Neil's Favourite Comics of 2019

2019 was a quiet year in comics for me. Work and family commitments, financial issues and what I deem a pretty disappointing year for comics, hit my reading hard. Therefore my pull list was limited to a few single issues and a big turn to trades/collections. All that being said, it made singling out my top 5 picks a great deal easier.

Top Five:

5) Bitter Root by David F. Walker, Sanford Greene and Chuck Brown
Published by Image Comics

After enjoying Walker and Greene's run on Powerman and Iron Fist, I was eagerly looking forward to their next project, Bitter Root. Set during the 1920s when the Harlem Renaissance was is in full swing, it introduces us to the Sangeryes. A family of monster-hunters/purifiers who must overcome their differences to stave off the human race from a world-ending threat. Think of BPRD set in the past but where monsters aren't just around for the sake of it. They are monsters that are created through hate and the horrors of racism. And that's why this book is so special, it takes a stand against hatred of all kinds. Eye-catching artwork by Greene who is able to let loose his style and at points take homage from Kirby in his monster creations. Walker and Brown's writing here is exceptional, world-building at a great pace and one that's deeply rooted within the Sangerye family. Cannot wait for volume 2.


4) Murder Falcon by Daniel Warren Johnson and Mike Spicer
Published by Image Comics

Guitar Wielding Metal Fan, check. Giant Monsters, check. Emotional Rollercoaster, check. Then count me the fuck in!

Murder Falcon, was and wasn't what I was expecting. I was expecting fun, heroics and giant monster action and I got that. What I didn't expect was a moving character arc, a character arc that almost felt as hard-hitting as I Kill Giants and that book destroys me each time I pick it up. Having not read Daniel Warren Johnson's consistently recommended Extremity (I will get to it eventually) Murder Falcon was still an instant pick up. Following his Instagram and Twitter feeds online has made me fall madly in love with his art and his love of metal. Lead character Jake has a truly emotional and touching story that he battles with throughout the book. Full of self-doubt Jake seeks to overcome his problems, eventually with the help of Murder Falcon. This is where the book becomes incredibly enjoyable. There are huge battle scenes in which Murder Falcon alongside Jake and his band prevail over a monster invasion. Few comics have moved me emotionally this year but this one has plenty of heart and plenty of metal.

3) Cretaceous by Tadd Galusha
Published by Oni Press

Dinosaurs, who doesn't love dinosaurs? Cretaceous caught me completely by surprise and a comic I would have missed if not for the Off-Panel Podcast. Apart from my number one pick of 2019, Galusha has created one of the most beautiful comics of the year. His illustration work is astounding. Showing that he'd highly-researched his subject matter, from the flora and fauna to every dinosaur within the book. Thankfully the dino's are not anthropomorphic and we get a story with the only words present being onomatopoeic. That being the case this makes for a very deep and captivating story to follow. A story full of savagery where hunters become the hunted and life was all about survival. One fantastic element in this comic is that even though the story is mainly about a dispersed Tyrannosaurus Rex family, Galusha drops in other dinos that "sometimes" even though not seen, can be heard. And if the reader pays close attention to the onomatopoeic dialogue the story becomes creepily immersive.

2) Friendo by Alex Paknadel, Martin Simmonds, Dee Cunniffe, Taylor Esposito, Kim McLean
Published by Vault Comics

Have to say that I'm extremely happy to see that my top two picks of 2019 are both Vault Comics releases. Having followed Vault from day one, its great to see a new indie publisher really making waves in the industry.

Fellow Northerner and all-round top bloke Alex Paknadel has crafted the best science-fiction comic of 2019. Friendo, set in the not too distant future, where consumerism is rife and people seek out celebrity by almost any means. Not too unlike our current day and age. Paknadel and team take this concept and go full-on bat shit crazy with it. Lead protagonist Leo, after spending many years of his life abusing his body for minimal profit is gifted with what can only be described as Google Glass v2.0. This is when we're introduced to Jerry the digital personal assistant generated from Leo's own personality. Jerry is cool, comical and a great assistant to have but only if Leo is spending money. Becoming more and more dependant on his personal assistant Leo's life begins to spiral out of control. Reality shows, electrocution, stabbings, shootouts and hired killers are all added to the mix. Simmonds art and Cunniffe's colour work go hand in hand. Bright bold colours with a minimalist approach to line work is an art style I never knew I admired, but I do now!

Friendo deserves the cult status it has garnered, even receiving props from none other than Warren Ellis. A bleak, fun and satirical story that could quite easily happen within the next five years.

1) These Savage Shores - Ram V, Sumit Kumar, Vittorio Astone and Aditya Bidikar
Published by Vault Comics

It only took the first 6 pages of These Savage Shores for me to fall in love. Sumit Kumar's art is a sheer joy to take in. Add to that Vittorio Astone's stunning atmospheric colour work and you have the most beautiful visuals of any comic in 2019. Mixing up panel work from the 9-panel grid to large sweeping landscapes gave each page huge depth and incredible attention to detail. Then there's the story itself. For me, Ram V has given us the best executed comic book of 2019. Ram is able to mix fantasy horror, local urban legend, power struggles, politics and romance all into one. This may all sound incredibly hard to follow but it isn't. It's gripping, violent, heartbreaking, and its plot is so expertly crafted that it even blends the dark history of the East India Company within it. Finally, because of it rarely being mentioned, Aditya Bidikar's lettering within this comic is outstanding. Go pick it up and just look at the artistry in the letters written from some of the characters. They are a thing of beauty.

Simply put, this is the comic of 2019.

Final note

I may not have referenced or commented on all contributors for each of my picks but I have to say this. 2019 has been a difficult year for me and my family, we've seen some hard and deeply emotional times. But thanks to comics, especially ALL the people involved in the above five, you've given me escapism and a place to forget the hardships. And with that and with tears in my eyes, I truly thank you all.