REVIEW: War of the Realms #6 is a thunderous (sorry) finale

By Zack Quaintance — War of the Realms, for those of you who for some reason read this site but have managed to not hear about it, is Marvel’s big summer event this year. It is a story that has grown over the course of Jason Aaron’s ongoing run on Thor, which at this point is among the all-time best with the character. In it, the dark elf Malekith has conquered nine of the 10 realms, with the lone holdout being Midgard (Earth). This is the story of Malekith and the mighty forces he has rallied, trying to take over…

Read More

REVIEW: War of the Realms #1 is a packed and ambitious comic

By Zack Quaintance — Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman and the rest of the War of the Realms main series creative team have a huge job in front of them. Aaron has spent nearly (but not quite) a decade building to this throughout a number of different Thor comics. Now, the writer must…

Read More

Comic of the Week: Thor #10 is a masterful look at fathers, sons, and toxic masculinity

Thor #10 is out 2/13/2019.

By d. emerson eddy — For more than six years now, Jason Aaron has been building an epic with Thor Odinson, weaving through god butchery, war with the Shi'ar, strife and upheaval throughout the realms, unworthiness, and flaming wolverines, collaborating with some of the best artists in the business. That list includes Esad Ribic, Russell Dauterman, Steve Epting, Frazer Irving, Christian Ward, and now Mike del Mundo. It has been a wild ride of ups and downs, victories and losses, all working towards the inevitable War of the Realms.

As this series has been counting down to the event, we've been getting one off tales taking stock of where the characters are, how they've been doing, and giving hints as to their preparedness for the oncoming war. This issue does so with Odin, who has essentially become a shell of himself, a drunkard and broken man sitting in the ruined halls of Asgard. This is an exterior state that mirrors his internal conflict. But this issue isn't necessarily a tale of woe and self-pity—though there is a measure of it in Aaron's internal narration for Odin—rather one of “tough love” from an overbearing parent.

A brief, one-page encapsulation of Thor-Odin’s complicated relationship over time.

This fractured father/son dynamic between Odin and Thor has a universal aspect to it of children brought up in homes where we were taught the rigors of what could be considered toxic masculinity, where men are stoic providers for the household, never showing the “weakness” of emotion. This is conveyed here via the juxtaposition of Odin's boorish actions, mocking Thor for crying as a child at thunder, while the narration has Odin searching for how he can simply tell Thor that he loves him, that he's proud of him, but he struggles.

It's heart-rending, but beautifully brought to life in the fluid and action-filled style of Mike del Mundo (along with additional colors from Marco D'Alfonso), who really seems to excel with the inebriated battle sequences between Odin and Thor. The almost shimmering liquidity of del Mundo's regular characters adds a kind of immersive feel to Odin, as though the audience is as well suffering from the effects of his drunkenness. Also, Thor #10 features some very nice page layouts particularly during Odin's visions. And Joe Sabino provides some interesting word balloon changes for the frost giants and Odin's narration boxes.

Overall, much of this volume of Thor has been a kind of heavy metal whirlwind through the Ten Realms and beyond as Thor Odinson returns into the series' focus. Here, we still get that in Thor vs. Odin, but Jason Aaron, Mike del Mundo, Marco D'Alfonso, and Joe Sabino go beyond in providing a familial aspect that may be all too familiar to many readers.

Thor #10
Writer:
Jason Aaron
Artist: Mike del Mundo
Colorists: Mike del Mundo & Marco D'Alfonso
Letterer: Joe Sabino
Publisher: Marvel
Price: $3.99

Check out more of d. emerson eddy’s Comic of the Week feature on our Lists Page.

d. emerson eddy is a student and writer of things. He fell in love with comics during Moore, Bissette, & Totleben's run on Swamp Thing and it has been a torrid affair ever since. His madness typically manifests itself on Twitter
@93418.

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.

Best Comics of 2018: Batman’s Bookcase Contributor Picks

By Various — Without our crack team of contributing writers, this site would just be one guy pretending to be furniture while churning out semi-coherent musings about comics. Yes, our super talented group of contributing writers are the lifeblood of Batman’s Bookcase, and as such, they have some pretty great takes about the Best Comics of 2018. From Allison continuing to surprise herself by riding hard for all things Thor to Taylor’s analytical impressions of the revived Wild Storm, there’s a lot to take in on this list.

So please now join our contributors on a trip through some of their favorite comics of 2018!

Allison Senecal

Euthanauts
Writer:
Tini Howard
Artist: Nick Robles
Letterer: Aditya Bidikar
Publisher: IDW Black Crown
What can I even say about this series that hasn’t already been said by people (Scott Snyder, for one) who are way cooler than me? We already know 2019 is going to be the year of writer Tini Howard, and it sure as #$&% better be the year of artist Nick Robles too (Best Layouts of 2018 Award, not a thing...but it should be). The protagonist of this comic, Thalia, is far and away my favorite original character of the year, and she is just rendered so lovingly. What a heartfelt, at times darkly funny, and just flat-out interesting comic. With its almost cheerfully morbid (not to forget the gut-punches) fixation on death, Euthanauts is in many ways the perfect comic for 2018, but it sure has a lot of great things to tell us about living too.

Mighty Thor/Thor
Writer:
Jason Aaron
Artists: Russell Dauterman, Mike del Mundo, Christian Ward, Jen Bartel, Various
Colorist: Matthew Wilson, Marco D’Alfonso
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino
Publisher: Marvel Comics
If you told me a decade ago that my favorite Big 2 comic would be Thor, I’d probably laugh nervously at you, but here we are, and it is. Aaron and whichever stellar artist he happens to be collaborating with month-to-month (Dauterman, Bartel, Del Mundo, Ward, Moore, to name but a handful) knock this book out of the park every single time. No hiccups, no filler, all heart and tons of action. I’ve cried with Jane Foster, I’ve wheezed with Odinson, and vice versa. I also like the prospects for this book in 2019, because buckle up, kiddos, the War of the Realms is coming, and if you haven’t caught up on this entire Aaron run, do that now before it arrives.

Read more of Allison’s thoughts about Euthanauts and Thor!

Allison buys books professionally and comics unprofessionally. You can find her chaotic neutral Twitter feed at @maliciousglee.

Jack Sharpe

The Unexpected
Writer:
Steve Orlando
Artist: Various
Colorist: Various
Letterer: Carlos M. Mangual
Publisher: DC Comics
DC’s New Age of Heroes line produced some great comics, even if it sadly did not have sales legs. The best comic of the line for me however was The Unexpected. This book features a very personal tale while also going all out on the cosmic side of the DCU. Writer Steve Orlando crafted an amazing tale and while it’s sad this book is ending in January, there is still more greatness to come from Orlando with Martian Manhunter, which launched in December.

Read more about The Unexpected on our reviews page!

Jack Sharpe is a huge fan of history and comics. When he's not in the trenches surrounded by history, he's reading and studying comic books. You can follow him on Twitter at @JackJacksharpe5  

Maya Kesh

Abbott
Writer:
Saladin Ahmed
Artist: Sami Kivela
Colorist: Jason Wordie
Letterer: Jim Campbell
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
The ‘70s are my personal golden age of comics. The decade is when I began my journey, with Superman’s Girlfriend, Lois Lane as my gateway book. In 1972 I was 8 years old. I loved bell bottom jeans, the wider the better. I even used to buy flare jeans for my daughter until one day she told me that my loving them was no reason to force them upon her. So, when I read the solicitation for Abbott, I knew I had to add it to my pull list.

Abbott takes place at the end of 1972 and stars a black female reporter, Elena Abbott. Reading it this year, it felt as if somebody was writing a comic book just for me. I had high expectations throughout, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Writer Saladin Ahmed doesn’t flinch from including the racism and sexism of the time. Civil Rights had passed in 1964, just 8 years prior, and the Women’s Liberation (feminism) movement was starting to make waves. This is the context the story takes place within. Elena Abbott lives in a white man’s world and those around her don’t let her forget that. She’s also grieving her husband. There is a really touching flashback with Abbott listening to John Coltrane’s jazz masterpiece A Love Supreme, perfectly rendered by artist Sami Kivela.

The story mixes the supernatural with murders in Detroit, and Abbott is on the beat trying to figure out what is going on. Kivela’s art is a perfect fit, adding a texture and personality to the setting.

The supporting characters also feel alive, giving this story another important dimension. The highest compliment I can give this book, though, is that when Abbott ended, I was left wishing for more adventures with Elena as she climbed the professional ladder and began to rebuild her personal life. This was a clear highlight of 2018, and I really hope there is a second series.

Read more of Maya Kesh’s thoughts about Superman and Lois Lane!

Maya Kesh is a lifetime comic reader and a writer whose articles often focus on how women are portrayed in comics. You can follow her on Twitter at @mayak46

The Stewart Bros.

The Weather Man
Writer:
Jody LeHeup
Artist: Nathan Fox
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Letterer: Steve Wands
Publisher: Image Comics
The Weather Man by Jody Leheup and Nathan Fox combines sci-fi action with black comedy to spectacular effect. This book was one of the highlights of 2018. It also feels like it’s just warming up, and we can’t wait for what’s next.

Fearscape
Writer:
Ryan O’Sullivan
Artist: Andrea Mutti
Colorist: Vladimir Popov
Lettering: Andworld Design
Publisher: Vault Comics
Fearscape by Ryan O’Sullivan and Andrea Mutti from Vault Comics is the best comic book story about storytelling since Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. Full stop. If you have ever embarked on a creative endeavor, this is a book that will speak to you.

Check out The Stewart Bros. Top 10 Comics of 2018!

Bo Stewart grinds for the Man by day so he can create comics by night. He is the lesser half of the Stewart Brothers writing team and can be found on Twitter and Instagram @stewart_bros

Taylor Pechter

Hawkman
Writer:
Robert Venditti
Artist: Bryan Hitch
Inker: Andrew Currie
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Starkings & Comicraft
Publisher: DC Comics
This is, simply put, the sleeper hit of the year. Written by Robert Venditii (Hal Jordan and The Green Lantern Corps) and drawn by Bryan Hitch (The Authority), Hawkman explores the character of Carter Hall. It weaves a story about history and self-discovery that is intrinsic to his character. From its start back in June, this has been a must-read series. Not only is Venditti’s script immaculate in consolidating the convoluted nature of Carter’s origins, but Bryan Hitch is supplying the best artwork of his career. The art is big and cinematic, but it also contains a lot of emotion within it. I’ll be blunt: if you haven’t already, go read this series.

The Wild Storm
Writer:
Warren Ellis
Artist: Jon Davis-Hunt
Colorist: Steve Buccellato
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Publisher: DC Comics
A holdover from last year, Warren Ellis and Jon Davis-Hunt’s gritty, stripped-down, espionage-fueled retelling of the WildStorm Universe continued to chug along in 2018, in all its greatness. Not only did we see the formation of the proto-WildCATs and John Lynch searching down his Thunderbook agents before IO could get to them, but Ellis, like always, was a master of character interactions. His injection of dark humor also added a great edge to this book. Davis-Hunt’s art work continued to be simple yet also dynamic, featuring some of the best rendering of action in the business. The end of 2018 brought us to the end of the third of four arcs for this series. With all the pieces set in place, the final arc is sure to be a doozy, and I am all here for it.

Check out Taylor Pechter’s Top 5 Comics of 2018!

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

So there you have it. That concludes our contributor picks for 2018. Be sure to check back next week for more year-end lists, including Best Image Comics of 2018, Top Creators of 2018, and our official overall Best Comics of 2018!

Find more from our contributing writers on our comics analysis page, and check out our Best Comics of 2017 to see how those choices have aged!

The Batman’s Bookcase contributors are a super talented bunch, and we’re very lucky that they’ve chosen our site as a regular outlet for their thoughts and feelings about comics. Check back often in 2019 for more great pieces!


4 Things Jason Aaron Got Right About The Avengers

On Wednesday, Marvel Comics ushered in a new era for its flagship team book The Avengers, releasing a new No. 1 issue from writer Jason Aaron, artist Ed McGuinness, inker Mark Morales, and colorist David Curiel. The book built on plot points Aaron originally dropped in the massive Marvel Legacy one-shot last fall, and it marked the debut of this year’s new Marvel season, Fresh Start (although, no mention of Fresh Start was made by the book’s marketing, which I found interesting...).

Most importantly, however, this comic book was actually really very good. For real. The art team was cohesive and precise, giving the over-sized debut a polished feel, an almost high-budget aesthetic that seemed to declare this is THE Marvel book of the hour. What I found most engaging, however, was that Aaron’s plot and script seem to understand the enduring appeal of The Avengers in a way recent incarnations of the team have at times missed.

And that’s what we’re talking about here today. This book is not a throwback, not exactly—despite the traditional core of the team returning—but it does pay homage to some the most beloved and enduring aspects of The Avengers, without at all feeling dated in the process. Here are four of the major elements Aaron and the team simply get right about The Avengers... 

1. The Threat

The Avengers were formed originally because there was a threat that demanded they exist. In recent years, however, I think the concept has become a bit perfunctory, taking a wink-and-nod attitude that the team exists because the publisher, the fans, or whoever else expects/demands it. This book immediately gets away from that, establishing a convincing and compelling threat that spans millennia and brings our team together, even if some of them would rather not (more on that in a second).

This galvanizing threat is what made Avengers #1 work so well for me as a reader. I enjoyed Mark Waid’s preceding run on the franchise. I mean, he’s Mark Waid, and he just gets superheroes, but under Waid the book always seemed like an auxiliary title, rather than the publisher’s flagship, as that honor seemed to go to whatever event was beginning, middling, or ending (usually middling—boom, roasted!). In summation, Aaron’s run seems to be at the forefront of the publisher, giving it an exciting and dynamic sort of energy.

2. The Reluctance

Reluctance has been part of The Avengers DNA since the early years, when the original lineup minus Steve Rogers quit, leaving Cap to marshal a group that included Hawkeye, Quicksilver, and Scarlet Witch, all of whom were at that time villains. We get that reluctance here early and often, starting with a great buddy-buddy-buddy scene where Steve Rogers, Tony Stark and Thor Odinson meet in a bar for a beer, a shirley temple, and roughly three giant flagons of mead, respectively.

Just a few old friends, not wanting to be Avengers while having a drink at a bar called Aaron's.

Just a few old friends, not wanting to be Avengers while having a drink at a bar called Aaron's.

Not only is this reluctance foundational to The Avengers, it is in many ways the heart of Marvel superheroes all together, the main thing separating them from DC, whose heroes mostly run, fly, or grapple-hook eagerly into battle. Marvel heroes by comparison are more real and more flawed, like all of us, and they don’t always rise immediately to the occasion, like all of us again, with, of course, a few exceptions—thinking here of Carol Danvers. Aaron gets that right throughout, and his debut issue of The Avengers is better for it.

3. The Relationships

Avengers 2.png

All great teams have iconic relationships, be it the antagonistic banter between The Thing and Human Torch in Fantastic Four or the love story between Midnighter and Apollo in The Authority. I think it’s fair to say, however, that The Avengers have slightly more characters with special connections to their teammates, characters like Giant Man and The Wasp, or The Vision and Scarlet Witch, or Wonder Man and The Beast.

Right off in this debut issue, Aaron makes great use of existing bonds, specifically those between Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor, while also laying groundwork for some new ones. My favorite scene in this entire book was actually when T’Challa and Doctor Strange used their individual expertise together to investigate a shared concern. It’s a somewhat odd pairing, I suppose, but it yielded surprising chemistry. I’m really hoping for more of that kind of interaction.

4. The Rotation

My all-time favorite run on The Avengers was by Kurt Busiek and George Perez in the late ‘90s, and part of what I liked about it so much was the feeling that week-to-week the team’s roster was dynamic, that new members could be incoming and existing heroes could be on their way out of the mansion. Mark Waid did a bit of this in his run, although it really amounted to just one big splinter when the younger heroes departed to form The Champions.

Going into this book, however, Aaron has said in interviews that one slot on the team will be essentially reserved for a rotating member, and for this first arc that slot goes to Doctor Strange. I like that idea, although my hope is that the rotating concept is a wider one, not limited to a neat one-in, one-out setup that takes place like clockwork each time we start a new arc. I’d rather see roster churn happen organically (and maybe even surprisingly) as a result of our plot.

Plus, One Minor Complaint

So, I guess everyone—characters, writers, publisher, fans—is just fine now about the whole Hydra Steve business? I know this is comics and change is the only constant and HUGE events one month have little impact the next, but this man was seething with evil to the point he oversaw the destruction of a major American city, like as recently as last year, which is even shorter in comic book time.

Obviously, we have to get this behind us, and Secret Empire did the heavy narrative lifting after its climax to explain what happened and get us moving in a better direction. Plus, we got a brief and rehabilitative Captain America run from Waid and superstar artist Chris Samnee. Still, all I’m saying is a bit more of a grudge held by other heroes might feel cathartic for us all, regardless of what our feelings were toward Secret Empire as a concept. The good news is this is just one issue, and there’s still time to dive deeper into that idea, plus other dynamics. I know I, for one, am looking forward to Aaron unpacking the presumably large baggage between Tony and Carol following the second superhero Civil War.

Zack Quaintance is a journalist who also writes fiction and makes comics. Find him on Twitter at@zackquaintance. He lives in Sacramento, California.