To close out 2018 we’d like to list our “top comics” of the year.  This has been a fantastic year for the comic community in terms of the breadth and depth of the books coming out.  The last quarter of the year exploded with prime examples of this.  There are a few books that would have made this list MUCH MUCH harder to dwindle to 10 if they’d have come out earlier in the year.  I’ve even got one in that section that was majorily a 2017 book but did have 4 issues this year to conclude the series.

     First up is the “I wish there was more but holy hell are these fantabulous already” section (to include that one that ended this year).  The White Noise 4 Horsemen (Dan Watters, Ryan O’Sullivan, Alex Paknadel and Ram V) have put out absolutely stellar books for Vault Comics that are pushing the boundaries, and rewriting some, of the comic book medium.  Fearscape, Friendo, and These Savage Shores have shot out of the gate and blown our collective minds.  Fearscape (O’Sullivan) flexes the literary muscle and manages to make a comic book feel like so much more.  The power in its prose is unrelenting and oh by the way we’ve got one hell of a story on our hands.  Friendo (Paknadel) isn’t to be out done though.  This is the horrific tale of the all too real barrel we’re staring down and how we lose ourselves before the trigger is even pulled.  We literally sell ourselves, souls and any shred of who we are for the next shiny thing.  This one’s scary because it’s true.  Of course These Savage Shores (Ram V) brings the traditional horror characters but a completely unconventional script to lay them out.  Right as you get the feeling you know what’s going on you’re shown that the horrors have horrors greater then them.
     Vault isn’t the only one having fun however.  Infinite Dark is showing off Ryan Cady’s writing prowess with a tale of dread and woe.  Hopelessness and dread fill the minds of everyone at times and what could be more hopeless or dreadful than being on a “malfunctioning” space arc holding the last remnants of the human race after the heat death of the universe … YEAH.  This one is fantabulous, dark and full of icky that makes you want more.  Keeping in vein of that icky but wanting more, Hot Lunch Special from Eliot Rahal has its icky in an outlet much closer to home.  We all know that small town with big secrets.  Here we’re being given a big time mafioso war playing out through a family tale.  The heart chords he’s plucking are very clearly personal.  It makes for damn fine reading.  Damn fine reading is exactly what Saladin Ahmed gave us with Black Bolt.  The tale of the ‘Midnight’ King wrapped up this year and it was one of the best ever expositions of a character.  We got a bare bones stripped down to the core story of one of the most powerful characters in the Marvel universe.  For all his power he’s never been more powerful than he was in these 12 issues.  The thought and care put into this story was superb.

So now we head over to what we feel are the TOP COMICS of 2018!

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Immortal Hulk
Al Ewing – Joe Bennett – Ruy Jose – Paul Mounts
Everything you know and love about the Hulk … isn’t here.  This is a return to the roots of the character and what the Hulk is.  A monster.  The outward rage machine driven by the inward hate machine is front and center.  Even more appealing is that the mythos is being built upon and there is so much more to the Hulk and the gamma radiation, than we ever knew or dreamed.  Both his friends and his enemies are after him and “sightings” have started spotting the map in the vein of the serial killer hunts.  This is a down right excellent book.  You know nothing about the Hulk.  Read this book.

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Spectacular Spider-man
Chip Zdarsky – Adam Kubert – Juan Frigeri – Jordie Bellaire
If you had to describe the essence of what makes Spider-Man, and more so Peter Parker, such a perfect ideal of a super-hero character this book would be a great way to capture that description.  It’s a little over the top here and there, is way more involved than you’d ever feel you could believe Spidey could be and features classic characters and issues from the way back days of Spideydom.  It’s a nice package of everything that is Spidey and what makes Parker so endearing.

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Black Badge
Matt Kindt – Tyler Jenkins – Hilary Jenkins 
This feels like an old book in all the right ways.  Page worn looking art really brings about the espionage tale of the boy scouts!  Yes, that’s right.  An elite ops group that navigates by way of the good ‘ol boy scouts?  Too good.  But wait, there’s more!  It ain’t just the Black Badge … there’s a few others as well.  But who can be trusted?  Expert espionage under the guise of wholesome America is a sure fire winner.  Expertly done and a fresh take on the genre.

James Asmus – Joseph Keatinge – Christopher Sebela – Joshua Williamson – Joe Infurnari – Jordan Boyd 
A big team but this is a book with a big scope.  Horror comes in all shapes, sizes and forms.  Here we’re dealing with the horror of human evolution.  At least, that’s what it seems is going on, but is there something else at play?  A doc that caught on quick is now considered a crazy outsider but of course he’s uncovered the truth.  There’s familiar set ups but this is a book that is delivering a different type of approach to the potential end of the world.  Consistently good and engrossing.  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, truly.

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Dark Ark
Cullen Bunn – Juan Doe
We all know the story, but in the immortal words of Paul Harvey, this is “the rest of the story.”  Everything has another side and the good in the world is no exception.  This is the story of the OTHER ark built to withstand the flood.  The unnatural, evil and monstrous creations and beings inhabit this and it’s as bad of an idea as you’d think.  Treachery, deceit and of course murder are all on tap in this twisted tale of salvation from the flood.

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Bone Parish
Cullen Bunn – Jonas Scharf – Alex Guimaraes
It’s as if Cullen has felt his ‘horror kingpin’ title is being challenged.  With Dark Ark (and Cold Spots) and this book he’s FIRMLY reminding people that he’s THE horror author in comics today.  This book is showing just how wide of a net he casts over the genre.  This book brings normal disputes (drugs, territory, opposing families/groups) into his dimly lit cave of storytelling.  This book is haunting as well as out right scary.  If you want a combination of some of the darkest corners of self-inflicted horror and tangible terror, then look no further.

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Wasted Space
Michael Moreci – Hayden Sherman – Jason Wordie
The galaxy, well, sucks at this point.  There’s a literal rag tag group here that can save it, or … well do something about it at least.  It isn’t often that something comes along and immediately grabs you and TELLS YOU that it is going to be special.  This book does that and lets you know that you’re going to forget all about those Space Opera Epic type stories because THIS one is where it’s at.  While managing to be fun, funny, functional and forward with the narratives Wasted Space is a finely woven piece that is far more complex than the fuqbot facade implies.  You want epicness?  Here you are.

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Deep Roots
Dan Watters – Val Rodrigues – Triona Farrell
A lesson in expertly laid out duality, Deep Roots was actually the first salvo in the afore  mentioned White Noise 4 Horsemen.  This book landed as the announcement was being made and it set a tone that was completely unreal.  Current political/social realities are merged with a fantasy realm to paint a disturbing yet beautiful picture of not only our current state, but our potential future.  The commentary runs layers deep and touches on very real issues.  Though, this does not keep the book from being an utterly fantastic fantasy tale.

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Long Lost
Matthew Erman – Lisa Sterle
There’s truth in “you can never go home again” and with Long Lost we get an absolute brilliantly laid out dreadful reckoning of two sisters that make the attempt to do so.  People change, places change and so does everything else.  When you hear “it’s worth it” this is a book that is absolutely that, worth it.  A slow burn but only because there are layers of metaphors and symbolism that are peeled back to make the payoff that much more impactful.  It is all but wrapped up and the ending to this book will be tragic in several meanings of the word … but in the best possible way.  This is easily the sleeper hit of the comic year.

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The Wilds
Vita Ayala – Emily Pearson
A zombie book that is anything but a zombie book was my most pleasant surprise of the year.  In an overstuffed genre we got a team that took it and made something else out of it entirely.  This book is beautiful in both exposition and visuals.  Several ideals are visited (mob mentality, self identity, social identity) as the odd and disturbing events unfold.  Of course, the secret of it all reveals the true horror of things and how it relates to us.  I wasn’t sure what to expect but found an absolute gem.

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