It’s that time of year! The Multiversity Year in Review is here, and from now until Friday, December 22, we will be talking about favorites in a variety of categories. Let us know what we missed in the comments!
We altered the name of this category this year from ‘Best Miniseries’ to ‘Best Limited Series’ to account for things like maxi-series and weekly books with a finite endpoint. We hope you approve of the change.
5 (tie). Kim & Kim: Love is a Battlefield
Last year, Magdalene Visaggio’s debut series made our short list for Best Limited Series for her commitment to putting LGBTQ+ characters at the front and center of her storylines, her keen ear for natural dialogue, and her engaging art detail. It’s no surprise to see the follow up, “Kim & Kim: Love is a Battlefield” on our list yet again. All those things we at Multiversity loved about Visaggio’s debut are more than present in its sequel. Creating a self-contained story with the same characters was a wise move. New fans can pick up the story easily without feeling lost of having to seek out the previous arc, and those who read the first “Kim & Kim” will find this series to be like visiting an old friend. All your favorite things about our lady bounty hunters are in this one: a Cowboy Bebop bounty hunter adventure, a side helping of relationship drama, and a lot of kickass fun. But lest you think this is a total rehash, we get some character expansion: Kim D’s ex girlfriend, Laz, and Kin Q’s on-again-off-again booty call, Saar. Whether as main antagonist (Laz) or guest star (Saar), Visaggio crafts these characters in such a way that you not only understand their motivations, but the motivations of the Kims as well.
Reviewing these issues taught me that there is such a thing as “punk pastel” and it is glorious. Claudia Aguirre provided us a color palette that conveys both strength and femininity in equal measure, knowing when to tone it down and when to pump it up. My colleague John calls it “Lisa Frank on acid during a rebellious goth girl phase” and quite frankly, I couldn’t have said it better myself. Eva Cabrera knows how to use a single line to express emotion, so even in those moments where no dialogue is said, you know what people are thinking and feeling. It’s Visaggio’s writing that keeps me coming back for more: it’s natural, it’s empowering, it’s fun, it’s thought-provoking. You’re not reading this comic; you’re at the bar with your best gal pals hearing about their most wild and crazy adventure.
In an era where women feel more confident to speak out against prominent men in positions of power for their sins, the Kims are the women we all aspire to be. – Kate Kosturski
5 (tie). Aliens: Dead Orbit
You know, I think it’s safe to say that the bad of the Alien franchise outweighs the good. What could be qualified as good being Alien, Aliens and Alien Isolation. However, this year brought us another gem to add to that prestigious collection in the form of the Dark Horse’s mini-series “Aliens: Dead Orbit.” Very recently coming to its conclusion, the work of cartoonist James Stokoe elicited rabid responses when it was first announced and it’s safe to say that it lived up to the hype.
When you break it down, plot-wise, “Aliens: Dead Orbit” is actually really simple: a space station is attacked, a bunch of humans have to get away, hunted by an acidic-spitting hissing monster that wants to munch munch munch and impregnate on the squishy fleshbags. No no, we’re gonna be getting our Atmosphere on when talking about this book. Visual atmosphere and aesthetic is so important to this work. The grungy, lived-in ’70s sci-fi feel of the world is so iconic to the Alien franchise and, from the very first panel, Stokoe depicts a sense of stark, bleak foreboding.
Tying hand in hand with the Atmosphere, we have to talk about his depiction of the Xenomorph itself. To put it simply: the creature is beautiful, you know, in a horrid, terrifying sort of way. Stokoe brings such a great level of detail without ever going overboard, being able to depict H.R. Geiger’s monstrosity as the efficient, dreadful killing machine it always was. Without spoiling too much, there’s a scene in the final issue of the creature jumping out of an air vent, all hissing and vicious, strong claws grabbing at its prey. A simple shot, but effective in showing off the care Stokoe put into this work.Continued below
The book may have seen its share of delays, but considering the attention to detail put in the artwork, it was worth it. James Stokoe crafted a tale that can easily sit alongside the high points of the franchise with “Aliens: Dead Orbit” and horror comics in general. – Ken Godberson III
4. Dark Nights: Metal
Six years ago writer Scott Snyder (“Swamp Thing,” “Wytches”), penciler Greg Capullo (“Spawn,” “Reborn”), inker Jonathan Glapion (“Action Comics,” “Spawn”) and colorist FCO Plascencia (“The Astounding Wolf-Man,” “Haunt”) launched the story which would become “Dark Nights: Metal” in the pages of The New 52’s “Batman” #1. The story began with the seemingly simple prompt: “Gotham is ____.” It evolved and expanded to examine what, under Snyder, Capullo and companies’ tenure Gotham, would be. Shadowy secret societies, faceless psychopaths and a myriad of demented villains pitted against tormented heroes all faced off in an epic series of escapades which redefined what it means to walk to the streets of Gotham.
The five-year run on “Batman” led to some of the most interesting new additions to the Caped Crusader’s rogues gallery to date, like the infamous Court of Owls, along with new allies in Bruce Wayne’s War on Crime, like Duke Thomas a.k.a. The Signal and Electrum and Dionesium. What I love most about the series thus far is that there is clearly a real love for the misfit toys of the DC Universe, characters like Detective Chimp, Mister Terrific, and Shining Knight who haven’t been seen in years. Each character has something to offer the story and nothing seems irrelevant, any snippet of dialogue or hidden figure could be a clue in the Earth 1’s battle to defeat Barbatos and his twisted nightmare Batmen.
While only three issues have come out as part of the main “Metal” series so far the bombastic action, ample cast of characters and surprising twists has left just about everyone clamoring to get a hold of each of the three issues. The immense cast is handled deftly by Scott “Doom Commander” Snyder, who maneuvers the story to touch on as many different people and places as can fit in 30 pages of DC excellence. “Metal’ of course wouldn’t be complete without Greg “Pain Bringer” Capullo providing, as always, above excellent designs and pencils for every statue, dinosaur, and Joker Dragon which graces the page. Though none of this would be possible without Johnathan “Guillotine” Glapion’s wonderful inks and FCO “Killer” Placencia’s fantastic colors which both make the pages sing in a harsh head thrashing manner befitting the epic nature of the story they all work to tell. So while Snyder, Capullo, and company began by asking us to consider just what “Gotham is” it has been a delight to see them work out on the page just what DC is. – Samuel Reynolds-Oosting
3. 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank
The five-issue mini “4 Kids Walk into a Bank” ranks third, even though only two issues were released this year. Here’s one good reason: there’s nothing like this book. Worth waiting months for was the perfect ending to this story of four irrepressible kids compelled to rob a bank, a completion as grandiose and tiny as the story needed. Worth waiting for were the artistic stylings of artist and designer Tyler Boss, with flatter Clare Dezuttie, letterer Thomas Mauer, and wallpaper designer (yes, that’s a role that matters, especially here) Courtney Menard. Worth waiting for was Rosenberg and Boss’s intricately-mapped heist job on our cynicism, sneaking in a powderkeg of sentiment under the cover of another kid-nostalgia-as-pop-art yarn.
And as perfectly as “4 Kids” ended (no spoilers, even tonal spoilers), you genuinely hated to see it end. Every set piece in the versatile book was ingenious, but it was no mere pack of great tricks. Yes, it’s a cool trick, those issue-opening scenes where the kids are drawn as the characters they adopt in RPGs or video games, snarky banter ensuing. Cool tricks, the meticulous clockwork of 24-panel pages perfectly architected into hilarious high art. Cool tricks, those allusions to Watchmen and Kurtzman and Tynion, or the throwaway gags like a punch landing with the sound effect “DOUCHE!” on a deserving recipient.Continued below
But somewhere between the slick of a David Aja and the disenchantment of a Chris Ware lies Boss and Rosenberg’s maniacally creative storytelling and the emotional punch it packs. And through it, what drew you in as a playful tale about pre-teens outsmarting crooks turns into a beautifully moody meditation on how startlingly real violence actually is. Actual violence. As much as the book is unfiltered fun, the weight hits like a ton of bricks when a dad says to his teenaged daughter in issue 4, “the world isn’t one of your fantasies.”
You hated to see this mini-series end because you knew it had to end. The plot wasn’t a mere vehicle for snappy dialogue and meta-textual wit glued on like ’80s wallpaper. At core, “4 Kids Walk into a Bank” is about the stark distance between disillusioned adulthood and the adolescent discovery of sincerity under cynical masks. And finding out, by that ending, that stark distance is actually not very far at all.
Four kids walked into a bank. Out came a masterful miniseries about the impossibility of growing from small to big. – Paul Lai
2. God Country
Donny Cates has had quite the year. From the reprint of his “Atomahawk” to him taking over two Marvel properties to his own, ongoing creator-owned properties. While these have all been strong, there is something special about his mini-series “God Country.” The basic concept of the series is fairly simple: a man finds a powerful weapon from another dimension and uses it to protect his world and his family from the all-powerful beings who wish to take it away from him.
Sounds pretty typical, right? But if it was that simple, why’s it number two on our list? What makes Cates, Shaw, Wordie, and Hill’s “God Country” so special? That lies in the approach they took to the story.
At its heart, “God Country” is a family drama, specifically that between father and son, and that is what the series chooses to focus on. It also takes the idea of a magic trinket “healing” dementia and turns something that many stories would see as a blessing, into a complicated question about the nature of growing old and the responsibilities children have to their parents. It is also about the relationship between stories and families and the importance of legacy.
These themes are born out through Cates’s writing, Shaw’s art and Wordie’s coloring, all harmonizing together to elevate this story beyond that earlier description. Cates’s words invite us into the world, making us feel like we are close to the Quinlains while Shaw’s rough linework gives the world a gritty, lived-in feel. Wordie’s coloring, though, takes that grittiness and makes sure that it is anything but dark. The world (and beyond) are filled with colors, both inviting and foreboding, giving a warmth to an otherwise cold universe.
What is particularly striking is Shaw’s portrayal of scale. He has to render things of enormous magnitude and make them feel imposing and realistic. Yet he doesn’t only do that. He takes these people, with unimaginable power, and in one panel makes them larger than life and in another, makes them feel like they are just as small as we are. Physically, they are the same size in each panel, but the ways in which Shaw positions the camera and the characters changes them to fit the mood.
This is the strength of “God Country;” to take this larger than life story and to modulate that scale so as to humanize it as much as possible and make it about more than just omnipotent swords and gods from another land. To take a story that could easily have been an excuse to just be a power fantasy and instead infuse the whole thing with a somber, tragic, and familial tone.
This scope of this comic may be cosmic but its narrative is universal. – Elias Rosner
1. Mister Miracle
As part of the Jack Kirby centennial celebration, DC has put a renewed emphasis on the New Gods, highlighted by this series by Tom King and Mitch Gerads. The series does something really remarkable, in that it takes a lot from Kirby, ideas-wise, but almost nothing from him tonally or formally. The art isn’t really Kirby-esque, and the dialogue and plot certainly aren’t. But that’s a good thing – no one wants a Kirby cover band, and King and Gerads certainly aren’t playing that game.Continued below
The book – among the most gorgeous being published currently – has humor, romance, sickening violence, and a tenuous relationship with reality, all working together to blend into something truly special. The book both exists in the DC Universe and observes it from the outside; Scott wears superhero t-shirts while talking with Forager and Big Barda. The read can be purposefully disorienting, and leaves the reader thinking and debating more than your average cape comic, but is still packed with the stuff that people love about cape comics.
The book is a great example of how to honor a legend without aping them, how to revitalize a character without reinventing them, and explore the metatextual without obfuscating the format. – Brian Salvatore
Alice: I am very into this list. The only series I haven’t read any of is “Dark Nights: Metal,” but the rest (minus “Mister Miracle,” which I only read one issue of) have been mainstays on my pull list. With “God County,” Donny Cates put himself on the map in a big way and now he and Geoff Shaw are tackling “Thanos.” “Kim & Kim: Love Is A Battlefield” was a sophomore epic for the creative team, “4 Kids Walk Into A Bank” was one of the best comics I’ve read all decade and “Aliens: Dead Orbit” took James Stokoe’s ability to bring his best to any series and applied it to Aliens.
Matt: Part of the biggest problem with most ongoing comics is the endings are too broad or far away, or in the case of superheroes, nonexistent, to give us any direction or tension. Miniseries are working toward something and part of the fun of serialized comics is trying to figure out where something’s going to go. I’m sort of glad we didn’t include anything from BOOM!, who treat miniseries as pilots. On top of all that, there’s some entertaining work here from the Direct Marketers. All of these are probably something even the most casual readers of the medium could enjoy.
Brian: The miniseries has experienced a bit of a renaissance in the last year or two, and this list is definitive proof of that. While it is hard to argue that something like “Mister Miracle” or “God Country” couldn’t work as an ongoing, there is something really nice, as Matt said, about a definitive ending to something. I hope that the miniseries continues to have a role in comics that isn’t just relegating it to pilot or event.