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 this year include: Brendan Allen, Gary Catig, James Ferguson, Oliver MacNamee, Noah Sharma, Rachel Bellwoar, Tito James, Tony Thornley, Omar Spahi, Richard Bruton, Josh Davison, and Hannah Means-Shannon.
The following are Comicon’s 7 Best Comic Series* of 2018. [*Both miniseries and ongoing series qualify in this category.]
7. Bitter Root, published by Image Comics, written by David F. Walker and Chuck Brown, drawn by Sanford Greene, colored by Rico Renzi, lettered by Clayton Cowles
In their previous team up on Power Man and Iron Fist, David F. Walker and Sanford Greene had the titular characters dip into the spiritual world during their street level adventures. Now, the creative duo is back along with writer Chuck Brown with the paranormal period piece, Bitter Root. Set against the backdrop of the Roaring 20’s in both the Harlem Renaissance and the racially tense South, the tale follows a family of monster hunters named the Sangeryes. In this world, all the intolerance, prejudice and sexism has manifested into a disease that changes humans into monsters. There’s an interesting family dynamic as they are split over treating the beasts and causing them to revert back to humans or killing them off. It’s an intriguing story that has improved in the second issue, and the art from Greene and Renzi is fantastic. As an added extra, at the end of each issue is a curated section of prose written by academics that provide insight on the topics and themes that were explored. Not only is Bitter Root an entertaining comic experience, but it intends to educate as well.
Every year it seems there is one comic that stands out from the crowd and blows everything else out of the water; this year it’s Unnatural. Mirka Andolfo has created a social satire, anthropomorphic erotica, and a supernatural thriller that kept me guessing at every issue. I hope we can have the full story collected into one volume because a book this well-illustrated deserves to be read in hardback.
5. Assassinistas, published by IDW – Black Crown, written by Tini Howard, drawn by Gilbert Hernandez, colored by Rob Davis, and lettered by Aditya Bidikar
What happens when you take a team of female assassins from the 70’s and show their home-life in the present? IDW’s Assassinistas, that’s what. While you’ve likely seen (and fallen in love with) characters like Blood Diamond, Red October, and Scarlet before, they’ve always been frozen in time. With Assassinistas, you get to have it all with Hernandez and Davis supplying the 70’s style, then figuring out what the natural progression of those fashions would look like and Howard dealing in all the complexities of female, long-term relationships.
In order to bring the old guard back together again the series uses the excuse of Scarlet’s son, Kyler, being kidnapped. Red October’s relationship with her own son, Dominic, is strained (he doesn’t want to become an assassin, yet she assumes he’ll put on the bullet proof vest). That she still pushes the life after so many years makes her a fascinating character, while why anyone thought messing with a pregnant Scarlet was a good idea boggles the imagination. An action-packed series with groovy heart, Volume 1 is available now, but hopefully these ladies will make a return to comic books soon.
4. Mech Cadet Yu, published by Boom! Studios, written by Greg Pak, drawn by Takeshi Miyazawa, colored by Raul Angulo, Jessica Kholinne, and Triona Farrell, lettered by Simon Bowland
Do you remember that feeling of excitement you had as a kid when you first discovered something that would change your life? Maybe you were in front of the TV and stumbled upon a new show or walking through the library before finding a book that would define who you are as a person. That feeling of youthful wide-eyed awe is what fuels every single page of Mech Cadet Yu. The series follows a young man named Stanford Yu who finds himself in an unlikely position as a pilot for a giant robot, fighting to save the planet from an evil alien race known as the Sharg. Stanford’s heroic qualities inspire others around him, even those that turn their nose up at him thinking he doesn’t belong there. Packed with exciting action and beautiful moments of pure character emotion, Mech Cadet Yu is the kind of comic I wish I had when I was a kid and it’s one I can’t wait to share with my own children.
3. Black Hammer: Age of Doom, published by Dark Horse Comics, written by Jeff Lemire, illustrated by Dean Ormston & Rich Tommaso, colored by Dave Stewart, lettered by Todd Klein
If anyone ever tells you that super hero comics are dead, make them eat a copy of Black Hammer: Age of Doom. Actually, make them read it instead. That will get your point across better. What started as the possible conclusion to Black Hammer quickly spun into something far larger and full of possibilities. The recent storyline, featuring a switch to artist Rich Tommaso has added a meta layer to the entire thing that rivals the classic story where Animal Man met writer Grant Morrison. The creators turn the tropes of the genre on their head, stretching the boundaries of what even the comic book medium is capable of.
2. Infidel, published by Image Comics, written by Pornsak Pichetshote, drawn by Aaron Campbell, colored by Jose Villarrubia, lettered by Jeff Powell
We start off with a devout Muslim in an interracial, interfaith engagement with a man who brought with him a daughter from a previous marriage, living with her casually racist future mother-in-law. Also, the building they live in is full of overtly racist neighbors. Oh, and, it’s probably haunted. By creatures that feed off hatred and xenophobia. That’s how Infidel hit the scene back in March. If that were the only information we had, this book would easily be in contention for best comic book series on the year, but Infidel goes on to challenge our most deeply rooted perceptions of race, religion, and privilege. As a horror story, Infidel is terrifying. As an allegory for the current US sociopolitical climate, it’s dead brilliant.
1. Long Lost, published by Scout Comics, written by Matthew Erman, illustrated by Lisa Sterle
With the second issue released in January and the second to last issue out this month, Long Lost truly belongs to 2018. An almost miraculous debut hit from the new and relatively unknown Scout Comics, Long Lost is equal parts something brand new and something creeping and old. The brainchild of husband and wife team Matthew Erman and Lisa Sterle, Long Lost follows two sisters as they return to the home town they once got out of as quickly as they could, now facing the past, the legacy of abuse they suffered, and some truly unsettling modern horror.
Long Lost is a horror book and a great one at that, but saying so ignores another huge part of its success, its incredible honesty in approaching its leads. Piper and Francis are well realized characters with all the baggage that their dramatic circumstances demand, but also the mundane neuroses and foibles that so many other stories tend to leave out. Their aunt Jody is a beautiful supporting character and their aunt Joana is the stuff of nightmares. The slice-of-life modernity of the title mixes effortlessly with its Southern Gothic and Wish-We-Weren’t-Southern Gothic flavors for something that is already unique before Erman’s novelistic prose and poet’s pacing turn it into a heady, at times intoxicating vintage. Sterle’s assured but simple illustrations lure you into a false sense of security. Sterle brings a haunting femininity to the series, entangling the very reality of the story with the questions of expectation, performance, and selfhood that bring specificity to Erman’s tale of ‘family drama as above so below.’ The simple appeal of the visuals is incredibly notable for a new creator, but as you begin to learn Sterle’s tricks and see how she, and Erman for that matter, control your perceptions, you’ll know that both parts of this team are doing something very special.