The best comics of 2024 so far

Nothing beats having a new comic book in your hot little hands and settling in for a good read. Fortunately, 2024 has delivered fantastic comics from every side of the industry — and there are lots more on the way.

But for now, these are Polygon’s best comics of the first half of 2024. Stay tuned for more!

Comics were considered eligible if they were graphic novels published for the first time in 2024 or series that were collected for the first time, or published their final collection, in 2024. Everything on this list is available in paperback or collected form for your eager hands — no worries for trade-waiters.


Tokyo These Days

By Taiyo Matsumoto

A man with thick-rimmed glasses chases after an umbrella blowing in the wind through a Japanese street, rain coming down as he fails to reach it, in Tokyo These Days. Image: Taiyo Matsumoto/Viz

I’ve never read a cartoonist that makes me feel the space between each panel as strongly as Taiyo Matsumoto. He doesn’t have to fill a page with the buzzing of cicadas or the pulse of a city’s streets for me to hear them in my ear; on a deep instinctual level he knows what two images juxtaposed together will create that ambience, and fill his pages with room tone. He is a master of quiet.

There are also few cartoonists as loud as Matsumoto. His distorted figures and grotesquely expressive close-ups are a gonzo hallmark of his work like Tekkonkinkreet or Ping Pong, which makes the still moments in those stories stand out all the more.

Four angularly intercut panels: An extreme closeup of a the squinting eyes of a man wearing thick-rimmed glasses, a HWOOO sound effect, the man reacting with surprise, and his hands around the stick of a folded umbrella, the fabric going “FLAPPA FLAP,” in Tokyo These Days. Image: Taiyo Matsumoto/Viz

Yet Tokyo These Days has none of those moments of noisy bravura. It’s a more restrained, somber work, about Shiozawa, a career manga editor who surreptitiously decides to quit the business. Yet before he fully settles into retirement, he gives himself a final to-do list: to meet with several struggling cartoonists he used to work with and ask what happened to the love and passion that once lived in their stories, to see if there is any bit of romance left in the medium that wrung them all out. Burning out has never looked so beautiful. —Joshua Rivera

Transformers

By Daniel Warren Johnson and Mike Spicer

Optimus Prime cradles a dead deer in his hands as he talks sadly with Spike, a human teen. “I had no idea. Your home is so... fragile. [...] Where I am from, everything is metal. The ground doesn’t sway when I walk. I don’t leave marks where my feet tread. I should have known better,” in Transformers. Image: Daniel Warren Johnson, Mike Spicer/Skybound

In truck-mode, Optimus Prime smashes into a surprised Decepticon at top speed, yelling “Get away from them!!!” as Carly and an Autobot cower in the foreground. A huge BOOM sound effect in bright colors hangs in the air in Transformers. Image: Daniel Warren Johnson, Mike Spicer/Skybound

Really bashed-up in his truck mode, and with an injured Spike in the passenger seat, Optimus Prime opens his cab door to Spike’s dad, saying “I’m going to save your boy,” in Transformers. Image: Daniel Warren Johnson, Mike Spicer/Skybound

Optimus Prime and Soundwave face off before — SWA — PAF — Optimus catches Soundwave’s punch. “Make no mistake, Soundwave...” he says, “I desire peace. But I am no fool.” With a SCREEEEEEE, a Decepticon jet swipes by and carries Soundwave away in Transformers. Image: Daniel Warren Johnson, Mike Spicer/Skybound

Skybound Entertainment’s stealth launch of an interconnected G.I. Joe/Transformers setting was one of the best-kept comic book secrets of 2023. What has become clear as the Energon Universe has rolled out, however, is that Transformers is among 2024’s best comics set in any interconnected brand universe.

Daniel Warren Johnson’s Transformers is a war comic where the tanks and planes can punch and kick and vertical suplex each other off of cliffs — and it’s some of the most beautiful action put on the page this year. There’s more of a sense of scale and weight in any given panel of Transformers than there is in the whole of a Michael Bay movie. And when it comes to implied motion in a static image, Johnson is simply one of the best in the business.

With a giant BOOM sound effect in the background, Optimus Prime double food kicks Devastator in the chin, metal spraying from the giant Decepticon’s mouth in Transformers. Image: Daniel Warren Johnson, Mike Spicer/Skybound

But for a book that’s 90% the wildest “giant robots that can turn into cars and planes” action you’ve ever seen, the stakes are as small and personal as the families of precocious teens Spike and Carly. The real miracle of Transformers is how Johnson keeps it all pinned to an emotional ground — and when the fights are so good, that’s saying something. —Susana Polo

Doom

By Sanford Greene, Jonathan Hickman, Rachellle Rosenberg, and Joe Caramanga

Galactus zooms implacably through an asteroid field, as Doctor Doom monologues. “Two days ago, I watched a spiral galaxy eat a broken nebula... and it was so insignificant... just background noise,” in DOOM. Image: Sanford Greene, Jonathan Hickman/Marvel Comics

There is a tendency to overrepresent the contribution of writers in discussions about comics, especially when they loom as large as Jonathan Hickman. So it’s something that Doom doesn’t even open with his words, but with late rapper MF Doom’s. “Living on borrowed time/The clock ticks faster” begins the stand-alone one-shot, cribbing the opening bars of “Accordion,” a track off the era-defining album Madvillainy. It’s a good tone-setter: The writer, like the reader, is just along for the ride.

The wonderfully kinetic artist/writer Sanford Greene is the MC here, setting the stage for a story about the greatest villain in the Marvel Universe at the end of everything. This wouldn’t be the first story about Doctor Doom as the last man standing between a version of the Marvel Universe and a Galactus gone mad — but it is perhaps the most thrilling. Doom’s lean, mean script sets the stakes as big as they come, and then gets out of the way to let Sanford Greene absolutely rip, folding the character’s entire history into one cosmic battle. His linework is unrestrained chaos fitting the story’s scope, with Greene and colorist Rachelle Rosenberg rendering the end of the world in magenta and green.

All the heroes and villains of the Marvel Universe assemble to stop Galactus in an impressive double page spread, a narration box reads: “And Galactus destroyed them all,” in DOOM. Image: Sanford Greene, Jonathan Hickman/Marvel Comics

In a fallow era for American superhero comics, Doom is a goddamn meteor streaking across the sky, with metaphors made flesh wrestling above all of existence. The magic trick Greene and Hickman pull here is a very old one, when you think about it. Here it is, the bare minimum of what a good superhero comic should be, spun into one of the coolest damn books you can read. Straw spun into gold. —JR

My Favorite Thing Is Monsters Book Two

By Emil Ferris

Karen and her brother “Deeze” get on an elevated subway train in Chicago. A narration box reads “I decided not to mention how Drunk Deeze had told me to ‘get lost’ just last night...” in My Favorite Thing Is Monsters Part 2. Image: Emil Ferris/Fantagraphics

An image drawn in multicolored ballpoint pens on lined notebookpaper: Karen (drawn as a small werewolf in a trenchcoat and fedora, follows her brother Diego across a crosswalk and under an elevated train track. “So, where are we going to find ourselves today?” she asks, in My Favorite Thing is Monsters Book Two. Image: Emil Ferris/Fantagraphics

In 2017, Emil Ferris’ debut graphic novel, My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, exploded out of nowhere to become one of the most acclaimed books of the 2010s. Presented as the spiral notebooks of Karen Reyes, a precocious grade schooler who loves art and creature features, the comic was dazzling in its voice and density. Through Karen’s monster-obsessed eyes, Ferris gave readers a vivid ballpoint-pen portrait of ’60s Chicago and its sex workers, queer and BIPOC denizens, and related outcasts as Karen attempts to solve a murder and uncovers a family secret.

The first half of a two-volume work, My Favorite Thing Is Monsters spent seven years suspended on a cliffhanger as a dispute between Ferris and publisher Fantagraphics kept the fate of Book Two in limbo until now. Ferris’ struggle to publish this voluminous work has not been in vain — My Favorite Thing Is Monsters Book Two is as awe-inspiring a conclusion as its predecessor was an opening act.

Following the template set by the first volume, Karen’s journals depict a girl dealing with tumultuous change within and without, in parallel with the city around her. Under Karen’s pen, fictitious monsters are a comfort as she comes to grips with a life more perilous than she realized, one haunted by gangsters, crooked cops, and killers that threatens to swallow her and her older brother Diego alive. Answers to the questions posed in the first act elude her in the second — and the ones she does find are overwhelming.

A blue woman wearing scarab earrings talks to Karen: “Little artist, you once told me that you wanted to be a good monster when you grew up, do you recall that? Perhaps ‘a good monster’ is a person who makes the most thoughtful choice possible, evenwhen there are no good options... Remember these words and when you make your terrible choice... please do not hate yourself... as I did.” From My Favorite Thing Is Monsters Part 2 Image: Emil Ferris/Fantagraphics

Ferris has done something incredible in these two volumes. She’s crafted a coming-of-age story like no other, a comic that considers the ways we have made monsters out of the innocent so monstrousness can run rampant, and funneled all through the pen of a 10-year-old unaware she’s experienced a lifetime of horror. She draws herself as a little werewolf to cope, but also maybe to inspire. There are good monsters and bad monsters, and it’s on us to decide which we’re going to be. —JR

Newburn

By Chip Zdarsky and Jacob Phillips

Newburn is talking while someone off panel points a gun at his head. “Someone steals from the Flying Dragons, I find out who did it. Someone murders a Russian mobster, I find out who did it. Nobody touches me. That’s the rule. I’m a U.N. inspector wandering through a war zone,” in Newburn. Image: Chip Zdarsky, Jacob Phillips/Image Comics

A crime drama lives or dies on its tone, and a detective series lives or dies on its hook — and Newburn, a modern noir crime drama with the structure of a detective series, lives quite well indeed.

Newburn’s tight two-volume story introduces Easton Newburn, private detective, as he takes on an apprentice partner. The twist is that Newburn doesn’t work for just anybody: He’s the neutral party that all of New York City’s organized crime families depend on to get to the real truth. Writer Chip Zdarsky spins up a cadre of murder mysteries where the answer is never just whodunit but “who’s gonna pay for it without throwing the city into gang war,” while artist Jacob Phillips’ understated colors and linework belie just how talented you have to be to make a book with this many conversations feel tense and dynamically staged.

A seated woman asks Newburn why he isn’t turning her into the cops or the mafia. “I want you to work for me,” he smirks, in Newburn. Image: Chip Zdarsky, Jacob Phillips/Image Comics

Head and taillights smear as a black car and a white fan go by. Newburn stands spookily in the shadow beneath an awning, in Newburn. Image: Chip Zdarsky, Jacob Phillips/Image Comics

Newburn’s marriage of crime comics and the odd-couple detective duo slides easily into the most compelling questions of both genres: This detective is the best at what he does, but has he left his humanity behind him? And if these righteous people live so close to the unrighteous, how long until they topple over the brink? Or have they already? —SP