Ah, the new series! While not every series on this list will reach #1000 like “Action Comics,” all of these series have the potential to be important not just in the year ahead, but (hopefully) these titles will influence new creators to take risks and try new things, like all of these titles do.
Let me first admit my bias up front with “ExorSisters” as my favorite new series: it’s not only the Supernatural comic that will fill my Moose and Squirrel sized hole on my pull list until I get a real and proper Supernatural ongoing series, but both characters are named Kate. What’s not for me to love about this pair of demon hunting sisters?
There’s much more than a similarity in name and a more than passing similarity to a certain long running CW series with Messrs. Ackles and Padalecki for readers to love. And while we only have two issues under our belt (with the third dropping this Wednesday), those two issues prove this is a rising star for the Image catalogue.
“ExorSisters” takes a monster-of-the-week approach with its storytelling, focusing on the Harrow sisters working to trick evil and outsmart it, rather than the complex overarching arcs. We do get the “polar opposite sibling” trope here, but much like the rapport between the Winchester Brothers, they work in sync when it counts but still remain two very different individuals. Prim and proper Cate may lecture her sister Kate over her love of the whiskey, lax work ethic, and rude impulsive nature (sound familiar, my SPN family?), and the two trade barbs in the style of Nick and Nora Charles from The Thin Man, but you know when the chips are down – – don’t mess with family.
Gisele Lagace clearly has fun with her work. In one of her SDCC interviews about the series, she admits her love of both Scooby-Doo and Supernatural, and the lighter elements of both those series are at play in her cartoonish, youthful, surreal, artwork. The series deals in horror and the supernatural (including a trip to Hell right in the first issue) but keeps it light and fun, complimenting Ian Boothby’s wit. The overall tactic of bending formulaic tropes also allows for Lagace to experiment with the bizarre in their world. Nothing is what it seems for the Harrow sisters, but not in an overly surrealist way that will leave you scratching your head about what you may have just experienced.
As we expand the ExorSisters world (the second issue explored the family unit, and this week’s third issue teases an appearance from one of Cate’s ex-boyfriends), Kate and Cate could have more than demons on their hands. No doubt whatever drama they face will have the elements of fun seen in this series debut right alongside it. But if the Harrow family needs some help, I can think of an angel and a certain “idjit” loving hunter that can give them a hand. – Kate Kosturski
I have a confession to make: I’ve never read more than a couple issues of “Chew.” I know, I know, I’m a bad comics fan, and I do intend to rectify that eventually. But even though I wasn’t reading the book, I’d often peek at preview pages just to get more of Rob Guillory’s excellent and unique art. So when I heard that Guillory was not just drawing but writing a new series at Image, I knew I couldn’t miss out on it like I did with “Chew.” And I’m glad I didn’t, because it turns out Guillory is pretty good at writing comics, too!
“Farmhand” is a hard book to pin down. Is it sci-fi? Is it horror? Who cares, really, it’s both damn fun and damn interesting, and that’s more important than genre. Perhaps one of the most impressive qualities of “Farmhand” is the way Guillory juggles various vibes. He can instantly shift from a goofy, comedic scene to something legitimately spooky and unsettling without the tone of the story ever feeling unfocused. And, of course, it looks absolutely spectacular. Much like the story itself, Guillory’s art is unlike anything else on the shelves, and the fact that his style suits both the sillier and scarier aspects of the book is beyond impressive. The first arc has hinted at many different mysteries surrounding the Jenkins family farm and Freetown, and one of the things I’m most looking forward to in 2019 is learning more about these locations and the characters that reside there. – Walter RichardsonContinued below
“Euthanuats” first hooked me with the stunning, retro-futuristic, vaguely steampunk cover of the debut issue. Tini Howard on script, Nick Robles on art and IDW’s imprint Black Crown as the publishing house simply sealed the deal. In other words, I cracked open the first issue with sky-high expectations – and the book delivered.
To be honest, even four issues into the series, I’m still not entirely certain what the hell is going on, but that only adds to the intrigue. With consistently trippy artwork, gorgeous colors and a poetic script, the possibilities seem wide open. Even the genre is hard to pin down. Is it horror? Suspense? Straight-up science fiction? A philosophical debate between the powers of hedonism or self control as a path to enlightenment…?
The operative word is ethereal, evocative of the ether, that immaterial plane of existence suspended somewhere between this world and the next. Not outer space, exactly, but the misty, wispy world where being and nothingness collide. Deathspace, the characters call it, and it’s really what the book is about.
Visually, the golden-helmeted steampunk vibe meshes perfectly with the aesthetic of this artfully constructed, transcendent realm. Robels’s incredible inks and ornate, multilayered layouts powered by some of the most unique and creative paneling that I’ve seen anywhere – combine with colorist Eva de la Cruz’s stunning palette to suggest a netherworld just beyond the grasp of human understanding.
Talia Rosewood, the book’s highly introspective, curvy protagonist who works as a receptionist at a funeral home and also spends her free time contemplating death, describes journey there and back like this: “One minute I was staring at proof of the coexistence of two creatures in a world beyond our own lifespan, sparking a moth-fragile float of hope in my aching black heart. And the next I wasn’t.”
The artwork is pretty great, but Tini Howard’s script, driven by Talia Rosewood’s elegiac and haunting interior monologues – launches the series into the stratosphere. Flip through the pages slowly, soak in all the details and listen to her words echo in your head. This book is a stunning example of what comics can do. – John Schaidler.
Joseph Keatinge and Wook Jin Clark’s “Flavor” jumped out at me immediately when it was first solicited, but not because I wanted to read it. I wasn’t familiar with the creators, nor did it relate to any other comic I follow. No, the appeal came from the genre, competitive cooking, which happens to be one of my wife’s favorites. It’s also criminally underrepresented in American comics. As far as I’m aware, this is the first competitive cooking comic series since Natalie Riess’s “Space Battle Lunchtime” two years ago. So, I bought it for her to try. She liked it, and I decided to give it a try too since I’d already dropped $3.99 for it. Wouldn’t you know it, it turned out to be my favorite new series of the 2018.
Like its reality TV siblings, the success of “Flavor” comes down to the wild personalities of its stars. There are harsh judges, opponents who sabotage subtly and overtly, and an audience hoping to see contestants fail miserably. None of those descriptions apply to the lead, Xoo, a talented young cook whose sole motivation is to get a prize truffle that will improve her parents’ health (I think. The series is being coy about this point). This altruistic motive informs Xoo’s reluctance to enter and genuine surprise when seemingly friendly opponents remind her that they aren’t there to help or explain things. She’s instantly likable and easy to root for, although it’s not terribly surprising when her initial attempts are unsuccessful thanks to last minute twists. There wouldn’t be much tension if her quest was easy.
With respect to a longer-term plot, “Flavor” is set in a fantasy world where the events take place in a walled city known as “The Bowl” and a monster of some kind lurks outside. Food is key to the life of every citizen and authorities are often dressed as a food source (Sounds ridiculous, but it works in context). There are hints of corruption and Xoo has connections to both the ruling family and the monster that she’s currently unaware of. The potential introduced in the first arc reminds me of “Locke & Key,” but it’s too early to know if the series will live up to that kind of hype.Continued below
Speaking of the series living, it got off to a rocky start, especially for a new Image series. Comichron estimates the first issue orders were only around 8000. The sixth issue estimates were down to 2500 and the inside cover carried a note saying that when the series returns for the next arc, it won’t be as a monthly series. I assume that means it’s switching to a series of graphic novels, but what it really means is that most of you reading this haven’t tried “Flavor” yet. That’s easy to rectify: the trade is available now. If your local shop doesn’t have it, have them order it with Diamond ID: MAR180590. – Drew Bradley
1. Gideon Falls
I’m one of those comics readers that definitely does judge new series by their cover. Pitch me a good creative team and show me a striking first cover, and you’re 90 percent of the way to selling me a book. So I knew, just from seeing Andrea Sorrentino’s first insanely detailed man-turned-cityscape teaser illustration, that “Gideon Falls” was for me.
Of course, great covers don’t always guarantee a great book. But Sorrentino, writer Jeff Lemire, colorist Dave Stewart, and letterer/designer Steve Wands have been firing on all cylinders since issue one of “Gideon Falls,” producing a thriller/mystery series in which the world starts upside down and things only get weirder and more intense from there.
To prepare for this write-up, I re-read the series’ first seven issues with a pen and paper by my side. I meant to note key moments, passages, and pages. Instead, I found myself compelled to pick at “Gideon Falls”’s larger mysteries (What IS the Black Barn?). I recorded clues and details I’d missed upon my first reading, things that stand out or line up only now as the series enters its second larger chapter. I felt exactly like Norton Sinclair as I attempted to assemble the ever-harrowing Black Barn myself, in the pages of my notebook.
However, while “Gideon Falls” rewards re-reads, it also offers some of the best monthly illustrations and page turn reveals on the stands. Lemire’s writing is on point, and has produced characters I’m excited to follow to the series’ conclusion. But Sorrentino and Stewart are going for broke on “Gideon Falls,” and it’s their experiments with perspective, page layout, style, and color shifting that keep me coming back each month. One particularly eerie panel of theirs, from issue four, is likely my favorite panel of the year. Not to be outdone, Wands effortlessly guides readers across even the most complex Sorrentino pages, placing words and balloons in just the right spot to draw readers’ eyes further into a scene or set up a gut-punch page turn.
Earlier this year, I called “Gideon Falls” “dizzying by design,” and it is most definitely still that. But there is method to Lemire and co.’s madness, a method that has produced one of 2018’s most enticing new series and keeps me coming back for more each month. – Matthew Ledger
Brian: I feel, in the interest of full disclosure, that we must reveal that this list initially had “Border Town” among its entries, but due to the controversy around writer Eric Esquivel, we decided to remove it from the category. We mention it here only to praise the other creators on the title: artist Ramon Viillalobos, colorist Tamra Bonvillain, letterer Deron Bennett, and editors Maggie Howell and Andy Khouri. Their contributions to the series shouldn’t be ignored because of their ties to Esquivel.
Matt: This is still a strong list, though. These books are esoteric and centered around something that the creators clearly have a deep interest in. They are all insane in their own right and expand across the spectrum of what makes the medium so fun.