We are just a week into 2020, but the remnants of 2019 still linger. How can you forget the awesome events, the excellent writing, the outstanding art, and the big surprises throughout the year? To commemorate the year and help you reminiscence, the AIPT staff has come together to make our picks for a variety of categories. We’ve already shared our favorite single issue comics, and the AIPT Comics Podcast spent over 3 hours talking 2019 in review, and now officially we make our picks for best of 2019.
The categories are…
Gone too soon (best cancelled series)
Best comic to show a lapsed fan
Best horror series
Best #1 of the year
Best single issue
Best color artist
Best ongoing series
Gone too soon – the best series that was canceled
Dave – Loki by Daniel Kibblesmith and Oscar Bazaldua
This was a series that was incredibly imaginative, written as if Kibblesmith knew he only had a few issues to make it or break it. Sadly, the series didn’t get more than 5 issues, but it showed once again a spark of humor, ingenuity, and creative perspective on the Marvel universe.
Forrest – Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man by Tom Taylor and Juann Cabal
On its face, I thought the idea of a sister series to Amazing Spider-Man taking place at the same time as those stories, in some of the same places, and with the same characters, was plainly ridiculous and unfeasible. But Tom Taylor made it work. Oh, how he, Juann Cabal, and others made it work while they had the briefest of shots. Friendly Neighborhood was just that: a small, friendly story about Peter Parker’s day-to-day life in between being hunted, fighting lizards, and time traveling. He cared about his family, his partner, and his community, and he appreciated the small weird eccentricity of a superhero life in the way most books don’t provide time for. Taylor wrote Parker with earnestness, nuance, and a humanistic eagerness that I not only appreciated but loved, especially alongside the new villains and supporting castmates brought to life with great, varied art. For too short a time, the mainline Peter Parker book wasn’t the best Spider-Man coming out and I will miss it very sincerely.
Vishal – Ironheart by Eve L. Ewing and Luciano Vecchio
Brian Michael Bendis’s run on Invincible Iron Man really didn’t leave readers with too much love for Riri Williams. But in absolutely no time at all, Eve L. Ewing and Luciano Vecchio made Ironheart one of my favorite Marvel characters — her struggle to understand people and be accepted hit home in a great way, the art was absolutely gorgeous every issue, and Riri felt like her age (something superhero comics tend to forget about their younger characters). I could have read 100 issues of this series, but unfortunately it only stayed around for a year.
Dave – The Walking Dead‘s Demise
The biggest surprise of 2019 and likely the decade is The Walking Dead ending with issue #193. In the very first issue, writer Robert Kirkman laid out a reason for the series at all when he wrote:
The idea behind the Walking Dead is to stay with the character, in this case, Rick Grimes for as long as is humanly possible. I want The Walking Dead to be a chronicle of years of Rick’s life. We will never wonder what happens to Rick next, we will see it. The Walking Dead will be the zombie movie that never ends. Well… not for a good long time at least.
To me, that meant the series may never end at all, which is an exciting premise. Certainly, the series had no end in sight given the show’s continued popularity and sales remaining strong. Add in the fact that Image Comics solicited the next few issues, and one could surmise this ending was purposefully a secret. But the cancellation shocked everyone. Comic shops, in particular, didn’t order enough copies and thus there was a shortage of issues for casual fans to pick up. Kirkman later went on to say this was on purpose so longtime fans could get a surprise ending they deserved. Bravo to Kirkman for pulling off the seemingly impossible in an age where spoilers are common.
Forrest – DC’s Grand Restructure
There’s a lot reasons DC made the choice to restructure into an age bracket mode. Because Warner Brothers is finally flexing their muscles at the publishing and editorial level. And because Marvel is flooding the market in a way, making it difficult to compete. Even just because there were too many disparate ideas, niches, and lines for any one group of editors.
Either way, DC completely restructuring their line mid-year into a poorly defined age bracket model (young, teen, and adult), however was weird at best and damaging at worst. Quardening off the younger population — a key demographic — from presumably purchasing your mainline books like (Batman, Justice League, etc.) is as risky a move as putting more time and money into, say, Black Label. It’s reasonable to assume the entire structure might collapse under blurred lines, inconsistent messaging, and a weird adherence to removing imprints while still also supporting Young Animal and the recently launched Hill House.
Everything turned out okay (maybe better than OK, given the success of DC Zoom and Ink), but the move, and the messaging around it remains as baffling and surprising a choice as any.
Best comic to show a lapsed fan
Christopher F. – House of X/ Powers of X
I can imagine that the X-Men have probably been a big part of everyone’s comic book collection, and with the rise of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the X-Men sadly weren’t a focus for Marvel. Instead, other properties got the spotlight like Guardians of the Galaxy and Inhumans. So the X-Men just faded away and the stories were left without the power and scope the X-Men had once been capable of. The enter Jonathan Hickman with his wild world-building ways. Hickman has taken X-Men-centric ideas to a new level, with the two crossing over in the mini-series of House and Powers. This is some serious world-building; plus, you don’t have to worry about backstory or back issues. New languages, relationships, and futures are in store for fans of now and then, so if you want to get back into what makes comic books “X-citing” then start here for some edge of your seat action and drama. See what is happening to familiar faces as they enter a new age of storytelling.
Best horror series
Vishal – These Savage Shores by Ram V and Sumit Kumar
There’s a distinct lack of Indians in comics. Partially at a character level, considering all the Indian big 2 characters are ancillary and forgettable, but even more noticeably among creators. Ram V and Sumit Kumar, along with Aditya Bidikar and Vitorio Astone, have needed just 5 issues to show how truly unique that perspective can be. These Savage Shores is a book that could only be created by Indians, and is all the better for it. This is not your cliched vampire story — this is a story of the people whose stories have been suppressed for generations.
Best #1 of the year
Dave – Captain Marvel #1 by Kelly Thompson and Carmen Carnero
This series came out way back in the first week of January, but it blew me away. It was the perfect introduction for a new series, and helped get us hype for the upcoming Captain Marvel movie. Plus, it served as an inspiring opening salvo on why this character is so dang good.
From my own review: “The creative team has a confident handle on the character in a comic that is entertaining, endearing, and exciting all at once. Before you get excited about the movie, get excited about this series. It’s the real deal. Get hype. This is the very definition of strong character writing.”
Forrest – Silver Surfer: Black #1 by Donny Cates and Tradd Moore
No comic produced this year deserves a special treasury printing than Cates and Moore’s Silver Surfer: Black. Elusive, expressive, and extremely weird, the first issue of the incisive mini series sees the Surfer weeping at the site of planets being consumed, traveling through space-time literally torn apart from the inside in a supremely Kirby-esque sequence, and finding a very unexpected new foe in perhaps the most surprising cliffhanger of the year. Truly a masterpiece of cosmic weirdness and chaos that would’ve brought a smile to Stan Lee’s face.
Rory – Spider-Man: Life Story by Chip Zdarsky and Mark Bagley
This was quite the experiment toward Marvel’s most iconic superhero as Zdarsky and Bagley ages up Peter Parker over the course of six issues, with each issue showcasing one decade that mixes real-world politics and Marvel continuity, like the Cold War and Secret Wars. Adding new wrinkles towards known Spidey stories stories such as the original Clone Saga and Kraven’s Last Hunt, the project honors what came before whilst cleverly deviating to show what keen life directions our hero goes through. Considering that 2018 was an incredible year for Spider-Man through multiple forms of media, 2019 continued that success, and Life Story is one of the great examples that Spidey can still be fresh in any day and age.
Christopher F. – DCeased
Tom Taylor loves the DC universe so much that he kills it! This was just such a fun, thrilling ride of a story with everything wrapped up in a six-issue miniseries and one-shot that encased the majority of the DCU as they submit to Anti-Life. If you have read his issues of Injustice, you know that he can make you care about the characters in the most intense ways possible. If you’re looking for a tale at the end of the world, or even a story of hope (which sounds crazy with that title, right?), then make time for this one.
Vishal – Age of X-Man: X-Tremists by Leah Williams and Georges Jeanty
Leah Williams is a new creator who’s been getting a ton of buzz recently, and the only thing you need to read to understand why is X-Tremists. Using this wholly alien world to explore beloved characters in new contexts is an interesting hook on its own, but Williams takes it one step further by using this new universe to explore queer erasure in comics and in the real world. People being forced to suppress their own love for fear of being persecuted really rings true for queer people, and Williams truly does the concept justice. Everything about this series is fantastic, and I can’t wait to see Leah Williams on an X-ongoing next year.
David H. – Going to the Chapel by David Pepose and Gavin Guidry
Going to the Chapel is my favorite series that I read this year. The story appears to be your standard paint-by-numbers heist, but David Pepose throws in a fantastic twist!
The story revolves around bride-to-be Emily and her architect husband Jesse. They are at the church about to be married and the Bad Elvis Gang crash the wedding to steal a valuable reckless owned by Emily. Things don’t go as planned for the gang and the police surround the church, resulting in a hostage situation!
Going to the Chapel is very much a heist story, but it is also a story about self realization and coming to terms with your true self. The book is filled with many colorful characters, from the Bad Elvis gang to Emily’s comical but highly dysfunctional family. The series is only four issues, but Pepose does an incredible job fleshing out the narrative, characters, and even able to pull off a satisfying ending. Don’t sleep on this title!
Best maxi-series (12 issues)
Forrest – Coda by Si Spurrier and Matias Bergara
Coda started in 2018, but it really sang in its final year. An emotionally raw, honest, and beautiful ode to relationships, community, and doing the right thing, Coda is unimpeachable storytelling. Hum is a naturally disappointing but deeply relatable character whose journey across the scarred, visually stunning world of Coda makes sense in all its greatness and small intricacies and speaks to a more realistic heroism than most comics deliver these days. The fact that he’s accompanied by a supporting cast of talking dragon skeletons, unreliable rogues, and brutally strong yet lovable orc women just makes it all that more amazing.
Dave – Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt by Kieron Gillen and Caspar Wijngaard
If if you’ve been reading comics for a length of time, Watchmen is a series that you’ve likely checked off your list. It’s an influential story that has movie and TV adaptations for a reason. Gillen and Wijngaard have taken that series, the history of comics in general, and where comics went post-Watchmen and crafted something truly special with their Dynamite series Peter Cannon. This series is one to study in its approach and craftsmanship. It’s a series that was clearly made by creators who understand comics backward and forwards and wanted to make a true statement. It’s a must-read for anyone who has read comics for a length of time.
AIPT writer Ritesh Babu put it best in his “Why Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt #1 is an absolute must-read for any comic fan” story and I implore you to read it to understand its true importance!
Best Single Issue (One-Shot or Otherwise)
Rory – Conan the Barbarian: Exodus by Esad Ribic
As someone who went through a conversion and found a love toward Conan the Barbarian, especially upon Jason Aaron’s run at Marvel, Ribic’s one-shot is a masterclass when it comes to silent issue storytelling. After 15 winters, the young Cimmerian sets forth from his homeland to see the world for the first time. Beautifully painted by Ribic, we see this young man surviving through the obstacles that come his way, whether it is the weather, the animals, or the warriors with zero mercy. On a personal note, I had the great pleasure of meeting Ribic at a convention and he signed my copy of this issue while also sharing that he’s got another Conan one-shot in the works. If you haven’t read any of the recent comics featuring the Cimmerian, Crom demands that you do.
Christopher F. – Tales From the Dark Multiverse: Infinite Crisis by James Tynion IV and Aaron Lopresti
The Blue Beetle gets his due! If you go back to March of 2005 you might remember Countdown to Infinite Crisis #1, a massive catalyst of great change for the DCU and a massive showcase for Ted Kord. Until he straight died in the book, which gave fans a fresh perspective into the character. Luckily things have changed with DC’s Rebirth,and we have Kord back and thanks to the Dark Multiverse. With Tynion and Lopresti’s one-shot, we get to see how things could’ve gone horribly different for Ted. To some extent, it changes our view of Kord, but then it also helps us understand the scope of the Dark Multiverse and all of its emotional and narrative bounties.
Dave – Joe Sabino
It’s awe-inspiring when you read comics on a weekly basis and see the same few names lettering multiple books every week. By far letterers touch more books in a single month than anyone, which is a testament to how influential they are in the medium. Sabino’s work stands out on titles like War of the Realms, Dead Eyes, King Thor, and Fallen Angels, but for me, but he’s influenced so many more titles than that. Between indie books like Redneck and event books like War of the Realms, there’s a storytelling craft taking place that’s impressive.
Dave – Matthew Wilson
Matthew Wilson colors a lot of books. That giant list includes many big-name titles (he’s behind the vivid realism of War of the Realms), wrapping up Wicked + Divine, blowing everyone away with multiple Thor titles, and capturing a whole other type of coloring with Paper Girls. Wilson colors our fandom in so many ways.
Dave – NK Jemisin
It should come as no surprise that Jemisin was going to blow us away with her first comic book series seeing as she has multiple award (including a Hugo and Nebula) under her belt. Her series Far Sector is an incredible work that melds Green Lantern mythos with a new character who works at the far edges of the universe. Just two issues have been released, but with her imaginative world build backed up by artist Jamal Campbell, it’s an exciting time. I can’t help but think we have so many more comics series to read from Jemisin going forward.
Vishal – Eve L. Ewing
Eve Ewing’s announcement that she would be writing for Marvel Comics was met with some backlash by some unsavory types, but her performance writing Ironheart for 12 issues really proved how fantastic her ability was. The series captured an incredibly relatable sense of anxiety and self-doubt through Riri’s eyes, and with Luciano Vecchio’s art to tie it all together, the series was secretly one of the best books of the year. I really can’t wait for Outlawed and wherever she takes the Champions.
Forrest – Si Spurrier
Spurrier is a storyteller’s storyteller. Interested readers need look no further than The Dreaming to see how sincerely and seriously he takes world-building, character development, and a respect for the reader’s time. However, Coda, Hellblazer, and a surprising bout of Star Wars stories also deserve ample praise. Inventive, believable, and effective all the same, his work showcase organic characters living in immaculately conceived worlds, every element part of stories with the eager excitement of a Neil Gaiman title. Spurrier is a true champion of the comics medium
Dave – Jason Aaron
There are many comics to adore this year. thus making the best writer category a hard one to choose. For me, Aaron takes the top spot. He not only pulled off Marvel’s big event War of the Realms, but also started a new series at Image Comics with Sea of Stars, closed out his 7-plus-year run on Thor with King Thor, and introduced Conan the Barbarian to the Marvel universe with flying colors. And not only that, he did the seemingly impossible by making Conan feel right at home at Marvel. The ungodly amount of pressure to pull off just one of these monumental things in a single year is impressive enough.
Forrest – Tradd Moore
Donny Cates’ take on the Silver Surfer may be the best since Stan Lee, but Black wouldn’t be the book it was without Moore’s trippy, weird, and slightly discomforting art. You feel the pull in your stomach as the Surfer is torn from asunder, tearing through space and time. You witness the intense sadness in his usually cold and featureless face upon watching civilization after civilization fall. Your mind drifts into visions of ancient wars, alien bodies, and metaphysical permutations with each page turn. Truly, no artist delivers a time, a place, and a feeling as strongly and confidently as Moore does.
Dave – Bilquis Evely
Evely continues to be one of my favorite artists thanks to her unique detailed style. Excellent inks and pencils make her books look otherworldly, which is important considering much of her work is surrounding The Dreaming. Her work is capable of capturing humanity in the most inhuman things, her montaged full and double-page splashes make Si Spurrier’s storytelling abilities sing, and she’s capable of capturing your imagination while the words practically attack you. It’s art unlike anything else currency being done.
Best Ongoing Series
Forrest – Immortal Hulk by Al Ewing
Ewing’s Immortal Hulk rebukes the expectations of the reader at every turn, and the story is all the better for it. Downright disrespectful to the MCU’s take on the popular character, Ewing’s world and characters live in the nuances of esoteric religion, nuclear anxiety, and toxic masculinity in a nod to extreme literal intentionality and merit that most superhero comics today simply don’t take the time to find let alone develop. This is a title where even the end of the universe isn’t off limits, and the only expectation you have going in is that all expectations will be exceeded.
Christopher F. – Daredevil by Chip Zdarsky and Marco Checchetto, Lalit Kumar Sharma, Jorge Fornes, and Franceso Mobili
The funny thing about this series is we’ve only seen the costume in a couple of the issues. Thus far, this has been a trial of the soul for Matt Murdock. Here, Zdarsky throws all sorts of obstacles at everyone’s favorite blind lawyer, with the book addressing struggles of faith and practice, law and order, and politics and corruption. This is a hugely important series in the character’s history, a way to question the Daredevil mythos in new and interesting ways. If you want to start off 2020 right, get this series on your pull list and get the back issues!
Dave – Vault Comics
If you’re into comic books, you know it was very hard not to hear someone gushing about every series published by Vault in 2019. This was the year of Vault in my eyes, with award caliber series popping up throughout the year. That list includes the shocking horror in These Savage Shores, the gripping historical science fiction of Money Shot, and other must-haves like The Mall, Resonant, and The Plot. Each title captured a sense of imaginative and exploratory storytelling that are crowning examples of how comic books stand as a dynamic form of storytelling.