As we near the end of 2018, it’s time to take a look back at some of favourite creators and titles from the past twelve months.
We’re all about championing great work here at the Big Comic Page, and while these picks are clearly just the tip of the iceberg in what has been one heck of a year for comics, we’d highly recommended checking out any (or all) of these if you get the chance.
However, we’re also aware that a lot of our contributors have vastly different tastes, so rather than trying to reach some sort of site-wide consensus we have decided instead to give each member of the team a chance to share their own picks, and up next is the turn of Ceej, a BCP original who has been with us since day one.
Best Publisher – BOOM! Studios
While BOOM! Studios is perhaps seen by a lot of casual readers as being solely about the licensed properties (WWE, Power Rangers, etc.) and all-ages comics (Adventure Time, Steven Universe, etc.), it has also been cranking out some of the absolute best creator-owned work of the last twelve months. From Judas, Jeff Loveness and Jakub Rebelka’s visually striking reimagining of “The Greatest Story Ever Told” to the third and final chapter of Dan Abnett and INJ Culbard’s anthropomorphic drama Wild’s End being released as an original graphic novel, BOOM! have been knocking it out of the park all year long. And that’s before we even start digging into the likes of Coda, Grass Kings and Black Badge, two of which (SPOILER!) you miiiiight be hearing about later in this article. Boasting a remarkably consistent creator-owned output and a solid foundation of licensed properties, BOOM! ended up being a fairly easy choice for my top publisher of the year.
Honourable Mention(s): Image Comics, Dark Horse Comics
Best Writer – Donny Cates
That’s two years in a row now as “Best Writer” for Donny Cates, who turned a stellar creator-owned year in 2017 with the likes of God Country, Redneck and Babyteeth into one of the most spectacular Marvel debuts since a certain Jason Aaron made his transition to the “House of Ideas”. With Thanos, Cosmic Ghost Rider and Venom all delivering some of the best big two storytelling in the last year, Donny has shown the ability to translate his knack for blending humour and gravitas to existing properties, breathing new life into some fairly stagnant characters in the process. Oh, and he’s still crushing it with his creator-owned work for Image and AfterShock at the same time. Well played, Donny. Well played.
Honourable Mention(s): Jeff Lemire (the entire Black Hammer Universe, Gideon Falls), Matt Kindt (Grass Kings, Black Badge), Si Spurrier (Coda, Angelic)
Best artist – Tyler Jenkins
Perhaps an unconventional choice to the casual comic book reader, Tyler Jenkins and his striking, watercolour and gouache style was another fairly easy choice for my “Best Writer” of 2018. First grabbing my attention with a stunning turn alongside write Ollie Masters on Snow Blind back in 2016, Jenkins moved on to Grass Kings, a series that provided him with a perfect showcase for his expressive style and gift for restrained emotion and striking landscapes. Proof undeniable that intricate detail isn’t a requirement for great comic book artwork, Jenkins continued his stellar run on Grass Kings with a reunion with writer Matt Kindt on “black ops boy scout” series Black Badge. In an industry where homogenized “house style” artwork is rapidly becoming the order of the day, Jenkins stands as a testament to originality and creative vision, and continues to produce work that’s like nothing else on the shelves today.
Honourable Mentions: Eric Zawadski (Eternal), Matias Bergara (Coda), Ryan Stegman (Venom)
Top 5 Titles of 2018 (in no particular order)
ETERNAL GN (BLACK MASK) – After reading this one back in January, it became pretty obvious that anything else released this year would have a pretty high bar to meet. Already a massive fan of artist Eric Zawadski from his work on The Dregs, even I wasn’t prepared for how well he and writer Ryan K Lindsay would work together on this standalone tale of Vif, the leader of a band of fearless shieldmaidens, who finds herself protecting her homeland against an insidious threat. Managing to blend pathos and striking visual design into a story which grips your attention from the very first page, and featuring one of the most engaging extended battle sequences I’ve read in a long time, this is a comic that I personally don’t think was ever equalled in the following 11 months. An automatic inclusion into my 2018 top five.
ANIMOSITY (AFTERSHOCK COMICS) – While the AfterShock release schedule has sometimes been a little erratic, the consistency of the storytelling and the sheer creativity on display, both visually and narratively, make it three years in a row for Animosity in my “top five”. Marguerite Bennet and Rafael de Latorre’s “Walking Dead with talking animals” series has once again gone from strength to strength, building up a huge level of reader investment in the rag-tag group of survivors as they try to make their way in a world where animals have started talking and thinking like humans. The “Power” arc has been absolutely gripping so far, with Jess finding herself trapped into the menacing “Walled City” and Sandor and her friends doing their best to get her out.
CODA (BOOM! STUDIOS) – Coda somehow managed to sail under my radar on its initial release, only grabbing my attention when I picked up the first trade. Set in a world where all new magic has been wiped out by an event called the “Quench”, Si Spurrier and Marias Bergara have crafted one of the sharpest and most entertaining fantasy comics in a long time. Spurrier’s dialogue has never been better, with a fresh, wickedly subversive approach to established fantasy tropes and a fascinating and likeable leading man in Hum. Bergara is also clearly having an absolute blast with some truly bonkers character design and a giddy sense of energy throughout. Get on board with this one as quickly as you can, folks.
GRASS KINGS (BOOM! STUDIOS) – The problem with a lot of extended comic book stories (as opposed to short, concise four or six-part stories) is that they tend to run out of steam before they get to where they’re trying to go. Not so with Matt Kindt and Tyler Jenkins’ Grass Kings, which inexplicably managed to get better and better as it neared its conclusion, ramping up the pace and tension as the different storyline threads in the insular, ‘off the grid’ community finally converged into a fantastic reveal of the “Thin-Air Killer”. As perfect a landing as I’ve seen a creative team stick, and a series I absolutely can’t recommend highly enough.
THANOS WINS! (MARVEL) – Easily the best Thanos story since Infinity Gauntlet (yeah, I said it), Donny Cates’ breathtakingly ambitious take on the Mad Titan took us to the future where Thanos came face to face with his future self and learned a little about the sheer futility of his never-ending attempts to please Death. Well… sort of. Packed with humour, excitement, drama and some of the best splash page reveals of the year, the series showcased the perfect synergy between Cates and artist Geoff Shaw, as well as throwing in some brilliant epic-scale cosmic moments along the way. Oh, and it also served as our introduction to the coolest new Marvel character in a long, long time – the utterly insane Cosmic Ghost Rider. Just ridiculously good from start to finish.
Honourable Mentions: Venom (Marvel Comics), On A Sunbeam (Avery Hill Publishing), Cosmic Ghost Rider (Marvel), Black Hammer: Age of Doom (Dark Horse Comics), Wild’s End: Journey’s End OGN (BOOM! Studios), Infidel (Image Comics), No. 1 With A Bullet (Image Comics), Mister Miracle (DC Comics), Doctor Star and the Kingdom of Lost Tomorrows (Dark Horse Comics) and about a dozen others…