27th Dec2018

Dan’s Ten Best: Comics of 2018

by Dan Clark

Let’s get this out of the way right now. This list is wrong. Although I try to be as objective as possible when putting it together there is no way to make it completely void of my subjective opinion. So why do this? For one I enjoy doing it as it pushes me to read comics I would not normally read. The biggest reason is that my favorite thing is to recommend comics and this allows me to do just that. Lastly, I hope it shows just how varied comics can be and the amazing content there is each year.

The other part of this is the criteria used to create this list. Comics provide a unique challenge in end of year list creation due to the many different formats they are released. You have straight graphic novels that are self-contained stories, ongoing monthly titles, one shot, mini-series, webcomics, and so many more. Here is the criteria I used when creating this list:

  • For limited series at least 50% of the comic needed to be released in 2018.
  • For ongoing titles at least 2 issues had to be released this year. This is really just a personal choice. Previously I limited it to three issues but with the main purpose of recommending books thought if a book can impact me enough in two issues its worthy to put on the list so people can jump on early.
  • Foreign language books that were first released in English in 2018 due qualify.

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10) Judas

Writer: Jeff Loveness | Artist: Jakub Rebelka |Publisher: Boom! Studios

I am still amazed this book exists. A comic that approaches the topic of religion in an earnest way without an ounce of cynicism. No this is not some sort of glorified Christian tract that is secretly trying to get you to join their team as long as you agree to their small joining fee of 10% of your yearly wages. Those who vehemently oppose religion along with the most devout can read this series and get something out of it. What it does is try to inject a tangible context into the relationship between Judas and Jesus. It even takes actual passages from the bible to help enhance the story. A book like this is so important for the medium of comics. Showing it can approach sensitive and complex topics in a way other mediums may not be able to accomplish.

9) Gideon Falls

Writer: Jeff Lemire | Artist: Andrea Sorrentio | Publisher: Image Comics

Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino are a creative team that works together so well despite how different their approaches seem. Lemire is very much a minimalist. From his art style to his storytelling he tends to try to get the most out of the least. Using only a few lines to express deep emotion on both a drawing and writing standpoint. Sorrentino, on the other hand, puts so much on the page. At times uses images to construct other images in a way unlike anyone else. Based on their work together on Green Arrow, Old Man Logan, and now Gideon Falls it appears the old adage is true that opposites do attract. Great horror is built on one key element and that is the atmosphere. One where the intensity is maintained even when the scares are temporarily muted. In this series that atmosphere is gradually built. Setting the stage with these opposing storylines that a first seem to have zero connection. By the end that connection becomes clearer as we see there is much more going on than we first thought and plenty to be afraid of.

8) Kill or Be Killed

Writer: Ed Brubaker | Artist: Sean Phillips | Publisher: Image Comics

This was my number one series last year and although it dropped some due to lackluster ending it did not ruin everything that came before for me. For some, if an ending does not work everything that came before is lessened. That’s never been the case for me. The world of comic books is filled with good writers that constantly come up with inventive ways to tell compelling stories. There are few writers in general though that truly have a master like understanding of their craft. With his work on books like Criminal, Velvet, The Fade Out, and now Kill or Be Killed it is safe to say Ed Brubaker has an elite understanding of the noir genre. Reading a crime book from him is like listening to a musical savant, while we are focused on what is in front of us he is five steps ahead in his mind planning his next move. This makes we wonder if revisiting the series as a whole will make that end click more than it did in the first go around.

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7) The Highest House

Writer: Mike Carey | Artist: Peter Gross | Publisher: IDW

It is somewhat difficult to fully quantify what makes this series so great as there is nothing else quite like it. From its oversized design to its unique setting there is a freshness to everything that was pieced together to make this book. For those who worry the medium of comics is getting stale this shows there are some creative minds out there looking to break the molds so many others fall into. For those who enjoy stories about the middle ages with a more realistic flair and include major pieces of everyday life, you have a new book to read. The art plays a major role with its wide views and fine details. Love how it will often design the page so there is one main image and then within that image add panels so no part of the page is without intricate art. Plus it is very much a reflection of how things so tightly intertwined in a narrative focused on a hierarchy culture.

6) Grass Kings

Writer: Matt Kindt | Artist: Tyler Jenkins | Publisher: Boom! Studios

As cliche as it may sound the biggest success of this book, was the building of the Grass Kingdom to the main characters of this story. It is a setting that has meant different things to its different citizens but ultimately been this beacon of freedom that has slowly been chipped away. As this series came to a close its slow burn began to rage. Even including action-packed invasion that up the stakes to a new level. Also in a year where a lot of major series ended in a disappointing fashion the last issue of this series not only met expectations it was easily one of the best single issues of the entire year. Not only did it solve the mystery much of the final arc was based but also added some insightful commentary to the obsessive culture of fandom.

5) The Immortal Hulk

Writer: Al Ewing | Artist: Joe Bennett | Publisher: Marvel Comics

As has been stated on several occasions by many different people, superhero comic book storytelling is all about the illusion of change. Anyone who has read comics for any period knows that no matter how drastic a change may be eventually things will return to their status quo. That fact makes this Immortal Hulk run a unique piece to this evolving puzzle. While this run has looked to redefine what Hulk has become most if its roots lay in the original foundation of the character’s origin. Making one wonder if this is a type of change that will stick around longer than most. Judgment and how it ties to both the act of self-reflection and responsibility has carried through issue to issue. Hulk has been Ghost Rider esc acting upon his nature to locate those who are presenting a danger to others. His words and actions have had a more vengeful connotation to them as he seemingly has taken more enjoyment of righting some of these horrific wrongs.

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4) Sabrina

By: Nick Drnaso | Publisher: Drawn and Quarterly

Sabrina’s mundane approach sneaks up on you as it is a timely tale about the isolationism that has driven of present culture to become tribalistic skeptics who are unable to process tragic events and confuse disillusionment with intellectual prowess. Even the title itself is used to strengthen Nick Drnaso’s point as the titular character is absent from the majority of the book, and it is her lack of presence that is driving each event forward. It is a type of read that will make you want to hug the first person you see after finishing simply to feel the presence of another individual.

3) Black Hammer: The Age of Doom

Writer: Jeff Lemire | Artist: Dean Ormston, Rich Tommaso | Publisher: Dark Horse

This year major things changed for Black Hammer as the mystery that was building since issue one was finally answered. It is one thing to build mystery, answering it is an entirely different beast. So far those answers have been as satisfying as one could hope as the meta-context of this series has grown even further. What I have found fascinating about this series that involves magic powers, cosmic level beings, and alien robots is how the dramatic tension tends to get boiled down to small moments like simply trying to have a dinner together.

2) Hey, Kiddo

By: Jarrett J. Krosoczka | Publisher: Graphix

Well… this one got me. A memoir that tells a story that is far too common about growing up in a family suffering from addiction. Demonstrates the impacts of parentage, how parentage can take different forms, and how those around us make us who we are for good and bad. No book this year had a deeper emotional impact on me than this. At first, I was not sure why exactly it hit me as strongly as it did. As I look back at it now it has to do with the way Jarrett J. Krosoczka is able to find faults in people without the inherent reaction to pass judgment. He has every reason to as he tells his story about growing up without a father and a mother who was never there due to her addiction to heroin. Instead, he presents what happened and in doing so sees the failure to beat addiction is tragic enough.

1) Mister Miracle

Writer: Tom King | Artist: Mitch Gerads | Publisher: DC Comics

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I have been doing these Best of the Year comic lists for some time now and this year was by far the hardest on in choosing my favorite comic. Looking at my overall top five there is reason each could be in this slot. Ultimately I went with the book that challenged me the most as a reader, and the one I see having the biggest impact on the industry moving forward. One that broke from convention and tried to say something that was both timeless and relevant for today. With all that I had to choose Mister Miracle as my comic of the year.

Although Mister Miracle has many people who adore it, myself included, I know it may have just as many detractors–or at least they are twice as loud. Those who claim its abstract storytelling style is a crutch to make up for a loosely tied together with a narrative that lacks basic sense and cohesion. As if this series is an ‘Emperor has no clothes’ situation where people are putting much more into it there is actually there.

While I can somewhat understand where a point of view can come from as different comics will work with different people, I feel that dismissive mindset is at best a tad short-sighted and at worst just plain lazy. Can I tell you everything this series is about and exactly what it is trying to say? No, but just because there are no exact answers does not mean there are no answers. I do feel each issue has a clear theme that is brilliantly plaid out. On a basic standpoint, you have the idea of taking the surreal and subjecting it to the mundane. How actual combat is juxtaposed with the everyday conversations of raising a child. I know many were disappointed with the ending I felt it fit the story perfectly. This has never been a series with overt intentions so to change that with the final issue would have done the series a disservice. Great stories do not always have to provide exact answers. Allegorical implications tend to die the moments a story starts to do just that. Great craft should be respected for how well it is constructed and you do not get much better constructed than Mister Miracle.

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