(W) Rainbow Rowell (A) Andres Genolet (CA) Kris Anka Rated T+ In Shops: Jul 31, 2019 SRP: $3.99
Doombot was destroyed back in #17, and Chase hasn’t been able to fix him. Victor is going to give it a shot, even if it forces him down a dark road. Even if it leads to something even worse than Victorius…
Writer: Rainbow Rowell Penciler: Andres Genolet Cover Artist: Kris Anka
Things are going SO WELL for Gert and Victor. That can’t possibly bode well, can it? It already hasn’t boded well for Chase, who has unresolved feelings on the matter…Karolina is keeping a secret from the rest of the Runaways and Nico in particular. The fallout could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back for your favorite teens
(W) Rainbow Rowell (A) Andres Genolet (CA) Kris Anka Rated T+ In Shops: May 22, 2019 SRP: $3.99
• Chase is proud to be the Runaways’ handyman, co-breadwinner, steadfast supporter…well, their dad? • But Chase is headed for DISASTER. Hold on to your hearts, Stein-iacs! • Plus: Find out what threat has Karolina rainbow-ing out this issue!
Without further ado, these are my favorite comics of 2018. This was the year I fell back on series that I had been checking out for years and found some new faves in the worlds of newspaper comics, symbiotes, gamma irradiated beasts, and maybe even a choose your own adventure game. Marvel seriously did a 180 this year, and I went from picking zero of their comics on my last year end list to three so well done on their part, and Donny Cates and Al Ewing should receive hefty bonus checks. But, honestly, this list should show you that visual humor, character driven narratives, and weirdness are my things, and I can’t wait to read more comics in that vein in 2019.
Honorable Mentions:Sex Death Revolution (Black Mask), Runaways (Marvel), Assassinistas (IDW/Black Crown), Punks Not Dead (IDW/Black Crown), That one really good issue of Peter Parker, Spider-Man that Chip Zdarsky wrote and drew (Marvel), Gideon Falls (Image)
10.Modern Fantasy (Dark Horse)
Modern Fantasy is a miniseries about a data entry worker named Sage of the Riverlands, who secretly wants to epic hero or maybe just a curator at a cool museum, and has a penchant for smooching handsome elves. Did Rafer Roberts and Kristen Gudsnuk have access to my most secret thoughts while writing this book? In all seriousness, this comic marries millennial angst and struggles (Dead end jobs, mooching friends, annoying co-workers) with all kinds of fantasy tropes, including urban, high, and good ol’ Lovecraftian. Gudsnuk’s art is both humorous and touching and filled with background details and jokes that reward a close reading. But what makes Modern Fantasy a great comic is the awkward friend group dynamic that Roberts and Gudsnuk craft filled with drama, jokes, a touch of romance, and a final showdown with a fire demon.
9.The Wicked + the Divine (Image)
Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, and Matthew Wilson’s story of young gods and fandom hit some dark bits in 2018 and had plenty of surprises to go with the formalism and “glimpse behind the curtain” of the “Mothering Invention” arc. However, at its best, WicDiv is the story of the girl, who thought she wanted something, and then painfully realized that she didn’t really want it. That girl, of course, is Persephone whose personal journey along with McKelvie’s amazing facial expressions, Gillen’s clever quips, and Wilson’s majestic color palette keeps me returning to this series as it is about to hit its fifth year. Also, the specials were spectacularly glorious in 2018 from the illustrated prose story/murder mystery in 1923to 1373’s dark piety. Then, there was the absolute bonkers nature of The Funnies where we find out the origin of Laura’s cracked phone and the Pantheon gets to solve a Scooby Doo mystery courtesy of Kitty Curran and Larissa Zageris.
8. Nancy (Go Comics)
I’ve been doing year end comics lists for five years, and this is the first time I’ve put a newspaper strip on one. However, Olivia Jaimes’ work on Nancy is one of the most hilarious things to come out of 2018. There are her “millennial” gags (Even though Nancy and Sluggo are definitely Generation Z.) about Nancy’s overuse of the Internet or swapping streaming service passwords with Sluggo, who is also “lit”. But she also has a firm grasp on meta-gags and the uniqueness of the comics medium like playing with panel layouts, lettering styles, reusing panels, and then having Nancy make a joke about it. Nancy is truly a ray of sunshine in a dark landscape while still being sarcastic and self-deprecating as hell and shows that even the proverbial old dog of the newspaper comic can learn some new tricks.
7. “Milk Wars” (DC Comics/Young Animal)
“Milk Wars” really brought the best of DC Rebirth and Young Animal together and was the only Big Two crossover I kept up with in 2018. The series brings together the Doom Patrol, Mother Panic, Shade the Changing Girl, and Cave Carson to fight warped versions of DC Comics heroes, who are under the control of the Retconn corporation. The story is a literal metaphor for how corporations sanitize characters and go for the retread instead of taking risks with iconic characters as Wonder Woman becomes a submissive housewife in her tie-in story from Cecil Castelluci and Mirka Andolfo. “Milk Wars” shows that it’s okay to be a little weird as milk goes bad if it’s left in the bridge past its expiration day. It also features some gorgeous layouts from Aco in the crossover’s first chapter, which was co-written by Gerard Way and Steve Orlando, and he and the artists did an excellent job of melding an indie and mainstream sensibility throughout “Milk Wars”. Also, the story had a real effect on Mother Panic, Cave Carson, and Shade in their solo titles and introduced Magdalene Visaggio and Sonny Liew’s wonderful, yet depressed Eternity Girl character.
Donny Cates, Ryan Stegman, and Iban Coello’s Venom ongoing series is filled with all the fun excesses of the 1990s (Especially in the Venom Annual where James Stokoe shows him going toe to toe with Juggernaut.) and none of its toxicity. The first arc of the series is about Eddie Brock and his symbiote going to war against Knull, god of the symbiotes and a symbiote dragon. This has a terrible effect on him, and Cates carefully uses the symbiote as a metaphor for PTSD while freeing Stegman to draw unhinged heavy metal battles. And this series wasn’t just a one arc wonder as Cates, Coello, and Stegman explore the after effects of the battle with Knull on Eddie’s symbiote and have him confront his father. Plus one of the most underrated Marvel villains, Ultimate Reed Richards aka the Maker pops up for a little bit. This series work because it explores the psychological effects of the symbiote as well as the oozy, shoot-y violent bits.
Crowded is a wicked bit of satire with a side of mismatched buddy adventure from the beautiful minds of Christopher Sebela, Ro Stein, Ted Brandt, and Triona Farrell. It is about an obnoxious woman named Charlie, who has a $2 million price on her head on an app called Reapr that is basically crowdfunded murder. Luckily, there’s an app called Defendr where Charlie hires a badass, meticulous, and noble woman named Vita to protect her. Stein and Brandt fill each page with oodles of panels, but you are able to follow every action scene, conversation, or Charlie ending up at the club or a bachelorette party even if she has a price on her head. The bounty hunting drives the plot while Sebela uses the quieter moments to develop the personality and relationships of Charlie and Vita as well as some of the “professionals” hunting them. Crowded is a thrill ride, but also looks at the dark, not so altruistic side of human nature through the Internet and constant connectivity.
4. You Are Deadpool (Marvel)
Al Ewing and Salva Espin’s You Are Deadpool was some of the most fun I had reading a comic book in 2018 beginning with Kieron Gillen showing up in the “tutorial” brandishing a sandwich as a weapon. It’s a combination spoof of different eras of Marvel Comics along with a pretty damn fun and addictive Choose Your Own Adventure Game. In some cases, you don’t even read the issues in order. Ewing and Espin also take cues from some not so table top RPGs and have the moral choices that Deadpool makes effect your reading and playing experience. Having Deadpool interact with both heroes and innocent passerbies during the Silver Age, horror/kung fu/blaxploitation, the edgy 80s, and of course, the good ol’ 90s is hilarious and shows Espin’s versatility as a cartoonist.
3. Archival Quality (Oni)
Archival Quality is a spooky graphic novel by Ivy Noelle Weir and Steenz about a young woman named Cel, who gets a job as an archivist at a medical museum. The comic tenderly explores Cel’s anxiety and depression and unexpected connection with a woman named Celine, who was a patient at the sanatorium that preceded the museum. It isn’t caught up in a fast paced thriller plot, but slowly unveils the mystery while focusing on Cel’s interactions with her boss Abayomi, super rad co-worker Holly, and her declining relationship with her boyfriend Kyle. Archival Quality has real atmosphere, and Steenz creates some fantastic spaces as Cel begins to explore her workplace with its skulls and lack of cellphone service. It is a fantastic story about mental health and relationships through the mystery genre.
2. Giant Days (BOOM! Studios)
Giant Days continues to be one of life’s true blessings thanks to John Allison, Max Sarin, Liz Fleming, Julia Madrigal, and Whitney Cogar. At this point, we know the characters and their quirks are on fully display, especially when Sarin draws the title because she is a real pro at expressive eyes and touches of surrealism to break up the slice of life. 2018 was full of drama to go with the Giant Days’ comedy as Daisy broke up with her a little too footloose and fancy free girlfriend Ingrid, and Esther missed her shot at being in a relationship with Ed when he begins a romance with Nina, a girl he met while recuperating from a pub related injury. Nina being Australian is the subject of this year holiday’s special, which was a special treat drawn and written by Allison as Ed fends for himself Down Under. Giant Days shows that it’s one of the pre-eminent slice of life comics as it enters its fourth year, and Esther, Daisy, and Susan’s relationships continue to ebb and flow.
1. Immortal Hulk (Marvel)
I will preface this by saying that the Hulk is one of my least favorite Marvel characters because he’s often used as a simplistic Jekyll/Hyde metaphor. Al Ewing, Joe Bennett, Ruy Jose, Lee Garbett, Martin Simmonds, and Paul Mounts blow that up in Immortal Hulk, which resembles an intelligent horror story rather than a superhero beat ’em up. It’s a road story with Bruce Banner on the run from the monster that comes out, wrecks, and kills when the sun goes down before morphing into a government conspiracy thriller and something more malevolent towards the end. Through cutting narration, Ewing reveals exactly what is going through Banner’s head while Bennett’s art shows the often gruesome effects of his rages. I also like how Ewing humanizes the supporting players from Walter Langkowski, who is struggling with his own monstrous nature to honest reporter Jackie McGee and even his opponent the Absorbing Man.
Immortal Hulk is the best comic of 2018 because it has a compelling plot, is a searing character study of an American pop culture icon, and is an homage to Jack Kirby and Bernie Wrightson while breaking new ground. (See issue 10’s final page.)
Runawaysis back, and after an incredibly cheesy cold open where the members of Pride are directed by the LAPD to cosplay knockoff versions of their children, there’s some actual running away in the season 2 premiere “Gimmie Shelter”, which is written by the show’s creators Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage and directed byveteran TV helmer Allison Liddi-Brown (Grey’s Anatomy, Friday Night Lights, Parenthood). The episode explores the new normal of the Runaways’ kids, and how they’ve become a family while struggling to survive away from their privileged Brentwood/rich part of LA existences. Like in Season 1, a big portion of the episode is dedicated to their parents and their varying degrees of evil and scheming. Aka Tina Minoru is one scary woman.
The building of community and awareness of privilege is a throughline that gives “Gimmie Shelter” depth and empathy that the prep school sequences in Runaways Season 1 didn’t have. In the beginning of the episode, Chase loses his Fistigons and the group’s money to a low level bike thief named Mike, and they have to humble themselves and get food at an outdoor soup kitchen because they have no money. Ariela Barer, whose performance as Gert, was the standout of Season 1 gets to showcase her character’s softer edges as she realizes that in her call for social justice that she had never really experienced injustice up close.
This sense of community continues in the Wiccan funeral of Graciela Aguirre, who is Molly’s last living relative and gave her a VHS tape with a warning from her parents about Pride and the mysterious Jonah, who still isn’t as great a bad guy as Tina Minoru or the Wilders. Her death is the big plot beat of “Gimmie Shelter”, but Schwartz and Savage take time to dwell on the emotional impact of her passing, especially Gert and Molly. Viewers didn’t get a lot of time to know Graciela as a character beyond her fierce protection of Molly and opposition towards the Pride (Her shooting a gun at the Yorkeses is this episode’s finest moment.), and Molly talks about this in her eulogy. She feels alone in the world until she slowly finds family in the Runaways with a loving shot of her snuggled up with Old Lace after the team finally discovers their underground mansion hideout from the original comics.
Like in Season 1, the extended scenes with the Pride aren’t effective as the ones with the Runaways that crackle with chemistry, raw feelings, and even a little humor. For example, Alex gets a solo plot line where he helps Darius, his father’s old business associate, paint his newborn daughter’s room instead of doing stereotypical “gangster” things. On the other hand, the Pride’s scenes are just a round table of scheming, and Schwartz and Savage’s writing for them is stiffer like they’re trying to get each actor a line in the scene instead of letting the natural charisma of Ryan Sands’ Geoffrey Wilder or Brittany Ishibashi’s Tina Minoru take over. This is because the Yorkeses continue to be grating, and Janet Stein and Leslie Dean sadly have no character apart from their husband/cult respectively.
A continued over focus on the parents aside, “Gimmie Shelter” is an excellent reminder of how talented the young cast of Runaways is, especially as they have to negotiate their identities, powers, and relationships while also being wanted fugitives. There’s also a pretty major surprise wedged in this episode somewhere that gives the series both a plot and character hook.
(W) Rainbow Rowell (A/CA) Kris Anka Rated T+ In Shops: Dec 19, 2018 SRP: $3.99
• Christmas comes to the hostel! • Even when trapped in their HQ, the Runaways are going to find a way to have a great December. • But a returned Runaway (well, and the certain destruction of Earth) could ruin everything.