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!
Best New Series
Good is good. Our favorite series often span multiple years, and make our year end lists multiple times. But there’s something to be said for novelty- there’s a reason that everyone in the comics world loves a #1 issue. So, in addition to all of the other comics we award, we also like to spotlight new series. All of these had strong debuts, and are stories we are going to continue to follow in the new year. Here are our top five new series for 2020.
5. Fire Power
I like new things. I like old things too, but I like new things. Especially new ideas and concepts, new characters and worlds. And, so I often pick up first issues to see if I want to read a series. This isn’t that story. I had no intention of picking up “Fire Power” because it didn’t have any of my usual hooks. I have never read any of the creative team’s previous work, I wasn’t really interested in martial arts, and there was only one cover. This book was about as far from the standard fare for 2020 as a comic book could get. But it was free.
When I read the ‘Free Comic Book Day’ issue of “Fire Power” I fell in love immediately. The book gets in your hands because it is a martial arts action story with people throwing fireballs and beating each other up in dark houses and restaurants. But you read it because it is about a man, with a family, that he will do anything to protect. His son and daughter do the same things as my son and daughters. He has the same differences with his wife as I have with my wife. And he gets the same awkward advice from his dad that I get from my dad.
“Fire Power” is my favorite new series of 2020 because it breaks the mold and does something different, catches your eye with action and fireballs, and steals your heart with relatable and grounded characters. Plus, it has ninjas. -Ryan Pond
4. That Texas Blood
If I may start with a quote from poet laureate of the west, Dalton Wilcox, “…Sadness and desperation may find him/ But a cowboy who’s wise will turn to the earth/ To lend him solace and even mirth…” “That Texas Blood” is able to take that truth of the cowboy and elevate it to hear-to-fore unseen neo-noir heights. It captures the spirit of the southwest, the resilience required to survive it and the quiet horror that comes from the part of the country where people talk more through tupperware than conversation.
As written by Chris Condon, “That Texas Blood”is able to summon the soul of the land I was raised in with a crime at the center of it that maintains agency and urgency the whole way through. It is compelling storytelling with the highest level of craftmanship. As drawn by Jacob Phillips, “That Texas Blood” is a visceral world of oranges, red and browns. The characters are able to be as harsh as their environment expressing a quiet beauty underneath every atrocity through just a few lines on the face. There are vistas Phillips is able to draw that capture my home environment better than any artist I’ve seen previously do.
The truest judge of western fiction (even neo-noir westerns) is how well it understands the following by Dalton Wilcox, “The cowboy’s life is full of danger/ To risks to his life he is never a stranger.” By that measurement and really any I could conceive of, “That Texas Blood” is a thundering success. It’s the desert brought to life in all her cruelty and beauty. -Jacob CordasContinued below
With 2020 being a relentlessly difficult year for us all, we’ve turned to comics as a vital form of escapism. Some returned to old favorites, while others settled into long-running epics, and those of us that picked up “Adventureman” discovered a series that seems destined for a place in those aforementioned lists in years to come.
If I had to describe “Adventureman” in one word, it would be fun. From the first issue, Matt Fraction introduces an incredibly fun world, with pulp heroes and villains such as Automaterror and Baron Bizarre, and combines it with the central themes of family, expectation, and legacy through Claire Connell and her son Tommy. As Claire’s destiny starts to unfold before her, she charges into it with courage and curiosity, growing, quite literally, to being a worthy successor to Adventureman, while the rest of her family promise even more legacies being realized in the future.
Terry Dodson’s linework, inked by Rachel Dodson, brings a suitably stylised visual to the book, with smooth, rounded definition and shiny highlights. There’s a fluidity in each page due to the panel layouts and the softness of the linework which makes the book a joy to look at. Terry Dodson’s colorwork is muted, opting for pastel tones throughout. He juxtaposes the gloomy blue-green hues of the Baron’s realm with the warmer, sepia tones of Claire’s New York. Clayton Cowles personalises the lettering for each character by varying their fonts as well as the outlines and opacities of their word balloons, which serves to represent the intertextuality of the series too.
“Adventureman” is the result of top talent combining and operating at their very best and would be a recommended new series any year, but this year, it’s a compulsory one. -Luke Cornelius
2. We Only Find Them When They’re Dead
It starts with the cover, right? Going into your local comic shop, looking for a new floppy to grab you by the collar and force your attention. Sometimes it’s the logo design that attracts you, or sometimes the use of a striking color palette, and then maybe sometimes it’s just the names on the marquee, the artists behind the project. With “We Only Find Them When They’re Dead,” it’s a heady mixture of all three. The mouthful of a title dominates the first cover in a bold orange, set against the milkier bits of some unknown nebulae. A ship faces the title, as if it, too, is reading along with us, and similarly awed by its immensity, even in the vastness of space.
It’s a foretelling nod to the insides of the book, the “They’re” of the title are, in fact, dead “gods,” floating in space- Galactus-sized humanoids that humans of the 24th century have deemed suitable for organ harvesting. It’s such an intriguing high concept from writer Al Ewing, and yet the book is not an epic, as the evidence might suggest. Sure, we might have a Captain Ahab in main character Georges Malik, a broken man seemingly hellbent on finding one of these “gods” alive, but the book feels more lived in. It’s the type of workaday sci-fi found in works like The Expanse, Silent Running, Firefly, or Alien. Assisting with that vibe is some truly stunning artwork and coloring by Simone Di Meo, the visual half of this book using vibrant (often monochromatic) palettes – (and computer coloring that I don’t typically like but have a really great effect in this book), and some really unique ship designs that make this universe stand apart from other similar sci-fi.
I find it hard to believe passing by this book on the stands and not at least picking it up and flipping through it a little, but if you missed out, only three issues have been released, so there’s still plenty of time to catch up on one of the Best New Series of 2020! – Johnny Hall
1. Department of Truth
Only a handful of comic books struck me with immense quality right out of the gate like “The Department of Truth” did. The writing from James Tynion IV is sharply satirical and devoted to uncovering the truth behind heinous conspiracy theories. The artwork from Martin Simmonds illustrates the ambiguity present in the subject manner. Tynion’s deconstruction of popular conspiracy theories in the context of a fictional noir narrative is a great way to pull in readers. Issue #3’s script focused on the horrific events of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting was a particularly haunting issue that emphasized the darkest corners of the internet. Tynion’s script does not simply give a perspective and let readers move on. Tynion shows how these theories can ruin the lives of bystanders and has the potential to threaten others. With a political landscape this heated right now it is refreshing to get the avenue for someone to dissect what is happening with cable news one step removed from the news itself.
I never know what to expect on a page from Martin Simmonds. Simmonds utilizes multiple different artistic techniques and creative layouts. Part of the mystique of this series is how readers never quite know what is going to happen next. We aren’t sure if the monsters in the title are diegetic and how much is really taking place on any given page. Simmonds almost seems to draw pleasure from disorienting the reader during some of the heavier moments of the series. There are so many pages loaded with complex imagery elevating the subtext hidden within Tynion’s script.
With a world and internet swimming in toxic conspiracy theories, “The Department of Truth” is the antidote. “The Department of Truth” is a great gateway drug that will pique the curiosity of readers and encourage them to research and draw their own conclusions on current events. Society almost wants us as individuals to be complacent and ignore the corruption around us. “The Department of Truth” revels in obscurity and layers fiction onto the obscured, nonsensical conspiracies floating in the darkest places of the internet. If you love noir in your comics don’t sleep on “The Department of Truth.” -Alexander Jones