As the dust settles on both the year that was and our piles of comic books, it’s time to take stock of the series we’ve loved the most this year. From sci-fi epics to mindbending superheroism, these are our 10 favorite series we read in 2018.
The year 2018 marked the 25th anniversary of Power Rangers, and it’s been an appropriately big year for the franchise. The show celebrated in the most Power Rangers way possible by having Tommy Oliver do battle with, err, himself. Hasbro brought the entire franchise, ensuring an intriguing new future for the series (and even more importantly to Power Rangers, its toy line). But the absolute best celebration Power Rangers could get came in its constantly surprising comic book series, which capped off years of build-up with the epic crossover saga “Shattered Grid.”
In “Shattered Grid,” Power Rangers managed to revel in the scope and scale of comic book crossovers and to honor the entire PR franchise’s legacy—but above all, it stayed true to its core team of teens with attitude. “Shattered Grid” is the culmination of several long-running arcs in the book that grew and developed the Mighty Morphin team in extremely satisfying ways, and never lost sight of those arcs even as the event got bigger and bigger. The series came out of “Shattered Grid” with a new creative team and an even bolder lease on life than it already had, and considering how strong this book has been, that’s saying something.
Creative Team: Kyle Higgins, Daniele Di Nicuolo, Simona Di Gianfelice, Walter Baiamonte, and Ed Dukeshire
Al Ewing’s horror-tinged take on the Incredible Hulk is one of the biggest surprises of the year. Coming off the back of what’s been a very weird time for Bruce Banner (what with him being killed off a couple years ago), The Immortal Hulk not only deftly utilizes that springboard to tell a haunting tale of dominance and fear, but tie the gamma-radiated characters of the Marvel Universe together in some remarkably dark ways.
The Hulk has always worked best as an unpredictable anti-hero, one that is guided by a sense of justice that’s not quite in line with his frequent allies. The Immortal Hulk extrapolates that in fantastic ways, as the battle for control between Bruce and the Hulk within plays out in a manner far more disturbing than we’ve seen in years.
Creative Team: Al Ewing, Joe Bennett, Ruy José, Paul Mounts, and Cory Petit
It was, overall, a banner year for stories about witches and their magical crafts—but the thing that really made Magdalene Visaggio, Kasia Witerscheim, and Harry Saxon’s Sex Death Revolution stand out was the thoughtful, novel approach the series had to its conceptualization of the supernatural. As much as the series was about the transformative power of self-actualization, Sex Death Revolution also took the time carefully build out the rules and logic of its world’s take on magic in a way that made it feel real and concrete. Where so many magical stories treat magic as a somewhat dead, codified sort of science, Sex Death Revolution envisioned it as something living, dynamic, and in the constant process of being rethought and innovated upon.
Small as a detail like that might seem, it makes Sex Death Revolution and its plot about having agency over the arc of one’s life and one’s place in the world that much more significant. All of the comic’s characters are intimately aware of how much your life can change if the will to enact said change is strong enough.
Creative Team: Magdalene Visaggio, Becca Farrow, and Harry Saxon
There are nowhere near enough comics featuring queer, gender-nonconforming characters as their central heroes, and Aftershock Comics’ Moth & Whisper makes clear just how much we’ve been missing out. Oftentimes, when people think of comics centered on queer characters, they mistakenly assume that the stories are solely focused on things like coming out or relationship issues. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with comics like that (they’re actually quite important), but Moth & Whisper demonstrates just how much more there is to queer storytelling—and the ways in which a character who isn’t a cisgendered straight person can make a story infinitely more novel and fascinating, when approached with the right sort of creative vision and care.
Creative Team: Ted Anderson and Jen Hickman
It’s normal for comics publishers to give characters an elevated profile in their books following the release of a live-action adaptation of their source material, but it’s rare that a comic continues to push the narrative envelope in the way that Ta-Nehisi Coates’ current Black Panther run does. After years of being a story about one of the most fascinating, dynamic characters in Marvel’s comics, Black Panther finally nudged T’Challa and the kingdom of Wakanda into a new direction. It felt at once like the most logical thing in the world, and also like something bold, unexpected, and refreshing.
The Wakandans have always represented humanity’s greatest potential for technological excellence, and after years of being primarily Earth-bound, the nation finally made it into the far reaches of deep space. It’s a decidedly futuristic take on a cast of characters who’ve always been defined by the power of their technological brilliance, but it also feels very much like the beginning of a new chapter in Black Panther’s larger mythos that’s years overdue and sure to develop into even more dazzling stories going forward.
Creative Team: Ta-Nehisi Coates and Daniel Acuña
It’s almost unfair, six years in, to keep putting Saga on “best” lists. But then again, it’s unfair of Saga to keep being so resoundingly brilliant that it deserves its spot time and time again, and this year has especially been a strong year for the series. Saga’s latest arc—before it announced a surprise hiatus to recharge halfway through the year—has been one of its most powerful, as it examined the way violence inherently impacts upon a person, whether they are witness to it or act upon it.
Through that lens, it contrasted Alana, Marko, and Hazel’s bond as a family unit that’s been on the run for so long with the disconcerting relationship between Prince Robot and his son in some remarkably introspective ways, culminating in one of the biggest shocks to the series’ status quo. Six years in, and Saga just keeps on upping its game.
Creative Team: Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
DC’s The Snagglepuss Chronicles can be somewhat difficult to describe to people because of how out of left field its plot seems at first. A comic about a gay, anthropomorphic mountain lion fighting against the evils of McCarthyism just as he’s trying to get a new show off the ground doesn’t exactly sound like something you’d expect from a mainstream publisher. And yet, as you give into the conceit of the comic, it makes absolutely perfect sense—and it really fells like the Snagglepuss story that was always meant to be understood as being a core part of the character’s identity.
Creative Team: Mark Russell, Mike Feehan, Sean Parsons, and Paul Mounts
Coda is a fantasy series about constantly upending what you actually expect from a wild, apocalyptic-looking fantasy comic. It barrels along to its own drumbeat, swinging between the epic adventures of its surly protagonist Hum and the more intimate examination of his relationship with his wife with an ebb and flow that makes it a touching and action-packed read in equal measure.
But Coda also shines as one of the most visually inventive and gorgeous-looking comics on shelves, with Matias Bergara’s painterly artwork delivering some of the biggest, most lush vistas you could possibly imagine in a fantasy comic that’s a little bit Lord of the Rings, a little bit Mad Max, and a little bit glam rock. It’s rare to find such a surprising combination of genre-subverting writing and expectation-subverting art, but Coda is a creative match made in heaven.
Creative Team: Simon Spurrier, Matias Bergara, Michael Doig, Jim Campbell, and Colin Bell
After years of languishing in Marvel’s comics, the X-Men really recharged this year, between Jean Grey’s epic return from the dead and the original five X-Men reconvening in their proper time. As all of that was happening, though, Marvel’s X-titles really struggled to find a specific voice and vision that felt designed with a contemporary audience in mind.
With X-Men: Red, however, that all changed. Not only did the book finally put Jean in charge of a proper flagship X-Team, it also gave its mutant heroes a villain whose drive and goals embodied the kind of evil that Charles Xavier’s students have always sworn to defend the world against. In doing so, X-Men: Red reminded us that the true insidiousness of racism lies in the fact that it’s purely senseless, misguided hatred—and when left unchecked, it can become a destructive force capable of irreparably harming society. X-Men: Red was a story that brought out the very best in its characters, and served as a timely reminder of why Marvel’s mutants will always be some of the publisher’s best when it comes to telling human stories about what it means to live in a world that doesn’t understand you.
Creative Team: Tom Taylor, Mahmud Asrar, and Ive Svorcina
You don’t announce a Tom King series after The Vision and not already have us intrigued, frankly, but when it was first announced that King would team with his Sheriff of Babylon collaborator Mitch Gerads to take on one of the weirdest DC characters around—Scott Free, a Christ-like escape artist from the wild pantheon of Jack Kirby’s cosmic New Gods—for a limited series, we were excited to see where Mister Miracle went.
And boy howdy, Mister Miracle went to some places. Over the past year, this series has repeatedly dazzled us with is heady clash of Kirby-style weirdness with a crushing normality, as Scott and his wife Big Barda balance fighting an all-out war between gods and worlds with raising their newborn child. It’s been an exhausting journey to watch unfold—physically, spiritually, emotionally—that became about family, about parenthood, and simply about the power of endurance and persistence in a world that constantly feels like it’s on the brink of falling apart. It’s one of the rawest books DC has put out in a while, and one of 2018’s very best comics.
Creative Team: Tom King, Mitch Gerads, and Clayton Cowles
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