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We Live

Brett’s Favorite Comics of 2021 and a Reflection on the Past Year

The Recount #1

Much like 2021, It feels weird writing a “best of” list for the past year since it’s been so difficult for so many. Comics, and entertainment as a whole, continued to be an escape from the rough reality of the year that was. Things struggled to get back to normal, whether you think it was too soon or not.

Comics have been an escape for me as I myself remained holed up at home, forgoing movie theaters and generally the public as a whole.

To pick one that stood out above all the rest doesn’t quite feel right as there was so much that was fun and entertaining.

The comic industry continued to shift in massive ways as creators figured out new ways to become independent or were lured by the promise of big paydays by venture capital. Publishers got bought out and some struggled to stay open. Stores opened. Stores closed. Distribution continues to shift. The industry continues to be disrupted in many ways. Some ways for the better. Some for the worse.

Things shifted for everyone.

Publishers canceled projects, shifted schedules, and continued to look to go directly to the consumer. Publishers faced distribution issues as ports backedd up and printing issues as paper became scarce. Creators looked for new ways to earn money and also go directly to the consumer. 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 2021 continued to look bleak, it left the comic industry as a whole stronger than ever before with many challenges ahead and many answers yet to come.

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 but more manga for me).

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!

The comics that had me excited in 2021 and have me excited for 2022. It turns out maybe I enjoy horror more than I know?

  • Barbaric (Vault Comics) – The series caught me off guard with a classic fantasy barbarian story with a twist. I don’t want to go into it too much but if you haven’t read this one, definitely check it out. I can’t wait for more to come.
  • Black Panther (Marvel) – John Ridley taking over Black Panther, nuff said. The series has grounded the character in political paranoia and assassination attempts on undercover agents.
  • Blue, Barry & Pancakes (First Second) – I’ve been loving the releases focused on kids and this series about a trio of friends is one I enjoy reading each release over and over with my daughter. They’re goofy fun.
  • BRZRKR (BOOM! Studios) – I’ll admit I went into this series rolling my eyes as it felt like a pitch for a movie/television series for Keanu Reeves. But, while the series has a lot of action its focus on its main character of B and what makes him tick has been a welcome surprise. It’s surprisingly deep and more about the character than the action.
  • Dark Ages (Marvel) – In a year with so many “alternate takes” on classic characters this one of a world where technology is nerfed and the heroes and villains must bring it together is an interesting one. Here’s hoping we get more of these stand-alone miniseries from Marvel as this works so well.
  • DC vs. Vampires (DC Comics) – The premise of vampires rising up and attacking the DC Universe sounds simple enough. But, the series so far has eschewed simple fights instead going for paranoia where you don’t know who is a vampire and who will get killed.
  • Did You Hear What Eddie Gein Done? (Albatross Funnybooks) – The true story about Eddie Gein is haunting with art that walks the line of crossing over to gross out levels.
  • Fear State (DC Comics) – I wasn’t the biggest fan of the start of James Tynion IV’s run on Batman but when “Fear State” got rolling things quickly shifted. The story was intense and did an amazing job of folding in “Future State” as well. Speaking of which…
  • Fist of the North Star (VIZ Media) – The classic manga is back and being reprinted in beautiful hardback versions as part of VIZ Signature. Yeah, it’s martial arts Mad Max but it’s so good.
  • Future State (DC Comics) – A two-month event that took us to a possible future DC, the comics were mostly great with the glimpses of the future being used when the series returned. It was a great use of an event to breathe new life into a line and drive the narrative for months to come.
  • Glamorella’s Daughter (Literati Press) – A fun series about the daughter of the world’s superhero that has such a great sense of itself with great humor and fun characters.
  • Impossible Jones (Scout Comics) – A blast in every way introducing us to a new world of superheroes and villains and leaves us wanting more.
  • Karate Survivor in Another World (Seven Seas) – In a year that felt like every other manga was about someone getting killed and reincarnated in another world with some hook, this one stood out. With a grounded premise, the story is about Nozaki Hitoshi who is sent to another world where his only skill is karate. But, there’s a twist that’s teased out and works so well.
  • Kraken Me Up (Holiday House Publishing) – In a year where I read lots of comics geared towards kids I loved the art in this one and it had such a cute story about a pet Kraken and the girl who loved it.
  • Maniac of New York (AfterShock) – I’m not a fan of horror films but this take on the slasher genre had me hooked as it felt like an homage to the genre and something all its own.
  • The Other History of the DC Universe (DC Comics) – John Ridley delivers a blunt history lesson about DC from the perspective of characters who rarely get the spotlight. Amazing art added to the enjoyment in what felt like a college course in comics.
  • Robin & Batman (DC Comics) – Dick Grayson’s early years as Robin is explored with beautiful artwork.
  • The Recount (Scout Comics) – Talk about a series that was too close to home. The series focused on a nation split due to a corrupt government and an uprising after the assassination of the President. Coming out around January 6 made the first issue hit even more.
  • Serial (Abstract Studio) – The series has gotten better and better with every issue with a serial killer at the center of it all. It’s really done an amazing job of serialized storytelling and has my on the edge of my seat more and more to see what happens next.
  • Shadow Doctor (AfterShock) – The true story about a African American Doctor who can’t get money to open a practice and has to turn to Al Capone for funding. The story is just a great mob story but the fact it’s true makes it all the more amazing.
  • Solo Leveling (Yen Press) – 2021 saw me getting more into manga and manhwa and this series saw three volumes released. It’s about a world where dungeon crawling is an actual profession and the world’s worst, who actually has something a bit special about him. It’s just a great mix of comics and video game nostalgia with solid art.
  • Stray Dogs (Image Comics) – The miniseries was a murder mystery from the perspective of dogs. Did their master kill their former owners? Will the dogs make it to safety? Mix in amazing art and this was a miniseries that had everyone talking.
  • Task Force Z (DC Comics) – Red Hood has to lead zombie versions of Batman villains in a Suicide Squad like team. The concept is silly but works so well with a focus on the ethical aspect of it all and an amazing team dynamic. Mr. Bloom? Really!?
  • Timeless #1 (Marvel) – When it comes to end of year one-shots, Timeless is the best Marvel has put out. Its focus on a character and a real focus on him as a person. There’s some solid teases of what’s to come but it’s the story of Kang front and center that’s the real draw. It might be a tease of what’s to come but beside that, it’s a good one-shot anyway.
  • Warhammer 40,000: Marneus Calgar (Marvel) – The series shook up the character’s history in major ways and as a fan of Warhammer 40K I was all into it. It definitely pissed off “fans”, so bonus?
  • We Live (AfterShock) – The series has been an amazing apocalyptic adventure as kids attempt to make it to get to a ship to get off the planet. The series was a gut punch over and over and had me in tears.
  • Wonder Woman Historia: The Amazons #1 (DC Comics) – We just got one issue from Kelly Sue Deconnick and Phil Jimenez but this look at the history of the Amazons is amazing. The art was jaw dropping with the only flaw being the pages having a middle seam.
  • Yasmeen (Scout Comics) – The comic series about horrible events in Iraq and a young girl’s experience was an emotional punch with every issue. It shows the power of comics.

Review: Kraken Me Up

Izzie wants to show off her pet at the county fair. It just so happens that pet is a kraken!

Story: Jeffrey Ebbeler
Art: Jeffrey Ebbeler

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Holiday House Publishing provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review
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