2023 was an incredible year in the world of comic books and manga. Marvel, DC Comics, Image Comics, Shonen Jump, and more publishers brought out a ton of new and continuing content for fans to enjoy. With us getting treated to so many great comic books and manga we can’t simply honor everything that was released in 2023 with just one Best of the year list. To start off the celebration of what 2023 gave us I’ve put together a list of the best comic book single issues and manga chapters. Check out the 10 comic books and manga that delivered must-read issues and chapters below:
Writer: Robert Kirkman
Artist: Lorenzo De Felici
Colorist: Matheus Lopes
Letterer: Rus Wooton
Editor: Bixie Mathieu
Easily one of the biggest comic books to be released in 2023 was Void Rivals. A new comic book with a creative team of Robert Kirkman and Lorenzo De Felici was more than enough to be excited to pick up Void Rivals #1. That excitement reached a whole new level when getting through the first issue we learned that Void Rivals #1 was the beginning of the new Energon Universe, combining the worlds of Transformers and G.I. Joe into one shared universe.
The giant smile that appeared on my face when Jetfire is first fully shown in Void Rivals #1 was fueled by pure excitement and joy. Its rare to get surprised by reveals in any medium. So getting a genuine surprise with Jetfire’s appearance in Kirkman and Felici’s latest comic book was so incredibly cool.
That was all the cherry on top for what was a great debut issue by Kirkman and Felici. While the introduction of the Energon Universe was cool the story in Void Rivals #1 was carried by the series leads in Darak and Solila. Coming from two rivaling worlds their journey as lost explorers was fascinating to watch develop. It led to Void Rivals being able to stand on its own with two strong leads while kick starting the new Energon Universe.
Story and Artist: Peach Momoko
Editor: Danny Khazem
Assistant Editor: Mikey J Basso
Star Wars: Visions is such a incredible concept that has given many different creators a chance to tell their own story using the Star Wars setting. The same energy brought to the two seasons of the anthology series on Disney+ is fully tapped into by Peach Momoko with her own Star Wars: Vision one-shot. As she showed with her Demon Days works, Momoko’s Star Wars: Visions one-shot is a pure visual delight.
The fact that Momoko’s Star Wars: Vision has no dialogue adds to the imaginative story told about the Ankok cult and their leader’s trying to make claim as the next Sith Lord. Even without dialogue you understand how the characters are communicating with one another. It worked right into feeling you were on journey with Kako as the protagonist of the story. All of the visual storytelling fully taps into the creativity of the universe and crafts a whole new world for Star Wars fans to get invest in.
Writer: Tom Taylor
Artist: Bruno Redondo
Colorist: Adriano Lucas
Letterer: Wes Abbott
Editor: Jessica Chen
Assistant Editor: Jessica Berbey
After spending the first part of the year re-establishing the Titans we were treated with an incredible one-shot superhero adventure with Nightwing #105. Like Nightwing #87 before it, for Nightwing #105 Tom Taylor, Bruno Redondo, and Adriano Lucas told an entire story from a first-person perspective. This gave the issue an energy where the reader was experiencing what it’s like to be Nightwing from Dick Grayson’s perspective.
Going this route certainly gave a new perspective of how to view a Nightwing story. More importantly it was pure fun and advanced the long-term storyline involving Heartless. In the process we got more another example of what makes Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon a fun pairing. And there is even a great cameo appearance of the cast from The Office.
Writer and Artist: Daniel Warren Johnson
Colorist: Mike Spicer
Letterer: Rus Wooton
Editor: Sean Mackiewicz
With the announcement of the new Energon Universe there was a lot of excitement around the latest Transformers reboot comic book. With anticipation high Transformers #1 needed to deliver. Thankfully Daniel Warren Johnson absolutely delivered a banger of a debut issue for the Transformers series.
Right out of the gate Johnson presents us with the scariest version of Starscream we have seen. Starscream wasted no time in making sure that he was known as the evilest Decepticon. That threat leveled carried into even when Optimus Prime and other Autobots woke up that Starscream brand of chaos carried he entire issue. This created a first issue that had a frenetic energy that made the ending be something you knew Skybound and Image Comics’ Transformers would always be atop fans pull list every month.
Writer and Artist: Takeru Hokazono
Translator: Camellia Nieh
Letterer: Phil Christie
No manga had a better debut chapter than Takeru Hokazono’s Kagurabachi. Hokazono keeps things simple by focusing on how our lead character’s mission of revenge Chihiro Rokuhira is gateway into an incredibly rich world. The first 24 pages, of a 55 page story, does a great job at getting the reader to understand the connection Chichiro has with his father, Kunishige Rokuhira a world famous blacksmith during the Seitei War. This connection makes it so when tragedy strikes as a villainous group kills Kunishige to obtain the six enchanted blades he created. That set-up created a foundation for a rich world where Chichiro became an assassin who is looking to annihilate everyone responsible for his father’s death.
The foundation created gives Hokazono the ability to utilize a historic setting for Japan while adding in mystical elements that all fit in the world created. Nothing feels out of place or needing to be explained how it all works. You immediately buy in to everything that goes down because of how strong the opening for Kagurabachi Chapter 1 is. It all creates excitement for a story that will be as emotional as action filled. It’s the ideal first chapter from a new shonen manga.
Writer: Si Spurrier
Artist: Wilton Santos and Marcus To
Inker: Oren Junior
Colorist: Ceci De La Cruz
Letterer: Joe Caramagna
Editor: Sarah Brunstad
Assistant Editor: Lindsey Cohick
Retcons are always a difficult thing to do. It’s something if done right can add new layers to the characters involved. But if done wrong it can do a lot of harm to present, past, and future storylines. That alone makes what Si Spurrier, Wilton Santos, Marcus To, and company were able to pull off with the revelation of Nightcrawler being the son of Mystique and Destiny in X-Men Blue: Origins.
The idea of Mystique and Destiny being Nightcrawler’s parents isn’t a new idea. Years ago, Scott Lobdell mentioned Chris Claremont originally pitched Mystique impregnating Destiny, who would then give birth to Nightcrawler. Concerns about the Comics Code at the time made it so Marvel would not greenlight this creative direction by Claremont.
Bringing us to the present, Marvel finally went ahead with Claremont’s idea with Spurrier, Santos, and To were able to tell this story. They did so in a way that not only paid respect with what’s been told about Nightcrawler’s origins made the truth about Mystique and Destiny’s relationship at the time work of conception work. It all told an emotional story that deepened Nightcrawler and Mystique’s relationship. This was easily one of the best stories during the Fall of X period for the X-Men. It is hopefully a family relationship we see explored further after Fall of the House of X and Rise of the Powers of X.
Writer and Artist: Kohei Horikoshi
Translator: Caleb Cook
Letterer: John Hunt
2023 was a banner year for My Hero Academia. This was arguably the most consistent year we had with dramatic and epic chapters every week there was a new release. Out of all the many epic chapters we got no one delivered the hype built off all the emotions like My Hero Academia Chapter 390. This was the end of the fight with Dabi, a villain that has been developed from very early on in the series.
Dabi is arguably the most important character in My Hero Academia. Its his story as the lost eldest son of Endeavor that turned society against the Pro Hero world. The deeper we got into The Final War Saga the more he became a horror villain. That fully came to fruition with how he went way beyond his limits to make sure he killed his entire family, who united to try to stop him, and a large portion of Japan.
It all led to the greatest Shoto Todoroki moment we’ve seen in the series. Seeing Tenya Ida give it his all to go help get Shoto to where the Todoroki Family was fighting Dabi was incredible. Shoto getting this help from Ida showed that he was no longer dealing with his problems alone. He has come far from being a cold loner to someone who embraced his family and friends. That all paid off with Shoto using his Ultimate Attack to stop Dabi from blowing up. Given all the emotion behind the fight to stop Dabi, My Hero Academia Chapter 390 will certainly be one of the most memorable chapters of the series.
Writer: Steve Orlando
Artist: Sara Pichelli
Inker: Elisabetta D’Amico
Colorist: Matthew Wilson
Letterer: Cory Petit
Editor: Alanna Smith
Assistant Editor: Kaitlyn Lindtvedt
Scarlet Witch #3 makes a strong case for why Wanda Maximoff works as a great solo hero and should always have her own series. Scarlet Witch’s power set allows for so many different imaginative storylines to tell. Her strong connection to the magic side of the Marvel Universe gives plenty of directions and worlds to visit, as we see with the adventure in Sub-Atomica in Scarlet Witch #3.
What made this issue even better was the relationship that was explored between Wanda and Lorna Dane. With how deep her history is she has so many connections across the Avengers and X-Men worlds. One of them is with her own sister, Polaris. Even though they are connected through being children of Magneto we have rarely seen team up or even interact. That made them going on a whole adventure in Sub-Atomica have that added layer to make it such a standout comic book.
The way the story was told also gave the entire adventure in Sub-Atomica its own vibe. Orlando placed a great amount of trust in Pichelli to format the artwork, so it works with a storybook style of storytelling. Every single splash page told a part of the greater journey Scarlet Witch and Polaris went on. Each of these pages could easily be printed as a poster if Marvel wanted to.
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Joshua Hixson
Letterer: Hasan Otsmane-Elhaou
Editor: Steve Foxe
The Deviant #1 is a masterclass in storytelling. Right away you are pulled in by the tone that is set by James Tynion and Joshua Hixson. Right away they use the bright, illuminating setting the holiday season brings to create an aura of unease. They use the setting to slowly go to a dimly lit setting that we soon end up with a character in a mall with the lights off and decorations up. The way the tone was shifted made the horror movie moment that takes place to hit hard.
From there we quickly see a bigger mystery being revealed as more victims are found. That all led to one of the most horrifying designs for a killer Santa Claus we’ve ever seen. It all worked to create the best start mystery and horror story we got in 2023. Immediately every character that appeared carried importance because you didn’t know if they would be a target or not. That added to the way The Deviant tackles the horror genre.
Writer & Artist: Masashi Kishimoto
Translator: Mari Morimoto
Letterer: Snir Aharon
It speaks to the incredible universe that Masashi Kishimoto created that just about every character introduced in Naruto could carry their own series. Two of the characters at the top of the list for having his own manga was Naruto Uzumaki’s own parents, Minato Namikaze and Kushina Uzumaki. As we saw the things he did in the past through various flashbacks from his building his legend as Konoha’s Yellow Flash to being the Fourth Hokage, it was clear Minato earned the high regard he was held by everyone who brought up his name. Kushina, while not getting the same level of development, showed she was just as much a standout with each appearance or mention of her.
Further proving why Minato and Minato are to be revered as a legendary ninja was the Naruto: The Whorl Within The Spiral one-shot released this year. The special one-shot takes place when Minato was still a Jonin trying to master the Rasengan and Kushina was closely guarded to the point she couldn’t leave a specific area within Konohagakure. This story did a lot to give us greater insight into the past of Naruto’s parents.
While Minato was clearly a genius he didn’t become Konoha’s Yellow Flash without hardwork, as proven by how long it took him to master the Rasengan. Through Kushina we saw what the weight of being a Jinchūriki. Both had their own journeys that tested their relationship as it was still growing. A testament to their strong bond was how ultimately Minato and Kushina proved to make each other stronger. Their love was able to help them overcome Kurama’s will with Minato finally mastering the Rasegan and Kushina mastering a sealing technique as well. It was a phenomenal story that further proved that Minato and Kushina are two of the best characters in the Naruto franchise.