Best Single Comic Book Issues of 2018

By Zack Quaintance — It is, perhaps, telling that the majority of picks for our Best Single Comic Book Issues of 2018 list are essentially self-contained. Six, to be exact, with a case to be made that at least one of the others could stand on its own, too. In an industry where many creators put out installments best consumed as part of a collected trade, a truly well-done story with a real beginning, middle, end stands out.

At least, that’s definitely what we found this year in evaluating our picks. We’re pretty happy with about it too, in part because it makes re-visiting these issues all the easier. Anyway, the below list contains stories about iconic characters like Wonder Woman, the existential horrors of decisions in life, the writer’s ego, and recovering from trauma. I hope you’ll see some favorites on here and also find new comics, regardless of whether you’re caught up on a book or have plans to continue forward.

Let’s check out this year’s list!

Best Single Comic Book Issues of 2018

Action Comics #1004
Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Ryan Sook
Colorist: Brad Anderson
Inker: Wade Von Grawbadger
Letterer: Josh Reed
Publisher: DC Comics
Release Date: 10/24/2018
Why It’s So Good: It’s about the most iconic romance in comics: Clark Kent and Lois Lane. It’s also the first time Bendis gives extended play to the relationship during his current (and excellent) Superman run. What Bendis is doing is breaking down Superman’s central characteristics and building them back up for 2018. That’s definitely what he does here, giving us Lois as an aspiring author and Clark as the supportive (if occasionally long distance) husband. Cards on the table: this whole thing hits close to home with me. My wife is a reporter for the LA Times, and we’ve spent roughly three months total apart due to work in recent years. The reunion in this story felt true-to-life and romantic as all get out. As such, I absolutely loved it.

Batman Annual #3
Tom Taylor
Artist: Otto Schmidt
Letterer: A Larger World’s Troy Peteri
DC Comics
Release Date: 12/12/2018
Why It’s So Good: I haven’t said this in a week or so (what with the holidays and all), so I’ll say it now: Tom Taylor is the most underrated writer of corporate superhero comics today. It continues to boggle my mind that neither DC nor Marvel has locked this massive talent up with an exclusive deal and given him the keys to a massive franchise. Not the fourth Spider-Man, third X-Men, or alternate Batman hates Superman comic, but an honest to goodness flagship comic. He really is that good, and comics like Batman Annual #3 show why. This one-off is a stand-alone story that thematically ties to an exploration of fatherhood taking place in the main title, and Taylor absolutely crushes it. There’s a re-telling of the Batman origin through Alfred’s eyes that had me in tears within three pages and an ending that depicts the Alfred-Bruce dynamic in a way that had never occurred to me, suggesting that the stubbornness of Batman’s war on crime is a byproduct of Alfred setting such a noble example of necessary servitude throughout Bruce’s childhood. Put simply, it’s brilliant heartrending stuff.

Batman: Creature of the Night #3
Kurt Busiek
Artist: John Paul Leon
Letterer: Todd Klein
Publisher: DC Comics
Release Date: 4/18/2018
Why It’s So Good: This series is a spiritual and conceptual successor to Busiek’s seminal 2004 Superman: Secret Identity, in that Batman: Creature of the Night essentially tells the Batman story on our Earth, where Batman is a ubiquitous comic book character. Plot-wise, Creature of the Night is a bit trickier than Secret Identity. Superman was easy to get going, because Supes got his powers inadvertently and surprisingly. Batman’s heroics, however, were born of tragedy and an obsessive, steely response. Creature of the Night got the tragedy aspect right from its start, as well as things like the protagonist’s personality and his supporting cast, or at least Alfred. What was missing until now was a believable way to have Batman as a crime fighter. This book gives us that, dark and surprisingly, as it should be. Overall, Creature of the Night is one of the best Batman stories in years, a pure distillation from veteran creators of the lessons learned throughout august careers, specifically Busiek’s penchant for layered and complex stories, the sort more common in award-winning novels than in comics.

Fearscape #1
Ryan O’Sullivan
Artist: Andrea Mutti
Colorist: Vladimir Popov
Letterer: Andworld Design
Publisher: Vault Comics
Release Date: 9/26/2018
Why It’s So Good: Simply put, Fearscape #1 was the single best debut issue of a series I read all year. In it, writer Ryan O’Sullivan and artist Andrea Mutti use the graphic sequential medium to create a character and story that basically obsesses over the literary and genre fiction medium, thereby also reflecting back at the audience what it must feel like to be a comic book creator. It’s heady stuff, and it succeeds wildly. Perhaps the greatest strength of this debut issue is the protagonist’s narrative voice, which bounces violently from wild fits of looming ego to sobbingly one imagines the creative process for great writers must feel like, oscillating from unchecked creation to solemn revisions.

From here,  Ice Cream Man #6  splinters into three timelines, and structural comics greatness ensues.

From here, Ice Cream Man #6 splinters into three timelines, and structural comics greatness ensues.

Ice Cream Man #6
W. Maxwell Prince
Artist: Martin Morazzo
Colorist: Chris O’Halloran
Letterer: Good Old Neon
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: 8/15/2018
Why It’s So Good: This comic somehow tells three self-contained stories in a single issue, doing so with little to no dialogue in a way that not only makes sense but will almost certainly haunt the vast majority of readers for weeks (at least, that’s been my experience). The craft is so impressive that I don’t want to think about it too hard, lest I lose motivation to ever attempt anything creative of my own ever again. Moreover, I have a strong predisposition against stories steeped in cynicism—and this issue is most certainly that—yet this book is so well-done I was able to get past all that. Ice Cream Man was one of 2018’s best explorations of what’s possible with this medium in terms of form and structure, and as such, I can’t recommend it enough.

Saga #54
Brian K. Vaughan
Fiona Staples
Letterer: Fonografiks
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: 7/25/2018
Why It’s So Good: Because nothing will ever be the same. If you’ve read the issue, check out Why Saga #54 Hurts So Bad. If you haven’t, please read the issue and then click that link. There’s just no good way to discuss this without spoilers. Simply put, though, I’ll just note that this is the most consequential issue yet in the best series in comics (as well as our Top Comic of 2018).

Secret Weapons: Owen’s Story #0
Eric Heisserer
Artist: Raul Allen & Patricia Martin
Colorist: Patricia Martin
Letterer: Patricia Martin
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
Release Date: 3/14/2018
Why It’s So Good: Secret Weapons: Owen’s Story is a tour de force of narrative craft, a tight balancing act that involves a series of complicated decisions (all of which have an emotional charge) that add up to a satisfying climax. It plays with structure and form while never losing the rightful focus on the characters at its core. The titular Owen is a Psiot who manifests seemingly-random objects, and his story here consists of vignettes based on objects he’s selling at a yard sale, objects he manifested, objects with stories telling us more about our characters. The concept is risky, but writer Eric Heisserer and the team of Raul Allen and Patricia Martin (one of the best art duos in all of comics) handle it supremely well, creating the type of book that reminds you why having a publisher like Valiant is such a benefit for the industry.

The Seeds #2
Ann Nocenti
Artist, Letterer: David Aja
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: 9/12/2018
Why It’s So Good: I wrote about this a bit in our Top Comics of 2018 list, but The Seeds second issue was so good that it elevated this book as a concept in my head, ultimately landing it (despite publishing a scant two issues last year) among my annual favorites. I found the first issue filled with promise, heavy with intriguing concepts. I wondered, however, how thoughtful the title was and worried a bit that the power would be lost if it wasn’t connected to great meaning. Those worries were dispelled and then some in a second issue that showed this book to be among the deepest near-future disaster concepts in stories today (and there are a ton of near future disaster concepts in stories today).

What If? Magik #1
Leah Williams
Artist: Filipe Andrade
Colorist: Chris O’Halloran
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Marvel Comics
Release Date: 10/31/2018
Why It’s So Good: Writer Leah Williams and artist Filipe Andrade use the What If? concept to tell a story that sees the X-Men’s Magik tapped to be Doctor Strange’s replacement as sorcerer supreme. Her history, however, is the same: as a young girl she was kidnapped and taken to hell. To be sure, this is not handled lightly in the normal X-titles, but it also, to my knowledge, has never been extrapolated to a serious place where it reads like the supremely traumatic incident it would logically be. The villain in this story is Magik’s demonic kidnapper, cast as a manipulative human trafficker. This issue takes the character through a gauntlet of physical, mystical, and psychological tests, never discounting her trauma as the creative team shows us the Magik’s full strength, her stubborn optimism, her refusal to let a past ordeal limit or define her. That hard work and optimism (complete with expected setbacks) makes for a truly beautiful comic.

Wonder Woman #51
Steve Orlando
Artist: Laura Braga
Colorist: Romulo Fajardo Jr.
Letterer: Saida Temofonte
Publisher: DC Comics
Release Date: 7/25/2018
Why It’s So Good: With Wonder Woman #51, Steve Orlando and Laura Braga tell a stand-alone story with a deep and nuanced understanding of this character, one that shows exactly why she’s been relevant all these years. It’s the type of small-scale story that plays to a hero’s essence, done ad nauseum with Batman and Superman but not nearly as much with Wonder Woman. This comic, however, helps to fix that. It’s just so perfect. Aside from the adept characterization, it features an engaging and emotional narrative that speaks to Diana’s core values. It sounds cliche, but I teared up here at the drama and I smiled at the jokes. This is, to me, an issue we’ll be hearing new creators talk about on podcasts 10 years from now, citing it as an influence for the way they write/think about this character.

Check out Best Comics of 2018, #1 - #5, Best Comics of 2018, #16 - #25, and Best Comics of 2018, #6 - #15! And check back later in the week for more year-end lists, including our Top Creators of 2018!

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.

Top Comics to Buy for December 12, 2018

By Zack Quaintance — Despite the name of this website (which is ironic!), I’m prone to Batman fatigue. It’s not that I don’t like the character. No, I think it’s pretty easy to make a case for Batman being one of the most compelling characters to ever grow from American fiction. It’s just that I don’t often see much new ground for stories about Batman to cover, so prolific are DC’s Batman releases. That said, I still fairly regularly find myself drawn into and torn up by well-done Batman stories.

This week ambushed me in that way. As you’ll notice shortly, two of our Top Comics to Buy for December 12 star the Dark Knight, while a third gets a recommendation in our new #1 comics section. So yes, this is a great week for all things Batman. It’s also a great week for Marvel’s (arguable) flagship character, Spider-Man, as Amazing Spider-Man hums right along and Miles Morales returns to Marvel’s pages just in time for his big screen review. Coincidence? Hardly. This is Marvel, and synergy is what’s for sale.

Now on to this week’s comics!

Top Comics to Buy for December 12, 2018

Batman Annual #3
Tom Taylor
Artist: Otto Schmidt
Letterer: A Larger World’s Troy Peteri
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $4.99
"THE OTHER SIDE OF THE PENNY!" Alfred Pennyworth has been Batman's most trusted ally and confidant since the Dark Knight first hit the streets of Gotham City. Now, witness Batman's battle for justice from Alfred's perspective and learn how harrowing that journey has been as Batman experiences one of the worst nights Gotham City has ever seen-a night that will push Alfred to the breaking point! Best-selling writer Tom Taylor presents an epic tale that promises to be one of the most Alfred stories ever told!
Why It’s Cool: This is an emotional and well-told Batman story that may have you tearing up within the first three pages. Taylor and Schmidt are a pair of creators deserving of much bigger stages, and hopefully incredible work like this will help them get there. This is also a self-contained story, so even readers who have been off Batman proper for a while, can still pop into buy this comic.

Amazing Spider-Man #11
Nick Spencer
Artist: Ryan Ottley
Inker: Cliff Rathburn
Colorist: Laura Martin
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99
J. JONAH JAMESON has a new job as a shock jock, but is the world ready for a pro-Spider-Man JJJ? More importantly, is Spider-Man ready? His post-secret-identity relationship with Jonah was already complicated, but this very public embrace may put him over the edge! Spidey's definitely not ready for the Enforcers to come at him harder than ever!
Why It’s Cool: If it weren’t for Immortal Hulk, Amazing Spider-Man might be our favorite book at Marvel right now (with apologies to Black Panther and Captain America). It’s just been so good since launching with a new #1 issue in July, and now it has artist Ryan Ottley rejoining writer Nick Spencer to presumably replicate the creative alchemy that made the first arc so special. It also has some momentum, with last month’s Amazing Spider-Man #10 ranking as one of our favorite issues of Marvel’s flagship Spidey title in many, many years.

Bitter Root #2
David F. Walker & Chuck Brown
Artist: Sanford Greene
Colorists: Rico Renzi & Sanford Greene
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99
An evil force stalks the streets of Harlem as Berg and Cullen face off against a deadly creature that may be more than they can handle. Meanwhile, in Mississippi, a mysterious stranger unleashes furious retribution in the name of justice.
Why It’s Cool: The work of building this world and the way it works was set into motion so wonderfully by Bitter Root #1. Now, the creators are free to let us know more about their story and its characters. This is a visually lush and intellectually complex book, one that doesn’t flinch as it depicts monster hunters confronting ghoulish members of the KKK. In this second issue we learn more about the long-standing family dynamics at the heart of the relationships between our character. This book, simply put, continues to be an utter joy to read.

Detective Comics #994
Peter J. Tomasi
Artist: Doug Mahnke
Inker: Jaime Mendoza
Colorist: David Baron
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99
Batman's strangest case begins as the new creative team of writer Peter J. Tomasi and artist Doug Mahnke take over DETECTIVE COMICS! Commissioner Gordon calls in the Dark Knight Detective when there's a murder at the Gotham City Aquarium-staged to look exactly like Thomas and Martha Wayne's crime scene, right down to the Playbill and pearls. How does this bizarre homicide tie into the shadowy monster that attacks Dr. Leslie Thompkins? This creature looks to wage a war on Batman-and it's using Joker Gas to do it!
Why It’s Cool: There’s so much Batman goodness packed into this first issue of the countdown to Detective Comics #1000, the comic that launched the character. It starts with a bizarre mystery and just gleefully builds from there. I didn’t quite know what to expect from this Tomasi/Mahnke run and hadn’t heard the kind of buzz one might expect for something like this, but this first issue is poised to build that excitement right back up.

Fearscape #3
Ryan O’Sullivan
Artist: Andrea Mutti
Colorist: Vladimir Popov
Letterer: Andworld Design
Publisher: Vault Comics
Price: $3.99
Having escaped the clutches of the Fearscape, Henry Henry tries to... Aha! You'll use my name, I see, but won't let me speak! That you would require solicitation copy for the third issue, after the genre-redefining brilliance of the first two, is nothing short of a personal insult. The work speaks for itself. Any tale of my exploits should not be hawked to those asleep at the wheel.
Why It’s Cool: This meta story of literary writers’ doubt barrels forward, with protagonist Henry Henry returning from the mythical storytelling Fearscape realm to the real world. This is a singular comic unlike anything else coming out today, and every issue is one to be poured over. This story brims in equal parts with braggadocio and imposter syndrome. For serious patrons of the art and would-be creators, this series continues to be a must.

Check out our reviews of Fearscape #1 and Fearscape #2.

Top New #1 Comics

  • Batman Who Laughs #1

  • Defenders: Doctor Strange #1

  • Defenders: Silver Surfer #1

  • Fantastic Four: Wedding Special #1

  • Goddess Mode #1

  • Magic the Gathering: Chandra #1

  • Miles Morales: Spider-Man #1

  • New Talent Showcase 2018 #1

  • Planet of the Apes: Simian Age #1

  • Sasquatch Detective #1

  • Spawn Kills Everyone Too #1

  • Vampirella vs. Reanimator #1

Others Receiving Votes

  • Avengers #11

  • Black Panther #7

  • Cemetery Beach #4

  • Dead Kings #2

  • Electric Warriors #2

  • Hawkman #7

  • Lone Ranger #3

  • Murder Falcon #3

  • Oblivion Song #10

  • Outer Darkness #2

  • Redlands #9

  • Skyward #9

  • Supergirl #25

  • Superman #6

  • X-Men Red #11

See our past top comics to buy here, and check our our reviews archive here.

Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase. He also writes comics and is currently working hard to complete one.