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The Year in Queer: The top 10 LGBTQ+ comics of 2018

We count down the top queer comics of 2018.

If there’s one thing I love it’s a story with queer people in it. Gay sci-fi, lesbian fantasy, trans memoir, you name it. While LGBTQ+ characters and themes have historically (and continue to be) repressed within media, there are still creators out there making room for queer voices and expanding queer visibility into more and more genres. Like I did for 2017, I’ve compiled a list of my top ten favorite LGBTQ+ comics from the past year. The following is by no means a list of all the notable or enjoyable queer comics that came out in 2018, but I do consider it a collection of must-reads that I highly recommend.

Just a quick disclaimer: For comics that were originally published in languages other than English, I considered them eligible if they received original English translations in 2018. As such, there are some entries on the list that, while technically released prior to last year, weren’t yet available to English-speaking audiences before then. Now without any further adieu, here are my picks for The Year in Queer of 2018:

10. Generation X
Christina Strain, Amilcar Pinna, Felipe Sobreiro, and Clayton Cowles
(Cover art by Terry and Rachel Dodson)

Published by Marvel Comics

Marvel Comics

One of the best X-books in recent memory, Generation X just barely qualifies for this list– its final two issues came out in January and February 2018 respectively. With that said, even though it ended at the very beginning of the year, it left a lasting impression on me. The creative team delivered great character-focused drama with a likable cast, a unique aesthetic, and a dash of romance. The budding relationship between Ben Deeds and Nathaniel Carver was slow-paced and adorable, and the payoff in the series’ final issue was fantastic. I miss this comic very much.

9. Bloom Into You
Nakatani Nio
Published by Seven Seas Entertainment

Seven Seas Entertainment

Bloom Into You impresses thanks largely to its stellar character work. Nanami and Yuu are very dynamic characters, and Nio treads poignant ground with regards to their personal motivations and hazy feelings for one another. Nanami is an especially interesting figure, as her desire to achieve her dead sister’s dreams leads her to neglect her own well-being. The series also has a lovely soft aesthetic that matches the tonal sense of emotional vulnerability. Bloom Into You has gotten a lot of attention lately thanks to its anime adaptation, but the original manga is well worth checking out as well.

8. Starfighter
HamletMachine
Webcomic

HamletMachine

The tensions in Starfighter have never been higher than they got over the last year. Cain and Abel’s personal and professional conflicts have come to a head, and virtually every source of stability in their lives has been lost. Nothing’s certain at this point save for that whatever comes next is going to be intense. HamletMachine’s art is now the best its ever been, and Cain and Abel make a captivating duo. Starfighter continues to deliver great and unpredictable sci-fi action.

7. Sweet Blue Flowers
Takako Shimura
Published by Viz Media

Viz Media

Talk about excellent character-focused drama. Sweet Blue Flowers started off good, but its final two installments (released by Viz Media in 2018) were easily its best. Takako Shimura’s tale of high school students coming to terms with their same-sex attractions is sweet, funny, relatable, and well-paced, not to mention beautifully illustrated. The shading and patterns are among the most lovely I’ve ever seen in comics. The series’ conclusion is also excellent; without spoiling anything, I’ll simply say that it’s a cathartic feel-good end to over a thousand pages of angst, confusion, and discovery.

6. Check, Please!
Ngozi Ukazu
Webcomic

First Second Books

There were few comics I discovered this last year that made a better first impression on me than Check, Please! Both super cute and heartfelt, the series checks off every emotional box I could possibly want and it has a charming aesthetic to boot. The first half of the series got a print release last year via First Second Books, which was my first exposure to it. In terms of the comic’s 2018 updates, Ngozi Ukazu delivered some of the series’ most notable moments, as Bitty and Jack’s lives changed in a major way after the Stanley Cup. Last year also saw some more comedic moments for the series, as Bitty’s senior year has been full of gags and charm. All in all, Check, Please! is a must-read.

5. Go For It, Nakamura!
Syundei
Published by Seven Seas Entertainment

Seven Seas Entertainment

Comics don’t get much cuter than this one. Go For It, Nakamura! is the kind of love story that gay characters don’t often get to have–one where a teenager has a crush on a classmate, and their affections aren’t brought down into tragic territory with a homophobic rebuke or coming out gone wrong. Syundei’s metaphorical handling of queerness is excellent as well. As AiPT! contributor Trevor Richardson noted last year, there’s great layered symbolism with octopuses representing facets of the queer experience. As deep as it is under the surface, Go For It, Nakamura! is also a just plain adorable story that never bogs the reader down with intense trauma. Add in the super cute artwork and you’ve got one of the best comics of the year, hands down.

4. Snotgirl
Bryan Lee O’Malley, Leslie Hung, Rachael Cohen, and Maré Odomo
Published by Image Comics

Image Comics

Part murder-mystery, part fashion romp, and part over-the-top comedy, Snotgirl defies any singular definition. Without a doubt though, it’s one of the most fun and unique comics currently in stores. The romantic tension between Lottie and Caroline is amazing, and the crazy twists and turns throughout keep the book unpredictable. Leslie Hung’s artwork is full of personality and great comedic timing, and the colors by Rachael Cohen further enhance the soft and bright aesthetic. There’s no other comic quite like Snotgirl, and I love it for that.

3. My Solo Exchange Diary
Nagata Kabi
Published by Seven Seas Entertainment

Seven Seas Entertainment

Nagata Kabi is the queen of anxiety narratives in comics. My Solo Exchange Diary, the follow-up to her previous hit My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness, is a raw emotional journey through her personal highs and lows since the release of MLEWL. The color scheme (consisting solely of black, white, and pink) is great, and the exaggerated facial expressions throughout are hilarious. Nagata makes the deeply personal and depressing bearable and funny, bringing light to moments of soul-crushing doubt. As good as MLEWL was, this sequel is even better.

2. That Blue Sky Feeling
Okura and Coma Hashii
Published by Viz Media

Viz Media

One of my favorite comics of the year, That Blue Sky Feeling is a painfully relatable story about Sanada, a gay high schooler, and Noshiro, a new student who befriends him. Like many queer youths, Sanada’s life is largely defined by the extent to which he puts up fronts, wearing various masks just to navigate his way through everyday life. Okura and Hashii do a fantastic job depicting the double-edged nature of these deceptions: on one hand they’re necessary for survival, but on the other hand they’re painful in and of themselves. Serious subject matter aside this manga is still a joy to read, and Vol. 1 is ultimately a feel-good book. Hashii’s art style is adorable, too. With that said the comic is so relatable it’s painful, and I had to put it down several times. Overall, That Blue Sky Feeling is the best kind of gut-punch.

1. The Pervert
Remy Boydell and Michelle Perez
Published by Image Comics

Image Comics

When the time came to determine the order of the comics on this list, there were several titles I switched around before deciding on their final placements. Such was not the case with this one. As soon as I thought of it, Remy Boydell and Michelle Perez’s The Pervert claimed the number one spot.

This is a beautiful book on all fronts. Art-wise, Boydell renders the protagonist and her world in emotive watercolors that always convey precisely the right tone at the right time. At times the colors are washed out in ways that match the protagonist’s sense of hopelessness and desperation. At other times the coloration matches the emotional coldness of bad memories and sad hometowns. The icy blue and white expanses of Michigan are especially striking, as are shots of wounded and dead deer in a scene recounting how the narrator’s father took her hunting as a child.

The story of The Pervert is heavy, and it touches on traumas with an unflinching matter-of-factness. It conveys how the speaker’s experiences are exactly that: experiences, troubles and memories that color their ability to navigate the world around them on a profound level. While the protagonist makes ample use of humor, there’s never a sense that the serious subject matter is being cheapened or treated tactlessly. Far from trauma porn, The Pervert is an affecting ode to the harsh realities of life as a trans woman making a living through sex work. Out of all the queer comics I read in 2018, this is the one that’s stuck with me the most. I can’t recommend it enough.

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