2018 has been a fun year on the comic front. I’ve read 38 graphic novels, so far, of which most were ones I’d never read before and were not on the list last year. Heck, five of my seven books below are new to the list! I’ve just been picking up random books and enjoying the heck out of them.
From the bottom up, per usual!
7. Skyward (Image), 2018-??
20 years after the Earth goes near-zero gravity, a conspiracy is uncovered by one of the scientists who predicted this would happen. And it’s up to him and his daughter — who has never known a gravity-positive planet — to prove it. A really unique concept with interesting characters and the promise of a fun and engaging storyline.
6. Infidel (Image), 2018
After a terrorist bombs an old residential building in a big city without destroying it, residents both old and new move back in only to discover that personal prejudices are now being fueled to large extent because of the attack. Oh, and spirits that are trapped in the building are also stoking those fires of xenophobia. Yes, spirits. Very disturbed spirits. And they won’t stop until they’ve destroyed the lives of every last resident. I saw this book on the shelf of my library, read the cover description, and picked it up immediately. It would be easy to read that same description and think that the book is trying too hard to be relevant in this age of raging racism and hatred. But don’t. It’s good. Damn good. Well worth the read.
5. Gideon Falls (Image), 2018-??
One of my favorite writers Jeff Lemire debuts a new story that sees the lives of a Catholic priest in small-town America and a big city junkie obsessed with the idea that he can uncover a conspiracy hidden in the city’s waste intertwined around the legend of a black barn. The way that this story is presented visually is really interesting incorporating panoramic and walleye imagery with traditional comic art. I can’t wait to see where this goes.
4. Immortal Hulk (Marvel), 2018-??
I will always be a junkie for all things Hulk and this is no exception. In a return of sorts to how Hulk originated, anger is not the impetus that transforms Bruce Banner into his raging green alter ego. It’s day and night... literally. During the day, Bruce Banner lives his reclusive existence trying to figure out how to rid himself of his night time terror. But he’s also very human and an be killed, in a different sort of way. Y’see, if he’s killed, he’s dead but at night he returns as Hulk to exact horrific revenge and then, the next day, Bruce is back. So it’s not permanent, except for those who wrong him. And it’s a ton of fun to read. Thank you, Al Ewing!
3. The Walking Dead (Image), 2005-??
After the horrific battle of volume 28, it’s time to rebuild. This involves reaching out to Eugene’s radio friend and trying to build new alliances. But as new teams are built, others fray. This new group, though, is immense compared to any of the new world civilizations that Rick and Co. have run into previously. But that doesn’t stop our favorite bunch from trying to extol the virtues of their world. It’s basically a bunch of dickering back and forth — “my world is better than yours” — but, oddly, it worked well. Admittedly, the two collected editions released this year have not been very action packed. It’s just a lot of character building. But, for whatever reason, I’ve been loving it.
2. Batman: White Knight (DC), 2018
Thanks to the wonder that is modern pharmaceuticals, Joker is *gulp* SANE! Now known as Jack Napier, he is trying to make right by both Harley Quinn and the populace of Gotham City as a whole. At the same time, he’s shooting to discredit the one person he sees being more responsible for society’s ills than any other... Batman. This 8-issue arc is a singularly amazing read with twists and turns that no fan of Batman could ever really anticipate. As much as people swear by classics like The Dark Knight and whatever else, I have to say that this is my favorite Batman story I’ve read to date. I know it’s cliche to say, but if I could give it more than five stars...
1. Descender (Image), 2014-2018
As all the groups trying to capture TIM-21 close in on their prize, the robot revolution begins in earnest and mass destruction ensues. Things are not looking good. And here is where I stop summarizing and tell you to just read it. This is the last volume in the arc but, thankfully, the team of Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen will return in 2019 with Ascender, an ongoing sequel to my beloved science fiction gem.
Please, if you haven’t read this yet, do so now. I can’t emphasize enough how truly awesome it is.
Honorable Mentions - Kevin’s 7 in Other Years:
For the first time ever, this list contains only titles that were published in calendar year 2018. That does not, however, mean that I only read 2018 publications. So I wanted to take a moment to list a few titles I loved that were published in other years. Check ‘em!
These are in no particular order, FYI. Just another seven for your consideration.
The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, vol. 1: The Crucible (Archie)
Sabrina, as a character in Archie comics and not as played on TV in the 90s by Melissa Joan Hart, has always been a source of fascination for me. And I’ve always felt like if Archie Comics, as a brand, could somehow venture beyond the family friendly fare they’d produced for decades, Sabrina’s could be the coolest story told. Imagine my joy when it was announced that a horror/occult take on Sabrina was in the works featuring Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa of Afterlife with Archie fame and Robert Hack with whom I was unfamiliar to this point. I snapped up that first issue immediately and loved it. But then the series seemed to go on an interminable hiatus and I forgot about it completely. Now you can get volume 1, containing issues 1-5, and enjoy the contiguous story of Sabrina’s early upbringing with her aunts in Greendale, a neighbor town to Archie’s Riverdale. And we also get to see some familiar faces. This is such a beautiful story that, although slow building, is paying off in a huge way. Read it. Seriously. Now.
World War Hulk (Marvel)
This 11-year-old collection roughly follows some of what we saw in Thor: Ragnarok with Hulk on the planet Sakaar where he starts as a reject and then a slave and then a gladiator and then a champion. What I didn’t know and that was twisted around for the Marvel Cinematic Universe interpretation of events is that Hulk was deemed to be a danger to Earth so Mr. Fantastic, Iron Man, Black Bolt, and Doctor Strange blasted him to Sakaar. To add insult to injury, after Hulk became a champion and a leader of the people, he got married and had a kid only to have them, and many other Sakaarians, killed, presumably by those same four Earth heroes. So, um, yeah, Hulk is pissed and he’s coming back to Earth for a reckoning. And that’s where this book starts (I’ll need to look up the prior story). What happens next is just glorious Hulk going SMASH on the Avengers and the Fantastic Four. Slightly confusing ending but a great story.
The Underwater Welder (Top Shelf)
Jack Joseph is 33 years old, is married, and has a baby on the way. He’s also an underwater welder and that is all he truly feels secure about in his life. People come and go, as he knows because his father — also a diver — disappeared two decades prior at the age of 33, but the water and the need for his skill will always be there. As his wife’s due date approaches, he retreats further into his career until his obsession peaks and results in Jack getting the peace and solitude of the sea on land as well. Underwater Welder is a very human story. Jack Joseph could be any one of us. His fears, his loves, his desires. And so you root for him even as his life seemingly gets worse and worse. The art is very simplistic but it plays very well with the story. I love Jeff Lemire. And I will keep reading his original, non-superhero, stories as long as he keeps writing them.
Black Hammer, vol. 1: Secret Origins & vol. 2: The Event (Dark Horse)
After a near cataclysmic battle in which Earth was almost destroyed, a group of superheroes is banished to another dimension and forced to live in what might otherwise be deemed an idyllic farming community reminiscent of 1950s Earth. But they cannot leave. Ever. And, even if they could, they don’t even know where they truly are to be able to get back to what they know. Volume 2 sees a new member on the farm, Lucy Weber, a civilian journalist from the reality they all know who is also the daughter of the long-deceased Black Hammer. But unlike all the former heroes who seem to have consigned themselves to their new lives, Lucy won’t go quietly. So she does what she does best and investigates like a journalist would. What she finds is, well, not normal in the slightest. Presented much like the first volume of Astro City with each issue focusing on the backstory of a different hero in the group while allowing the current narrative to flow throughout, this really is a great character study. It is very human and accessible, with a weirdness lent it by artist Dean Ormston that is, dare I say, charming. These are slow-building character-driven stories. But there is payoff in the end. Big beautiful payoff. And it’s leaving me dying for volume 3.
Rise of the Black Panther (Marvel)
Rise of the Black Panther is Ta-Nehisi Coates’ attempt to finally fill in some backstory on the legendary Wakandan king after three volumes of new story that, to be honest, left me scratching my head. Yes, we get to see T’Chaka’s history, his two marriages, his dalliances in between, and how these actions came to define the young life of his son T’Challa. We learn of T’Challa’s adopted white brother and his half siblings who also round out the story of the nation. But, most importantly, we find out why it is that T’Challa rebuked centuries of seclusion to announce his country’s desire to join the world stage and help make the world a better place for all through technology. Oh, and the consequences of that announcement. When I read Coates’ The Black Panther arc, this is the story I expected but didn’t get. I almost gave up on the series because volumes 2 and 3 were getting a bit boring. I’m glad I stuck through Rise because this volume more than made up for it. If you’re looking for more history of the character without being summarily dumped in the middle of a civil war for which you have no foundation, check this out.
When five tween kids find the body of Plutona, one of their city’s superheroes, lifeless in the woods, they’re at a loss for what to do. Report it to authorities? Report it to the news? Hide her body? One of them comes up with an even darker plan. This five-issue miniseries shows what life is like for those living in a city protected by superheroes. For the most part, they’re like anyone else. There’s just a lot more going on in the surrounding skies. Part Stephen King and part Astro City and even a little Lord of the Flies, this dark tale is a lot of fun to watch unfold.
Superman: Red Son (DC)
What if, when Superman landed on Earth, he landed in Siberia during the early decades of the Communist movement instead of the Kent farm? What if he became indoctrinated in Communist mantra instead of the “American way of life”? What if he became a force behind Communism instead of Democracy? Ask no more and read one potential take on what might have happened in Mark Millar’s Superman: Red Son. I really enjoyed the what-ifs presented in this book. Just seeing how the legend could have so easily been upended is pretty amazing. However, I feel like it skipped around almost too much through the decades and I found myself scraping to figure out all the changes that happened between the pages. Still a very enjoyable read and that ending. Oh, that ending!
I really can’t wait to see what 2019 brings.
What have you been reading?