The 10 Best Superhero Comics of 2018

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The 10 Best Superhero Comics of 2018

“Hey, wait a minute Paste—didn’t you already publish your big best-of list for 2018? And didn’t that list contain superhero comics, kids comics, horror comics and sci-fi/fantasy comics, all under one big umbrella? What gives?” Well, intrepid Paste reader, you’re not wrong. Paste prides itself on taking as broad a look at the medium of comics as our small team can possibly manage. Our year-end rankings don’t discriminate between capes-and-tights adventures, creepy manga, bonkers webcomics or navel-gazing “literary” graphic novels, but when compiling our master list, we realized that 2018 was a deceptively great year for sequential art, and 25 notable books just didn’t cut it. Before the holidays roll around, we’ll be honoring books that excelled in the specific categories mentioned above. Some will overlap with our main list, but many won’t—and the way rankings shift around may surprise you. A title that stood out when viewed holistically might rank lower when assessed through a specific lens, and books that didn’t make the cut for the master list can easily come out on top of these individual breakdowns. If nothing else, we hope our newly expanded categories send you into 2019 with plenty of reading material.

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Mr. & Mrs. X Cover Art by Terry Dodson

10. Mr. & Mrs. X
Writer: Kelly Thompson
Artists: Oscar Bazaldua, David Lopez
Publisher: Marvel Comics 
It wasn’t a great year for weddings. When X-Men Gold #30 revealed that it wasn’t Kitty Pryde and Colossus who tied the knot, but instead Rogue and Gambit, there were a lot of questions about how exactly that had come about. The honest answer is that the misdirect was an unusual bit of marketing for Mr. & Mrs. X, the legally wedded follow-up to Kelly Thompson’s Rogue & Gambit miniseries. This entry could be easily swapped out for Thompson’s other 2018 triumphs: the conclusion of her celebrated run on Hawkeye and the launch of its spiritual sequel West Coast Avengers. Mr. & Mrs. X gets the nod because we’re suckers for mutants, sure, but also because it finally succeeded at something the X-line has tried and failed to do for years—recapture the glory of the Chris Claremont heyday. Thompson nails the balance of melodrama and action like few X-writers before her, and both Oscar Bazaldua and David Lopez are fully up to the task of rendering steamy Southern lovers, mutant dinner parties, outer-space brawlers and Louisiana assassins with equal skill. Another titles later on in this list revamped the X-Men for the current day, but take note: this is how you pay tribute to Claremont in style. Steve Foxe

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Catalyst Prime: Kino Cover Art by Frazer Irving

9. Catalyst Prime: Kino
Writer: Alex Paknadel
Artist: Diego Galindo
Publisher: Lion Forge
Lion Forge’s nascent Catalyst Prime shared superhero universe has had interesting elements, but has often struggled to stand out in a packed capes-and-tights publishing era. Now that most of the titles have shipped at least two full arcs, it seems that Lion Forge is willing to take a bit more risk. Following nine issues from writer Joe Casey and artists including Jefte Palo, Catalyst Prime: Kino welcomed new creative team Alex Paknadel and Diego Galindo. Incoming readers need not fear: Paknadel and Galindo pick up on the status quo left behind by Casey and crew, but do so in an accessible manner. Super-powered Alistair Meath finds himself homeless, his family having moved on without him—and his country under the thrall of a far-right politician who insists that “The Event” that kicked off the Catalyst Prime universe never even happened. Paknadel is invested in smart, biting sci-fi like Arcadia and the currently running Friendo, and Galindo provides an easy visual bridge from original artist Palo. If you’re looking for an original superhero story with more room to experiment than the average Marvel or DC outing—something in the long, thoughtful (if less grim) legacy of Miracle Man, A God Somewhere and Supreme, consider joining the Kino train before it fully leaves the station. Steve Foxe

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Mister Miracle Cover Art by Nick Derington

8. Mister Miracle
Writer: Tom King
Artist: Mitch Gerads
Publisher: DC Comics 
Mister Miracle #1, which came out in 2017, opened with a cult-favorite Jack Kirby Fourth World creation attempting suicide and went on to become one of the most critically acclaimed comics in recent memory. Its balance of interpersonal family drama and cosmic war trauma is perhaps best summed up by an issue in which Mister Miracle and his wife Big Barda navigate a series of deathtraps while discussing how they’d like to remodel their condo. Last month, after dominating the comics discourse for over a year, the curtains finally closed on Tom King and Mitch Gerads’ critical darling, with predictably divisive results. Mister Miracle #11 ended—spoiler alert—with Scott Free seemingly slaying his adopted father Darkseid. Fellow New God Metron appeared in the aftermath and presented the titular hero with a portal to what appeared to be the current DC Universe. We won’t get into how Scott Free responded to Metron’s offer, but rest assured it was a tough call whether or not to include Mister Miracle on this list. Was Mister Miracle #12 the only fitting conclusion, or the biggest letdown of the year? Either way, its shadow loomed over superhero comics in 2018, and it didn’t feel right to let the year pass without acknowledging the sensation. Also of note: King and Lee Weeks’ Freeze-centric Batman arc, the highlight of a similarly controversial year for King’s take on Gotham’s Dark Knight. Steve Foxe

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Captain America Cover Art by Alex Ross

7. Captain America
Writer: Ta-Nahesi Coates
Artist: Leinil Francis Yu
Publisher: Marvel Comics 
Given the platform afforded a character like Captain America, Ta-Nahesi Coates and Leinil Francis Yu are crafting not just one of the most relevant superhero comics of the year, but of recent memory. This iteration of Cap has been in the limelight from the moment Coates was announced as the series’ writer, and he’s lived up to the hype throughout a deliberately paced first arc. Dealing with the fallout from Secret Empire and the confusion over whether or not he was a member of HYDRA, Steve Rogers is picking up the pieces of his life and trying to reestablish himself as a force for good—and it’s a story we need. Cap may be a superhero, but what he’s trying to do isn’t unachievable by the average citizen. When Cap goes toe to toe with Taskmaster, he doesn’t pull off any superheroic stunts with his enhanced strength, or even throw his mighty shield. Instead, the idyllic American hero calls back to his training sessions in the streets, the dojo and the gym to knock the skull-faced baddie off his feet and snag a victory. Cap’s strength comes from the diversity of his namesake—and that message is just as important now as it’s always been. Coates and Yu’s Captain America proclaims loudly that being a superhero—being good—isn’t easy, but it is necessary. Captain America is timely and unabashed in its messaging, positioning it irrefutably on this list. (And anyone who doubts the ongoing relevance of these messages should also pick up this year’s annual issue from Tini Howard, Chris Sprouse and Ron Lim, which ably demonstrates Cap’s wartime principles.) Josh Hilgenberg

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Milk Wars Cover Art by Frank Quitely

6. Milk Wars
Writers: Gerard Way, Steve Orlando, Jody Houser, Cecil Castellucci, Jonathan Rivera
Artists: Aco, Ty Templeton, Mirka Andolfo, Langdon Foss, Dale Eaglesham, Nick Derington
Publisher: Young Animal/ DC Comics 
Gerard Way’s Young Animal pop-up imprint was a breath of fresh air at DC Comics when it launched in 2016, capturing the vital transgressive spirit of early Vertigo books with a huge dose of the new—and the weird. The imprint’s initial four ongoing series each seemed to exist in their own bizarre world, which made the idea of a crossover—and with the Justice League of America, no less—a bold, unlikely, potentially disastrous step for the line. Thankfully, the heroes of the DC Universe met the Doom Patrol, Shade, Mother Panic and Cave Carson on Young Animal’s turf, resulting in a gloriously weird five-issue “un-event” centered on milk that homogenizes the publisher’s icons into ‘50s-era stereotypes of repression: Batman serves as a priest, Wonder Woman is more of a wonder wife and Milkman Man…well, you’ll need to read the series to find out his deal. The future of Way’s DC imprint may be hazy—and the JLA incarnation involved in this crossover is but a distant memory—but Milk Wars stands out as one of the strangest, most enthusiastic superhero moments of 2018. Steve Foxe

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