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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.

Preview: Harley Quinn Black + White + Red #17

Harley Quinn Black + White + Red #17

Story: Liz Erickson
Art: Tom Derenick
Letterer: Josh Reed
Digital Release Date December 23 2020

“The Morning After”

Harley is absolutely determined to give Boxing Day the over-the-top celebration it deserves, and small considerations like “knowing what Boxing Day is” aren’t going to get in her way. But when a low-down crook steals an entire orphanage’s worth of presents one day after Christmas, you’d better believe she’s gonna get in THAT guy’s way…

Harley Quinn Black + White + Red #17

Review: Harley Quinn: Black + White + Red #17

Harley Quinn: Black + White + Red #17

DC Comics has done an amazing job with Harley: Quinn: Black + White + Red. The digital comic series has been a wonderful idea and breathe of fresh air in many ways. Each issue has delivered a new set of voices to deliver their take on the popular character. A new round of holiday theme digital comics has been released with Harley Quinn: Black + White + Red #17 celebrating Boxing Day! Yes, Boxing Day!

A crime has been committed and packages have been stolen that were supposed to go to orphans. Harley and Poison Ivy team up to find out who took them and save Christmas Boxing Day for the kids.

Writer Liz Erickson delivers an entertaining story that’s fun and goofy in all of the right ways. Opening with a fantastic poem, my only criticism is I’d like to have seen that carry through the entire issue. I’ll admit, it was a bit of a letdown from the issue opening with two pages of Christmas poetry to then shift to normal dialogue and storytelling. There’s a decent amount of humor and action mixed into the comic but overall, it plays things a bit more straight than some previous releases. That’s not a bad thing at all. It just shows how varied Harley Quinn can be and it’s still the character and her crazy antics.

Tom Derenick provides the art with lettering by Josh Reed. It’s again a different style and take on Harley and Ivy keeping each release from the series unique. There’s a bit more “realism” in this version toning down some of the crazier elements we’ve seen from other digital releases. It sticks to the three color look which works really well and overall delivers a bit more of a crime/action comic vibe to the visuals.

Harley Quinn: Black + White + Red #17 is another solid entry into the digital series. It delivers another style and voice to Harley and really show how varied the character can be in the look and tone of her adventures. It’s also the rare comic celebrating Boxing Day… there should be more.

Story: Liz Erickson Art: Tom Derenick Letterer: Josh Reed
Story: 8.0 Art: 8.0 Overall: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


Purchase: comiXologyKindle

Preview: Harley Quinn Black + White + Red #16

Harley Quinn: Black + White + Red (2020-) #16

Written by Frank Tieri
Pencils Tom Fowler
Inks Tom Fowler
Color: Brian Reber
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Digital Release Date December 22 2020

“’Twas The Night Before Quinn-mas”
Harley thought she was doing a good deed by busting up the ring of crooks that stole all of Coney Island’s Christmas presents – but when her Gang gets a little overzealous and the gifts all wind up roasting in an open fire, the task of replacing every single one lands in her distinctly un-Santa-like lap!

Harley Quinn: Black + White + Red (2020-) #16

Review: Harley Quinn: Black + White + Red #16

Harley Quinn: Black + White + Red #16

Part of what has made Harley Quinn: Black + White + Red so much fun is seeing the various takes on the same character by different teams. The digital anthology series has varied with each issue giving us something new with each release. The issues have entertained and been one of the best ideas and releases of the year. In time for the holidays, we’re getting a new round this time with a theme to tie then together. Harley Quinn: Black + White + Red #16 delivers some Christmas cheer as Harley and her team attempt to save the holiday.

Harley thought she was doing a good deed by busting up the ring of crooks that stole all of Coney Island’s Christmas presents – but when her Gang gets a little overzealous and the gifts all wind up roasting in an open fire, the task of replacing every single one lands in her distinctly un-Santa-like lap!

Writer Frank Tieri mixes up the action, humor, and inappropriate comments in this over the top holiday tale. It’s a fun story that delivers a little bit of everything for readers. The first half gives us a somewhat typical action sequence with purposely cheesy lines. It’s the latter half where Tieri’s tale takes off with quick hits as far as jokes, some very adult.

When Harley and her crew attempt to fix the problem, the chapter stands out. It becomes a series of jokes as to “what’s inside the box” or the reactions of Harley attempting to do good. Where it could easily have played it clean, the issue takes things just enough across the line to surprise and make things more in the adult category. Jokes will likely go over kids’ heads but surprise those who get it.

The art by Tom Fowler is solid. Joined by Brian Reber on color and Dave Sharpe on lettering, there’s a lot packed into every page and panel. There’s a lot of characters to juggle here and the art tells so many little stories throughout. While Harley does her thing, there’s other jokes and stories being told in the background. It’s impressive how much is there visually and each panel and page had me lingering in an attempt to catch every joke. And even then, I’m sure I missed quite a few.

Harley Quinn: Black + White + Red #16 is a solid entry in the “holiday” pack of the digital series. It delivers some laughs during this holiday season with a bit of adult humor. A fun, and funny, digital comic that’s well worth checking out.

Story: Frank Tieri Art: Tom Fowler
Ink: Tom Fowler Color: Brian Reber Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Story: 8.0 Art: 8.1 Overall: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


Purchase: comiXology

Review: Harley Quinn: Black + White + Red #15

Harley Quinn: Black + White + Red #15

“Happy Thanksquinning”! It’s a holiday treat as Harley Quinn returns to DC Digital Firsts with Harley Quinn: Black + White + Red #15. The issue kicks off a new round of digital comics, all with a holiday theme. While Thanksgiving has come and gone, the issue left me longing for Turkey and pie… I guess puddin really.

Written by Sam Humphries, it’s Thanksgiving at Arkham Asylum. Harley and a group of inmates are brought together to celebrate the holiday and recount what they’re thankful for. Of course, there’s a riot and breakout giving Harley an excuse to escape and enjoy the season on the outside.

Humphries nails the tone of the issue. It features a style and voice that would fit perfectly into Batman: The Animated Series. The digital chapter feels like an adaptation of an episode. Like so many episodes it mixes humor and action and a bit of fun. But, most importantly Humphries nails the heart. In an issue without Batman, the story is focused on Harley and her actions and Humphries makes us care for the sometimes criminal.

Harley Quinn: Black + White + Red #15 delivers the “awe” as Harley isn’t greeted with open arms by the public when she gets to the outside. It’s a rejection many of us can feel and have felt, especially this year, as we’re forced to make different plans for our holiday season and Thanksgiving. Where we might have spent it with family in the past, this year had many spending it alone or with new “family” unable to travel. There’s a lot we can relate to in that. And Humphries kicking things off with a lot of humor adds to the emotional punch of the latter part of the issue.

Stephen Byrne delivers the art with Troy Peteri on lettering. The art too is reminiscent of Batman: The Animated Series. Combined with the story itself the issue has a “classic” feel to it. The art style breaks in some ways taking advantage of eagle-eyed views of Harley preparing for her escape during the riot chaos. There’s also a great use of the images by peppering in visual jokes throughout. Peteri helps as well giving many of the characters a “unique voice” through the lettering. The trio of creators together really evokes some nostalgia in a good way.

Harley Quinn: Black + White + Red #15 is a welcome return of the digital comic series. To be able to get new chapters is a nice surprise and each looks to have a nice holiday theme to them. If this is an indication as to what’s to come, it’s a bright holiday season for Harley and our entertainment.

Story: Sam Humphries Art: Stephen Byrne Letterer: Troy Peteri
Story: 8.0 Art: 8.0 Overall: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


Purchase: comiXology

ComiXology Delivers 4 New Releases including New Challenge of the Super Sons and new Harley Quinn: Black + White + Red!

ComiXology has you covered to start this Monday with four new releases including two new DC Digital Firsts! Go get them now or check out the individual issues below.

Challenge of the Super Sons (2020-) #2

Written by Peter J. Tomasi
Pencils Max Raynor
Inks Max Raynor
Colored by Luis Guerrero
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Wait a minute…weren’t the Super Sons just here? In OUR time? Blink and you missed Robin and Superboy’s mysterious trek to the outskirts of time, where the development of the deadly DOOM SCROLL spells disaster for these dudes! What did the boys learn when they were whisked away? Why on earth do they have to save THE FLASH from instant death?! Tune in for the next chapter in the most epic odyssey Robin and Superboy have ever been on!

Challenge of the Super Sons (2020-) #2

Harley Quinn Black + White + Red (2020-) #15

Written by Sam Humphries
Pencils Stephen Byrne
Inks Stephen Byrne
Colored by Stephen Byrne
Purchase

“Happy Thanksquinning”
Thanksgiving at Arkham Asylum is nothing to be thankful for – but a massive riot and breakout? As far as Harley is concerned, THAT’S the reason for the season!

Harley Quinn Black + White + Red (2020-) #15

A Kiss For Mr. Scrooge

Written by Lucy Gordon
Art by Masako Ogimaru
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Dawn, a veterinarian, always tries to keep busy when Christmas comes around. If she doesn’t, she’ll remember the terrible breakup she experienced eight years earlier. When she learns that a new owner has moved into the largest mansion in town, she’s ecstatic. Now she’ll be able to secure an event space for the party she’s throwing for the less fortunate. However, she freezes when she sees the mansion’s new owner. It’s Ben, the millionaire who abandoned her! And he’s changed so much that he seems like a different man…

A Kiss For Mr. Scrooge

Thief Of Hearts

Written by Natalie Fox
Art by Rieko Hamada
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Angel is astonished by a chance meeting at a lakeside hotel. What is Hugo, the con artist who stole her cousin’s heart and money, doing in a place like this? Angel follows him in her car but is soon stranded by a storm at his manor. She is flustered, but he kisses her and asks if she’s come to seduce him. Angel has always been a good girl, but she finds herself quickly changing under the spell of this sexy, cunning man!

Thief Of Hearts

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A Holiday Treat? More Harley Quinn: Black + White + Red to Come this Week!?

Unless I missed an announcement somewhere it looks like we’re getting more Harley Quinn: Black + White + Red if DC Comicswebsite and comixology are to be believed. Originally announced as a 14 issue digital series, Harley Quinn: Black + White + Red will return with Harley Quinn: Black + White + Red #15 on December 21!

Running for four more chapters, the quartet all seem to have a theme of the holidays with a new round of creators. One focuses on Thanksgiving, another Christmas, another Hanukkah, and the last is New Years’. You can check out all of the listings below!

Harley Quinn: Black + White + Red was a DC Digital First release showing off where the publisher’s focus might be going in the future. The anthology series featured a new writer and artist for each issue as they put their own spin on the popular character. It’s one of the best digital releases of the year. A surprise release, the fourteen issues were released starting in June 2020 and ran through September 2020.

Check out what we might be getting soon! We’ve reached out to DC for comment about the releases.

Harley Quinn: Black + White + Red (2020-) #15

Written by Sam Humphries
Pencils Stephen Byrne
Inks Stephen Byrne
Colored by Stephen Byrne
Digital Release Date December 21 2020

“Happy Thanksquinning”
Thanksgiving at Arkham Asylum is nothing to be thankful for – but a massive riot and breakout? As far as Harley is concerned, THAT’S the reason for the season!

Harley Quinn Black + White + Red (2020-) #15

Harley Quinn: Black + White + Red (2020-) #16

Written by Frank Tieri
Pencils Tom Fowler
Inks Tom Fowler
Digital Release Date December 22 2020

“’Twas The Night Before Quinn-mas”
Harley thought she was doing a good deed by busting up the ring of crooks that stole all of Coney Island’s Christmas presents – but when her Gang gets a little overzealous and the gifts all wind up roasting in an open fire, the task of replacing every single one lands in her distinctly un-Santa-like lap!

Harley Quinn Black + White + Red (2020-) #16

Harley Quinn: Black + White + Red (2020-) #17

Written by David Mandel
Pencils Adam Hughes
Digital Release Date December 23 2020

“Title TK”
Harley learns the true meaning of Hannukah in a tale by TV legend David Mandel (VEEP) and art superstar Adam Hughes!

DC Digital FIrst

Harley Quinn: Black + White + Red (2020-) #18

Written by Paul Dini
Pencils Kevin Altieri
Digital Release Date December 31 2020

“Harley’s Seven”
Las Vegas loves to ring in the New Year with an epic fight – unfortunately for Catwoman, the gamesmaster Roulette has decided that the title card will put her up against the deadly Cheetah, VERY much against her will! It’s down to Harley and the strangest gang of criminals ever assembled to break Selina out and bust up Roulette’s winning hand!

DC Digital FIrst

Review: Harley Quinn: Black + White + Red Chapter Fourteen

Harley Quinn: Black + White + Red Chapter Fourteen

Harley Quinn: Black + White + Red has been an excellent example of where digital comics, and especially digital firsts, are going when it comes to comic publishers. An anthology series from DC Comics, each week has seen a new stand-alone chapter from a different creative team. They have varied in tone with both the story and the art. The DC Digital First series has shown off the creativity of comics and how much the teams bring to it. Harley Quinn: Black + White + Red Chapter Fourteen, “Fixer-Upper” is the latest chapter and an interesting one in many ways.

Written by Jordie Bellaire, Harley Quinn: Black + White + Red Chapter Fourteen has Harley Quinn following the Joker’s clues to an ending that’s unknown. Through her puzzle quest, she reflects upon her relationship. Unfortunately, the abusive relationship between Harley and the Joker has been a plot point all too often explored in this anthology series. But, that doesn’t mean the comic is bad in any way.

Instead, Bellaire gives us a really self-reflection. Harley goes through Joker’s motions exploring her relationship and history with him. Not only does she contemplate her position, she also reflects on why the Joker is drawn to her. This creates a very interesting read and by the comic’s end, a place of empowerment. The comic feels like a “journey” for Harley in the physical and emotional sense. We get her logic as she explores the whys of her dance with an abusive other. It’s all presented in an almost puzzle form as Harley unlocks what’s ahead of her in numerous ways.

Greg Smallwood handles the art duty with Becca Carey on lettering. There’s a horror aspect to the comic as she explores a rundown house and its surrounding areas. It’s also a rather fitting setting, a metaphor of her experiences with the abusive Joker. What’s also interesting is the focus on Harley. This isn’t a comic full of crazy action sequences. Instead we get tight panels with clear focusing on how the art reflects the narrative. A close-up of Harley’s face adds to her contemplation. The highlighting of a deranged letter reflecting on the Joker’s thoughts about his on-again off-again significant other. A dropped letter begins the process of Harley moving on with her life. Each panel is deliberate and thought out in its presentation.

Harley Quinn: Black + White + Red Chapter Fourteen is an interesting entry in the anthology series. While the exploration of Harley’s relationship with the Joker is a little tiring, the details of this take stand out. It’s a digital comics that feels like every aspect has been really thought about in how it ties into and tells the story and Harley’s journey. It’s the type of story where you’d debate the details in English class. While it doesn’t tread new ground it’s also a solidly executed story.

Story: Jordie Bellaire Art: Greg Smallwood Letterer: Becca Carey
Story: 8.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 8.35 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


Purchase: comiXologyKindle

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