Tuesday, December 29, 2020

My Favorite Comics of 2020

This year was... bad. The comics industry shut down for a good while and when it finally started up again I just wasn't feeling most comics. Sure, I read older stuff for the first time ever like Invincible or Claymore. I read a handful of new releases, but I don't even remember most of them - somehow my Hoopla history got deleted. It was a weird year, so this list is going to be weird as well.

Here's some quick honorable mentions and some stuff that didn't premiere this year but is still going strong. Spy × Family is still great and every chapter is better than the last, but it feels like it’s in a rut and just keeps introducing new characters so they’ll have someone new to put on the volume covers. Dryad had a nice premiere with a big fat twist in the second issue - it just fell victim to 2020 and my various depressions. Wynd was rad. Die is also still pretty good, but I’m never sure I totally understand what’s happening.

Finger Guns (Vault Comics)

Justin Richards, Val Halvorson, Rebecca Nalty, Taylor Esposito, Tim Daniel

I love Finger Guns so much I wrote a thousand words about it three months before it even came out. The first volume absolutely lived up to the hype. The writing is sharp and damn original and the art style is one of a kind. I’ve never read a comic quite like this and I wish there were more. I’ll read anything this team puts out.

Time Paradox Ghostwriter (Viz Media)

Kenji Ichima

Thanks to the power of Viz's Shonen Jump app, pretty much every weekly series is updated same day as Japan - for free. There's always around 20 series running at a time and this year I read about 2 of them. I just wasn't feeling the lineup this year. I'm not even into Dr. Stone that much. At the beginning of the year, Zipman!! crashed and burned and Guardian of the Witch followed, both leaving me with pretty much nothing but Mission: Yozakura Family to look forward to every week.

While every other series I've loved from the past year was canceled early, Time Paradox Ghostwriter was... also canceled early. So early it had room in it's second/last volume for an extra epilogue chapter. The series stands out among other canceled series this year in that the ending wasn't abrupt and forced. The creator did a fine job wrapping things up. The cancellation felt a bit unwarranted compared to other series like Zipman!! that fell apart quickly. If you had told me Time Paradox Ghostwriter was always intended to be a short run I would've believed you. It makes me want to see more limited series in Jump. The pressure to go on indefinitely is stressful on the creators and, often, the stories themselves.

Kaiju No. 8 (Viz Media)

Naoya Matsumoto

When Zipman!! went to crap I was sure I’d never read another tokusatsu-inspired manga again. It was a great premise that fell apart after its first chapter when it became nothing but nonstop battles. From Zipman!!’s ashes, Kaiju No. 8 came out of nowhere with a simple yet unique premise. Luckily it seems to be doing popular so an physical English release and an anime adaptation are all but guaranteed.

Big Girls (Image Comics)

Jason Howard

Now that I think about it, Zipman!! might have been a huge flop but this really was a big year for toku-esque comics. In addition to Kaiju No. 8 we got Birl Girls, which is really just fantastic. A birth defect turns boys into giant rage monsters while girls just turn into… big girls. Throw in some bio-punk conspiracy theories and you got a pretty decent kaiju comic. It’s also incredibly impressive that the story, art, and colors are all done by one person.

Anti/Hero and Primer (DC Comics)

Maca Gil, Demitria Lunetta, Kate Karyus Quinn and Gretel Lusky, Thomas Krajewski, Jennifer Muro

Marvel, a subsidiary of Walt Freakin’ Disney, has no idea how to make comics for kids. So they farmed the IPs out to IDW who thought monthly floppies was the way to go. DC, on the other hand, has been kicking it out of the park with moody YA books based on the Teen Titans, all-ages romps by Art Baltazar that don’t talk down to readers, and now we got a pair of awesome middle-grade OGNs!

Anti/Hero and Primer were fantastic origin stories introducing two new characters without bogging the reader down with any lore. I didn’t even fully process that they were set in the DC universe until Batman pops up at the very end of Anti/Hero. The artwork in both is fantastic and the writing is perfect for fans of all ages.

Okay that's it. I'm sure I read something else this year and there's plenty I skipped but hey what are you gonna do? Maybe next year I'll keep better track of what I read. Or maybe the industry won't shut down for like 3 months.