Top Comics of November 2018: A body horror extravaganza

By Zack Quaintance — As the year winds down, some clear favorite comics have emerged for us, and, perhaps unsurprisingly, you’ll see that born out in the Top Comics of November 2018 (as well as in the Top Comics of 2018...coming at the end of December!). What have we liked the most this year? Apparently, it’s all things Vault, Immortal Hulk, and the start of what is fast becoming a madcap and epic Superman run.

What is perhaps more telling about the overstate of comics (and not just our tastes) is that outside of the regulars, our Top Comics lists have also featured a steady rotation of creator-owned comics, with books like Hot Lunch Special, Ice Cream Man, Seeds, and all things Jeff Lemire regularly finding their way into our top 5 section. This month is no exception, with the conclusion to the excellent body horror tale Come Into Me landing among our favorites. Anyway, did I mention we’ll have year-end lists (shameless, I know)? Because we will. Lots of them coming at the end of this month!

And now, onto the comics!

Shout Outs

I wrote an Amazing Spider-Man #10 review, so I’ll be brief, but this issue right here sums up why I like this new run.

I also wrote a Cover #3 review, so I’ll be brief again, but this is probably the best comic about making comics I’ve yet read.

I don’t get excited about anniversary issues with multiple stories/artists, but Avengers #10 (#700) made it count. For the first time since Hickman, it feels like we’ve truly started a new Avengers era.

The first arc of this book felt Twin Peaks-y, but with Gideon Falls #8, the creators have found new territory all their own—and the comic is better for it.

X-Men Red #10 makes me wish they’d have just transitioned this book into the new Uncanny title. It’s that good.

Writer Scott Snyder says his Justice League run will be quieting down next; if that’s the case, Aquaman Justice League Drowned Earth #1 was the perfect totally bonkers and grandiose adventure to go out on...for now.

As it speeds toward its third anniversary, Ta-Nahesi Coates’ Black Panther run has gone full-blown sci-fi epic...and it just keeps getting better. See, Black Panther #6.

I wasn’t crazy about the plot of this series, but New World #5 makes our list on the merits of Tradd Moore’s imaginative art alone.

Black Hammer: Age of Doom #7 sees Jeff Lemire teaming with Rich Tommaso to go full-blown Grant Morrison-meta, speaking to the nature of stories, storytellers, and the meaningfulness of the character who inhabit our minds.

One day, you just look up and all of a sudden your favorite comic at DC (Superman and Batman aside) is Hawkman. Hawkman #6 continues the best adventure this character has had in years.

Top Comics November 2018

5. Fearscape #2, Friendo #2, and These Savage Shores #2
Ryan O’Sullivan, Alex Paknadel, & Ram. V
Artists: Andrea Mutti, Martin Simmonds, & Sumit Kumar
Colorists: Vladimir Popov, Dee Cunniffe, & Vittorio Astone
Letterers: Andworld Design, Taylor Esposito, & Aditya Bidikar
Publisher: Vault Comics
The trio of books from the creator collective White Noise Studio (via Vault Comics) cumulatively captures our no. 5 spot. We don’t usually like to give comics without at least an arc behind them top placement, but all three of these series have been so fantastic (track down more nuanced takes in our reviews section) that we just couldn’t resist.

4. Mister Miracle #12
Tom King
Artist: Mitch Gerads
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Publisher: DC Comics
Tom King and Mitch Gerads wrap-up their meta sad superhero epic Mister Miracle...which may have spanned planets and generational warfare...or may have all taken place in Scott Free’s head as he grappled with sliding into middle-aged existence. The true nature of what actually happened here (or, rather, what didn’t happen) is deliberately obscured, and we like this 12-part maxiseries all the more for it. It’s probably below King’s earlier work on The Vision in our all-time sad superhero family rankings, but this is still a very good series nonetheless.

3. Superman #5 / Action Comics #1005 / Supergirl #24
Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Ivan Reis & Ryan Sook
Inkers: Joe Prado & Oclair Albert
Colorists: Alex Sinclair & Brad Anderson
Letterers: Josh Reed
Publisher: DC Comics
Immortal Hulk aside (more later), my other favorite thing happening in superhero comics right now is Brian Bendis’ dual run on Superman and Action Comics (plus Marc Andreyko’s ancillary run on Supergirl, which was also strong again this week). I know it’s not to everyone’s tastes, but I’ve found this run to get increasingly satisfying as its continued. Action Comics seems bent on touching as many corners as the Superman mythos as it can and updating them in ways suitable for 2018. Superman, meanwhile, is working hard to tell a tense adventure story that really leans into the hero’s role as a cosmic entity. Together, it’s turning into a clear new era for one of modern fiction’s oldest characters, brimming with ideas.

2. Come Into Me #4
Lonnie Nadler & Zac Thompson
Artist: Piotr Kowalski
Colorist: Niko Guardia
Letterer: Ryan Ferrier
Publisher: Black Mask Studios
With a healthy body you feel nothing. Like it’s not even there. And with that, writers Lonnie Nadler & Zac Thompson pen one of the most relatable and poignant lines I’ve read about health all year. That line, like much of the rest of the excellent four-issue series Come Into Me, wouldn’t be possible without the nuanced interiority this story has aspired to and reached. It does all that with straight up solid writing and artwork, just good all around visual storytelling. That line is also noteworthy because of the larger metaphor it speaks to, one about complacency in the face of things going well. Indeed, what also makes this comic (and the miniseries it concludes) strong is its thematic interests.

The first and most obvious of these is the biotech angle, the one that involves a new innovation that enables consciousness to switch bodies. Look past that, though, and one finds subtler questions about empathy, ambition, data privacy, cooperation, and entrepreneurial tech values, all of which are applied with grand vision to a narrative apt for 2018. I, admittedly, have a tendency to extrapolate metaphors to be about the state of our country. But this story is about two very different people vying for control over one body in violent, chaotic, and untested ways, searching for a commonality as forces (perhaps beyond their least in part) cause rot to set in. They work toward understanding even as reality makes it clear that two such disparate entities in one body might not be feasible. What could be more timely?

Oh, and I found the ending to be absolutely perfect here. To my mind, the best fictional storytelling leaves readers with far more questions than it does answers, and this series definitely does that, albeit quite grotesquely.

1. Immortal Hulk #8 & #9
Al Ewing
Artist: Joe Bennett (w/Martin Simmonds)
Inker: Ruy Jose
Colorist: Paul Mounts
Letterer: Cory Petit
Publisher: Marvel Comics
I just keeping waiting for Immortal Hulk from Al Ewing and Joe Bennett to ease off the excellence even a little bit...and it just doesn’t happen. Now here it is yet again making one of our top monthly comics lists. Something that’s becoming clear about this comic (and making it my absolute favorite superhero book right now) is that it also has an ambitious scope, one that spans beyond stringing together single issues (which it’s definitely doing, btw). In November, some of the scope became clearer, with the stories in Immortal Hulk #8 & #9 elucidating plot material with implications on both past and future chapters.

Ewing and Bennett have apparently set out to tell a structured long-form tale about the Hulk, one that spent its first few months re-inventing the character as a full-on monster, both for the man who hides him inside and those who encounter him outside, one that isn’t just born from anger but now seems to be some sort of supernatural entity, almost biblical in the scope of its malice. That’s all great, and maybe able to stand alone on those merits. What the team also did last month was absolutely nail the biggest horror moments, akin to a traditional superhero comic that figures out how to make both conversations and slugfests compelling. Issue 9 also gives me hope that there’s no shortage of stories for this book, showing once again how good this book is when it pulls over shared universe characters into the titular undead Hulk’s orbit.  

Check out our Best New #1 Comics of November 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.

REVIEW: These Savage Shores #2 doubles down on the series’ strengths

These Savage Shores #2 is out 11/28.

By Zack Quaintance — In These Savage Shores #1, Ram V. used the narration in a way that stuck with me for the month-plus between issues, specifically the sea captain’s prose, in which he wrote of his ship’s destination: They’ve no use for lords or nobles ‘ere. In this place, the days are scorched and long. And the nights are full of teeth.” I don’t often like a book (or any story, really) to so directly state its central conceit, but it was done poetically here (and also in the service of foreshadowing), done so well I couldn’t help but appreciate it. That first issue was also confident in its artistry, dedicating whole pages to tone-setting imagery from Sumit Kumar and Vittorio Astone, panels of suns setting behind ominous trees, beady eyes in crevices, entire colonies of bats taking flight at dusk. Overall, the first issue of this comic was luscious and immersive, and, excuse my inelegance, good.

These Savage Shores #2 builds well upon the foundation lain by its predecessor. Let’s start by talking (briefly) of the plot, which relies heavily once again upon the writing of a letter as a framing device. This time, the writer is a character we met briefly before, a vampire hunter who encountered the now-deceased Alain Pierrefont as he tore into a victim, lighting the monster aflame, ultimately sending him fleeing across the sea to India. That vampire hunter’s name is Zachariah (great name), and he has, apparently followed Pierrefont to these savage shores, finding him dead and setting off in search of the killer, whom he assumes is also a monster.

That’s where we start. It’s a premise that makes for a sophomore issue even more engrossing than its predecessor. By framing These Savage Shores #2 through a character we saw (albeit briefly) last issue, Ram V. and team strongly orient the reader while at once stoking the intensity of the mystery the first installment ended upon. Using the hunter is a wise choice. Like his original prey, he’s a stranger in a strange land, one we can’t help but feel is intruding in this area. If These Savage Shores seeks in any way to be a commentary on imperialism, this is a strong way to go about it.

What’s more though, is that the letter writing motif evokes the idea of a story being told within a story. Not directly, but These Savage Shores seems to aspire to be a deeper commentary on imperialism. What the letter writing obliquely eludes to (at least in my mind, and, granted, I may be making a major leaps) is that this comic is interested in unpacking the continued telling of stories about imperialism, specifically those told through heroes and protagonists intruding in one way or another. To be sure, These Savage Shores #2 has far more interests in that, lighting upon mythology, obsessions, the economics of trade, and class structure, but the subversion of who we thought our central character was in issue one is continued and continued well throughout issue 2, a strong and inspired bit of plotting.

The art, however, is yet again stunning in this comic, especially the depiction of the child prince’s protector when he puts on his mask (which is used thematically by the script, too). The silent closeups of the masked man locking onto strange visitors have at times made me run cold with terror. Like the first issue, These Savage Shores #2 is again a confident visual story, one content to linger within large and sweeping establishing shots, somehow doing so without bogging down the pacing in the slightest. I wrote about this in my review of These Savage Shores #1, but the writer, artist, colorist combo on this title are working in sync, expertly fostering tone and mood that serves the story as well as any comic in recent memory.

Overall: These Savage Shores #2 doubles down on the strengths of the excellent debut that preceded it, simultaneously finding new and interesting ground beyond the misdirective twist that ended its first issue. A delightfully complex comic, this book is one for readers who enjoy nuanced explorations of ideas as well as those who want to revel in dark and chilling visual tones. 9.0/10

These Savage Shores #2
Ram V.
Artist: Sumit Kumar
Colorist: Vittorio Astone
Letterer: Aditya Bidikar
Publisher: Vault Comics
Price: $3.99

For more comic book reviews, check out our review archives.

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 November 28, 2018

By Zack Quaintance — Ohhhh, my stomach, I ate too much turkey and can’t write a proper intro for this Top Comics to Buy for November 28, 2018 piece. Just kidding. I’m actually writing this the night before Thanksgiving because I’ll be traveling tomorrow through Sunday, and likely won’t have any other time to complete it. Anyway, shifting gears...wake yourselves up from all that overeating, because there is (as always) another new wave of comics to discuss!

This week sees the conclusion of some story arcs we’ve really enjoyed in 2018, from Black Panther to Come Into Me, both of which have so expertly built to these finales, that we can’t wait to see what happens. We heap just a bit more praise on the Bendis Superman run, which is one of our favorite things happening right now at DC, and we also get to talk yet again about some of our favorite indie gems. All in all, this post-holiday week stands to be a good one!

Now, let’s get to those comics!

Top Comics to Buy for November 28, 2018

Black Panther #6
Ta-Nehisi Coates
Artist: Jen Bartel
Colorist: Triona Farrell
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99
T'Challa and the Maroons renew their war against the Empire. But N'Jadaka is watching - and he knows exactly how dangerous the Black Panther can be. Witness at last the rise of Emperor N'Jadaka and the Exalted Intergalactic Empire of Wakanda!
Why It’s Cool: There’s a lot happening at Marvel right now, and as a result, Black Panther has flown a bit under the radar...even though it’s written by the winner of a National Book Award and carrying the same name as one of the highest-grossing superhero movies ever. This issue marks the conclusion of the relaunched comics’ best arc yet, at least under Ta-Nehisi Coates’ stewardship. Coates was a newcomer to comics when he started this run in early 2016, but he’s caught on fast. Simply put, this comic keeps getting better and better, and the scope of ideas in this first arc is nearly unmatched within mainstream superhero comics. Don’t miss it!

Action Comics #1005
Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Ryan Sook
Colorist: Brad Anderson
Letterer: Josh Reed
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99
The murderous mystery of the Red Cloud uncovered! Clark Kent draws closer to revealing a secret crime family that has operated for years in Metropolis, but the family's enforcer-the mysterious Red Cloud-proves she's a match for even the Man of Steel with an attack that leaves Superman breathless. Don't miss the last-page shocker as we reveal the true face of the Red Cloud!
Why It’s Cool: We’ve been loving Bendis’ run on Superman, which has been grandiose and cosmic in the pages of Superman and more grounded in Metropolis in this title. This issue also features Ryan Sook, one of our favorites, and so we are absolutely there for it, especially after what he did in Action Comics #1004.

Come Into Me #4
Zac Thompson and Lonnie Nadler
Artist: Piotr Kowalski
Colorist: Niko Guardia
Letterer: Ryan Ferrier
Publisher: Black Mask Studios
Price: $3.99
Part 4 of 4. The body degenerates, memories blur, and the flesh overloads.
Why It’s Cool: Writers Zac Thompson and Lonnie Nadler have rapidly established themselves as two of the foremost purveyors of body horror in all of comics in the past 18 months, and although they’ve done great work all around, Come Into Me stands out as one of their best titles. This week’s issues sees the duo concluding this story.

House Amok #3
Christopher Sebela
Artist: Shawn McManus
Colorist: Lee Loughridge
Letterer: Aditya Bidikar
Publisher: IDW - Black Crown
Price: $3.99
Dylan and her family have all fallen down the rabbit hole of madness together, aiming their campaign to save the world at a brand new target and collecting more bodies and hidden microchips along the way. But as Dylan is plagued with the flu and the family's first grand move leads them down a nightmare road full of the dreaded ReArrangers, the Sandifers will stare conspiracy right in the face and hope it blinks before they do.
Why It’s Cool: This is a comic about a family plunging into shared madness together, which is a great (and surprisingly new) concept. It’s also being executed to perfection by rising writer Christopher Sebela and veteran artist Shawn McManus.

These Savage Shores #2
Ram V
Artist: Sumit Kumar
Colorist: Vittorio Astone
Letterer: Aditya Bidikar
Publisher: Vault Comics
Price: $3.99
The untimely demise of a nobleman gives the East India a new angle in negotiations to build their trade route. A vampire hunter finds bigger prey than he had bargained for, deep within the royal reserve. Along These Savage Shores, where the hunt is eternal, and hunter and hunted move in shadow.
Why It’s Cool: After one hell of a debut issue with These Savage Shores #1, we’ve been dying to continue this story for over a month now. Finally, the second issue is set to arrive. This is a story that deals in heady themes and sinister tones. After an expert bit of misdirection in the first issue, we can’t wait to see where this one takes us next.

Top New #1 Comics

  • Dead Man Logan #1

  • Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. 1956 #1

  • Ironheart #1

  • Jim Henson’s Labyrinth: Under the Spell #1

  • Quincredible #1

  • Warning #1

Others Receiving Votes

  • Amazing Spider-Man #10

  • Archie 1941 #3

  • Aquaman Justice League Drowned Earth #1

  • Catalyst Prime: Kino #11

  • DC Nuclear Winter Special #1

  • Die! Die! DIe! #5

  • Fantastic Four #4

  • Heroes in Crisis #3

  • High Heaven #3

  • Justice League Odyssey #3

  • Man-Eaters #3

  • Redneck #17

  • Stray Bullets: Sunshine and Roses #40

  • Uncanny X-Men #3

  • Wonder Woman #59

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.