After a lot of hard work and sacrifice, we’ve reached the end. No, not of 2020; there’s still a week or so of this hell year to mess with us collectively. But after counting down the best miscellaneous, best series, and best creators, we’ve reached the finale of our 2020 comics coverage. And what better way to wrap it up then by letting the artists and creators share some of their personal faves from this year. Whether you’ve read these books or not, or you’d count them as your own top picks, one thing is clear: we’re all here because comics help us celebrate art and better understand the world and its many, many challenges and upsides.
Until next year, may all your comics books be entertaining and life-affirming (whether you liked them or not).
Christopher Cantwell (Iron Man, She Can Fly)
Lonely Receiver by Zac Thompson and Jen Hickman has become the book I am most excited for each month. I either read it immediately or dead last, letting the anticipation build. It is the most upsetting break-up story I’ve read, and it presents this idea of love as a pathology of obsession, which brilliantly dovetails into our over-reliance on technology. There have been many dystopian works of fiction but this one elegantly paints the future as subtly wrong, bent at an incorrect angle. It’s also a fantastic portrayal of mental health and breakdown. The art also feels like ink that has not and will never dry. I loved what Hickman did on test, so to see her up the ante in this neo-noir-thriller genre is a joy. This book is codependency as horror. It’s phenomenal.
Sina Grace (Getting It Together, Iceman)
The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen is my pick for 2020. It only beat out In Waves by AJ Dungo because that was a 2019 release… however, both are noteworthy in terms of how much they affected me down to my core. I’m such a sucker for fairy tales and fables, so to see a beautifully drawn book about a young boy building a deeper understanding about the world around him in relation to the complicated darkness of stories we’re told as children? I was gagged, I was shook, and I was inspired to get off my butt and start drawing stories again. To accomplish all of that in the midst of a pandemic is no small feat.
Justin Greenwood (Crone, Stumptown)
The comic that left the biggest impression on me this year was probably TKO’s Sentient from Jeff Lemire and Gabriel Walta. I went in completely cold and absolutely loved it. The premise by itself was interesting but the art was so immersive that it really made for an engaging and incredibly well-paced story that I still think of often. It’s so hard to remember the timing of what came out this year. Time is a really strange thing in this COVID world.
Some of my other recent favorites were Little Bird, Outer Darkness, and Daniel Warren Johnson’s Wonder Woman: Dead Earth book. All of them were big inspirations over the course of the year and would highly recommend them to readers looking for the best of what comics had to offer in 2020.
James Tynion IV (Batman, Something is Killing the Children)
It’s an exciting moment in the creator owned space right now. It feels like a new generation of creator has risen up, eager to show everyone what the future of comics looks like, and it has been wildly inspiring to see. I’ve been a particular fan of the whole White Noise group of comic writers out of the UK, and this year has seen some stellar output from each of them. From Ram V and Anand RK’s Blue in Green, Dan Watters and Caspar Wjingaard’s Home Sick Pilots, to Ryan O’Sullivan and Andrea Mutti’s A Dark Interlude, they’re all at the peak of their talents…
But one that really stood out to me this year was Alex Paknadel and John Le’s Giga… Set in the ruins of a world where giant robots once roamed, but now just sit there, rusted and broken. It captures you from the first issue and drags you into a vibrant and fascinating universe I desperately want to know more about. And the visuals of the broken Giga’s towering over human cities are some of the best images I’ve seen in comic this year, brought to life perfectly by John Le. I can’t think about anything more appropriate for 2020 than a story built in the ruins of a (maybe) better world. Check it out!
Ed Brisson (Murder Book, New Mutants)
Any year that sees the release of a new Gipi book is a good one and this year did not disappoint. One Story (translated by Jamie Richards) intertwines two tales: a man serving in the first World War down, terrified that he’s about to die; and his grandson, a successful author who mediates on his future and the failings of his own body as his life, likewise, appears to be falling apart around him — or, perhaps his life has already fallen apart and he’s reflecting on the how. It’s not always clear, which is part of the beauty of Gipi’s work. He doesn’t always provide straight answers, but instead trusts the reader to interpret the information as presented. One Story is a beautifully told story of loss, suffering and our failures as human beings.
If you haven’t read any of Gipi’s work before — it can sometimes be difficult to find his translated works — you owe it to yourself to pick this book up.
Mark Russell (The Flintstones, Red Sonja)
I’d like to recommend Ginseng Root, by Craig Thompson. Part memoir, part tutorial on ginseng horticulture, like all of Thompson’s work, it exudes a gentle humanity and takes the trials of youth seriously. Ginseng Roots tells the story of Craig and his brother Phil having to help their mom work at a ginseng garden for summer cash. It tells the story of how, like the ginseng plants themselves, children struggle to grow in a world bent on stifling and suffocating them. But it’s also a very hopeful story, about how important your imagination is and how it’s the thing that saves you when you feel like you don’t belong in the world you’ve been assigned to. As someone who also grew up pretty redneck, this story has a lot of personal resonance with me, but really, I think this is a great comic for anyone who wants to read a story about how important our beginnings are to understanding ourselves, but also how they do not define who we are.
Alex Paknadel (Giga, Arcadia)
“Well Giga is obviously magnificent, [laughs] no. Ummm. Jimmy Olsen, fantastic. Immortal Hulk, as ever. There’s a publisher, Peow, I think it was this year, one is called Gleem and the other is Stages of Rot. They are absolutely fantastic. You can listen to Paknadel’s picks on the AIPT Comics podcast.
Anthony Del Col (Kill Shakespeare, Nancy Drew & The Hardy Boys: The Big Lie)
This four-issue AWA Studios miniseries Grendel, Kentucky has three elements that initially got me quite interested: 1) It’s a southern Gothic tale (with supernatural elements); 2) It’s a loose adaptation of Beowulf (love me a good classic!); and 3) It’s written by Jeff McComsey, who is a fantastic artist in his own writer and terrific storyteller.
And Grendel, Kentucky didn’t disappoint. Artist Tommy Lee Edwards does a fantastic job of capturing the details, from the woods to leftover food on plates. But what made this series really stand out for me weren’t the monster or the supernatural elements but rather a universal storyline that really affected me: a young woman returning to her hometown after being away for years and confronting the metaphorical monsters that drove her away.
Again, this is a simple story but McComsey, Edwards et al do a fantastic job putting a cool spin on it.
Omar Spahi (Getting It Together, Ben 10)
“Seven Secrets, right now, is only at the fourth issue and I’m absolutely just loving it. I just haven’t felt this excited since like the beginning of morning glories about a comic book. There’s a lot of stuff that really spoke to me, and it’s hard to stick the landing and it feels like this has the opportunity to stick the landing where, say, Morning Glories just made no sense. It answers one question, but leaves you wanting to know more. So it kind of always seems like it has that excitement factor to it, which to me is really rare and comic nowadays. You know, I just became a dad — I want to say eight months ago. So in the first issue, the parents end up in a relationship they’re not allowed to be in, and they’re forced to give up their child. It really spoke to me because I could never imagine giving up my child, and so that was a very powerful moment where these secrets are so important that I would give up my own child, no matter how much I love them, to protect the secret. Tom Taylor’s Injustice stuff really spoke to me, and I don’t think DC and Marvel has a tendency to make people cry. And that stuff made me cry. He does such a great job of really connecting with the readers and pulling at the heartstrings.”
Zac Thompson (Lonely Receiver, Undone by Blood)
“Black Stars Above: A Lovecraftian trek into an icy wilderness. Made with the utmost craft and care, this is a horror book that pushes all readers to stand and take notice. It’s chilling, experimental, and features some of the best art of any book released this year. If you love literary horror, this is something you can’t miss.
A Map To The Sun: A gorgeous neon-soaked story about two girls who struggle to maintain a friendship in spite of what they shared as children. Powerful, evocative and utterly beautiful. I read it in one sitting.”
Steve Orlando (Commanders in Crisis, Martian Manhunter)
I liked Once and Future by Dan Mora and Kieron Gillen I love what they are doing at BOOM!. I just read that. Like everyone, it seems I loved Blue in Green by Ram V and Anand RK, but I would also point out a couple other things. I’m giving answers everyone else has given but certain things are really really good right now.
I love the X-books, since House of X I’ve been following them. I like Tini [Howard]’s Excalibur a lot, I like Ben (Percy) on Wolverine, if you see him on Instagram he just fucking is Wolverine. I can’t believe that voice came out of him when I met him at a bar I thought it was a joke. He sounded like he was going to slap me in the ass and say ‘good game.’
Oh and fucking Little Bird, fucking Darcy, what an amazing debut. I couldn’t believe that, I have to do a better fucking job at comics. It’s not new this year, but I finally read all of the Klaus cycle, that Grant [Morrison] and [Dan] Mora, its been great. It’s all so really really great. It’s a small thing, but if you haven’t read the TKO short Night Train by Steve Foxe, it came out in wave three and it’s out now. We’re actually co-writing a horror book together at AfterShock and I brought him on because he knows horror so fucking well. And it’s also a great little short.
Jordan D. White (X-Men Senior Editor)
I’m still really enjoying the Star Wars comics a lot. I took a break from reading the Star Wars comics when I stopped working on them. But at some point, I jumped back in and caught up on all the things I was missing and I still really love them whenever I get a chance to read them.
Al Ewing’s Immortal Hulk has been so cool and awesome. I love reading that.
I’m still a huge fan of Savage Dragon every month when that comes out. I love it.
Fire Power has been a real joy. I still miss Invincible and it’s not really very similar to Invincible, but in some ways, it has filled that like, Robert Kirkman adventure comic place that was open in my heart. I think I’ve been really liking that one.
Oh, and Wicked Things by the team that did Giant Days [John Allison and Max Sarin] — that’s been a lot of fun. I’ve been enjoying that. So a lot of neat stuff. There’s still a lot of good stuff out there.
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