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There’s a lot to catch up on.
If you’re looking for the best new comics of 2018, we’re here for you. Throughout the year, we kept a regularly updated list of recommended new releases, including both graphic novels and monthly issues.
While we have plenty of love for superhero titles, this list covers as many genres as possible. Nearing the end of 2018, we can now offer you recommendations on everything from political horror to fantasy romance, to the acclaimed relaunch of an 80-year-old newspaper strip.
Best new comics of 2018: December 2018
Writer: Saladin Ahmed
Artist: Javier Garron
For some inexplicable reason, it’s pretty rare for DC or Marvel to launch new comics that directly appeal to the audience of a new movie. However, December brought two very welcome offerings: an Aquaman story written by cult favorite Kelly Sue DeConnick, and this new Miles Morales solo series, conveniently timed for the release of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.
With only one issue to judge so far, Miles Morales already feels fresher than the Ultimate Spider-Man series that launched Miles’ career. (Basically, while we should thank co-creator Brian Michael Bendis for Miles’ existence, he wasn’t always an ideal choice of writer for a youthful book about an Afro-Latino teenager.) With snappy dialogue, energetic action scenes, and a new introduction to Miles’ personal life, this series is a surefire hit for fans who just saw the movie. Relatable and funny, it’s everything you want from a Spidey book.
Best new comics of 2018: November 2018
Infidel (Image Comics)
Writer: Pornsak Pichetshote
Artist: Aaron Campbell
Colorist: José Villarrubia
Technically the trade paperback of Infidel came out in September, but we belatedly came to it this month, and no 2018 list is complete without it. This contemporary haunted house story is both spine-chilling and politically insightful, earning rave reviews and a movie deal after just two issues.
Infidel stars an American Muslim woman who moves into a new apartment with her boyfriend and his son, and gradually realizes that the building is haunted by a malevolent entity. This demonic spirit feeds off racist energy, encouraging Islamophobic paranoia among her neighbors and inspiring monstrous hallucinations. Infidel‘s combination of disturbing imagery and realistic psychological dread make for a truly brilliant horror story, standing out as one of the must-read graphic novels of 2018.
Best new comics of 2018: October 2018
Infinite Dark (Image Comics)
Writer: Ryan Cady
Artist: Andrea Mutti
Infinite Dark is about as post-apocalyptic as it gets. Set after the heat death of the universe, it’s a sci-fi/horror story taking place on a space station inhabited by humanity’s last survivors. Unlike many post-apocalyptic dramas, the setting is less about heroic survival and more about confronting the void. That’s already a compelling hook, but in a similar vein to Alien and The Thing, there’s a twist: Someone on the station is behaving erratically, hinting at the possibility of alien life outside.
Best new comics of 2018: September 2018
Border Town (DC/Vertigo)
Writer: Eric M. Esquivel
Artist: Ramon Villalobos
Colorist: Tamra Bonvillain
With hints of Stranger Things and American Gods, Border Town is a modern fantasy set in small-town Arizona, starring a group of local teens. Political without being preachy, it opens with violence on the U.S./Mexico border—and an altogether different conflict brewing nearby, as Mexican supernatural creatures emerge from a gap in the fabric of reality.
Update: Border Town was canceled on Dec. 14, following disturbing allegations that writer Eric Esquivel “sexually, mentally, and emotionally abused” toy designer Cynthia Naugle. Artist Ramon Villalobos and colorist Tamra Bonvilla quickly spoke out against his behavior and distanced themselves from the comic, with DC announcing its cancellation soon after.
Best new comics of 2018: August 2018
Sandman Universe (DC Comics)
Writers: Dan Watters, Kat Howard, Nalo Hopkinson, Simon Spurrier
Artists: Sebastian Fiumara, Max Fiumara, Tom Fowler, Domonike Stanton, Bilquis Evely
This comic didn’t quite grab my attention in the same way as some others in this list, but it’s an intriguing new step for Neil Gaiman’s Sandman—and a taste of what to expect in future.
Launching this fall, Sandman Universe consists of four spinoffs from the original, iconic Sandman series. Each is written and drawn by a different creative team, and this one-off volume acts as a prologue to all four: The Dreaming (starring a cast of familiar Sandman characters), House of Whispers (a contemporary voodoo fantasy), The Books of Magic (a continuation of the 1990s comic of the same name), and Lucifer.
Sandman fans will likely be wary of seeing new material by someone other than Gaiman, but this book suggests the title is in safe hands. These stories have a satisfyingly familiar atmosphere, although as I pointed out in my review, this may not be a wholly positive trait. Perhaps unavoidably, Sandman Universe feels less weird and experimental than the original, and it’s certainly not suitable for new readers.
The Seeds #1 (Dark Horse)
Writer: Ann Nocenti
Artist: David Aja
While DC relaunches Sandman as a nostalgia trip to the halcyon days of Vertigo Comics, Vertigo’s influential editor Karen Berger is hard at work elsewhere. Dark Horse launched Berger Books this year, with Berger curating a new imprint of original adult titles. The Seeds is one such comic, a dystopian drama with arresting monochromatic art by Hawkeye’s David Aja.
Dystopian sci-fi is an understandably oversaturated genre at the moment, ranging from in-your-face political satire to Mad Max-inspired aesthetic violence. (Or in the case of Image Comics’ gorgeous but rather cornily written The New World, both.) The Seeds is more abstract, with a gloomy tone that reflects the reality of life before the impending climate change apocalypse.
Our main character is a reporter called Astra, who wants to cover hard-hitting stories like the trend of people abandoning technology and moving to a walled-off area called “Zone B.” At the same time, a group of aliens have arrived on Earth to collect biological samples, predicting that the planet’s current way of life is doomed. These strands are already tying together in issue #1, introducing a story about how everyday life goes on in a crappy world. Ideal for people who enjoy feeling slightly depressed.
Best new comics of 2018: July 2018
Captain America #1 (Marvel)
Writer: Ta-Nehisi Coates
Artist: Leinil Francis Yu
Colorist: Sunny Gho
This relaunch is an important turning point for Captain America. Last year, Steve Rogers starred in a poorly handled storyline about a HYDRA coup in the United States, “revealing” Cap to be a secret fascist before awkwardly retconning the whole thing. Along with not being a very good comic, it created a lot of ill-will among progressive Marvel fans. 2018’s new Captain America could be described as damage control, putting political journalist and Black Panther writer Ta-Nehisi Coates in charge of Steve Rogers’ return.
Rather than offering a completely fresh start, Captain America #1 begins in the aftermath of the HYDRA takeover. Grim and self-contained, Steve Rogers casts an analytical eye over the deep political divides that allowed fascism to take hold in America. It feels deeply relevant without being too on-the-nose and promises a thought-provoking series to come. You can read our full review here.
Flavor (Image Comics)
Writer: Joseph Keatinge
Artist: Wook Jin Clark
Colors: Tamra Bonvillain
Now on its third issue, Flavor is an all-ages comic that really lives up to the term—suitable for both kids and adults. Infused with the kind of slightly wacky worldbuilding you sometimes see in sports anime, the story takes place in a city where everyone is obsessed with cooking. Celebrity chefs are like star athletes, and people compete to attend prestigious culinary schools.
Our hero is a young, unlicensed chef who wants to keep her family restaurant alive while caring for her sick parents. Trapped by the city’s strict rules on commercial cooking, she has to find imaginative ways to stay in business. Wook Jin Clark’s detailed cityscapes are a particular highlight, with plenty of background detail for the setting – and for the mouth-watering food cooked by the main characters.
Honorable mentions for July 2018
Along with the annual Eisner Awards and San Diego Comic-Con, July saw two comics enter the media spotlight—one thanks to its commercial popularity, and the other thanks to its literary prestige.
The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins is a graphic novel based on the McElroy brothers’ Dungeons & Dragons podcast, and it surprised us all by rocketing to the top of the New York Times fiction bestseller list. That’s already unusual for any comic, but especially so for a fantasy comic inspired by comedy roleplaying podcast. Meanwhile, at the opposite end of the highbrow/lowbrow scale, the Man Booker Prize just shortlisted a graphic novel for the first time in its history. Sabrina by Nick Drnaso tells a dark tale about a woman whose death goes viral online, sparking a wave of conspiracy theories. It’s been earning rave reviews all summer, with novelist Zadie Smith describing it as a “masterpiece.”
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Best new comics of 2018: June 2018
Writer: Matthew Rosenberg
Artist: Travel Foreman
Marvel’s addiction to company-wide reboots means that half the time, your new favorite comic gets cancelled after a handful of issues. This makes us all the more thankful for self-contained miniseries like this one, where everything wraps up in five neat issues.
Tales of Suspense is an old anthology title, home to a grab-bag of stories from sci-fi in the 1950s, tfor A-list superheroes during the Silver Age. The latest volume (issues #100-104) is a darkly hilarious spy caper. Following the events of last year’s Secret Empire storyline (don’t worry; you don’t need to have read it), Black Widow is dead. Or is she? Her ex-boyfriend Clint Barton (Hawkeye) is convinced she’s still alive. Her other ex-boyfriend Bucky Barnes (the Winter Soldier) thinks she’s definitely dead but that someone is impersonating her to carry out a series of assassinations. Together, they try to track her down, dead or alive.
Herein lies the genius of this comic, because Hawkeye and the Winter Soldier go together like oil and water. Bucky is grim and dangerous, and the comic generally looks like a gritty spy drama about grim and dangerous people like him. Except Clint can’t maintain that level of seriousness for more than 10 seconds, so the whole thing routinely tips over into comedy. This is the Hawkeye of the Fraction/Aja comics—a disaster-prone doofus who is very good at shooting arrows and terrible at everything else. So while artist Travel Foreman does great work with the weighty physicality of the Winter Soldier smashing his cyborg arm through a car windshield, he’s also well acquainted with Clint’s trademark “I goofed up” facial expressions.
An entertaining single-serving read, especially for MCU fans who feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of Marvel comics on the shelves.
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Best new comics of 2018: May
Writer: Tom King
Artists: Lee Weeks, Clay Mann, Joëlle Jones, Michael Lark
This volume collects issues #33-#37 of the current run of Batman, along with the recent Batman Annual #2, a Batman/Catwoman romance.
Tom King started writing Batman in 2016, jumping ship from Marvel’s critically acclaimed Vision. For good reason, Batman is now among DC’s most celebrated ongoing comics—not just a popular brand name. Vol. 5 is a great place to jump in for a semi-standalone story about Batman’s relationships, featuring Superman, Bruce Wayne’s gaggle of sidekicks, and his new fiancée Catwoman. Yes, fiancée.
The Rules of Engagement is positively a romcom by Batman standards while remaining thoroughly in-character for Bruce Wayne’s screwed-up psyche and Catwoman’s moral ambiguity. If you haven’t read a Batman comic in a while (or ever), you may not associate the word “warm” with the Dark Knight. But that’s what this comic is: a Bat-family story about characters who genuinely enjoy each other’s company, peppered with Batman’s dry sense of humor.
The first few issues see Batman and Catwoman travel across the world to confront Talia al Ghul, the supervillain mother of Batman’s son, Damian. It’s an entertaining and insightful crash-course into Batman’s personal life, and why he and Catwoman work as a couple. Then we get a delightful single-issue story where Batman and Catwoman go on a double date with Superman and Lois Lane. Titled Super Friends, it shows a deep understanding of what makes their friendship tick. All four characters are witty and often affectionately mocking of each other’s foibles. The comic also shows how much Batman and Superman privately admire each other as heroes—even if they can’t always express it in person.
Best new comics of 2018: April
Nancy (Go Comics)
Writer and artist: Olivia Jaimes
April brings us the easiest recommendation of the year: You need to start reading Nancy.
Even if you don’t know her by name, you’ll probably recognize Nancy. Running since the 1930s, her comic strip appears daily in newspapers across the U.S. For the past few years it really wasn’t worth talking about, adopting a saccharine tone under its most recent creator, Guy Gilchrist. Then in April 2018, the pseudonymous Olivia Jaimes took over, and Nancy became an overnight sensation. Every strip is now a masterclass in punchy, succinct humor —and Nancy actually feels relatable. (Jaimes is also the first woman to helm the strip, which undoubtedly fed into the backlash from conservative fans.)
The new Nancy is simultaneously innovative and old-school. It reflects the minimalist wit of original comics by Ernie Bushmiller, updated with distinctly millennial references. It’s professional-grade meme humor, and within a week of Jaimes’ arrival, Nancy’s online readership exploded from around 200,000 pageviews per month to 400,000 pageviews on a single strip. The attention is warranted. Smart, playful, and contemporary, Nancy should be part of your daily media diet.
Best new comics of 2018: March
Prism Stalker (Image Comics)
Writer and artist: Sloane Leong
A unique new sci-fi series about a truly alien way of life.
Image Comics describes Prism Stalker as a comic “for fans of Octavia Butler, Sailor Moon, and the biopunk horror of David Cronenberg.” In other words, it’s pretty hard to pin down. To add another name to the mix, I think it will appeal to people who enjoyed the movie Annihilation.
Created by Sloan Leong, Prism Stalker drops the reader straight into some deep worldbuilding. The main character is a human refugee who lives and works in an alien hive, gathering eggs in exchange for a place to live. That’s the basic premise for issue #1, but the experience is more about immersing yourself in a weird and mostly unexplained world. These humans live in a place that wasn’t designed for human bodies or minds, powerless and detached from their original culture.
In the same way that Annihilation used abstract horror to explore self-destructive behavior, Prism Stalker’s alien landscape tells a story of survival among people who want to strip away your heritage. It may even be about late-stage capitalism, focusing on workers who are wholly controlled by their employers, with no personal connection to the products they harvest. It’s all portrayed in beautiful, slimy neon hues, accompanied by its own soundtrack. Issue #2 comes out on April 11.
Poe Dameron (Marvel)
Writer Charles Soule
Artist: Angel Unzueta
Colorist: Arif Prianto
As tie-in comics go, Poe Dameron has a tricky job to do. To avoid stepping on the toes of future movies, it restricts itself to a small window in the Star Wars timeline: the period immediately before The Force Awakens. It covers Poe’s mission to find the map to Luke Skywalker, fleshing out the Resistance with central roles for Leia, BB-8, and Poe’s squadron of X-Wing fighters.
I’ve written about this comic before (because it’s awesome), but it’s time for another recommendation because Poe Dameron just finished its first 25-issue arc. Next month, it will move onto the unseen events of The Force Awakens.
While this may sound like an overly detailed cash-in for a popular character, it’s actually one of the best—if not the best—ongoing Star Wars comics. Poe Dameron is funny and exciting and pure-hearted in a very Star Wars way, positioning Poe as a dashing hero with some lessons to learn. It also provides an interesting through-line between The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, debunking the idea that Poe changed radically between movies. With his combination of passionate loyalty and occasionally foolhardy heroism, this comic shows how The Force Awakens’ charming pilot and The Last Jedi’s stressed-out rebel are one and the same. Plus some great material for Resistance-era Leia, including a heist storyline involving Queen Amidala’s gowns.
Best new comics of 2018: February
The Prince and the Dressmaker (Macmillan)
Writer and artist: Jen Wang
A unique fairytale romance about fashion, friendship, and gender identity.
Frances is a young dressmaker who desperately wants to be a couture fashion designer. Sebastian is an anxious prince who tries to live up to his parents’ expectations, but hides a secret double life: He likes to wear dresses. When Sebastian discovers Frances’ designs, he hires her to become his private dressmaker, transforming him into a fashion icon called Lady Crystallia.
This graphic novel has a heartwarming Disney vibe, exploring the joy and anguish of Sebastian’s secret without getting too heavy. It isn’t meant to be a historically accurate depiction of gender expression; it’s a cute love story about self-acceptance and gorgeous ballgowns. Jen Wang’s character designs are youthful and energetic, giving Sebastian and Frances all the melodrama and enthusiasm of teen life. Their love of clothes will win over the most apathetic of fashion-agnostics, with plenty of inspiration for (dare we hope?) future cosplayers. Highly recommended if you grew up with classic Disney Princess movies, but crave something with more thoughtful gender roles—and romantic leads who actually have something in common.
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Best new comics of 2018: January
Abbott (Boom! Studios)
Writer: Saladin Ahmed
Artist: Sami Kivelä
The noir crime genre can sometimes invite lazy writing. Everyone knows the rules and tropes, which is how we end up with lackluster retreads like Netflix‘s Altered Carbon. Abbott doesn’t fall into that trap. Its urban crime concept relies on familiar ideas—a chainsmoking maverick protagonist, incompetent cops, a mysterious tragic backstory—yet still feels fresh. That’s partly because it focuses on a black woman in a genre dominated by white guys, and partly because it’s just very well-written. The dialogue is full of personality, and issue #1 includes enough material that you get a solid idea of Abbott’s life. It feels much longer than 24 pages, arriving with an atmospheric John Coltrane soundtrack and a color palette reminiscent of a grainy 1970s crime movie.
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Rogue & Gambit (Marvel)
Writer: Kelly Thompson
Artist: Pere Perez
A rare canonical nod to Marvel’s very enthusiastic shipping fandom.
Rogue and Gambit have a long history as an on-again/off-again couple, although you don’t need the backstory to read this new miniseries. It’s a rom-com adventure story, and in the best possible way, it has a lot in common with fanfic. The two ex-lovers (X-lovers?) are ordered to go undercover as a couple, investigating missing mutants at a romantic tropical retreat.
As ever, Gambit is an acquired taste. He straddles the line between sleazy and attractive, and this story is geared towards relationship drama over action scenes. In other words, exactly the kind of content that leads some (usually male) Marvel fans to view Gambit with derision. But if you’re a Rogue/Gambit shipper, this comic is a gift. It’s lighthearted without being totally frothy, tying Rogue and Gambit’s tumultuous relationship into a classic style of X-Men adventure. Read while listening to Carly Rae Jepsen.
Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance
Gavia Baker-Whitelaw is a staff writer at the Daily Dot, covering geek culture and fandom. Specializing in sci-fi movies and superheroes, she also appears as a film and TV critic on BBC radio. Elsewhere, she co-hosts the pop culture podcast Overinvested.