GET HYPED: Vita Ayala, Danny Lore, Eric Gasptur, and team take on James Bond 007

By Jarred A. Luján — It’s been just over a month since Dynamite announced the new creative team for the James Bond 007 comic series. While much has happened since then, I feel like we haven’t spent enough time looking at ourselves and asking: “What have we done to be blessed with such a creative team?”

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REVIEW: Xena Warrior Princess #1 is a badass superhero comic for ancient Grecian times

By Zack Quaintance — Xena Warrior Princess #1 is an exceedingly well-done comic from its start, owning what it is—an adventure comic of the highest order that must also pay homage to a beloved character—and reveling in it. Indeed, in this book the creative team of writer Vita Ayala, artist Olympia Sweetman, colorist Rebecca Nalty, and letterer Ariana Maher tell a concentrated and…

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Top Comics to Buy for April 10, 2019: Detective Comics #1001, Livewire #5, Infinite Dark #5, and more

By Zack Quaintance — A very tardy set of Top Comics to Buy for April 10, 2019 this week, but what can I say? There were a lot of great books, and I wanted to make sure I’d read as many of them as possible before settling on my recommendations. It’s called due dilligence, and I’ll be damned if I don’t...um, do it. Yeah.

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Top Comics to Buy for March 13, 2019 - Catwoman, House Amok, Little Bird, and more

By Zack Quaintance — Phew, I just flew home from SXSW and boy are my arms exhausted! Kidding. That was incredibly lame and also I’m still physically at SXSW for one more day, but, you know, you can use the Internet from anywhere, so let nothing get in the way of our comics recommendations. How are the comics this week? Well, we’ve got a good mix of solid beginnings and exciting endings.

In the finale column, we have Cover and House Amok, which regular readers will likely recognize as two of our favorites around these part, with the former being an intimate and gorgeous meta take on the industry and the latter an unnerving dive into shared familial psychosis. Most notably in the debuts column we have Little Bird, which is quite possibly poised to be the best new comic of the year (stay tuned for an interview with the book’s creators later this week). So there, stage set for another great week.

Now, let’s take a look at the comics!

Top Comics to Buy for March 13, 2019

*PICK OF THE WEEK*
Little Bird #1 (
read our full review!)
Writer:
Darcy Van Poelgeest
Artist: Ian Bertram
Colorist: Matt Hollingsworth
Letterer: Aditya Bidikar
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99
MINISERIES PREMIERE!
Director/screenwriter DARCY VAN POELGEEST boasts a long list of awards and accolades for his storytelling prowess and brings the same writing finesse to IAN BERTRAM's breathtakingly detailed artwork in the gorgeous, hyper-detailed miniseries LITTLE BIRD.
Why It’s Cool: Is it enough to just say that this debut issue absolutely rules and these creators are destined to be stars? Because that’s first and foremost why this book is cool, but if you need more (and still haven’t read our Little Bird #1 review), I can also go on to tell you that this is a new #1 that absolutely brims with electric story, as ambitious as it is tense and beautiful, this is as imaginative as a comic as we’ve seen all year. It’s very very good, and you’ll want to get a copy now before it sells out and starts going for major bucks on eBay.

Catwoman #9
Writer:
Ram V.
Artist: John Timms
Letterer: Josh Reed
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99
When crooks break into the pawn shop where Catwoman has set up her secret headquarters, they make off with a personal item that she has to get back. The trail of loot leads her to the Broker, the man who moves all illicit merchandise in Villa Hermosa. Now, Catwoman could just walk in and ask for her property back, but that's never been Catwoman's style. Instead, she's going to pull off a heist that will teach her foe a lesson, making sure the Broker never crosses the Cat ever again. This special one-off issue is written by acclaimed writer Ram V. (BATMAN: SECRET FILES) and artist John Timms (HARLEY QUINN).
Why It’s Cool: We’ve been calling this run of Catwoman underrated for weeks, and we’d like to reiterate that again here before moving on to discussing this individual issue. Catwoman #9 is essentially a break issue for the normal creative team of Joelle Jones (singular...although she’s been spelled lately by Elena Casagrande and Fernando Blanco), presumably so she can write and draw forthcoming issues. What’s nice is DC has brought in rising star writer Ram V., fresh off a fantastic Batman one shot story in the recent Secret Files one-shot. Ram V. is a favorite of ours from his creator-owned work, and this one-off issue is a great example of why. Highly recommended!

House Amok #5
Writer:
Christopher Sebela
Artist: Shawn McManus
Letterer: Neil Uyetake
Publisher: IDW - Black Crown
Price: $3.99
Read our review of House Amok #1
Ten-year-old twin Dylan Sandifer is now in the driver's seat of more than the converted old school bus her family called home for a summer murder spree. Will she turn on her family and the sacred bond between twins and break free from the shared madness? Conspiracy theories, organ thieves, and secret histories collide in the explosive final issue!
Why It’s Cool: This second wave of IDW - Black Crown titles—Euthanauts, Lodger, and House Amok—can do no wrong, as far as we’re concerned. They’ve all been consistently excellent while also bringing something new to the imprint. In the case of House Amok, that something has been nuanced and complex psychological drama, centered on an actual affliction that has to do with shared psychosis...and then filtered back by a little girl protagonist who breaks free and recognizes something is wrong. It’s a lot, and it’s all written and drawn to nigh-perfection by Christopher Sebela and Shawn McManus, respectively. This issue marks the House Amok finale, and we are as delighted as we are scared to find out what it holds.  

Livewire #4
Writer:
Vita Ayala
Artists: Raul Allen with Patricia Martin
Letterer: Saida Temofonte
Publisher: Valiant Comics
Price: $3.99
Read our review of Livewire #3!
Once, Livewire dreamed of devoting herself to the betterment of humankind. Now, her most steadfastly held ideals are about to be tested like never before as she struggles to stay alive in the clutches of a fearsome new foe! But who is the mysterious psiot mercenary hunting her...and more importantly, who do they work for?
Why It’s Cool: The summary text really nails it when it says, Livewire’s “most steadfastly held ideals are about to be tested like never before as she struggles to stay alive…”...which could really be a tagline for this entire run to date. Last summer during Valiant’s Harbinger Wars 2 event, protagonist Livewire took some drastic (and violent) measures to protect those close to her, and now this creative team is hellbent on simultaneously making her earn redemption while not backing down from the injustices that forced her hand in the slightest. It’s a tour de force in powerful storytelling, and it’s making Livewire one of our favorite superhero comics, month in and month out.

Superman #9
Writer:
Brian Michael Bendis
Artists: Ivan Reis, Brandon Peterson
Inker: Joe Prado
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Letterer: Josh Reed
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99
The secrets of the house of El are revealed as the Unity Saga continues! Traveling through space, young Jon Kent has faced everything the universe could throw at him, but after an accident sends him and his grandfather Jor-El across dimensions, the new Superboy comes face to face with a terrifyingly evil version of his own father: Ultraman and his horrible version of the Justice League, the Crime Syndicate! Find out what happened to Superman's father and how Jon made it back home from this strange and crime-ridden alternate world.
Why It’s Cool: There is just no upper limit on the grandiosity of this run. In fact, the regular creative team of Brian Bendis and Ivan Reis have been upping the scale of this ongoing Unity Saga every issue, introducing more (and more bonkers) ideas into the plot, be it an out-of-his-mind Jor-El, a newly-powerful (and controversially older) Jon Kent, or the evil alternate reality Justice League known as the Crime Syndicate. They’re all coming together here as we get more of the backstory about what transpired in deep space between the three of them. This outsized Superman comic is a nice compliment to the more character-heavy and grounded Action Comics, another current favorite around these parts.

Top New #1 Comics

  • Age of Conan: Belit #1

  • Age of X-Man: Apocalypse and the X-Tracts #1

  • Assassin Nation #1

  • Batman Who Laughs: Grim Knight #1

  • Magnificent Ms. Marvel #1

  • Uncanny X-Men: Winters End #1

Others Receiving Votes

  • Age of X-Man: Marvelous X-Men #2

  • Amazing Spider-Man #17

  • By Night #9

  • Cover #6

  • Hawkman #10

  • Laguardia #4

  • Long Con #7

  • Murder Falcon #6

  • Oblivion Song #13

  • Prodigy #4

  • Shuri #6

  • Supergirl #28

  • Tony Stark: Iron Man #9

  • Wonder Twins #2

  • Wonder Woman #66

Check back to the site later this week for reviews of Assassin Nation #1 (which has a character named F*ck Tarkington), House Amok #5, Magnificent Ms. Marvel #1, and more!

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.

Top Comics to Buy for March 6, 2019 - Die #4, The Green Lantern #5, and more

By Zack Quaintance — At the risk of sounding repetitive, this first Wednesday of the month has really morphed into a monstrosity of great new comics. So much so that I’ve once again extended our usual top five picks to six. Hey, more content’s a good thing, right? Anyway, I could have also easily extended it to seven or eight or nine. It really pained me to cut great titles for this upcoming Wednesday like Doomsday Clock #9, Immortal Hulk #14, and Justice League #19.

But I figure pretty close to most everyone has their mind made up about those comics at this point, so why not shed some light on lesser-known books that are still in their early stages? I’m thinking specifically here of the creator-owned comic Self/Made, which continues to shock me with the high quality of both the its stories and ideas. It’s really turning into something special, the type of book I find myself reading toward the top of the stack each week and coming away shocked at where the story seems to be headed.

Anyway, on to the comics!

Top Comics to Buy for March 6, 2019

*PICK OF THE WEEK*
Die #4 (
read our full review!)
Writer:
Kieron Gillen
Artist: Stephanie Hans
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99
"FANTASY HEARTBREAKER," Part Four-Our heroes reach the civilization of Glass Town and do what heroes have always done upon reaching civilization. As in, go to the pub. As it's DIE, you can guess people don't exactly get happy drunk.
Why It’s Cool: We’ll have a more detailed and thoughtful review of this comic later this week, but let me just say here that this is the best issue yet of a series that has been fantastic from its start. This is the smoothest and most immersive issue of Die so far, which I attribute to the previous three issues having done such great work toward familiarizing us with these well-realized characters. With so much of that work behind the story now, the creators are free in this comic to really hit some deep (and troublesome in the best way) emotional beats. Don’t miss this issue; don’t miss this book.

Age of X-Man: Prisoner X #1 (of 5)
Writer:
Vita Ayala
Artist: German Peralta
Colorist: Mike Spicer
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99
ENTER THE AGE OF X-MAN!
In the Age of X-Man, when you break the law, you aren't sent to just any prison. You're sent to the Danger Room...a penitentiary filled with the roughest and meanest mutants that don't fit into X-Man's utopia. They each have a reason for being there. And they're all ready to kill each other.  But that's about to change, because the newest prisoner just arrived...Lucas Bishop!
Why It’s Cool: It’s a great combination of concept, creators, and character, with those respectively being the well-conceived and intricate Age of X-Man alternate universe, writer Vita Ayala (one of our favorite rising stars within the industry), and Bishop, always an underrated (if convoluted) X-Man. Seriously, Ayala has just been doing fantastic work lately, be it their superhero book for Valiant Livewire, the creator-owned Submerged, or the installment of the recent Marvel Knights mini-series that focused on T’Challa. These have all just been stunning comics, and we’re expecting nothing less from the Prisoner X miniseries, which follows Bishop into the underbelly of what is shaping up to be an Orwellian faux-utopia of an alternate universe.

Green Arrow #50
Writers:
Collin Kelly & Jackson Lanzing
Artist: Javier Fernandez
Colorist: John Kalisz
Letterer: Andworld Design
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $4.99
Spinning out of the events of JUSTICE LEAGUE: NO JUSTICE and HEROES IN CRISIS! When a black ops organization discovers Green Arrow's long-held secret-a mysterious weapon in the form of a box, given to him by the Justice League-they'll deploy their top undercover agent: Black Canary! On opposite sides of this festering secret, Green Arrow and Black Canary will clash as only two lovers can-by aiming straight for the heart! A mystery six months in the making, the box that can destroy the Justice League will be opened...and the Emerald Archer's world will be forever changed. This extra-sized anniversary issue of Green Arrow's life isn't just ending...it's burning to the ground!
Why It’s Cool: This if the finale of one of the quintessential Rebirth books, and it’s also what is quite possibly the last book headlined by the Emerald Archer that we’re likely to get in sometime, what with DC Comics very public intent to keep its publishing line at the slightly reduced level we’ve seen in recent months. The writing team of Kelly and Lanzing are perhaps the best choice for this job too. As I believe Kelly outlined fairly recently online, the duo had a fairly elaborate plan for a 50 issue run that would get to the core of one my personal favorite characters. We’re obviously not getting that, but look for them to give us a truly epic send off that packs in as much action and as many of their ideas from that outline as is feasible. Savor it, too, I know I will. Also, we’ll (sort of) get an answer to the question from No Justice, the natural one that came up when J’onn gave Ollie a box he said was capable of stopping the entire league...

The Green Lantern #5
Writer:
Grant Morrison
Artist: Liam Sharp
Colorist: Steve Oliff
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $3.99
"Blackstar at Zenith!" Hal Jordan has abandoned the Green Lantern Corps to join the Blackstars! But to do so, he'll need to convince their leader, Countess Belzebeth, and pass an initiation test. Which means he must survive a series of trials on the vampire planet Vorr, whose entire population wants to feast upon him! It's cosmic goth at its bloodiest...with a cliffhanger that's even bloodier!
Why It’s Cool: This run has been fantastic from start to finish, and this issue keeps it going. As promised by the creative team before the book even launched, The Green Lantern has been a series of quisi self-contained space cop procedurals. This issue builds on all that has come before while telling yet another compelling story built upon some of the key qualities and continuity bits that define Green Lantern. Also, as anyone who follows artist Liam Sharp will surely attest, the detail and imagination in the artwork he’s previewed for this comic has just been astounding, somehow even better than the tremendous heights he’s reached in earlier chapters. Think about it too long, and it will blow your mind as thoroughly as Morrison and Sharp seem hell-bent on doing.

Self/Made #4
Writer:
Mathew Groom
Artist: Eduardo Ferigato
Colorist: Marcelo Costa
Color Flats:
Mariana Cali
Letterer: A Larger World Studios’ Troy Peteri
Publisher: Image Comics
Price: $3.99
"THE 'TA-DA' MOMENT": Amala has made it to our world-and she is distinctly unimpressed. What's a girl with a new robot body and some pent-up rage to do? Paint the town red.
Why It’s Cool: Simply put, because this is the best comic I’ve read in I don’t know how long that rushes head first at the central questions of life itself. That’s maybe being a little dramatic, but this really has quickly turned into a story with a lot to say about creation. In this issue, we also get some really clever interplay between characters that’s analogous to that between child and parents, plus a tour de force visual journey through a near-future version of Sydney, Australia, along with the now-standard breakneck plotting that’s come to define the book. This is yet another major surprise from Image Comics in the past year or so that more readers should be talking about. I get that you might not be familiar with these creators, but you’re doing yourself a disservice by sleeping on this book.

Top New #1 Comics

Others Receiving Votes

  • A Walk Through Hell #8

  • Batman #66 (read our full review!)

  • Blossoms 666 #2

  • Cemetary Beach #7

  • Doomsday Clock #9

  • The Dreaming #7

  • Eclipse #13

  • Giant Days #48

  • Immortal Hulk #14

  • Justice League #19

  • Killmonger #5

  • Paper Girls #26

  • Red Sonja #2

  • Uncanny X-Men #13

  • Vindication #2

  • Young Justice #3


Check back to the site later this week for reviews of Astro Hustle #1, Batman #66, Uncanny X-Men #13, and more!

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.

REVIEW: Livewire #3, Amanda McKee faces a far greater danger than anything physical

Livewire #3 is out 2/13/2019.

By Zack Quaintance — Three issues into its run, Livewire is now among my favorite superhero comics (right up there with Bendis’ Superman and Immortal Hulk). This book just has such a great combination of honest characterization from writer Vita Ayala, kinetic and clear artwork from Raul Allen and Patricia Martin, and distinct yet connected chapters. Indeed, all three issues in this series so far have had different conceits, with clear thematic throughlines fostering a sense of unity.

Livewire is, in other words, a fantastic monthly comic. Livewire #3 sees our heroine still depowered, on the run, and known pretty much the world over as a war criminal. See, in this past summer’s Harbinger Wars 2 event, Livewire essentially turned off all the electronics in the United States to save her team from slaughter and oppression at the hands of malicious actors within government. This action, which seemed justified on its surface, had the end result of killing a horrific number of innocent people, from folks with pacemakers to hundreds on commercial planes.

In this issue, Livewire escapes to a safehouse before being hunted down by Pan, whom she has known since childhood under Toyo Harada within the Harbinger Foundation (readers needn’t know this bit of continuity to enjoy the series). The majority of this book is consumed by de-powered Livewire and Pan in combat, but the fisticuffs take a backseat, so intense is the discourse between the characters. Allen and Martin’s artwork is among the best in comics right now, and it makes for engaging activity as the argument between the two characters steadily raises the emotional stakes.

Pan and Livewire have a sibling relationship, and they spend the issue arguing as siblings do. This sort of complex discord between siblings is familiar territory for Ayala, who has told similarly-compelling stories about brothers and sisters in some of their best comics, particularly in their series with Vault Comics, Submerged. It’s all in here—the resentment, the rehashing of the past, the accusations of favoritism, the struggle to reframe history—all the well-worn maneuvers from real life sibling rivalry appear, compelling as can be.

What really makes Livewire #3 a white knuckle read, however, is the emotional threat poised to the lead character. In issue one, we saw Amanda McKee run through her status quo on the run, in issue two we saw her suffer physically at the hand of oppressive captors. In this issue, we see her honestly face down the severity of what she’s done in full, forced to do so by Pan’s accelerated empath abilities, which can essentially transfer memories from one person to another. Livewire, as we know, is a hero who believes in her fight and good intentions. That core component of her identity faces down a major threat here.

What Ayala does that’s so impressive is use this setup—the hunt, the character history, the transferred memory, the fistfighting—to illustrate the price for aggressive actions, asking whether regardless of how righteous or justified one feels, if aggression is ever the answer. In other words, can you be as right to fight back as Livewire was, and still find yourself suffering culpability for damage beyond your perception? Fighting a winning fight, even when you’re 100 percent correct, is still fighting, and maybe the nature of aggression is such that we can never truly anticipate how it afflicts the world.

That’s what I took from Livewire #3, and it’s an especially poignant point these days, when the difference between being right and productive has been so thoroughly muddied.

Overall: Livewire is a grounded book with high stakes, grand ideas, and terrifying threats, and in its pages, Ayala, Allen, and Martin are fearlessly addressing everything from Amanda’s intentions to her results to the impact of the wars she’s waged. This comic is, simply put, compelling stuff. 9.6/10

Livewire #3
Writer:
Vita Ayala
Artists: Raul Allen with Patricia Martin and Scott Koblish
Letterer: Saida Temofonte
Publisher:
Valiant Entertainment
Price: $3.99

Check out our reviews of Livewire #1 and Livewire #2!

Check out more comic book thoughts in our reviews archive.

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

REVIEW: Livewire #2 continues to establish this run as a must-read superhero comic

Livewire #2 is out 1/23/2019.

By Zack Quaintance — A key theme in Livewire #1 was whether one can justify extreme actions just because they have a righteous and worthy cause, and it manifested clearest in an argument toward the end between Amanda (aka Livewire) and Avi, an argument about her actions during the Harbinger Wars 2 event, during which she shut down the entire country’s power grid to stop shady government actors from murdering/abusing Psiots but in the process caused loss of life, resources, and safety.

Writer Vita Ayala’s script for the debut issue played this all out across the tricky philosophical ground the ideas call for, not letting anyone involved off the hook. This gave the series’ debut (and by extension the series moving forward) a dynamic, realistic feel. At one point, Avi even laid it all there, asking Amanda, “‘By any means necessary,’ right?”

More plot went down, and the first issue eventually ended with Amanda in a precarious position, seemingly caught by a squad of elite forces. During the capture, the commandos go out of their way to assure her they are motivated by good sense (she has a massive bounty on her head) and are far from the most extreme folks hunting her. It was a nigh-perfect ending, leaving readers with a sense/fear that Amanda was about to suffer consequences for what she’d done, potentially even in a way that would rattle the surety of her justifications.

Speaking of which...justifications, good intentions, right versus wrong, means versus the end, regret—that first issue had hints of it all, leading to a great hook for a series that already feels both promising and powerful (even if it is steeped in some immediate back continuity from the larger Valiant superhero universe). I, however, read an advanced copy of the issue in either late November or early December, and almost immediately regretted doing so because it meant that I wouldn’t get to resume this story for many weeks. Anyway, here we are now with Livewire #2.

What I found most impressive is the way it naturally evolves from its earlier focus on Livewire’s consequences, to the extreme actors on the other end, essentially putting her in the clutches of those she made her drastic move to save children from. And what do we find once she’s there? An infrastructure of abuse, fear, and weaponized bigotry that is well fortified, it was clearly in motion (although they insist it was not) long before she did what she did.

I don’t want to spoil any of the particulars, but I will note this excellent bit of dialogue, wherein Livewire tells her captors, Things like these are exactly what led me to the shut down. People like you made the fight necessary. It’s 2019, and I think most (if not every last one of us) has felt the need to say some variation of this in the last two or three years, perhaps often.

In a broader sense, this is just an incredibly smart comic. Stories about Valiant’s Psiot characters, is that they’re all built on ideas derivative from X-Men. The best of them (and this early Livewire book is quickly making a case to be among those, up there with Joshua Dysart’s and other writers’ Harbinger and Toyo Harada books) extrapolate the ideas and metaphors from X-Men to more complex and consequential places, places the commercial interests of the larger Marvel franchise often prevent them from going. When someone threatens to negate Livewire’s powers with an experimental surgery, for example, there’s a sense it might actually happen, which just isn’t the case with Nightcrawler, Colossus, or Kitty Pryde, and so on.

I could keep going, but the point is there’s just so much to like about this comic. This is really Valiant superhero stories at its best, smartly written, impeccably illustrated, and done with a sense that anything can happen if it serves the story. I highly recommend getting in on this series.

Some other quick highlights from issue #2: great word play equating false profits with false prophets; the opening fight sequence by Raul Allen and Patricia Martin is absolutely electric; the color work in the cell; and the excellent panel wherein Livewire starts to fight back against impossible adds, the one that stands as an homage to the famous We Can Do It! World War II poster.

Overall: Livewire #2 picks up where the previous installment left off. The creative team here is really building something special, and I can’t emphasize strong enough that fans of superhero fiction should get in on the bottom level. This comic has the potential to be a run talked about for a long while. 9.5/10

Livewire #2
Writer:
Vita Ayala
Artists: Raul Allen and Patricia Martin
Letterer: Saida Temofonte
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
Price: $3.99

Check out some of other thoughts about this comic from both this week and the past in our reviews archive.

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 2018, #16 - #25

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 1, which features in descending order selections #25 to #16 (the other two parts are coming tomorrow, worry not), let’s lay down 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 get this bad hombre started!

Top Comics of 2018, #16 - #25

25. Snotgirl
Writer:
Bryan Lee O’Malley
Artist: Leslie Hung
Colorist: Mickey Quinn
Letterer: Mare Odomo
Publisher: Image Comics
Issues in 2018: 4

In 2018, Snotgirl returned from hiatus with an every-other-month schedule, which ended up spreading four issues over the year. Its steady publication schedule gave it a decidedly 2018 feel. We also saw the plot in this story evolve, using its Instagram-driven L.A. ego hellscape motif to dip a toe into ideas of the supernatural.

Moreover, this book has a singular look and feel. O’Malley’s scripting is satirical and biting, using our increasingly-intense desire to appear perfect online as fertile ground for true existential horror. More credit, however, is owed to the art of Leslie Hung and colors of Mickey Quinn. From Hung’s disheveled-yet-shapely men and women—all of whom are equally gorgeous and barely hanging on—to the vibrant greens Quinn lands somewhere between snotty and stylish, the visuals work in perfect harmony with the story. It’s really something special.    

24. Abbott
Writer:
Saladin Ahmed
Artist: Sami Kivela
Colorist: Jason Wordie
Letterer: Jim Campbell
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Issues in 2018: 5

Our committee of one won’t be able to sum up this book better than contributing writer Maya Kesh in our Best Comics of 2018: Contributor Picks. So, go check that out. When you’re done, I’ll be here trying to add to Maya’s excellent thoughts on this series. Like our #25 pick before it, Abbott is a singular comic in everything from its protagonist to its setting to the concerns of its characters.

It’s set in the ‘70s in Detroit—a place and time dismissed as of late by most stories in pop culture. Add a black female protagonist who works as a reporter, and you’ve got a collection of story elements that stand on their own as different and intriguing. Writer Ahmed and artist Kivela don’t, however, rest on that. The story they tell is tense and mysterious, rich with themes of oppression and the paranormal. Basically, I’m with Maya when she says she hopes we haven’t seen the last of this character.

23. Long Lost Part 2
Writer:
Matthew Erman
Artist: Lisa Sterle
Publisher: Scout Comics
Issues in 2018: 5

This is, perhaps, cheating, seeing as the finale to this series is due in 2019 but I’ve already read (and loved) it. I won’t, however, let the ending slip. Long Lost is a poetic and understated story about change, the past, and family. From husband-wife team writer Matthew Erman and artist Lisa Sterle, Long Lost is a literary and confident comic with much to say about our transient generation, so bent on putting withering hometowns behind us.

And it says these things with a mix of ideas and imagery. The penultimate issue came out on 12/19, and as I wrote in my Long Lost Part 2 #5 review, it saw the creators expressing what this story is about: “Long Lost is about leaving your hometown...yet feeling a pull to return, a call home from our past. When we arrive, the place is nigh-unrecognizable. Relatives we thought we knew are so different as to be irreconcilable with who they once were in the past. They’re acting in strange ways, motivated by the hopes of enticing a magic cure for suffering, unemployment, sickness...with methods making them all uglier.” It was a great read in 2018 will be collected in trade this spring.

22. Skyward
Writer:
Joe Henderson
Artist: Lee Garbett
Colorist: Antonio Fabela
Letterer: Simon Bowland
Publisher: Image Comics
Issues in 2018: 9

My reaction to Skyward #1 was: where did this comic come from and how is it so polished and fully-formed? The answer on both fronts is that this book was written by Joe Henderson—a TV veteran who most recently oversaw Lucifer—who I came to find out (via the Word Balloon podcast) has a long history of involvement with comics dating back to Bendis’ message board. He’s teamed with powerhouse artist Lee Garbett on this one.

There’s a lot to like about Skyward. It’s narrative structure is ironclad, leaving no holes or lapses to distract reader attention. The science within extrapolates a world-altering event similar to how Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra did in Y: The Last Man, and it’s characters’ tones are so earnest and hopeful that one could probably even read this comic with family. It’s also kept to a regular release schedule, which is so key for creator-owned books like this one, jockeying for attention on a crowded rack.

21. Euthanauts
Writer:
Tini Howard
Artist: Nick Robles
Letterer: Aditya Bidikar
Publisher: IDW Black Crown
Issues in 2018: 4

This is another book that a contributor summed up so perfectly earlier this week (this time it was Allison and you can and should read it here). Yet, once again as the official committee of one, I will do my best to inject something new into this conversation. Euthanauts is, quite simply, one of the most gorgeous books on the stands. It’s the type of story you let wash over you like a poem, finding intense ideas and moments of beauty as you page through it.

Writer Tini Howard and artist Nick Robles are both powerful talents, destined for greatest things in the industry. Before they get there, however, I for one feel lucky to be around to see their beautiful book of life and death unspooling in real time. There are many great books right now on Shelly Bond’s Black Crown imprint (House Amok and Lodger both could have made our list had they published more issues), but Euthanauts is the crown jewel of that collection.

20. Royal City
Writer/Artist:
Jeff Lemire
Publisher: Image Comics
Issues in 2018: 7
Royal City wrapped up in August, which I found surprising, possibly because the ever-prolific Jeff Lemire (who pulls double duty here both writing and doing art) has put out so much work since this one concluded. And while a hefty volume of that work is to be celebrated (more on that as we get closer to the top), none of his stories had the intense emotional core that Royal City did.

A spiritual and semi-direct successor to Lemire’s seminal work on Essex County, this is one of the rare comics in 2018 that moved me to tears, doing so with its story of love, loss, adolescence to adulthood, and perseverance in the face of life’s small-yet-crushing defeats. I would love to get a hardcover version of these 14 issues to keep forever on my shelf, which given the space limitations that plague my collection these days, is a high compliment indeed.

19. Submerged
Writer:
Vita Ayala
Artist: Lisa Sterle
Colorist: Stelladia
Letterer: Rachel Deering
Publisher: Vault Comics
Issues in 2018: 4

The first—but certainly not the last—of the Vault Comics on our list, Submerged launched in July and concluded in December. It’s a haunting story of family discord that ultimately manifests in a tangle with mythology during one of the most dangerous storms New York City has weathered in modern history. Vita Ayala is one of the brightest rising stars in the industry, and they do incredible work with this one, expertly balancing the revelations about family backstory with the paranormal threats faced in the present by our characters.

Lisa Sterle (who you may remember early from our writeup of Long Lost) once again creates grounded-yet-disturbing imagery to go along with Ayala’s scripting. This is one of those four-part stories you’ll want to go out and get in trade, so you’ll have it to page through often at your leisure. The impression it leaves is indelible, and Ayala and Sterle are both clearly creators to watch in the coming year.

18. Cover
Writer:
Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: David Mack
Digital Coloring: Zu Orzu
Letterer: Carlos M. Mangual
Issues in 2018: 4

I saw Brian Bendis and David Mack talk about this book during Rose City Comic Con this September in Portland. Bendis noted that most other mediums—movies, music, books, etc.—have had myriad stories told about what it’s like in their industry. Not so with comics. Cover, however, sets out to change that, detailing what it feels like to table at cons as a semi-notable pro...while also working for the CIA.

The espionage subplot is, to be sure, the engine propelling this comic further, but the emotional core has to do with artistic accomplishments and satisfaction, with finding the places where ones art ends and real life begins, with examining how much artistic achievement can wash away loneliness, solitude, and rifts between family. On top of that thematic goodness, this one is expertly rendered by Mack, who uses visual flourishes often to convey intensity of emotion.    

17. Crowded
Writer:
Christopher Sebela
Artist: Ro Stein
Inker: Ted Brandt
Colorist: Triona Farrell
Letterer: Cardinal Rae
Publisher: Image Comics
Issues in 2018: 5

After what I personally perceived as somewhat of a down year for new comics in 2017, Image (our committee of one’s favorite publisher) bounced back with a vengeance in 2018, launching a dozen new series and mini-series with major staying power (more on that next week...so stay tuned!). Chief among those great new books was Crowded from writer Christopher Sebela and artists Ro Stein, Ted Brandt, and Triona Farrell.

There was no shortage of comics this year that look at terrifying near futures. What Crowded did, however, was extrapolate a startlingly-realistic idea (crowdfunded assassination bounty apps) with as taught of a buddy-drama/chase thriller narrative as we’ve seen as of late in any medium. This is a story built to elicit white knuckles, both in terms of what’s happening on the page and what it has to say about the current direction of society.

16. Gideon Falls
Writer:
Jeff Lemire
Artist: Andrea Sorrentino
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Letterer: Steve Wands
Publisher: Image Comics
Issues in 2018: 9

This book has a special place in our committee of one’s heart: It was the first comic we ever reviewed on this site, all the way back in January. We gave it a glowing review, predicting it would become the next big Image comic. Thankfully, time was on our side. This comic—from the well-worn creative team of Jeff Lemire and artist Andrea Sorrentino—hit the ground running and is yet to let up.

It started as what felt like an homage to Twin Peaks. The end of the first arc and the first half of the second, however, has built this story into a creepy mystery all of its own, establishing it as something different with expert use of a dual narrative. Sorrentino’s artwork is also absolutely it’s own thing, as visionary as anything on the monthly comic stands right now. It’s 100 percent a testament to the strength of comics this year that a book as good as Gideon Falls finishes #16 overall on our list, but here we are. Oh, and worry not Lemire fans...his other work will be landing higher (much higher!) on this list.

Check back tomorrow for our Best Comics of 2018, #1 - #15! 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.

ADVANCED REVIEW: Livewire #1 is a great start for Valiant’s newest series

Livewire #1 is out 12/19

By Toren Chenault — So far, 2018 has been a phenomenal year for comics. And it doesn’t seem to matter what you’re into. DC, Marvel, Image, AfterShock, BOOM! Studios...name a publisher, and they’ve had a hit this year. Valiant Comics is no different. Valiant Beyond is the new direction for the company, and as part of that direction comes a solo series for one of their most powerful characters.

Amanda McKee, aka Livewire, is an insanely powerful technopath who, just recently, shook up the Valiant Universe during the Harbinger Wars 2 summer event. Most characters now consider Livewire a villain, with very few still calling her a hero. As such, this is a series that comes at a crucial time for the character, and writer Vita Ayala and artists Raul Allen and Patricia Martin handle Livewire #1 with class, creating an emotional and introspective with a hook that makes you eager to learn more about Livewire.

This is Livewire’s first ongoing series. She’s a character who’s been featured in Valiant since its relaunch in 2011 and has subsequently gone through one of the best character arcs in all of comics, not just Valiant. She started off as a loyal student to billionaire and powerful Harbinger, Toyo Harada. Then, she became a superhero and team leader of a group called Unity. And recently, she became a resistance leader with her Secret Weapons team. But that came with a cost. Livewire, using her powers, turned off the power grid of the entire United States. And not everyone came out okay. This new series now serves as great jumping on point for readers as they learn about who Amanda is, while for existing fans, this book is about the the long-awaited fallout from Livewire’s actions in Harbinger Wars 2.

The highlight of Livewire #1 comes from Amanda’s characterization. She’s a weird person. She grew up isolated from the world and was indoctrinated by Toyo Harada. Over the years, she grew past that, but she still never had much of a social life or many friends. Livewire #1 dives into her weird personality and balances it with her love of her team, The Secret Weapons, who are essentially three kids that Livewire helped and trained to become better psiots. The relationship between Amanda and her team is a special one, and one that Ayala does a good job of showing.

But like all relationships, they have their bad times, too, and the emotional core of this issue comes from Amanda confronting her team for the first time since leading her resistance in Harbinger Wars 2. Amanda had good reasons for starting another Harbinger War, but sometimes ends don’t justify the means. To me, this is where the issue truly shines, because Ayala constructs the dialogue in a way that makes readers sincerely care about characters in the moment. There’s also just enough background so that new readers won’t be confused, but rather eager to learn more about Amanda’s past.

The art duo on this comic is the rising star team of Raul Allen and Patricia Martin. Allen and Martin both worked on Secret Weapons with Arrival screenwriter Eric Heisserer, so they’re not new to Valiant. Their comfort with the characters shows in the art. Bold, detailed pencils and bright colors are some of the ways their art shines. Secret Weapons to me, was structured like a movie. The panels were arranged in a way that made the comic feel extremely fluid. Livewire #1 boast those same qualities.

Every page in the comic seems to have a transparent blue sheet over it as Martin’s colors provide a calming effect. I could write for hours on the quality of this art and just how well done it is, but the last thing that I’ll say is how beautiful they make Livewire look each time we see her. She has a presence, and every time she appears on the page you feel as if something big is about to happen. It’s this awesome combination of Allen’s detailed panel work, well-defined pencils, and Martin’s soft blends of blue, pink, and purple, that make this comic work so well .

Overall: I expected this comic to be a hit for me. It has a lot going on for it. What separates this from most superhero comics, though, is that Livewire is such an interesting character, one who hasn’t been explored too much yet. There’s a moment at the end of the issue that made me tear up because of the depth with which Ayala writes Amanda. And I was not expecting that. Given how this first issue ends, we’re in for a long ride with Livewire. And I can’t wait to take it. 9.5/10

Livewire #1
Writer:
Vita Ayala
Artist: Raul Allen
Colorist: Patricia Martin
Letterer: Saida Temofonte
Publisher: Valiant Comics
Price: $3.99

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

Toren Chenault, a native of the Cincinnati area, currently lives in Michigan with his girlfriend. A graduate of Michigan State University, he is a long-time superhero fan who counts Captain Atom, Carol Danvers’ Captain Marvel, Daredevil, Divinity, Nightwing, and XO Manowar among his favorite heroes. Mystic Man is his first book. Buy it now here.

REVIEW: Submerged #3 Ups the Personal Stakes Amid a Descent Into the Underworld

Submerged #3 is out 10/17, with this stunning cover by Jen Bartel.

By Zack Quaintance — In Submerged #3, the hints of underworld mythology that have been doled out by writer Vita Ayala and artist Lisa Sterle in past issues become central to the plot. Not to go too far into details, but as the New York City subway system faces threat of a flood caused by a raging storm above, it morphs into a supernatural plane of existence, one our protagonist must maneuver, glimpsing along the way haunting ethereal flashbacks to pivotal moments from past days of life.

It’s a compelling way for the story to blur reality while also strengthening our emotional attachment to our central character. What I find most interesting about the way that Submerged #3 is constructed—especially as it relates to previous issues—is that this is simultaneously the chapter with the most fantasy and the most truth, the one that ups the impossibility of the story while also grounding us in emotions so real they sting. There’s an impressive dichotomy at work that really serves this story well.

Indeed, throughout the penultimate chapter of this four-part story, reality is increasingly loose, with underground doors that open onto the street level, a childlike (spectre?) that oscillates from insecure to aggressive, and a train graveyard that seems to extend forever. There is no overt threat to the lead of Submerged aside from nature and concern for a wayward brother, but the creators have done a wonderful job of fostering an unsafe and eerie feeling throughout, of making it apparent how much this all matters. I once had a writing teacher who said short stories (like this one) should not feel like a slice of life but rather like the slice of life. It’s one word, but it makes all the difference.

Submerged very much feels like the slice of life story our hero will contemplate for years to come, and this sense of hefty narrative weight works in tandem with the aforementioned ghostly tone to really push the book forward. As the plot moves toward a climax, the story also does an impressive job of painting a coherent picture of the lifetime relationship between the siblings at its core—Elle and Angel—the disparate expectations from their parents that shaped their youthful conflicts (often due to gender), the ways they were regarded differently by their traditionalist father, and how it has now manifested for them as adults. It’s a credit to Ayala’s script that this all unfolds so cleanly, that it all feels achingly compelling.

And it’s also a credit to Sterle’s artwork, which has a way of seamlessly intermingling the real and extraordinary without ever tipping into jumbled. The dark underground setting is a potentially difficult one visually, but this book handles it well. Most prominently, however, Submerged #3 delivers a stunning last page reveal, one likely to linger until we get the fourth and final issue of this excellent story.

Overall: Submerged #3 is simultaneously the most fantastical and personal issue of this book to date. The action of the overall story rises along with the water levels in the tunnels, ultimately delivering us to a last page that pays off so much of what this excellent comic has been about. 9.0/10

Submerged #3
Writer:
Vita Ayala
Artist: Lisa Sterle
Colorist: Stelladia
Letterer: Rachel Deering
Publisher: Vault Comics
Price: $3.99

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