Comicon’s 7 Best Single Comic Issues 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 Single Comic Issues* of 2018. [*Both one-shots and single issues, whether in miniseries and or ongoing series, qualified for this category.]
7. Action Comics #1000, published by DC Comics, writing, art, colors, letters: various credited here
An anniversary issue worthy of that name. Not only a celebratory comic marking Superman’s 80th year but one packed to the gills with some of the best talent out there in comicdom. This was a standout comic that reminded all who picked it up exactly what Superman means to America and the world in this day and age. And what an anniversary issue could be! There should be nothing old fashioned about truth, justice and hope. Stories set in the past, present, and even the future, all acted as one long love letter to the world’s greatest hero. Here’s to the next 80 years.
6. Archie #700, published by Archie Comics, written by Nick Spencer, illustrated by Marguerite Sauvage, lettered by Jack Morelli
How do you redefine an icon? Archie has been through a number of iterations over the past 60 plus years and the characters of Riverdale could not be hotter, between a number of popular TV shows and an incredible run on the flagship title from writer Mark Waid. Nick Spencer and Marguerite Sauvage had the unenviable task of following Waid and ushering in the monumental 700th issue and did so without missing a beat. It simultaneously built on everything that came before it while also taking the series in a new direction with new love interests and all kinds of drama. Riverdale is painted as a whimsical town full of mystery and intrigue where anything can happen and with the twist ending, anything most likely will.
5. Twisted Romance #2: “Twinkle And The Star”, published by Image Comics, written by Alex de Campi and Vita Ayala, illustrated by Alejandra Guitierrez and Meredith McClaren
Twisted Romance was a love-laden set of four weekly issues, masterminded by de Campi, one of the smartest writers in comics for some time. Each issue featured de Campi writing the lead tale, a back-up strip and a text piece. Issue #2 featured “Back At Your Door” by Vita Ayala as the prose piece, and ended with “Would You Even Know It?” by Meredith McClaren. But, as good as both those pieces were, indeed, as good as all the other issues of Twisted Romance were, it’s issue 2’s incredible “Twinkle And The Star” that was always going to be in the running for best single tale of the year.
De Campi’s control in delivering an incredibly rich, satisfying tale in a short page count, whilst switching up her style to make best use of the playful, poppy, ultra-colorful art of Guitierrez is, frankly, a wonder. What you get is a deliciously unconventional take on romance and love, featuring Twinkle, determinedly body-positive young assistant to an asshole fashion photographer. And then, in perfect Rom-Com fashion, Twinkle bumps into him, the impossibly cute little white boy movie star. From there, de Campi and Guitierrez fashion something delightfully old-fashioned yet definitely fashion forward, a classic Rom-Com of coincidence and misunderstanding, and good, old-fashioned love. It is absolutely fabulous, simple, sassy, with art that pops off the page.
4. Middlewest #1, published by Image Comics, written Skottie Young, drawn by Jorge Corona, colored by Jean-Francois Beaulieu, lettered by Nate Piekos
I didn’t know what to expect when I picked up Middlewest #1. I knew the rural fantasy sounded interesting, the art looked great, and I had liked the work of Skottie Young in the past. What we got was a stunning fantasy story firmly rooted in a world just adjacent to our own, but full of weird touches (like talking foxes and jars of pink goo), with epic scale. The story was rooted in its characters though, especially the core duo of series lead Abel and his father. Young, Jorge Corona, Jean-Francois Beaulieu, & Nate Piekos are a creative team in nearly perfect creative lockstep, creating a stunning world and a beautiful story. I expected a fantasy story that I was probably going to like. I got one of the best first issues of a comic book that I’ve ever read.
3. Low Road West #1, published by Boom! Studios, written by Phillip Kennedy Johnson, drawn by Flaviano, colored by Miquel Muerto, lettered by Jim Campbell
There’s no need to be told that a school bus with boarded up windows is bad news, but Low Road West doesn’t even try. Instead, a diegetic radio recording fills readers in on the basics: five young refugees are being driven to San Francisco. Once there, they’re going to be supplied with grief counselors (raising concerns about their families since only siblings, Emma and Ben, are traveling together). There’s also a war going on, so they shouldn’t trust anybody, but the trip takes twenty-six hours, the air outside is toxic, and they’re stuck with each other until the ride is through.
In a story that’s 50% paranoia and 50% action, the characters in Low Road West are never plagued by indecision because they never have any choices, and when, to top matters off, the bus driver leaves without explanation, their choice to stay on the bus is taken away as well. Nobody is coming to save them. Nobody can be reached, so toxic air or not, they’re getting off that bus. I can’t think of a debut issue that’s brought me more excitement (or more trust issues) recently.
2. These Savage Shores #1, published by Vault Comics, written by Ram V, drawn by Sumit Kumar, colored by Vitorio Astone, lettered by Aditya Bidikar, designed by Tim Daniel
Whether you love vampires or hate them, have old affection for India, or no particular connection to the subcontinent, adore decolonized stories or barely know what that means, if you like comics you would do well to read These Savage Shores #1. That is, if you can find a copy. This breakout hit from Vault Comics peeks in on Lord Alain Pierrefont, an English vampire, revealed, disgraced, and banished by scandal to far off India. Writer Ram V, artist Sumit Kumar, and colorist Vittorio Astone craft beautiful and textured renditions of London and Calcutta as they weave a familiar tale that, for readers and protagonist alike, bucks and struggles against expectation.
The story is simple, but engagingly told and almost endlessly expansive, as layers upon layers are revealed by considering the story against the history of vampire media, colonialism in India, and more. Metaphors shift and wind together as the story comes across clearly, but with incentive to read actively. The prose and dialogue is refined and the art quietly awe-inspiring. Perhaps the quality that makes it most obviously a contender for best single issue of the year is the degree to which it would be a masterful comic without anything to follow it. The story told here is complete and rich and, though it functions best as an incredibly appealing entry point to a series, it could easily earn acclaim as a brief graphic novel all to itself. These Savage Shores #1 received two glowing reviews here on Comicon. The polish of the issue is overwhelming and the intelligence of the story is incredible. It’s not only one of the best issues of the year, but one of the best first issues that comics has seen in a long time.
1. Klaus and the Crying Snowman, published by Boom! Studios, written by Grant Morrison, illustrated by Dan Mora, lettered by Ed Dukeshire
The decision to move this year’s installment of the acclaimed Klaus stories by Grant Morrison and Dan Mora to a one-shot format instead of a mini-series was clearly the right leap into all-out action, spectacle, and heart for readers. Clocking in at 48 pages, this one-shot does have the advantage of length over other single comics in this awards category, but very few would find it in them to argue against the splendor of Mora’s exuberant art in Klaus and the Crying Snowman. In this story alone featuring the mythical and “real” Santa Claus fighting monsters, we encounter half a dozen fantastic locations, as well as real-world settings and engage with creatures that range from the cosmic to the mythological, and basically all of Norse mythology is thrown in, too. For scope, this Klaus story exceeds its predecessors, but for a bold-faced “message”, the comic goes even further.
One could argue that comics shouldn’t hit you on the nose with a newspaper to get a central theme across, and that readers should instead be encouraged to participate in building a sense of meaning in the many-layered (hopefully) entertainment they consume. But Klaus and the Crying Snowman sets out boldly, introducing an idea of kindness and forgiveness within its opening pages that it then demonstrates in several different ways, challenging and interrogating just how robust the idea of redemption can be in the face of old crimes and entrenched failures. And when it hits that more complicated battle ground, surrounded by Mora’s soaring creatures and superheroic fighting from Klaus, that’s when reader participation is demanded. In the end, Morrison and Mora leave the question with readers, and it’s a big one: is a redemption arc stronger than a tragic arc in story, art, or life? Whatever conclusion you reach, you will have been on a fabulous adventure in reading Klaus and the Crying Snowman and have plenty to think about afterwards.