Our borg Best of 2018 list continues today with the Best in Print. If you missed them, check out our review of the Best Movies of 2018 here, the Kick-Ass Heroines of 2018 here, and the Best in Television 2018 here.
So let’s get going. Here are our selections for this year’s Best in Print:
Best Read, Best Sci-fi Read – The Synapse Sequence by Daniel Godfrey (Titan Books). The Synapse Sequence is one of those standout reads that reflects why we all flock to the latest new book in the first place. The detective mystery, the future mind travel tech, the twists, and the successful use of multiple perspectives made this one of the most engaging sci-fi reads since Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park. Honorable mention: Solo: A Star Wars Story novelization by Mur Lafferty (Del Rey).
Best Retro Read – Killing Town by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins (Hard Case Crime). The lost, first Mike Hammer novel released for the 100th anniversary of Mickey Spillane’s birth was gold for noir crime fans. This first Hammer story introduced an origin for a character that had never been released, in fact never finished, but Spillane’s late career partner on his work made a seamless read. This was the event of the year for the genre, and a fun ride for his famous character. Honorable mention: Help, I Am Being Held Prisoner, by Donald E. Westlake.
Best Tie-In Book – Solo: A Star Wars Story–Expanded Edition novelization by Mur Lafferty (Del Rey). Not since Donald Glut’s novelization of The Empire Strikes Back had we encountered a Star Wars story as engaging as this one. Lafferty took the final film version and Lawrence and Jon Kasdan’s script to weave together something fuller than the film on-screen. Surprises and details moviegoers may have overlooked were revealed, and characters were introduced that didn’t make the final film cut. Better yet, the writing itself was exciting. We read more franchise tie-ins than ever before this year, and many were great reads, but this book had it all. Honorable Mention: Big Damn Hero by James Lovegrove (Titan).
Best Genre Non-fiction – Hitchcock’s Heroines by Caroline Young (Insight Editions). A compelling look at the director and his relationship with the leading women in his films, this new work on Hitchcock was filled with information diehard fans of Hitchcock will not have seen before. Young incorporated behind-the-scenes images, costume sketches, and a detailed history of the circumstances behind key films of the master of suspense and his work with some of Hollywood’s finest performers.
There’s much more of our selections for 2018’s Best in Print to go…
Best New Edition of Previous Published Work – The Secret Garden, Francis Hodgson Burnett, MinaLima (Harper Design). MinaLima’s artwork was the perfect excuse to get Burnett’s magical classic The Secret Garden into the hands of new readers. This new edition was the perfect storybook, and MinaLima, the duo of Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima known best for their Harry Potter film work, provided several beautiful, tactile add-ons to make any young reader (older ones, too) excited to flip to the next page.
Best Book Design – The Archive of Magic – The Film Wizardry of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, Signe Bergstrom and MinaLima (Harper Design). It’s probably no surprise that MinaLima produced two works on our list this year. With several good books in the Harry Potter universe hitting shelves this year, this one had the added dazzle of being a beautiful artifact to behold, thanks to MinaLima’s incorporation of artwork and replica props based on their own movie designs. Everything from the foldover hardcover, the gilded design, the tipped-in ephemera, and brilliant quality layouts all resulted in an incredible work of craftmanship.
Best Concept Art Book – The Art of Harry Potter by Stuart Craig (Harper Design). Not every book deserves the word ginormous, but this work qualifies. Densely packed, this treatise on the concept artwork from 2001 to 2011 that resulted in eight films is a course in visual worldbuilding. A rewarding document for fans who haven’t seen anything new like this from the Potterverse in seven years. It’s also a showcase of the thousands of creators whose ideas combined to make one of genredom’s most popular film franchises.
Best Pop Culture History/Overview – Art and Arcana: A Visual History by Michael Witwer, Kyle Newman, Jon Peterson, Sam Witwer (Ten Speed Press). Every faction of fandom deserves a thoroughly research and comprehensive book on its history like that found in this book. The creators compiled nearly 450 pages of Dungeons & Dragons development, its creators, its variations, its manuals, and its artwork. And for non-gamers, it’s a fascinating look inside the game, and its ever-growing popularity. It also smartly incorporates recurring thematic sections for anyone wanting to easily return for later reference.
Most Fun Read of the Year – Help I Am Being Held Prisoner by Donald E. Westlake (Hard Case Crime). Every work of a well-known author doesn’t have to fall among the author’s best work. Sometimes the more oddball choices can be as much fun to encounter. That was the case with this entry, a humorous tale, and non-standard offering by the noted crime writer. Laugh-out-loud funny, and preposterous circumstances, Westlake made it all work with engaging characters. A great choice for a modern re-print.
Best Book Cover Artist – Hydro74 variant Covers for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition (Wizards of the Coast). We couldn’t get enough of these ornate designs by the artist known as Hydro74. The unique style and colors was like nothing else in book design, and evokes the 19th century cover styles that clung to every book years ago. A refreshing, interesting way to jazz up otherwise standard cover styles.
Best Limited Series, Best New Series – X-Men: Grand Design/X-Men: Genesis by Ed Piskor (Marvel Comics). The highlight of this year in comics was Marvel Comics giving Ed Piskor the brass ring and fans of Marvel Comics past and present getting the opportunity to relive the first part of the history of Marvel in a few comic book issues. His styles, his choices, his paper selection, his color work, his lettering, all made this series stand above everything else this year.
Best Crossover/Mash-up Comic Book – Aquaman/Jabberjaw by Dan Abnett, Paul Pelletier, Andrew Hennessy, Rain Beredo (DC Comics/Hanna-Barbera). DC Comics and Hanna-Barbera must have had a blast continuing their series of team-ups this year, but none was better than joining these two unlikely denizens of the deep. Sticking to what makes Aquaman cool and Jabberjaw funny they created a quick, fun tale we’d be glad to read every month.
Best Comic Book Writer-Artist, Best Graphic Novel – Cynthia von Buhler, Minky Woodcock, The Girl Who Handcuffed Houdini (Titan Comics). Cynthia von Buhler was a double threat this year. As a writer, she combined a well-researched story pulled from her own ancestral research, tying in historic events and weird supernatural pieces of America’s past. As an artist, she revealed a beautiful style mixed with realistic characters and places, and nostalgic colorful layouts emblematic of the Golden Age of comics. The resulting graphic novel was one of the most refreshing and unusual reads of 2018.
Best Comic Series, Best Comic Book Single Issue – X-23 (Marvel Comics). We’re constantly looking for the next series that has it all like Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto’s Black Widow and Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye. So far it looks like Mariko Tamaki, Juann Cabal, and Nolan Woodard are building that series in the pages of X-23. The first issue was both the best and the year’s most fun in a year of several reboots, restarts, and event issues.
Best Comic Book Cover Artist – Alex Ross, Captain America, Batman, Fantastic Four, Amazing Spider-Man, The Immortal Hulk, Astonishing X-Men, and more. We lost track of how many covers Ross must be producing per month. As with some past years we’ve named Ross as #1–it’s his choice of subject matter, his quality, his consistent ability to amaze us with his one of-kind superhero concepts, and incredible volume of output that dazzled us again in 2018.
Best Comic Book Cover – Batman #50 classic Catwoman variant, Alex Ross (DC Comics). With a year that saw masses of variant covers, from Action Comics #1000 to Spider-Man #800 to a new Fantastic Four #1 and on and on, how do you pick one? Among the variant covers for the misfire Batman/Catwoman wedding-that-wasn’t event, this Alex Ross cover still brings a smile to our faces. Catwoman seems to emerge from the comics as a real person here, her smile genuine, and she really seems to be enjoying the moment. Only an idea and achievement that you’d find from the paints and mind of Alex Ross.
Best Comic Book Interior Art, Best Comic Book Writer – The Once and Future Tarzan, Thomas Yeates, Alan Gordon (Dark Horse). Yeates took writer Gordon’s epic new Tarzan story and applied the look and feel of old adventure stories, a nostalgic view that took many of us back to the classics. Flash Gordon, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Conan the Barbarian, and The Jungle Book, ideas from all of these seemed to be infused into this graphic novel. Action in comics should always be this good.
Best Comic Book Event – The Amazing Spider-Man #800, various covers (Marvel Comics). Of all the events this year, we think the best bang for the buck was the quality of all the cover art options for The Amazing Spider-Man Issue #800. Maybe it’s something about Spider-Man’s design that brings out the best in artists, or maybe it’s what he stands for. If you only bought one it was a difficult choice. It’s events like this that beg for a re-release reprinting all the covers in one volume as the Hero Initiative does each year for original charity sketch art.
Best Comic Book Homage – Fantastic Four #1 variant covers – Our favorite homage covers this year could be found in the reboot of the Fantastic Four series. Homage covers included great pieces like Mike Mayhew’s new take after Gil Kane and David Cockrum’s cover to Giant-Size X-Men #1 and Alex Ross’s homage to Jack Kirby’s Fantastic Four #1.
Best Comic Anthology or Collection – The Fantastic Four: Behold… Galactus! (Marvel). This 312-page, affordable, epic hardcover book reprinted at the giant size of original comic book artwork provided a look at Fantastic Four (1961) Issues #48-50, #74-77, #120-123, and #242-244. The artwork by Kirby, Buscema, and Byrne is a feast for the eyes. (And yes, that’s another Alex Ross cover).
Best Star Trek Non-fiction – Star Trek: Lost Scenes by David Tilotta and Curt McAloney (Titan Books). Just when you think everything has been written about one of the most popular genre franchises, something like this book surfaces. Everything that went before the cameras during the production of Star Trek: The Original Series, both intentionally and unintentionally, made it to film. These collectors compiled these extra film cuts and were able to publish them so fans of Star Trek could actually see images never seen before. The book was a huge hit with fans, and the selection and design highlighted this unique offering.
Best Star Wars Non-fiction – The Moviemaking Magic of Star Wars: Creatures and Aliens by Mark Salisbury (Abrams Young Readers). For the first time a genre book focused on aliens and creatures of a franchise in a compelling way. This book is full of tipped-in replica paper artifacts, and insight into the entire Star Wars saga–all ten films. Featuring animatronics, puppetry, practical effects, costuming, CGI, sculpts, animal actors, prosthetics and makeups, stop-motion animation, and motion capture creations, this book covers all sorts of visual effects. A great book for every Star Wars fan.
Best Firefly Non-Fiction – Firefly Encyclopedia by Monica Valentinelli (Titan Books). So many Firefly books have been created to dig into the details of the short-lived series, yet the giant fanbase demands it. It must create a challenge to bring forward something new, yet the Firefly Encyclopedia presented loads of in-world and behind the scenes content so any fan who has amassed all the other non-fiction books will be surprised at all that is presented here.
Best Doctor Who Non-fiction – Doctor Who Who-ology: Regenerated Edition by Cavan Scott and Mark Wright (Harper Design). This updated edition included everything and anything Doctor Who fans could want to know about their favorite series. Part encyclopedia, part trivia trove, both in-world information and real-world information, cross-references to actors, creators, and episodes of the series, plus references to the radio dramas, audio books, comic books and other tie-in stories will allow anyone to access answers to Whovian questions quickly.
The Best of the Rest:
Biggest Genre Event of 2018 – We witnessed several major franchise anniversaries in the past few years, but nothing generated (or re-generated?) the anticipation created by the announcement of a new Doctor on BBC’s Doctor Who, resulting in this year’s premiere of Jodie Whitaker as the 13th Doctor. And it was quite a payoff, with new writers and a new cast, the infusion of new blood proved that better Doctor Who stories can be told. This season proved to be the best in years, and the excitement for the latest Doctor was felt around the world from the UK to San Diego Comic-Con.
Biggest Comics News of 2018 – Stan Lee is unprecedented in comic book history, so it’s no surprise his passing brought together legions to remember him. No other creator did more for comic books and had a public persona that made him beloved by fans worldwide like Stan the Man. Stan lived a long life, but that doesn’t mean everyone won’t miss his appearances on-screen once they wrap-up in a few years. His legacy lives on in each new story and film about many of his creations, but none more so than the world’s most popular superhero, which he co-created, the spectacular Spider-Man.
Biggest Star Wars News – With movies coming out so often, it seems like the fanbase is ready for a change. Jon Favreau announcing a new live-action television series featuring the Boba Fett tribe Mandalorians to be called The Mandalorian was just the news everyone needed, generating some excitement next year from Star Wars in advance of the year-end premiere of film Episode IX.
Biggest Star Trek News – A unifying announcement stretched across Star Trek fandom this year that everyone can agree on. More Captain Picard is a good thing. Patrick Stewart announced his return to play Captain Picard next year and social media erupted with glee.
Biggest Firefly News – With little hope of anything involving Firefly actors, new tie-in stories finally began as Joss Whedon launched a tie-in novel series beginning with the well-written Big Damn Hero.
Best Genre Auction – Han Solo Prop blaster from Return of the Jedi (Julien’s). Several auction houses auctioned great entertainment memorabilia this year. Julien’s had our favorite win, when a blaster from Return of the Jedi sold for $550,000.
Best Real Science – NASA’s Juno Mission. Juno brought back the most beautiful images of Jupiter that have ever been taken. Then marking the eighth time NASA has successfully landed a spacecraft on Mars, NASA’s InSight lander successfully arrived on the red planet, sending back to Earth new photographs and data for study.
Best Nerd/Fanboy Tech – Adult Big Wheel. The High Roller Big Wheel is a dream car for adults who never got over the feel and fearlessness of driving a Big Wheel. We’ve always thought the world needs more bumper car arenas for adults. Until then this is the next big want.
Best Action Figure Design (budget) – Maria cyborg from Metropolis (Super 7). The Kenner-style figure from Super 7’s ReAction line must rate as the longest time between a film and a tie-in toy, coming in 91 years later. A good sculpt, and two great package options were made available. So many licensed properties are now coming off of copyright protection and entering the public domain, expect to see many more tie-ins like this next year.
Best Action Figure Design (high-end) – Honey Trap Army Series 2 (Gentle Giant). This series was announced earlier this year, but we still don’t know when they might be available to collectors. We just want to make sure everyone has seen it, because the designs and superb costume work make for one of the coolest figure/statue series we’ve seen yet. Sideshow continues to roll out great figures, but last year’s winner in this category (Sideshow’s middle-aged Tatooine Kenobi) has yet to be shipped, so don’t expect this series from Gentle Giant for a while.
So that’s it!
Come back Monday as we wind up our year-end review, and add several new members for our annual update to the borg Hall of Fame.