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Brett’s Favorite Comics of 2020 and a Reflection on the Past Year

The Recount #1

It feels weird writing a “best of” list for the past year since it’s been so difficult for so many. Writer Ron Marz Tweeted something like any comic that helped to get you through it is a favorite, and deep down I agree with that. It’s been a rough year for so many and it’s one where the comic industry was forced to mature and face reality in many ways.

Things shifted for everyone.

Publishers canceled projects, shifted schedules, and looked to go directly to the consumer. Creators looked for new ways to earn money and also go directly to the consumer. Stores were forced to market more taking to video, email, and social media to keep customers aware of the latest offerings and remind them of classics they might have missed. Some stores didn’t make it through the year. Others expanded. New ones joined the industry. Consumers had more choices than ever before that made it easier to escape the world burning around them and find enjoyment in make-believe worlds where justice prevails in the end.

In the end, though 2020 looked bleak, it left the comic industry as a whole stronger than ever before.

It feels weird doing this “best of” but at the same time I feel like I want to “honor” and spotlight the comics that got me through the year and had me excited to read the next issues. This is what I’ve read so if you don’t see something mentioned it’s not that I didn’t enjoy it, I just might not have read it. Sorry, I can’t read everything (there was a massive glut in webcomics and manga for me).

So, in a bit different spin I’ve split this list into three sections.

  1. Comics where I’ve only read one issue so far, because that’s what’s been released, but am excited to see what comes in the new year.
  2. Comics I enjoyed each month and are kind of a “silver medal” for me. I wanted to acknowledge them but also didn’t want this to be an overwhelming essay. They’ll get more of a nod when I do a video of this.
  3. The ones I was excited to read each month or had an impact on me. These are the ones that go into my regular suggestions of comics to read down the road. The art, the stories, the presentation, they’re all at that “top of the game” level.

All of these are listed in no particular order (hell it’ll probably just be in alphabetical). Enough with the rambling… lets get on with some comics!

2020 gave us one, here’s ones I’m excited to read their second issues in 2021!

  • Batman: Black & White #1 – The first issue had some solid stories but it’s the art that really stood out. It was mind-blowing and one of the best comics visually released this year. Almost every story broke away from standard panels and was just amazing to look at. I have no idea if future issues will be like this but here’s hoping.
  • Black Cat #1 – The last volume was a lot of fun to read and this first issue continued that. Despite being a King in Black tie-in, the issue kept the focus on what Black Cat does best, steal things as everything collapses around her. There’s just a certain style and attitude that the creative team nails with this. It was a fun debut that you could just sit back, laugh while reading, and enjoy.
  • M.O.D.O.K.: Head Games #1 – Marvel’s trying to make M.O.D.O.K. a thing. It’s kind of been his year between an upcoming HULU series, a popular miniature in Marvel: Crisis Protocol, and this comic. The first issue had me laughing and I’m hoping that continues.
  • The Other History of the DC Universe #1 – John Ridley is one of my favorite creators out there. His work in film and television have blown me away. It looks like DC has given him the opportunity to deliver a brutally honest take about the DC Universe from the perspective of people of color and the first issue is one of the best things I read all year. I can’t wait until the second and this man should be allowed to do whatever he wants.
  • The Recount #1 – The issue hit a bit close to reality. The President is a crook and assassinated and there’s an uprising to purge the country of everyone who supported him, from the Vice President down to voters. It was a hell of an opening issue and one that was chilling in so many ways.
Shang-Chi #1

Comics to check out…

These were all great reads and should go on your reading pile. These are ones I made sure to read every month and jumped at reading as soon as they crossed my desk. They’ll all get more love in my video version of this.

The comics that really stood out for the year.

All of these comics were ones that kept me thinking well after I read them and I’d be happy to read them again. Many are still ongoing while others have wrapped up their runs. Each stands out in its own special way.

Ginseng Roots #3
  • Black Widow – Kelly Thompson, Elena Casagrande, Jordie Bellaire, and Cory Petit are the main creators on what’s been released so far and every issue has been amazing. Black Widow has been captured and brainwashed into believing a domestic life is real and hers. There’s been a great mix of humor, action, in this spy thriller and it’s sure to ramp up now based on the latest issue’s final moments. This is a great mix of storytelling and visual coolness.
  • Dead Day – Man, I really want this to be done as a television series and absolutely need more comics. Ryan Parrot, Evgeniy Bornyakov, Juancho!, and Charles Pritchett deliver a masterclass in world-building. Not only do they deliver an interesting story but have crafted a bigger world. For one night, the dead return, and while the comic really told the story of one family, each issue fleshed out enough of what this event’s impact would be elsewhere to get you to think and imagine.
  • Far Sector – N.K. Jemisin, Jamal Campbell, and Deron Bennett have breathed a breath of fresh air into the Green Lanterns with this series. We’re taken to an alien world where a new Lantern named Jo must solve a murder which takes her deep into a corrupt society. It does what science fiction does best, explore our real world. The visuals are stunning as well in what is a comic that’s timely capturing the current zeitgeist.
  • Ginseng Roots – Craig Thompson explores his childhood in what’s one of the most original comics this year. In a small format and with minimal colors, the comic tells us the history of ginseng and Thompson’s childhood.
  • Harley Quinn Black + White + Red – DC really shook things up this year and one way was a greater focus on digital releases. This series was an anthology that delivered a different creative team with every chapter. We got to see over a dozen different takes on Harley Quinn each of which was entertaining. If you want to see how much the creators matter when it comes to the storytelling, here you go. This is also a perfect example of where digital comics should be going from major publishers.
  • Kill a Man – This story focused on a gay man’s battles within the world of MMA was an updated take on the Rocky formula and done so well. You can come at it as a fan of MMA, as someone who’s LGBTQ, both, or just wanting good storytelling. Emotional with great action, it’s a home run from the team of Steve Orlando, Phillip Kennedy Johnson, Al Morgan, and Jim Campbell.
  • Superman Smashes the Klan – The miniseries was collected and it’s amazing. Gene Luen Yang, Gurihiru, and Janice Chiang deliver a comic that captures the heart of Superman. Based on the groundbreaking radio play where Superman takes on the KKK, this comic is amazing in every aspect, from the story to the visuals. Add in some extra material from Yang about his own experiences and it becomes a comic everyone should read and one that helps define Superman in one of his best depictions ever.
  • Vlad Dracul – Matteo Strukul, Andrea Mutti, Vladimir Popov, and Joel Rodriguez tell us the story about the very real Vlad, the inspiration for Dracula. I learned a hell of a lot and would love to see more comics like this. It’s a crazy read that can be enjoyed for the history and education and/or the brutal story itself that would fit any fantasy world.
  • We Live – The first issue was perfection and got me to choke up. Each subsequent issue has built upon the world. In this story humanity is almost over but a mysterious entity from space will save 5,000 children but first they must get to extraction points. This is a few kids’ stories and their journey of survival. By Inaki Miranda, Roy Miranda, Eva De La Cruz, and Dave Sharpe each issue is visually amazing plus there’s some awesome bonus music you can listen to while reading.
  • Yasmeen – Talk about an emotional gut-punch with each issue. Saif A. Ahmed, Fabiana Mascolo, and Robin Jones tell the story of Yasmeen who was captured and tortured by Isis and her attempt to deal with the PTSD while settling after in the United States. Just an amazing blend of storytelling and real recent history.

Graphic Policy’s Top Comic Picks this Week!

Far Sector #9

Wednesdays (and now Tuesdays) are new comic book day! Each week hundreds of comics are released, and that can be pretty daunting to go over and choose what to buy. That’s where we come in!

Each week our contributors choose what they can’t wait to read this week or just sounds interesting. In other words, this is what we’re looking forward to and think you should be taking a look at!

Find out what folks think below, and what comics you should be looking out for this week.

Batman/Catwoman #1 (DC Comics) – We read the first issue and mixed about it but this one is on a lot of people’s radars.

Black Widow #4 (Marvel) – This series has been fantastic so far. Full of action and humor, it’s just beyond entertaining, and this issue ups the “holy crap” factor.

Captain Canuck Season 5 #1 (Chapterhouse) – If you’re looking for superhero comics not from the big two, check this one out.

COVID Chronicles (AWA Studios) – Chronicling ten personal accounts from the frontlines of COVID-19. A perfect example of graphic journalism.

DCeased: Dead Planet #6 (DC Comics) – The series begins to up the action as numerous plot threads begin to come together for a hell of a battle.

E-Ratic #1 (AWA Studios) – A new superhero series staring a 15-year-old who can only use his powers for ten minutes at a time. The concept sounds interesting and it’s from the talented Kaare Andrews and Brian Reber.

Far Sector #9 (DC Comics/DC’s Young Animal) – Things become much clearer in this issue as we continue to question who we can trust.

Happy Hour #2 (AHOY Comics) – In a world where you can’t be unhappy, the state will go to horrific lengths to make that happen. The first issue was an intriguing concept and we want to check out more.

Hellboy & the BPRD: Her Fatal Hour (Dark Horse) – The follow up to “The Beast of Vargu”, Hellboy is always a good time to read.

Justice League: Endless Winter #1 (DC Comics) – The mini-event kicks off here and it feels like an old-school DC storyline.

Kill a Man (AfterShock) – The highly anticipated MMA graphic novel is here and it exceeds our expectations. A great mix of focusing on characters and grappling.

King in Black #1 (Marvel) – Marvel’s next big event kicks off here and it’s a hell of a start.

Knock Em Dead #1 (AfterShock) – A new series from Eliot Rahal who we’ll read no matter what it is. This is a supernatural horror taking place in the world of stand-up comedy. We’re intrigued.

Lumberjanes: End of Summer #1 (BOOM! Studios/BOOM! Box) – The beloved series wraps up.

M.O.D.O.K.: Head Games #1 (Marvel) – We laughed multiple times during this issue that’s a lot of fun. We can’t wait for the second issue.

Overwatch: Tracer – London Calling #1 (Dark Horse) – The hit game comes to comics and it’ll be interesting to see how this one goes over with that crowd.

Red Atlantis #2 (AfterShock) – The election thriller continues and we really want to know where this one’s going. Very timely and not a direction we’re expecting.

Seeds of Spring #1 (Microcosm Publishing) – A Canadian teenage exchanges books and tapes with a pen pal. The series juxtaposes the main character’s life with that of 19th-century Russian anarchist Peter Kropotkin.

Strange Adventures #7 (DC Comics/DC Black Label) – A hell of a reveal in this issue.

The Walking Dead Deluxe #4 (Image Comics/Skybound) – It’s been interesting reading these newly colored releases in the age of COVID. The context definitely has changed a bit since they were first released.

Around the Tubes

The Scumbag #1

It’s a new week! We’ve got lots on tap to bring you and we’re plugging away at it all. So, while you wait to read some awesome stuff… here’s some articles from around the web you might have missed.

Deadline – ‘The Magic Order’ Not Moving Forward; Netflix Series Was Based On Mark Millar Comic – That’s a shame…

Games Radar – Tom Taylor & Jon Sommariva re-imagine Peter Pan & Neverland in two-book series for Penguin Random House & Glenat – This should be interesting.

How to Love Comics – Amazing Spider-Man: Last Remains Reading Order Checklist – For those who are intersted…

Reviews

Monkeys Fighting Robots – Far Sector #8
How to Love Comics – My Riot
CBR – The Scumbag #1

Review: Far Sector #8

Far Sector #8

Far Sector has been one of the best series DC Comics has been releasing. The comic has captures the zeitgeist exploring police brutality, social unrest, the right to protest, and racial injustice. It has done all of that with a shine and style that delivers a visually beautiful comic. It’s a story that’s as deep to read as it is jaw-droppingly gorgeous to look at. Far Sector #8 has Jo attempting to make her arrest. But, she realizes that she’s facing similar issues she faced on Earth.

Jo continues her fight in the artificial intelligence world attempting to arrest the assassins who have killed a member of the council that guides the world. It’s a hell of a sequence with popping visuals and such fantastic concepts. The art, story, everything comes together for a treat of a read.

Even with the focus on the arrest/police procedural aspects of Far Sector #8, writer N.K. Jemisin adds small details, and some not so small, focusing on Jo’s past and the abuses she saw and even committed as a police officer. But the issue really shifts on the bureaucracy that she deals with. With a council watching every step she makes and wanting immediate answers, she’s unable to do the job that now faces her, figuring out who murdered an elected official.

Jemisin throughout the series has infused it with commentary about society and especially the police. Jo, in general, feels like a “cop” who’s attempting to do their job but is sucked into the system and in this alien world that’s happening as well. She wants to solve the case but is forced to jump through hoops to do so and do it in a system that is designed to make that difficult.

If that wasn’t enough to sell you on the comic and the series, Jamal Campbell‘s art should be more than enough. The alien world presented is beautiful to look at and the concepts and designs are amazing. But, what stood out to me in this issue is Jo herself. This is the first issue where it really has stood out how non-typical of a character she is. She’s always been presented with curves but in her civilian clothes, it becomes more apparent with a body shape not typically seen in superhero comics. That is literally in your face as she faces the council and we get a better look at her thighs and waist. Not sure why, but this is the issue where that stands out to me.

Deron Bennett‘s lettering too is a nice touch to the issue and series. As this world is made up of alien races, the lettering shifts a bit depending on who is talking. It’s a nice way to make characters and the aliens stand out a bit. While it’s not needed, it’s a touch that really enhances the story.

Far Sector is an amazing series, one of the best of the year. Far Sector #8 delivers another chapter in a police procedural that’s infused with socio-politico commentary. This is a series that’s “in the now,” not afraid to tackle current issues and real-world discussions. Most importantly, it entertains while doing so. With each issue, the series makes the case for “best of 2020.”

Story: N.K. Jemisin Art: Jamal Campbell
Color: Jamal Campbell Letterer: Deron Bennett
Story: 8.5 Art: 10 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy


Purchase: comiXologyAmazonKindleZeus Comics

Preview: Far Sector #8

Far Sector #8

Written by: N.K. Jemisin
Art by: Jamal Campbell

While still processing her feelings about Councilor Marth, Jo tracks down the “riders” who killed Averrup Thorn, and gets the first hint of what’s really going on beneath the surface of the City Enduring. Reporting to the Council, Jo is disgusted to realize she’s facing the same kind of callous, responsibility-avoiding bureaucracy as back home on Earth.

Far Sector #8

Graphic Policy’s Top Comic Picks this Week!

Vampire: The Masquerade #1

Wednesdays (and now Tuesdays) are new comic book day! Each week hundreds of comics are released, and that can be pretty daunting to go over and choose what to buy. That’s where we come in!

Each week our contributors choose what they can’t wait to read this week or just sounds interesting. In other words, this is what we’re looking forward to and think you should be taking a look at!

Find out what folks think below, and what comics you should be looking out for this week.

Alien: Original Screenplay #1 (Dark Horse Comics) – The original screenplay gets turned into a comic and we’re excited to see what the result is.

Bad Mother #1 (AWA Studios) – A suburban mom’s kid goes missing and she goes on a mission to get her back. There’s an 80s tinge to the concept we’re digging.

DCeased: Dead Planet #2 (DC Comics) – DC’s best line of comics they’ve got going right now.

Disaster, Inc. #2 (AfterShock) – The series about disaster tourism sounded interesting but the supernatural twist has us really intrigued.

Empyre #4 (Marvel) – The summer event has been getting better with each issue and with no preview, Marvel has something up their sleeve.

Far Sector #7 (DC Comics/DC’s Young Animal) – The series has been amazing with a mix of socio-political/action/mystery/romance. This issue leans a little heavier into the action but it’s so good and visually amazing.

Horizon Zero Dawn #1 (Titan Comics) – We haven’t played the video game but know the visuals and the world and we’re intrigued how it’s adapted into comics. Some massive potential here.

My Little Pony/Transformers #1 (IDW Publishing) – It’s just so crazy, it might work.

Undiscovered Country #7 (Image Comics) – This series has been off the wall insane and we seriously have no idea of what’s next.

Vampire: The Masquerade #1 (Vault Comics) – Vault isn’t a publisher we think of when it comes to licensed comics but what they have put out matches perfectly for what we’d want in a comic based on the popular roleplaying game.

Preview: Far Sector #7

Far Sector #7

Story: N.K. Jemisin
Art: Jamal Campbell

On today’s agenda: a giant mech fight, transforming her consciousness into digital information, and a high-speed pursuit through an alien computer network. All with six minutes of power left. But it’s all in a day’s work for Green Lantern Jo Mullein as she comes closer to unraveling the greatest conspiracy the Green Lantern Corps has ever seen. Far Sector continues on a new bimonthly schedule.

Far Sector #7

Around the Tubes

The weekend is almost here. We’ll be spending it in a combination of making our voices heard fighting injustices and trying to get some mental health breaks enjoying games and comics. What will you all be doing? Sound off in the comments. While you wait for the weekday to end and the weekend to begin, here’s some comic news and a review from around the web.

CBLDF – CBLDF’s “Virtual Event Safety” Resource Helps You Support Your Community! – Some solid resources for those looking to do this.

Review

Far Sector #6

Comics Bulletin – Far Sector #6

Review: Far Sector #6

Far Sector #6

To say DC’s Young Animal‘s Far Sector is capturing the zeitgeist of the time isn’t quite right. The series is at this point prescient. It deals with drug laws, police brutality, bureaucratic incompetence, social action, social justice, and more. The first issue was released in November 2019, months before COVID-19 was a thing and a half year before the current calls for justice and change across the United States. It’s a comic that was clearly written to talk about all of these issues which have been brewing for decades without knowing what was to come in reality. Far Sector #6 just so happens to release this week dealing with the fallout of police shooting at a peaceful protest killing individuals. It’s something that’s, unfortunately, playing out on our television screens and social media in real life as well.

Written by N.K. Jemisin, the series follows a Green Lantern named Jo, a former police officer and soldier on Earth, who is whisked away to an alien world. There, a murder has been committed that she must investigate. There’s also a political uprising brewing. The citizen’s emotions have been suppressed to create peace but a drug is allowing that to be overridden. Those that want to “feel” have recently protested for the right to take the drug. Those in control opened fired on the protesters killing some and injuring more. It’s eerily timed with recent events. Far Sector #6 deals with the fallout of that decision, one that so many of us wish would play out in real life. Don’t let that cover fool you. While the issue deals a lot with emotion, the series is a politically relevant whodunnit.

With leadership making decisions on logic, actual accountability is taken for their actions. The councilor who called for the shooting has taken responsibility and announced his resignation. That will take place after a referendum vote to legalize the drug “Switchoff.” This comes after an apology and investigation recognizing mistakes. Despite the closeness to reality, the issue didn’t quite hit the way I thought it might. Instead, we get a quieter issue of two characters discussing decisions and their roles and what has happened due to those decisions. The fact that the results feel adult in a way, with politicians taking responsibility, is cathartic and pollyannaish in so many ways.

But, what’s interesting is the debate within the issue of making decisions based on logic versus emotions. The issue never quite gives an answer as to which is right and which is wrong but it makes the reader ponder, especially with what’s going on today. In the comic, logic dictated actions which resulted in the death of peaceful protesters. In the real world, emotion drives the President which has also resulted in hurting peaceful protesters. There’s a lot to chew on just with that and so much more in the comic series left to go.

The art by Jamal Campbell continues to be stunning. With color by Campbell and lettering by Deron Bennett, the series is a beautiful dystopian fascist nightmare. The art is some of the best on the shelves today with colors that pop. The designs are amazing, the panel layout interesting, framing of scenes engaging. Campbell nails it in every way. Bennett’s lettering too is important. The series has alien languages, different fonts for some characters, and some fantastic use of lettering to create a sense of action. The aesthetics of the comic is on another level and has been throughout the series.

Far Sector might be one of the most important series on the shelf today. While it clearly went into things looking to discuss real-world issues, those issues have flared up and the comic has echoed moments we’re seeing played out in real time. While the lack of escapism might seem like a negative, it in fact feels like a positive. The comic is helping me process reality and work through what we’re seeing and experiencing. This series was already one of the best being released, it might now be one of the most important.

Story: N.K. Jemisin Art: Jamal Campbell
Color: Jamal Campbell Letterer: Deron Bennett
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


Purchase: comiXologyAmazonKindleTFAWZeus Comics

Preview: Far Sector #6 (of 12)

Far Sector #6 (of 12)

(W) N.K. Jemisin (A/CA) Jamal Campbell
DC’s Young Animal
In Shops: Jun 03, 2020
SRP: $3.99

Tensions in the City Enduring are high as the Emotion Exploit-the mandatory genetic tech that strips citizens of their emotions in the name of peace-is up for referendum. But Jo’s attentions are divided when Councilor Marth makes a surprising and distinctly emotional overture…

Far Sector #6 (of 12)
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