(W) Mark Waid (A) Colleen Doran (CA) Alex Ross Rated T+ In Shops: Feb 24, 2021 SRP: $4.99
A team of heroes fights a stirring battle for the safety of the planet. A young woman struggles with desperation and despair, trying to cope in the modern world. But that’s only the beginning. Superstar creators MARK WAID (Kingdom Come, FANTASTIC FOUR) and COLLEEN DORAN (SPIDER-MAN, A Distant Soil) tell a tale of inspiration within inspiration, as we see how the world’s marvels have inspired others – and how they’ve been inspired themselves. Featuring Captain Marvel, Ms. Marvel and a few surprises.
X-Pert podcaster Jay Edidin wrote his 1st Marvel comicX-Men: Marvels Snapshots, and I love it! So of course I had him on my show to talk about the obvious topics like DC Comics, Victorian Literature, and Fun Home.
And yes, of course, his take on Cyclops in this highly personal yet accessible comic.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Writer/artist Katie Skelly puts her own spin on the true crime genre inMaids, 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.
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.
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.
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 Pulpabout 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.
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.
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.
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.
(W) Saladin Ahmed (A) Ryan Kelly (CA) Alex Ross Rated T+ In Shops: Dec 02, 2020 SRP: $4.99
In the heart of the Civil War event, a human story unfolds. A S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, doing his best to do the job with honor – but is that possible anymore? A young, low-level super hero, trying to help his neighbors – but that’s not even legal any more. The two come together in a story that’ll test their commitment, ideals, hopes and dreams, by Hugo-Award-winning writer Saladin Ahmed (Miles Morales: Spider-Man, The Magnificent Ms. Marvel) and artist Ryan Kelley (Lucifer, Stranger Things). Featuring Captain America, Giant-Man, Maria Hill and more.
(W) Barbara Randall Kesel, Kurt Busiek (A) Staz Johnson (CA) Alex Ross Rated T+ In Shops: Nov 18, 2020 SRP: $4.99
The Marvel Snapshot tour through Marvel history takes a romantic – and destructive – turn during the Michelinie/Byrne/Pérez Avengers era! Take one rookie cop, add one new-to-the-city emergency medical technician, and make their meet-cute a devastating battle between the Avengers and a giant, rampaging robot! What comes next? Only Barbara Randall Kesel (Hawk & Dove, Ultragirl) and Staz Johnson (New X-Men, Robin) can tell you. Featuring Iron Man, the Beast, Wonder Man, Count Nefaria and more.
(W) Howard Chaykin (A) Howard Chaykin (CA) Alex Ross Rated T+ In Shops: Oct 07, 2020 SRP: $4.99
Let’s say you’re a lowlife criminal in Manhattan, just trying to get by in a world that’s recently gotten full of spider-men, daredevils, power men and more, and you just want to make a decent illegal living. Plenty of henchman work available, if you don’t mind ending up in traction. And oh yeah, there’s a brewing super villain gang war building. What do you do? Keep your head low or go for the big win? Superstar storyteller Howard Chaykin (American Flagg, Wolverine) takes you through Marvel’s mean streets. Just watch out for Spider-Man, Cloak & Dagger and more.
(W) Jay Edidin (A) Tom Reilly (CA) Alex Ross Rated T+ In Shops: Sep 16, 2020 SRP: $4.99
The Marvels Snapshot tour through Marvel history continues, showcasing Marvel’s greatest characters through the eyes of ordinary people! Or does it? In this case, the “ordinary person” is teenaged Scott Summers, witnessing the dawn of the Marvel Age from a Nebraska orphanage and wondering what his place in it might be. What was it like to experience the debut of the FF, the Hulk, Iron Man and more? To wish you could be a part of it all? Writer Jay Edidin (Thor: Metal Gods, Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men) makes his Marvel comics debut, teamed with Tom Reilly (Immortal Hulk), to tell a story of upheaval and decision that would shape the X-Men (and the Marvel Universe) forever after.
(W) Evan Dorkin, More (A) Benjamin Dewey (CA) Alex Ross Rated T In Shops: Mar 25, 2020 SRP: $4.99
Our tour through Marvel history continues, showcasing Marvel’s greatest characters from the Golden Age to today, all through the eyes of ordinary people! This time, writers Evan Dorkin & Sarah Dyer (Beasts of Burden, Space Ghost: Coast to Coast, Superman: The Animated Series) and artist Benjamin Dewey (The Autumnlands, Beasts of Burden) tell the tale of the ten-year high-school reunion of the Fantastic Four’s own Human Torch. His hometown of Glenville, Long Island is going wild, and we see it all through the eyes of the Torch’s ex-girlfriend Dorrie Evans and reporter Marcia Hardesty – the preparations, the Torch’s long history in town, the festivities and more. But there’s a strange distance between Johnny Storm and his old schoolmates, one Dorrie knows all too well and Marcia is determined to get to the bottom of. Featuring ex-villains, strange souvenirs, a weenie roast on the beach and, of course, the hulking Inhuman hound known as Lockjaw! Don’t miss the festivities!
Marvel has released its special edition of The Pull List, unveiling exclusive information for the hottest books coming to comic shops this June!
This special previews announcement gave viewers a first look at critically acclaimed writer Steve Orlando’s Marvel debut in Darkhold Alpha #1, the next two adventures in the Kurt Busiek-curated trip through Marvel history in Marvels Snapshots: Captain Marvel #1 and Marvels Snapshots: Civil War #1, the epic showdown between Juggernaut and the Immortal Hulk in Juggernaut #2, and the dramatic decision that young mutant Molly Hayes will face in Runaways #34!
DARKHOLD ALPHA #1
Written by STEVE ORLANDO Art by CIAN TORMEY Cover by GREG SMALLWOOD
ENTER THE PAGES OF THE DARKHOLD —AND LOSE YOUR MIND IN MIGHTY MARVEL FASHION!
Critically acclaimed writer Steve Orlando makes his Marvel debut with a story that will delight and terrify! For hundreds of years, scholars and heroes alike have searched for the complete text of the Darkhold—AKA the Book of the Damned, written by the elder god Chthon. Now one of the greatest sorcerers in the Multiverse has found it—and Chthon has found him. To save them all, the Scarlet Witch must gather the world’s greatest heroes…and unleash their inner darkness.
MARVELS SNAPSHOTS: CAPTAIN MARVEL #1
Written by MARK WAID Art by COLLEEN DORAN Cover by ALEX ROSS
A team of heroes fights a stirring battle for the safety of the planet. A young woman struggles with desperation and despair, trying to cope in the modern world. But that’s only the beginning.
Featuring Captain Marvel, Ms. Marvel, and a few more surprises, Kurt Busiek invites superstar creators MARK WAID and COLLEEN DORAN to tell a tale of inspiration within inspiration, as we see how the world’s marvels have inspired others—and how they’ve been inspired themselves.
MARVELS SNAPSHOTS: CIVIL WAR #1
Written by SALADIN AHMED Art by RYAN KELLY Cover by ALEX ROSS
In the heart of the Civil War event, a human story unfolds. A S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, doing his best to do the job with honor—but is that even possible? A young, low-level Super Hero, trying to help his neighbors—but that’s not even legal any more. The two come together in a story that’ll test their commitment, ideals, hopes, and dreams.
Featuring Captain America, Giant-Man, Maria Hill, and more, Kurt Busiek recruits Hugo-Award-winning writer Saladin Ahmed and all-star Ryan Kelly to uniquely retell this iconic Marvel story.
Written by FABIAN NICIEZA Art by RON GARNEY Cover by GEOFF SHAW
SMASH OR BE SMASHED!
Juggernaut isn’t the only one who’s left destruction in his wake, and he thinks it’s about time for the IMMORTAL HULK to take responsibility for his actions! But is this Juggernaut’s way of defending mutant honor for Krakoa? Or is he back to his old ways?
Written by RAINBOW ROWELL Art by ANDRES GENOLET Cover by KRIS ANKA
Wolverine and Pixie guest star in RUNAWAYS and answer what Runaways fans have been asking for months: With the X-Men’s opening of Krakoa, the island-nation that welcomes mutants in existence, will Molly go? You may think you know the answer to that or what is going to happen here, but this comic is like its stars: They never do what they’re told—or expected—to do.
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