It’s Day 2 of my Top 125 [American digital] comics of 2019! If you missed day one, head back to check out entries #101-125.
Let’s get right to it! (Or, if you prefer a Twitter countdown, start here.)
#100 – Batman Universe (DC)
BATMAN UNIVERSE (DC) is Brian Bendis’s first run on the bat, reprinted from its debut in the infamous Walmart-first comics. Bendis is at peak silly on this team-up-y tale, but still finds many true Batman moments amidst the cameos and guffaws. An entire run of Nick Derington & Dave Stewart art is an unreal treat.
#99 – Stronghold (Aftershock)
STRONGHOLD (Aftershock) places an incognito god at the center of an ancient conspiracy. Is it better to maintain world peace in order to contain his unbridled power or cause massive unrest to tempt him to unleash it? Phil Hester peels away layers of plot, and his creative partners Ryan Kelly, Dee Cuniffe, & Simon Bowland make this unmissable.
#98 – Breaklands (Comixology)
BREAKLANDS (Comixology) sees Justin Jordan create something greater than the sum of familiar themes (X-Men, Mad Max) in this desert world where everyone has a power, but not everyone is useful. Tyasseta’s bold, almost=semiotic artwork colored by Rachel Deering is a revelation – like action stamped directly only the page.
#97 – Babyteeth (Aftershock)
BABYTEETH (Aftershock) got through its tricky middle period and now it’s all sheer delivery and delight. We meet Satan…and he’s not that bad? Gary Brown’s rough-hewn, expressive characters are delightful, and Donny Cates settles in for a decadent period where he makes ALL the jokes and they ALL land.
#96 – Shuri (Marvel)
SHURI (Marvel) managed to acknowledge current continuity without getting tangled up in it by finding new moments of discovery for Wakanda’s scientist-in-chief & occasional ruler. Shuri has never felt so right as under NNedi Okorafor’s pen as she got her own arc that allowed T’Challa’s shadow loom without obscuring Shuri.
#95 – The Blessed Machine (Cave Pictures)
THE BLESSED MACHINE (Cave Pictures) is about a society that goes underground for so long they forget what it means to be free. Or to see grass. Jesse Hamm & Mark Rodgers bring a tightly-plotted mystery with several bursts of action to satisfying solution without over-explaining, which is what makes it stick with you.
#94 – Killers (Valiant)
KILLERS (Valiant) spins off from Ninjak (AKA “Ninka-K) through a Weapon X lens of a series of iterative human weapons, and plays it for pure action. None of these former operatives know how to trust, but they have to play nice long enough to survive. Fernando Dagnino’s art is perfect, ranging from quiet noir to bombastic throwdowns.
#93 – Ghost-Spider (Marvel)
GHOST-SPIDER (Marvel) clears away the cobwebs of plot that entangled Gwen at the end of her original run to get her back to the basics that made her (& spider-people, generally) so compelling to begin with: hero/life balance. Seanan McGuire is perfect for this more casual super-book (as are Ian Herring’s colors).
#92 – Agents of Atlas (Marvel)
AGENTS OF ATLAS (Marvel) is a constant charm. Part of Greg Pak’s APIA [Asians and Pacific Islanders] mini-line for Marvel, Pak assembles a massive cast, connects them to the OG Agents, and gives them a unique conflict that requires their powers but leverages their identities.
#91 – Superior Spider-Man (Marvel)
SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN (Marvel) gave Christos Gage and Mike Hawthorne a year to craft a satisfying second resolution to Otto Octavius’s spider-life. Gage repeatedly explored the balance between Otto’s superiority and morality, and the uneasy sameness between him and Peter Parker.
#90 – Self/Made (Image)
SELF/MADE (Image) put a new spin on a familiar “can A.I. be fully human” story. Mat Groom & Eduardo Ferigato began with a typical fantasy action adventure, but each issue was something different than the one before. By its end, this book was about reinvention, rebirth, and nirvana.
#89 – Thor (Marvel)
THOR (Marvel) found Jason Aaron in contemplative mode at the end of a historic run, giving moments to supporting characters who deserved closure, but also to emotions we needed to feel about his Odinson before saying goodbye. That might sound dull for Thor, but it felt earned.
#88 – The Batman Who Laughs (DC)
THE BATMAN WHO LAUGHS (DC) made Metal’s spike-y survivor into a memorable antagonist for the first time. How can Bruce Wayne defeat an amoral version of himself with a multiverse of hostages bent on creating another laughing Batman? Scott Snyder & Jock crafted a tale worthy of DC’s top detective.
#87 – The Punisher (Marvel)
THE PUNISHER (Marvel) by Matt Rosenberg, Szymon Kudranski, & Antonia Fabela had to pay off how Frank Castle could be an effective thorn in Zemo’s side. It delivered (with style to spare) by showing both his dogged persistence AND the blind spots of powerful (but mediocre) men.
#86 – Batman/Superman (DC)
BATMAN/SUPERMAN (DC) is equally hilarious and chilling. Joshua Williamson finds moments where Clark can’t quite equal Bruce’s nuance and times when Bruce needs Clark’s power, but always centers their trust. It all works because every David Marquez page is absolutely gorgeous.
#85 – Black Panther (Marvel)
BLACK PANTHER (Marvel) is one of the best Star Wars comic books I’ve ever read. Yes, that’s a joke, but Ta-Nehisi Coates hits all of the dense themes of colonization and resistance that those intergalactic wars are famous for, bending them back around to be a powerful commentary on the hubris of Wakanda.
#84 – Silver Surfer: Black (Marvel)
SILVER SURFER: BLACK (Marvel) is an epic insert into the origin story of Galactus, drawn by Tradd Moore & colored by Dave Stewart as if it is a religious creation story retold while on psychedelics. Donny Cates’s narration is heavily influenced by Stan Lee, as it should be.
#83 – Wonder Twins (DC)
WONDER TWINS (DC) has the easy silliness you’d expect from this pair of Hanna-Barbera Super Friends with terrifically glossy Stephen Byrne art. Author Mark Russell also brings his trademark side of social commentary – including on the prison industrial complex and recidivism.
#82 – Middlewest (Image)
MIDDLEWEST (Image) is an adult fairy tale. Not only because Skottie Young writes bad behavior + F-bombs for his protagonist, but because the moral might be that a hero’s journey is fiction and life is unavoidably F-ed up. Jorge Corona & Jean-Francois Beaulieu’s art is flawless – the perfect blend of cartoon influence and realistic detail to capture this heightened reality through an adolescent lens.
#81 – Mae (Lion Forge)
MAE (Lion Forge) is a beautiful labor of love from writer/artist Gene Ha. If the “one girl torn between twin worlds” story feels familiar, what is unique and special is showing the power of sisterhood, friendship, and ingenuity to defeat generations of entrenched expectations.
#80 – Reaver
REAVER (Image) is a fantasy Suicide Squad. What happens when you task rebels, cannibals, and worse with saving the world from evil magic? As much back-stabbing as you’d expect. Justin Jordan makes every squad member memorable; artist Rebekah Isaacs is a terrific storyteller.
#79 – Steven Universe (Boom)
STEVEN UNIVERSE (Boom) is an All Ages book that never feels stuck trying to fit between episodes of the show. It tells sweet, simple, evergreen stories with lessons about things like self-reliance and anxiety with artwork that is uncannily on-model with the cartoon.
#78 – Second Coming (Ahoy)
SECOND COMING (Ahoy) has a brief history of the Christian god that compares Jesus to an off-brand Superman, and that’s just the introduction to #1. Mark Russell’s acerbic take on religion plays fast-and-loose with theology, but will land for fans of fiction like Good Omens.
#77 – Something is Killing the Children (Boom)
SOMETHING IS KILLING THE CHILDREN (Boom) is a perfectly paced, laugh-out-loud funny, and seriously creepy comic with discernable Stephen King DNA. James Tynion shows relentless craft in setting up punch-lines and jump scares alike, with smart paneling from Werther Dell’Edera.
#76 – Steeple (Dark Horse)
STEEPLE (Dark Horse) is about a bright-eyed new Vicar with unusual ideas about community outreach in a town where her tiny church and a casual satanic temple vie for local hearts, minds, & souls. It’s also absolutely hilarious – a perfect distillation of John Allison’s humor.
Thus ends the 2nd day of counting down more of my 125 favorite comic titles of 2019!
A huge reason I’m doing this (and with such a big list) is because COMICS ARE AMAZING! I hope I can steer you to awesome books you might’ve missed in 2019.
I’ll be back tomorrow with 25 more entries.