2018 has been what could kindly be referred to as an unbridled nightmare, full of catastrophic upheaval and existential terror. It’s not just me, right? Sometimes it can feel like everything that is good and right in the world is under attack. Take comfort — it probably only feels that way because that is literally what is happening.
Except in the world of comics, where so many people are stepping up and creating incredible works that interact with and comment on the state of the world while dreaming of new possibilities, alternately challenging and comforting us while blowing the doors of what we expect from the medium right off their hinges.
Truly, even in our very darkest times, comics have always been there for us. The influx of more diverse creators and concepts is giving us a new golden age of content. Not there just for the sake of escapism, modern comics are playing around with philosophical concepts that are usually reserved for literary and political texts. These are some of SYFY FANGRRLS' favorite comics of 2018.
by Eleanor Davis
One of the many surprises that came out of 2018 was Eleanor Davis’ new book, which took a minimalist, humorous view of the artistic process for both artists and their audience, giving us a book that smoothly carried on from previous themes in Davis’ work while also working soundly alongside much of Fantagraphics' contemporary output. But Why Art? also manages to make something all its own. With the deconstructionist elements of Yoko Ono’s Grapefruit and the cheery ethos covering a much darker inner world of a Lynda Barry strip, the book likewise has the far-reaching appeal of those artists. Why Art? isn’t just a comic, nor is it an art class text, but by meeting somewhere in between, it's just as likely to become assigned reading for an art class as it is discussed in a comic shop.
MERA: QUEEN OF ATLANTIS
by Dan Abnett, Lan Medina, Richard Friend, Veronica Gandini, and Simon Bowland
cover art by Nicola Scott with Romulo Fajardo
For all the many characters in superhero comics, perhaps none have grown by the leaps and bounds as Mera in her new turn as sole ruler of Atlantis. This story saw her separated from Arthur due to injuries that limited her ability to breathe underwater. In her state of reduced power, she comes head to head with Ocean Master, who she immediately brawls with. They travel to her home Xebel, where they plan to enlist help over the corrupt Rath, who has stolen the Atlantean throne. The only problem with the plan is that everyone in Xebel, even her own grandmother, seems to despise her. Mera confronts her past, prevails against her lack of power, and stands against all for her right to be queen, even if it means her death. While Mera is a classic tale of overcoming hardship to become the person you must become, there is an underlying question of redemption. Is a villain like Ocean Master capable of ever being truly happy, or truly good?
ALIENS: DEAD ORBIT
by James Stokoe
Aliens is one of those rare properties that occasionally produces comic book adaptations and spin-offs that easily equal the ingenuity and creative spark of the original concept while going completely off the rails in practice. Initially intended as more of an action story than outright horror, this concept morphed until it eventually became one of the most nightmarish comics released in 2018. Following a small crew trapped aboard a failing spaceship which is infiltrated by xenomorphs, Dead Orbit is one story with an upsettingly literal title. In no small part due to Stokoe's brutal, graphic art, it's bound to be remembered as one of the most genuinely creepy comics of our time.
MOON GIRL AND DEVIL DINOSAUR: FANTASTIC THREE
by Brandon Montclare, Natacha Bustos, Alitha E. Martinez, Roberto Poggi, Tamra Bonvillain, and VC's Travis Lanham
This is one series that’s been so entertaining for so long that it’s easy to take it for granted. December 2018 saw the series at its 39th issue, most of which were brought to us via consistently excellent visual style of primary artist Natacha Bustos. In an era of too-brief series stints, being able to count on this gem month after month has been nothing short of a gift, and the relative stability of the creative team has been a delight. Featuring Fantastic Four’s Ben Grimm and Johnny Storm as guest-stars, Fantastic Three is an excellent glimpse of what makes this series so great. Lunella is separated by her own missteps from her beloved friend Devil Dinosaur, and ends up joining up with Thing and Human Torch, who she struggles to click with. “We are the worst superhero team!” she cries at them in frustration. Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur is a must read in general, and 2018 brought us some of the series’ very best moments.
LOVE & ROCKETS #5 & 6
After a long break, the Hernandez Brothers returned to the original Love & Rockets tabloid-sized format, and began telling stories of their characters' later lives, gray hair and divorces intermingling with the slow tragedy of losing people to time and old age. The wide range of subject matter, characterization, and interpersonal history combined with the many influences that make their way onto the page over the several decades of this series run can’t be overpraised, and the new stories have the added touch of coming from an older perspective on the lives of its characters. Truly one of the most influential books ever to hit the stands, Love & Rockets is still showing up with new stories that grow even more heartwrenching and disarmingly honest as time goes on.
THE DEATH OF THE MIGHTY THOR
by Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman, Matthew Wilson, and VC's Joe Sabino
Jane Foster has wielded Mjolnir as a god for the last few years, and it’s been a Hell of a ride. The move to push a relatively unknown character into the spotlight as the lead of a long-established series was controversial, but that never stopped it from being completely awesome. Jane Foster had been appearing in Thor comics as a romantic interest for years without really ever seeing her place in the sun, and her run did a lot to cement her place as an important character among the Marvel pantheon. The Death of the Mighty Thor pulls no punches and gives exactly what it promises to give, but the sheer epicness of Jane’s stint as the thunder god deserved no less heroic an ending. This story saw the end of one very important era of Asgardian myth, and the creative team couldn’t have done a better job of delivering.
LOSING THE GIRL
This book begins as an endearing reflection on a small group of friends and a coming-of-age tale but quickly changes narrative view and tone. A straightforward teen love story derails and ultimately becomes the story of a young woman dealing with the emotional fallout of her abortion as her childhood friendships decay. There is a touch of science fiction in the form of a mysterious subplot in which a lost classmate may have gone missing and returned much older. Marinaomi’s panel layouts and dialogue scenes are inventive and uniquely entertaining, and Losing the Girl stands out.
by Francesca Lyn and Sally Cantirino
This was a lucky find and it turned into one of the better reads of the year. Telling the story of a woman named Rose, who was once part of a “magical girl group,” Flower Girls is a quick study of someone who had it all and then lost everything when her fame faded. At a loss for where to go next and unable to let go of the past, Rose is haunted by bad dreams and malaise. This story is the shortest on this list at 24 pages, but it packs a hell of a punch, and you can pick it up here.
by Vita Ayala, Emily Pearson, Marissa Louise and Jim Campbell
cover art by Natasha Alterici
Zombies are one of those subsects of genre where the second someone accuses it of being overplayed, someone else comes along and gives us a whole new take on the mythos to renew our interest in it for years to come. The Wilds is the kind of zombie story that will do that for you. Our protagonist Daisy is a Runner, meaning she delivers everything from mail to medicine for the survival of her community. Daisy’s lover Heather goes missing, and the story proceeds to go into full-out apocalyptic zombie action that is truly creepy, but with a level of thoughtfulness and empathy seldom seen in horror, let alone zombie stories.
TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES MACROSERIES: LEONARDO
by Sophie Campbell, Brittany Peer, and Shawn Lee
Leonardo finds himself in an epic battle with longtime villains of the franchise Koya and Karai. Swords fly and blood splashes across the snow in a classic showdown. Leonardo emerges from the battle more at peace with himself, calmly reuniting with his brothers and smiling to himself. Sophie Campbell’s art is beyond excellent and fits in seamlessly with the gritty, detailed linework of the Eastman and Laird period. Campbell captures Leonardo’s voice exceptionally well, giving us the introspective, philosophical warrior of the Ninja Turtles. Over the decades since its debut, views have varied on what makes a great TMNT story. That remains forever subjective, but the deep inward reflection alongside brutal sword fights of Leonardo harkens back to the early days of the mythos in a way that few stories have.
by Tini Howard, Gilbert Hernandez, Rob Davis and Aditya Bidikar
Tini Howard has been tearing it up all 2018 and this is far from the only book that deserves a spot on a best of list, but this story goes so far off the rails it won a special place in our collective FANGRRLS heart just by being such bonkers fun. 3 women are brought together as teenagers by a creepy cult leader who preys on their innocence after meeting them at a punk show, but the bond they form with one another outlasts their interest in the cult. After one of them makes a very half-hearted attempt at real estate, she accepts her inability to change and instead enlists her son and his boyfriend in a caper meant to make them all rich. The blurring of lines between friendship, business, and chosen family will strike many readers as almost painfully reminiscent of their own lives, while the action movie pace keeps the melodrama at the heart of this tale on its toes.
by Nnedi Okorafor, Leonardo Romero, Jordie Bellaire, and Joe Sabino
Although still in its early days, this series immediately became one of Marvel’s most interesting books. Super genius sister of Black Panther and occasional ruler of Wakanda, Shuri became best known via her scene-stealing on-screen role in Black Panther, but she’s been hanging out in comics since the early 2000s and she’s accumulated her fair share of continuity. Tying that history into a new direction for the future, the ongoing series immediately gave us a narrative that allowed us access to Shuri’s inner world, more troubled than she lets on, while also showing us a great deal of how she fits into Wakanda without her brother around. Emphasizing the role of women organizers and the conversations of women in Wakanda, this series gives us Shuri at her most active and vibrant, but as we see from her own inner thoughts the best stories will combine her stubbornness, thoughtfulness, loyalty, and spontaneity without ever leaning so heavily in any one direction that she loses her profound sense of balance.
VAMPIRELLA VOL. 4
by Jeremy Whitley, Rapha Lobosco, Lee Loughridge and Travis Lanham
This 11-issue run wrapped up early this year, and it proved to be one of Vampi’s most definitive in a very long history. Slightly more serious and even surprisingly sincere in this take, Vampirella herself seems to grow by leaps and bounds as she confronts her past and shows a surprising level of loyalty to her partner, Vicki Vincent. Known for willfully forging ahead alone and losing interest in lovers rapidly, seeing Vampi form a real unbreakable bond with someone in this series was enough to make our hearts melt. Vampirella and Vicki make a great team, and by seemingly betraying one another but each trusting the other to come through, they prove their loyalty to each other in the end. Vicki’s sometimes rambling inner monologue that is mostly just her stanning Vampirella is highly endearing… and, for most of us long-time fans, relatable.
by Tom King, Mitch Gerads and Clayton Cowles
One of Jack Kirby’s most beloved creations, Scott Free aka Mister Miracle and his wife Barda lived on the Hell planet known as Apokolips. They escaped together, but have never managed to fully shrug off the vast cast of characters that populate their home and its twin planet, New Genesis. Turning his gift for disjointed, quietly tragic storytelling on the couple and showing us a level of cosmic dissonance that makes perfect sense for Mister Miracle and Barda to experience, Tom King gave us what amounted to the best Scott Free story since Kirby’s original run. Showing an impressive grasp of the inherent tragedy and suffering of one of DC’s best beloved power couples, the Mister Miracle series redefined a character that had long suffered from inconsistent characterization.
The Gravediggers Union
by Wes Craig and Toby Cypress
Sharing an aesthetic with equally creepy but bizarrely entertaining books like Hellboy and The Goon, The Gravediggers Union shows us a world in which gravediggers aren’t just expected to dig graves, they also fight zombies and are the only people standing between Earth and the legions of Hell as summoned by the cult known as The Black Temple. Not just a story of the undead, this series centralizes a Gravedigger named Cole and his relationship with his estranged daughter Morgan, who plays a bigger role in the drama than he first suspects. Moody and brutal while maintaining a sense of comic book camp, this is another perfect zombie story for 2018. Recommended for anyone who loves a little dark humor in their horror.
This was a very random find via Comixology, but its well worth your time. An obvious analog for Doom Patrol, mixing in a subplot of a rock band and maximizing the capacity for philosophical commentary DP has become known for, this story could easily blend with any number of homages if not for its striking artistic choices and thoughtful, disconnected plot. Changing color themes, panel layouts, and character viewpoints several times over in its comparatively sparse number of pages, this was a pleasantly impactful read and gave a glimpse of what could be done with these long-beloved characters if there were a slightly stronger tendency towards experimentalism in mainstream superhero comics. As it stands, even as a fairly direct reference, Negativeland goes in new directions and thus exceeds expectations.
BLACK PANTHER: MANY THOUSANDS GONE
by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Daniel Acuna and Joe Sabino
Coates’s Black Panther stories have been a great continuation of his work as a writer while gifting Marvel with one of its more adventurous and compelling voices. That is no more apparent than in Many Thousands Gone, in which T’Challa finds himself struggling to understand a species of shapeshifters known as Symbiotes who have taken the forms of gods throughout history. One of the things that stands out in the Ta-Nehisi Coates take on Black Panther is the willingness to let T’Challa visit and explore the magic-based origins of the story while remaining firmly rooted in the futurism of the concept behind Wakanda. Giving us an expanded magical universe that puts Black Panther in a world not unlike that of Doctor Strange if Strange had the tech to shame Iron Man, all while revisiting familiar themes of honor and responsibility, his stories will unquestionably be remembered as some of T’Challa’s very best.
HOUSE OF WHISPERS
by Nalo Hopkinson, Dominike Stanton, John Rauch and Deron Bennett
cover art by Sean Andrew Murray
One of the sleeper hits of 2018, this series brings together a stellar creative team to tell stories based on brand new characters of the Dreaming. This is a bold move to make, as writers who visit the Gaimanverse do so with an already vast universe at their disposal. Yet, there is plenty of room for new characters alongside those previously established in the original run of the series, and House of Whispers has proven to be one of the most interesting of the new Vertigo line just by giving us a different set of characters from which to draw those familiar themes of fantasy, horror, and legend. This is another book that will blow you away with its art, then gives a great story to back it up. Of the many takes on the Sandman world, this is one of the more vital.
by Marguerite Bennett, Fernando Blanco, John Rauch and Deron Bennett
Among many other series finales in 2018, we have the last issues of Marguerite Bennett’s Batwoman. This run might of been short-lived, and it never got quite the credit it was due, but it got Kate Kane back on track after an inauspicious end to her first series and a stint as a second in command to Batman. Taking the trope of the clock-based villain to its (il)logical extreme, this book was full of the stunning layouts and bright color schemes that initially grabbed readers in the first run of the series while still offering up something very much all its own. Refocusing on her life and her own turbulent inner world, this stint on Batwoman was better than it was recognized for being while giving readers a truly lovely note to leave off on with the longtime ship of many readers Kate Kane and Renee Montoya reuniting for a new beginning.
by Amy Chu, Erik Burnham, Carlos Gomez, Vincenzo Fedrici, Mohan and Taylor Esposito
For many years now, Red Sonja has been a dependable addition to pull lists. Despite change-ups of creative teams, the character at the center of it all remains much the same, and creators never fail to delight in sending her to new worlds against old foes. Incorporating sci-fi and fantasy tropes ranging from dragons to time travel and granting the many epic fight scenes fans have come to expect from Red Sonja, this series more than delivers by giving fans a dynamic storyline reminiscent of Gail Simone’s well-loved run. While it leaves deep introspection on the cutting room floor for the most part, not every character needs it, and indeed Sonja has always been interesting for her ability to live in the present even when looking at the past.
ALL-NEW WOLVERINE: OLD WOMAN LAURA
by Tom Taylor, Ramon Rosanas, Nolan Woodard and Cory Petit
Tom Taylor’s run on All-New Wolverine was a constant delight from the first issue to its last, and his take on Laura Kinney as the Wolverine after Logan had temporarily died in the comics remains one of the better comics Marvel has put out in the last several years. Known for a relentlessly grim tone for some time, seeing a new take on Wolverine was as necessary as it was welcomed. When news came that Logan would be returning from the realm of the dead after roughly 2 and a half years of relative absence, it became clear Laura would be returning to her role as X-23 and leaving the mantle of Wolverine behind. Flashing forward to the future, Old Woman Laura gave us perhaps the most optimistic view of Marvel’s future that has been seen and showed us that Laura’s importance as Wolverine is based strongly in her ability to form deep and meaningful connections. The whole series was a delight, but this final arc was particularly heartwarming.
by Joelle Jones and Laura Allred
After the now infamous “Wedding Issue” in which Selina Kyle dipped out on her wedding to Bruce Wayne earlier this year, she went on a bender around the globe, trying to shake her heartache and remorse for leaving her beloved at the altar. Not one to sulk for long, she almost immediately got caught up in the mystery of the many Catwomans, who are committing crimes while donning familiar cat-themed outfits. Joelle Jones writing and art are both fantastic, and this take on Catwoman is already proving to be one of the most intriguing we’ve seen in a very long history. Embracing Selina's complexity and throwing her into the middle of a mystery after a heartwrenching arc in Batman has given fans the Catwoman we so desperately needed, and it's been great so far.
by Saladin Ahmed, Sami Kivelä, Jason Wordie and Taj Tenfold
Saladin Ahmed is another one of those creators who has been knocking home runs out of the park so quickly and so consistently that his work could comprise an entire Best of 2018 list on its own. To keep it simple, though, if there’s one of Ahmed’s works you pick up before the end of the year, this is a pretty safe bet. Following the supernatural investigations of a classic hard-boiled detective with a serious smoking habit, a traumatic past, and, of course, a heart of mostly gold hidden under a gruff exterior, Abbott is a thoughtful dive into a tried and true genre trope while adding new characterization and plot twists to keep the pages turning.
by Eve L Ewing, Kevin Libranda, Luciano Vecchio, Geoffo, Matt Milla, and Clayton Cowles
One of the most highly anticipated releases of the year, this comic did nothing but deliver. Though it showed relatively little in the way of epic fight scenes or double page spreads, this was a great reintroduction to the character. The most important thing Ewing has done with Riri is to establish her status as a loner who doesn’t play particularly well with others. She immediately alienates people that appear in her lab for a tour, and has trouble relaxing when an old friend calls to say “hello.” Their connection is off the charts, so she eventually eases into the conversation, but Riri’s relatability to women that are known for their brilliance but struggle with their personal connections has made Ironheart instantly iconic.
by Pornsak Pitchetshote, Aaron Campbell, Jose Villarrubia and Jeff Powell
This was a great year for comics, and a lot of the breakout stories of the year were in the horror genre. While there were more great horror comics to debut than would fit in this list, Infidel stood out for its outright creepiness combined with an undeniable level of social relevance. In this terrifying tale, a young Muslim American woman is the focal point as she moves into an apartment complex that is haunted, but with an atypical twist - the house feeds off of xenophobia and the fear of the other. As prejudices escalate and emotions run high, Infidel packs a political punch while never straying from its central horror-based theme. Possibly one of the most successful writer debuts in comics history, film rights for Infidel were purchased almost immediately, so fans can look forward to a big screen adaptation on the horizon.