Our Favorite Books of 2019

by stephengervais on December 26, 2019

As 2019 comes to an end we thought a fun way to celebrate an amazing year in comics would be to share with you our favorite reads of the year.  We got together and each of us chose one book for 3 categories, our favorite ongoing series, our favorite story arc or mini-series, and our favorite single issue of the year. This isn’t the traditional “best of comics list” which you’ll find in abundance with a quick Google search. This is more of way for you to get to know us better and what we really enjoyed reading this year. We think of it more as a fun way to celebrate the genre we love. We hope you have a blast reading it and encourage you to share with us what books you loved this year. We also want to take this opportunity to wish everyone a healthy and happy New Year’s! All the best in 2020 from all of us at CTG! Now on with our picks!


Favorite ongoing - East of West (Image)
When this series started in March of 2013 it promised to lead to an apocalyptic end. I’m writing this a week before issue #45, the finale, is set to be released and can truthfully say that end appears to be exactly what is in store. If you’re not familiar with the story, it is about the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse trying to bring about the end of civilization and the rise of the Great Beast. Except, one of their members, the Horseman Death, has turned his back on them and is out to settle a score. Aiding the Horsemen in the apocalypse is a group of political leaders who have been secretly using their power and influence to play the great game of the end of all things. With political and personal intrigue on the scale of a story like Game of Thrones, and a world just as fleshed out and filled with interesting lore building, this last chapter has involved all the pieces of the past and brought them to a symphonic climax. Aided by the art team of illustrator Nick Dragotta and colorist Frank Martin the story’s scale has been seen in the amazing visuals. The beauty of the art in East of West can’t be overstated. Nick Dragotta has a cinematic quality to his scenes. He has the eye of a cinematographer and is never afraid to frame a panel in an unapologetically artistic way. And his grand shots are given brilliantly in-depth coloring by Frank Martin. Especially in this last chapter, there have been multiple full-page shots drawn by Dragotta then colored by Martin with such precision that they leave the impression of Neoclassical paintings. This is the best ongoing series of the year, but I have to admit bias because it is also my favorite comic series of all time, and I’ll miss it when it’s gone.

Favorite story arc/min or maxi-series/or OGN -  Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen (DC)
 Writer Matt Fraction has proven multiple times that he can be given a character and then weave wholly inventive plots around them and mix it with his spot-on humor. So, when he was given a character like Jimmy Olsen, who is no stranger to strange happenings and mysterious plots, it seemed to be a match made in heaven. Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen is a cornucopia of the wildest ideas Fraction could cram into the comic and every one of them is done naturally, making for one of the most unique books from DC this year and maybe ever. It has a feeling that is outside the mainstream almost like the creators are getting away with something they’re not supposed to. The hijinks Jimmy finds himself in issue after issue gets bigger and crazier with each installment. The writing has a golden/silver age flair to it like the days when Superman could be put on trial for murder or when Jimmy Olsen could become the “Giant Turtle Man”. And Fraction plays to that outrageous nature of the tales, frequently using funny alliterative introductions for the characters and overly dramatic headings for the scenes. Helping with the nostalgic feel, Steve Lieber’s art and Nathan Fairbairn’s colors are reminiscent of that period of comics as well. They both can channel that era without keeping the downsides of the period. Lieber’s lines are neat and precise, he’s able to give fine detail to a figure with well-placed strokes. And, his interpretation of Jimmy Olsen’s pal Superman is the perfect version for the aesthetic of the comic. The colors provided by Fairbairn harkens back to the four-color printing era, but with more texture and detail. Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen has proven it is special and seems destined to go down as an essential limited series. It includes a look into the history of Jimmy Olsen and his family, fleshing out the character more than ever. And, with it just reaching the halfway mark, it seems it will continue in 2020 with the same strength that made it my pick of 2019.

Favorite issue - 20XX #1 (Image)
I found this issue so great, I tried to review it but couldn’t put it into words. Hopefully, I’ll find it easier in this short suggestion segment. 20XX #1 could be a blueprint on how to open a new series. Its sci-fi world is built effortlessly in just 30 or so pages, but what it does best is immediately endear and engage you to its main character and plot. In a genre such as science fiction, where it seems everything has been tried at least once, this plot is able to never feel familiar to a particular source. It involves widespread epidemics, enhanced human abilities, drama between societal classes, and gangland warfare. And, everything is expressed clearly in just one issue. I wondered if I should have picked an issue deeper in a series rather than a #1 but that’s what made 20XX so good. It used its time so well it felt like a much longer comic than it was. Co-written by Lauren Keely & Jonathan Luna, it’s hard to tell who was responsible for what. The clear voice in the comic gives it the impression of a single creator. Jonathan Luna also providing the visuals for the book gave it a cohesion few comic books can achieve. The comic is so packed with story because everything is working as a single unit to express and move the plot forward. The use of dialogue, sound effects, and wordless scenes allow the story to be told in every manner possible for a comic book. Luna’s black and white, manga-esque style brings in extra detail to each panel and enhances the futuristic style. But other than being a perfect introduction to a series, it has a wonderful structure that makes it a complete experience as a single issue. It has a “pledge-turnprestige”, three act set-up that starts it with a question, introduces attention-grabbing elements, then brings it all back for an explosive end scene. In 2020, 20XX is going to be my comic to look out for, I hope it’ll surpass the high bar it set for itself with this issue.


Favourite Ongoing – Hellblazer (DC)
This is sure to be a bit controversial, since there’s actually only been two issues released in 2019. Two, and I’m calling it my favourite ongoing. The reasons for this are simple, the two issues that have been released have been awesome. The series hits the ground running, it’s classic vertigo John Constantine, thrust into a mystery against his will. We’ve got a great set of supporting characters who arrive on the page fully formed. The art and colors are out of this world. It’s made me laugh out loud on more than one occasion. Then of course I spoke recently about how important Hellblazer is in these times of political uncertainty and that’s probably the factor which swayed me to make this my favourite ongoing now, rather than next year when it’s had a bit of a chance to blossom. And it earned two 10/10 with no reservations.

Favorite story arc / mini / OGN – Absolute Carnage (Marvel)
I am a massive fan of Donny Cates and his run on Venom is my absolute favourite thing he’s done. And of course it has all been building up to Absolute Carnage and that didn’t in any way disappoint. This is the only event where I’ve actually purchased every single tie in comic as it was released which really says something. Ryan Stegman is such a talented artist and he obviously has a very good relationship with Donny Cates which comes across in their work. There are some truly stand out panels in these issues. The story is outstanding, Eddie is really put through the wringer, we get a good look at the symbiote, and their relationship. I couldn’t fault this event at all. Plus it really sets up events going forward for Eddie, Venom and the Marvel universe at large.

Favourite Issue – B.P.R.D. The Devil You Know #15 (Dark Horse)
This is the only one of the three categories which I didn’t struggle with. It was always going to be this issue. This is the end of the Mignolaverse. 26 years in the telling, this is how Hellboys story ends. And that is such a monumental thing. How often in the world of comics do we have a story that’s so vast in scope as this one, has a whole host of spin offs, yet it also has a definitive beginning, middle and end. Everything that was prophesised since Seed of Destruction comes to pass, it’s such an incredible feat of storytelling. I love Laurence Campbell’s art, then we have Mike Mignola returning to the fold to draw the last half of the issue. It’s tragic and beautiful and filled with hope. It’s everything I could have wanted. Of course there’s still plenty of Hellboy & co tales left to tell, but this is the absolute conclusion to their universe.

Honorary mentions
The rebooted Buffyverse. This was the very first thing that sprung to mind when trying to write this list. I’m not sure whether I would have chosen Buffy or Angel for Favourite ongoing, both are worthy, but Hellblazer just beat them both. Then for favourite story arc I was going to choose Hellmouth, only it hasn’t finished yet so I didn’t think it was fair. But this series, and the Hellmouth event itself, have been fantastic, and rate amongst my favourite comics of all time.


Favorite Ongoing - Justice League (DC)
Out of all the ongoings that I’ve been reading/collecting over the past year, Justice League has been the most consistent and fun series to read. Scott Snyder with James Tynion IV and their cadre of excellent artists have brought us a bevy of excellent stories all leading up to the start of Year of the Villain. By having an end goal in sight, Snyder was able to craft a story that has been able to build upon itself over the past year and made this series a must-read every two weeks. From starting the year on Thanagar, to going to the sixth dimension and having some Legion of Doom interludes, you couldn’t ask for more. And we can’t forget about the art. I believe this single run has established Jorge Jimenez as a force to be reckoned with. 

Favorite story arc / mini / OGN - Little Bird (Image)
Little Bird was not on my radar at all, when the year began. It was only by pure luck that I decided to review the issue for the site, and that turned out to be one of the best decisions I could have made this year. It is rare that I’ll review a comic and immediately go out and buy and add it to my pull list. As a proud Canadian myself, it was extremely fun to see a Canadian author portray such an interesting conflict between two neighbouring nations (Canada and the USA) over an ideology such as religion. What made this series so great though wasn’t just the writing from Darcy Van Poelgeest, but also Ian Bertram’s line work and and Matt Hollingsworth’s colours. They make this series a beautiful masterpiece. 

Favorite Single Issue - Doomsday Clock #12 (DC)
This may come as a surprise to many, but this single issue is almost everything I could have asked for in a comic this year and probably has had the most impact on me. It may be a little bit of recency bias, but Doomsday Clock #12 did everything it set out to do and completed Geoff Johns’ vision of the DC Universe. Time will tell to see if it comes to past, but for now, in this singular moment, I’m just happy I got to see that double-page spread of Superman with the Legion and the JSA.


Favorite Ongoing – Justice League (DC)
If you asked me if I would have ever out Justice League in a favorite list a few years ago, I would have said heck no. For awhile there, DC was just pumping Justice League titles left and right trying to compete with the success of Marvel’s Avengers franchise and by doing so, they destroyed the series. Luckiky, the folks at DC realized this and in 2018 they made the best call they could have made and rebooted the series bringing in former Batman writer Scott Snyder in 2018. Snyder really started from scratch and dig deep into the character pool. Snyder was able to really take every character individually and give them some kind of purpose as if making each one a puzzle piece that all fight together to make one beautiful picture overall. He out a lot of heart into the characters and a drive that has really defined the entire series. Every story arc has been just incredible and deep and have gotten better and better up to the current Justice Doom War which may be the best current arc in any comic series out there today. It is sad to say however after this month Snyder and Jimenez both will be leaving the series and moving on to something they still have yet to announce, but I bet anything it will be pure magic!

Favorite story arc / mini / OGN DCeased (DC)
This series really caught me by surprise. I am all for DC and Zombies seperately, but I never imagined combing the two would create something so amazing. I’ve read a bit of the Marvel Zombie series but I found it just kind of like any other zombie story and gave up on it so when DC announced their own version of it I had very little interest but when I saw Tom Taylor was the author, I knew I had to give it a shot and boy am I glad I did! Not only does Taylor do a fantastic job of keeping the reader in suspense, but he also was able to give heart to a story about flesh eating heroes! Taylor was also very brave with the series and went with the dont get attached to anyone method made famous by Robert Kirkland where even the biggest most loved heroes are not safe which with DC is something we hardly ever see, but the risk payed off huge in the end and really toyed with is readers emotions making us get into the story even more! Its just all together an incredible thrill ride with twists and turns that you can’t out down! Taylor recently announced that in February there will be a new continuation of the series called DCeased: UNKILLABLES and I could not be more excited for it!

Favorite Issue – Tales from the Dark Multiverse: Batman Knightfall (DC)
Knightfall is easily already one of the best Batman story arcs ever written as it is, but what happens when you take that same story, throw it into the Dark Multiverse, and then add the minds of Scott Snyder and Kyle Higgins? Pure terrifying magic! Telling the tale of what happened in an alternative universe where Batman fails to reclaim his cowl from Azrael and the terror that ensues in Gotham City because of it. This story really gets dark, but is an epic read the whole time and when we think we know what the outcome is going to be, these two amazing writers throw us way off with an even darker twist! When it comes to Batman stories we are used to the darkness that ensues his world, but there is always a heroic triumph and in this story there’s a triumoh alrighr, but not the one we expect. The story is so deep and dark and just when we think something’s going to happen, the opposite happens. It is an emotional rollercoaster all the way to the end and may be some of the best work ever from either of the writers. Its easily the best story in The Dark Multiverse series and my all time favorite single issue to be released this year.


Favorite Ongoing - Gideon Falls (Image)
This book has been my favorite monthly title for some time now. Every issue leaves me wanting more which is a hard thing to do month in and month out. Where at a point now where all the story lines are started to come together and really the issues can’t come out fast enough. Writer Jeff Lemire and artist Andrea Sorrentino have put together a horrific tale filled with suspense and brilliant character development. When this series is all said and done it’ll rank as one of their top pieces of work in their respected brilliant careers.

Favorite story arc / mini / OGN - Punisher Kill Krew (Marvel)
I went into this one not expecting much. I actually almost passed on it completely but decided to check out it purely because I hadn’t read a Punisher story in a while. I was hooked within a few pages. This is a spinoff off from an event I didn’t read so there may be some nuances I missed throughout but this was a blast to read. It’s Frank Castle travelling through the realms killing monsters that have left children on earth as orphans due to the battles which happened during War of the Realms. Just ridiculous fun which I was in the mood for!  

Favorite Issue - Year of the Villain: Riddler #1
True this is an issue you could skip and not miss anything essential for the Year of the Villain event but you would be skipping one of best character pieces I’ve ever read on the Riddler! This was a surprisingly outstanding read. Again, an issue I almost didn’t pick up but am grateful I did. It was fun, touching, and just a great introspective read on the mindset of the Ridder. This was by far the best one-shot coming out of the Year of Villain event.

There you have it folks our favorites of 2019! I’ll post the link on our Facebook page where you can post your comments and share with us you top reads of the year! Bring on 2020!!