The year of 2019 delivered a lot of excellent comic books every month. From big events to mini-series to ongoing there was no shortage of comic books worth talking about how consistently great they were. Even in the slow months there were certain comics that just continued to deliver. To honor those comics I’ve put together a list of the ten best comic book titles of the year.
Before getting into this isn’t a normal top ten ranking. All of the following ten comics were equally excellent. So their position on this list is purely alphabetical.
BATMAN/TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES III
Publisher: DC Comics and IDW
Stories: Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1 – #6
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Freddie E. Williams and Kevin Eastman
Colorist: Jeremy Colwell
2019 marked the end of the dream crossover trilogy between the Batman and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchises. And just like the previous two crossovers between the two franchises, Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III did not disappoint. What made this final crossover such a fun standout comic in 2019 is James Tynion, Freddie Williams and Kevin Eastman to do their own interpretation of Crisis On Infinite Earths with Batman and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles at the center. Just having the visual of Krang merged with the Anti-Monitor was enough to make this latest crossover hype.
Along the way there were a lot of incredible moments for fans of both franchises. That included seeing different versions of Batman and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles appear, including the classic black and white versions of the TMNT team. Having moments like that gave credence to how this was a Crisis-level event centered around both franchises.
The use of Shredder and Joker was also inspired. Rather than just going back to the typical villain crossover both characters got their own unique storylines. For Joker we got to see what would happen if he ran his own League of Assassins or Foot Clan style organization. Which led to a Shredder stepping up in more of a heroic role for the story as his pride to be the best had him get into an unlikely alliance with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. In doing so we got a different take on both villains that were mainstays in these three crossovers.
All that said, what took Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III to the special category was how Tynion, Williams and Eastman explored the concept of family. Kicking things off in a universe where Batman was adopted Master Splinter and raised alongside the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was an unexpected twist. That twist turned into some fantastic character exploration as the spotlight slowly shined on how Bruce Wayne has been able to create his own family out of a tragedy. The way Tynion comes to that conclusion for Bruce’s character was extremely rewarding as a Batman fan.
BATMAN: LAST KNIGHT ON EARTH
Publisher: DC Comics
Issues: Batman: Last Knight On Earth #1 – #3
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Greg Capullo
Inker: Jonathan Glapion
Colorist: FCO Plascencia
Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo launched a new era for the Batman franchise when the New 52 began. More than any other creative in the last decade Snyder and Capullo defined who Batman, and by extension the Batman Family, is during the decade. Everything from the rivalry between Batman and Joker to the introduction of the Court of Owls to Commissioner Gordon playing a more active role in the superhero world, a lot of the things Snyder and Capullo did together is still being used by current Batman writers.Because of that it was great to see the two, along with Jonathan Glapion and FCO Plascencia, reunite to tell their final Batman story together with Batman: Last Knight On Earth.
With Batman: Last Knight On Earth, Snyder and Capullo were able to tell what is essentially their final Batman story. Treating it like the final Batman story is exactly what they did and factored into what made this mini-series stand out so much. There was no restriction when it comes to using DC Universe characters in the way they wanted. The story took place in an Elseworld continuity and having that freedom gave Snyder and Capullo the chance to create a new DC Universe that has a life of its own.
Along with creating a fantastic new DC Universe, Snyder and Capullo crafted a fascinating story that challenged Batman in ways that the character did not expect. There was a bit of a Captain America “Man Out Of Time” aspect to this version of Batman as he woke up to a DC Universe he does not recognize at all. Being out of place challenged Batman to find different ways to interact with this world that include characters he was previously familiar with, like Dick Grayson, Barbara Gordon, Wonder Woman and Joker. Those interactions helped elevate the story around Batman’s final battle with Omega, whose identity turned out to be a great surprise.
All that said, Batman: Last Knight On Earth is not a comic book that fans not familiar with Snyder and Capullo’s Batman run should read. This is a comic book intended for those who read their Batman run. A lot of the story in Batman: Last Knight On Earth is built around concepts from their Batman run during the New 52 era. But as someone who did read and greatly enjoy their run on Batman this series was the victory lap that I was happy that Snyder and Capullo were able to have together to close out the decade.
Issues: Daredevil #1 – #15
Writer: Chip Zdarsky
Artist: Marco Checchetto (Daredevil #1 – #5 & #11 – #15); Lalit Kumar Sharma (Daredevil #6 – #9); Jorge Fornes (Daredevil #10); Francesco Mobili (Daredevil #14 – #15)
Inker: Jay Leisten (Daredevil #6 – #9)
Colorist: Sunny Gho (Daredevil #1 – #5); Java Tartaglia (Daredevil #6 – #9); Jordie Bellaire (Daredevil #10); Nolan Woodard (Daredevil #11 – #15)
When it comes to all the comic books Marvel publishes yearly there is no series that has been more consistently good to great than Daredevil. That continued in 2019 as Chip Zdarsky took over as the writer of Daredevil. Picking up where Charles Soule left off, Zdarsky did not miss a beat in telling a compelling Daredevil story after Matt Murdock’s recent near-death experience. How that near-death ended up rocking every aspect of Matt Murdock’s character was absolutely fascinating. The artwork from Marco Checchetto, Lalit Kumar Sharma, Jorge Fornes and Francesco Mobili have added to this character exploration.
What’s been most impressive has been how Zdarsky has not pulled any punches when it came to how Matt dealt with his near-death experience. We saw the character spiral as he tried to get back to his normal superhero routine as Daredevil. The problem for Matt was that his near-death experience was not normal. Zdarsky took what Soule did in his final arc and used it to peel back the layers of Matt’s core character as his spirit and body are still broken even if he tries to push forward. That led to some great character work and interactions with other superheroes like Spider-Man and the Defenders confronting Matt over his actions upon returning.
On top of that, Zdarsky’s development for Mayor Wilson Fisk, Detective Cole North and the Owl have been equally as good. With Wilson Fisk we are starting to see how the pressures of being Mayor of New York City are clashing with his hunger for power and past as Kingpin. This has allowed Zdarsky to elevate the Owl in the process as this classic Daredevil villain is using Fisk’s current situation to his advantage.
As a new character Detective Cole North has slowly become the breakout star of Zdarsky’s run. Much like Matt, we are seeing how Zdarsky is deconstructing Detective North’s views on truth and justice as part of the NYPD. Where all of this character development ends up taking Detective North’s character should be just as fascinating as Daredevil and Wilson Fisk’s direction in 2020. To accomplish that with a new character just speaks to how Zdarsky has delivered a gem of a run thus far with his work on Daredevil.
Publisher: DC Comics
Issues: DCeased #1 – #6; DCeased: A Good Day To Die #1
Writer: Tom Taylor
Artists: Trevor Hairsine (DCeased #1 – #6); Stefano Gaudiano (DCeased #1 –); James Harren (DCeased #1 –); Laura Braga (DCeased: A Good Day To Die #1); Darick Robertson (DCeased: A Good Day To Die #1)
Inkers: Stefano Gaudiano (DCeased #1 -6); Richard Friend (DCeased: A Good Day To Die #1); Trevor Scott (DCeased: A Good Day To Die #1); Darick Robertson (DCeased: A Good Day To Die #1)
Colorists: Rain Beredo (DCeased #1 – #6 and DCeased: A Good Day To Die #1)
When it comes to unexpected pleasant surprises in 2019 DCeased may rank as #1. I normally don’t get into zombie or post-apocalyptic stories, especially in comic book form. The comic needs to be truly special like Old Man Logan to grab my attention. Much to Tom Taylor’s credit he was able to deliver one of those special comic books in the form of DCeased.
What made DCeased standout is that it did not really deal with the superheroes trying to stop the world from ending. Instead it dealt with the Anti-Life Equation already taking over and our favorite DC Universe superheroes dealing with the aftermath of the virus being released. That led to some truly phenomenal and heartbreaking moments in every issue. From Alfred having to put down Batman after he was infected by the Anti-Life Equation virus to all of Superman’s moments with his family, there were no shortage of memorable things happening in each issue of DCeased.
While characters like Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman do take center stage in DCeased Taylor spread the love to a wide variety of characters. That was a trademark of his run on DCeased and it was great seeing how different heroes and villains dealt with the DCeased crisis. Even when unlikely alliances were formed every character stayed true to what made them iconic in the first place. Taylor’s masterfully handling all these characters voices in the middle of the end of the world crisis was just impressive.
Trevor Hairsine as the main artist working on DCeased help bring the Anti-Life Equation crisis to life. With DCeased being much more of a character focused story Hairsine got over each characters emotional state in each issue with the way he drew their different reactions to how things developed. Stefano Gaudiano, James Harren, Laura Braga and Darick Robertson also provide some great work in the issues they drew along with Hairsine. They all kept the look of DCeased consistent throughout the event.
THE GREEN LANTERN
Publisher: DC Comics
Issues: The Green Lantern #3 – #12
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Liam Sharp
Colorist: Steve Oliff
One of the most imaginative comics to come out of DC Comics or Marvel was Grant Morrison and Liam Sharp’s The Green Lantern series. Every issue was filled with what one expects from a Morrison written comic. It was complex, placed building blocks for the future and left you confused at where everything was going. That is exactly what I was hoping for and got with a Morrison written Green Lantern series.
What made this new Green Lantern series standout was how Morrison made each adventure Hal Jordan go on feel like it stood on its own. From the moment you start reading an issue of Green Lantern until you finish there is a complete story that you are reading. Yes, these stories all built on one another. But each time I picked up an issues my full attention was captured on what was going on and did not worry about previous issues. That led to an even better reading experience when reading each issue of Green Lantern several times as you see things you missed in the first time you missed.
Liam Sharp deserves an equal amount of credit for delivering absolutely stunning visuals in every issue of The Green Lantern. Sharp’s design for The Green Lantern had a feeling of looking at artwork from the 1980s that still felt modern for 2019 standards. With Morrison taking Hal Jordan all over the DC Universe and Multiverse, Sharp delivered on all the imagination and then some. The standout being when Sharp draws the history of the different Green Lanterns across the Multiverse. Sharp gets across each Multiverse Green Lantern story across just from the visuals alone.
HOUSE OF X & POWERS OF X
Issues: House of X #1 – #6; Powers of X #1 – #6
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Pepe Larraz (House of X #1 – #6 & Powers of X #6); R.B. Silva (Powers of X #1 – #6);
Inker: R.B. Silva (Powers of X #1 – #3); Adriano Di Benedetto (Powers of X #1 – #3)
Colorist: Marte Gracia (House of X #1 – #6 & Powers of X #1 – #6); David Curiel (House of X #6 & Powers of X #6)
Things haven’t gone especially well in the last few decades for the X-Men franchise. That was especially true in the last two years were the X-Men were as close to the brink of extinction as they’ve gotten. That’s where Jonathan Hickman stepped in course correct and set the stage for the X-Men to return to being Marvel’s premier franchise once again. That was not an easy task but as Hickman showed with his run on Avengers and Fantastic Four there is no one better to guide an entire franchise than him. And proved that with his work on House of X and Powers of X, while being two series they work together to tell a bigger event.
One of the most impressive things about what Hickman did with House of X and Powers of X is how he established clear definitions for every concept around the X-Men franchise. Every issue of House of X and Powers of X were filled with intricately designed details to tell us everything we need to know about the X-Men franchise moving forward. Providing details like defining what classifies a mutant to be have the Omega-Level classification goes a long way in creating a strong foundation for the X-Men franchise.
Along with providing these detailed infographics Hickman reminded readers why the X-Men franchise is so special. He continuously highlighted how the X-Men are a family. One of the best examples of that is during the the suicide mission in space we get a phenomenal scene between Wolverine and Nightcrawler were they say goodbye to each other. The way Hickman crafted this scene was comic books at their best as he tapped into the full emotional weight of the friendship between Wolverine and Nightcrawler.
With that all said, no character was better developed throughout House of X and Powers of X than Moira MacTaggert. She was the spark that led to everything that happened in House of X and Powers of X as we learn she has the mutant ability to be reincarnation power to go back to the point of her conception and retain all her knowledge of her previous lives. That is a huge status quo shake-up that Hickman did not let go to waste. With this revelation Hickman went about redefining the direction for the X-Men franchise in fascinating new ways.
JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK
Publisher: DC Comics
Issues: Justice League Dark #7 – #17
Writer: James Tynion IV
Artist: Alvaro Martinez Bueno (Justice League Dark #7 – #12 & Justice League Dark #14 – #16); Miguel Mendonca (Justice League #9); Mark Buckingham (Justice League Dark #13); Fernando Blanco (Justice League Dark #16); Javi Fernandez (Justice League Dark #17)
Inker: Raul Fernandez (Justice League Dark #7 – #12 & Justice League Dark #14 – #16); Miguel Mendonca (Justice League Dark #9); Mick Gray (Justice League Dark #13); Fernando Blanco (Justice League Dark #16)
Colorist: Brad Anderson (Justice League Dark #7 – #12 & Justice League Dark #15 – #16); Adriano Lucas (Justice League Dark #13 – #14); John Kalisz (Justice League Dark #17)
Justice League Dark took a big step up in 2019 as it was consistently one of the best monthly comic books that DC Comics was releasing. It helps that Tynion was finally able to finish his big story arc around Nabu taking full control of being Doctor Fate. That storyline wrapping up allowed this incarnation of the Justice League Dark to fully establish themselves as the team that is protecting the magic corner of the DC Universe.
Taking that big step was a major deal for the team. But the true strength of the Justice League Dark series is the cast. Tynion has created an eclectic cast of characters that make up the team with Wonder Woman, Zatanna, Detective Chimp, Swamp Thing and Man-Bat making up the core of the team. As with any good team this core team have been able to develop a strong rapport with one another as the series has gone on. Detective Chimp and Zatanna in particular have been the standouts as their veteran status has been a highlight of the series. The recent addition of Doctor Fate’s Kent Nelson and Khalid Nassour has added to the strong dynamic that the cast has had.
In addition Tynion has grown Wonder Woman’s character in a way she hasn’t had the chance in her own series or the other Justice League series. That is because not only is she stepping up even more as the leader of the Justice League Dark but she is still getting familiar with all the magic-based threats her team is facing. She has been a fish out of water as these magic threats do not use the same tactics as the normal supervillain. Wonder Woman’s approach and reaction to things have allowed both the Justice League Dark team and their villains to be presented as a bigger deal. At the same time Wonder Woman has grown stronger over these experiences.
The artwork from Alvaro Martinez Bueno, Miguel Mendonc, Mark Buckingham, Fernando Blanco and Javi Fernandez have added to how their is a big event feel to what is going on in Justice League Dark. Each artist captures how each magical threat could easily destroy the DC Universe if the Justice League Dark don’t defeat them first. That is a huge selling point for a Justice League series and helps this series not just be the little brother series in the franchise.
SPIDER-MAN: LIFE STORY
Issues: Spider-Man: Life Story #1 – #6
Writer: Chip Zdarsky
Artist: Mark Bagley
Inker: John Dell
Colorist: Frank D’Armata
One of the more unexpected happy surprises of the year was Spider-Man: Life Story. When I first heard about this series I had zero expectations given how many Spider-Man stories examining the characters history we’ve had. My tune changed right away as Chip Zdarsky and Mark Bagley immediately established how they had a special narrative to tell with Spider-Man: Life Story from the start of the very first issue.
Exploring what Peter Parker’s life would be if he lived out his natural life from the point he became Spider-Man in 1962 was a great starting point. It gave Zdarsky the opportunity to examine both the real and Marvel Universe events that took place during each decade between 1962 to 2019. The big thing about this examination was seeing how Peter Parker evolved as a person with each decade as we see his perspective in life changed the more he experienced. At no point did you question if this is how the character should act during major events like the Vietnam War, Secret Wars or Marvel’s Civil War. These events, along with other major points in Spider-Man’s life, all spoke to the evolution of Peter’s character as he grew up.
While Peter was the star of the show the strength of the series was the supporting cast choices for each issue. Spotlighting the relationships Peter has with key characters like Mary Jane Watson, Gwen Stacy, Reed Richards and Tony Stark elevated the things that went on in each decade. Combining all the interactions with Peter’s supporting cast and things that Spider-Man was involved in helped place Spider-Man: Life Story into a position of being one of the most memorable Spider-Man stories of all-time.
That status of being one of Spider-Man’s most memorable stories was cemented by Mark Bagley’s artwork. As one of the most iconic Spider-Man artists, Bagley brough over his style he has refined from his time drawing Amazing Spider-Man and Ultimate Spider-Man. With each issue taking place in different decades Bagley was able to make adjustments in his style to show how Peter changed over time with different Spider-Man costume that were used.
TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES
Issues: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #90 – #100
Writers: Kevin Eastman, Bobby Curnow and Tom Waltz (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #90 – #100)
Artists: Michael Dialynas (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #90 – #92, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #96 – #98 & Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #100); Dave Wachter (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #93 – #95 & Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #99 – #100); Mateus Santolouco (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #100); Adam Gorham (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #100); Dan Duncan (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #100); Cory Smith (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #100)
Colorist: Ronda Pattison (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #90 – #100)
The end of 2019 marked an end of a era as Tom Waltz, along with co-story writers Kevin Eastman and Bobby Curnow, ended a 100-issue run on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. As the final story in the latest creative team run on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Waltz, Eastman and Curnow did not hold anything back. They did that by having the year in TMNT be dominated by adapting the iconic “City At War” into this universe.
What made things different this time around was that “City At War” centered around the control of the Foot Clan as Splinter has been the leader for a long time. The fallout between Splinter and Karai ahead of this event appropriately set the stage for what was at stake as New York City was consumed by a war to be different from all previous “City At War” arcs. Things felt much more personal as things just continued to intensify as all of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle allies and foes came together for this story.
With such a massive cast to juggle Waltz, Eastman and Curnow did not lose sight of how attached readers have become with every character. Whether it was one of the Turtles or their supporting cast. Everyone played a key role in adding major moments to what went on throughout “City At War.” At the same time, the family aspect of the core four Turtles and Splinter continued to be spotlighted throughout.
Along the way “City At War” made one of the most important additions to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by adding a new female Turtle to the franchise. The last attempt at doing this in Ninja Turtles: Next Mutation with Venus de Milo was so not well received the character has been forgotten in time. Things were much different this time around as Waltz, Eastman and Curnow took great care in first developing Jennika as a key member of the TMNT supporting cast. Before “City At War” we were able to see the character grow so when Jennika accidently gets permanently turned into a humanoid Turtle there was a great sense of importance to that moment.
All these things combined led to a memorable way for Waltz and company to end their 100-issue run on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. They created a story that was a payoff to everything that happened over the course of the 100 issues of IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series thus far. When all was said and done Waltz left the TMNT franchise in a great place for Sophie Campbell to continue to build on what has been constructed thus far.
THE WAR OF THE REALMS
Issues: War of the Realms #1 – #6
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Russell Dauterman
Colorist: Matthew Wilson
Marvel saved their best event for the decade for 2019 as Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman and Matthew Wilson gave us War of the Realms. This event was built on the incredible epic run that Jason Aaron has been on since taking the reigns of the Thor franchise back in 2012. Since that time Aaron has crafted an incredible narrative that has challenged not only Thor Odinson but also Jane Foster, who for a time took on the Thor mantle successfully. War of the Realms was a culmination of that as we saw a payoff for both Thor and Jane’s characters throughout the event.
But what made War of the Realms truly special is that it is an easy to read event. You can just read the six issues of the main War of the Realms event and get the full story without interruption or delays. Every issue is action packed with every hero in the Marvel Universe uniting to fight a threat in Malekith the Accursed that could destroy the very fabric of reality. Having an event on a villain that the reader hates and wants to see their favorite heroes defeat is what big events should be like. And how can you not like an event where we see Spider-Man, Wolverine and Daredevil taking on threats from Asgard and beyond while riding Pegasus and wielding mystical weapons?
On top of that War of the Realms had some of the best artwork we have seen from a big event thanks to the incredible work by Russell Dauterman and Matthew Wilson. Every issue was packed with action and character moments that were elevated because of how Dauterman drew and Wilson colored those scenes. Even when things got absolutely chaotic Dauterman and Wilson never made things look cluttered. Every page was clear and detailed to get over how War of the Realms was a big event.
Best of all, there was no delay big delays in War of the Realms. Aaron, Dauterman and Wilson worked on every issue together and made sure that the event released on time. That is what they did as all six issues of War of the Realms were released over a three month period between April 2019 and June 2019.
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