Late December means it’s time for some “Best of” lists. But while others are taking this opportunity to look back at the decade, we’re simply going to focus on the year that was. Today, we’re going to take a look at the ongoing series that pulled us in from their first issue and have refused to let us go. There may have been some ups and downs, but in the end, they were the book we were most looking forward to each month.
Best New Series (first issue in 2019) – Licensed
Dan’s Pick: Buffy the Vampire Slayer (BOOM! Studios)
Into every generation, a slayer is born. Likewise, into every generation comes a new version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer for fans to latch onto. With the comics license of Buffy moving over from Dark Horse to BOOM! Studios in late 2018, fans were cautiously optimistic that the publisher could breathe new life into the Slayer and her friends like they have done for Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. With writer Jordie Bellaire at the helm and a fantastic art team that includes Dan Mora and David Lopez, the new Buffy series captures the overall feel of the show while providing a fresh update and placing these beloved characters in new situations. As far as reboots are concerned, this has been an unequivocal success.
Jason’s Pick: Daredevil (Marvel Comics)
There aren’t many full series I follow, normally it’s mini or maxi series. This is due to multiple reasons, one being I’m more of a trade person. Hearing great things about Zdarsky’s Daredevil I finally picked it up. Having read all of the previous series of the ol’ horn head I was expecting the same old story; much like Spider-Man, DareDevil always has shit luck. It seems no one likes him happy, writers, editors, and readers included. Zdarsky keeps the trend of DareDevil down and out, yet it feels different. It keeps Zdarsky’s ever famous humor, yet it retains a human side that makes you want to root for Matt Murdock.
Mike’s Pick: Conan the Barbarian (Marvel Comics)
When the news came out in 2018 that Marvel got the rights back to Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian after a break of over fifteen years I could not have cared less. I just thought of those terrible Arnold Schwarzenegger movies from the eighties, but Jason Aaron was going to be writing it so I had to give it a chance. I’m glad I did. Aaron’s run on Conan has been a fun ride and Mahmud Asrar’s art has been a great compliment to the story. This book is a great jumping in point for new fans to check out what the barbarian is all about. Aaron’s writing brings to life all the action and bravado of the barbarian on an epic level while giving you a glimpse of Conan’s end right in the first issue, The life & Death of Conan part 1. Each month a bigger, more impossible-to-survive situation befalls our hero and each month he bests the challenge and revels in the glory of surviving another brush with death. What could possibly bring an end to Conan!? Pick this series up. It’s well worth a read. It definitely changed my mind on Conan the Barbarian.
Best New Series – Creator Owned
Dan’s Pick: Once and Future (BOOM! Studios)
The lead up to the release of Once and Future #1 was pretty unprecedented for a BOOM! Studios title. It had already sold out and was going back for 5th and 6th printings before the first issue even dropped. Clearly, having Kieron Gillen (The Wicked + The Divine, DIE) launch a new creator-owned series at a publisher other than Image generated some buzz, as did having rising star artist Dan Mora. Surprisingly, the series has lived up to the hype. Giving readers a unique spin on the Arthurian legends and sneaking in some commentary on rising nationalist trends, Once and Future has become a must-read title. It’s varied cast of great characters, whip-smart dialogue, and dynamic artwork makes each issue an immersive, escapist adventure that stays with the reader well past the final page.
Mike’s Pick: Once and Future (BOOM! Studios)
I agree with Dan on this one and feel he covered this book pretty well. Go check it out if you haven’t already.
Jason’s Pick: Money Shot(Vault Comics)
“A story about scientists having sex with aliens for the glory of mankind-and money.”
That tagline would make you believe that Vault Comics Money Shot is all about humans having sex with aliens. Granted, you aren’t wrong. But, it turns out Tim Seeley and Sarah Beattie’s tale of scientest finding new planets and holes is so much more than its humor and sex. Yes, both of those are great in the comic, but the part that really shines through is Money Shots characters. For such an outlandish idea the characters feel real. The XXX-Plorers – perfect name – could be anybody you know in real life. The story may be set in space, but it’s so down to earth that you’ll go through a myriad of feelings with each team member.
Best Ongoing Series – Licensed
Dan’s Pick: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (IDW Publishing)
Quietly, IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has become the definitive version of the famed reptiles. With original co-creator Kevin Eastman teaming with writer Tom Waltz for the entirety of the series, TMNT has had consistent, high-quality storytelling while being unafraid to heighten the stakes or kill off a core character. They have rode their success all the way to their 100th issue, a rare feat in today’s industry. Meanwhile, the consistency of the series extends to the artwork, anchored by artist Dave Wachter and colorist Ronda Pattison. Then there’s the series’ spin-offs, which have been mostly great, including 2019’s Shredder in Hell. Even if you aren’t a TMNT fan, there is a craftsmanship and care to this series that may catch the most jaded readers off guard.
Jason’s Pick: Immortal Hulk (Marvel Comics)
I’ve read a few Hulk runs and events in my day, yet I’d never call myself a Hulk fan. Even after calling Immortal Hulk my Best Ongoing Series (before 2019) I wouldn’t consider myself a Hulk fan. Yet, Immortal Hulk is a hulking achievement in horror, storytelling, and bringing in a vast history of a character into play. Immortal Hulk is written by Al Ewing, with the majority of art from Joe Bennett. One of Immortal Hulk’s strengths is the fact it isn’t bogged down by filler arcs, event tie-ins, or hopping between writers. Instead it sets out to tell a consistently great story, while never diverting its path to tell stories to tie it into the main Marvel Universe. Luckily you barely need to know what else is transpiring in the Universe to enjoy the comic. But, some knowledge on the Hulk would be beneficial. Now to the part that sold me—the art.
I had heard of the comic, and read its praise, but not until I saw some of its art did I pick up the trades/floppies. The easiest way to describe it is, John Carpenter’s The Thing cranked up to the max. But, ye with weak art may not want to read it, because it’s easy to see that some may not enjoy the brutal images throughout. Yet, Immortal Hulk is fantastic and should be checked out by those interested.
Best Ongoing Series – Creator Owned
Dan’s Pick: DIE (Image Comics)
Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Hans’ fantasy epic is unlike anything being published today. Riffing on role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons, DIE is essentially what would happen if the adult half of Stephen King’s It was actually good. Following a group of adults that had a traumatic gaming experience as children, they are forced to confront their past in order to redeem their future. While that may be a tad grandiose, DIE has a scale and scope befitting such a description.
While sharply written by Gillen, it is Stephanie Hans’ phenomenal artwork that is the real star. Hans, previously known mostly for her work doing covers, is perfectly described in the first issue’s solicit as an “artist supernova.” Each panel is beautifully painted, providing a raw texture in addition to expressive and dynamic visuals.
Jason’s Pick: Copra (Self-Published/Image Comics)
Much like Immortal Hulk I started reading Michel Fiffe’s Copra pretty late in the game, and started it because of the art. Damn is the art amazing, especially Fiffe’s unique use of panels and lettering. But comics rely on the story part as well. Luckily Fiffe’s writing is just as good as is art, as well as fun. Akin to Hellboy, Copra was released in multiple mini-series instead of one long running series structure. To some this may read weird, but for the stories Fiffe sets out to tell it works quite well. Going back to my original sentence, I first read Copra in the trades that Image released. Originally Copra was self-published, that was until Image took over which resulted in them releasing trades for each of Copra’s “rounds” before they debuted Fiffe’s newest round under their name. If you enjoy Suicide Squad that will actually kill its main characters, Copra is for you!
Mike’s Pick: Crowded (Image Comics)
The creative team of Christopher Sebela, Ro Stein and Ted Brandt have put out a wildly imaginative and hilarious series in Crowded. A story which takes place in the near future where the gig/app economy has gone to a whole new level. A world where an average, although rather scatterbrained, woman named Charlie finds herself the target of an assassination campaign crowdfunded on the Reapr app. She then hires Vita, the worst rated bodyguard on the Dfend app, to keep her alive. This “Odd Couple” action adventure will have you laughing out loud as the story follows this pair’s quest for survival and their search to find out who put out the hit on Charlie as everyone from incompetent civilians and aspiring assassins to methodically focused killers try to off them. Ro Stein and Ted Brandt’s art really brings great acting an emotion to our characters while keeping action going full throttle when the needs arises. Sebela’s writing really sucks you into Charlie and Vita’s world and keeps you cheering for them as the action and craziness just keeps piling on.