This was a pretty decent year new comics, especially for indies and miniseries. Marvel’s constant behind-the-scenes chaos isn’t making it any easier to keep its readers in the face of DC’s post-Rebirth creative revitalization. Image is as good as always, but is facing stiff competition from smaller publishers.
After pillaging my local comic shop and scouring the interwebs, I’ve pulled together the official Pull List Best of 2018. There’s some popular comics and some deep cuts, but all are doing something unique and powerful with the medium. The only eligibility requirement was that it had to be released for the first time in 2018, including the release of the first issue, first time being published in print, or first time being published in English.
What would you put in your top comics of 2018?
Blackbird (Sam Humphries, Jen Bartel, Nayoung Wilson, Triona Farrell, Jodi Wynne – Image)
Nina Rodriguez is adrift. Her life stalled the night she predicted a deadly earthquake and saw a giant fantastical beast. Sam Humphries’ story of how Nina discovers a secret world of magic and tries to rescue her sister after the beast kidnaps her is very good, but what kicks it up to great is Jen Bartel’s stellar, beautiful art.
DIE (Kieron Gillen, Stephanie Hans, Clayton Cowles – Image)
Given the pedigree of this series’ creators, I knew this would be good, but holy Hera this is so good. Only the first issue is out, and it’s a killer, pun intended. Six teens are dragged into a fantasyland, and only five return. Decades later, they go back to find their missing friend and things get worse from there. Stephanie Hans’ art alone is worthy of placement on a Best Of list.
Euthanauts (Tini Howard, Nick Robles, Eva de la Cruz, Aditya Bidikar – Black Crown)
Death isn’t what you think it is. Thalia Rosewood is inducted into the Euthanauts after a near-death experience staged by the darkly pragmatic scientist Dr. Mercy Wolfe. While the story occasionally veers into the enjoyably impenetrable, the art is so devastatingly gorgeous that it completely makes up for any confusion.
Martian Manhunter (Steve Orlando, Riley Rossmo, Ivan Plascencia, Deron Bennett – DC)
This is hands down the best thing Steve Orlando’s written since his brilliant Midnighter series. Paired with Riley Rossmo’s surreal, painterly art, J’onn J’onzz has never looked so good. Only the first issue is out – one in which Martian Manhunter in his human guise investigates the murder of a family while also flashbacking to his life on Ma’aleca’andra – but it’s mightily impressive.
West Coast Avengers (Kelly Thompson, Stefano Caselli, Triona Farrell, Joe Caramagna – Marvel)
With both Hawkeyes now in Santa Monica – and Gwenpool, Kid Omega, America Chavez, and Fuse – the West Coast Avengers have reassembled once more. This series is another gem from Kelly Thompson, with all her trademark lightheartedness laced with unexpected depth and charming heart. Plus landsharks!
Abbott (Saladin Ahmed, Sami Kivelä, Jason Wordie, Jim Campbell – BOOM!)
It’s Detroit, 1972, and racism, misogynoir, and classism rule the day. Elena Abbott, a Black journalist, pushes back against the city’s leaders with her exposés. But when she starts looking into the coverup of the murder of a young Black man, she falls into a web of dark, violent magic. The story unfolds, one bit of incredible worldbuilding at a time.
Eternity Girl (Magdalene Visaggio, Sonny Liew, Chris Chuckry – DC’s Young Animal)
After a devastating battle where she killed her enemy Madam Atom, Caroline Sharp’s shapeshifting powers went haywire. Unable to die despite several attempts to kill herself, she contemplates a suggestion made by the ghost of Madam Atom: achieve death by destroying the universe. Visaggio’s script is unflinching and unforgiving but earnest, and Liew’s artwork is perfect for Eternity Girl’s shifty world.
Ghostbusters: Answer the Call (Kelly Thompson, Corin Howell, Valentina Pinto, Neil Uyetake – IDW)
Abby, Patty, Erin, and Holtzman are on the hunt for the malevolent ghost of a mad scientist that feeds on people’s fears by trapping them in their nightmares. Fans of the 2016 movie will love this fun little miniseries. It’s as engaging and women-centric as the film, and Kelly Thompson really captures the, ahem, spirit of the characters.
Jook Joint (Tee Franklin, Alitha E. Martinez, Shari Chankhamma, Taylor Esposito – Image)
Brutal and bloody, Tee Franklin takes no prisoners in this vicious miniseries. Mahalia owns the titular club in 1950s New Orleans, but she’s also a witch of dark magic. Her coven targets violent men and eats them alive. Heloise asks for her help in stopping her abusive husband and gets more than she bargained for.
Rogue & Gambit (Kelly Thompson, Pere Pérez, Frank D’Armata, Joe Caramagna – Marvel)
Rogue and Gambit reunite when Kitty Pryde sends them on a mission to infiltrate a couples retreat. Their real goal is to locate several missing mutants, but they might just find love along the way. Theirs is an action-packed romance for the ages, and this miniseries does them the best of justice.
The Seeds (Ann Nocenti, David Aja, Richard Bruning, Adam Pruett – Dark Horse)
Environmental collapse is imminent. The wealthy have isolated themselves while most are trapped in a walled city. Some, however, have escaped over the wall to who-knows-what. Meanwhile, mysterious figures are collecting specimens and things are mutating in not good ways. Dense but impressive and visually stunning yet muted, this is a fascinating series of complex contradictions.
Submerged (Vita Ayala, Lisa Sterle, Stelladia, Rachel Deering – Vault)
Elysia Puente’s brother vanishes the night of a massive storm, and she descends into the bowels of a boarded up subway station to find him. Instead of an abandoned platform Ellie is sucked into the underworld, and that’s when things get really weird. The story is as alluring and surreal as the art, and chockablock with references to Shakespeare, mythology, and Latinx culture.
Graphic Novels and Webcomics
Girl Town (Carolyn Nowak – Top Shelf)
This book collects five self-contained comics. Each story is quirky and thoughtful – in one a woman decides she’s done with men and buys a robot boyfriend instead, in another two girls sneak off to a fantasy market – and brimming with a feminist twist on science fiction and fantasy. It’s deeply Millennial in every way possible and portrayed in a relatable art style.
The Hookah Girl: And Other True Stories (Marguerite Dabaie – Rosarium Publishing)
In this semi-autobiographical graphic novel, Dabaie recounts her life growing up as a Christian Palestinian refugee in the US. Dabaie constantly bumps up against American stereotypes of Arab people and reflects on those interactions with profound honesty.
The Lie and How We Told It (Tommi Parrish – Fantagraphics)
On the surface, this stunning graphic novel is just about two former school friends who spend time catching up after an unexpected reunion at the grocery store. But Parrish delves into masculinity, sexuality, emotional maturity (or immaturity), and the lives and lies we create. Parrish’s art is weird and beautiful, awkward and dreamlike.
My Boyfriend Is a Bear (Pamela Ribon, Cat Farris – Oni Press)
This is one of those comics that is just too silly to pass up. While on a hike in the foothills above LA, Nora is trying to get over a string of bad relationships with men. There she meets a bear – yes, a real bear – who wears hipster band tees and enjoys craft beer. They fall in love, but his impending winter hibernation might be an obstacle too great to overcome. Farris’ delightfully playful style is perfect for Ribon’s whimsical story.
On a Sunbeam (Tillie Walden – First Second)
Emotionally adrift, Mia joins a crew who travel through space rebuilding destroyed structures. While learning the ropes, Mia flashbacks to her teen years in a boarding school where she fell in love with Grace, the girl she lost and hopes to find again. Walden’s phenomenal webcomic gets the print edition it deserves.
Upgrade Soul (Ezra Claytan Daniels – Lion Forge)
Geneticist Molly and her comics creator husband Hank decide to celebrate their anniversary by cloning themselves. Except the clones come out with Molly and Hank’s genius but looking like creepy mutants. As the clones grow, so does both their intellect and monstrous behavior. This is science fiction at its best, exquisitely illustrated with vivid and unsettling panels.
Middle Grade / Young Adult / All Ages
Aquicorn Cove (Katie O’Neill – Oni Press)
Back at their seaside hometown after a damaging storm, Lana stumbles upon a coral reef full of aquicorns. As Lana’s father helps Aunt Mae recover from the storm and Lana nurses a baby aquicorn back to health, O’Neill weaves in a powerful story of loss and letting go.
Nancy Drew (Kelly Thompson, Jenn St-Onge, Triona Farrell, Ariana Maher – Dynamite)
Kelly Thompson makes her fourth (!) appearance on this list with her utterly delightful update of a modern classic. Nancy is lured back to her hometown by a mystery she can’t turn down. She and her bestie Bess team up with the Hardy boys to solve the cold case, but when Bess goes missing all bets are off.
Prince and the Dressmaker (Jen Wang – First Second)
A prince and a seamstress work together to create for him the most exquisite dresses in this charming tale about being true to yourself. Prince Sebastian is never happier than when he transforms into Lady Crystallia, and Frances is never prouder than when she can put her skills to the test and keep Crystallia at the height of fashion. Will his family be as accepting of Lady Crystallia as Frances is?
Spectacle vol. 1 (Megan Rose Gedris – Oni Press)
This murder mystery graphic novel blurs together the paranormal and science with lush, expressive art and an intriguing story. After Anna’s twin sister Kat is killed, she haunts Anna and demands her sibling’s help in solving her murder. Although Anna doesn’t believe in magic, the subsequent events quickly change her mind.
Alex Brown is a YA librarian by day, local historian by night, pop culture critic/reviewer by passion, and an ace/aro Black woman all the time. Keep up with her every move on Twitter, check out her endless barrage of cute rat pics on Instagram, or follow along with her reading adventures on her blog.