Well, the corpses of Christmas Trees are littering the sidewalk and all the champagne bottles have been popped, so as we usher in 2019 it seems the perfect time for quiet reflection. But not on New Year’s Resolutions, silly. On comic books! WWAC has rounded up its contributors to share their favorite big press comics of last year. While it’s not surprising to see superheroes represented, it’s always nice to see fantasy and young adult comics in the spotlight as well. Better bust out those Barnes & Noble gift cards Aunt Petunia sent you…
Roge Antonio (artist), Mahmud Asrar (artist), Rain Beredo (colorist), Carmen Carnero (artist), VC’s Cory Petit (letterer), Tom Taylor (writer)
I dip in and out of X-Men comics every so often. Nothing about them ever quite approaches what I used to love about the franchise, but there are hits every now and then that make for great reads. I guess it’s been a few years now, but the news that Marvel was bringing back Jean Grey, the adult one, was enough to draw me in. I had doubts (especially after the actual miniseries that brought her back), but X-Men: Red’s always been a favorite of mine. The first issue of the book named after her dropped the day after my birthday, and by the end of the first arc I was calling for Tom Taylor to be the franchise’s new lead writer. I still think that’s the best move, personally. Taylor has a gift for understanding character and motivation, and he also has an ability to show heroes acting heroic, something that doesn’t happen nearly often enough in modern comics, and while Mahmud Asrar’s designs have been divisive, I personally loved the return of the head sock and the shoulder pads. It’s a shame X-Men: Red is over already, but it’s worth a read either way. Jean Grey wants to change the world, and I say let her.
Bryan Edward Hill (writer), Troy Peteri (letterer), Jeff Spokes (artist)
Top Cow Productions Inc.
I started this year learning about the Joe Benitez cheerleader assassin idea that became a David Finch product that I had exactly zero interest in when Aphrodite XI was first introduced. There have been a few versions of the android assassin since then, including two introduced this year, but I only have eyes for V. Written by Bryan Hill, APH V once again gives us a deadly android breaking free from her unknown creators to forge her own path. Exactly what that path is and how much anyone can trust her is in question, especially considering how powerful she is. Martin Carver, a young, brilliant entrepreneur whose father may have helped create a technological demon harbinger of doom, becomes the new centre of Aphrodite’s world, along with Carver’s bodyguard and advisor, Hui-Men, who definitely does not like, much less trust, APH’s motives.
What really makes this new series for me is Spokes’ art. Aphrodite began her existence as a sexy cheerleader with ample buttshots to her name. Now she is a sleek, svelte creation that embodies the grace of a ballerina and stoicism of a monk. Spokes’ work is heavy with thick, black lines and single colour panels that, along with the fluidity or stillness of Aphrodite herself, create this powerful sense of deadly serenity, even as she’s committing the most violent acts.
Lumberjanes: A Midsummer Night’s Scheme
Nicole Andelfinger (writer), Maddi Gonzalez (artist), Ariana Maher (letterer), Brittney Williams (artist/writer)
All of the issues I was lucky enough to read this year were pretty stellar, from the cheeky cheesecake of Elvira: Mistress of The Dark to the squeaky-clean sweetness of the Archaia Labyrinth series. But nothing’s been as great as the Lumberjane miniseries A Midsummer Night’s Scheme, in which the girls must contend with a bunch of fairies who’ve robbed the camp of its supplies so they can put on a staging of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Deft and funny, well-drawn and clever, Lumberjanes is still the comics series that makes me the happiest and manages to do so with effortless panache.
The Wicked + The Divine
Clayton Cowles (letterer), Kieron Gillen (writer), Jamie McKelvie (artist), Matt Wilson (colorist)
The Wicked + The Divine ends in 2019, but 2018 was a glowing year for Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s neon-soaked ode to the candle burning at both ends. Every issue in 2018 felt like an escalating dare between the creators, with shocking revelations about the pop pantheon unveiling the extent of Gillen’s meticulous plotting and McKelvie’s art kicking at the boundaries of what the comic format itself can do. All of this is synthesized in two standout issues: #36, which condenses a six thousand-year-old cycle of pain and betrayal into twelve pages, and #40, a “found footage” comic consisting of smartphone and camera coverage of the concert to end all concerts.
And yet, for all the fatalism brooding under WicDiv’s surface (setting an issue during the Black Plague will do that), it feels significant that the final issue of 2018 ends with a character stopping a catastrophe with the words, “It’s going to be okay.”
For a certain value of “okay.”
DC Superhero Girls: Date with Disaster
Janice Chiang (letterer), Shea Fontana (writer), Monica Kubina (colorist), Yance Labat (artist)
This year for Free Comic Book Day, my kid and I picked up the floppy give away from DC Zoom, which was the first chapter of this graphic novel written by Shea Fontana, with art by Yancey Labat. My three-year-old and I were instantly hooked, and I swiftly ordered the full graphic novel and then all of the other ones available as well. Date with Disaster is not the first graphic novel in the series, but it served as a great introduction to the series anyway, because it is pretty linear in plot. Batgirl solves a mystery and also there’s a school dance. Also, it has for its main characters some of the bigger names in Superhero High, Wonder Woman and Batgirl, with whom my kid was already familiar. Now that we’ve read all the others, I think it would have been rougher to start with the time travel one or the one where the girls write their own comics, for instance, because those plots are significantly less linear, or Search for Atlantis, which focuses on Miss Martian, Bumblebee, and Mera. By the time we read Search for Atlantis, which is probably my favorite of the series so far and was also published in 2018, my daughter already knew and loved those characters from the rest of the series. I invite you to let Date with Disaster be your gateway into DC Superhero Girls as well!
Remy Boydell (art), Michelle Perez (writer)
The Pervert is probably the comic that stuck with me the most in 2018 — it’s a quiet story about personal survival. The story follows Felina, a trans woman doing survival sex work in Seattle, through various vignettes in her life. Remy Boydell’s anthro art is round and appealing, looking like newspaper comic animals interspersed with a few recognizable cameos, and that softness to the characters belies an incredible sharpness to the story. The six panel grids give the book a steady rhythm, time passing while life plateaus. Felina is barely making it, trying to keep a straight job and hustling on the side, meeting clients and basically scraping through her twenties in a way that’s recognizable even if you haven’t been in these situations. The care with which Michelle Perez (disclosure: a WWAC alum!) treats her shows through — Felina might not have too many spots of brilliant hope in her life, but she’s never written as anything but a whole person. It feels like an incredibly personal book, like I’m being allowed a look into a life I might only ever see the surface of, but it’s never voyeuristic or treated as a learning experience for cis readers. It’s a diary, maybe, seeing the anecdote in real time rather than the version your friend might tell you. Felina has a life, you know, friends, stuff she likes, a complicated family. It’s hard but it’s tender at the same time. Folks with triggers regarding sexual assault and consent might want to steer clear, but I couldn’t recommend this enough.
— Kat Overland