Series of the Year (Superhero)
Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow by Tom King, Bilquis Evely, and Mat Lopes, published by DC Comics
I read lots of good comic books, and sometimes read excellent comic books, but it’s only occasionally that I read something that I would really describe as being extraordinary or special. Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow is one of those special, extraordinary comics and my favorite superhero comic of 2021. It’s a thoughtful, heartbreaking, gut-wrenching, occasionally very funny comic, that’s brought to life with truly next level art and colors. This is some of my favorite work ever from writer Tom King (which is high praise because I love a lot of King’s work), and the combination of artist Bilquis Evely on art and Mat Lopes on colors is an absolute revelation. If you’re not reading this comic, you’re missing out on something really special (my full review here).
Favorite Superhero Comics (Marvel and DC)
Black Widow by Kelly Thompson, Elena Casagrande, Rafael Delatorre, and Jordie Bellaire, published by Marvel Comics
Kelly Thompson is one of the best writers of superhero comics out there. Captain Marvel is an excellent book, and Thompson previously wrote Hawkeye and West Coast Avengers (both excellent comics). And Black Widow is another home run, thanks to sharp writing and absolutely jaw-dropping art (from artists Elena Casagrande and Rafael Delatorre and colors from the always-excellent Jordie Bellaire). The first arc of this comic was incredible, and absolutely, savagely heartbreaking and you need to go read it right now. This current arc follows Natasha and Yelena fighting evil in San Francisco. There's a great story about the way people can be manipulated by someone feeding their desire to feel special. The art in this book is absolutely gorgeous, as are all of the characters. The people are beautiful, the action is stunningly rendered with intricate and inventive sequential storytelling, and the colors from Bellaire just pop off the page. Natasha Romanoff is a great character who deserves a great comic, and she has one.
Thanks to some excellent timing this year there is an excellent Eternals comic to enjoy along with the excellent Eternals movie. Worried you don't know much about the Eternals? Don't worry. No one does. That's kind of the thing with the Eternals, and writer Kieron Gillen knows it and makes it part of the story. The Eternals are subject to a continual cycle of death and rebirth, and each time they come out a little different. But they have memories going back for thousands of years. They fight the Deviants and act as heroes for the Earth. But the Marvel Universe has a lot of heroes. Tons of them. In NYC you can't go 2 blocks without bumping into a superhero. So do we need the Eternals? While those questions are going on, there also seems to be some issues with the resurrection cycle, and the computer that helps maintain the Eternals. This comic has fantastic dialogue (no surprise from Gillen) and stunning art from Esad Ribic and colorist Matt Wilson. Ribic is so great at showing action and drama, and Wilson does great color work complementing Ribic's lines.
Far Sector by N.K. Jemisin and Jamal Campbell, published by DC Comics
Worried that you don't know much about the Green Lanterns? Or that you don't care that much about them? But you're looking for a terrific sci-fi comic read with gorgeous art? You're in luck, I've got the perfect comic for you. It's Far Sector. In short, Green Lanterns are space cops assigned to different sectors of space. Having some pretty mixed feelings about cops these days? No worries, the main character in this story shares those feelings. Far Sector is the story of a Green Lantern named Jo Mullein assigned to The City Enduring, a giant floating city structure housing 3 alien races that is home to some 15 Billion inhabitants. There's been a murder, the first one in centuries, which is seemingly impossible (as the entire population is subject to a modification that dampens all emotions). It's a complex, weird place for Jo to be, and she's learning very quickly on the job. This is a fantastic sci-fi read. Jemisin is of course an acclaimed sci-fi novelist, and her skills have translated very well to comics. Thankfully, the work is brought to life by Jamal Campbell, who does absolutely astounding work. It's a terrific read.
Immortal Hulk by Al Ewing, Joe Bennett, Ruy Jose and more, published by Marvel Comics
I very much enjoyed The Other History of the DC Universe. Each issue in the series focuses its attention on a DC hero from an underrepresented group (like Black Lightning, Bumblebee/Guardian, or Katana). This comic series exists to shine a light on DC characters representing marginalized groups of people, in order to make clear that the "canonical" history of the DC universe is not the only perspective that needs to be heard. This is always timely and always important, but given the terrible anti-Asian violence in recent weeks, this is unfortunately more timely and important than ever (hey, #StopAsianHate). This isn't exactly a comic, it's more of a series of illustrated memoirs of each character. The pages have text and have art evoking that particular storyline or time period. It's an untraditional format but I think it works very well, and tells a terrific and important story.
Strange Adventures by Tom King, Mitch Gerads, and Evan "Doc" Shaner, published by DC Comics
Favorite Superhero-Adjacent Comics (NOT Marvel or DC)
The Black Hammer Universe by Jeff Lemire, Caitlin Yarsky, Tyler Crook, Tonci Zonjic, Dave Stewart, Nate Piekos and more, published by Dark Horse
Jeff Lemire's Black Hammer stories are an interconnected universe of characters and stories. They're often superhero-related, but very often the stories go into mystery, horror, science fiction, or the surreal. This year saw a number of different Black Hammer series, and I'm loving all of them. Unbelievable Unteens is no exception. It's the story of an artist living in Spiral City who draws a teen superhero comic, only it turns out that the stories she is drawing are in fact real, and are based on the adventures that she and her fellow "Unteens" had years before (they're very melodramatic X-Men type stories). But the truth is coming out, and everything is going haywire. This series is a lot of fun, and artist Tyler Crook is (unsurprisingly) doing amazing work. I also really enjoyed the Black Hammer Visions series of one-shots. Each issue is an exploration of a different aspect of that universe, sometimes focusing n the heroes but other times just focusing on people who live in that weird universe. There's also been Black Hammer Reborn, which is the story of the daughter of the original Black Hammer character taking up the mantle, and putting it down for many years, but taking it up again as a middle-aged woman, when new threats come to Spiral City. Artist Caitlin Yarsky has been doing amazing work on that one. All of the books are great.
The Blue Flame by Christopher Cantwell, Adam Gorham, K. Michael Russell, and Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou, published by Vault Comics