2019 has been one of the biggest years for comic book adaptations, with movies like Avengers: Endgame and Shazam!, as well as a slew of incredible TV series like Doom Patrol, The Boys, and the upcoming Watchmen. The same goes for the source material, as the comics industry is bursting with great new comics all the time.
The sheer number of comics being published every week means that it’s nigh impossible to have read every single issue of every comic book, but as a self-proclaimed comic book enthusiast, I try my best to keep up with the ones that tickle my fancy.
Not just from the Big Two either (Marvel and DC Comics), as it’s always best to diversify your reading pool as comic book fan. Comics are more than just superheroes, and there’s a whole universe of wonders and hidden gems just waiting to be discovered.
Here are my picks for the best comics of 2019 so far:
Immortal Hulk (Marvel)
As a character, the Hulk has been stuck in a rut for years. Heck, the last time he was relevant and interesting was in Greg Pak’s Planet Hulk and World War Hulk, both of which was published more than a decade ago. Ever since then, he’s just been kind of there.
It was so bad that Marvel even decided to have Hawkeye (of all people) kill him off as one of the catalysts for 2016’s Civil War II crossover. That all changed in 2018 when Al Ewing latched onto the Hulk and returned him to his horror roots with the ongoing Immortal Hulk series.
This Immortal Hulk series is perfect for those who like their Hulks smart but vicious and savage at the same time. This ain’t no Professor Hulk or any Hulk we’ve seen before. He only comes out at night and can never die, which probably makes this the most terrifying version yet.
However, this comic isn’t for kids or the squeamish, as it features tons of mutilations and Cronenberg-ian levels of graphic body horror. If that sounds appealing, then this comic is for you. It’s great that we finally have a great Hulk comic, now that Marvel Studios have all but ruined Hulk in the MCU.
Birthright (Image Comics)
While Birthright really started its run back in 2014, the fact that it’s still going strong half a decade later is a testament to how good this comic book is. If Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ Saga is considered one of the best sci-fi comic book properties out there, then Joshua Williamson and Andrei Bressan‘s Birthright is the fantasy equivalent.
The story in Birthright starts off sort of like a darker and more twisted version of Narnia, as a young boy named Mikey Rhodes goes missing during his birthday party, causing his family to go frantic. One year later, an adult returns to the Rhodes family claiming that he is an older Miley Rhodes.
It turns out that Mikey has been spending almost his entire life in another world named Terrenos where he was raised as a Chosen One to save the magical land from an evil God-King named Lore. That’s the premise, and the fun is discovering what happened to Mikey all this time, and the reason for his sudden reappearance.
Birthright is unconventional in all the right ways, deconstructing familiar fantasy tropes like the Chosen One saviour complex and exploring family drama with the Rhodes family having to cope with the implications of Mikey’s current state. A movie adaptation is also in the works, so now is a great time to start reading the comic.
Infusing Marvel characters with horror elements has been working formula so far in 2019. Like Immortal Hulk (see above), the current ongoing run of Venom by Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman have given the anti-hero a new Lovecraftian cosmic horror-inspired origin.
Brian Michael Bendis’ Guardians Of The Galaxy run established what planet the Symbiotes were from, but Cates and Stegman went deeper and ventured into the mysterious secret origins of the slimy alien parasites.
Venom is back with Eddie Brock, who now also has to deal about a son he never knew about. It’s all very raw and visceral, with the threat of existential horror over the horizon like never before.
With the currently-ongoing Absolute Carnage crossover spinning out of the pages of Venom into the larger Marvel universe, it’s definitely a must-read ongoing series. Just like Venom: Lethal Protector and Agent Venom, this run will likely be considered an iconic run for the character in the future.
Ascender (Image Comics)
Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen crafted their own science fiction odyssey with the Descender comic book series, which then followed by Ascender (which began earlier this year). What’s amazing about it all is how Lemire and Nguyen have seamlessly transformed the Descender‘s space opera and sci-fi world into one that’s now rooted in magic and fantasy with Ascender.
It’s like if Star Trek experienced a time jump and now the universe is suddenly filled with dragons and orcs like in The Lord Of The Rings. That doesn’t seem like it makes much sense in terms of plot progression, but I swear that the creative team’s brilliance makes it all believable and brilliant. Of course, reading Descender is essentially required before jumping into Ascender.
In addition, Descender is another Image Comics property currently being developed into a movie adaptation, just like Birthright (see above), so now is the best time as any to delve into this fusion of science and fantasy with a whole lot of heart.
Batman: The Last Knight On Earth (DC Comics)
As part of DC Comics’ new Black Label, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo‘s Batman: The Last Knight On Earth is a dark and mature story unrestricted by PG-13 limits and confines of mainstream comics. It’s essentially Batman’s (or the DC Universe’s) version of Old Man Logan.
What that means is that it’s set in a bleak and seemingly hopeless post-apocalyptic future where the worst thing imaginable that could happen in superhero comics, well, happened. That is, the villains won in some way.
In this case, Batman wakes up and finds himself in that desolate world, where the heroes lost. We follow the Dark Knight travel through this broken world and attempting to fix it. However, can even the World’s Greatest Detective save a world that’s already dead?
Oh, and did I mention that a disembodied talking Joker head tags along in the journey? Yeah.
Die (Image Comics)
Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Hans have banded together to bring an ingenious concept to life; Jumanji meets D&D (Dungeons & Dragons) with a slice of isekai. Die (it’s a play on the word die, as in death and dice. Get it?) features a group of adults who were trapped together in an RPG tabletop D&D world for two years, kinda like how Jumanji‘s Alan Parrish was stuck in the board game for more than twenty years.
Despite only being two years, the traumatic experience left them emotionally and psychologically scarred for life, since they were forced to leave behind one of their own in that other world. After living with the guilt for years, they suddenly find themselves thrown into the other world once again as adults, with all the baggage that comes with it.
It’s also a meta comic book, exploring the world of an RPG tabletop D&D world from the eyes of adults who grew up playing it, as well as larger issues like the effects of war on a person, the crushing weight and responsibility of wielding power, and more.
Those are my personal picks for best comics of 2019 to date, but the year is far from over and there are plenty of great comics that could have easily made this list. What’s your favourite comics this year? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook.