Comicon’s 7 Best Original Graphic Novels Of 2018

by Hannah Means Shannon

Welcome to Comicon.com’s Best of the Year Awards, gathering the best comics and comics talent of 2018. This year we will be awarding in the following categories: Best Original Graphic Novels, Best Comic Series, Best Single Comic Issues, Best Writers, Best Artists, Best Cover Artists, Best Colorists, Best Letterers, Best Digital/Webcomics, Most Progressive Comics, and lastly, Comicon’s People of The Year: 2018.

Contributors to Comicon’s Best of the Year Awards 2018 include: Brendan Allen, Gary Catig, James Ferguson, Oliver MacNamee, Noah Sharma, Rachel Bellwoar, Tito James, Omar Spahi, Tony Thornley, Josh Davison, Richard Bruton, and Hannah Means-Shannon.

The following are Comicon’s 7 Best Original Graphic Novels* of 2018. [*Those books receiving this award consist of comics first published in print in the USA in single graphic novel format rather than as single issue comics followed by a print collection.]

7. Marilyn’s Monsters, published by Humanoids, written and illustrated by Tommy Redolfi

Marilyn’s Monsters couldn’t be further from the more traditional biopic like Bohemian Rhapsody but as to which one provides a truer account of its star, I’d go with Marilyn’s Monsters. The book reimagines Marilyn’s life as a horror story where, beneath the Hollywood glamor, Holy Wood exists, a sinister forest where young girls enter like Little Red Riding Hood and tragically run into wolves. By turning to metaphor, instead of a literal account of Norma Jeane’s life, Redolfi somehow taps into a deeper truth about what she went through. Green isn’t a natural color in Holy Wood but a part of the night life – sickly and compromising. Later when Norma Jeane transforms into Marilyn Monroe you come across more blue and it’s all evocative of the difficult life she lived, not the opulent life she represented. Maybe in the 21st century, we’re finally ready to acknowledge how badly we did by Marilyn Monroe so that we can prevent what happened to her from happening to others.

6. Upgrade Soul, published by Lion Forge, written and illustrated by Ezra Claytan Daniels

For her 45th wedding anniversary Manuella “Molly” Nonnar, an accomplished biologist, receives an unexpected gift from her husband, Hank, the heir and steward of  his father’s cult hit science-fiction novel franchise. They act as test subjects for a procedure that will not only return them to their youth, but elevate them beyond the genetic limits of humanity, but the process fails with dire consequences. Seemingly transformed into Nonnars, they are super strong and brilliant but deformed, but are they really Molly and Hank, or strange doppelgängers?

A great science fiction story could have sprung from any one the elements laid out above, but one of the things that makes Upgrade Soul so special is the degree to which it tackles them all and then some. Ezra Clayton Daniels’ graphic novel proves a piercing investigation into how we look at disability, aging, science, blackness, and superiority. Upgrade Soul is a book that is confidently, unobnoxiously, and meaningfully smarter than you. Daniels’ art captures the strangeness and the humanity of all his assembled monsters and brings the post-modern Prometheuses to life. You may need to read Upgrade Soul multiple times to fully grasp all it has to say, but, if you do, you won’t do so reluctantly. 

5. Lip Hook, published by SelfMadeHero, written by David Hine, illustrated by Mark Stafford

This is a publication that’s only been out a few weeks, but it really speaks to a love of British folk-horror and the macabre, while offering a refreshing take on such well worn conventions of the genre. Featuring a fog-drenched town suffering from all kinds of ills, made worse by the arrival of a runaway criminal couple with horrific consequences, it is one part Wicker Man, one part social commentary on class, patriarchy and the environment, and wholly a gallery of beautifully grotesque townsfolk who’s bark is worse than their bite–mostly.

4. Eternal, published by Black Mask Studios, written by Ryan K. Lindsay, illustrated and lettered by Eric Zawadski, colored by Dee Cunniffe

Life as a viking is not an easy one and Vif has had it tougher than most. Forced to lead her people when all the other warriors are lost, she takes the battle to the evil wizard Bjarte for some cold, Norse justice, but pays a heavy price. What is so very effective about Eternal is the way in which we go through Vif’s life, showing the highest highs and the lowest lows. Zawadski puts you right into the action with some jaw-dropping sequences, in equal parts exciting and tragic. You get so caught up in the fighting that you almost don’t notice when something horrible happens that changes Vif’s life forever. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the story that these shocking moments can knock the wind right out of you. That pure emotional quality is just some of what made this book such a great read.

3. Lumberjanes: The Infernal Compass, published by Boom! Studios, written by Lilah Sturges, illustrated by Polterink, lettered by Jim Campbell

Lumberjanes was already a fun and whimsical read as an ongoing series.  This first original graphic novel from the series allowed for more room to explore the characters and tell a bigger story. Lilah Sturges digs into the themes of friendship and acceptance without beating the reader over the head with their meanings. We get a heartwarming story of the Roanokes as they’re up to their usual mischief, this time dealing with robot butlers and a magical compass. Polterink makes these adventures feel like a dreamy place of possibility with a greyscale approach with limited use of color that highlights the fantastical nature of the camp. While this builds on everything that’s come before, The Infernal Compass stands on its own, allowing an easy entry for new readers.

2. Black AF: America’s Sweetheart, published by Black Mask Studios, written by Kwanza Osajyefo and Jennifer Johnson, illustrated by Sho Murase, and Tim Smith 3

Black AF: America’s Sweetheart takes place in a world where black people begin developing super-powers, and Eli Franklin looks to be the first superhero whose very existence disrupts society. It’s a fun and fast-moving comic that brings back the innocence of a young fledgling superhero in a way that only books like Ms. Marvel, Miles Morales’ Spider-Man, and Sideways have managed lately. The book also has plenty of political intrigue and mysteries centering around Eli’s powers, and though the book was released early in 2018, this shouldn’t be slept on. Go out and pick up a copy.

1.On A Sunbeam, published by First Second, written and illustrated by Tillie Walden

The best young cartoonist of recent years? We think so. Walden’s strength comes from her ability to write, and draw, anything her fabulous imagination can come up with. From the fantasy of The End Of Summer, through the intensely personal relationship drama of I Love This Part, to her autobiographical tale of figure skating, Spinning, Walden never fails to impress, and never more so than with On A Sunbeam.

On A Sunbeam manages to be an epic space opera and a deeply involving love story at the same time, building the story through frequent flashbacks of her young protagonist’s life, all designed to bring us on board with her quest for a long-lost love. Effortless storytelling brilliance that brings a queer-positive cast to the fore combines with Walden’s evolving artwork to give you the most satisfying space love story of the year.

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