By Dustin Cabeal
No, I have not come out of retirement. This is a limited engagement, very limited. One of my greatest pleasures of running my own site was the year-end list. I have always looked forward to it even if most publishers and very few creators ever really cared that they were on it. Sure, everyone cared if they were on the worst of list, but best of, eh. At any rate, I’m back to give you my best comics of 2018 and just like before; I’ll also be back to give you my worst comics of 2018 as well. Let me be frank, any year-end list that doesn’t have a counterpart is bullshit. Did you miss me? No, you didn’t.
Oh and I know this is late, I tried to get it done in December, but that’s just how busy life has been post-Comic Bastards. Oh well, only like five people are going to read this anyway.
I’m not doing any kind of order this year so just soak it all in from start to finish. At this point in writing, I don’t actually know how many picks I have, I’m just going to go through the list I wrote down, and that’s that.
Delilah Dirk and the Pillars of Hercules
Ah, the book I went out on. Delilah Dirk has been amazing from the start, but with Pillars of Hercules Tony Cliff not only expanded the world but fleshed it out more. What’s truly a treat is seeing the depth of development for Delilah and Selim. Their friendship is wonderfully crafted and realistic. At one point I really wanted to see an animated version of Delilah Dirk, but I think I like the bubble it exists in as a graphic novel. It’s so powerful and perfect as Cliff understands the medium and tells masterful stories. That and his artwork is unmatched in comics, he’s a talent that comes along only once, and we’re truly blessed to have his work.
While Sink only had two issues release this year, they were better than 98% of all comics I read. The fifth issue I thought would be incredibly difficult to top, but when I read the sixth issue… well fuck me it was the best issue of the series to date. John Lees continues to show how talented of a writer/creator he is and the fact that all the big companies aren’t chasing him down to work on their cape books is frankly a blessing for us all as we’re able to enjoy masterpieces like Sink. This series is one of those rare comics that comes along and makes you fall in love with the medium all over again.
Long after I was done reviewing Animus and comics in general, I couldn’t help but think of Animus here and there. It was powerful, strange and left me wanting more of this strange world, but also never wanting it to expand from what it is was. Children solving mysteries of supernatural origin, but with so many unexpected twists and turns. The story was frightening in ways that haunt your thoughts months later.
While I’m not trying to throw shade, I believe that everything that Evan Dorkin did at Dark Horse this year was the publisher’s best work. If only he could have done more. Blackwood was funny, serious, frightening and captivating. Dorkin’s ability to capture how people in the modern age would deal with supernatural things like curses and people being eaten by bugs is what grounded this book, but also made it scary as hell at times. Veronica Fish’s artwork was inspired and some of her best to date. I much prefer her work on Blackwood than to Archie as her imagination and artwork brought this amazing story to life.
Coda surprised me. Some out there might even be surprised that it’s on my list. I didn’t review it, hell I didn’t even read it until it was collected into a trade. At first, I didn’t like it. It felt like it was trying too hard, but as I kept reading, it was like reading an anti-adventure story. I couldn’t put it down, and I fell in love with this magical world that did everything wrong. For the first time, here was a world of magic that I wanted to avoid rather than journey too. I couldn’t get enough of the story and the gritty artwork that accompanied it.
Geis vol. 2
The first volume of Geis was inspired. It was so very different as it set the stage for a competition to become the new King of the land but at a horrible price. The second volume raises the stakes even more but also manages to deliver rich character development. One of the protagonists of the story receive so much development that it made me love to hate them. I would love to say more, but it’s a fine line I walk talking about, just now that it’s worth checking out. I mean, it’s on this list.
Oh, Umami, you were one of brightest spots of my reviewing this past year. This was a series that I looked forward to upon each release and was excited for when it released earlier than my expectations. The wordplay with the character’s names, the title, the artwork, all of it came together to form a manga-inspired comic that was still purely for the US market. If you just want to read it, pay nothing to Panel Syndicate and check it out, but maybe just start with the first issue and then you’ll see why it’s worth supporting the rest of the way through.
Batman: Creature of the Night
I can’t remember if this made my list last year, but if it didn’t, it almost did. This series may have wrapped in 2018, but it started in 2017 and it that should tell you how good it was. It ended ten months ago, and I’m still in love with this series. It was hands down the best Batman book I read all year, and DC published so many Batman books this year. Creature of the Night is something special that will be on everyone’s must-read list for years to come. That and it’s just amazing that this concept worked twice and both are magical reads.
Speak: The Graphic Novel
I feel like Speak didn’t get as much attention as it deserved. It’s a book everyone should read, but especially men that aren’t understanding the post #MeToo era we’re living in. This was another book that I found myself often thinking about in the past few months due to its powerful storytelling and relevant subject matter. The thing is, even if you look at Speak in a bubble, without the rest of 2018 for context, it’s still an amazing story which is why it made my list.
The perfect story for anyone that grew up watching Sailor Moon and sucking at making friends. Yeah, the title tells you exacting what you’re getting into, but you’ll likely forget several times along the journey until Kristen Gudsnuk brings it all back home on the final pages. This was Gudsnuk’s best work of the year as it showed her talent for characters, humor, and storytelling. Her growth as a creator on Making Friends leaves me excited to see what she does next and secretly hoping that it’s more graphic novels. But I would settle for an enamal pin of a floating head as well.
This started as a maybe on my list, but then I re-read the last issue of the first volume and remembered just how blown away I was by this story. It has so many Cowboy Bebop elements to it but still manages to create and be its own world. The characters are memorable, the story is bananas but in the best possible way. More importantly, though, it’s filled to the brim with touching character moments. Weatherman is constantly finding ways to move the emotional needle, and it is one of the few ongoing titles that I’m looking forward to reading next year.
It took me a bit to sit down and read this series, but fucking hell I’m glad I did. It’s not Ellis’ usual style if that’s a thing that even makes sense, it feels stupid to write that but I’m keeping it. There’s his usual flair of well-thought-out details that make the world feel real and amazing, but then there’s this Cannonball Run/Warriors story taking place in another dimension that’s been hidden from the public that feels crazy and reckless, and I couldn’t get enough of it. The dynamic art was fluid and gritty and brought this mad world alive. It was definitely one of the best of 2018 and another one of the few I’ll be looking forward to in 2019.