2018 has been a very busy year for the comic book industry, with every week bringing new high-profile debuts and new imprints and relaunches lurking around every corner. At some point, it can be tough to keep track of all the new releases, much less figure out the current must-reads.
Hopefully we can help. We’ve put together a list of the best comic books of 2018 so far, covering major superhero titles from Marvel and DC as well as the best of independent publishers like Image, Boom and Fantagraphics. Check out our slideshow or scroll down to see what you should be reading right now.
Abbott is an eclectic series that somehow manages to combine hard-boiled detective tropes, investigative journalism, race relations and Lovecraftian horror into one cohesive mix. The ’70s-era Detroit setting helps a great deal, as it creates its own set of challenges for the titular protagonist, a confident black woman reporting the news in a time and a place where her very existence is barely tolerated. Sami Kivela’s art is haunting, and the series is yet another reminder that writer Saladin Ahmed is one of the most exciting new voices in the industry.
2018 marks the end of Dan Slott’s decade-long run on Amazing Spider-Man, culminating in the dramatic “Go Down Swinging” and Peter Parker’s near-fatal clash with a Carnage-enhanced Norman Osborn. It proved to be a worthy sendoff. Between Stuart Immonen and Marcos Martin, the series ended looking as good as it ever has. That’s a tough act to follow, but we’re hopeful that the incoming creative team can maintain this high storytelling standard.
Tom King’s Batman has pretty consistently ranked among DC’s best monthly comics since the start of DC Rebirth, and that hasn’t changed in 2018. The first half of the year has been devoted to paving the way for Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle’s wedding, resulting in a number of heartfelt moments and bleak looks at the psyche of a tortured hero. Through it all, the book has benefited from the work of superstar artists like Mikel Janin and Joelle Jones. The best part is knowing that the dramatic Batman #50 is merely the midway point in King’s ambitious saga.
It’s surprising enough that DC would dare attempt a sequel to a story as beloved and respected as Watchmen, especially without the original creative team’s involvement. But the real shocker here is just how good Doomsday Clock has been. Geoff Johns and Gary Frank faithfully recreate the tone and feel of the original Watchmen even as they drag characters like Ozymandias and Rorschach into the DC Universe. This series doesn’t ship nearly as often as we’d like, but it’s showing every sign of being a worthy sequel and a fitting conclusion to the story Johns began in DC Universe Rebirth #1.
East of West
If you’re looking for the Game of Thrones of comics, look no further than Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta’s post-apocalyptic fantasy Western. It can be tough to keep track of the numerous storylines and characters being juggled in this book, but that’s half the fun of reading any Hickman comic. The series has shown no signs of slowing down in 2018, even as the series seems to be inching closer to its big climax.
DC relaunched the Young Animal line earlier this year. While the absence of Doom Patrol is sorely felt, at least we have a great new addition to the line n the form of Magdalene Visaggio and Sonny Liew’s Eternity Girl. This series delivers all the surreal, mind-bending storytelling we’ve come to expect from the imprint. However, it also tells a compelling story of a super-powered girl battling depression, body dysmorphia and suicidal thoughts. It’s the rare superhero comic that both high-concept and deeply personal.
Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles
DC has devoted a lot of time and energy in recent years to crafting adult-oriented reboots of popular Hanna-Barbera properties. Exit Stage Left may well be their most successful attempt yet. The series is comically absurd yet deeply tragic, casting Snagglepuss as a Tennessee Williams-inspired playwright battling homophobia and the Red Scare in 1950’s America. It’s not the sort of pop culture reboot that should work, but somehow Mark Russell and Mike Feehan pulled it off.
We were sorry to see Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino end their run on Old Man Logan last year. But the good news is that their partnership continues on in the creator-owned horror/conspiracy series Gideon Falls. And if these early issues are any indication, this could wind up being Lemire and Sorrentino’s finest collaboration yet. It’s surreal, unsettling and yet personal and intimate in the way Lemire’s best work always is.
Green Lantern: Earth One
In a lot of ways, Green Lantern: Earth One is DC’s most successful addition yet to this popular graphic novel line. It shows a willingness to subvert expectations and reinvent a character who’s remained very locked in one particular course for the past 14 years. Gabriel Hardman’s art in particular succeeds in casting Hal Jordan and his world in a new light. Needless to say, we’re eagerly awaiting a sequel.
It can be tough to stand out from the crowd of great titles at Image Comics, especially with a horror comic. But Pornsak Pichetshote and Aaron Campbell have had no trouble leaving a mark with Infidel, a series that combines supernatural dread with the dangers of Islamophobia. This is a series that plays on the fear of the unknown and the unseen to devastating effect, while at the same time roping in readers with a cast of fully realized characters.
Justice League is one of the few DC titles that didn’t get a boost from DC Rebirth. Fortunately, 2018 brought about a return to form for the series. First, the weekly miniseries Justice League: No Justice ushered in a new era for the team built on the framework established in Dark Nights: Metal. That then set the stage for the relaunched Justice League, with writer Scott Snyder and artists like Jorge Jimenez and Jim Cheung building a better League to confront bigger and more terrible threats. The series manages to both honor the past (including the Justice League animated series) while charting an ambitious new course into the future.
Kill or Be Killed
There are few creative teams in comics as dependably great as Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. Kill or be Killed is easily one of their best collaborations yet, telling the dark story of a young man who gains an extra month of life for every person he murders. The series reached its fittingly tragic conclusion with issue #20 in June. We’re sorry to see it end, but now we can look forward to the next Brubaker/Phillips project.
The absence of the Fantastic Four has been sorely felt at Marvel Comics these past few years. Marvel may finally be bringing the series back later this summer, but for now it’s Marvel Two-in-One that’s been keeping the (human) torch burning. This series chronicles the possibly misguided efforts of Johnny Storm and Ben Grimm to restore their lost family. The book manages to be both humorous and heartfelt in a way only writer Chip Zdarsky can manage, and it features what looks to be the last Marvel art from Jim Cheung for the foreseeable future.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers
From the start, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers has served as an exciting continuation of the original TV series. But nothing could have prepared us for the directions the series has traveled in 2018. The “Shattered Grid” crossover has ushered in a bold new era for the series, one that unites the Rangers with their counterparts throughout time and space for a massive conflict with Lord Drakkon. If you have any sort of nostalgia for the TV series, you need to be reading this comic right now.
As much as DC Rebirth has reinvigorated the company’s iconic favorites, it’s also opened the door for bold new takes on less familiar faces. No book has succeeded in that regard as much as Tom King and Mitch Gerads’ Mister Miracle. This series captures the grandeur and scope of the classic Fourth World stories, yet it also tells an intimate love story and explores the fractured mind of a master escape artist confronting the ultimate challenge – death itself. At this point, only a few issues remain in King and Gerads saga, and it may well go down in history as one of DC’s best comics of all time.
Who would have thought that a comic strip that’s been running for over 80 years would be one of the freshest and most enjoyable projects of 2018? That’s what happened with Nancy, which welcomed new artist Olivia Jaimes aboard in April. Jaimes quickly set a new tone for the series, combining a classic aesthetic with an acerbic wit and a splash of modern social media. It’s a textbook example of how to reinvigorate a stale property.
The Prince and the Dressmaker
This delightful graphic novel takes a familiar Disney movie formula – with a young monarch-to-be struggling with a desire for independence – and turns it on its head. The Prince and the Dressmaker explore the bond between Prince Sebastian, a young man struggling with his gender identity and the expectations of an entire kingdom, and a talented dressmaker named Frances who’s hired to design dresses for her prince. Jen Wang crafts a charming and gorgeously rendered story that highlights the need to embrace your truest self.
Star Wars: Darth Vader
When Marvel first announced this series, we weren’t sure if the Dark Lord of the Sith really needed another solo series so soon after the conclusion of the first. But not only has this volume of Darth Vader managed to chart its own course, it’s cemented its status as the best of Marvel’s ongoing Star Wars comics. Writer Charles Soule and artist Giuseppe Camuncoli have repeatedly shown themselves to be masters of subtly highlighting the emotional turmoil of a newly corrupted Anakin Skywalker. If you’ve wondered how Darth Vader grew to become the intergalactic terror he is in the Original Trilogy, you need to be reading this comic.
Thor/The Mighty Thor
Jane Foster’s tenure as Thor finally came to an end in 2018, with Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman chronicling her final, heroic struggle against overwhelming odds and giving the goddess of thunder the sendoff she deserved. Aaron could have called it quits there, but he’s continued his ongoing Thor saga in yet another relaunch. The latest Thor comic boasts a new status quo and art style, but the quality remains consistent.
Writer Donny Cates is easily one of the most promising new additions to Marvel’s talent pool in years, with 2017 bringing short but productive runs on Thanos and Doctor Strange. However, it’s the relaunched Venom series that truly showcases Cates’ potential. Thanks to the multi-talented Ryan Stegman, this series captures the visual appeal of Venom’s ’90s-era adventures. At the same time, it also delivers an ambitious and fundamental overhaul of the character’s mythology. No other Marvel series better showcases the possibilities of the Fresh Start relaunch.
At first glance, Eleanor Davis’ latest graphic novel appears to be a sort of visual textbook explaining the form and function of art and its impact on the viewer. But there’s more at work in this story. A narrative slowly takes shape, and ultimately Davis uses this minimalist yet ambitious tale as a way of exploring the purpose of art and whether it can truly achieve the goals of its creators.
2017 saw the debut of numerous new X-Men titles, but it still felt as though the franchise was missing something. Apparently that something was Jean Grey. X-Men Red has made the most of Jean’s long-awaited return, giving her a brand new team to lead and a classic mission of building unity and hope. With a winning creative team driving this new series, X-Men Red is a reminder of how good the franchise can be in the right hands.