My year end wrap up continues from the single issues list, and now it’s time to talk about the best ongoing series of the year. 2018 had a lot of great books, from DC’s Rebirth titles to Image’s always excellent selections to even Marvel’s Daredevil and Return of Wolverine, and it was really hard putting this list together. Make sure to check out Kevin’s list here, and see if we had any of the same picks! Now, on with the show.
5. Justice League
When it comes to big superhero team titles, there are a few things I always want to see: action, adventure, big ideas and a whole lot of fun. What Scott Snyder, his tag-team writing partner James Tynion IV and some truly top-tier artists (like Jim Cheung, Gillem March and Howard Porter, to name a few) have given us with Justice League is all that and so much more, exceeding even my wildest expectations. Spinning out of the events of the fantastic No Justice, we find our League back and better than ever. And they have to be, as they face a brand new cosmic threat emanating from the shattered Source Wall along with an even more sinister incarnation of the feared Legion of Doom.
I’ve found that Scott Snyder is a writer who combines the big bombastic sci-fi ideas of Grant Morrison and the excellent plotting and world-building of Geoff Johns, and Justice League is the best proof of that. The threats facing the League are big and powerful and even overwhelming at times, but he always remembers to let the audience have fun and laugh as well. Even the slower issues, usually more dialogue heavy and written by Tynion, crackle with the same amount of energy, creativity and fun. With stellar art to back up their efforts, Snyder and Tynion are clearly having a blast expanding the DC Universe and finding newer and better ways to challenge its premier super team. It’s about as perfect a team title as you’re gonna get, so check it out.
4. The Wicked + The Divine
As I said in my best issues round-up, The Wicked + The Divine is an insane book, fueled by one of the best writer/artist teams working today and with a suitably crazy high concept. Twelve gods come to Earth every ninety years in the forms of young people for a period of two years, living it up and inspiring the masses before they go. This time around, though, things have gone horribly awry and the gods have taken their fate into their own hands. If you’ve been reading you know this may not be the best thing, but if you’re not, you’re definitely missing out on some truly amazing stuff.
This year marks the beginning of the end for this series, as the gods hurtle towards their two year time limit and more revelations about this universe, their place in it and how everything works continue to pour out. Sometimes there are some gimmicks Gillen employs that are a bit annoying, and sometimes it can get a little confusing, but trust me when I say that the imagination and creativity on display here is second to none. I hesitate to say more because I don’t want to spoil anything, but I have to urge you to give this series a try. It combines all the best elements of myth, superhero comics, teen dramas, and science fantasy to provide a wholly unique title unlike anything you’ll lay your eyes on right now. Gillen and Jamie McKelvie are at the top of their game, and you owe it to yourself to check this series out before it ends.
3. The Amazing Spider-Man
This year was a big one for our favorite web-head in the books, with Dan Slott’s massive ten year run ending and a promising new one from Nick Spencer beginning, as well as reaching 800 issues in print! I give Slott a hard time for his questionable Twitter antics, but no one can deny that the man just gets Peter Parker and left an imprint on him almost as big as Stan Lee’s. Nick Spencer, following up the disastrous Secret Empire and Nazi Cap debacle, has brought back a lot of the fun and energy that was missing from the title without sacrificing the quality of writing. While Slott worked with some amazing artists during his run, Spencer has the benefit of having Invincible artist Ryan Ottley on board, and that man was born to draw Spider-Man, guys. It’s just… French chef kiss perfect.
This year saw Spider-Man face off against his greatest nemesis one last time in Slott’s final story, with a new twist: Norman Osborn has now become combined with the Carnage symbiote! How cool is that??!! Slott wrapped up his run extremely well, tying up his lingering loose ends and delivering a satisfying final battle with some surprisingly emotional moments in it. Spencer kicked off his run with a bang, bringing back a lot of elements from his Superior Foes of Spider-Man days as well as finally reuniting Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson. The first arc dealt with some sci-fi weirdness (the Tri-Sentinel, y’all!) and the second with a strange cult of thieves that literally steal from every superhero, and I am hooked, guys. If you’re a Spider-Man fan, you definitely need to hop on and not miss this incredible ride!
Just like the previous entry, the Man of Steel saw the departure of an iconic creative team in Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason, and the entry of former Marvel writer Brian Michael Bendis with mainstay talented artist Ivan Reis. Tomasi and Gleason are excellent at everything they do, and they successfully brought back the true Superman with Rebirth by grounding him in the classic Superman personality and themes that had been sorely missing in the New 52. By making him a father to a rambunctious little Superboy and showing his married life with Lois Lane, the duo further expanded on Superman to make him more relatable and likable than he’d been in years. Their farewell story was in the massive Action Comics #1000, but the last issue of Superman proper that they wrote was a sincere and heartfelt a goodbye to a character they clearly love and cherish.
And also like the above entry, a new writer came onboard that carried quite a bit of baggage with him. I’ll admit I was truly starting to hate Brian Michael Bendis’ work, as were many others. He was excellent on Daredevil and Ultimate Spider-Man, but outside of a few fun issues here and there I was starting to get bored of his shtick. He turned the Avengers into quippy lame stereotypes and his stories were just bad and getting much worse as they went along. I feared he would bring the same to my favorite superhero, but I was dead wrong. Rather than try to hipster-ize Superman, Bendis has delivered a classic and respectful take on the character that hearkens back to Christopher Reeve’s portrayal, just as Tomasi and Gleason did. This is a kind, loving character that is still firm and resolute in his beliefs, and you see why he inspires the people around him. Bendis has done an excellent job with this character and even with the story, a throwback Silver Age goofball tale of Earth getting trapped in the Phantom Zone. Yes, there are issues with the title but you know what? I’m really enjoying it, and I think that you’re missing out on one of the best takes on the greatest superhero ever created if you’re sleeping on this book. Go and get it, folks!
Sometimes I read older books like Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns and feel a little jealous of the people who got to read them as it came out, wondering what it was like to read that brilliance first hand. Now I understand, because I read Saga. Delivered to us by god of comics Brian K. Vaughn and artist extraordinaire Fiona Staples, Saga blew the door off the industry when it arrived back in 2012 and has consistently been a hit for Image Comics ever since. It is currently on hiatus, but that’s okay, and let me tell you why. Saga is not just the best indie comic being published, or the best science fiction comic being published, it is the best comic period being published right now. Full stop, no hyperbole, it is that good.
This isn’t surprising coming from Vaughn, who has already delivered modern classics like Ex Machina and Y: The Last Man, but this is on a whole other level for me. The story is intricate and complex, the characters are well-defined and compelling, the world-building is second to none, the science fiction is so weird and wacky and insane and it all just works! Fiona Staples’ art is godlike in how gorgeous it is, and how well she tells the story even when there are no words. Each planet in this story is beautiful to look at and each character design is so well detailed and interesting, to the point where it occasionally puts things like Star Wars and Doctor Who to shame. This seemingly simple story of forbidden love between a man and a woman of warring worlds has grown into something so much more than that, and I absolutely love every single bit of it. If they need to take a break, I totally understand, because it shows they are committed to delivering aces every time they step up to the plate and I 100% respect that. Plus, it gives you more time to hop on board and catch up on this modern comics classic before the series resumes. Trust me, if you pick up any comic book, make it Saga. You will not be disappointed.
Cheers, guys. Have a very Happy New Year!