The 25 Best Comic Books of 2018

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Manfried the Man Cover Art by Kelly Bastow

15. Manfried the Man
Writer: Caitlin Major
Artist: Kelly Bastow
Publisher: Quirk Books
What if people were pets? What if cats were just as bad at adulting as most of us? Manfried the Man is catnip for cat-lovers and anyone looking for a sincere and lighthearted look at what it means to finally grow up. When Steve Catson’s stray man, Manfried, makes a daring escape, Steve is forced to fess up to his lack of personal responsibility as he dives headlong into a quest to find his beloved two-legged friend. Writer Caitlin Major and artist Kelly Bastow offer up a truly absurd premise and deliver a surprisingly thoughtful exploration of being a young-ish adult when you’re not sure how to be responsible for yourself, much less for another person or pet. Bastow’s art is adorable (and manages to keep a book full of tiny little naked fellas from being too weird) and Steve Catson is deeply relatable, particularly to creatives trying to keep themselves going “in this economy.” C.K. Stewart

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Runaways Cover Art by Kris Anka & Matthew Wilson

14. Runaways
Writer: Rainbow Rowell
Artists: Kris Anka, David LaFuente
Publisher: Marvel Comics 
Finally. Just in time for the television adaptation last fall, The Runaways got another shot at comics, this time from massively celebrated YA author Rainbow Rowell and slick, stylish fan-favorite artist Kris Anka. The last volume (not counting an enjoyable but in-name-only Secret Wars tie-in mini-series) concluded before its time in 2009, with writer Kathryn Immomen and artist David LaFuente dropping a bit of a cliff-hanger that Rowell and Anka amazingly picked up a full eight years later. Anka’s eye for fashion and attitude is perfectly suited for Nico and the gang, and Rowell has ample experience navigating teens’ interior lives. Throughout 2018, this misfit family has experienced break-ups, hook-ups, falling-outs and the return of some world-ending foes (or their kids, anyway). While the original run by Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona made such a deep impact partially based on Vaughan’s penchant for jaw-dropping reveals (more on that in an upcoming entry), Rowell and Anka’s take can go issues at a time without too much actually “happening”—yet never feels slight or stretched out. This cast is established, and no longer needs apocalyptic threats around every corner to keep us hooked. Rowell and Anka have such a strong grasp on the Runaways and what we like about them that we’re even tempted to say…best run ever? Steve Foxe

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I Am a Hero Cover Art by Kengo Hanazawa

13. I Am a Hero
Writer/Artist: Kengo Hanazawa
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Manga, which our contributors tend to binge rather than follow regularly, is sadly underrepresented on this list—which is something we’ll strive harder to address in 2019. For the time being, Kengo Hanazawa is as perfect a representation of the medium as anyone could hope. Each double-sized collection of I Am a Hero peels away more unexpected layers to Hanazawa’s particular flesh-eating apocalypse, most recently including the revelation of not-quite-zombified humans with enhanced abilities. If that sounds goofy and too shonen, it’s not—these hybrids owe more to Junji Ito’s twisted fleshy abominations than to any action-packed horror-lite adventure. I Am a Hero began as a fairly straightforward infection story as Japan quickly succumbed to the “ZQN” plague, but 2018’s installments expanded the scope, showing Taiwan and Paris under siege, introducing new bands of survivors using…unusual methods and debuting monstrous new undead behemoths. The volumes released this year further explore the uniqueness of Hanazawa’s approach to the walking dead, as some of the infected begin to display seemingly supernatural abilities instead of merely becoming semi-sentient garbage disposals. If you’ve got a high tolerance for terror, I Am a Hero is one of the best horror stories in comics today—and one of the best manga on the stands. Steve Foxe

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The Lie and How We Told It Cover Art by Tommi Parrish

12. The Lie and How We Told It
Writer/Artist: Tommi Parrish
Publisher: Fantagraphics 
The cover of Tommi Parrish’s sort-of major label debut The Lie and How We Told It doesn’t really tell you anything about its plot, but it does tell you plenty about what Parrish’s work feels like. It resists being put in boxes, and this scene of a couple of dozen people at a club (men, women, ambiguously gendered folks; people who are enjoying themselves, people who are not; people who are on the make; people reading, drinking, smoking, dancing, flirting, working; looking at each other or looking past one another; in their own heads and very much out of their heads; and then more on top of that) spills off the edges. Parrish’s stuff isn’t all that clearly worked out, but it’s often about things that aren’t so well defined, especially sex and relationships, which get muddy in a hurry. The interior—which features the reunion of two high school friends who wander around, chatting, interspersed with black-and-white line drawings that make up a book within the book—has similar things going on, and Parrish doesn’t clean up the edges of the panels. Everything is bleeding into or over everything else, and you can’t tell what’s a top and what’s a bottom (double meaning very much implied!). Hillary Brown

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The Song of Aglaia Cover Art by Anne Simon

11. The Song of Aglaia
Writer/Artist: Anne Simon
Publisher: Fantagraphics 
French cartoonist Anne Simon’s book is populated by the kind of female characters who exist in Greek drama, which is to say it is the kind of feminism that throws the need for sanctification out the window. Aglaia is a thoroughly human character, betrayed and oppressed before she betrays and oppresses. The narrative moves with force, like an arrow shot from a powerful bow, and Simon’s weird, highly patterned drawings ripple around it like visual representations of speed and energy. Her world looks like Tove Jansson’s in many ways, but it’s violent (physically and emotionally) and fraught with danger, much like the non-Bowdlerized versions of the myths it evokes. Hillary Brown

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Klaus and the Crying Snowman Cover Art by Dan Mora

10. Klaus and the Crying Snowman
Writer:   Grant Morrison  
Artist: Dan Mora
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Did we mention that we’re currently loving the Superman titles at DC Comics? Well, we are—but BOOM! Studios’ annual Klaus stories are still better Superman stories than anything starring the Man of Steel himself. Klaus and the Crying Snowman doesn’t come out until the 19th, but we got an early look, and there’s just no denying it a spot on the top 10. Grant Morrison and Dan Mora’s initial Klaus series was fine, but took until the final issues to really feel like a Morrison joint. Each subsequent Christmastime one-shot, on the other hand, encapsulates the boundless imagination—and unfettered optimism—that marks Morrison’s finest work. Every scene of Klaus and the Crying Snowman contains more creativity than dozens of straightforward superhero series that came out in 2018, and Mora’s artwork has grown by leaps and bounds with each passing year (this issue makes a strong case that Marvel needs to get him on Thor before Ragnarok claims us all). Christmas can be a stressful, or at least expensive and heavily commercialized, time of year, but in Morrison and Mora’s hands, it’s exactly what it should be: a reassuring, warm embrace in the middle of winter’s coldest nights. Steve Foxe

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Saga Cover Art by Fiona Staples

9. Saga
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Fiona Staples 
Publisher: Image Comics 
Ongoing series like Saga, The Wicked + The Divine, Giant Days and Monstress always get short shift in Best-of lists after their first year of publication. Regardless of their sustained quality, they simply can’t compete with the attention-seeking quality of the new…unless, over 50 issues into the run, a creative team kills off more main characters than their readership can process and then declares a one-year hiatus. Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ most recent arc of Saga should come with a discount coupon for a therapy dog visit, just to lessen the blow (and no, we won’t spoil who dies, but rest assured that we’re still not okay). A body count alone doesn’t justify a top-10 placement, though; what does is Vaughan and Staples’ ability to shockingly upend the story in ways that never feel cheap or exploitative. Like a rollercoaster ride in the dark, Saga’s next twist is never, ever predictable. It’s beyond cruel that we have to wait a year after that issue, but there’s not a doubt in our minds that Saga #55 will make every second worth it. Steve Foxe

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The Dreaming Cover Art by Jae Lee

8. The Dreaming
Writer: Simon Spurrier
Artist: Bilquis Evely
Publisher: Vertigo/ DC Comics 
Of the four Sandman Universe titles that debuted this year, none carry the torch of Neil Gaiman and co.’s landmark literary epic like The Dreaming. Writer Simon Spurrier, artist Bilquis Evely, colorist Mat Lopes and letterer Simon Bowland have worked in perfect lockstep to bring Sandman devotees back into a realm both familiar and inexorably changed, with each issue reintroducing familiar (and not-so-familiar) faces in unpredictable ways. Spurrier’s writing on titles like Cry Havoc and the current Coda handily prove why he was the right voice to follow—not imitate—Gaiman, but it’s the team of Evely and Lopes who steal the show each month; every page of their work feels like an event, something not meant for a “mere” monthly comic. Even the original Sandman never looked quite like this. It was a controversial decision to bring back the world of The Sandman without Gaiman’s pen directly guiding happenings, but Spurrier, Evely and the rest of the creative team have made an undeniable argument for passing the reins and keeping Dream’s story alive. Steve Foxe

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The Nib: Death Cover Art by Oliver Hibert

7. The Nib: Death
Editor: Matt Bors
Publisher: The Nib
In an era during which quality political cartooning is in decline, one of the first things to get the cut as print media continues to struggle with its role in the world, The Nib has defied the odds by putting out smart, pointed political and educational comics with an admirable consistency. The Nib: Death is the first issue in the site’s foray into print, a magazine full of comics, art and illustrated essays from contributors both new and familiar. On their own, each comic is a remarkable, informational piece of creative work; together, they make up one of the best books of the year. Insightful and incite-ful, the comics tackle the new business of death, statistics and history that will surprise even people who consider themselves fairly well informed. Of particular note are Andy Warner’s “Who Wants to Live Forever? Silicon Valley Tries to Disrupt Death” and Ted Clossen’s “As Before, so Behind: A Memoir of Losing a Child.” The latter is a deeply personal piece about grief, and the former a thoroughly researched and biting investigation of the technologists who are shaping our lives and our media consumption in ways that will unsettle most readers. The Nib has launched a membership called Inkwell, and each of the essays they publish on the site are just as good as what’s in Death. Independent media and thoughtful political cartooning live on in at least this small corner of the world. Caitlin Rosberg

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Girl Town Cover Art by Carolyn Nowak

6. Girl Town
Writer/Artist: Carolyn Nowak
Publisher: Top Shelf/ IDW Publishing
Carolyn Nowak contributed some impressive issues to Lumberjanes, but don’t confuse Girl Town for a similarly empowering all-ages romp. This collection of short stories, a mix of previously published content and brand-new material, is messy in the best, most invigorating way. The common thread, beyond Nowak’s ever-shifting cartooning (isometric cutaways! fantasy theme parks! fireside pagan dances!) is girls: girls who cope with a breakup by buying a robot boyfriend, girls who get anxious around their best friends, girls who have a weird podcast, girls who just want to be held. There’s a distant whiff of Scott Pilgrim and Seconds in how Nowak deftly weaves genre elements into early-20-something malaise, but Girl Town is never twee and never at risk of being overwhelmed by its robot tongues or other oddities. Girl Town, like its protagonists, is caught in a swell of uncertain feelings, and will stick with you long after you’ve finished the short stories within. Steve Foxe

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