Well it's the end of the year and 2019 was a great year for comics and it's like 2020 will keep that trending upward. Now I don't normally do a year end best of, it's subjective really like all lists are and it's hard when you read and review so many titles to pick 10 that stand out above all others. Luckily I have my weekly review lists for the year so I could go through and see which ones I thought had the greatest impact on me. Then I had to narrow that down and trust me this was incredibly hard to do. But I got em and I'm not going to rank them but I'll go through them alphabetically as this represents the best of the best for 2019!
First up is Cold Blood Samurai from Action Lab Entertainment by Massimo Rossi, Ludonaca Ceregatti and Renato Stevanato. Personally this was one of the most beautifully written and illustrated stories of the year. The messages within the story ring true today as they would have in Feudal Japan. Love, loss and that desire or loss thereof in one's life finds a new sense of purpose. Massimo makes his mark in American comics with this one and it's a statement that he's here and he's good. If you haven't read this get the Trade because trust me it's one of the absolute best books to have come out. With some of the most beautifully crafted interiors here you will never be able to look at lizards, frogs or even spiders the same way again. This should be an animated film which will retain cult status like the original Watership Down.
Honor and Curse from Mad Cave Studios by Mark London, Nicolás Salamanca and Tekino. Mad Cave Studios made their mark in 2019 in a huge way. With several titles being released that garnered a lot of fanfare from readers. For me this is the best book they offered us and as Genshi fights his inner demon and wants to marry Lord Haruki's daughter. This however was never meant to be and we learn why Lord Haruki was so vehemently opposed to Genshi's being adopted into the clan after he was orphaned. With strong and powerful writing, characterisation and story development wrapped up in this gorgeous Japanese setting this often violent book has a grace and charm that singles it out for one of my best of the year.
John Carpenter's Tales of Science Fiction: Surviving Nuclear Attack from Storm King Comics is the next entry on this list. Joe Harris, Cat Staggs and Janice Chiang bring us one of the most unexpected and interesting titles of the year. A group of friends out hunting find themselves in a Nuclear Fallout Shelter with the bodies of the past occupants. What ensues is sensational and embodies everything that is a John Carpenter film. With this dynamic writing, characterisation and story development wrapped up in some of Cat's best work to date this is one that not only takes you by surprise but it's a pure delight for the senses. Janice's lettering here is invaluable to the story and if you haven't seen or heard of this one you need to find it.
The Lollipop Kids from Aftershock Comics by Adam Glass, Aidan Glass, Diego Yapur, DC Alonso and Sal Cipriano. Central Park is patrolled by the Lollipop Kids who hunt down the fairy tale characters that to escape into our reality. Co-Created by Adam's son Aidan what you would think is a cute story is anything but as Nick discovers for himself. With his sister he is a legacy, his parents were Lollipop Kids and the job runs in the family. Adam Glass can seem to do no wrong as his writing demonstrates here and with some fine linework and attention to detail the interiors sing. Come watch the kids fulfil their destiny as the Lollipop Kids, dating back to when it was New Amsterdam, keep the monsters at bay!
Manifest Destiny from Skybound/Image Comics by Chris Dingess, Matthew Roberts and Owen Gieni has had it's issues getting copies on stands but the fact that it is still going and still in demand from it's faithful following showcases how good it really is. Meriwether Lewis and William Clark's historic expedition across America is told in ways the history books never dreamed of. With fantastical beasts both beautiful and deadly awaiting them at every turn of the river and never knowing who will survive this experience is what keeps us coming back time and time again. The writing is phenomenal and the creativity and imagination which is brought to life in these absolutely beyond belief interiors is just the icing on the cake.
Neon Future from Impact Theory by Steve Aoki, Jim Krueger, Neil Edwards, Jheremy Raapack, Keith Champagne, Abraham Lee, David Kim, Nuo Xu and Farhad Heydarian. Making their company debut at C2E2 and giving away the first issue managed to capture attention of con goers and with the quality of the story and interior artwork kept them coming back. Innovative fresh and interesting this look at a possible future where class positioning is still a thing makes for some interesting reading. From the concept through it's execution we're reminded that small companies, or brand spanking new ones, are home to some of today's best storytelling.
The No Ones from Cave Pictures Publishing by Jim Krueger and Well-Bee. This one came out of nowhere to become one of the best reads of the past decade. With it's non-traditional super team that has more problems then it does answers about their current situation this team is quite a gripping tale where no one and nothing is what they seem. Well-Bee's interiors are a revelation in the industry and his attention to detail alongside the colouring job he manages to bring to this instantly make him a fan favourite artist and illustrator. Jim's writing, dialogue and characterisation here remind us why he's one the most brilliant writers around. This also makes his second book in my year end list if you need further proof.
Red Winter from Scout Comics by Michael Gordon, Francisco Munoz, Rolands Kalnins and Nikki Sherman. A Russian crime noir thriller about a disgraced NYPD officer now living in Russia working for a mob boss. That this is on the list is a surprise to me as to anyone else I am sure but it's one that has stayed with me. The gritty writing. dialogue and characterisation are strong and the pacing is really well done. Though I have some questions about the Russian language being a little butchered by Michael it still fits for the intended audience. The interiors are as gritty as the writing and leave a wonderful impression. From it's almost scoffing of what we think of as traditionalism in comics to it's ending this is a ride I highly recommend you take.
Tap Dance Killer from Hero Tomorrow Comics by Ted Sikora, Nikolaus Harrison and David Baf Gallart. That this delightful surprise made my list should come as no surprise to those that follow me. After all the idea that Nikki breaks out of Jail and ends up in clown themed gang is totally up my alley. What Ted does with this is smart, intelligent storytelling with tremendous characterisation along with superb story & plot development. The strong, sleek linework that brings out some fabulous attention to detail only serves to strengthen the visual pleasure here. One of the more unique and interesting small press books that I have had the pleasure to be reading and ya know what if you haven't read it yet fix that in the new year!
TMNT Shredder in Hell from IDW Publishing by Mateus Santolouco. For me I have never been a huge fan of the Turtles franchise but this story not only took me by surprise it totally rocked my world. Being able to see a side of Shredder in death that we'd never seen in life from his childhood through to his death and after what we get is one of the most poignant and powerful stories to be written. The characterisation is so good it made me a fan of the character and I found myself tooting for him throughout. Then there are the interiors here and this quality and level of work is something we just don't see enough of.
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