Josh’s Favorite Comic Book Series of 2023!
I’m back to wrap up my best of 2023 lists, with my favorite comic book series of 2023!
Before we begin this deep dive into many incredible comic book series, I wanted to mention that my own latest comic book is still on sale! Brother’s Keeper tells a true story from Israel’s 1948 War for Independence. It’s a story from an old war that has new resonance in light of current events. I hope you’ll read and enjoy it. Click here to purchase a print copy, or here to read the e-book, which is FREE if you have Kindle Unlimited!
OK, let’s dive into my lists…!
Series I’m behind on: I’ve fallen behind on these series I enjoy — Justice Society of America, Groo, Miracleman: The Silver Age, and Mike Mignola’s Hellboy books — which is why you won’t see them on this list. (I’m sure they would be if I was caught up! Mike Mignola’s Hellboy books are a notable absence this year. I think the Hellboy comics have been my #1 choice every year since I started making these lists!! But I’ve fallen way behind and I’m contemplating a re-read of the full saga from the beginning…)
Here are lots of great comics that I’ve loved this year!
Hexagon Bridge by Richard Blake — gorgeous mind-bending sci-fi weirdness.
Slow Burn by Ollie Masters, Pierluigi Minotti, & Alessandro Santoro — A motley crew on the run find themselves in an abandoned town with underground fires that won’t stop burning. This is a great crime series.
The Alternates by Patton Oswalt, Tim Seeley, Jordan Blum, Christopher Mitten, & Tess Fowler — This bizarre story follows a group of B-level superheroes who gather in a support group, but now they just might have to save the world.
Black Tape by Dan Panosian — A twisty horror story about music and the devil, gorgeously illustrated by Dan Panosian.
Rumpus Room by Mark Russell & Ramon Rosanas — I was immediately sucked into this horrific satirical tale about a billionaire who murders people to turn them into skin cream. Twisty, compelling, and beautifully illustrated.
The Ribbon Queen by Garth Ennis, Jacen Burrows, Guillermo Ortego, & Dan Brown — Here’s another compelling, twisty horror story — this one intriguingly combines a mystery about a terrifying supernatural menace with a conversation about the BLM movement.
Storm — by Ann Nocenti & Sid Kotian & Geraldo Borges — Long-time Marvel writer Ann Nocenti returned to Marvel with this flashback tale of Storm, set soon after she began her leather-and-mohawk era in Chris Claremont’s classic run on The Uncanny X-Men. A fun, retro tale.
Junkyard Joe and Geiger: Ground Zero by Geoff Johns, Gary Frank & Brad Anderson — I’m enjoying the world that Geoff Johns is creating in his indie “Ghost Machine” titles! Both these mini-series were fun adventure romps. I’m eager to see what comes next in this new connected comic book universe.
Dune: House Harkonnen by Brian Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson, Michael Shelfer, and Patricio Delpeche — I love the Dune universe, and while I was underwhelmed by most of the spin-off novels written by Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson, I’ve enjoyed both the first House Atreides comic book adaptation, and this latest follow-up. The comic moves a lot faster than the novels, so it’s more of a rip-roaring sci-fi adventure.
Avengers Inc. by Al Ewing and Leonard Kirk — I love the idea of a noir-ish Avengers title, in which Janet van Dyne solves crimes. (I wish more people did, as the series was cancelled after only five issues.)
Batman: The Adventures Continue: Season Three by Paul Dini, Alan Burnett, and Ty Templeton — I’ve been enjoying these comic book returns to the world of the classic Batman: The Animated Series. I hope we get many more “seasons” to come.
G.O.D.s by Jonathan Hickman, Valerio Schiti, & Marte Gracia — Jonathan Hickman’s latest weird and epic Marvel series explores a whole new universe of mystical characters, and the various god-like beings who populate the Marvel universe! While not as immediately gripping as Mr. Hickman’s best superhero sagas (like his runs on Fantastic Four, The Avengers, or the “Krakoan Age” of X-Men comics), this has been a fascinating read so far, and I can’t wait to see where it goes from here.
Damn Them All by Simon Spurrier, Charlie Adlard, & Sofie Dodgson — Ellie is a tough-as-nails young woman who knows a thing or two about the occult; she also sort of works for the mob. She’s started looking into the mysterious death of her mentor when she discovers that someone seems to have set all the demons of hell free on Earth. This delightful series is clever and original, with terrific world-building and compelling characters.
Indigo Children by Curt Pires, Rockwell White, & Alex Diotto — An intrepid journalist tracks down rumors of super-powered children, and winds up uncovering a dangerous conspiracy. I really enjoyed this sci-fi adventure story with a tinge of super-heroics… I hope there will be more.
Oversized format series:
There have been some gorgeous books released this year in a larger format than the typical “floppy” comic, one that more resembles the classic graphic novels of my youth. Here are a few I’ve loved:
Gone by Jock — A gritty sci-fi story in which a group of impoverished kids wind up unwilling stowaways on a huge spaceship. I can’t wait to see where this story goes.
Somna by Becky Cloonan & Tula Lotay — This gorgeously illustrated book tells an erotic fantasy mystery. I can’t get over how incredible the art is, magnificently combining the very different styles of Ms. Cloonan & Ms. Lotay.
Superman: The Last Days of Lex Luthor by Mark Waid, Bryan Hitch, Kevin Nowlan, & David Baron — This has begun as a classic set-up: Superman becomes a public pariah because he’s not willing to let Lex Luthor die. This feels like it could be an amazing movie! Mark Waid and Bryan Hitch are comic book masters. I hope we don’t have to wait too much longer for the rest of this story.
Subgenre by Matt Kindt, Wilfredo Torres, & Bill Crabtree — A detective in a technological future has visions of being a wandering barbarian. I love this mind-bendy story, with gorgeous art by Wilfredo Torres that utilizes thrillingly different styles to illustrate the different versions/worlds of the main character.
My Top 20 List:
Without further prologue, here are my 20 favorite comic book series of 2023!
20. Old Dog by Declan Shalvey — Jack Lynch is a CIA operative who, after a mission-gone-wrong, wakes up years later, somehow rejuvenated. I love this tense little spy yarn and the way it mixes a gritty spy story with sci-fi weirdness. Declan Shalvey’s art is gorgeous and amazing.
19. Blue Book by James Tynion IV and Michael Avon Oeming — This series depicts the true story of Betty and Barney Hill’s claims of being abducted by aliens. I love the X-Files vibe of this series, and the back-up stories — each exploring another historical story of a fantastical event or creature — are a hoot!
18. The Enfield Gang Massacre by Chris Condon and Jacob Phillips — This gripping, violent Western tells the story of the takedown of a gang of old-West bandits… who just might have been set up by a criminal hiding in plain sight. Gripping and sad, with staggeringly perfect artwork, I loved this mini-series.
17. Love Everlasting by Tim King & Elsa Charretier — In this bizarre but delightful series, we follow a young woman who seems to be trapped inside classic romance comic book stories. We’re 12 issues in and I still don’t know what’s going on, but I’m loving the ride.
16. Star Trek and Star Trek: Defiant by Collin Kelly, Jason Lanzing, Ramon Rosanas, Mike Freehan, Rachael Stott, Christopher Cantwell, Angel Unzueta, & others — I’m having fun reading these two inter-connected Star Trek series from IDW, picking up characters and threads from the 24th Century-set Trek shows (The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager). I love the approach of telling big, epic stories that bring together great characters and storylines from across the different Trek shows.
15. Ultimate Invasion by Jonathan Hickman and Bryan Hitch — Mr. Hickman and Mr. Hitch return to Marvel’s “Ultimate” universe (which inspired much of what we’ve seen in the MCU movies for the past decade-and-a-half) to reboot/recreate the saga for 2023. I’m not sure I understand what this new “Ultimate” universe is going to be, but this four-issue introduction was a terrific super-hero adventure and a fun tease of what I hope will be a cool new take on the Marvel universe.
14. Murder Inc.: Jagger Rose by Brian Michael Bendis, Michael Avon Oeming & Taki Soma, and Masterpiece by Brian Michael Bendis & Alex Maleev — Two great new Bendis mini-series; in Jagger Rose, Mr. Bendis and Mr. Oeming return to their alternate world in which the Mafia took control of huge swaths of the United States. Masterpiece is a new tale in which a young girl discovers her parents were the world’s greatest thieves, and she’s now the target of a billionaire who they stole from and pissed off mightily. Both are rippin’ yarns!
13. Big Game by Mark Millar & Pepe Larraz — I loved every page of this gonzo adventure in which Mr. Millar decided to cross over pretty much every single (previously independent) comic book story he’s written for the past two decades. Every page was a blast! (I also want to highlight the mini-series that set up Big Game, The Ambassadors, in which a genius discovers a way to use technology to create super-powers, and so sets out to assemble her own international super-hero team. Each issue of this fun story was illustrated by a different comic book superstar: Frank Quitely, Karl Kerschl, Travis Charest, Olivier Coipel, Matteo Buffagni, and Matteo Scalera. Wow!)
12. Marvel’s Star Wars comics — I’m continuing to enjoy Marvel Comics’ interconnected Star Wars series! The main batch of titles is set between the events of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. It’s been fun to see how they’ve involved Crimson Dawn and the character of Q’ira, from the Solo film, into the story! Media tie-in comics shouldn’t be this much fun.
11. Canary by Scott Snyder & Dan Panosian and Barnstormers by Scotty Snyder & Tula Lotay — This is a tie between two terrific Scott Snyder mini-series. In Canary, set in the late 1800’s, a haunted U.S. marshall returns to the site of his most famous case in an attempt to unravel a series of horrific and seemingly unconnected murders. Is something scientific or something fantastical at play? In Barnstormers, set in 1918, a daring pilot crashes a young woman’s wedding and then the two go on the run together. Can these two star-crossed lovers escape the forces pursuing them both? Both mini-series are fantastic, gripping adventure yarns that are gorgeously illustrated. Absolutely wonderful comic book stories.
10. WorldTr33 by James Tynion IV, Fernando Blanco, & Jordie Bellaire — in 1999, a group of tech geeks discovered an evil lurking within the internet. Now, it’s breaking free and wreaking horrific havoc. I love this dark, thrilling story, and I can’t wait to see where it’s going to go from here.
9. Cull by Kelly Thompson & Mattia De Iulis — Five friends set off on an adventure to learn the truth behind a devastating monster attack that destroyed the lives of many of the people in their town. I’m enjoying the sci-fi, fantasy mystery of the story, and I’m blown-away by Mattia De lulis’ lushly illustrative art, that brings the story to such gorgeous life!
8. Local Man by Tim Seeley & Tony Fleecs — Jack Xaver used to the superhero Crossjack. Now he’s been kicked out of his super-hero team and forbidden from using his powers. A disgraced nobody, he slinks back to the small town where he grew up, only to discover that his super-hero days just might not be behind him yet. This Image comic book series brilliantly utilizes the iconography and style of the early nineties Image superhero comics for the flashback sequences, while the main story is a compelling, richly-drawn character study of a man trying to claw his way back to some dignity. I love every page.
7. Newburn by Chip Zdarsky and Jacob Phillips — Easton Newburn is an enigmatic detective who works for various crime families, solving problems for them and keeping the peace between them. But now, Newburn’s carefully balanced life is falling apart, and his enemies are everywhere. I love this series — each issue is a terrific page-turner of a crime story — and I’m excited by how the story has been gaining momentum over the past few issues. I can’t wait to see what’s next.
6. Phantom Road by Jeff Lemire, Gabriel Hernandez Walta, & Jordie Bellaire — I don’t know what the heck is going on in this story yet, but I’m hooked! Dom is a long-haul trucker who stops to help a young woman, Birdie, who’s been in an accident. The accident was caused by a mysterious artifact that seems to be able to move Dom and Birdie into a parallel dimension, one haunted by mysterious faceless creatures. Meanwhile, FBI Agent Theresa Walker is investigating the mystery of their disappearance, and uncovers a terrifying conspiracy. This story is inventive and gripping, and I love the art.
5. Void Rivals by Robert Kirkman, Lorenzo De Felici, & Matheus Lopes — Two races of armored beings have been at war for as long as any of them can remember. When a pilot from each of the two warring races, Darak and Solila, find themselves both trapped on a barren world, they reluctantly agree to work together. Their cautious friendship sets in motion world-shaking events for both their people. This would be a fun sci-fi adventure regardless, but what really caught my attention was that this series is actually set in the Transformers universe! It’s part of the interconnected “Energon Universe,” masterminded by Robert Kirkman (Invincible, The Walking Dead), that also includes relaunches of new Transformers and G.I. Joe comic book series. (The new Transformers book, written & drawn by Daniel Warren Johnson, is terrific, a brilliant encapsulation of everything I loved about the original Transformers cartoon from the eighties. I can’t believe I’m reading and loving a Transformers comic book series!!) Void Rivals, meanwhile, does what I never realized I wanted a story to do — it takes the various alien races introduced in the later seasons of the original Transformers cartoon — the episodes set after the events of Transformers: The Movie, that took place on many alien planets — and takes them seriously, weaving them into a coherent sci-fi universe. It’s an absolute blast so far!
4. Marvel’s X-Men comics — The “Krakoan Age” of Marvel’s X-Men comics, begun so brilliantly a few years ago by Jonathan Hickman, seems to be drawing to a close. I’m continuing to thoroughly enjoy many of the X-Men books, including Immortal X-Men, which focused on the conflicting political machinations of the super-powered heroic and villainous mutants who sit on the Mutant nation of Krakoa’s ruling “Quiet Council”; X-Men: Red, which delved deep into the society of Arakki mutants living on Mars, now ruled by Storm; and X-Force and Wolverine, which told parallel stories of Beast’s turn to “the ends justify the means” evil and the increasingly desperate efforts to stop him.
3. Saga by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples — This gloriously weird and wonderful sci-fi story continues to be one of the most original comic book stories I’ve ever encountered. This universe is delightfully rich and deep. The world-building is amazing, and the character-development is even better. I could spend all day listing all the characters in this comic — they’re all so beautifully unique and well-developed, and I love them all so much! Fiona Staples’ artwork is perfection — just dazzling in its beauty, its originality, and its incredible storytelling. I don’t think there’s a better character-designer working in comics today than Ms. Staples. And Mr. Vaughan’s stories are delightful and heartbreaking in equal measure.
2. Forged by Greg Rucka, Eric Trautmann, & Mike Henderson — In the far, far future, the Forged are a team of genetically-engineered women who, in their armored suits of war, are the tip of the spear of the Eternal Empress’ fighting forces. But when a mission goes terribly wrong and they discover what might be the first sentient non-human life ever before encountered in the Empress’ galaxy-spanning empire, the Forged team suddenly find themselves at the center of various conflicting conspiracies and plans. This raucous, funny, violent, sexy, inventive new sci-fi series is a pure delight on each and every page. I want more, and soon!!
1. Tom King’s DC stories — Danger Street, The Penguin, Wonder Woman, Gotham City: Year One, The Human Target — Tom King wrote an incredible array of DC Comics stories this year!!! Together, these were easily my favorite comic books of the year. In Danger Street, he wove together the stories of various B-level DC heroes and villains into a gripping, epic saga. In Gotham City: Year One, Mr. King told a thrilling noir tale set in Gotham’s past, focusing on private eye Slam Bradley. The grim, downbeat story surprised me at every turn and wrapped up in a beautiful, and tragic, bow. In The Human Target (which might just be my favorite Tom King story so far), Mr. King took characters from the “bwa-ha-ha” era of Justice League International and wove them together into a gripping murder mystery. Greg Smallwood’s sumptuously beautiful artwork was some of the best I have ever seen in a monthly series. Recently, Mr, King launched two new ongoing series. In The Penguin, Mr. King appears to be crafting an out-of-continuity crime saga that completely reinvents the character of the Penguin. I have never been so interested in the Penguin!! In Mr. King’s hands, he’s a brilliant and tortured former crime lord who is on a path to reclaim control of Gotham City. And in Wonder Woman, Mr. King has crafted a story (that also seems to be out-of-continuity with the rest of the DCU), in which the United States government has declared war on the Amazons, and Wonder Woman is caught in the middle. Mr. King’s stories balance brilliantly tight plotting, compelling and memorable dialogue, with a deep focus on characterization, finding new depths to classic DC characters. What a pleasure to read.
And thank you for reading all of my best of 2023 lists! I hope you’ve enjoyed them. Lots more reviews are coming soon!!
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