The Best New Comic Series of 2019
I consider myself to be a Comic Book Nowist, meaning I love what’s going on in comics RIGHT NOW. Yes, there’s something for the nostalgia of older books, as well as the potential of books yet to come, but I’m mostly attracted to what’s going on in this moment. So, every year I try to put together a list of the very best of the new comics that dropped since January, and the annual tradition continues as I take a look at the best new comic series of 2019, and this year it’s a doozy!
The 2017 list and the 2018 list just seemed a whole lot easier to get together than this year’s list, and that may have to do with the sheer number of debut issues that dropped. Every Wednesday in 2019 had at least one series debut that could have made this list, and despite the first cut leaving me with a whopping 36 titles to sift through, there are a whole lot of books that could have made the final cut. Alas, we just don’t have enough room or time to give them all a mention, and I’m sure someone’s favorite series debut has been left off the list. I apologize. Yes, whittling this list down to just ten series was not easy, but, if you want to see where comics are now (and where they are likely to be heading in the future), this list makes for a pretty good barometer. So, without further ado, here are the 10 best new comic series of 2019.
10. G.I. Joe
A big part of the reason I’m even into comics at all is G.I. Joe. In the ’80’s I was all about two things: Transformers and G.I. Joe. My prepubescent self reveled in playing with those toys, eventually some comics made it into my toy-centric hobby, and the rest is, as they say, history. This year G.I. Joe was relaunched at IDW Publishing by writer Paul Allor and artist Chris Evenhuis with the most delicious of twists, turning the tried and true status quo on its head.
In this new series, Cobra has won, taken over the United States, with G.I. Joe becoming freedom fighting terrorists set to undo this wrong and set it right. Taking this decades-old scenario and flipping its script is not only a breath of fresh air for a franchise that most definitely needed it, but this switcheroo also acts as a timely reminder of just how thin the line between good and evil actually is.
9. Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man
With the main Spider-Man title getting bogged down in long, drawn out arcs and all-encompassing Spider-Events, it was not easy for readers to get their fix of Spidey without having to go all-in on extras and tie-ins…unless you read writer Tom Taylor’s Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man. FNS stars a more grounded, street-level Spider-Man, mostly detached from the overwhelming events of the overall universe, which allows a lot of space for the story to breathe and remain focused on Spider-Man and, more importantly, his (extraordinary) everyday life. But the true appeal of this series is its heart.
Dealing with everything from an underground (sort of) New York City and his crappy roommates to Aunt May’s cancer and visiting a terminal ill child in the hospital, this book is exactly what the title suggests. It’s a refreshing departure from the over-the-top Spidey stories you expect from Marvel’s biggest hero, and I loved every page.
It’s a two-fer for writer Tom Taylor as his DC Comics zombie story was simply a joy to read this year. It even got a one-shot tie-in AND there’s another mini-series slated for 2020 that’s sure to at least be in contention for next year’s installment of this very list, but this single series simply had it all.
No strings attached to continuity to bog it down, a whole lot of dope covers (including the very innovative Horror Movie Variants), amazing art, but DCeased makes the list solely because Tom Taylor is just so damn good at doing his own thing with well-known characters. Not to say he can’t write them in continuity, but when Taylor is able to spin his own universe with established characters he’s at a whole other level.
Action Lab put out this book from writer Rylend Grant and artist Fabio Alves in June, and it wasn’t on my radar at all. Then the guys over at ComicCast tossed it on our review pile, and I was instantly hooked. I’m a sucker for deconstructing superheroes, and Banjax does it with a flare and style rarely seen in comics today. It’s a throwback, without the throwback.
Best New Comic Series of 2019
I made comparisons to Watchmen when I talked about this book on the podcast, and while I stand by those comments to a large extent, I think the familiarity stems from the writer’s approach. Rylend Grant is able to do a whole lot in terms of building a living, breathing world full of really terrible superheroes, and although he does it with well-established tropes that found prevalence in the 1980’s, his modern writing style makes everything seem fresh and new. Yes, the whole hero deconstruction has been done to death, but Banjax showed there’s still some life left there.
6. Joker: Killer Smile
The best damn creative team on the planet (writer Jeff Lemire and artist Andrea Sorrentino) took a break from the best damn comic book on the planet (Gideon Falls) to take on one of the hottest characters of the entire year of 2019, and it was this team’s usual sense of pacing and style that made it all so wonderful. I’m not sure how a writer putting out so much material manages to make it all fantastic, and it’s the same way I cannot begin to understand how an artist like Sorrentino can keep up with it.
Lemire is easily my favorite writer of the whole year, Sorrentino is in my top 3 artists easily, so why is Joker: Killer Smile not higher on this list? It’s because I simply expect this level of quality from this team. I’m spoiled. This gripping take on The Joker will be celebrated for decades, and, I know, that’s a weird thing to say for a comic book series that didn’t break the top 5 of this list. It’s a testament to just how good these creators are, and how damn good comics are right now in general.
5. House of X, Power of X
The two-series-that-are-actually-one breaks us into the Top 5 of this list, and while it might be cheating to choose a two-for-one, you can’t blame me! All of the blame is directly on the shoulders of writer Jonathan Hickman and his vision for Marvel’s Merry Mutants. the X-Men have been struggling for years, with convoluted continuity plaguing every aspect of the franchise. Everything was such a mess that writers and the audience just couldn’t get on the same page, because there were just so many damned pages. So Hickman just burned the pages.
With the help of artists R.B. Silva and Pepe Larraz, Hickman did the impossible: He made the X-Men relevant and important again. Or maybe he just made them accessible and coherent again. Either way, the X-Men is the hottest thing in comics right now, and that journey began here. It goes to show that a good writer with a really good idea can take something mediocre and make it amazing.
4. American Jesus: New Messiah
If there’s one thing a book with the title American Jesus should do it’s be divisive, but writer Mark Millar and artist Peter Gross took a different approach with this debut. Respectfully, and with an air of importance, American Jesus retells the Nativity story in the modern day against the backdrop of Armageddon and the second coming of Jesus Christ. Why are more people not talking about this?!
Best New Comic Series of 2019
I love a good story derived from the Bible. BOOM! Studios’ Judas, Ahoy! Comics Second Coming, Image Comics The Goddamned are all comics pulling something from the best selling book ever, but this American Jesus series is different. Yes, those books pull material from the Bible, but they do so in very “comic book” ways. American Jesus removes the “comic book” extraordinary from this real-world scenario, and replaces it with the Biblical extraordinary, and it does so in the best way possible. More people should be talking about this series.
As I alluded to above, there’s a whole lot of great series that debuted in 2019 that were left off this list, but I’m not going to let that stop me from…putting them on the list. So, before we get to the top 3 best new comic series of 2019, here’s some near misses.
Crime noir from the best damn crime noir comic creative team on the planet, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips.
Guardians of the Galaxy
Donny Cates had a hell of a year with Marvel’s Cosmic stuff and it all ran through this great series.
Star Trek: The Q Conflict
I’m a Trekkie from way back, I love it all (not you, JJ), and to have all of those captains and crews together for one crazy Star Trek series was magical.
Spider-Man Life Story
Chip Zdarsky had a great year, and his real-time take on the life of Marvel’s biggest character was as compelling as it was unique.
Crazy, interesting, with a dash of heart, writer Mark Millar had a whole lot of fun with this extremely satisfying time traveling mini-series.
TMNT Shredder in Hell
Writer/artist Mateus Santolouco held nothing back in this mini, and it wound up being vitally important to TMNT’s year as a franchise.
Quite possibly the best damn crossover of the year, the Crisis on a Half-Shell story from writer James TynionIV and artist Freddie Williams II was a beautifully woven tapestry of both the TMNT and Batman mythos.
Stjepan Sejic is just an amazing talent, and every panel of this series was a feast for the eyes.
Something is Killing the Children
YOUR. NEW. Batman writer, James TynionIV, turned what I thought was going to be a throwaway monster hunter story into something truly special over at BOOM! Studios.
Gunning for Hits
This Image Comics series about an assassin turned pop music “headhunter” set in the 1980s from writer Jeff Rougvie and artist Moritat was my biggest surprise of the year.
3. The Last God
We were given a wonderful gift in comic book form as writer Philip Kennedy Johnson and artist Ricardo Federici delivered this very different sort of Black Label comic book. A fantasy set in a world of knightly heroes and demonic monsters, The Last God had brilliant world-building matched with beautiful art that was more than the sum of its parts. I’m not sure why there aren’t more original fantasy stories coming out of comics, but I’m hoping this starts a trend. Conan is great, the DnD stuff at IDW is fun, but The Last God is THE new mark for fantasy comics.
Best New Comic Series of 2019
All things considered, I couldn’t leave The Last God out of my top 3. It was superbly written and drawn, sure, but there’s a drought of really top-notch fantasy comics on comic store shelves, and this ended up scratching an itch I didn’t even realize I had. Fantasy comics have never gone out of style, but this year saw it return in a mainstream way, and The Last God lead the pack.
The best damn comic book at Marvel Comics right now isn’t Spider-Man or Thor or The Avenegrs, it’s the street level guardian of Hell’s Kitchen Daredevil from writer Chip Zdarsky and artist Marco Checchetto, and I do not say that lightly. Despite what many would have you believe, there are a lot of great titles being published at Marvel Comics. I mean, they publish over 100 comics a month! There has to be some good in there, and Daredevil isn’t just good, it’s great. These characters are living and breathing on the page, going through some truly dramatic things, with great action, and some of the best artwork in comics today.
Best New Comic Series of 2019
Yes, it’s basically your run-of-the-mill character deconstruction (that, of course, is leading into the inevitable character reconstruction), but Chip’s Daredevil is all about the side characters, their stories, their relationships to Matt, and how those build this wonderful drama…except Kingpin! And, holy crap, Kingpin! The ongoing deconstruction of Mayor Wilson Fisk may go down as one of the best Kingpin stories ever…if, of course, his inevitable reconstruction is as good. In a line of comics with just so many damn books every month, there are, in fact, some gems, and Daredevil is a diamond.
1. Money Shot
I’m a bit embarrassed to have this as the top pick on this list, but I think that’s part of the point of the series and I’m fighting a stigma here. It fits all the criteria, despite it being a guilty pleasure. It’s got a talented creative team in writers Tim Seeley, Sarah Beattie and artist Rebekah Isaacs. It stars a lovable team of science misfits who visit even cooler aliens as they travel the galaxy in search of science. At its center it has this compelling sex-positive outlook that’s trying to say something through the jokes, and it’s impossible not to have a good sense of humor given the premise, and what a premise it is. Most importantly, however, the book is just damn fun.
Money Shot is about a group of scientists in the future who decide to fund their expeditions and scientific endeavors by doing porn…weird, alien porn. While their plan to fund science through sex is certainly unconventional, the sex itself is treated as normal and everyday as anything else, which is another reason it made this list. In a medium where no one bats an eye at ultra violence, while books focused on sex tend to miss the mark, this series keeps the focus on the fun, the inclusion, and the positive, and that in and of itself makes Money Shot a big surprise. Money Shot is a well-written, beautifully drawn book with an ingenious premise built on important themes that’s just loads of fun to read.
Best New Comic Series of 2019