Another year means another chance for me to reflect on some of the best comics that came out in the last 12 months. Maybe even the 10 categorically best comics of 2023. I’m nothing if not willing to lean into online controversy over lists.
When I put together my long list, there were more than 30 comics that made that initial cut. They came from publishers big and small, creators around the world, and told stories as diverse as you can imagine. Apparently, I read a lot of great comics in 2023. Cutting that incredible list down to a mere 10 that best represented what was great about comics in 2023 was one of the hardest things I’ve done in a while. I got there, though.
Below, you’ll find the Big Two represented along with some of the best indie publishers out there. There’s a little manga, a webcomic come to print, and some great standalone graphic novels. Superheroes, science fiction, vampires, historical fiction, and so much more filled our glossy reading lives in 2023. Nevertheless, I feel like I owe my press contacts an apology for all the amazing books that couldn’t fit on this list.
Let’s get into it, shall we? Here are the 10 best comics of 2023.
Akane-banashi by Yuki Suenaga, Takamasa Moue
This excellent manga was finally translated into English in 2023, and the VERY Japanese story is nearly as compelling as its characters. Akane is a teenager trying to become a master at rakugo, a style of Japanese storytelling. She’s doing this to avenge her father, who was expelled from the profession. What follows is an intricate, character-led drama that’s just exquisite.
Avengers Inc. by Al Ewing, Leonard Kirk
There are a lot of Avengers comics to read from month to month, year to year. When one comes along and does something really new, it’s worth noticing. In Avengers Inc., Janet Van Dyne has teamed up with a dead villain to solve mysteries. It’s basically a murder mystery, Avengers-style. It’s amazing.
Barnstormers by Scott Snyder, Tula Lotay
Year after year, there’s never enough historical fiction in comics for my taste. It’s the perfect medium for it, too. In this case, a Comixology original comes to print by way of Dark Horse. John is a combat pilot back from WWI. Helen loves to fly, and becomes John’s wingwalker for airshows. Romance, adventure, and lots of high-flying unfolds in this great series.
Birds of Prey by Kelly Thompson, Leonardo Romero
What happens when one of comics’ great writers gets everything they want in DC’s Birds of Prey? You get one of the best comics of 2023. Black Canary leads a team with Harley Quinn, Big Barda, Cassandra Cain, and Zealot. This book is less Batman-centric than others, and it’s deeply personal for Black Canary. The high stakes are part of what makes this comic sing.
Carmilla: The First Vampire by Amy Chu, Soo Lee
Based on the gothic novel that predates even Stoker’s Dracula, this comic brings everything you love about vampire stories. An idealistic young social worker is trying to find out why young LGBTQIA+ women are dying. All signs point to a Chinatown nightclub called Carmilla. As you can guess, vampires are what she finds there.
Gotham City: Year One by Tom King, Phil Hester
DC certainly knows how to tell Year One stories, don’t they? Gotham City: Year One is no exception. Two generations before Bruce is born to the Wayne family, this story focuses on Slam Bradley, a PI on the hunt for the kidnapper of the Wayne family heir. Thus begins the downward spiral of Gotham City into the city that needs Batman.
Monica by Daniel Clowes
Daniel Clowes is a master of the graphic novel, producing incredible work after incredible work over his long career. Monica may very well be his finest. This book is told via interconnected narratives about Monica, a woman with a fascinating life of love, loss, cults, and so much more. Genre-bending and deeply emotional, you have to read this book.
Roaming by Jillian Tamaki, Mariko Tamaki
I’m here for anything the Tamakis do, particularly when they do it together, like with this graphic novel. Two long-time friends decide on a big trip to New York. Along the way, a romance blossoms with an acquaintance, threatening the once-solid friendship. Love and friendship in the big city, right?
W0rldtr33 by James Tynion IV, Fernando Blanco
Cyberpunk sci-fi horror with numbers instead of letters? Yes, please! Gabriel and his friends found the secret Undernet, the backbone of the Internet. As they post their discoveries on a message board called W0RLDTR33, someone fights back. Some people don’t want Undernet to be explored, and they’re willing to kill to keep it secret.
Wonder Woman Historia: The Amazons by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Phil Jimenez, Gene Ha
Call it a new origin story, call it mythological fiction; I call it one of the best comics of 2023. Set a millennia ago, Hera and the other lady Olympians grow tired of their male counterparts, so they hatch a plan. Full of danger and intrigue, it eventually leads to the DC Universe we know and the birth of Wonder Woman.
Those are the ten most amazing, outstanding, brilliant, best comics of 2023. What were some of your favorites from last year? What are you most looking forward to in 2024?