Berlin and The Strange Among Paste Top 25 of 2018

“The 25 Best Comic Books of 2018” / Paste Magazine / Hillary Brown / December 6, 2018

This was a weird year to review. Unlike the past few years, this list came together in fits and starts, not as one massive roll call that needed to be whittled down. That’s not to say that comics were lacking in 2018, but that the playing field felt more even—which is reflected in the breadth of choices below, from self-published wrestling comics to superhero horror stories, pseudo-magazine comics journalism to a lit-AF update of one of the longest running comic strips around. Paste always aims to take a wide view of the medium when compiling our Best-of ranking, which means high-minded “literary” releases sit side by side with Men of Steel and delinquent super-teens. There are bound to be inclusions—and exclusions—that frustrate you, but what’s a year-end list without a little heated discussion? If your favorite didn’t make the cut below, keep an eye peeled for the rest of our lists arriving throughout December. But if you want to know the 25(ish) titles we feel best represent 2018’s sequential-art bounty, keep on scrolling.

19. The Strange 
Writer/Artist: Jérôme Ruillier
Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly
It’s a cliché that literature (which includes comics, duh) allows us to connect with people of wildly different backgrounds from our own through fostering empathy, but damn if it isn’t often true. Jérôme Ruillier’s book about undocumented people takes an unusual approach to this task, however, showing things not from the perspective of the “strange” in question but by laying out the reactions of the people around him. Deftly and gently, he fills in the rest of the world, leaving a hole in the shape of the person whom others don’t quite see. With its areas of color filled in all scribber-scrabber and its pencil-work soft and wobbly, it makes room for complexity as it builds a world that resembles our own.

1. (Tie) Berlin 
Writer/Artist: Jason Lutes
Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly
When Jason Lutes started releasing what would end up running 580 pages back in 1996, Bill Clinton was president, the Internet was barely a thing and Drawn & Quarterly was still in its early youth. It’s weird to pick what is in some ways an old book as the best book of 2018, but what is “weird,” anyway, these days? As history goes around and around, the past has plenty to teach the present. Lutes knew that when he started Berlin, but he didn’t know how relevant his book, which covers the titular city’s atmosphere in the years before Hitler became chancellor, would become. How did Nazism rise to power? What were ordinary people thinking and feeling that they enabled the evils to come? Lutes doesn’t have easy, bird’s-eye-view answers to these questions, and although he flits around the city from story to story, he’s more a sparrow than an eagle, diving down to the ground level when something catches his eye. It’s a sympathetic portrayal of a wide variety of people that may technically be in black and white, but is metaphorically very much in shades of gray.

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