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!
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
Writers: 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
Writer: 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
Writer: 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
Writers: 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 control...at 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
Writer: 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.
Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.