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Logan’s Favorite Comics of 2020

2020 definitely felt like a year where I embraced comics in all their different formats and genres from the convenient, satisfying graphic novella to the series of loosely connected and curated one shots and even the door stopper of an omnibus/hardcover or that charming webcomic that comes out one or twice a week on Instagram. This was partially due to the Covid-19 pandemic that shut down comics’ traditional direct market for a bit so I started reviewing webcomics, trade paperbacks, graphic novels and nonfiction even after this supply chain re-opened. I also co-hosted and edited two seasons of a podcast about indie comics where we basically read either a trade every week for discussion, and that definitely meant spending more time with that format. However, floppy fans should still be happy because I do have a traditional ongoing series on my list as well as some minis.

Without further ado, here are my favorite comics of 2020.

Marvels Snapshots: X-Men #1 – But Why Tho? A Geek Community

10. Marvels Snapshots (Marvel)

Curated by original Marvels writer Kurt Busiek and with cover art by original Marvels artist Alex Ross, Marvels Snapshots collects seven perspectives on on the “major” events of the Marvel Universe from the perspectives of ordinary people from The Golden Age of the 1940s to 2006’s Civil War. It’s cool to get a more character-driven and human POV on the ol’ corporate IP toy box from Alan Brennert and Jerry Ordway exploring Namor the Submariner’s PTSD to Evan Dorkin, Sarah Dyer, and Benjamin Dewey showing the real reason behind Johnny Storm’s airhead celebrity act. There’s also Mark Russell and Ramon Perez’s take on the classic Captain America “Madbomb” storyline, Barbara Kesel’s and Staz Johnson’s sweet, Bronze Age-era romance between two first responders as the Avengers battle a threat against the city, and Saladin Ahmed and Ryan Kelly add nuance to the superhuman Civil War by showing how the Registration Act affects a Cape-Killer agent as well as a young elemental protector of Toledo, Ohio, who just wants to help his community and do things like purify water. However, the main reason Marvels Snapshots made my “favorite” list was Jay Edidin and Tom Reilly‘s character-defining work showing the pre-X-Men life of Cyclops as he struggles with orphan life, is inspired by heroes like Reed Richards, and lays the groundwork for the strategist, leader, and even revolutionary that appears in later comics.

9. Fangs (Tapas)

Fangs is cartoonist Sarah Andersen’s entry into the Gothic romance genre and was a light, funny, and occasionally sexy series that got me through a difficult year. Simply put, it follows the relationship of a vampire named Elsie and a werewolf named Jimmy, both how they met and their life together. Andersen plays with vampire and werewolf fiction tropes and sets up humorous situations like a date night featuring a bloody rare steak and a glass of blood instead of wine, Jimmy having an unspoken animosity against mail carriers, and just generally working around things like lycanthropy every 28 days and an aversion to sunlight. As well as being hilarious and cute, Fangs shows Sarah Andersen leveling up as an artist as she works with deep blacks, different eye shapes and textures, and more detailed backgrounds to match the tone of her story while not skimping on the relatable content that made Sarah’s Scribbles an online phenomenon.

8. Heavy #1-3 (Vault)

I really got into Vault Comics this year. (I retroactively make These Savage Shores my favorite comic of 2019.) As far as prose, I mainly read SF, and Vault nicely fills that niche in the comics landscape and features talented, idiosyncratic creative teams. Heavy is no exception as Max Bemis, Eryk Donovan, and Cris Peter tell the story of Bill, who was gunned down by some mobsters, and now is separated from his wife in a place called “The Wait” where he has to set right enough multiversal wrongs via violence to be reunited with her in Heaven. This series is a glorious grab bag of hyperviolence, psychological examinations of toxic masculinity, and moral philosophy. Heavy also has a filthy and non-heteronormative sense of humor. Donovan and Peter bring a high level of chaotic energy to the book’s visuals and are game for both tenderhearted flashbacks as well as brawls with literal cum monsters. In addition to all this, Bemis and Donovan aren’t afraid to play with and deconstruct their series’ premise, which is what makes Heavy my ongoing monthly comic.

Amazon.com: Maids eBook: Skelly, Katie, Skelly, Katie: Kindle Store

7. Maids (Fantagraphics)

Writer/artist Katie Skelly puts her own spin on the true crime genre in Maids, a highly stylized account of Christine and Lea Papin murdering their employers in France during the 1930s. Skelly’s linework and eye popping colors expertly convey the trauma and isolation that the Papins go through as they are at the beck and call of the family they work almost 24/7. Flashbacks add depth and context to Christine and Lea’s characters and provide fuel to the fire of the class warfare that they end up engaging in. Skelly’s simple, yet iconic approach character design really allowed me to connect with the Papins and empathize with them during the build-up from a new job to murder and mayhem. Maids is truly a showcase for a gifted cartoonist and not just a summary of historical events.

6. Grind Like A Girl (Gumroad/Instagram)

In her webcomic Grind Like A Girl, cartoonist Veronica Casson tells the story of growing up trans in 1990s New Jersey. The memoir recently came to a beautiful conclusion with Casson showing her first forays into New York, meeting other trans women, and finding a sense of community with them that was almost the polar opposite of her experiences in high school. I’ve really enjoyed seeing the evolution of Veronica Casson’s art style during different periods of her life from an almost Peanuts vibe for her childhood to using more flowing lines, bright colors, and ambitious panel layouts as an older teen and finally an adult. She also does a good job using the Instagram platform to give readers a true “guided view” experience and point out certain details before putting it all together in a single page so one can appreciate the comic at both a macro/micro levels. All in all, Grind Like A Girl is a personal and stylish coming of age memoir from Veronica Casson, and I look forward to seeing more of her work.

5. Papaya Salad (Dark Horse)

Thai/Italian cartoonist Elisa Macellari tells an unconventional World War II story in Papaya Salad, a recently translated history comic about her great uncle Sompong, who just wanted to see the world. However, he ended up serving with the Thai diplomatic corps in Italy, Germany, and Austria during World War II. Macellari uses a recipe for her great uncle’s favorite dish, papaya salad, to structure the comic, and her work has a warm, dreamlike quality to go with the reality of the places that Sampong visits and works at. Also, it’s very refreshing to get a non-American or British perspective on this time in history as Sampong grapples with the shifting status of Thailand during the war as well as the racism of American soldiers, who celebrate the atomic bomb and lump him and his colleagues with the Japanese officers, and are not shown in a very positive light. However, deep down, Papaya Salad is a love story filled with small human moments that make life worth living, like appetizing meals, jokes during dark times, and faith in something beyond ourselves. It’s a real showcase of the comics medium’s ability to tell stories from a unique point of view.

4. Pulp (Image)

Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (with colorist Jacob Phillips) are two creators whose work has graced my “favorite comics” list many times. And this time they really outdid themselves with the graphic novella Pulp about the final days of Max Winters, a gunslinger-turned-Western dime novelist. It’s a character study peppered with flashbacks as Phillips and Phillips use changes in body posture and color palette to show Max getting older while his passion for resisting those who would exploit others is still intact. Basically, he can shoot and rob fascists just like he shot and robbed cattle barons back in the day. Brubaker and Phillips understand that genre fiction doesn’t exist in a vacuum and is informed by the historical context around it, which is what makes Pulp such a compelling read. If you like your explorations of the banality of evil and creeping specter of fascism with heists, gun battles, and plenty of introspection, then this is the comic for you.

3. My Riot (Oni Press)

Music is my next favorite interest after comics so My Riot was an easy pick for my favorite comics list. The book is a coming of age story filtered through 1990s riot girl music from writer Rick Spears and artist Emmett Helen. It follows the life of Valerie, who goes from doing ballet and living a fairly conservative suburban life to being the frontwoman and songwriter for a cult riot girl band. Much of this transformation happens through Helen’s art and colors as his palette comes to life just as Valerie does when she successfully calls out some audience members/her boyfriend for being sexist and patronizing. The comic itself also takes on a much more DIY quality with its layouts and storytelling design as well as how the characters look and act. My Riot is about the power of music to find one’s identify and true self and build a community like The Proper Ladies do throughout the book. Valerie’s arc is definitely empowering and relatable for any queer kid, who was forced to conform to way of life and thinking that wasn’t their own.

2. Getting It Together #1-3 (Image)

I’ll let you in on a little secret: slice of life is my all-time favorite comic book genre. So, I was overjoyed when writers Sina Grace and Omar Spahi, artist Jenny D. Fine, and colorist Mx. Struble announced that they were doing a monthly slice of life comic about a brother, sister, and their best friend/ex-boyfriend (respectively) set in San Francisco that also touched on the gay and indie music scene. And Getting It Together definitely has lifted up to my pre-release hype as Grace and Spahi have fleshed out a complex web of relationships and drama with gorgeous and occasionally hilarious art by Fine and Struble. There are gay and bisexual characters all over the book with different personalities and approaches to life, dating, and relationships, which is refreshing too. Grace, Spahi, and Fine also take some time away from the drama to let us know about the ensemble cast’s passions and struggles like indie musician Lauren’s lifelong love for songwriting even if her band has a joke name (Nipslip), or her ex-boyfriend Sam’s issues with mental health. I would definitely love to spend more than four issues with these folks.

1. The Impending Blindness of Billie Scott (Avery Hill)

My favorite comic of 2020 was The Impending Blindness of Billie Scott , a debut graphic novel by cartoonist Zoe Thorogood. The premise of the comic is that Billie is an artist who is going blind in two weeks, and she must come up with some paintings for her debut gallery show during that time period. The Impending Blindness of Billie Scott boasts an adorably idiosyncratic cast of characters that Thorogood lovingly brings to life with warm visuals and naturalistic dialogue as Billie goes from making art alone in her room to making connections with the people around her, especially Rachel, a passionate folk punk musician. The book also acts as a powerful advocate for the inspirational quality of art and the act of creation. Zoe Thorogood even creates “art within the art” and concludes the story with the different portraits that Billie painted throughout her travels. The Impending Blindness of Billie Scott was the hopeful comic that I needed in a dark year and one I will cherish for quite some time as I ooh and aah over Thorogood’s skill with everything from drawing different hair styles to crafting horrific dream sequences featuring eyeballs.

Preview: My Little Pony: Friends Forever #25

My Little Pony: Friends Forever #25

Barbara Kesel (w) • Brenda Hickey (a) • Tony Fleecs (c)

Rainbow Dash wakes up to discover that here wings have VANISHED! It’s up to the relatively newly-winged Twilight to help her friend find out the source of the mysterious occurrence.

FC • 32 pages • $3.99

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Preview: Rampage Jackson: Street Soldier, Vol. 1

Rampage Jackson: Street Soldier, Vol. 1

Fabian Nicieza, Mike Baron, Barbara Kesel, Tom Peyer, Martin Pasko, Adam Beechen, Marc Bernardin, Adam Freeman, Lucas Werneck (w) • Leonardo Romero, Fabiano Neves (a) • Dan Panosian (c)

Rampage Jackson has touched the lives of millions, and when one of them reaches out for help against a terrible threat, he swings into action. With astonishing new super powers and his faithful dog, Andronicus, by his side, he must prepare for bone crunching throw downs in over-the-top adventures! An anthology of amazing self-contained stories, Rampage Jackson: Street Soldier marks the beginning of a bold new era of superhero fun!

TPB • FC • $17.99 • 144 pages • ISBN: 978-1-63140-379-8

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Preview: Rampage Jackson: Street Soldier Vol. 1

RAMPAGE JACKSON: STREET SOLDIER, VOL. 1

by Fabian Nicieza, Mike Baron, Barbara Kesel, Tom Peyer, Martin Pasko, Adam Beechen, Marc Bernardin & Adam Freeman, illo. by Leonardo Romero, Fabiano Neves
Pages: 144
Format: Paperback
SRP: $17.99
Trim: 6.625 x 10.25
Publisher: Lion Forge Comics
Distributor: IDW Publishing
Pub Date: October 28, 2015
Diamond Item Code: AUG150459
ISBN: 978-1-63140-379-8

Larger-than-life MMA fighter Rampage Jackson faces his toughest opponents yet in this super-powered slug-fest; and this time the stakes are much higher than a championship belt!

Rampage Jackson has touched the lives of millions, and when one of them reaches out for help against a terrible threat, he swings into action. Rampage is different this time; with astonishing new super powers and his faithful dog, Andronicus, by his side, he must prepare for bone-crunching throwdowns in over-the-top adventures that take him around the world, to other worlds, and through time itself! An anthology of amazing self-contained stories, Rampage Jackson: Street Soldier marks the beginning of a bold new era of superhero fun!

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Review: Airwolf: Airstrikes TPB

airwolf_airstrikesI can honestly say that growing up in the 1980s, was a real treat, for nerds everywhere as we were exposed to some of the best and the most innovative entertainment. The reverberations of my generation can still be felt in all mediums of entertainment , as shows like The Goldbergs, stands as a testament to just how influential , the popular culture of the era was and still is. The era was also filled with more action heroes than one can count on one hand, as I remembered many great TV shows like Fall Guy, A-Team and Knight Rider, had heroes that every kid in America wanted to be and urged our parents to buy their action figures. Then there were TV shows, that were truly unsung, until years later, when retro loving sites such as AV Club, gives it, it’s just due.

I can think of many TV shows, that fit this category, and yet to find it under any spotlight such as Stingray and the original Denzel Washington –less Equalizer. Another TV show, which I remembered that fits this category, and actually exceeded the expectations of its less than stellar movie counterparts, was Airwolf. The show surrounded a high tech military helicopter and the crew that supported it, as I remember people synopsizing it as “Knight Rider with propellers.” The show was more than that , it was spy craft with tons of action usually in high stake situations, and spoke very much of the times, as America was involved in the Cold War.

IDW has continued the missions of Airwolf, in its comic series, and to extremely interesting results, and none which were good. I came into reading this collection, hoping IDW would continue their string of successes in nostalgia comics, but this one falls flat on its face. This collection reintroduces you to the characters from the TV show as well as to new characters to bring it up to date. Sad to say, this collection comes off as no more than “a bad guy of the week” series as not one story I can talk truly of note.

Overall, I came into the trade paperback, hoping to relive the adventures of Stringfellow Hawke and rest of the Airwolf crew, and their struggles with the Firm, and felt seriously cheated, having met a poor copycat. The stories by Mike Baron, Jeff Mariotte, Marc Andreyko, Barbara Kesel, Rob Worley, Marc Bernardin and Adam Freeman, were very much well intentioned but uninspired. The art by Jean Froes and Fabiano Neves, were probably the only highlight, but paired with the average stories contributed, diminishes their contributions. Altogether, IDW and the talented team, on this project, should have seriously construed their plans, as execution is always key, as this serves as a perfect example of when it is poorly done.

Story: Mike Baron, Jeff Mariotte, Marc Andreyko, Barbara Kesel, Rob Worley, Marc Bernardin & Adam Freeman Art: Jean Froes and Fabiano Neves
Story: 3 Art: 7 Overall: 5 Recommendation: Pass

IDW Publishing provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Preview: Airwolf Airstrikes, Vol. 1

Airwolf Airstrikes, Vol. 1

Mike Baron, Jeff Mariotte, Marc Andreyko, Barbara Kesel, Rob Worley, Marc Bernardin, Adam Freeman (w) • Jean Froes, Fabiano Neves (a) • Billy King (c)

Hawke, Santini, and the coolest attack chopper ever made are back in this epic reimagining of the hit TV classic! Airwolf, the nuclear-powered helicopter, is featured in this blistering anthology of stand-alone thrillers that redefines the classic for a new generation!

TPB • FC • $17.99 • 144 pages • ISBN: 978-1-63140-315-6

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