Welcome to Day 4 of my Top 125 [American digital] Comics of 2019! Today I’ll share entries #50 through 26 on my list. Missed what came before? Head back to entries #125-101, #100-76, and #75-51.
While I adore and recommend EVERY series in the 125, now we’re getting into series that I felt had many excellent individual issues.
But first: more data!
I’ve mentioned rating every comic issue and then applying a pair of algorithms to help me weight a series. I rate on a .5-to-5 out of 5 scale, and I’ve discovered that my rating distribution forms a near-perfect bell curve. Here are my ratings since I started tracking in 2017:
When rating a SERIES, I use a “Recommendation Index” that’s a modified version of Net Promoter Score (NPS). You know those “How likely would you be to recommend our company” polls that pop up? Companies weigh “PROMOTERS” against “DETRACTORS” to grade their reputation with customers.
For my purposes, “Recommendation Index” treats 4-5/5 as PROMOTER vs .5-2.5/5 as DETRACTOR. A series that never dips below 4 is 100% recommendable. One that never gets above 2.5 is -100%.
(I treat a 2.5 as “true average” but in the scope of recommendations that’s not a strong one)
Almost every book in my Top 125 has a Recommendation Index of ≥0%. That’s why I cut it off at 125 – after that, negative Recommendation Indexes started popping up. (In a few instances, series with <0% scores are on the list because the low-rated issue(s) were the end of a 2018 arc or a fill-in/one-shot.)
Yes, this is a HUGE list, but that’s because it is nearly ALL of my recommended comic reading of 2019. The higher we get, the stronger my recommendation and adoration.
Without further ado, here are series #50 through 26 of my favorite [American digital] comic titles of 2019! (Or, if you prefer a Twitter countdown, start here.)
#50 – Sparrowhawk (Boom)
SPARROWHAWK (Boom) is allegorical and heartfelt. A young woman of color tumbles out of her racist real life as a bastard child of a well-to-do family and into a faerie-land where violence rules (but also stains your soul). Delilah Dawson keeps things fantastical while offering insightful commentary; Matias Basla’s art is a dream.
#49 – West Coast Avengers (Marvel)
WEST COAST AVENGERS (Marvel) was a successor to Nextwave as much as an Avengers book. Kelly Thompson found so much heart and charm in an oddball cast. She perfectly captured the vibe of young adults crashing head first into their first serious relationships in The Real World.
#48 – Invisible Kingdom (Dark Horse)
INVISIBLE KINGDOM (Dark Horse) is a sci-fi world you can get lost in. G. Willow Wilson built a universe with fascinating takes on commerce, religion, and gender, and all three crash together for a smuggling adventure akin to Firefly. Christian Ward’s art is vivid and efficient.
#47 – James Bond: Origin (Dynamite)
JAMES BOND: ORIGIN (Dynamite) is a smart, stylish take on Bond’s pre-spy years during WWII. I was expecting an unflappable young man, but this Bond is charmingly unsure (except of his moral compass) as we witness him hone extraordinary skills, from prison breaks to seduction.
#46 – Black Badge (Boom)
BLACK BADGE (Boom) is Matt Kindt + Tyler & Hilary Jenkins doing a junior league CIA book, and it is riveting. Are select scouting troops critical in international peace efforts or are these kids being corrupted into becoming future terrorists? The series’ big reveal has PERFECT timing.
#45 – The Forgotten Queen (Valiant)
THE FORGOTTEN QUEEN (Valiant) is a glorious burst of boiling blood and a sprint through historical revision as Tini Howard shows us why Valiant’s most-powerful woman has been forgotten. Amilcar Pinna levelled up his already-stylish art; Ulises Arreola added painterly colors.
#44 – The White Trees (Image)
THE WHITE TREES (Image) is high fantasy from Chip Zdarsky, Kris Anka, Matt Wilson, & Aditya Bidikar. It’s a deliberately narrow window into a world of seductive magic that stays focused on relationship drama at the center of its epic action. Anka’s art has never looked better. Also: lots of genitalia.
#43 – William The Last: Fight & Flight (Antarctic)
WILLIAM THE LAST: FIGHT & FLIGHT (Antarctic) is the 2nd chapter a storybook-perfect all ages monomyth from Brian Shearer. When a boy living on a remote island is orphaned, he climbs its mountain to discover a civilization where he may be their chosen one (or their undoing).
#42 – Sea of Stars (Image)
SEA OF STARS (Image) is a simple story – dad and son separated in space – told with so much wit, heart, and gorgeous art that every issue was a memorable delight. Jason Aaron & Dennis Hallum find so many emotional beats to play; Stephen Green and Rico Renzi find surprising ways to make the vast emptiness of space vibrant.
#41 – Birthright (Image)
BIRTHRIGHT (Image) is Joshua Williamson’s tale of a man torn between two worlds he was groomed to save or destroy. It raised already-epic stakes even higher as guns and magic converged; artist Andrei Bressan & colorist Adriano Lucas rose to the occasion to deliver pure WOW.
#40 – Sera and the Royal Stars (Vault)
SERA AND THE ROYAL STARS (Vault) is an instant classic, like the retelling of a myth we should already know. Audrey Mok’s dynamic art and a bold, saturated palette from Raul Angulo amplify the size of Jon Tsuei’s story of a girl who has to revive her gods to save her kingdom.
#39 – Invisible Woman (Marvel)
INVISIBLE WOMAN (Marvel) never lets us think of Susan Storm ONLY as the steely heart of F4. This is about her own adventures and connections in a spy thriller that shows her as both powerful and fallible. Mattia de Iulis’s photorealistic art stuns with many indelible images.
#38 – Powers of X (Marvel)
POWERS OF X (Marvel) is a perfect blend of retro dives into continuity and audacious future-focused sci-fi. No one drew capes more sumptuously than RB Silva and Jonathan Hickman built a Matryoshka Doll of fan-pleasing reveals to contain challenging, often-theological concepts.
#37 – Exorsisters (Image)
EXORSISTERS (Image) is an acerbic series about supernatural soulmate detective sisters that threads the needle perfectly between horror and hilarity. Illustrator Gisèle Lagacé brought a sweetness to Ian Boothby’s scripts that used one-shot stories to build to a silly-but-tense arc ender.
#36 – Grumble (Albatross)
GRUMBLE (Albatross) is about an odd-couple of a teen girl and a crook-turned-pug on a (kinda) unintended magical crime spree. It’s full of gags and increasingly intricate tangles of family history and magical lore, which makes the gags even better. Terrific colors by Marissa Louise elevate the funniest and spookiest moments of this book.
#35 – Age of X-Man: X-Tremists (Marvel)
AGE OF X-MAN: X-TREMISTS (Marvel) largely dispensed with external conflict to pit this (significantly LGBTQA*) cast of X-folks against their own forgotten selves, lost to this Age of X-Man. Leah Williams scripted this series through a number of shocking personal connections up to a a heart-rending mic drop of a crescendo… the most real and true X-Men has felt in a long time.
#34 – Lucifer (DC)
LUCIFER (DC) took a risk: starting with a rambling earthbound version of Lucifer who barely knew himself, and taking 13 issues for him to ascend (or, would it be “descend”?) to the Thin White Duke fallen angel we love. It paid off for us as readers and in the worst way for his supporting cast. Lucifer isn’t bad or good – he’s simply always in motion, never satisfied to inhabit a single place or emotion … which can be a bit problematic when you’re meant to be the king of hell.
#33 – DIE (Image)
DIE (Image) is a love letter to losing (and finding) yourself in role-playing from Kieron Gillen, Stephanie Hans, & Clayton Cowles. It’s a commentary on archetypes both in people and stories, and how they can be manipulated once they’re understood. Gillen dreamt a setting so dense it spun off its own DM’s Guide, but even reading that cover to cover can’t reveal all the secrets of this dense and surprisingly personal fantasy series.
#32 – Wrong Earth (Ahoy)
WRONG EARTH (Ahoy) asks “why not both” when it comes to classic feel-good heroes versus grim deconstruction of the modern-day medium. What starts as Batman ’66 vs Dark Knight Returns satire becomes its own rich multiverse in Tom Peyer & Jamal Igle’s slick take on the duality of Dragonfly(man).
#31- Once & Future (Boom)
ONCE & FUTURE (Boom) makes Kieron Gillen’s metatextual formalism its theme right from the start in a story about reviving Arthurian myths through the power of belief (and also Brexit). Each panel of Dan Mora & Tamra Bonvillain’s art is transfixing, selling inherent comedy even when characters aren’t mugging.
#30 – Little Bird (Image)
LITTLE BIRD (Image) is a violent future fable of the secular versus the sacred and the indigenous versus the invasive. Ian Bertam’s hyper-detailed art evokes Quitely or Steve Skroce; Darcy Van Poelgeest’s twisted plot is full of harbingers of doom (or sad inevitability) and rebirth.
#29 – Unstoppable Wasp (Marvel)
UNSTOPPABLE WASP (Marvel) shows Marvel can produce accessible and compelling canonical YA material that’s still entirely woven into its rich history and current continuity. Jeremy Whitley’s nuanced exploration of bipolar disorder is as revelatory as his handling of a huge cast of brilliant girls. Flawless cartooning from Gurihiru + Alti Firmansyah.
#28 – The Dreaming (DC)
THE DREAMING (DC) succeeds at the unenviable task of occupying the center of the Sandman Universe while barely featuring Dream of the Endless himself. Si Spurrier found his true calling in scripting this hallucinatory lament to dreams giving way to dreary reality, and Bilquis Evely’s art with Matt Lopes colors was nothing short of extraordinary.
#27 – Jessica Jones (Marvel)
JESSICA JONES (Marvel) is the realest and rawest we’ve ever seen JJ. In this digital first series, writer Kelly Thompson settled into JJ’s terse style of dialog that unspools into rambling thoughts, letting us into Jones’s world and her vulnerabilities without eroding the character’s stoic toughness. Artist Mattia De Iulis delivers substantial and carefully-paneled conversations alongside his stunning photorealism, including a particularly heavy one with Luke Cage.
#26 – Five Years (Abstract)
FIVE YEARS (Abstract) cements Terry Moore’s shared indie universe, as his full cast of quirky characters all turn their attention towards a looming threat of post-nuclear annihilation that can destroy their entire world. Despite the sci-fi adventure trappings, this is first a story about humans and how our connection to each other is larger than any looming destruction that could erase it.
That’s a wrap on the penultimate day of my top 125 [American digital] comics of 2019!
These write-ups took all day to assemble because I kept getting lost in books as I revisited them. We’re into some VERY good stuff.
Tune in tomorrow for the BEST stuff – my Top 25 of 2019.