The Best Comics of 2019
This may be a short list, but nonetheless, here are the best comics of 2019.
House of X / Powers of X
The reboot of Marvel’s X titles came in the form of two six-issue series’ written by Jonathon Hickman. The issue from two separate series had a specific way for the books to be read and was often punctuated by pages of graphics that helped the reader through the process. The characters were redefined, and reveals that foretell the future, while setting up a new status quo, with an emphasis on a lot of plants, were often slightly jarring, and death no longer being much of a problem seems a strange comic book cul de sac to park in, but there was much here to enjoy, although the subsequent spin-offs vary in quality and have a hard job measuring up to the original runs.
The first Black Label from DC, this magazine-sized, fully painted horror story from Brian Azzarello and Brian Stelfreeze is a supernatural trek through the Batman mythos, with plenty of support from John Constantine, Swamp Thing, and other DC horror properties. The controversy over a naked Batman brought the book to all kinds of attention in other media outlets, and as a result, the book sold out, commanding stupidly inflated prices on eBay. The purple prose was often a little overbearing, but the artwork, and mix of Batman with the supernatural, was thrilling, if not a little confusing, but this series felt like a real comic event in the lines of The Dark Knight Returns, and that was something we very rarely saw.
I am of course horribly biased when it comes to the comics I like, and as a Daredevil fan, I wanted to love Chip Zdarsky on the title, even before it arrived. Thank the comic book Gods that Zdarsky returned the book to a gritty street-level crime drama, with Matt Murdoch looking vulnerable and capable of making some terrible mistakes. Some dark and dirty art from the likes of Marco Checchetto adds to the noir feel of the book, and this run continues to look like a classic one, right up there with Miller and Nocenti.
Oh, there was a task at hand here. Batman and Catwoman didn’t get married in Batman’s own title, despite all the hype and circumstance, and left many readers dropping the book. Catwoman then gets her own title, written and drawn by Joelle Jones, who did what any good creator would do — brush off the previous events in Batman and quickly move onto a storyline more in line with the character herself. Scratchy art and a muted color palette, along with a crime caper and an insidious female antagonist, has kept this title exciting, nice to look at and more importantly, a Catwoman that is recognizable and rings true.
Ice Cream Man
Ice Cream Man is a horror anthology comic that crept up in 2018 and continued through 2019. There’s a strange existential terror building throughout this series that varies in style and tone, leaving the reader never really knowing where the next issue will lead. Owing more to David Lynch than Tales From The Crypt, this title is so varied in its approach, that the whole thing borders on experimental. Definitely the strangest title on this list.
John Constantine: Hellblazer
This is a bit of a cheat, as there are only two issues out, but I have high hopes for this title that is set to return John to the more Vertigo (remember that was a thing) based reality that suits the character so much more than the DC superhero realm. Constantine was always at his best when the stories were based in our world, devoid of a Superman, and populated by the most horrific and violent antagonists, and a supporting cast that John ultimately loves, but knows that their part in his life will end in their death, or worse. Si Spurrier seems to have a grasp on John and writes his dialogue well, and artist Aaron Campbell has hit the ground running on the title. Hoping for great things in 2020.
Something Is Killing the Children
A horror series from Boom Studios written by James Tynion. With the title of the comic telling you the plot, we are introduced to Erica, who seems to be the only one that understands what is happening, believes it to be real, and is determined to stop the horror. This is a straightforward action story that veers towards horror, and has Netflix written all over it.
Once And Future
Boom Studios strike gold again with this action title by Kieron Gillan and Dan Mora. Sure we have seen a lot of this type of thing before; an ancient artifact that leads to an Arthurian character showing up and a retired monster hunter coming out of retirement to fight the evil. It’s a great fun story mixing magic and history from an experienced well-loved writer.
Honorable mentions for the best comics of 2019 go to Criminal by the incredible team of Sean Philips and Ed Brubaker, probably the most consistently well-written and drawn crime comic franchise ever, Immortal Hulk by Al Ewing that started with a reboot of Hulk but infused with the early horror of Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing, Grant Morrison’s love letter to the silver age of DC, Green Lantern, Sean Gordon Murphy’s White Knight titles, that continues to build a whole Murphy-verse of comics, Skottie Young’s Middlewest, a coming of age story with a young boy trying to figure out his life, with a cast of characters that often don’t seem to be everything they say they are and despite what you may say, Doomsday Clock by Geoff Johns is a masterpiece that was killed by ridiculous scheduling and other editorial decisions that I will never know of or begin to guess, but something went wrong and this book seems to have been sidelined, which is a shame, because when I saw that smiley face badge in The Batcave, I was in for the long haul. The last issue just came out, and nobody cared.