Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Abbott (Image: Boom!), Eternity Girl (Image: DC), Total Jazz (Image: Fantagraphics), Is This Guy For Real? (Photo: First Second), and X-Men: Grand Design (Image: Marvel).

The world of comic books is always expanding, and as more creators push the boundaries of the medium, they inspire new talents who continue to experiment and innovate. 2018 promises some exceptional works from a mix of industry veterans and rising stars, including unconventional new takes on established superheroes, noteworthy foreign imports, and a slew of graphic novels ranging from celebrity biographies to philosophical ruminations on the nature of art. We’ve made a list our most anticipated comics of the new year, but this is just a small assortment of the riches in store over the next 12 months.

We’re going to be excited about any new project from Michel Fiffe, but even more so when he’s applying his experimental, avant-garde point of view to an x-treme ’90s property like Rob Liefeld’s Bloodstrike (Image). Recent iterations of Liefeld creations like Glory and Prophet highlighted the potential in these superhero concepts when given the right creative team, and Fiffe is an ideal cartoonist to bring new depth to this team of undead government operatives. Fiffe knows how to balance introspective character work with complex plotting and dynamic action, and his versatility as both a writer and artists means that it’s impossible to predict what direction he’s going to take this team.

DC’s Young Animal line is currently taking a short break (with the exception of the oft-delayed Doom Patrol), but it makes a forceful return next year with the “Milk Wars” event, giving big-name DC characters like Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman a Young Animal makeover. The five one-shots of “Milk Wars” each feature a backup story establishing the world of Eternity Girl (DC), a new miniseries by writer Magdalene Visaggio and artist Sonny Liew about a former superhero and spy on a mission to destroy the universe. Visaggio’s two Kim & Kim miniseries have shown her skill for compelling, energetic stories that stay grounded in emotion while embracing fantastic elements, and her writing will be elevated by Liew’s inventive visual storytelling.

Ed Piskor’s X-Men: Grand Design (Marvel) just started, but we’re already looking forward to the collection of this miniseries, which will be printed as an oversized Marvel Treasury Edition in the vein of Piskor’s Hip-Hop Family Tree. This is the ideal way to the read this series, which condenses 30 years of extremely convoluted X-Men history into a single timeline that shows how time jumps and retcons function in a strict chronological account. Grand Design a fascinating approach to superhero continuity, presented with Piskor’s unique sensibility that is reverent of the past while subtly commenting on how ridiculous these superhero stories can get.

The work of French cartoonist Blutch has been gradually making its way overseas, and February’s Total Jazz (Fantagraphics) has him delving into different aspects of jazz music and the culture surrounding it with a variety of short stories that showcase his raw, exhilarating art style. He’s embracing the improvisational nature of the music in his work, creating narratives that feel spontaneous while offering a complex, multifaceted look at the people who connect most with jazz. Like listening to a great solo, Total Jazz washes over the reader and envelops them in Blutch’s graceful artistry.

Speaking of grace, there are few creators who have the finesse of Eleanor Davis, and in addition to being an incredible cartoonist, she’s also a brilliant art philosopher. She’s full of insightful ideas about the value of art in society, and we can’t wait to see her break these down in Why Art? (Fantagraphics), a graphic novel that looks at this central topic from a variety of angles. Davis’ past work has shown her vast knowledge of different art styles and how they inform storytelling, and the scope of Why Art? gives Davis the opportunity to tap into these aesthetics and explore how they resonate with readers on a deeper spiritual level.

The world needs more romance comics, and Alex De Campi is going all-out to satisfy that need with February’s Twisted Romance (Image), a weekly miniseries that brings an outstanding lineup of creators from comics and prose together for an expansive look at the genre. Each 48-page issue features a main story written by De Campi with art by Katie Skelly, Alejandra Gutiérrez, Carla Speed McNeil, and Trungles, plus comics by solo cartoonists and short stories by romance writers. It’s an ambitious celebration of the genre with an inclusive creator lineup, and hopefully readers will seek out this miniseries and inspire more publishers to take a chance on romance comics. (Readers looking for more comic-book love stories will also want to check out Tee Franklin, Jenn St-Onge, and Joy San’s Bingo Love, a Kickstarter success that is being released by Image on Valentine’s Day.)

Writer Saladin Ahmed is doing remarkable work on Marvel’s Black Bolt, so we’re eager to see what he does on his first creator-owned series, Abbott (Boom!). Teaming Ahmed with artist Sami Kivelä and colorist Jason Wordie, Abbott follows a tabloid reporter who finds herself deep in a world of occult-influenced crime, and the only way to bring her family back together is to discover the truth surrounding a string of mysterious murders. Ahmed knows how to create empathetic tragic figures, and he’s able to find the emotional reality in fantastic concepts. That dynamic is reinforced by Kivelä and Wordie’s artwork, which is grounded in realistic detail but features striking layouts and coloring that bring out the fantastic elements of the narrative.

Leiji Matsumoto is a legendary manga creator in Japan, and Seven Seas Entertainment is bringing two of his most beloved projects to the U.S. with official English translations. The first is April’s Captain Harlock: The Classic Collection (Seven Seas), featuring the earliest adventures of the beloved space captain who has appeared in numerous films and TV shows over the past 40 years. The second is October’s Space Battleship Yamato: The Classic Collection (Seven Seas), another classic space opera that was a major influence on future generations of mangaka. American readers have the opportunity to read these seminal titles courtesy of Zack Davisson, one of the best translators in the business, and his attention to detail guarantees that these English versions will stay true to the essence of these series as he introduces them to a new audience.

Cartoonist Box Brown has a talent for crafting nonfiction comics that use visuals to illuminate and energize real-world events in books like Andre The Giant: Life And Legend and Tetris, and he’s looking at the life of comedian Andy Kaufman for his latest graphic novel, Is This Guy For Real? (First Second). Kaufman’s penchant for putting on bold personalities gives Brown a lot to work with in regards to characterization, and he delves into why Kaufman was such a major comedic force by looking at where he fits in the broader context of the entertainment industry of the ’70s and ’80s. It’s a thorough character study that doesn’t shy away from macro topics, giving readers a comprehensive look at Kaufman’s rise to fame.

Jen Wang’s cartooning is full of warmth and charm, and The Prince And The Dressmaker (First Second) embodies these qualities as it tells the sweet tale of a friendship between a cross-dressing prince and the woman who makes his dresses. It’s unconventional subject matter for a young readers’ comic, but it’s an especially valuable story in a social climate where gender identity is such a major issue. Wang approaches this topic with tenderness, emphasizing the power of finding someone who accepts you for who you are and is eager to help you realize your dreams to become the best version of yourself.

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