Here it be: the List. Our favorite comics of the year. They may not be yours. The lovely thing about comics is that there are millions of them and there is something for everyone. We’d love to hear what yours were. In addition. Let’s celebrate the fact we all love this crazy-mixed up-free for all of a medium.
The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins by Carey Pietsch, Clint McElroy, Griffin McElroy, Justin McElroy, and Travis McElroy (First Second)
This year, I played D&D for the first—and probably last—time. As a socially anxious introvert, the game itself exhausted me. But I did enjoy the world-building and the choose your own adventure-ness of it all, and so I began reading comics built around D&D. This graphic novel based upon “The Adventure Zone,” a popular comedy podcast that follows a D&D campaign, blows them all away, mostly because of its fantastic sense of humor. I found myself literally LOL-ing on every page. And it didn’t hurt that the protagonists themselves were also gaming noobs. I eagerly await Volume 2.
American Carnage by Bryan Edward Hill, Leandro Fernandez, Ben Oliver, and Rafael Albuquerque (DC/Vertigo)
Disgraced FBI agent Richard Wright is asked by the Bureau to infiltrate a white supremacist organization. Asked by his old mentor because he’s biracial and can pass for white. Once inside, however, Wright discovers he likes the power being part of such a group offers. Perhaps a bit too much. Hill’s brutal, honest writing is everything we need right now.
Bingo Love by Tee Franklin and Jenn St-Onge (Image)
Franklin lives a couple towns over from me, so I get a kick out of the sense of familiarity I feel when I enter the world of Bingo Love. But more than that, I’m including this comic here because St-Onge’s artwork is to die for, and Franklin’s story shattered my heart into a billion tiny pieces. The story, at its most basic level: two young women meet at church bingo in 1963 and fall in love, only to be kept apart by both their families and by society. Decades later, they meet again. Dun dun DUN. This came out back in February, but Image just released a Jackpot Edition, containing a TON of bonus material.
Blackbird by Sam Humphries, Jen Bartel, and Fiona Staples (Image)
Gods. Monsters. That color palette. A woman on a quest for the truth and for her sanity. When I interviewed Sam at SDCC before issue 1 dropped, he confirmed that Harry Potter meets Riverdale was an apt description and I have not been disappointed. This book is tightly written and absolutely gorgeous. I’m excited for each new issue and I can’t wait to see where it swerves next.
Exorsisters by Ian Boothby, Giséle Lagacé, Kari, Pia Guerra, David Lafunte (Image)
I’m ashamed to admit Exorsisters wasn’t on my radar until I happened to notice the title on the Image advanced review list one week and decided to check it out. I’m really, really glad I get that email because I absolutely adore this tale of sibling exorcists, snarky demons, and secret deals with the denizens of the literal underworld and can’t recommend it highly enough. The art has that Chilling Tales of Sabrina aesthetic with a tiny bit of Emily the Strange thrown in for good measure and there’s one panel that’s currently the wallpaper on my laptop…I don’t want to ruin the hilarity but you’ll know it when you see it…
Hi, Deathcap by Shing Yin Kohe (Twitter)
Deathcap is a mushroom battling mental illness. To this end, Deathcap engages in self-care, gets a pet, and tries to socialize. I love Deathcap so much.
Infidel by Pornsak Pichetshote, Aaron Campbell, and Jose Villarrubia (Image)
I’ve mentioned Infidel many, many times on this site. And with good reason. I started reading as soon as the first issue dropped, back in March, and found it to be so well done I couldn’t stop. About an American Muslim woman haunted by evil entities that seem to feed off xenophobia, this comic’s social message may seem in your face, but actually contains many layers. When a full volume was released in October, I reread the entire thing, marveling at the ways in which the story came together, oohing and ahhing over the gorgeous artwork, and just generally enjoying the deliciously creepy horror of it all. Infidel is the best horror comic I’ve read, hands down.
Lucy the Octopus by Richy K. Chandler (Jessica Kingsley Publishers)
We need light comics this year. And we need light comics that shows how we find light in the darkness, either literally or figuratively. Lucy is unpopular at school, at home, and even with most animals. Things start to look up when she auditions for a rock band in disguise, and gets a sweet puffer fish for a pet.
Man-Eaters #3 by Chelsea Cain, Kate Niemczyk, Rachelle Rosenberg, and Joe Caramagna (Image)
Just three issues in, Man-Eaters is proving to be a delightfully fun commentary on the ways in which women are controlled by society. Cats and sparkles are also in abundance, which are two weaknesses of mine. I swear, every time I finish an issue, I want to plaster the walls with its pages. Except that I also don’t want to deface my copies. Maybe I need two copies of each issue? (Y/N?) The basic premise is that a mutation in toxoplasmosis somehow causes menstruating women to turn into ferocious killer wildcats. Society adapts by finding ways to prevent menstruation. By issue three, the young girls at the heart of this comic shift from powerless to powerful (and hella clever).
Nancy Drew by Kelly Thompson, Jenn St-Onge, Triona Farrell, and Ariana Maher (Dynamite Entertainment)
This five-issue reboot of one of my favorite childhood heroines kicked off in June, and I loved every second of it. I already mentioned up above that St-Onge is one of my favorite artists, and I really dug how Thompson and St-Onge paired up to breathe new life into this gang of super-sleuths. Just pure fun, and I have my fingers crossed for a second arc. In the meantime, if you want to wait, the volume that collects all of these issues together—Nancy Drew: Cold Case—is available at the end of February.
The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang (First Second)
Honestly one of the cutest and sweetest graphic novels I’ve ever read. His parents may be looking for his future bride, but all the crown prince really wants is the freedom to express himself—and if that means sometimes wearing a dress, that really shouldn’t matter should it? It certainly doesn’t to Frances, the seamstress he hires and trusts with his secret. The job turns into a friendship and the friendship maybe even turns into something more as they navigate what it means to be young and to be true to yourself. Honestly, just a feel good story with lovely illustrations that everyone should read if only to put a smile on your face.
Rainbow Brite #1 by Jeremy Whitley, Brittney Williams, Valentina Pinto, Taylor Esposito, Kevin Ketner
In this garbage fire year that has been 2018, I can’t even begin to tell you how much I needed a delightful comic about friendship that also drowned me in nostalgia and made my ‘80s-loving heart squee. Williams is one of my favorite artists and Whitley always creates comics about girls on adventures that just make my heart so happy. I can’t wait to follow along on Wisp and Willow’s adventures.
Saga Volume 9 by Fiona Staples and Brian K Vaughan (Image Comics)
If you’ve been meaning to catch up with this FANTASTIC series, now’s your time. This latest collection is a gut-punch of emotions, full of heartbreak, violence, and the sweetest small moments that show what it’s like to be alive.
The Sandman Universe #1 Story by Neil Gaiman, Written by Dan Watters, Kat Howard, Nalo Hopkinson, Dominike Stanton, and Simon Spurrier (DC/Vertigo)
I mention this one not because it’s the best of the comics that have emerged from Gaiman’s Sandman universe since it returned, but because it brought all of these writers and artists together. Sebastian Fiumara, Max Fiumara, Tom Fowler, Domonike Stantion, and Bilquis Evely are all featured in this stunning introduction, which featured seven variant covers. The return was exciting and anticipated, and I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the four different stories and threads that I first glimpsed in Sandman Universe #1.
—Leah Rachel von Essen
Snotgirl Vol 2. California Screaming by Brian O’Malley, art by Leslie Hung; with Rachael Cohen and Maré Odomo (Image Comics)
The story of fashion blogger Lottie Person is strange, bizarre, and occasionally even hard to follow, but the ludicrous personality of our main character, the mystery of the surrealist things that keep happening to her, the new best friend who is maybe murdering people? The bright, poppy art style combined with a plot line about influencers, gossip, and drama, kept me hooked all the way through.
—Leah Rachel von Essen
Tentacles at My Throat by Zerocalcare (Europe Comics)
This comic about a childhood secret is dark, weird, and funny—a great trifecta. Imagine Stand by Me or Stranger Things, but quirkier, set in Italy, and obsessed with the long tail of guilt.
Great stuff all around and the stage set for an even better 2019. Happy reading, true believers.
Ed.’s Note: Border Town was removed from this list by request.