Welcome back to the official AiPT! best of comics in 2018. In part 1, we laid out our favorite books in the “everything else” category, including series that ended too soon, best book for young readers, and the biggest surprise. We didn’t run rankings, nor poll the staff, but we did open our hearts and let the entire staff decide by chiming in with their favorite comics of 2018. In part 2, we break down our favorite series in the realms of horror, mini-series, single issues, and more! Come back in three days when we break down our favorite creators and tell you why.
Best horror comic
Infidel, by Pornsak Pichetshote, Aaron Campbell, José Villarrubia
Infidel is so good it could probably win best comic of the year, let alone best horror comic. Writer Pornsak Pichetshote, artist Aaron Campbell, and editor/colorist Jose Villarrubia created an instant classic, with a story that is as wrought with socio-political commentary as it is with genuinely terrifying moments. The pacing is astounding, the imagery is grotesquely haunting, and the book approaches issues of racism with astounding grace. This is a mini-series that will be remembered as one of the greatest horror stories ever told.
- Connor Christiansen
Immortal Hulk, by Al Ewing, Joe Bennett
Of all the “Fresh Start” comics that came out this year, Hulk’s series might have been the biggest departure from what I was expecting. Sure the promo material was hyping it like some kind of monster feature, but it went full horror very fast. Joe Bennett’s pencils are striking to the point of putting you in shock while Al Ewing’s story went all-in with the body horror. This is a Hulk that people fear simply by seeing him. Gone are the beach-bod poses, in their place is a Hulk who makes you want to gag. It’s a series that has played around with the horrors of living with a monster inside you and a monster you don’t understand and maybe don’t even want to understand. The series has been thought-provoking too and its road-trip style of story has kept us on our toes. Hulk was reintroduced as a beast that only came out at night, like a nightmare or a monster under the bed. It’s a series that I’ll be recommending to every horror fan I know.
- Dave Brooke
Best #1 of the year
The Green Lantern, by Grant Morrison and Liam Sharp
In a year full of phenomenal new titles, Morrison and Sharp’s dramatic arrival impressed and thrilled in unexpected ways. Combined with the skills of Oliff and Orzechowski, the team not only began a thoughtful and additive character dissection of Hal Jordan, but it shone a new light on the cosmic corners that we thought we knew so well, peeling back layers and delights we could’ve scarcely imagined. Described by Morrison as the book of his Beatles Imperial Phase, it delivers in every way a #1 should. It’s a powerful mission statement full of heart, humor and high concept ideas rendered in stunning fashion, as page after page packs hooks, grabbing you by the heart.
- Ritesh Babu
Martian Manhunter, by Steve Orlando and Riley Rossmo
Reinvention with reverence is the name of the game in this year’s Martian Manhunter maxi-series debut, and the effect couldn’t be more honed or artistically compelling. Towing the difficult line between introducing a mystery and debuting a new, realized take on a character with as storied a past as J’onzz is no easy task but its done here with aplomb. With a great narrative hook that this Martian Manhunter isn’t a hero…not yet, and a moral ambiguity that microscopes the Justice League figure we all know on a macro and micro level, Orlando writes a complete and fulfilling story that steps back to let Rossmo’s gooey, loose and all the same rigid, sci-fi weirdness do its thing at the right moments in great harmony. Oh and there’s martian sex. What’s not to love?
- Forrest Hollingsworth
Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles, by Mark Russell, Mike Feehan
You will believe a Hanna-Barbera comic book can move you! Following up on the hit back-up story from 2017’s Suicide Squad/Banana Splits Special, this miniseries recontextualizes the classically fey cartoon lion Snagglepuss as a gay southern playwright in the years when the House Un-American Activities Committee set its sights on the entertainment industry. And it works. Adapting Snagglepuss as a Tennessee Williams-esque figure allows the book to explore topics that would normally be considered taboo or “too adult” for a cartoon tie-in. Like DC’s Flintstones series, The Snagglepuss Chronicles elevates the material while using familiar characters and their associated tropes to tell a story that feels fresh and important.
- Nathan Simmons
Multiple Man by Matthew Rosenberg,
Matthew Rosenberg took an underused fan favorite character and put him in the most complete mini-series of the year. Funny, a little confusing, filled with fan service, and even poignant at times, Multiple Man was a well crafted comic book that everyone should rush out and read.
- Nathaniel Muir
Mister Miracle, by Tom King and Mitch Gerads
Tom King and Mitch Gerads’ reinvention of Kirby’s divine escape artist was a heartbreakingly potent narrative that shook all of us. Casting Scott Free through the ultimate trial, wherein he must balance cosmic wars and domestic life as a husband and father, it’s a series that re-evaluated a lot of what makes Scott Free tick and re-contextualized his reality for the readers. New Gods was always about fathers and sons and despite inverting the Kirby approach of spectacle for smaller-scale drama, at its heart, the book is as Kirby as it gets.
- Ritesh Babu
Coda, by Simon Spurrier and Matias Bergara
Coda, a new 12 issue series from writer Si Spurrier and artist Matias Bergara is, on its service level, a beautiful book — awash in bright colors and an artist effort reminiscent of Moebius’s best. It’s eye-catching abilities are second only to its narrative complexities, however. Weaving a story of half-heroes and dead gods, five-horned unicorns (he’s a pentacorn, actually), and magical long-forgotten elves through the eyes of a sullen, but not without heart morally greyed bard, Hum, Spurrier and Bergara have realized something wholly special and unique. Here is a deconstructed post-Tolkien fantasy story that actually fits our times and is all the better for it. It certainly helps that it’s literary predilections and pontifications operate at a much higher level than most hero books for those looking for something to really chew on, too.
- Forrest Hollingsworth
Best Original Graphic Novel
My Boyfriend is a BearI, by Pamela Ribon, Cat Farris
My Boyfriend is a Bear, created by Pamela Ribon and Cat Farris is not only my favorite graphic novel of the year but one of my favorite works in the comics medium ever. Check out my review for a deeper dive on why it left such an impression on me, but in short, it simply breathes new life into the genre of romantic comedy and tells a story as heartwarming and adorable as it is outrageous and hilarious. Cat Farris’s rendering of Bear with his goofy expression and true-to-scale size made me instantly fall in love with him and Pamela Ribon does a convincing job through her characterization in justifying why Nora would date a bear over a human. Even if you think that premise is outrageous, I strongly urge you to grab a copy of this lovely tale of girl-meets-bear.
- Trevor Richardson
Mandela and the General, by John Carlin, Oriol Malet
John Carlin and Oriol Malet’s Mandela and the General is a book I think everyone should read. It’s a book that not only captures real-life events from a writer who was actually there, but it holds a very strong message within. It’s about having the resolve to do the right thing when facing incredible stress and danger. It’s about a moment in human history where the real change happened and made people’s lives better. Two men who should have hated each other had the civility to speak on common ground and make a decision to help a nation heal. Added to this is Malet’s incredible art that is striking and hits home on an emotional level.
- Dave Brooke
Best Single Issue (One Shot or Otherwise)
Swamp Thing Winter Special, by Tom King, Len Wein, Jason Fabok, Kelley Jones
The comics industry lost two giants last year in Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson. Their contributions to the world of superheroes were many, but few would argue that their greatest may have been the muck-encrusted plant elemental known as Swamp Thing. As a tribute to them and their work on the character, this special brings together Tom King and Jason Fabok to tell a dark new Swamp Thing story. It also publishes what would have been the first issue of an ongoing Swampy title written by Wein and illustrated by Kelly Jones. Since Wein had not written most of the dialogue, the story is presented without word balloons — just Jones’ artwork — with Wein’s original page layout notes in the pages that follow. I can’t think of anything else like it and for that reason alone, it’s worth a look. The final few pages reprint the house ads that ran in the months after Wein and Wrightson passed and showcase their specific senses of humor and some beautiful Wrightson drawings. This special was a lovely tribute to the work of both creators that will appeal to longtime fans of Swamp Thing and would likely intrigue newcomers.
- Nathan Simmons
Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #310, by Chip Zdarsky
Chip Zdarsky’s last issue on Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man was also his best. Exploring the complexities of the Parker, and Spider-Man, character in a deft, sometimes cheeky, sometimes sincere “documentary” style, Zdarsrky exposes the of the enduring appeal of our Spider-hero through a heartbreaking, inspiring story that highlights a man that just won’t stop trying both with or without a mask on. With great power, indeed.
- Forrest Hollingsworth
Inhumans: Judgement Day, by Al Ewing, Kevin Libranda
This was one of the first one-shots of the year, but it may have been the best one. Al Ewing had put Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s creations through the wringer in the 2017 series Royals, and Judgement Day served as a heartfelt and gorgeous finale to that series’s arc. Everything about this book is stellar, from the narrative to the dialogue to the character progression to the gorgeously rendered sequences by duo Kevin Libranda and Mike del Mundo. Medusa and Black Bolt’s relationship is put on full display, expertly exemplifying what makes their bond so powerful.
- Connor Christiansen
Best Story Arc
Thanos Wins, by Donny Cates, Geoff Shaw
Thanos Wins by Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw isn’t exactly high art, but it knows exactly what it is. It’s a fun story about Thanos going to the future where he’d killed almost the entire universe and helping the future version of his win. It has character moments, it has beautiful art wonderfully crafted by Geoff Shaw (who is great on anything he draws — God Country is always worth reading) and has the best breakout character of 2018: COSMIC GHOST RIDER, a character who has burst out so well he got a miniseries immediately, secured a spot in the Guardians of the Galaxy in the 2019 relaunch and he’s already gotten another miniseries in 2019. If that’s not a reason for this story arc being one of the bets this year, I don’t know what is.
- Robyn Montgomery
Drowned Earth, by Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, Dan Abnett, Howard Porter, Francis Manapul, Frazer Irving, Clayton Henry, Lan Medina, Bruno Redondo
There have been quite a few events this year although most have been shorter and less substantial. Maybe that’s due to fan backlash to the epic multi-month long events that require readers to pick up 30 tie-in books to follow the main story. Thankfully both Marvel and DC have shortened up their events between Infinity Wars, Justice League: No Justice, Avengers: No Surrender, and the fun Damnation.
One of DC Comics’ last events may have been the best with the Aquaman-focused Drowned Earth. I don’t think it’s recency bias to say Drowned Earth has been the biggest success of this year’s events. This event was short: only a few issues, without a company-wide requirement of tie-ins. The biggest success of this series was how it fleshed out Aquaman in new ways, making him less tied to our oceans and tied instead to the oceans of the universe. He’s become a protector of all the oceans of the universe, bringing up to a level of responsibility, and maybe even power set when all things are said and done, that trumps any god in the DC universe. The series was exciting as any good summer blockbuster and had real stakes in play. I wouldn’t be surprised if this event gets adapted into a film one day.
- Dave Brooke