Happy holidays, geeks and geekettes. Once again, GHG is back at with our “Best Of” geek-lists for 2018, and we’re starting off with the Best Comics. So enjoy the Joker fear, Infinity War gear, Mister Miracle tear, Black Hammer weird, and Christmas cheer!
1. Mister Miracle (DC Comics / Vertigo) – On the way to winning Eisners for Best Writer and Artist, Tom King and Mitch Gerads honored the legacy of Jack Kirby by crafting a tale sidelining the bulging eyes and crackling cosmic bombast we all know and love in favor of a profound meditation on family, duty, depression, grief, loss, and just how far one man is willing to go to escape the inescapable. I never ever wanted this series to end but will remain beyond grateful to these men for this journey for the rest of my life. – 5/5
2. Batman (DC) – In addition to scripting Mister Miracle and generating the still-just-kicking-into-gear event Heroes in Crisis, King and a murderers’ row of artistic collaborators slammed out over 30-issues of a run that is already in the books as one of the greatest in the character’s distinguished history. From a two-parter displaying more understanding of the nuances of Clark and Lois’s relationship and how that reverberates to Bruce and Selina, to the much-anticipated #50, which can stand all by itself as one of the finest graphic novels of the year, to the seriously eroding aftermath that has followed, King makes his readers wince at all the forces he has assembled to break the bat, even as we hold our breath and wait to see how he can possibly rally to overcome them. – 5/5
3. X-Men: Grand Design – Second Genesis (Marvel Comics) – Ed Piskor only released two issues of this series this year (recently collected in a glorious treasury edition), but in a little over 80-pages he managed to take Marvel’s merry mutants all the way from the dawn of the all-new all-different Claremont era to the Dark Phoenix Saga and the Brood abduction and the glory of the too-short Paul-Smith era and even Lifedeath. It was as thrilling to revisit these old adventures in his beautiful idiosyncratic fine-tuned cartoony style as it was to marvel at the secret connections he unearthed and invented along the way. – 5/5
4. Thor (Marvel) – As my best friend pointed out, even though it was all over by May 1st, any best-of list this year is a disaster without including the final installments of “The Death of The Mighty Thor,” not unlike how they gave Peter Jackson all those Oscars for Return of the King as awards for basically all ten hours of those movies; ever since 2014, Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman, and Matthew Wilson have been weaving a powerful emotional tale about what happened when Odin’s son became unworthy and his cancer-stricken ex-girlfriend picked up Mjolnir and taught us all what being heroic really means. I’m getting deeply messed up just thinking about how it went down even all these months later. – 5/5
5. Doomsday Clock (DC / Vertigo) – Geoff Johns and Gary Frank have embraced the profoundly dicey prospect of not only taking it out of the reader’s hands and objectively showing us what happens after the immortal final panel of Watchmen but also crossing over those classic characters into the DC Universe, and given us a tale that started out at its own pace, initially putting plot before character (which you’re really not supposed to do) before going absolutely apeshit here these last couple of issues and spiking this book up to the top of my most anticipated reads of the week, whenever it shows up. It’s all going to depend on how well Johns can stick the landing, but two-thirds of the way there, he is absolutely blowing it up and getting better with every issue. – 4.5/5
Honorable Mentions: The Green Lantern, Thanos, Black Hammer: Age of Doom, The Terrifics, Royal City, S.H.I.E.L.D.
1. Sandman Universe: The Dreaming (DC Comics/Vertigo) – Intricate, layered, and beautifully illustrated, Neil Gaiman‘s creation returns and expands upon itself. This is the series reminding one of the power of imagination and storytelling, and smartly manages to not merely retread old, tired ground. – 5/5
2. Doctor Star and the City of Lost Tomorrows (Dark Horse Comics) – An emotional, beautiful, and melancholic look at the cost of being a superhero, from the world of the already excellent Black Hammer. Gorgeously illustrated (as is the rest of the series), and bound to bring a tear to one’s eye by the end. Engaging, emotional, and memorable. – 4.75/5
3. Black Hammer: Age of Doom (Dark Horse) – Once again, Black Hammer inverts and reinvents the comic genre, going to an absolutely bonkers place in Issue #6 that supports my long-standing belief that stories–and characters–do matter. Somehow cramming more character development and imagination in 22-pages than most comics explore in their entire run, this series kicks so much ass. (And how has no one thought of the name “Inspector Insector” before?!) – 4/5
4. Death Or Glory (Image Comics) – A pulpy, explosive thriller that’s high-concept and fast-paced, and would belong alongside films like The Getaway, The Last Stand, even Two-Lane Bricktop, or Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry (all movies I fucking love), this is a blood-soaked, high-octane title that knows exactly how to put a car chase film on a comic page. – 3.75/5
5. Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K) (Dark Horse) – Somehow expanding into a completely different medium, Joel Hodgson‘s creation masterfully riffs on forgotten comics from the 1950’s: shifting genres in an instant, and highlighting how inane and fucking weird comics used to be when creators either didn’t want to, or know how to, give a shit, this is one of the most surprising titles this year to illustrate just how great MST3K is at doing what it does in this, its 30th anniversary. – 3.5/5
Honorable Mentions: Infidel, Action Comics, Batman: The Damned.
1. Monstress (Image) – Every page of this comic is bursting with beauty and detail. Monstress has been excellent for quite some time, and this year’s run was no exception. It swept the Eisner’s this year and rightfully so. Exorcist meets Kill Bill meets the Dark Crystal. – 5/5
2. Sink (ComixTribe) – It was really tough not putting this as #1. Sink #5 was the single most intense comic I have read in the last 5 years and it was a silent issue! Equal parts hard crime and grisly horror, concise and impactful. – 4.5/5
3. Doomsday Clock (DC / Vertigo) – So we’ve seen this before. “Before Watchmen” wasn’t great so I didn’t have hopes for this series. Doomsday Clock is almost a perfect sequel to Watchmen. It pays homage to the original source material while crafting an interesting new take on the narrative. – 4/5
4. X-Men: Grand Design – Second Genesis (Marvel) – I’ve been kind of fatigued with superhero comics lately. Grand Design, however, is Ed Piskor‘s love letter to the X-Mythology and a refreshing take on Marvel’s merry mutants. – 4/5
5. Kill or Be Killed (Image) – Whenever Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips team up, expect greatness. Fantastic ending to a gritty series that challenges your sense of morality. – 4/5
Honorable Mentions: Thor, Abbott, Oblivion Song.
1. Mister Miracle (DC / Vertigo) – This is Tom King’s masterpiece (for now) and is going to be considered a perennial classic like Dark Knight Returns. King and artist Mitch Gerads tugged at our heartstrings and proved that, with this and their previous collaboration Sheriff of Babylon, they are one of the greatest duos in comicdom. – 5/5
2. Batman (DC) – King continues to regale us with his long and winding Bat-epic. The issues involving Bruce and Selina were heart-tugging (and that annual!) while the intrigue caused us to wonder how much crazy King and his artistic cohorts could toss in our laps. – 4.75/5
3. Action Comics (DC) – Brian Michael Bendis has begun an instant classic run with this title and Superman. But Action is my favorite of the two because of the focus on Clark, Lois, and the Daily Planet. – 4.75/5
4. Gideon Falls (Image) – Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino proved themselves a great fit with their run on Green Arrow. With Gideon Falls they give us a Twin Peaks-influenced wild ride of a mystery. – 4.5/5
5. The Green Lantern (DC) – Only two issues in and writer/genius Grant Morrison and artist Liam Sharp have given us an exhilarating introduction to a character and world that feels iconic. The intricate art and characteristic Morrison flair add up to a book that GL fan old and new will claim as their new favorite title. – 4.5/5
Honorable Mentions: Superman, Justice League, Batman: Kings of Fear, Dept. H.
-Keith Justin Dooley
1. Black Hammer: Age of Doom (Dark Horse) – Jeff Lemire’s love letter to superhero comics continues to delight with every issue reminding me why I too fell in love with superhero comics. A group of heroes who tried to save the world only to find themselves trapped.. somewhere else? With every question answered more mysteries unravel. – 5/5
2. Mister Miracle (DC) – Yeah yeah, Tom King and Mitch Gerads show us all exactly why Darkseid Is. Scott and Barda’s Series long fever dream of a story keeps you on the edge of your seat! Visually stunning and thought provoking work. – 4.5/5
3. Immortal Hulk (Marvel) – Al Ewing & Joe Bennett relaunched the Hulk this time around with more of a classic old school horror feel to it. Never forget that he isn’t a man, he’s a monster! – 4/5
4. Death or Glory (Image) – Rick Remender & Bengal give me everything I want. Glory was raised by truckers off the grid and now explores the open roads of the American Highways that just so happened to be littered with all sorts of trouble. – 4.5/5
5. My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies (OGN, Image) – Brubaker. Philips. Oh, you need more than that? A coming of age story of a young teen who finds herself seduced by romantic ideas of the drug culture’s tortured artists. But when you go looking for darkness, it always finds you. – 5/5
Honorable Mentions: Savage Dragon, Coda, Cover, Giant Days, Wildstorm, Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles.
1. Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles – This is high drama, worthy of any soap opera or political thriller! Mark Russell‘s script is perfectly nostalgic and yet relevant. I’d love to see it animated even if the main character doesn’t wear pants. Unexpectedly one of the coolest reads of the year. – 5/5
2. Shade the Ever Changing Woman – Cecil Castellucci’s writing is brilliantly poetic and full of emtions, while Marley Zarcone creates serious eye candy and a retro fever dream. – 5/5
3. Bitter Root – What a compelling story of family ties and horrors both otherworldly and familiar! The visuals are lush, electric, and lurid. – 5/5
4. Hex Wives – A dark and spooky feminist tale of queer women and the men who just won’t let them life, beautifully rendered by Mirka Andolofo, gorgeous and intriguing read. – 4.5/5
5. Jook Joint (Image) – A blood thirsty collection of sirens deal out gruesome justice in the swamp. This supernatural vigilante tale comes from Tee Franklin’s own personal journey through domestic violence. The voluptuous artwork of Alitha Martinez weaves the sexy and the sinister seamlessly. 4.5/5
Honorable Mentions: Bunny Mom, Captain America, Saga.
1. Batman (DC) – I didn’t review a Batman book this year (shockingly) but King’s run has been one of the most consistent. Even the wedding issue, which shook fans, and angered others, played out brilliantly. This has been one of maybe 4 books all year that I have made sure to pick up regardless of money issues. – 5/5 Bibles
2. Captain America (Marvel) – “The beautiful thing about this issue — and most of this run — is that Waid instills in you that sometimes you don’t have a choice but to fight against evil and sometimes all you have is hope, but hope is a powerful weapon.” This was my big statement on Captain America #700. Both Waid and Coates’ runs on Cap have given us a leader for these tumultuous times and pushes us to be the hero. – 4.75/5
3. Amazing Spider-Man (Marvel) – It was Dan Slott that brought me back to the Spider-Man universe after the disastrous “One More Day” arc that sent a lot of fans running away from the series — about as bad as “The Clone Saga”. Since that fateful issue of “Brand New Day”, I have been hooked; Slott made Spider-Man all that we loved about him, but he gave us so much more. With Slott leaving Spidey to jump on to the Fantastic Four, Nick Spencer has been up to the web-shooting job. – 4.5/5
4. Batman: Damned (DC) – Whenever Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo join forces I end up loving their work. While Damned has been a bit heavy-handed — and I’m not entirely liking the idea that Thomas Wayne cheated on Martha — the rest of the story has been fantastic and, as always, I love Bermejo’s art. – 4.25/5
5. Doomsday Clock (DC / Vertigo) – This series has been mind boggling and so good. I just really, really wish that DC could get this mini-series out on time. – 4/5
Honorable Mentions: The Fixx, Archie, Action Comics, Ant Man and the Wasp, Justice League, Heroes in Crisis.
1. Thor (Marvel) – Jason Aaron‘s Thor/The Mighty Thor has been great for years, so it’s no surprise that Marvel’s best title appears at the top of my list. Not since Spider-Man’s 9/11 issue has a Marvel series been so heartfelt, here with Jane Foster’s dichotomous story between Mjolnir-wielding bad-ass and cancer-riddled goddess of thunder. Better, Russell Dauterman and Matthew Wilson arrange a majestic collection of sci-fi/fantasy art that serves the perfect atmosphere for Aaron’s captifying scripts. From throwback Magog to, later, Doom Thor — with the “borrowed” gifts of Doc Strange, Iron Fist, and Johnny Blaze (all set to the scorching paints of Christian Ward?) — lord have mercy. – 5/5
2. Action Comics/Superman (DC) – The Superman comics have been in good hands in recent years, but there’s no doubt that no “free agent signing” has been more exciting in Comicsland that the DC snatching away of Brian Michael Bendis from Marvel. Sure, the Disney capes’ cinema murders WB’s in every which way; but the same can’t be said in comics, where DC’s Rebirth has seen some of the most consistent storytelling from the Big 2 in years. BMB took over two titles not needing of much change. Thankfully, the all-star comic scribe has played off both runs dutifully; in Action Comics, the focus is on Clark Kent and the daily ongoings at The Daily Planet. Both Patrick Gleason and Ryan Sook have helped made even the most dialogue-intense scenes look wonderful, while the bigger mystery Supes has on his mind (The Red Cloud, Leviathan) complete the “action” at hand. Meanwhile, the titular Superman has the more Kryptonian edge, with epic spats in The Phantom Zone and plenty of Adam Strange — all the greater with former Green Lantern artist Ivan Reis sketching all the calamity. – 4.75/5
3. Immortal Hulk (Marvel) – As of this morning, I read only 4-issues and found Al Ewing‘s horror-tinged Banner rebirth/death/birth/death series fine, until our very own Lance Paul told me to catch up and read the next 6-issues.. or else. Holy hell, this book is fuckin’ great. Not only does Ewing nail the Jekyll & Hyde psychology of horror’s earliest days (Hulk head ‘n bod in a bottle anyone?), he and Joe Bennett also go on to capture the MCU Avengers’ perfect tone during one of the coolest Hulk v. Friends fight comics ever. Other issues see Banner’s better half inspire “Gamma Flight” and battle a Red Hulk-powered Abomination Man (that he pummels with Crusher’s own intestines!). Sounds gross, looks downright splendid. – 4.5/5
4. Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles (DC/Hanna Barbera) – And this is why I fuckin’ love GHG. I’ve been somewhat comic-depressed ever since Mark Russell‘s The Flintstones — my Best Comic of 2016 — finished, and if it wasn’t for Colleen’s #1 pick up above, I’d have had no idea this was Russell’s next project. Snagglepuss is a Tennessee Williamsesque Hollywood Playwright who battles a Cold War fearing government even more scurred of American art and the political/sexual rebellion attached. Throw in many at work/in-the-closet relationships swirling Huckleberry Hound, Quick Draw McGraw and SP’s other anthroporphic pals, and shit is pure mayhem, tightened by hilarious dialogue and a heartfelt story that compares the discriminant bullshit of the 1950s (and now) to the stage. Wear a mask, but don’t skip this brilliant 6-issue act. – 4.5/5
5. The Green Lantern (DC) – In just two issues, Grant Morrison‘s return to DC ongoings made The List of Moodico. And I was one of the most outspoken supporters of Robert Venditti’s run on our favorite space cop, as I still stand that the X-O Manowar author scripted a hell of an underrated Green Lantern “rebirth”. But, geeks, this proves why some comic book writers are all-stars and why some aren’t: they batshit crazy. It takes a certain level of lunacy to take our attention from a very good book to a very eye-popping one. This is a very strange Lantern read, but nothing any fan of sci-fi can’t comprehend. This GL offers characters as memorable as they are bizzare for a police procedural, full of wonder, mystery and grit; lest we forget Liam Sharp, whose art plays just a big a part in the title’s success as Morrison’s mainstream return. – 4.25/5
Honorable Mentions: Doomsday Clock, Klaus and the Crying Snowman, Justice League, Daredevil, Mister Miracle, X-Men: Grand Design – Second Genesis, Black Hammer: Age of Doom, Kill Or Be Killed, Batman.
1. Hit-Girl (Image) – If you have no conscientious objection to reading a comic book that fetishizes imperialistic horror porn… then Hit-Girl is probably the comic book for you! – 5/5
2. Bone Parish (BOOM! Studios) – While Dante’s gotcha dopeslitz packin, his boy Brae’s out witda Bone Collectin’ Crew, diggin up more Ashy Larrys for Dr. Brigitte to Frankenskeet with… – 4.75/5
3. Dead Rabbit (Image) – Martin Dobbs was a Beantown Neighborhoodlum, known to terrorize Bostonians of every taste and smell, back in the decade before the big Y2Kame to town. – 4/5
4. Sideways (DC) – Do you really wanna waste yer time slogging thru this unimaginative tripe about a cocky high school kid who happens to be DC’s equivalent of a low-rent Spiderman/Nightcrawler hybrid, sporting a costume arrow emblem that’s literally pointing down to his crotch?? – 2.5/5
5. Sea Of Thieves (Rare/Microsoft Studios – Video Game) – The Wallet Pirates over at Rare and Microsoft Studios are the real Sea of Thieves, when it comes to this empty treasure chest of a video game that amounts to a dead man’s dinghy full of dried dogshit doubloons. – 1.5/5
Honorable Mentions: Everything I didn’t read.
1. Mister Miracle (DC / VERTIGO)
2. Batman (DC Comics)
3. Black Hammer: Age of Doom (Dark Horse Comics)
4. Action Comics (DC Comics)
5. *TIE* Thor (Marvel Comics) / Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles (DC / Hanna Barbera)
Honorable Mentions: Doomsday Clock, X-Men: Grand Design – Second Genesis, Immortal Hulk, Death Or Glory, The Dreaming, Monstress, The Green Lantern, Captain America, Justice League, Superman, Batman: Damned, Kill Or Be Killed.
-Merry Christmas, geeeeeeeeeeeeeeks!!!