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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.

Review: The Red #1

The Red #1

There was a time I worked in advocacy for video games fighting against censorship and fighting for policies that benefited creators and players. During that time, there was a lot of talk of censorship and video games as free speech. One of the projects I contemplated was an alternate reality game taking place in a world where video games were banned and only played in speakeasies breaking the prohibition. The Red #1 is a similar concept expanding the prohibition to anything that can elicit an emotion. It’s also a hell of a start to the series.

Taking place in a distant future, a nuclear war has ravaged humanity. A single government entity now presides over what’s left of the world and prohibits certain content that is deemed emotionally dangerous, or “red,” in an attempt to maintain order and keep society working. The Red takes us into that underground world where musicians let their talent flow flaunting the control of a totalitarian government.

Written by Morgan Rosenblum, The Red‘s story is by Matthew Medney, Voodoo Bownz, Jonny Handler, and Rosenblum. Together they’ve created a world that feels familiar and characters we can easily relate to and understand. This is a comic that’s easy to slide into and enjoy. The concept isn’t out there and the world itself familiar.

And that’s a good thing as it allowed me to easily sink into the story and focus on the characters. And it’s the characters that stand out. Though they all fill their niche, there’s something also very charming about them all. This is a story and characters that you could easily see on tv and while not yet memorable they’re also very entertaining. There’s an almost musical quality about them where their personalities are all larger than life and they all stand out in their own way. With a “small cast” when each takes the stage the spotlight is immediately on them.

The art helps the cool factor of it all with beautiful visuals that are broken up by propaganda posters from the totalitarian rulers. Jon Lam provides the art with Voodoo Bownz lettering and there’s such a great style to it all. There’s clearly a lot of thought put into how this world is depicted, especially when it comes to colors. The dreary emotionless world is bathed in browns and yellows. The underground world of free music features purples and pinks. The in-between features reds. You can almost tell where individuals are locations stand based on the color palette chosen.

The Red #1 delivers a solid start into a familiar concept and world but down with splash and style. You can almost hear the music played in scenes. I awaited each character having the spotlight shined on them with a monologue ala Chorus Line. I liked it all and was sucked in quickly. What’s presented isn’t groundbreaking but it’s all done really well. The Red #1 introduces us to a world that while dystopian, still has a cool factor that makes me want to visit.

Story: Morgan Rosenblum, Matthew Medney, Voodoo Bownz, Jonny Handler Writer: Morgan Rosenblum
Art: Jon Lam Ink: Jon Lam Color: Jon Lam Letterer: Voodoo Bownz
Story: Art: Overall: Recommendation: Buy

Heavy Metal provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


Purchase: comiXologyHeavy Metal

Graphic Policy’s Top Comic Picks this Week!

THE RED #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.

Ever: The Way Out (Abstract Studios) – Terry Moore shifts to graphic novels and while we love his serialized comics, a complete story has us excited. This one about prophecies and fallen angels has us very intrigued.

I Walk With Monsters #1 (Vault Comics) – A story about the monsters within as a woman runs into the man who took away her brother.

Kaiju Score #1 (AfterShock) – It’s the most dangerous heist ever attempted. Four desperate criminals are going all in on a once-in-a-lifetime chance to steal millions in art and turn their miserable lives around. The catch? They have to pull it off under the nose of a one thousand-ton Kaiju.

Nailbiter Returns #7 (Image Comics) – The series has been a blast as its had fun with horror tropes keeping readers on their toes and delivering laughs.

The Other History of the DC Universe #1 (DC Comics/DC Black Label) – The first issue is absolutely brilliant as the talented John Ridley explores the DC Universe through the viewpoint of its minority characters.

Paris 2119 (Magnetic Press) – Instantaneous teleportation has altered almost every facet of human civilization but that progress has a price. The sci-fi/cyberpunk story has us intrigued.

Power Pack #1 (Marvel) – The Power Pack is back! But, with a law restricting underage superheroes, will they be able to continue to save the day?

The Red #1 (Heavy Metal Virus) – A single government runs the world after a nuclear war and content deemed emotionally dangerous is prohibited. A group of musicians discovers they’re the key to overthrowing the totalitarian government.

Science Comics: Rocks & Minerals (First Second) – Fun for kids and adults, this series are great graphic novels to learn about their topics.

Shang-Chi #3 (Marvel) – The first two issues have been fantastic as the team has reworked a problematic character. It’s full of action and adding so much depth to the character’s history.

Undiscovered Country #10 (Image Comics) – The series has kept us guessing as to what will happen next. The fact we’re constantly surprised is a good thing.

Yasmeen #4 (Scout Comics) – One of the best comics to come out this year, it’s been heartbreaking every issue.

The Witcher: Fading Memories #1 (Dark Horse) – If you’re a fan of the show, check out the new series!

X-O Manowar #2 (Valiant) – The series has been an interesting look at modern superheroes so far as X-O Manowar attempts to figure out his place in the world. The second issue really focuses on what the impact of superheroes would be in a real-world setting.

Preview: The Red

The Red

Writers: Matthew Medney & Morgan Rosenblum
Penciler/Inker/Colorist: Jon Lam
Letterer: Voodoo Bownz
Purchase

In the distant future, after a nuclear world war, a single government entity now presides over what’s left of the world. Certain content that is deemed emotionally dangerous, or “red”, is prohibited in an attempt to maintain order. A collection of gifted musicians, who possess the rare ability to create red content, discover they are the key to overthrowing the totalitarian government.

Heavy Metal Announces a New Creator-Owned Imprint, Virus

We can debate the name of the new line of comics but Heavy Metal is diving into the world of creator-owned comics with a new imprint, Virus.

The first comics from the new venture launch April 29 with eight stories and new titles will arrive every Wednesday going forward.

Virus will feature comics from Ron Marz, Bob Fingerman, and many more. Four titles launching next week are The Red (by Rosenblum, Medney, Bownz, Hander, and Lam)Nomobots (by Agrimbau and Tumburus)Hymn of the Teada (by Medney, Rosenblum, Mechler, Fung, Pinchuk, and Bownz), and Garbage Factory (by Jakofire and Kim).

Heavy Metal is also positioning the imprint as unique and “revolutionary” as the compensation offered to creators is 15% of the sticker price, “whether they sell one book or 10,000.” ComiXology submit offers 50% of the net sale of a title (after they pay their mobile distributors their standard fees).  If your title is sold through the comiXology website, you will receive 50% of the gross sale after credit card fees are taken out (credit card processing fees range from 1.5% to 2.9% for swiped credit cards). In the announcement they hinted they are looking to host comics from other publishers building a new digital platform.

Check out covers for those below.

Also released was artwork from Bob Fingerman’s upcoming Dotty’s Inferno.

(via SyFy)

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