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2020 Year in Review: Breakout Writer

By | December 14th, 2020
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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!

Breakout Writer

The ‘Breakout’ Categories are among our favorites each year, but also present challenges. How do we determine who is a breakout talent? We have a sort of internal logic, but we still debate these categories more than any other we put together. That said, we’re very proud of this list, and hope that you guys enjoy this list of the breakout writers of 2020.

3 (tie). Emily Horn

“No One’s Rose” is one of the most confident first comic statements of 2020. Together with experienced co-writer Zac Thompson, Emily Horn created one of the most fascinating post-apocalyptic futures I’ve ever read in her first published comic series.

Two of the main strengths of the series are the ingenuity of the setting and the characters that reside in it. Science fiction is no stranger to stratified societies, where an upper-class rules over a larger, repressed working class. Despite this, the society that Horn and Thompson have created inside the miniscule Bio-Dome breaks these usual conventions from the first issue of the series.

The Bio-Dome itself feels like the living, pulsating ecosystem that it should. This is a credit to Horn and Thompson’s vision for an Earth where only one last bastion of civilization exists. Small bits of backstory carefully placed throughout the series’ five issues show how much care and thought went into the backdrop of the riveting story.

Such a setting would mean little without a compelling cast to drive the plot forward, and Horn delivers a set of characters that captivate readers from the first page. Protagonists Tenn and Serenn are filled with subtle traits and quirks that make them work on their own, and allow them to play off of each other marvelously.

If “No One’s Rose” showed what Emily Horn can do when dipping her toe into the world of comics with a co-writer, I can’t wait to see what she does when the vision is wholly her own. – Jodi Odgers

3 (tie). Chris Gooch

As a fellow Australian, I’ve always been a big fan of Chris Gooch’s work. Whether it be his short, poignant short stories about the absurd horrors of everyday life in “Deep Breaths” or his alarmingly relevant thriller “Bottled”, Gooch has always managed to capture unnerving idiosyncrasies of the human psyche in his erratic linework. Gooch was always a terrific visual storyteller, but now 2020 has been the year he’s matched that with his writing ability in “Under-Earth”.

Finishing its three-part zine publication in 2020 and now soon to be released as an all-in-one graphic novel through Top Shelf publications, the story saw Gooch weave a tapestry detailing a complex, sinister, and shockingly prophetic post-climate-apocalyptic future. Yet, regardless of how interesting the backdrop was, Gooch never wasted real-estate telling readers when or where it was in too much detail, outside of the obvious subterranean connotations. “Under-Earth” was first and foremost an exciting character-first story.

It was here that Gooch showed to the comics industry how deftly he could handle multiple characters and plot lines, and see them weave in and out of each other’s way with a natural flourish. Gooch showed people with wildly different goals that told different kinds of stories, from prison breaks to underground fighting rings. It was by fleshing out these characters that Gooch was able to make the world of “Under-Earth” feel so huge and complex and real. And of course, Gooch brought it all to an eerily beautiful life, from the countless shots of prisoners in checkered uniforms that felt so stylistically interesting, to some of the more brutal, manga-influenced fight scenes.

If Gooch was able to convey a story of this level on only his third major project, I can’t wait to see what comes next. Chris Gooch is a talent to keep an eye on, who blends the more stylized and ugly-beautiful underground comix-scene with some highly emotional story telling. – Rowan Grover

Continued below

2. Stephanie Phillips

Genres are dying left and right, being burnt out by corporate machines that desperately want to commodify anything. Everything you love is wrung out until each solitary dollar has been soaked up and you never want to see another story like it again. That’s until Stephanie Phillips gets her hands on it, of course.

This year alone she has written a detective comic (“The Butcher of Paris”), demon possession (“The Devil Within”), high seas pirates (“A Man Among Ye”) and cold war political thriller (“Red Atlantis”). Each of the genres she has touched, Phillips has found new ways to breathe life into without ever resorting to ironic distance or genre deconstruction. She never needs to do anything except sincerely tell her stories to make her worlds feel real.

She’ll consistently find ways to build dynamic exciting characters in this framework as well. They are unique, lived in characters. No cleverness hiding behind or senses of humor to excuse lack of characterizations. They are just people in their messy glory. Hell, “The Butcher of Paris” has my favorite protagonist of almost any comic published this year – definitely the best detective of the year. In such few issues, she is able to instantly imbue with a sadness, a resilience and a dedication that can often take three times the number of issues she was afforded. I know it is based on a true but I would read his further adventures till the day I die based off those four issues alone.

Stephanie Phillips is even able to bring back the pirate genre, a truly impossible feat that keeps being attempted every few years with comical amounts of misfires. If she can do that, she can do anything. And if she can do anything, you have no excuse to not be reading her. – Jacob Cordas

1. Chris Condon

In just a few issues of his debut comic series, “That Texas Blood,” Chris Condon has already made himself known in the comic book industry for his stellar character work and nuanced world building.

Condon has a way of cutting straight through to the characters with his dialogue and narration. In the first issue of the series, he introduces the aging Sheriff of Ambrose County, Joe Bob Coates, and we instantly understand him through his narration, despite the minimal word count. It’s slow, articulate, and retrospective, which sets the pace for the issue too; it isn’t going to be a frantic, fast paced issue, or series, for that matter, but a slow-burn that you can soak up.

Ambrose County may feel small and seem to provide minor tasks for the Sheriff to handle, such as an unwanted snake in a front yard, or providing so little that he is afforded time to retrieve his wife’s casserole dish, but there’s always a simmering tension beneath the mundanity, a tension that will bubble over when you least expect it. Conversations around the town sow unease, with rumours being shared across countertops, or, in many cases, Condon deliberately omitting the specifics of an event to unsettle the reader. It works to captivate us, to beckon us to fill in those gaps and piece together the larger picture, but also makes the dialogue feel incredibly organic.

Despite Condon’s scripts being intimate, character-driven narratives, you can feel a larger ambition in his storytelling. Ambrose County is populated with dozens of characters who have histories that we barely scratch the surface of, many of them with their own dark stories to share. With many of the characters appearing in both of the stories we’ve had so far, there’s an interconnectedness that breathes life into the county and shows Condon’s meticulous work.

It might only be his first year in comics but as he continues to craft the slow-burning descent into the darkness of Ambrose County, it’s incredibly clear Chris Condon is a writer you need to be reading. – Luke Cornelius

//TAGS | 2020 Year in Review

Multiversity Staff

We are the Multiversity Staff, and we love you very much.


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