Welcome to the Multiversity Year in Review for 2020! While this has been, by many accounts, a terrible year, there were a number of fantastic comics released in 2020, and over the next ten days, we’ll be highlighting our favorites across 25 categories. If you want to give your thoughts on our picks or share your own, feel free to do so in the comments!
There was a time when most comics were anthologies. That’s got a lot to do with comics’ relationship with magazines. One of the ways in which a magazine is different from a book is that a magazine often has lots of different stories in it. You’re less likely to find a book like that in 2020, but there are some series still keeping the format alive! Here are our top three anthology comics for 2020.
3. Shonen Jump
Viz’s “Shonen Jump” remains an impossibly good deal in a comics landscape that gets more expensive all the time. If “Comics Should Be Cheap”, then “Shonen Jump” should be on the menu every week. For $1.99 a month, you not only get a weekly drop of new manga, translated to land on the same day-and-date as the original Japanese release, but you get access to their vault with thousands of past manga chapters from dozens of the most popular series manga has to offer. If it sounds like I’m shilling, it’s only because I’m still in awe of this deal after all this time. As far as the quality of the content itself, well, that’s pretty darn high too. You get stalwarts like “One Piece” and “My Hero Academia”, with new series popping up all the time, and a decent variety of styles and tones within the “shonen” genre. This year I discovered “Spy x Family” (a newer comedy entry from last year) and “Sakamoto Days” (an action-comedy gut-buster with great art), but there are a dozen other series I wish I were reading too. There’s just too much great content to keep up. That also means that whether you like pure action, comedy, or romance, there’s something for you here. -Vince Ostrowski
2. Quarantine Comix
Earlier this year, comics just. . .stopped. Then it came back but comic shops were hurting. From the closure, to the lack of new material, to the reduction in customers, it was a perfect storm to hit shops where their lifeblood is in community and connection. And yes, I understand this is a rosy picture of local shops, which is something we as a community need to fix, but without the best of them, something is lost. BINC stepped in to help fund shops and keep them afloat and many series and organizations gave to them. One was “Quarantine Comix,” a short anthology series by the “Ice Cream Man” team.
While the series only ran for about 8 weeks, 6 main issues & 2 weeks of 2 guest issues, it was an important project that directly benefited shops in their time of need. Each issue was between 4 and 6 pages, self-contained and this short page count meant each story was lean, focused, and the team at their finest. Set in the “Ice Cream Man” universe, each story is inventive and strange, and will leave you with something to think about and something to feel, which is more than many other books can do in 6, 22-page issues.
Ranging from sad to odd to horrific to poignant, the stories felt timely without being actually timely. Reading “Quarantine Comix” now doesn’t feel any different from reading it then, as instead of tapping into the events of the pandemic, it taps into the feeling of the lockdown. The shortness of the stories makes certain an idea doesn’t overstay its welcome but allows for easy revisiting, and these are stories that can be read over and over again.
That is the power of the anthology and that is the power of this anthology. – Elias Rosner
1. 2000 AD
Before I ever read an issue of 2000 AD, I had read countless comic creators talk about how the short format, weekly strips of the Progs helped shape their sense of storytelling. Specifically, British creators talked about the style of comics as what they were most used to, and had to adapt to ‘American’ comics. This was, to past me, a revelation, as I just presumed that comics around the world were structured more or less the same way. I was a fool with a lot to learn, but I was also now interested in reading 2000 AD.Continued below
Fast forward 20 or so years, and 2000 AD is a cornerstone of my comics reading. Due to the anthology nature of the series, I rarely read every story in each issue, and there are weeks that I’m just flipping through without digging in too deeply. But then, sometimes out of nowhere, the Progs are packed with five can’t miss, consume in mere seconds strips that can’t get here fast enough. And to me, no other comic on the shelves can pack that sort of a punch with anywhere near the level of frequency as 2000 AD.
2020 saw a few standout strips, including “Hershey” by Rob Williams and Simon Fraser, telling the tale of one of Judge Dredds fellow Judges, as well as Dredd having some adventures with his vigilante counterpart, the amazingly named Noam Chimpskey. But the highlight for me was Dan Abnett and Mark Harrison’s “The Out.” The series managed to pull off a trick that is tough to do in a full length comic each month, let alone in a weekly 8 pager: each week totally recontextualized the story. With every bit of new information, we considered Cyd, the only recurring character, considerably differently than we did the week before.
The form of the book is such that it rewards creators who lean into its constraints, and when creators do just that, there is no reading experience in comics, or elsewhere, quite like 2000 AD. And with new stories beginning in this week’s Prog 2212, there’s no better time to give it a chance. Tell them Tharg sent you. – Brian Salvatore