one concluded. And while a hefty volume of that work is to be celebrated (more on that as we get closer to the top), none of his stories had the intense emotional core that Royal City did.

A spiritual and semi-direct successor to Lemire’s seminal work on Essex County, this is one of the rare comics in 2018 that moved me to tears, doing so with its story of love, loss, adolescence to adulthood, and perseverance in the face of life’s small-yet-crushing defeats. I would love to get a hardcover version of these 14 issues to keep forever on my shelf, which given the space limitations that plague my collection these days, is a high compliment indeed.

19. Submerged
Writer:
Vita Ayala
Artist: Lisa Sterle
Colorist: Stelladia
Letterer: Rachel Deering
Publisher: Vault Comics
Issues in 2018: 4

The first—but certainly not the last—of the Vault Comics on our list, Submerged launched in July and concluded in December. It’s a haunting story of family discord that ultimately manifests in a tangle with mythology during one of the most dangerous storms New York City has weathered in modern history. Vita Ayala is one of the brightest rising stars in the industry, and they do incredible work with this one, expertly balancing the revelations about family backstory with the paranormal threats faced in the present by our characters.

Lisa Sterle (who you may remember early from our writeup of Long Lost) once again creates grounded-yet-disturbing imagery to go along with Ayala’s scripting. This is one of those four-part stories you’ll want to go out and get in trade, so you’ll have it to page through often at your leisure. The impression it leaves is indelible, and Ayala and Sterle are both clearly creators to watch in the coming year.

18. Cover
Writer:
Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: David Mack
Digital Coloring: Zu Orzu
Letterer: Carlos M. Mangual
Issues in 2018: 4

I saw Brian Bendis and David Mack talk about this book during Rose City Comic Con this September in Portland. Bendis noted that most other mediums—movies, music, books, etc.—have had myriad stories told about what it’s like in their industry. Not so with comics. Cover, however, sets out to change that, detailing what it feels like to table at cons as a semi-notable pro...while also working for the CIA.

The espionage subplot is, to be sure, the engine propelling this comic further, but the emotional core has to do with artistic accomplishments and satisfaction, with finding the places where ones art ends and real life begins, with examining how much artistic achievement can wash away loneliness, solitude, and rifts between family. On top of that thematic goodness, this one is expertly rendered by Mack, who uses visual flourishes often to convey intensity of emotion.    

17. Crowded
Writer:
Christopher Sebela
Artist: Ro Stein
Inker: Ted Brandt
Colorist: Triona Farrell
Letterer: Cardinal Rae
Publisher: Image Comics
Issues in 2018: 5

After what I personally perceived as somewhat of a down year for new comics in 2017, Image (our committee of one’s favorite publisher) bounced back with a vengeance in 2018, launching a dozen new series and mini-series with major staying power (more on that next week...so stay tuned!). Chief among those great new books was Crowded from writer Christopher Sebela and artists Ro Stein, Ted Brandt, and Triona Farrell.

There was no shortage of comics this year that look at terrifying near futures. What Crowded did, however, was extrapolate a startlingly-realistic idea (crowdfunded assassination bounty apps) with as taught of a buddy-drama/chase thriller narrative as we’ve seen as of late in any medium. This is a story built to elicit white knuckles, both in terms of what’s happening on the page and what it has to say about the current direction of society.

16. Gideon Falls
Writer:
Jeff Lemire
Artist: Andrea Sorrentino
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Letterer: Steve Wands
Publisher: Image Comics
Issues in 2018: 9

This book has a special place in our committee of one’s heart: It was the first comic we ever reviewed on this site, all the way back in January. We gave it a glowing review, predicting it would become the next big Image comic. Thankfully, time was on our side. This comic—from the well-worn creative team of Jeff Lemire and artist Andrea Sorrentino—hit the ground running and is yet to let up.

It started as what felt like an homage to Twin Peaks. The end of the first arc and the first half of the second, however, has built this story into a creepy mystery all of its own, establishing it as something different with expert use of a dual narrative. Sorrentino’s artwork is also absolutely it’s own thing, as visionary as anything on the monthly comic stands right now. It’s 100 percent a testament to the strength of comics this year that a book as good as Gideon Falls finishes #16 overall on our list, but here we are. Oh, and worry not Lemire fans...his other work will be landing higher (much higher!) on this list.

Check back tomorrow for our Best Comics of 2018, #1 - #15! And check back later in the week for more year-end lists, including our Best Single Issues and our Top Creators of 2018!

For the history-minded readers, you can find our Top Comics of 2017, Part 1, 2 and 3 online now!

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

REVIEW: Skyward #7 Continues Upward Trend (Heh), Doing Everything Right

Skyward #7 is out 10/17.

By Zack Quaintance — I keep waiting for Skyward to feel tedious or repetitive, even a little bit, and it just never does. Simply put, this book has been rock solid from its start, juggling a number of feats I’ve often seen trip up experienced writers and artists, especially those who move from established corporate properties to creator-owned work. These feats include world-building, orienting readers, and establishing a compelling rate of revelation (all of which I’ve discussed in previous Skyward reviews as being strengths of this title). Skyward just seems to blow past every challenge with expert use of structure and craft, remaining ever-charming as it goes.

I’m happy to report that Skyward #7 does not break this momentum. I don’t want to go too far into plot specifics, but this is yet another installment that throws massive obstacles at our protagonist (massive giant bugs this time, to be exact), and then shows the audience what she’s made of as she overcomes them. In the course of her battling adversity, the story also continues to seamlessly world-build, revealing more details about how the environment has changed in the wake of gravity lessening to the point that human beings float into space if they aren’t tied down.

This issue even takes a double turn into horror, first with the giant bugs that come out after nightfall and second with the secret it reveals about our hero’s rescuers. One thing I greatly admire about Skyward is how compressed each issue feels. It’s maybe telling that writer Joe Henderson has a television background (he’s one of the producers of Lucifer), because the speed of the plotting here reminds me of one my favorite network sitcoms, The Good Place. Both that show and this series speed from one plot development to the next, almost recklessly, checking off developments that plodding stories would have lingered on for whole seasons (or story arcs). The end result is a narrative that feels urgent, and, by extension, all the more important.

That’s what I think has really powered Skyward to such effective heights (sorry): this is a story that feels like it has something vital to tell us, some deep secret about society to reveal, and it’s hell-bent on using an intense narrative momentum to get us to that place. If I have one complaint about this title it’s that the side character feel a bit amorphous and I often forget who they are or what their relationships are to the lead protagonist, but, admittedly, this could easily be solved with a brief re-read on my part. It also hasn’t impugned my enjoyment of the main story one bit.

Overall: Another great issue in what has been one of the most solid and surprising new titles in years. Skyward #7, like the six issues that came before it, is impeccably structured and paced, accomplishing some of the best world-building in comics without sacrificing any tone or suspense. 8.5/10

Skyward #7
Writer:
Joe Henderson
Artist: Lee Garbett
Colorist: Antonio Fabela
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99

For more comic book reviews, check out our review archives.

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

REVIEW: Skyward #6 by Joe Henderson, Lee Garbett, Antonio Fabela, & Simon Bowland

Skyward #6 is out 9/19.

By Zack Quaintance — With its first arc done (and done well, I might add), Skyward finds itself in an interesting place, one where it now has motivated characters with compelling goals inhabiting a world that the story can continue developing in unexpected ways. A key aim of any great storyteller is throwing myriad obstacles into characters’ paths, separating them from their desires and thereby forcing them to act in ways that complicate situations.

What Skyward has essentially done through five issues is convincingly create a situation—the  Earth is plagued by diminished gravity—in which the setting is liable to assail the protagonists at any time. As we saw in Skyward #5, something as traditionally innocuous as a rainstorm is vastly altered by the new environment, turned perilous and far more dramatic. One can only imagine how much fun it is to tell a story with so many possibilities, imaging the ways the changed world can pose new threats.

These creators definitely seem to be enjoying all their status quo enables as they catapult from one new environmental development to the next at a breakneck speed. This, simply put, is the type of comic that moves so quickly the novelty becomes part of the attraction, and, when the plot does slow down, the change in pacing makes whatever's happening on the page all the more serious or poignant. Basically, I’m as bullish about this book’s future now as I was at its start (which is very bullish, indeed).

Skyward #6 is the first chapter in which our main character also faces a new status quo. In the context of the hero’s journey, the intro arc ended with her experiencing a tragic call to action: the death of her father and revelation she can save the world by restoring earth to its normal gravity, subsequently undoing the top down classism that now afflicts the planet, thereby honoring the sacrifice her dad made to save her. She, however, is now a wanted terrorist pursued by the most powerful man in the world, a corporate exec responsible for her father’s death (who’s also profiting like crazy from lack of gravity).

It’s all in here, the good stuff that makes for a compelling story: character with searing motivation, high stakes, commentary on power, villainy, a treacherous setting where just about anything is possible. There are, to be sure, many books with solid foundations. I was reminded again in this issue, however, that veteran artist Lee Garbett’s vast talent in particular contributes so many near-intangibles to the story, little things like individual page pacing and slight facial expressions, making the book feel organic and real, allowing the whole package to really shine.

Overall: Skyward #6 is another great issue in an impeccably constructed and perfectly executed comic. It’s the first of a new story arc and status quo, and all indications are that this will continue to be a book to follow. 9.0/10

For more comic book reviews, check out our review archives.

Zack Quaintance is a journalist who also writes fiction and makes comics. Find him on Twitter at @zackquaintance. He lives in Sacramento, California.

Top Comics to Buy for September 19, 2018

By Zack Quaintance — This was an especially strong week, with the penultimate issue of Mister Miracle sort of headlining the books I’m looking forward to. It kind of seems like that book has been going on for years (even though it launched in August 2017) and like we’ll have it for the rest of our days (the last issue is currently due out on Oct. 24...although if recent issues are an indication it's probably likely to slip).

The book has just been so so good, and we will most definitely be sad to see it go. That said, we’re also enjoying the heck out of these final few issues. Tom King is one of the best and most introspective superhero writers, and what he’s done first with The Vision and now with Mister Miracle is work that seems likely to find a wide audience for a good long while. It’s been really rewarding to follow it in monthly issues, even with these minor delays.

Oh hey, and also there’s a lot of other good stuff, too! Let’s take a look...

Top Comics to Buy for September 19, 2018

Crude #6
Writer:
Steve Orlando
Artist: Garry Brown
Colorist: Lee Loughridge
Letterer: Thomas Mauer
Publisher: Image Comics
Price:
$3.99
Piotr has fought his way across Blackstone to avenge his son's death. Now he faces off against the biggest bastard of them all, and only one will walk away.
Why It’s Cool: This is the finale of a fantastic book about closure, violence, secrets, acceptance, and fathers and sons. If that sounds like a lot, it’s because it is. Creators Steve Orlando and Garry Brown, however, streamline their many powerful themes into a cathartic and powerful story.

Harley Quinn #50
Writer: Sam Humphries
Artists (In Order of Appearance): John Timms, Whilce Portacio, Agnes Garbowska, John McCrea, Kelley Jones, Jon Davis-Hunt, Brett Booth, Norm Rapmund, Scott Kolins, Dan Jurgens, Guillem March, Mirka Andolfo, Babs Tarr, Tom Grummett, Cam Smith
Colorists (In Order of Appearance): Alex Sinclair, Gabe Eltaeb, John Kalisz, Michelle Madsen, Andrew Dalhouse, Romulo Fajardo Jr.
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $4.99
In a special anniversary story, "Harley Saves the Universe!"-no kidding! While reading a mysterious Harley Quinn comic book, H.Q. accidentally breaks all of reality. And you know the saying: if you break it, you bought it! Now it's up to Harley to travel through both time and space to fix all the continuity errors she created. Luckily, she'll have a little help, 'cuz riding shotgun is none other than special guest star Jonni DC, Continuity Cop! Good thing, too, because if Harley fails, it means her own mom will be lost forever. Gulp! That doesn't sound very funny!
Why It’s Cool: Listen, I’m not a big fan of Harley Quinn stories. The zany superhero books (ie Deadpool) don’t usually do it for me, but this one takes a gigantic and meta idea, using it to tell a poignant story about the nature of superhero franchises, sprinkled liberally with fun deep cut nods to DC continuity. It’s a must-buy for long-time DC readers.

Ice Cream Man #7
Writer:
W. Maxwell Prince
Artist: Martin Morazzo
Colorist: Chris O’Halloran
Letterer: Good Old Neon
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Price: $3.99
"MY LITTLE POLTERGEIST"
Another sullen, sequential short! Here, a little girl's best friend comes back from the dead. Or does she? It's hard to say, ghosts being an unreliable sort.
Why It’s Cool: Ice Cream Man #6 was one of my favorite books of 2018 so far, accomplishing some really impressive feats of comic-making craft. It did, however, leaving me wondering if this book was becoming a bit nihilistic...until this issue put that question at rest. This is the most heartfelt issue yet of one of the best comics on the stands, and I highly recommend picking it up.

Immortal Hulk #6
Writer:
Al Ewing
Artist: Lee Garbett
Colorist: Paul Mounts
Letterer: Cory Petit
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99
"THE GREEN DOOR" STARTS HERE! Bruce Banner is alive - and everyone knows it. Now he's hunted by the government, Alpha Flight, the mysterious Shadow Base...and the Avengers. And someone's going to find him first. But Bruce has bigger problems. Something terrible has infected him. Something with unspeakable plans for humanity. And the only one who knows about it...is the IMMORTAL HULK.
Why It’s Cool: I’ve liked Immortal Hulk quite a bit from its first disturbing issue, but last month’s Immortal Hulk #5 introduced a new villian that in my opinion gives this story a chilling new sense of direction, one that stands to make it an even more powerful book. This is, quite simply, my favorite comic at Marvel right now.

Mister Miracle #11
Writer:
Tom King
Artist: Mitch Gerads
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Publisher:
DC Comics
Price: $3.99
If there's one thing popular fiction has taught us by now, it's: never make a deal with the devil! And yet Mister Miracle is still listening when Darkseid approaches him with just such a devilish proposition-if Scott sends his newborn son to Apokolips, there will be peace on New Genesis. Since when has Darkseid been famous for his honesty?! It'll be a miracle if this doesn't blow up in Scott's face.
Why It’s Cool: Our site and many others have spent the past year or so heaping praise upon Tom King and Mitch Gerads Mister Miracle, and that’s not going to stop now that we’ve reached the penultimate issue. This is a series filled with equal parts introspection and misdirection. Expect some answers here, but also expect to wait for Mister Miracle #12 to really get a clear idea of what’s been going on.

Recommended New #1 Comics for September 19, 2018

  • Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1

  • Batman: Damned #1

  • Burnouts #1

  • Captain America Annual #1

  • Dick Tracy: Dead or Alive #1

  • Gideon Falls: Directors Cut #1

  • Return of Wolverine #1

Others Receiving Votes

  • Avengers #8

  • Batman #55

  • Black Badge #2

  • Black Hammer: Age of Doom #5

  • Britannia: Lost Eagles of Rome #3

  • Ether Copper Golems #5

  • Justice League #8

  • Lost City Explorers #4

  • Pearl #2

  • Skyward #6

  • Teen Titans #22

  • Thor #5

  • Usagi Yojimbo The Hidden #6

  • Venom #6

  • The Wild Storm #17

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

Zack Quaintance is a journalist who also writes fiction and makes comics. Find him on Twitter at @zackquaintance. He lives in Sacramento, California.

REVIEW: Skyward #4 by Joe Henderson, Lee Garbett, Antonio Fabela, & Simon Bowland

Skyward #4 is out July 18. 

By Zack Quaintance — The first issue of Skyward opened with an inciting event that drastically changed the world: gravity inexplicably lessened so much that people, animals, and untethered objects began to float dangerously into space. One of the victims was our protagonist’s mom, who left to go running and disappeared into the ether.  

This was then followed by a significant time jump in which our main character went from baby to young woman. Quickly, we also learned her dad had become a devastated recluse who spent the subsequent years afraid to go outside. That idea kind of faded into the background, however, as our hero went and had adventures involving the most powerful man in the gravity-light world, who—surprise!—turned out to be amoral and self-interested. What this issue does is slow down our hero’s interactions with that insidious fellow to involve her dad in a way Skyward hasn’t since its first issue.

It’s a great idea. The father-daughter dynamic is basically this story’s heart, and given the dad's reluctance to go outside, overcoming that fear is presumably huge for our plot. On paper, I expected to love this issue. I, however, had slightly mixed feelings about how it was executed (very slightly). I still liked it quite a bit, but the dad was over-the-top cowardly at times. This was likely by design, but, man, did I cringe.

And his daughter’s reaction to his behavior seemed to be too much, in that she didn’t seem troubled at all that she had to literally knock him out and put him in a bag to get him outside because he wouldn’t step up when she needed him most. All I'm saying is it would have maybe been more effective to have a troubled look cross her face instead of playing the whole heartbreaking ordeal for laughs. But then again, Skyward is a pretty cheery book.

It’s a small complaint, one quickly erased from my mind by the creative team working to explore more of the scientific ramifications of how less gravity would affect our world. The art and structure continues to be on point and then some, too. I’ve said it before, but I want to close by again re-iterating that this is one of the most underrated books in comics right now (although that may change...this month Skyward was optioned for a movie...awesome!).

Overall: Skyward #4 continues to take a simple concept and explore its logical repercussions in the world, a device that has been executed to perfection. In this issue, the creative team slows down a bit too, making room for more interactions between its characters.  8.0/10

For more about Skyward, read our review of Skyward #3.

Zack Quaintance is a journalist who also writes fiction and makes comics. Find him on Twitter at @zackquaintance. He lives in Sacramento, California.

REVIEW: Skyward #3 by Joe Henderson, Lee Garbett, Antonio Fabela, & Simon Bowland

For the third straight issue,  Skyward  shows itself to be a gorgeous and charming comic.

For the third straight issue, Skyward shows itself to be a gorgeous and charming comic.

By Zack Quaintance — The concept in Skyward has been strong from the start—gravity has inexplicably lessened, sending humans floating fatally into the sky—as has the delivery of information about our characters and the world’s plight. Skyward #1, to be perfectly blunt, was a book I had few expectations for, as the creative team was unfamiliar to me, but I loved the first issue. Why? I attribute the ongoing success of this book in large part to how expertly information has been doled out from its start.

One of the most difficult tricks in plotting is knowing what to reveal and when, how to hit a sweet spot and orient an audience without gumming up the pacing with too much info. A lot of debut issues suffer from that, as if creators have accepted forced exposition as a necessary problem of #1 issues and are spilling it fast so they can get the actual story.

Skyward does not once make a concession in that regard, instead finding organic and natural ways to let us know about our hero, her family, and what’s happened to the world. The book essentially floats through its earliest reveals, focusing heavily on the family—a girl and her parents—that is at the heart of our story. The result is one of the most charming books in comics. This issue continues to be excellent.  

Skyward  expertly uses storytelling tools unique to comics, including a juxtaposition of the shading and reaction in the bottom right panel.

Skyward expertly uses storytelling tools unique to comics, including a juxtaposition of the shading and reaction in the bottom right panel.

Last issue ended with our protagonist’s optimism, trust, and naivety catapulting her into danger, and Skyward #3 picks up immediately there. The expert reveals continue, but I also began to notice new strengths, too. Admittedly, I’ve maybe been too preoccupied with Henderson’s script choices to notice the feats of characterization Garbett and Fabela have pulled off with the artwork. This issue, though, it really stood out. The panels here are framed to reveal fear or recklessness, while the characters are shaded to indicate sinister motives or apprehension. Hell, even the walls in the villain's place tip toward emergency red. It’s just all so well done, using the full breadth of storytelling tools comics put at one’s disposal.

This issue also ratchets up the intensity, with some well-placed but tasteful violence. Even so, the book maintains its heart by deploying sharp incidental humor between tense moments (the bit where a kid asks a question about weak gravity creating—ahem—a new way to get pregnant is so sharp), before wrapping up with an absolutely killer cliffhanger for the third time in as many issues.

Overall: Skyward’s incredibly adept use of pacing and its engrossing concept—the gravity that once bound humans to the earth has dissipated—continue to make for one of the best original comics of the year. The team of Henderson, Garbett, Fabela, and Bowland are doing so many things right. I am once again surprised at how thoroughly I’m enjoying this book. 9.5/10

Zack Quaintance is a journalist who also writes fiction and makes comics. Find him on Twitter at @zackquaintance. He lives in Sacramento, California.