Top Comics of 2018, #6 - #15

By Zack Quaintance —  The most difficult thing about a strong year for comics (like this one) is doing a year-end Best Of list. Now, to be sure, no one mandates websites do rankings. That would be a clear violation of civil liberties. There is, however, a part of the pop culture blogger brain that goes wild for it, whispering all year long...where does this one rank...and if you don’t satisfy that beast—well, bad things happen.

So, here we our with ours, freshly formulated for 2018 by our committee of one. Before we dive into part 2, which features in descending order selections #15 to #6 (Top Comics of 2018, #16 - #25 is up now, with the Top 5 due later today), let’s rehash our ground rules:

  • No trades or OGNs: Building out our OGN coverage is a priority for 2019. We’re just not there yet. So, while I absolutely loved work like Tillie Walden’s On a Sunbeam, Box Brown’s Is This Guy For Real? The Unbelievable Andy Kaufman, and Ryan Lindsay and Eric Zawadzki’s Eternal, you won’t find them here. Ideally, next year’s we’ll have an entire post dedicated to OGNs.

  • No webcomics, manga, or newspaper strips: Again, our site is a bit deficient covering these (if you are into these things, we’d love to chat about you writing for us!). I should, of course, mention that in 2018 someone under the pen name Olivia James took over the long-running Nancy strip and did amazing things with it (Sluggo is lit), but, again, you won’t find it on our list.

  • Longevity matters: New this year, you will find what I consider a key stat—how many issues were published this year. Late debut series like Die, Electric Warriors, and Bitter Root have tons of promise. They just haven’t been around enough to be a definitive comic of 2018. Ditto for comics that ended in April or earlier.

There you have it: guiding principles of our Top Comics of 2018. Now, without further adieu, let’s keep this bad hombre going!

15. Seeds
Writer:
Ann Nocenti
Artist, Letterer: David Aja
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Issues in 2018: 2

The second issue of this series absolutely blew my mind. So much so it was enough to land this comic in our list, and at no. 15 too! I’m going to struggle to articulate why this is not only one of the best comics out today, but also the comic with the most potential to be an all-time great series. But here goes…

Writer Ann Nocenti and artist David Aja have clearly thought hard about the state of the world, dwelling on current trends, struggles, challenges, \and even a few victories to extrapolate a future the likes of which we’ve never seen. There are (as noted in yesterday’s list) many near-future disaster stories running through comics. Many of them do admirable jobs extending a fear or concern to logical places. Seeds encompasses much more with its predictions, in a way that feels impossibly novel yet so obvious you wonder why its ideas hadn’t previously occurred to you. If you start listing story elements—failing planet, media corruption, alien love story/menace—they sound a little rote, but the way these talented creators bring them together is nothing short of remarkable. Now, if only they could get a handle on the delays...  

14. Doomsday Clock
Writer:
Geoff Johns
Artist: Gary Frank
Colorist: Brad Anderson
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Publisher: DC Comics
Issues in 2018: 6

Speaking of delays (hey! would you look at that transition), next we have Doomsday Clock. Writer Geoff Johns and artist Gary Frank were as good as their word this year, mostly sticking to the every-other-month schedule they promised following Doomsday Clock #3. We got six new issues in 2018, and the last three were straight up killer comics. This series has, to be blunt, massive ambitions.

Indeed, the intentions of this comic are starting to crystalize, and if Johns and Frank can pull this off, they could end up with a story that speaks to the current rise of authoritarian governments across the globe, the reactions of the media and the populous, and what it means to be a public hero today, to take a strong position. It’s heady stuff, with potential to shape DC’s line and maybe even the stories the aging company does for the next decade.

13. Ice Cream Man
Writer:
W. Maxwell Prince
Artist: Martin Morazzo
Colorist: Chris O’Halloran
Letterer: Good Old Neon
Publisher: Image Comics
Issues in 2018: 8

As I’ve noted throughout, ranking the many many many excellent comics this year has been no easy feat. There were a ton of tough choices, but as my friend Rob from Panel Patter noted, at a certain point you have to choose, otherwise there’s no purpose to the endeavor. For me, placing Ice Cream Man was the most difficult decision. An anthology horror comic linked only by the titular (and hella creepy) ice cream man, this book has been a tour de force.

The reason it lands at #13 is twofold. No. 1, 13 is creepy and it seemed fitting, because aside from one other selection (we’ll get into that later), this is the highest-ranking horror comic on our list. No. 2, I’m trying to rank series for holistic reading experience. Ice Cream Man being made of vignettes makes that trickier. This book is easily one of the best comics of 2018, and we’ll heap more praise on it in future posts, specifically the Best Single Issues of 2018, coming later this week. For now, I’ll just note everyone should read this comic, just pick up random issues (they’re all self-contained) and go. The rate of success is high enough I’m confident you’ll all find flavors (sorry) you like.

12. The Wild Storm
Writer:
Warren Ellis
Artist: Jon Davis-Hunt
Colorist: Steve Buccellato
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Publisher: DC Comics
Issues in 2018: 8

It’s pretty amazing this far into a celebrated career, Warren Elllis is doing his best work, writing a slow-burning epic that strips down characters he’s handled for years before building them back into something searingly-relevant for 2018. This new The Wild Storm has a few familiar names, while remaining entirely accessible for first-time readers of this universe. And what Ellis is doing here is exploring the vast influence wielded by long-standing (and hard to comprehend) power structures.

He’s joined by Jon Davis-Hunt, one of (if not the) most underrated artists in comics. Davis-Hunt comes fresh from career work of his own on Gail Simone’s Clean Room, and as good as he was there, he’s hitting a new level, crafting graphic sequential storytelling both kinetic and real, capable of disrupting any visual laws of reality yet photorealistic and engrossing. As intellectual and nuanced a comic as we’ve seen, this is a must-read story.

11. The Mighty Thor / Thor
Writer:
Jason Aaron
Artists: Russell Dauterman, Mike del Mundo, Christian Ward, Jen Bartel, Various
Colorists: Matthew Wilson, Marco D’Alfonso
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Issues in 2018: 4 / 12

Jason Aaron’s ongoing run on Thor is the best long-form story happening in superhero comics, and it’s really not even close. Aaron and Esad Ribic’s Thor: God of Thunder #1, which essentially marked the start of this current run, hit stands in November 2012, a vastly different time in the world and industry. Marvel has no other run close, with Hickman and Bendis gone from the company and Dan Slott off Amazing Spider-Man. Invincible has also ended, and DC’s main challengers—Batman and Deathstroke, for my money—date back to summer 2016, which is hardly a challenge at all.

Thor, however, keeps going strong, landing this year’s 16 issues (and a Jane Foster one-shot) at #11 overall on our list. Our committee of one suspects it will be higher next year, what with the War of the Realms coming. The Jane Foster finale was certainly a high point his year, but it felt like more of a pause than a proper finish, setting the table for what is sure to be some damn fine comics to come. In summation, 2018 was another great year for Aaron’s Thor run, but we all but guarantee 2019 will be even better, possibly the high water mark for this story.

10. X-Men Red
Writer:
Tom Taylor
Artists: Mahmud Asrar, Carmen Carnero, Roge Antonio
Colorists: Ive Svorcina, Rain Beredo
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Issues in 2018: 11

What a surprise this comic was. I’d tapped out on X-Men: Blue and X-Men: Gold, deciding to wait for whatever next big X-thing. Then comes an announcement of a third color, part of the Marvel Legacy line, which, let’s face it, was dead on arrival. But here’s the thing: Tom Taylor and Mahmud Asrar’s X-Men: Red was good. Like, really really really good. Taylor’s scripting understood the franchise better than any writer I’ve read in I don’t know how long, casting the team as equal parts superhero high-flyers and common defenders of the oppressed, all with a geopolitical angle.

It made Jean Gray the face of Xavier’s continuing dream, a brilliant move given her legacy (ahem) and similar skill set, and it faced the X-Men against threats essentially derived from the messages of hate coursing through the modern media landscape, be it reportage or social posting. It was a brilliant stretch of 11 issues that ended way too soon, and, in my opinion, it was the first real hint how the X-Men can be made relevant for 2018, 2019, etc., taking them out of their long-standing continuity mire. It will be missed, and I hope this new generation of X-writers draw from its example.

9. Vault Comics: Fearscape / Friendo / These Savage Shores
Writers:
Ryan O’Sullivan / Alex Paknadel / Ram V.
Artists: Andrea Mutti / Martin Simmonds / Sumit Kumar
Colorists: Vladimir Popov / Dee Cunnife / Vittorio Astone
Letterers: Andworld Design / Taylor Esposito / Aditya Bidikar
Publisher: Vault Comics
Issues in 2018: 3 / 3 / 2

Okay, so this one is cheating, but of the three new Vault Comics launched by British writers with clear literary roots in the fall, I couldn’t pick any one to elevate above the others. They’re all incredible, and so I built myself a loophole (it’s my website, afterall), and included all three on the list. I heard Vault editor Adrian Wassel on a podcast earlier this year, saying comics could swing to a literary place that incorporates both recent cinematic storytelling trends and their unique ability to synthesize words and pictures. All three of these titles reflect that viewpoint.

You can read more thoughts about each on our Reviews Page, but let me run through them quickly. Fearscape is a look at pretense, literary culture, and how the nature of creative writing often sees authors bouncing violently between bouts of outsized ego and crippling insecurity. The voice is pretentious and incredible. Friendo is a meditation on the decline of late-model capitalist countries, specifically the United States, casting apathy, ceiling-less corporate greed, and the marginalization of government checks as truly terrifying villains. These Savage Shores is a gorgeous and deep commentary on imperialism, using misdirection to to create an engaging and tone-heavy narrative. Basically, all three of these are well worth your time, and I highly recommend them all.

8. Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles
Writer:
Mark Russell
Artist: Mike Feehan
Inker: Sean Parsons
Colorist: Paul Mounts
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Publisher: DC Comics
Issues in 2018: 6

Speaking of literary comics, Mark Russell and Mike Feehan’s Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles (improbably) falls in that bin as well. Last year we highlighted Russell’s work on Flintstones. Another year and another smart take on a Hanna-Barbera property, and here we are again. In Russell’s re-imagining of this mythos, Snagglepuss is a basically closeted playwright during McCarthy-ism, trying to stay true to his values without running afoul of the federal government and staid societal interests.

Russell uses this premise to tell a sophisticated story that dances with ideas about life, art, politics, group think, and conservatism. The emotional core to this thing is the Huckleberry Hound character, whose tragic story beats brought tears to my eyes a couple of times. If reading a comic about Snagglepuss doesn’t sound appealing, don’t worry—you’re not alone in that thinking. But Russell also uses the legacy of the character to do work toward the satirical points he’s making, to help drive them home.  

7. Wasted Space
Writer:
Michael Moreci
Artist: Hayden Sherman
Colorist: Jason Wordie
Letterer: Jim Campbell
Publisher: Vault Comics
Issues in 2018: 6 (counting the holiday special)

Phew, now we’re getting into the comics that I can’t imagine my 2018 without, the first being Michael Moreci and Hayden Sherman’s Wasted Space. I have heaped my fair share of praise on this book over the past 12 months, and I’m not alone. In fact, Nerdist has called it “easily the best new series to hit comic shops so far this year.” For my money, it’s without question the best wholly new property of 2018, and I’m going to quote myself to elaborate on why...

Wasted Space to me feels like Star Wars by way of 2018, determined to honor the hi-jinx & high adventure of space opera while fearlessly exploring the central conflict of our times: where should one’s desire for comfort end and their obligation to combat oppression begin? I’ve compared Moreci’s absurdist, idea-heavy writing to the late David Foster Wallace and I stand by that, noting that Sherman’s chaotic high-energy art style brings the world to life in a special way. This is maybe the highest compliment I can give: in a day and age where i buy fewer paper comics than ever before, I still have a pull list and on it near the top is Wasted Space.

6. Thanos Wins
Writer:
Donny Cates
Artist: Geoff Shaw
Colorist: Antonio Fabela
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Issues in 2018: 6

Toward the end of 2017, Brian Michael Bendis left Marvel, dealing the publisher as significant of a writing void as I’ve seen in the past two decades, dating back to before Bendis established himself as the company’s prime writing voice. The thing about voids like that is they force publishers to take bigger risks and bring in younger, newer talent. For Marvel in 2018, that meant Donny Cates (among others).

One of Cates’ first charges at Marvel was to takeover Thanos in the wake of another essentially departing writer, Jeff Lemire, who seemed from the outside to be off to focus on the superhero universe he owned and created, Black Hammer. What Cates and past collaborator Geoff Shaw did with the final six issues of this run was absolutely remarkable, telling what is not only the best Thanos story of all-time, but the best end of the Marvel Universe tail this side of Jonathan Hickman. It’s called Thanos Wins, and it’s exactly what it sounds like.

Thanos Wins is as bold a statement as a young writer doing his first work at Marvel could have made. Aided by the out-of-this-world Geoff Shaw artwork and Antonio Fabela colors, Cates seemed to put all of comics on notice here, not being content to just decimate the very futures of these decades-old beloved characters, but insisting on doing so with wild grin viscerally affixed to his face. You might wonder, how do I know he was laughing and smiling as he wrote all of this. I think the better question, is how could anyone who’s read Thanos Wins doubt it?  

Read our analysis of Thanos Wins here!

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

For the history-minded readers, you can find our Top Comics of 2017, Part 1, 2 and 3 online now!

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 of September 2018

By Zack Quaintance — This month is one that has the potential to be infamous, in that it ended with an event—Heroes in Crisis—that saw one of the Big 2 (DC) embrace a sort of grit and darkness that feels outdated. Word is now coming out that in addition to being a viscerally uncomfortable book, Heroes in Crisis also undersold expectations. Really, it almost feels to me as if the larger line itself is working like an antibody to reject Heroes in Crisis, purging its anachronistic themes from a shared superhero universe that is now bent on being brighter.

But, hey, this isn’t a piece about Heroes in Crisis! This is, instead, a piece about the comics from last month that I really liked, and within it you will find talk of some of my usual favorites—Wasted Space and Immortal Hulk—as well as some discussion of comics I haven’t written as much about, including The Seeds and Supergirl. And because I can’t help myself: yes! Okay, fine. I found Heroes in Crisis disappointing, but I still enjoyed September holistically as another great month for comics.

Let’s take a look at why!

Shout Outs

Snotgirl #11. I’m just so happy this book is back. The art is phenomenal, even if the story has seemed to search for direction. Still, there’s nothing else quite like this comic, one of the most singular today. It’s like reading a guilty pleasure Instagram feed.

While I thought the opening arc of Jason Aaron’s Avengers run was maybe two issues longer than it needed to be, Avengers #7 & #8 are two of my favorite standalone Avengers stories in years, Avengers #7 for its biblical qualities and #8 because of its deep focus on team dynamics.

Relay #3. I’ve been enthralled by this book from its start. It’s, to be reductive, mind-expanding sci-fi brought to life with illustrations that oscillate from detailed and realistic to totally psychedelic. It’s a complex read, one I’m doing my damndest to analyze via reviews.

I’m all in on the SuperBendis run these days, and I liked Superman #3 and Action Comics #1003 quite a bit. Supergirl #22, however, was a fantastic surprise. This is a smaller title, but it’s bringing a welcome additional depth to Bendis’ larger aspirations.

September’s Wonder Woman #54 & #55 teamed one of my favorite rising comics writers, Steve Orlando, with one of my favorite underrated art teams, Raul Allen and Patricia Martin. The results were (unsurprisingly) to my liking.

DC Comics is in a bit of holding pattern in a couple places, waiting for new superstar runs to start (Aquaman, The Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, etc.), but Justice League #8 & Justice League Dark #3 continue to establish its team-up book as a true flagship.

In Black Hammer: Age of Doom #5, some of this series’ mysteries become clear, and the team of Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormstron have more than built a satisfying resolution.

I continue to be impressed with the world-building going on in Skyward, a charming comic that’s clearly lasting for a long haul. Check out our review of Skyward #6.

Not to give too much away, but the last panel in The Wild Storm #17 is well worth your time, provided you’ve read The Authority...

Tom King and Mitch Gerads work in Mister Miracle #11 is once again excellent, featuring action, a future classic nine-panel grid of Darkseid double-dipping a carrot, and a promise that mysteries will be unraveled next month (maybe).

Top Comics of September 2018

5. Wasted Space #5 by Michael Moreci, Hayden Sherman, Jason Wordie, & Jim Campbell

This month saw the conclusion of Wasted Space’s first arc, and what a doozy. What I find most compelling about Wasted Space is that it lives a double life, both as a slapstick space opera and as a deep ideological exploration of culture and society. I’ve said this before but it’s worth reiterating: there’s a David Foster Wallace-esque quality to the ideas and concerns in this book, one that is especially evident in some of the lengthiest bits of dialogue as well as in the intelligence woven throughout.

Aesthetically, it’s a bright and vibrant comic with a quick plot and jokes that feel surprising yet never inappropriate. I’m a vocal proponent of Vault Comics, and, as such, I’m often asked where new readers should start. After this issue (and arc), my answer is now Wasted Space.

4. Doomsday Clock #7 by Geoff Johns & Gary Frank

This issue caught me off guard. In Doomsday Clock #7, there is more plot and action than in the first half of this maxi-series combined. Indeed, the first six issues here were almost introspective in nature, carefully building the individual concerns of different Watchmen characters as they moved from their world into the proper DCU.

In Doomsday Clock #7, our principals start to slam together, with a good deal of direct involvement from usual DC heroes as well. The result is a comic that almost serves as a mission statement for this entire event. It’s an entertaining read that has me more excited for the final five issues. There is a little bit of a bittersweet tinge to it, in that one can only imagine what it would have been like had this book kept to a monthly schedule, as well as what it would have meant for the larger DCU, too. Sigh.

3. Immortal Hulk #5 & #6 by Al Ewing & Lee Garbett

September brought us two new issues of my favorite Marvel comic, Immortal Hulk, and so I’m including them here together. It seems to me like these two books together took a deeper turn into the supernatural, opening the door for the titular undead Hulk to explore some darker, perhaps even supernatural spaces.

The glowing red visage of Banner’s demon father is the MVP of this new scary turn. Designed to horrific perfection by usual series artist Joe Bennett, the face is memorable and terrifying, a fitting personification of this book’s ambition to be a different, unnerving sort of Hulk story. I also like that this book is seemingly separate from the usual cash-grabby fray of crossing over Marvel titles. Indeed, it’s starting to feel like the publisher is actively separating prestige titles from gimmicky cash grabs, and discerning readers are better for it.

2. Batman #54 by Tom King, Matt Wagner, Tomeu Morey, & Clayton Cowles

Batman #54 was a comic that made me emotional. As I wrote in my Batman #54 review, I found this issue to be an all-time great Batman story, a father-son take on one of the most famous duos not only in comics but in the entire world. It’s also largely indicative of what I’ve liked most about King’s run so far: its humanity.

I think I’m far from alone in saying King’s Batman has been one of peaks and valleys, and I attribute this to a two steps forward, one step back journey he has Bruce on. King is trying to slowly humanize and grow a character whose owners have everything to gain by keeping him static. His solution seems to be a series of small pushes in lieu of any major leaps. This issue is one of the most blissful small pushes forward so far.

1. Seeds #2 by Ann Nocenti & David Aja (read our review of Seeds #1)

I didn’t know what to make of Seeds’ first issue. It was a blatantly creative comic, one that intrigued me and seemed to have something much deeper to say beneath the compelling visuals that made up its veneer. The first issue, though, withheld much about what the book intended to be about, and, as such, I withheld a bit of enthusiasm. After reading the second issue this has changed. I’m all in on The Seeds, to the point I now suspect that when the four-issue series concludes, it is likely to be praised as one of the best comics of the decade, if not longer.

This is a story that feels both impossible and real, that feels of our moment and also forward-looking. It’s thematic interests are disparate at first glance, ranging from sex between humans and aliens, the environmental death of the earth, and the bludgeoning impact of human reliance on technology. Look closer, though, and you’ll find a creative team that is almost unnervingly prescient. This is a comic book story that in my opinion is clearly laying out what should (or soon will be) easily the most pressing concerns of our time, and doing it with some of the finest art in the industry. Simply put, if you’re not reading this comic, you are making a mistake.

Check out our Best New #1 Comics of September 2018 plus more of our monthly lists here.

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

Top Modern Superhero Artists: The Sultans of Style at Marvel and DC

By Taylor Pechter — In comics, there’s always debate over what is more important: writing or art. These discussions can go either way, but they almost always conclude that both are equally important in different ways. Writers give characters their personalities, desires, and struggles, while the artists give motion and create a flow to the story. Artists also give characters different body types, faces, and ticks that writers can’t show with words alone. They are, simply put, storytellers in their own right.

Through the many decades of comics history individual artists have helped inform the style of the time. From legends like Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby in the Golden and Silver Ages, to the sleek photorealism of Neal Adams in the Bronze Age, to the incomparable detail of George Perez that helped usher in the Modern Age of comic art. However, in the past 20 years, a handful of artists have helped push the medium forward, while defining the company they belong to. This has been dubbed house style.

Exactly what is considered house style has changed during the past few years, but, even so, what I’d like to look at today are the artists who who have helped define their respective superhero universes.

DC

1. Jim Lee — Arguably the most popular artist of the 1990s, Jim Lee rose to fame drawing the X-Men for Marvel in the early years of the decade before breaking away to form Image and his company, WildStorm Productions. In the late 90s, he sold his company to DC, bringing his signature style over to the brand. Lee’s style contains heavy linework, chiseled jawlines, extreme detail, and dynamic action. This style has helped define the look of the modern DCU by making it grander and more epic in scale. Currently, Lee serves as Chief Creative Officer of DC Entertainment.

Notable Works:

  • Batman: Hush

  • All-Star Batman and Robin: The Boy Wonder

  • Justice League: Origin

  • Superman: Unchained

2. Ivan Reis — Coming to American comics all the way from Sao Paulo, Brazil, Ivan Reis has quickly become the go to event artist for DC of the past decade. Combining the sleekness of Neal Adams, the cinematic flair of Bryan Hitch, and the sheer scale of George Perez, Reis is a defining artist of the current generation. He’s also a notable collaborator with modern DC architect Geoff Johns, and his delicate-yet-cinematic style has helped bring new prominence to characters like Green Lantern and the Teen Titans. He’s currently drawing Superman, which is written by Brian Michael Bendis.

  • Infinite Crisis (With Phil Jimenez, George Perez, and Jerry Ordway)

  • Green Lantern: The Sinestro Corps War

  • Blackest Night

  • Teen Titans: Titans of Tomorrow

3. Gary Frank — English superstar Gary Frank is a roughly 23-year veteran of the business. Frank got his start at DC helping co-create the Birds of Prey team with legendary Bat-scribe Chuck Dixon. He later honed his craft at Marvel, drawing the Incredible Hulk and also collaborating with J. Michael Straczynski, but he eventually returned to DC to become one of, if not the defining Superman artists. With his keen eye for detail, simple-but-effective panel layouts, deep shadows, and expressive faces, Frank has become a favorite of mine and of many others.

Notable Works:

  • Superman: Brainiac

  • Superman: Secret Origin

  • Batman: Earth One

  • Doomsday Clock (currently ongoing)

4. Alex Ross — Arguably the most recognizable artist of this bunch, Chicago-based painter Alex Ross combines the photorealism of Norman Rockwell with the grandeur of the DCU. Ross depicts superheroes the way they were always meant to be seen: standing taller than life in the face of adversity. Using vast landscapes, strong postures, and smiles galore, Ross has become a multimedia sensation, not only drawing comics but also creating posters for film and video games.

  • Kingdom Come

  • The World’s Greatest Super Heroes

  • Justice Society of America: Thy Kingdom Come

5. Jason Fabok — The newest artist on the DC block, Canadian Jason Fabok rose to prominence during DC’s New 52. While starting on smaller stories in Detective Comics, he later became popular via the mega Bat-event Batman Eternal followed by a run on Justice League with Geoff Johns. With his blend of realism, glossy texture, cinematic layouts, and brutal action, Fabok has fast-become one of the most acclaimed DC artists of the decade.

  • Batman Eternal

  • Justice League Darkseid War

  • Batman/Flash: The Button

  • Three Jokers (upcoming)

Marvel

1. Joe Quesada —  Coming from New York City, Joe Quesada, much like his contemporary at DC Jim Lee, had a hand in crafting Marvel’s signature style coming out of the 90’. With inker Jimmy Palmiotti, Quesada redefined what street-level Marvel meant, fueling the creation of Marvel Knights. Quesada’s use of overly exaggerated proportions, dense and heavy shadows, and cartoony-yet-expressive faces is part of the blueprint for Marvel to this day. He now acts as Chief Creative Officer for Marvel Entertainment.

  • Daredevil: Guardian Devil

  • Spider-Man: One More Day

2. David Finch —  Another comics superstar hailing from the Great White North, David Finch started drawing in the late 1990s for Marc Silvestri’s company Top Cow before moving to the House of Ideas in the 2000s. An early collaborator with a young Brian Michael Bendis, Finch’s heavy shadows, musclebound heroes, and cinematic action helped Marvel craft a denser and darker universe. He now works as a freelance artist and is husband to writer Meredith Finch. Most recently he has drawn issues of Tom King’s ongoing run on DC’s Batman.

  • Avengers Disassembled

  • New Avengers: Breakout

  • Moon Knight: The Bottom

  • Ultimatum

3. Steve McNiven — This is the last Canadian artist on this list, I promise. McNiven has been a Marvel mainstay since the early 2000s, when he did many covers for the publisher. His big break, however, came in 2006, when he was tapped for Marvel’s biggest event of the decade, Civil War. After that, McNiven started a partnership with Mark Millar. He is a king of rendering, using different styles of fabric and metal to do so. He adds many layers of texture that help lend to his somewhat stylized photorealism. His explosive panel layouts and eye for epic moments have led him to become one of Marvel’s blockbuster exclusive artists.

  • Civil War

  • Wolverine: Old Man Logan

  • Death of Wolverine

  • New Avengers: The Sentry

4. Olivier Coipel —  Magical, mythical, grandiose...these are all words that have been used to describe French artist Olivier Coipel’s work. Rising to prominence as a frequent collaborator of Brian Bendis, Coipel helped tear down and rebuild the Marvel Universe many times over. With his delicate linework, his characters move with a certain grace along with detailed architecture and lush landscapes that help create truly stunning comics.

  • House of M

  • Thor (2007)

  • Siege

  • Unworthy Thor

5. Leinil Francis Yu —  Last but not least we come to Filipino artist Leinil Francis Yu, who got his start his start in the late 90’s, his claim to fame being a major stint on Wolverine and other X-Men titles. His style is much looser than the others on this list. Yu uses many different lines to add intricacies. During Marvel’s big resurgence in the 2000’s, he became, much like Coipel and McNiven, a go to artist for the blockbuster events and headlining books. His action is frenetic and that helps greatly set the pace for the books that he draws.

  • Wolverine

  • Secret Invasion

  • Ultimate Wolverine vs. Hulk

  • Captain America (currently ongoing)

In the end, these artists have all been mainstays of certain universes with styles that while influenced by many great artists before them, are still uniquely their own. They have all played significant roles in creating the house styles that differentiate the two superhero universes, with DC having a more detailed, almost photorealistic look, while Marvel features a more exaggerated, cartoony, and fantastical aesthetic. These artists have helped redefine their universes; they are true sultans of superhero style.

Taylor Pechter is a passionate comic book fan and nerd. Find him on Twitter @TheInspecter.