Hello there fellow people of 2020. It’s me your humble CFC EIC, Dave Shevlin here. It’s been a hard year. One of the worst we’ve ever experienced. One shining light amidst all of the horrible drudgery of everyday life was the comics. We really are in a Golden Age for the comics industry. So many talented creators, publishers, genres, etc that it is impossible to even keep up and that is AMAZING! I wish I could have read MORE! For this best of list it’s business as usual here as I select choices that really hit home for me personally in a comfort food way. These are the ones I am always going to go back to and reread and constantly be a hypeman for. I think every one of these is a necessity. They MUST be on your shelf. I’m not counting down or anything, this is just a random assortment of the 2020 comics I can’t live without. I am going to do a delicious 20 course comfort food meal to celebrate this messed up year. Let’s go:
- Ant-Man: By Zeb Wells the GOAT, Dylan Burnett, Mike Spicer & Cory Petit. I instantly fell in love with this book. It’s one of Marvel’s best evergreen series that they can keep in print forever and can be handed to any reader old or new to get them to fall or refall in love with comics. Zeb Wells the GOAT is one of the genuinely funniest writers the medium has ever had but he also fills stories with peak characterization and entertaining plots while also utilizing deep continuity better than 99% of writers. Burnett’s art is dynamic and excels at facial expressions that add to the story in such a special way. Colorist Mike Spicer makes said art POP in such a way that you feel like you’re a kid at the grocery store filling a plastic bag with every bright, sweet and sour bulk candy they have to offer. It smacks you in the face and stays with you. The story relies on past continuity while moving things forward, takes you on a tour of the entire Marvel Universe and hits on movie synergy while not being beholden to it. This is an alltimer. (We covered this one on the podcast and it made the Perfect 10 for Scott Lang.)
2. Jujutsu Kaisen: By Gege Akutami. 2020 has been the year of Jujutsu Kaisen. From finally having all of it translated on and on the Shonen Jump App, to releasing in English volumes here, to the anime adaptation starting, and a general boom in popularity overall. I’ve been following this little manga that could since 2018 when Viz started simultaneous releases of it in English here with Chapter 40. I voraciously ate up the previous chapters in scanlation form and have been reading it weekly since. I have been banging pots and pans together since early 2019 for people to read this and I’m just so THRILLED to see it be so well received and popular now. If you haven’t checked it out yet here is my quick pitch: Bleach but good with someone who can actually plot and write. 2020 for JJK has been all the MASSIVE story arc, The Shibuya Incident. This will go down with Tokyo Ghoul’s Owl Suppression Operation Arc or One Piece’s Marineford arc as one of the alltime manga storylines. The fun thing about Jujutsu Kaisen is it has consistently gotten better with every single chapter and The Shibuya Incident somehow tops itself every damn time with satisfying call backs and resolutions to long running plots, some of the best shonen fight scenes, a massive cast where no one feels underutilized, and most of all, extreme emotional reactions. It’s a grand culmination of everything that came before and it makes you feel so good, like when you finally find all the right pieces and finish a puzzle.
3. Excalibur #6 (and the whole series): By Tini Howard, Marcus To, Erick Arciniega, & Cory Petit. This one single issue of Excalibur hit so close to home for me. I went into it in depth here, but this makes the list because of the magnificent scene of Rogue & Gambit discussing having kids and the refreshing decision to emphatically choose not to by Rogue. Long story short, my wife has battled countless medical setbacks in her life and would probably not even be able to have kids, but we collectively came together and made a joint decision that in the face of family and society SCREAMING at us that we need to not think, only breed that we’d also not have kids. At 29 I chose to have a vasectomy and it’s one of the greatest and most freeing decisions I’ve ever made. Most media tends to always just lean in on having every woman character at some point exist just to be a Mother and honestly it’s so tiring and grating for so many people that either choose not to, or cannot have children. Rogue is my favorite X-Man and I dreaded seeing her potentially being locked into this ancient trope, so when this issue came out and mirrored my wife and I’s own personal journey so closely, I celebrated and teared up and seriously thanked the creative team for delivering such a perfect comic. Excalibur is my favorite of all the X-Books. Of all of them it is the most consistent quality. I think it blends the new DoX era of change so well with the tone and feel of the Claremont era and the original series.
4. Immortal Hulk: By Al Ewing, Joe Bennett, Ruy Jose, Corey Petit & many more. Just like it was last year, Immortal Hulk takes the championship belt as the best ongoing series at Marvel. At this point I can definitively say this is the best run on Hulk ever. It’s like when a really good chef takes something like Thanksgiving leftovers and is able to take all the classic dishes you know and love and make some new dish that you never thought could be done, and it tastes better than the original meal. Ewing is that master chef and somehow he takes a piece from every notable era of Hulk history and simultaneously honors it by reinterpreting and building on it in such a fascinating way. That Ewing has somehow been able to top himself arc by arc is just astounding. It’s rare when we receive an instant classic that pushes the boundaries of what kind of stories can be told about a longtime corporate comic icon and the larger Marvel Universe as a whole.
5. Living Heroes: By Stephanie Williams & O’Neill Jones. “In a nineties kind of world. I’m glad I got my girls!” Living Heroes is an amazing fan comic that takes the Marvel Universe and mashes it up with legendary 1990’s sitcom Living Single. Monica Rambeau, Misty Knight and Storm all live together in a NYC brownstone just like Khadijah, Regine and Sinclaire while She-Hulk takes the Max role dropping in all the time along with Sam Wilson, Wyatt Wingfoot, Forge, Yukio and other guest stars aplenty. It is a joint love letter to both properties complete with the iconic bathroom mirror scenes, pitch perfect parodies of our beloved superhero icons and probably my favorite version of Black Panther ever. This is pure sitcom style, slice of life stories that serve characters like Monica and Misty in a way the regular comics never have. Even if you’ve never seen a single episode of Living Single, you’ll enjoy this. Williams gives every character such amazing personality while focusing the underrepresented Black community of Marvel characters and giving them their due. Jones has an expressive, slick style that imbues each character with such distinct life. I love it. It’s funny and charming and you can feel the love on every page. It’s what I wish the real Marvel Comics were publishing. Pick it up physically or digitally here.
6. The Impending Blindness of Billie Scott: By Zoe Thorogood. A masterpiece coming of age story that remarkably is able to hit personally for any type of reader, regardless of their circumstances. The titular Billie Scott, an adrift young artists, has two weeks give or take, before she loses her sight in a cruel twist of fate. Thorogood fills the book with so many different characters with their own deep lives and problems and triumphs just like Billie that she encounters along the way and learns from. Each time she paints their portrait, a little bit of their own journey strengthens hers. Some of these people are good, some of them bad, but all of them human and REAL. So much of the book is about coming to terms with what life dealt you, be it a bad family, disabilities, financial problems, insurmountable paths to dreams and so on and so on. My wife is disabled and has a litany of medical problems that I constantly curse fate for letting these things happen to her so this book really resonated with me on SUCH a personal level. I actually had to stop a third of the way in because it was so gut wrenching and too close to home. Luckily, I kept reading and saw the depressing start give way to an inspiring, beautiful story that made my eyes well up hard. Thorogood is a definite up and coming star with such an incredibly unique style. One of those special artists that no matter what they draw you can instantly tell it’s them. She fills every panel with so much mind boggling detail that you’re immersed into the grungy and realistic but simultaneously abstract world she creates. I love how she draws faces and hair. Most of the book is all grayscale, but certain encounters use accents of other colors to help set a mood or tone brilliantly and full color is reserved for one magnificent quiet part near the end that also functions as a grand story transition that sets up the ending.
7. Superman Smashes The Klan: By Gene Luen Yang, Gurihiru, & Janice Chiang. The best Superman story in the last ten years and the best since All Star Superman. This one is even better than that masterpiece in many aspects. There is no debate. No argument. What I wrote there is fact. This is one of those miraculous evergreen books that you can give a 4 year old or a 90 year old and each would enjoy it as well as learn from it equally. This is an adaptation of the 1946 Superman radio serial “The Clan of the Fiery Cross” and it retains most of the 1940’s setting and story beats but refines it into a timeless narrative that reflects the age we live in now just as well. The best part of this though is that it also functions as a perfect display of what makes Superman great from his power set to his extreme kindness and heart to his endearing journey as an immigrant himself. This is a defining showcase for the character. I was so happy I could give this to my half Vietnamese niece this year as a birthday present hoping she could identify with, enjoy and learn from this work as much as I did. (This one made the Perfect 10: Superman list.)
8. First Knife (Formerly Protector):By Simon Roy, Daniel Bensen, Artyom Trakhanov, Jason Wordie & Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou. Easily my favorite comic released this year. A captivating, fully realized far future world that is packed with so much thought and creativity behind it. I was gripped immediately by the setting and premise but even further pulled in by the supplemental material in the back of each issue consisting of maps, wildlife info, cultural background and data pages that would put Jonathan Hickman to shame. The story is a whirlwind ride of an archaic cyborg remnant of the past versus the warring tribes of a future that seems all too possible with an incredibly cathartic ending that really hits hard in 2020. The most awe inspiring thing about this book however is that EVERY single member of the creative team makes their mark well known and actively contributes to the storytelling in a way not a lot of comics do. The lettering and coloring here is on equal ground if not more important to the success of this book than the writing and art. It is just about the most perfect synchronization between all creators I have ever seen on a comic. (We’ve covered this one extensively here.)
9. John Constantine: Hellblazer: By Simon Spurrier, Aaron Campbell, Matias Bergara, Jordie Bellaire & Aditya Bidikar. The Showtime Lakers era of creative teams brings the real John Constantine back into all of our lives. Spinning out of The Sandman Universe imprint this series brilliantly brings back a version of the John we all knew and loved from the long running Hellblazer series with a maddeningly simple explanation of “He’s been gone for awhile and now he’s back” which works just as well in real life as it does in the book. He’s not quite sure what reality or timeline he’s returned to but even he remarks how it doesn’t really matter as the story starts up at a breakneck pace. The opening one shot and the 12 issues here serve as one of the most tightly plotted “seasons” of a comic I’ve ever seen with an overarching mega plot and scads of amazing smaller stories along the way, including my personal favorite, the one about the mermaid. That story was amazing. Arguably the greatest chunk of Constantine comics ever, this expands his world in such a shockingly major way while remaining true to the cardinal rules of a Hellblazer comic: absolute misery and suffering and John fucking people over. Along the way we get some of the most creative dark fantasy I’ve ever seen wrapped in a scathing takedown of the U.K. and its politics in this post Brexit modern age. That DC pulled the plug on this is an unforgivable tragedy.
10. Peng!: By Corey Lewis. If you’ve never read a Corey Lewis comic than you immediately need to rectify that. Lewis is an underrated master who would make my comics Mt. Rushmore. His work is like if you took Studio Trigger anime, 90’s Capcom art, 2000’s hipster punk culture and threw it all in a blender. He consistently makes some of the coolest, hypest material that enriches your soul and brings a smile to your face. His stuff is pure comics caffeine, jolting your system with good vibes and energy to inspire you. There is so much dynamic life in his American manga style you can’t help but be caught up in the action. Peng! does all that in spades. Peng! is the sound a kickball makes when it’s sent flying in this martial arts encrusted sports fable. Originally a 2005 advanced kickball tournament one shot, this new release republishes said comic with an all new framing sequence and several other stories in the new setting of the All-World School of Sportsmanship! Our main characters the Foot Knux – Rocky, Sassy, Ven, and Radley are a team of students dedicated to mastering the art of fringe sports in tales involving breakdancing, hackey sack and trying to claim the Advanced Kickball championship! Alongside these stories are copious extras as well as a cameo from Scott Pilgrim and Lewis’ most famous creation, Sharknife. This proudly stands among the many famous sports manga that exist as one the best in the genre and all of comics.
11. Thor – The Worthy: By Walter Simonson, Mike Hawthorne, Sal Buscema, Tamra Bonvillain, John Workman, Tom DeFalco, Ron Frenz, Keith Williams, Rachelle Rosenberg, Clayton Cowles, Kathryn Immonen, Tom Reilly and Chris O’Halloran. This anthology one shot was an absolute Godsend to me. Whenever I recommend Thor/Asgardian comics to people I list off my favorites in order: 1. Walter Simonson’s run, one of the three greatest comic runs of alltime and Thor’s best. 2. Tom DeFalco & Ron Frenz’s Thor and subsequent Thunderstrike series. 3. Kathryn Immonen’s short lived Journey Into Mystery starring Sif run. Imagine my insane surprise and delight when Marvel decided to get all those creators together again to spotlight each era. The first tale about Beta Ray Bill and Sif is at first disappointing because Simonson isn’t also drawing it, but they got one of my favorite current artists Mike Hawthorne to pencil it whilst also bringing in legend Sal Buscema to ink it. Sal drew about half of Simonson’s legendary run so that was a great consolation prize. All of that art is colored by Bonvillain, one of the best colorists in the game right now. And the bow on this tidy little package is letterer John Workman, who gave Simonson’s run such a unique, special flair with his special typeset coming back to make sure this is something special. The next tale by DeFalco and Frenz is all about Eric Masterson when he was Thunderstrike. My man, The Everyday Avenger!! We actually had a new Thunderstrike comic in 2020!! I’m still pinching myself about this one. And lastly Immonen returns to Sif in a story that teams her up with the Jane Foster Thor while also sneaking in cameo panels of Frog Thor and amazingly, Superman and Wonder Woman. It’s Marvel honoring and loudly telling everyone to read the same material I always hype up. It was such a special, personal treat.
12. Tartarus: By Johnnie Christmas, Jack T. Cole, Andrew Krahnke, Hilary Jenkins & Jim Campbell. Tartarus is one of the best and most engrossing sci-fi stories I’ve ever experienced. By far the top sci-fi comic on the stands right now. It immediately takes your hand and establishes a vast, incredibly creative detailed world that jumps between time periods with a wild cast of characters that is refreshingly female first and consists of all races and sexuality. This comic is like if Moebius and Katsuhiro Otomo did the Fusion Dance then sat down and issue to issue gave us a mix of true crime stories, slice of life family drama, Greek myth and peak sci-fi action movie. It’s dense as hell with some of the most beautiful, lush art I’ve ever seen. Easily the prettiest, most impressive comic art being published today. Tartarus is one of those comics where as soon as you start reading it latches on and makes permanent residence in your brain. It’s unafraid to take chances and tell its own story on its own terms at its own pace. It stands out amidst a sea of comic mediocrity because it’s pushing against the boundaries of the medium rather than going through the motions. This book is just cool as hell while also being high art.
13. Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen: By Matt Fraction, Steve Lieber, Nathan Fairbairn & Clayton Cowles. Marketed as a bizarre tour of the underbelly of the DC Universe, this book didn’t disappoint, delivering the best DC Comic of the 2010’s in a hilarious, heartfelt, insane romp! This all star team brought us a stunning revamp of a character that just hasn’t quite worked since the Silver Age. Rebuilding his family and background and using him as the straight man to revolve around all the absurd things that exist in the DC Universe was a truly genius move. Exaggerating the old bombastic tone and convention of the Silver Age, Fraction becomes an unseen grand narrator performing a seemingly retro act in modern times warping and twisting the form and convention of decades of comic storytelling into a new grand masterpiece. Yes, it’s funny, but it’s not a funny book. All the deeply serious, dark antics of the DC Universe play out, but to Jimmy it’s just everyday life. The absolute madness of that world reflects through this normal man just trying to survive and live and in turn connects to the dreadful times we live in now. This book coming out in 2020 felt so cathartic because while we just tried our best to survive amidst the pandemic, systemic racism, our backwards government and every other insane new terror that would appear every other day, Jimmy was doing the same. This creative team finally nailed what makes Jimmy Olsen comics work so well – yes they’re funny, yes they’re wackadoo but so is everyday life and at the center of both is the everyperson just taking it all in, trying not to die, or lose their job, or keep their family together, or raise a cat. Jimmy Olsen is all of us, and we are him.
14. Ronin Island: By Greg Pak, Giannis Milonogiannis, Irma Kniivila, Simon Bowland & Michele Assarasakorn. Ronin Island reached its conclusion in 2020 wrapping up a 12 issue maxiseries that was wonderful from start to finish. The premise of Ronin Island is in the future after some unknown decimation of Japan, Korea, and China, a utopian island society exists of all the descended survivors of those nations. Through the point of view of our two youthful leads, Hana & Kenichi, we learn the Island preaches a motto of “Together In Strength” but their people are anything but. Before we even get a chance to be comfortable, unknown invading Non-Islanders mysteriously appear and an outside world no one knew existed becomes the battleground of an all out war involving a new Emperor and the Byonin, rampaging mindless monsters who spread a spore that turns any unfortunate human into one of them. Blending together all manner of story tropes, folklore and customs from Japanese, Korean, and Chinese history, we get a moving story about a new generation forced to take action and start a rebellion to change the systemic problems the aged ruling class put in place so they literally don’t turn into mindless zombies. It’s an inspiring and uplifting tale for the year we’re in. Another thing I love about it is that it’s absolutely a book for all ages but never dumbs itself down or panders to kids while also keeping in check any too gruesome moments. I really appreciate the fact a kid can learn an inspiring lesson early on or an old reader can reexamine how they live their own life for the better after experiencing Ronin Island.
15. X Of Swords: By Jonathan Hickman, Tini Howard ,Gerry Duggan, Benjamin Percy, Zeb Wells, Leah Williams, Vita Ayala, Ed Brisson, Rod Reis, Pepe Larraz, Marte Gracia, Carmen Carnero, R.B. Silva, Mahmud Asrar, Leinil Yu, Matteo Lolli, Marcus To, Carlos Gomez, Stephen Segovia, Stefano Caselli, Joshua Cassara, David Baldeon and many more. X of Swords is the most additive event I’ve ever seen in comics. FULL STOP. It takes all the fresh new bits of Dawn of X, mainly the long simmering plot threads by Hickman and Howard and slams them together into one amazing event. It establishes a countless number of plot launchpads and intriguing nuggets to mine for years to come in every single book in the X-Line. It re-establishes Otherworld from scratch and brings back many of the characters related to it in an easy to understand and transformative way, something that needed to be done so badly. It establishes an entire new world and history of mutants, full of hundreds of new characters just waiting to be explored that could fill AN ENTIRE PUBLISHING LINE. It is the de facto best Apocalypse story of all time, adding gravitas, motivation and emotion the character has never had before. It firmly establishes the Braddock twins in their new roles continuing the new, fresh direction of the franchise. The best part was the wonderful subversion of expectations as we got a greatest hits of silly manga battles instead of a typical comic supervillain clash. The triumphant ending chapter is full of Kobe to Shaq alley-oop jump out of your damn chair and scream at the top of your lungs moments EVERY OTHER PAGE!! Everything is NEW NEW NEW. This isn’t a grand culmination of years, the inevitable story you always knew was coming, this was the explode your life, franchise altering masterpiece that exceeds any expectation or guessed plot point. It not only does everything a crossover event SHOULD do but it actually changes the mold and establishes NEW standards for every single crossover event that comes after.
16. Ex.Mag: Vol. 1 By Sophia Foster Dimino, Giannis Milonogiannis, Connor Willumsen, Jonathan Djob, Nkondo, Wren McDonald, Tonči Zonjić, Kelly K, Mushbuh & Freddy Carrasco. Vol. 2 By Choo, Loïc Locatelli, Jane Mai, Yon Lee, Natasha Allegri, Leslie Hung, Mikkel Sommer, Michelle Kwon & Luis Yang. If my house was on fire and I had time to save one choice on this list Ex. Mag would be the one I’d save from a fiery death. I only recently discovered Peow Studio, a small Swedish/U.S. publisher that seems to only curate and crank out solid gold. One such gold nugget is Ex.Mag, a Kickstarted anthology series that Wren McDonald and Peow cooked up together. Each volume is focused on a specific genre, the first two out now being Cyberpunk and Paranormal Romance, where a whole host of amazing creators get up to 30 pages to tell whatever story they want to make one thick 125+ page book reminiscent of a Shonen Jump mag. The talent in each volume is staggering featuring a mix of some very recognizable comic industry giants and pretty much every artist you’ve ever gone “Oh that’s so cool!” and hit retweet when you saw their work on Twitter. The graphic design, color palette and aesthetic are gorgeous and make what I consider to be some of the best crafted packages ever done in comics. The pages are light & crisp like a zine but the book feels thick and sturdy like a prestige collected edition. Each volume features such a wide and differing type of art, style or story to cater to anyone’s tastes in their specific genre ranging from hilarious, adorable, gut-wrenching, action packed and more. There’s a text piece in the Cyberpunk one I was literally cackling out loud like a maniac at. Even the logo spawns cute little mascots that get a little chance to shine. Each creator gets a charming Profile Card in the back where they scrawl out little answers to what influenced their story, their likes in that genre, the work they have done or will do and more with little scribbles. You get an amazing feel for each one. There’s even a letters page in Vol.2!! All in all it’s the most impressive project I’ve seen in the comics industry in such a long time and I hope we get way more than just the previously funded and previewed three volumes.
17. Copra: By Michel Fiffe. My continuing favorite ongoing series in comics and pick for best comic of the 2010’s started this year off with Issue #4 of the “Image Era” dropping on January 1, 2020 and ended this year with Issues #38 & 39 dropping right before the year ends. It was an odd period of time for Copra as we got 5 issues total and the aforementioned “Image Era” where Michel relaunched and published the book ran its course and the self published “Copra Press” reopened. Copra has always been such a special book because Michel was making it as a labor of love in his own house, doing every bit of it himself down to stapling and sending it directly to the reader. It’s the one comic I FEEL like I’m a part of, like there’s a connection between Michel and me, no matter how small. That personal touch was important. It was fun to see Michel bring the book to Image Comics but I felt we lost a bit of what made the book special. I was no longer getting a package from Michel in the mail. The unique thick paper stock was replaced with the standard floppy fare. It was exciting but it wasn’t the same. That’s not to say the issues were bad. We still got some of the most wildly inventive and impactful issues yet for the series as it finally approached the long teased “The Ochizon Saga”, the clear conclusion to everything Fiffe has been building to since Issue #1. Along the way we got a reshuffling of the team and story to refocus the narrative. Fiffe experimented with extremely unique acrylic coloring interiors and the final issue of the “Image Era” was an extra sized bash that was all splash pages and mostly all silent. The “Image Era” had the usual Ditko/Giffen influence that every issue has had but you can REALLY see the John Romita Jr./Walt Simonson influence in all of those issues. That’s what I’ll remember about the “Image Era” the most. And the final two issues we got as Fiffe went back to self publishsing felt like slipping under a familiar old warm and fuzzy blanket. We were back to Comfort Food Comics. The feel and smell of the usual paper stock was back. The art style was less of the tight “Romita Jr. fit in among the Image peers style” and back to the typical mish mash explosion of influences masterpiece that Fiffe has always been known for. And lastly the story cranked into high gear, delivering us the most “Oh Fuck!” energy we’ve had yet in the book. So all in all, the best comic being published only got stronger and better in 2020.
18. Daredevil: By Chip Zdarsky, Marco Checcetto, Jorge Fornes, Francesco Mobili, Mike Hawthorne, Nolan Woodard, Marcio Manyz, Mattia Iacono & Clayton Cowles. It’s easy to forget were getting an alltime run on Daredevil when we are ALSO getting alltime runs on Immortal Hulk and the X-Books, but make no mistake Daredevil under Zdarsky and his artistic collaborators is one of the best books ever made. Honestly, and I’m sure I’m going to make people mad here, I feel it’s the best DD run since Ann Nocenti. As good as other runs like Waid and Brubaker’s were, they had the setup and hook all right there for them of a big change that fueled their runs until the tank inevitably ran dry. Zdarsky however said I’m going to bathe in the waters of Ol’ Hornhead and LEAN IN hard on every single Daredevil trope ever. He is able to do the extremely hard to do task of thinking up a new fresh take on essential story beats that make the character what he is but in a way where they fit the modern world while also supersizing them. You thought Kingpin had money & power? Well, meet the Stromwyn siblings, a pair of Mega Billionaires, the new form of supervillain for today’s capitalist run world, who with a seemingly endless supply of money and power can pull off anything they choose. You thought Matt had a mess of a relationship in the past? Well now he’s falling for the married wife of the son of one of Hell’s Kitchen’s top Crime family bosses. You thought Matt had been through the crucible before of being beaten down and thinking about having to give up Daredevil and fight back before? Well this time he actually WASN’T good enough, and accidentally killed someone. You’ve figured you’ve seen Matt have to go to Church and talk to a nun who is more than she seems in the past? Well, SURPRISE, in one of the greatest long form twists in comics, it’s Typhoid Mary!! You thought Mike Murdock, Matt’s fake twin brother alter-ego was a fun thing to exist in Matt’s life? Well, now with an assist from Charles Soule and some Rune Stone magic, he is real and always has been real throughout Matt’s history. You thought it was a good story when Matt was “The Devil in Cell Block D”? Well, now it’s not Matt Murdock in jail, it’s literally the vigilante “Daredevil” being jailed for his crimes in a fantastic legal loophole story where his mask stays on. You thought it was cool when Elektra was in the book causing all manner of mayhem and help before? Well, she’s back and now SHE is Daredevil. Now it’s her book. (Side note – Checcetto gives us the best artistic rendition of Elektra ever! That hair! I want to curl up and live in it!) This is the grand Daredevil love letter that hits on everything you’ve ever loved about the character but in a new crazy dialed up to 11 manner.
19. The King of Fighters: A New Beginning: By the SNK Corporation and Kyoutarou Azuma. Translated & layed out by Daniel Komen, Roland Amago and Bambi Eloriaga-Amago. Originally started in 2018 in Japan as an adaptation of the video game The King of Fighters XIV, we finally got the first four volumes translated and released here in America in 2020 thanks to Seven Seas Entertainment. This is arguably the best comic based on a video game ever, up there with Charlie Nozawa’s Super Mario Adventures and Masahiko Nakahira’s Street Fighter III: Ryu Final. But unlike those, the truly special thing about this manga is that SNK and the actual staff that developed the game are the writers/plotters here. You don’t get some loose adaptation that takes all kinds of liberties, you get the OFFICIAL story of the game that further develops the admittedly lean story presented there into a massive tapestry of character and plot development that tie ins to the series’ well established history as well as setting up the ongoing King of Fighters canon for future games. Every character acts exactly as they should as you get a much more intimate look into their motivations and storylines. Azuma’s artwork is on another level, and apologies to past SNK artists like Shinkiro & Nona and the rest, but these characters have never looked better. This is peak Fight Comix as each fighting game match that fuels the bulk of the story gets the page count it deserves with long chapters chock full of dynamic, fluid artwork that shows off every character’s unique style and moves in such a cool way. Azuma plays with perspective and action in such a unique way to make this so much more than a typical comics slugfest. It dives deep into SNK lore to satisfy longtime fans while also making it as reader friendly and entertaining as possible for anyone to pick up. This was the main comic that really got me through the quarantine and pandemic this year.
20. Wonder Woman: Dead Earth: By Daniel Warren Johnson, Rus Wooton and Mike Spicer. America’s greatest Seinen manga. Johnson is one of the best creators in the game right now. Dead Earth is such a unique book, influenced by all manner of things but most notably Shonen & Seinen manga. I often called this book as it was coming out a mix of Berserk and Wonder Woman. It’s a wonderful blend of DC superhero comics and dark fantasy tropes in this future post apocalyptic tale. The page layouts and lively action resemble the best manga action scenes that exist as Johnson really plays with proportions and perspectives in all the crazy fights that happen within. Each issue is oversized around 50 pages and that allows the team to really pace the book so well, giving action scenes the room to breathe and the deep emotional moments the time to resonate. Every page is a feast for the eyes and Johnson’s gritty, ultra detailed work is aided masterfully by colorist Spicer who just like in the previously listed Ant-Man, contributes so much to the storytelling using his bold palette to fit and influence the tone of each scene. But it’s not just Cool Shit to look at, it also functions as one of Wonder Woman’s best stories containing a wonderful modern take on the always baked in submission trope, a perfect examination of the Wondey/Cheetah relationship, and displaying and focusing on the the must have themes of compassion and forgiveness that are in every great Diana story. This is a book that justifies the existence of the DC Black Label imprint. Just a bunch of S-Tier creators let loose on these beloved icons and doing something new and unique with them.