Before we can fully put 2018 to rest—and kick off our massive Most Anticipated Comics of 2019 list—we have to admit one thing: sometimes we make mistakes. Whether because of a spotty memory, a goofed release date or a near miss, a few of our favorite comics of 2018 ended up omitted from our Best of 2018 lists. We’re here to make amends for that by spotlighting a few additional series that released three or more issues in 2018—released them straight into our hearts, that is. From explorations into death to a new take on a cowboy classic, Midwestern noir to all-ages fantasy, here are eight more comics that made 2018 a killer year for sequential art.
Writer: Tini Howard
Artist: Nick Robles
Publisher: Black Crown/ IDW Publishing
Euthanauts was never far from our thoughts when compiling our year-end lists—it was just disqualified because of a festive conflict of interest. Both Shelly Bond’s Black Crown imprint and Karen Berger’s Berger Books have produced quality titles, but Euthanauts is perhaps the best realization yet of the Vertigo legacy from which both editors hail. Tini Howard and Nick Robles have compiled an eclectic, complex cast of characters and a nuanced, challenging take on the idea of life beyond death. While we adored Assassinistas and Howard’s work on the Captain America Annual, Euthanauts feels like the purest distillation yet of her creative interests and approach, and Robles’ delirious layouts and expressive character acting elevate the title to must-read status—although fair warning that it’s not for anyone with a looming fear of mortality.
Hot Lunch Special
Writer: Eliot Rahal
Artist: Jorge Fornes
Publisher: AfterShock Comics
“Midwestern noir” has, until last year, remained a genre almost entirely composed of the Coen Bros. and their inspired works. Enter Hot Lunch Special, inspired by writer Eliot Rahal’s background as part of a Lebanese immigrant family living in Minnesota. This AfterShock Comics series proves that David Lapham, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips don’t all the cards in the crime comics scene—and that artist Jorge Fornes will soon be mentioned in the same breath as Chris Samnee and David Aja. After a mob message crosses a line and sets one family on a deadly path, Rahal and Fornes craft a perfectly paced, incredibly tense series of escalating actions, with the impending fifth issue sure to be a bloody, heartbreaking finale. Rahal and Fornes have both done solid, under-the-radar work for a few years now; Hot Lunch Special suggests that the best is yet to come.
Writer: Brenden Fletcher
Artists: Karl Kerschl & Msassyk
Publisher: Image Comics
The titular Isola of the Image Comics breakout series is the land of the dead, and Captain Rook, the book’s human lead, must travel halfway around the world to reach the strange island and lift the curse placed on Queen Olwyn of Maar, who has been transformed into the striking blue tiger at the heart of the story. As captain of the Royal Guard, Rook is fiercely loyal to her queen, but must contend with poachers, natural dangers and Olwyn’s inability to communicate while in her beastly form. We covered Isola several times throughout 2018, but realizing that we left it off our Fantasy list—and that we neglected to mention Karl Kerschl and colorist Msassyk on out Best Artists list—was a huge face-palm moment. Isola has been a long-time labor of love for all the creators involved, and while the narrative is taking its time to come together, it’s one of the most stunningly illustrated books on stands, and the closest the Western comics scene has gotten to a Ghibli movie playing out on the printed page.
Writer: Jeff Loveness
Artist: Jakub Rebelka
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Truthfully, we thought this BOOM! Studios four-parter shipped the bulk of its issues in 2017, but a quick fact-check shows that three-quarters of the series came out in 2018. Jeff Loveness and Jakub Rebelka’s surprisingly non-sacrilegious series finds the greatest betrayer in history asserting his autonomy with a simple question: if we all have preordained parts to play in life, why was his so cruel? Loveness walks an almost unbelievably treacherous tightrope between respecting the source material and poking at long-held assumptions about one of the most frequently told stories of all time, while Jakub Rebelka crafts unexpected new vistas of Hell in his singular stained-glass style. Judas may have come out at the beginning of 2018, but we could never forgive ourselves (no pun intended) if we didn’t recognize it before putting the year to bed.
The Lone Ranger
Writer: Mark Russell
Artist: Bob Q
Publisher: Dynamite Entertainment
Dynamite Entertainment produces a seemingly endless cycle of reboots and rejiggerings of its many licensed characters, with most of those takes appealing to niche, nostalgic crowds. Leave it to Exit Stage Left’s Mark Russell to break that pattern in a must-read new volume of The Lone Ranger, illustrated with clean, stylish aplomb by Bob Q. A major new development has come to the untamed prairies of Texas: barbed wire, an innovation that powerful landowners plot to manipulate for their own gains, closing off the land to rangers and Native peoples. The Lone Ranger and his ally Tonto are proto-superheroes, striking back against the corrupt ranchers with clever vigilante strikes and thrilling standoffs. The Lone Ranger requires no familiarity with the property, just an appreciation of perfectly executed comic craft.
Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man Cover Art by Chip Zdarsky
Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man
Writer: Chip Zdarsky
Artists: Chip Zdarsky, Chris Bachalo, Others
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Chip Zdarsky rose to prominence in comics as the irrepressibly goofy artist of Sex Criminals, but his work as a writer has repeatedly proven just what a nuanced talent he really is beyond the unusual internet humor. From Star-Lord to Marvel Two-in-One (which also had a stellar year) to Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man, Zdarsky is particularly skilled at revealing the rarely explored emotional depths of Marvel’s leading men, blending laughs with genuine poignancy. Zdarsky didn’t lack for amazing collaborators on Spectacular, from Adam Kubert to Chris Bachalo, but his final issue found the cartoonist both writing and drawing as he bid adieu to Spidey (for now). The highest—and most bittersweet—compliment that anyone can pay Zdarsky might be that, no matter how exciting the relaunches of Fantastic Four and Amazing Spider-Man may have felt, it was something of a letdown that he wasn’t moving from the related books to the core titles after producing such amazing runs. Spectacular #310 was a pitch-perfect sendoff for Zdarsky’s Spider-tenure and we can’t wait to see what he does with Daredevil this year.
Scales & Scoundrels
Writer: Sebastian Girner
Publisher: Image Comics
Every year brings with it painful conclusions—we won’t get over X-Men Red for a while—but it’s the runs cut short that sting the worst. Scales & Scoundrels always felt a little out of place among Image Comics’ lineup of more adult titles, but each and every issue was an all-ages fantasy delight, filtering what we love about Dungeons & Dragons and Lord of the Rings through a bright, diverse cast of adventurers. It’s a shame that the Critical Role and Adventure Zone crowds didn’t pick up on this title during its brief run, but creators Sebastian Girner and Galaad have suggested that Scales & Scoundrels may one day live again in a different format—hopefully signaling a shift to OGNs like its Image peer Motor Crush.
Writer: Michael Moreci
Artist: Hayden Sherman
Publisher: Vault Comics
The moment—the moment—our Best Sci-Fi & Fantasy Comics of 2018 list went live, we realized we had goofed. Wasted Space was the first major sign that upstart publisher Vault Comics was going to have a big year, with subsequent releases like Friendo, Deep Roots, Fearscape and These Savage Shores proving they were one to watch in a major way. Beyond its role as quality harbinger, though, Wasted Space was just a damn fine comic. Imagine Preacher in space, complete with jaded prophets, towering space gods and a randy blue-skinned pleasure bot. Writer Michael Moreci’s Roche Limit series also questioned big themes in a sci-fi setting, but Wasted Space feels like a more personal, less restrained exercise for the author, and is a perfect showcase for artist Hayden Sherman’s raw linework and aggressive energy. Vault upgraded Wasted Space to an ongoing series—a first for the publisher—so expect to hear more about this one in the year ahead.