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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.

Michael Cho Goes Two-Tone with Variant Covers for Marvel

Award-winning artist Michael Cho will bring some of Marvel’s most iconic heroes to life on a series of extraordinary variant covers this March. Done in his trademark two-tone style, these vibrant covers capture Marvel’s heroes at their most timeless versions. The two-tone variant covers will grace your favorite ongoing series this March, featuring one-of-a-kind depictions of Ant-Man, Wasp, Black Panther, Captain America, Black Widow, Doctor Strange, Hulk, Spider-Man, Thor, and Spider-Woman.

Check out a full list below and collect all ten Michael Cho Two-Tone variant covers when they arrive at your local comic shop this March!

  • AVENGERS #43 TWO-TONE VARIANT COVER by MICHAEL CHO
  • BLACK PANTHER #24 TWO-TONE VARIANT COVER by MICHAEL CHO
  • SAVAGE AVENGERS #19 TWO-TONE VARIANT COVER by MICHAEL CHO
  • CAPTAIN AMERICA #28 TWO-TONE VARIANT COVER by MICHAEL CHO
  • STRANGE ACADEMY #9 TWO-TONE VARIANT COVER by MICHAEL CHO
  • IMMORTAL HULK #44 TWO-TONE VARIANT COVER by MICHAEL CHO
  • IRON MAN #7 TWO-TONE VARIANT COVER by MICHAEL CHO
  • AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #61 TWO-TONE VARIANT COVER by MICHAEL CHO
  • SPIDER-WOMAN #10 TWO-TONE VARIANT COVER by MICHAEL CHO
  • THOR #13 TWO-TONE VARIANT COVER by MICHAEL CHO

Preview: Strange Academy #6

Strange Academy #6

(W) Skottie Young (A/CA) Humberto Ramos
Rated T+
In Shops: Dec 09, 2020
SRP: $3.99

BATTLE IN THE BAYOU!
• What happens when the students of Strange Academy face the ancient evil order called THE HOLLOW in the swamps of New Orleans?
• Nothing good, that’s for sure!
• The students have stepped too far out of their element – now what price must they pay?

Strange Academy #6

Preview: Strange Academy #5

Strange Academy #5

(W) Skottie Young (A/CA) Humberto Ramos
32 PGS./Rated T+
In Shops: Nov 11, 2020
SRP: $3.99

The founding of the Strange Academy came with some gigantic risks. So far the students and teachers haven’t felt the sting of those risks. That changes this issue.

Something horrible is bubbling up in the bayous outside New Orleans and the students of Strange Academy are going to have to wade in and uncover an evil that they are not ready to handle.

Strange Academy #5

Review: Strange Academy #4

Strange Academy #4

What does a game of tag look like at the Strange Academy? After a trip to the French Quarter of New Orleans, the students are still in having fun mode taking the classic game and giving it a magical spin. While chasing each other, we get to jump through worlds through magical doors allowing for an instant change of scenery and new challenges. Strange Academy #4 continues to deliver some fun before the oncoming storm.

Writer Skottie Young continues to set up the world of Strange Academy. The characters and settings are new. And with that, Young has focused on worldbuilding than throwing our characters directly into conflict. With that, the first four issues have delivered more fun than fights. That’s not a bad thing at all. We’ve gotten to know the characters and their personalities a bit more that way. It also is clear this is the set up before characters start getting off. Young is creating an attachment between the reader and the characters. With their fun personalities, we care about them more which makes upcoming threats more ominous and more likely we’ll experience greater tragedy.

Young delivers a kinetic issue full of world jumping and youthful fun. We know the shit will hit the fan soon but we can also sit back and just enjoy the fun the characters are having. And it’s chaotic. Beyond the game of tag, the issue also deals with a library run amok in a way that’s unexpected. Strange Academy #4 seems to have a goal and that’s to remind us that there’s danger everywhere and it’ll come from unexpected locations and at unexpected times.

Humberto Ramos provides the art with Edgar Delgado on color and Clayton Cowles lettering. There’s a lot to pack into the issue and it’s impressive with what’s done. Between the library setting and the different worlds presented the issue literally hops around. It delivers so many locations and “looks” but at the same time it all feels coherent and of the same world. That’s helped by the eye-popping coloring. The team also emphasizes the fun. We can see the joy so many of the kids are experiencing as they chase each other and wind up in new locations. There’s an enthusiasm mixed with energetic fun.

Strange Academy #4 is another fun issue of the series. It’s clear what the team is going for and what’s coming. The issue is the calm before the storm. That’s not a bad thing as the slow build has been a great way to introduce the characters and world. I care about these characters a bit more this way and it also hasn’t relied on shocks to keep us coming. Instead, much like the students with each other, we’re getting to know everyone and familiarize ourselves with the school. For those interested in kids attending a school for magicians, this is the one you should attend.

Story: Skottie Young Art: Humberto Ramos
Color: Humberto Ramos, Edgar Delgado Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Story: 8.0 Art: 8.75 Overall: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


Purchase: comiXologyKindleZeus Comics

Graphic Policy’s Top Comic Picks this Week!

Giga #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.

The Department of Truth #2 (Image Comics) – The conspiracy thriller continues and with it feeling like every crazy idea is being accepted as reality today, the series feels like it straddles between satire and reality.

Giga #1 (Vault Comics) – This is what happens when the mechs stop fighting. The series has already sold out of its first printing and will be a hot item this week at comic shops.

Legacy of Mandrake the Magician #1 (Red 5 Comics) – The classic character gets an update and we’re excited to check it out.

Nailbiter Returns #6 (Image Comics) – The series has been an amazing sendup of horror films and the last issue shifted things a bit in its tone and focus. We’re excited to check out more and see where this adventure takes us next.

Power Rangers: Sins of the Future (BOOM! Studios) – A brand new graphic novel set after the events of Power Rangers: Time Force. Based on the traffic we’re getting, this one might be under the radar and under-ordered.

Shang-Chi #2 (Marvel) – The first issue was fantastic with a solid mix of action and down to Earth moments. It’s a great re-introduction of the character with a focus on updating him for modern times but not losing so much of what makes the character great.

Strange Academy #4 (Marvel) – Such a fun series. If you want kids learning to control their magical powers at a school, this is one to check out!

Sympathy for No Devils #1 (AfterShock) – Murder, mystery, monsters, and magic. A brutal murder of the world’s largest Colossal and it needs to be solved. We’re intrigued by the series as it sounds like magic meets cops mystery.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin #1 (IDW Publishing) – One of the most anticipated comics of the year, it’s already sold out and has over 130,000 copies ordered! One turtle remains and he’s on a mission of revenge.

Undiscovered Country #9 (Image Comics) – Anything can happen with this series that has kept us on our toes with every issue. It’s an America cut off from the world and now divided into numerous strange territories, each a commentary on today’s reality.

Victoria and Nora: A Gotham Love Story (DC Comics) – A new graphic novel about a young Victor Fries meeting Nora Kumar. It’s a tragic tale about living life to the fullest and what it truly means to love…and to let go. These graphic novels from DC have been amazing so far and this one has us really excited to read it.

Preview: Strange Academy #4

Strange Academy #4

(W) Skottie Young (A/CA) Humberto Ramos
Rated T+
In Shops: Oct 28, 2020
SRP: $3.99

TAG, YOU’RE IT! The students at the Strange Academy blow off their homework for the craziest game of tag ever.
• Every door of Strange Academy holds a surprise – one takes you to Dr. Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum, another to Weirdworld, another to Asgard; and some doors’ destinations are unknown even to Strange himself.
• The students plan on stepping through every door, and at least one of the students will bear some significant consequences of their actions.

Strange Academy #4

JM DeMatteis, Keith Giffen, Kevin Maguire, Brian Michael Bendis, Gerry Conway, Skottie Young, Humberto Ramos, all go virtual for Baltimore Comic Con Live

Take part in the 1st annual Baltimore Comic-Con Live, a FREE ONLINE EVENT streaming the weekend of October 23-25, 2020! Come check out retailers, exhibitors, artists alley, programming, and the Ringo Awards live! The programming for the virtual event is jam-packed with comic book excellence!

THE JUSTICE LEAGUE: Bwa-Ha-Ha

Panelists: JM DeMatteis, Keith Giffen, and Kevin Maguire
Host: John Siuntres
Friday, October 23, 2020 – 6pm ET / 3pm PT

The men behind the comedy classic of the 80s and 90s return for a victory lap in a discussion of this comedy classic take on the world’s greatest heroes.

BENDIS & CONWAY

Panelists: Brian Michael Bendis and Gerry Conway
Friday, October 23, 2020 – 7pm ET / 4pm PT

A one-on-one conversation between two of the most important writers at the Big Two, representing nearly 50 years of comics. Join Brian Michael Bendis (SupermanUltimate Spider-Man) and Gerry Conway (Superman vs. The Amazing Spider-Man) in a no-holds-barred discussion.

STRANGE ACADEMY

Panelists: Skottie Young, Humberto Ramos
Host: Chuck Lindsey
Sunday, October 25, 2020 – 12pm ET / 9am PT

Sit down with the creators of the new Marvel hit series, Strange Academy.

Review: Strange Academy #3

Strange Academy #3

For those looking for alternatives to that other school for kid wizards, then look no further than Strange Academy. For three issues the series has introduced to this crazy world full of magic and a new generation of characters all of whom are full of energy and personality. It’s a fun, fresh series, and Strange Academy #3 continues every bit of that while setting up what’s to come.

Written by Skottie Young, the issue mainly has the students heading out into the French Quarter for some much needed fun. Of course things don’t go smoothly, though it’s not quite the over the top action one might expect. Young takes the issue in a much different route.

Strange Academy #3 is an interesting comic in that the premise could have easily had the students fighting “big bads” in a one-off issue but instead the stakes are fairly low. Instead, Young focuses on the students and their interactions. Yes, this is an issue that drops them in crap so that we can learn more about them and see them bond and interact in an environment that’s not the school. It’s all about the personalities and friendships here.

And Young nails the issue.

Every student featured feels like they get their moment, no matter how brief, that adds to the character and lets us know a little more about them. On top of all of that, the issue does some foreshadowing for what’s to come and sets up what’s clearly the first major bad for the series. It’s an issue that might feel like a throwaway in some ways but in reality it’s all about the setup and adding depth to make us know more about, and maybe care for, these characters.

Humberto Ramos‘ art with Edgar Delgado‘s colors is absolutely amazing as expected. Fantastic writing and fantastic art are the name of this series and the issue does not disappoint. Each character and moment is full of so much personality and energy as is Ramos’ style and the exaggerated nature of it all just adds to the youthful feel of the series. The lettering by Clayton Cowles is amazing as well. There’s some subtle things done depending who’s talking where the font style might change but unless you really pay attention you might not notice. It’s a small detail that adds so much to the series and characters.

Strange Academy #3 is another home run for the series and team. This is just a fun series with some great characters showing so much potential. It’s a series I look forward to with every release and a comic I can sit back and enjoy with a smile on my face. If you haven’t been reading it, you’ve been missing out.

Story: Skottie Young Art: Humberto Ramos
Color: Edgar Delgado Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Story: 8.4 Art: 8.75 Overall: 8.45 Recommendation: Buy

Marvel provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


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