Hot dang, where did 2018 go? It's already more than halfway over! Time's incessant march forward really just needs to stop. There's barely any time to read all the comic books that have come out this year! But there is plenty of time to admire all those gorgeous covers those comic books have had. Although comic book covers don't usually represent what's inside, they can sometimes be pretty impressive displays of artistry. This year has already delivered some absolutely stunning covers, from nearly every company out there. Although the stories inside don't always measure up to the covers, some of these comic have been outright some of the best comics of the year (so far). From Marvel to DC to Image and beyond, some of the finest artists in comics have been putting out some great work this year.
We're not really going to rank them in this list, since art is subjective and all. We'll just give you a big ol' list of covers and tell you why we like them. We'll also throw in some info about the comics themselves, and whether you should read them or just make a poster out of the covers (we're definitely going to be seeing a few of these on our wall in the next few months). Of course, hundreds (thousands? we're really just guessing) of comics have come out this year already, so we might have missed a cover that you really really liked. Be sure to let us know, and maybe that cover will make it onto a year-end list!
25 PUNISHER MAX: THE PLATOON #6
Garth Ennis' Punisher is widely viewed as the absolute definitive take on the character. So naturally, when it was announced that he would be writing another miniseries about the character, fans were understandably excited. Focusing on Frank Castle's first of three tours in Vietnam, it provided a look into the first signs of Castle becoming the Punisher.
Complementing the story was Goran Parlov's gorgeous interior art. And further complementing that were his dynamite covers. The final cover showed Frank Castle standing tall before a Huey, mirroring the final pages as he sees off his platoon, waving goodbye to his final shred of humanity.
24 AQUAMAN/JABBERJAW SPECIAL #1 VARIANT
The DC/Hanna-Barbera crossover specials have apparently become a bit of a fixture at DC, spinning out of the Hanna-Barbera comic book adaptations like Flintstones and Future Quest. This year, things got completely out of hand. We got Flash and Speed Buggy, Black Lightning and Hong Kong Phooey, and of course, Aquaman and Jabberjaw.
The comic itself isn't much to write home about (but worth it for the Jeff Parker/Scott Colins Captain Caveman backup), but Joshua Middleton's variant cover is a sight to behold.
23 DETECTIVE COMICS #981 VARIANT
Detective Comics, in DC's bold new Rebirth, has collected the various accumulated detritus of the Bat-family, namely, characters people like, but not enough to support a solo series. The book sees Kate Kane (although she has a solo series again), Cassandra Cain, Stephanie Brown, and Tim Drake teaming up with Batman and a redeemed Clayface to fight crime.
This issue was the conclusion of a pretty large story arc revolving around Tim and Kate. Rafael Albuquerque's variant cover isn't particularly representative of the inside of the book, but the imagery of the Batsignal creating Batman's chest symbol is just too good to ignore.
22 EXIT STAGE LEFT: THE SNAGGLEPUSS CHRONICLES #4
DC's Hanna-Barbera line has been home to some of the sleeper hit cult classics of the past few years. Most notable among them is Mark Russell and Steve Pugh's Flintstones. But this entry is not about Flintstones.
Russell's next foray into the Hanna-Barbera properties, Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles, was also an attempt at telling a more serious story, after the sillier Flintstones and Prez. Ben Caldwell's covers for the series were all gorgeous, but #4 and #5 (which will come up later) really stood out.
21 MOON KNIGHT #195
Marvel's recent relaunch of Moon Knight, under Warren Ellis, kicked off a surprisingly quality run of stories from a variety of writers. The current writer, Max Bemis, is playing up the weird. Leaning right into the multiple personality thing Moon Knight has going, he faces him off against a scientifically fused super gross flesh monster made of a bunch of people.
Becky Cloonan's cover is hauntingly beautiful, and is subtly related to what happens inside. The red hands grabbing the white Moon Knight, with the shrouded black face in the middle, is a symphony in color scheme.
20 NEW SUPER-MAN AND THE JUSTICE LEAGUE OF CHINA #23
New Super-Man is (was) the best comic to come out of Rebirth, that no one ended up reading. Written by Gene Luen Yang (of American-Born Chinese fame), it followed the adventures of a misfit group of Chinese knockoff superheroes.
Bernard Chang's variant cover for its penultimate issue featured every Asian DC superhero, from Doctor Light and Katana to Cassandra Cain the New 52 OMAC. It even included Grant Morrison's Super Young Team and Batman of Japan. The comic itself is a love letter to China and Asian culture, and the variant cover is just another thread in that under-appreciated, yet beautiful tapestry.
19 SHADE THE CHANGING WOMAN #1 VARIANT
DC's Young Animal imprint recalled the heyday of Vertigo, featuring adult-oriented kinda weird superhero-adjacent stories. The star attraction is/was Gerard Way and Nick Derington's Doom Patrol. Although it was less popular, the real best book was Cecil Castellucci and Marley Zarcone's Shade the Changing Girl, later relaunched as Shade the Changing Woman.
Zarcone's variant cover for the first issue of Woman captured the ethereal madness that Castellucci and Zarcone had managed to create inside the book. Shade producing tiny versions of her former body is exactly what you'd expect to see out of a Shade book, and Shade the Changing Woman does not disappoint.
18 JUDAS #1 VARIANT
Whoops! This cover actually came out in 2017. But we're only using this cover to get around Facebook's increasingly delicate sensibilities, which often have us in a bind! The actual cover we want to talk about, the variant for #2, is apparently too risqué because of a shirtless Jesus. But anyway...
Jeff Loveness and Jakub Rebelka's Judas is easily one of the best comics this year. Appropriately, Jeremy Bastian's variant covers are also easily some of the best covers this year. Like, we're talking leaps and bounds above almost every other cover, even on this list. The woodcut imagery, the shading, the detail -- all in just pencil -- are truly breathtaking breakthroughs of the form.
17 PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #300
Chip Zdarsky and Adam Kubert's Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man offered a more down-to-earth view of Spider-Man, compared to Dan Slott's more world-shaking Amazing Spider-Man. Thanks to Marvel's Legacy renumbering, it also had a nice big round number issue to look forward to.
Marcos Martin's cover for #300 is a master class in comic book storytelling. Forming the title, credits, and issue number out of New York City buildings is a classic comic book technique, going all the way back to Will Eisner's The Spirit, and Martin pulls it off brilliantly. And of course, Peter changing into Spider-Man, the background detail THREAT OR MENACE?, the detail of the city, all come together to create an all-time classic cover.
16 KOSHCHEI THE DEATHLESS #3
Hellboy might be over, but the universe Mike Mignola built lives on. Koshchei the Deathless, a former antagonist to Hellboy, has finally died, and finds himself in Hell. After the events of Hellboy in Hell (spoilers), there's not much eternal torment to be had, so he sits down and has a drink with Hellboy, telling him the tale of how he became enslaved to the Baba Yaga
Mike Mignola is one of the all-time great comic artists, and his cover to Koshchei the Deathless #3 is no exception. Showing Koshchei stalking a monstrous creature known as the Nightingale, it demonstrates Mignola's mastery of shadow and negative space.
15 HUNGRY GHOSTS #1
This one might be a little raw. In between travelling the world and trying a bunch of food from wherever he went, Anthony Bourdain wrote a few comics. Naturally, they all involve food. The first, 2o12's Get Jiro! was more of an action piece. But his most recent, and final, Hungry Ghosts, was more of a horror anthology.
The covers came from the inestimable Paul Pope, and he really knocked it out of the park for #1. A Japanese spirit enjoying a bowl of ramen, while the chef looks on in consternation. Can't really sum up the concept of the book much better than that.
14 RUNAWAYS #6 VARIANT
Rainbow Rowell and Kris Anka's Runaways relaunch is one of the surprise great books coming out of Marvel right now. Reuniting the team after the disastrous Avengers Arena and its sequels, it's a welcome return to more lighthearted adventures starring every early-to-mid-2000s teen's favorite superteam.
While Anka's interior art is reminding everyone just why we like him, it's Matt Taylor's variant for #6 that really knocks our socks off. The neon-y color scheme combined with the silhouetted team makes for a perfect 1980s glam vibe.
13 DOOM PATROL #10
We mentioned earlier how Gerard Way's Young Animal can get weird. And like Shade the Changing Woman, Way and Nick Derington's Doom Patrol likes to get weird... really weird. Of course, nothing quite epitomizes that like Derington's bizarre photo-collage cover for Doom Patrol #10.
You've got the photo of a cat with human eyes. It's asking the reader to save the Doom Patrol. There's a brigade of alien plushies (a character in the book) lined up on parade. And as one last little weird detail, Derington has signed his name Dick Nerdington.
12 MISTER MIRACLE #10
At the time of this list's writing, this issue hasn't been published yet, but it's coming out in like a month, so it's fair game, we say! And hey, it's Nick Derington again! Tom King and Mitch Gerads' Mister Miracle has been taking a grim look at Scott Free's mental health and psyche, a far cry from the high-energy, high adventure stories of his Jack Kirby origins.
In the book, Darkseid has thus far been a background presence, subtly implying that things are not exactly what they seem. Derington's cover for #10, showing an almost-entirely monochrome Darkseid, save for his Omega Sanction eyes, is incredibly chilling.
11 EXIT STAGE LEFT: THE SNAGGLEPUSS CHRONICLES #5 VARIANT
As we said before, all of Ben Caldwell's Snagglepuss covers are gorgeous. We'd love to include all of them, but Facebook doesn't like images showing smoking, so what can you do. This time, though, it's a variant! And boy is it something else...
The comic follows Snagglepuss, reimagined as a gay playwright, who finds himself in the crosshairs of the House Committee on Unamerican Activities. In #5, he is finally brought before the HUAC to testify against his fellow creators or else be blackballed. Joelle Jones and Jordie Bellaire's cover shows him alone and prepared to testify, the only spot of color in a sea of beige witnesses and press.
10 BLACK MAGICK #10
Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott's Black Magick is a black and white tale of a modern day witch who is also a cop trying to deal with some spooky magical happenings in her town. After a far-too-long hiatus, so Rucka and Scott could do Wonder Woman in DC's Rebirth, the book finally returned last year.
The final issue of the second arc just barely squeaks on to the list, coming out in late January of this year. Scott's cover is framed perfectly around a voodoo doll representation of the protagonist, held by a sinister hand approaching a maternity ward. This is peak spooky.
9 DAYS OF HATE #1
Ales Kot and Danijel Zezelj's Days of Hate is one of the myriad "America is doomed" comics that popped up in the wake of the 2016 election. Unfortunately for Zezelj's brilliant art, Ales Kot's writing is as patronizing as ever. But that doesn't detract from Zezelj's hauntingly beautiful cover.
Although fairly simple, the angry red background with the barbed wired hands rather subtly evokes some chilling imagery. Of course, this is in direct contrast to Kot bashing readers over the head with the parallels inside, but at least the cover tells a good story!
8 ASSASSINISTAS #2
Gilbert Hernandez, of Love and Rockets fame, is widely regarded as one of the all-time greats in comic books. Love and Rockets alone is one of the most influential comics of all time. So naturally, a comic written by Tini Howard with art by Hernandez, is worth getting excited for. Assassinistas tells the tale of three female ex-assassins, who get embroiled in one last job when one of them kidnaps one of the others' children.
Unfortunately, the colors sort of take away some of the magic of Hernandez's art, but that doesn't stop the cover for #2 from being uniquely eye-catching. There's just something about the image of a gun stuck in a jar of peanut butter with a label depicting three lady assassins that intrigues the mind.
7 LEGION #1 VARIANT
David Haller, Legion, is one of the most powerful mutants of all time. He's also the star of a pretty great TV show. He's ALSO the star of one of the best Marvel comics in recent years, X-Men Legacy by Si Spurrier and Tan Eng Huat. So naturally fans were pretty excited when it was announced he would get another solo series.
Unfortunately, Peter Milligan and Wilfredo Torres' Legion doesn't quite live up to Legacy. But that didn't stop Bill Sienkiewicz from delivering an incredible variant. The impressionistic rendering of Legion covered by childish graffiti is the perfect representation for David's dissociative identity disorder.
6 INFIDEL #1 VARIANT
Pornsak Pichetshote and Aaron Campbell's Infidel is a bit of a different twist on a horror comic. Focusing on a Muslim woman living in a building that was bombed by another Muslim, it spins a tale of a haunting/demon/djinn incursion that seems to exist specifically to torment her.
Combining fear of xenophobia with fear of actual spooky ghosts, Jae Lee's variant cover is downright bone-chilling (although Campbell's main cover is no slouch either). Showing the protagonist standing in front of a red ghost/demon/djinn thing, the horror comes in the details. While at first glance, the woman appears to be clasping her hands together in prayer, a second look reveals that her hand is intertwined with the demon's.
5 ICE CREAM MAN #1 VARIANT
Man, we sure are including a lot of horror comics on this list, huh? W. Maxwell Prince and Martin Morazzo's Ice Cream Man is another horror anthology comic, following a supernatural ice cream man as he drifts from one tragedy to another.
Frazer Irving's variant for #1 really slams you with the spook. It feels like the ground has dropped out from under you, and you're falling forever. Toss in some of the vaguely unsettling ice cream dripping from the man's lips, and you've got yourself a top-shelf horror cover!
4 SUPER SONS #13 VARIANT
With the introduction of Superman's son, Jonathan Kent, fans began clamoring for a team up book between Jon and Damian Wayne, the son of Batman. Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason delivered reasonably admirably with Super Sons. They developed a good chemistry between the characters, even though sales didn't quite match expectations.
The most recent arc began in #13 with a reunion between Damian and his supervillainess mother Talia al-Ghul. Dustin Nguyen's beautiful variant is a symphony of color and shadow, with some nice details that bring the cover together brilliantly.
3 TWISTED ROMANCE #4
Hey, another anthology! Only this one isn't horror. It's romance. Writer Alex de Campi teams up with some of the brightest artists in the business to create a number of stories about love gone right, gone wrong, and everything in between.
The final issue features a cover (and story) from the brilliant artist Trungles. His art has sort of a classic, children's book feel. His story with Alex de Campi is ridiculously cute (at first, then it becomes an allegory for abusive relationships), and the cover is no exception, featuring the princess from their story meeting a rather fierce-looking dragon.
2 RUNAWAYS #9
Back to Rainbow Rowell and Kris Anka's Runaways for our penultimate entry. This time, the main cover is by Kris Anka. While not quite as evocative as the #6 variant, it's still a pretty comical image that sums up the comic quite nicely.
Chase Stein stands toe-to-toe with none other than DOOM. Of course, he's not quite toe-to-toe. He's standing on a little pile of junk so he can be more at eye level with DOOM. It's this sort of subtle humor and character-filled moments that epitomize Runaways.
1 WHY ART?
No, that's not a question we're asking you. It's the title of a graphic novel by Eleanor Davis. Hopefully you gathered that, with that big ol' cover right under the title. Why Art? starts out as a bit of a tongue-in-cheek informational piece, before morphing into a rather melancholy and moving story about artists and their art. It attempts to answer the question the title asks.
The cover is highly evocative, showing huge hands coming close to a tiny diorama. The bright red flowers stand in contrast to the cooler orange of the hands, and the black of the background. The cover itself asks the viewer "why?" And maybe Davis has the answer.