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 Ongoing Series
It’s interesting to look for patterns in end of the year lists. Looking at our best series of 2020, you’ll probably notice some patterns. Half of our favorite series are from Marvel and of those five, three of them are “X-Men” titles! Our favorite series has been running for a few years now- and it’s not the first time its topped one of our lists! The extended Multiversity family is large and opinionated. There are dozens of ongoing series that were somebody’s favorite that didn’t make it onto our top ten. But these were the comics that brought us together. Lots of us read them, lots of us loved them. We stayed up late debating them, and got into heated debates about what was going to happen next. We saw ourselves in these series, and we learned about each other. In 2020, our favorite comics were the ones that brought us together, that let us be a part of a community even when we couldn’t see each others faces. I’m sure you’ll agree that 2020 was a crazy year! Here are our ten favorite ongoing comic series of 2020.
10. Ice Cream Man
Rodolphus may not be the friendliest trickster to come along, but he sure is an apt one for our times. “Ice Cream Man” is still going, and largely going strong, as Prince, Morazzo, O’Halloran and Good Ol’ Neon’s warped reality blossoms like a malignant little flower.
Pastiche and send-ups might not be for everyone, but no one can fault this team’s creative bent or the book’s ambitions. In 2020, they tackled everything from comics benchmarks to bedtime stories with the book’s gut-punching style and tone. “Ice Cream Man” is an anthology series in the best possible sense because it’s simply not afraid to take chances. Some of them work out better than others, but there is always something original and picked out with Morazzo’s exceptional, brutal line, and in O’Halloran’s dreamy palette. “Ice Cream Man” is proving that it’s good pulp with an eye on the epic, and that’s a difficult line to toe in linear storytelling – much less in comics.
For the fans of the profane, the stylish and the gross, this is the book for you. If you haven’t picked it up yet, what have you even been doing?
Trying to get through it all? Me too. “Ice Cream Man” is a pressure valve for the darkness in all of us. If you fell off, now’s the time to catch up. If you’ve never heralded the tinny jingle of the rickety old truck that comes down the street in the dizzying heat of high summer, well. Now’s the time. Lickety-split. -Christa Harader
9. Once and Future
Arthur, King of the Britons, has seen many different incarnations. We’ve seen his story told in musical form, as a Disney movie, as a comedy, and yes, even as an anime girl. But Kieron Gillen still found a new use for King Arthur: as a creature of horror. That brings us to “Once & Future,” a gripping comic about the power of stories and mythology with a strong horror theme.
Where do we even begin? The characters are wonderful, with Duncan being pulled deeper into the roles he was unknowingly cast as while his grandmother Bridgette remains a source of pure snark and old lady badassery. The story’s ties to Arthurian lore (and, more recently, “Beowulf”) provide a solid backing for the plot, and the way the narrative is driven by the roles characters play in the lore is a fantastic take. Each issue is packed with equal parts character work, story progress, and action, making every single chapter one not to be missed.
Now, I could go on about Kieron Gillen’s writing for ages (and believe me, I would if we had the space for it) but equal credit must be given to the artist team. Dan Mora does a fantastic job bringing these characters and scenes to life, especially with the bizarre and monstrous character designs. Skeletal King Arthur? Beowulf on fire? Mora gives each of them an amazing design with a dark, creepy flare that makes them all the more engrossing. Those action scenes? Sheer visual treats.Continued below
Of course, Tamra Bonvillain’s color work plays a big role as well. Color is important for providing visual cues to both the readers and characters that there’s a shift from the mundane to the mystic, at which point Bonvillain’s colors create a bizarre, mysterious atmosphere. Both in and out of those scenes, the colors are captivating and visually engaging, using a great mix of darkness and bright shades to draw our attention exactly where it needs to be.
From the writing to the artwork to the colors, “Once & Future” is a comic where every single page and panel is bursting with quality. Whether you’re a fan of Arthurian mythos, horror comics, or just sheer top-notch storytelling, “Once & Future” will keep you engaged from page one. -Robbie Pleasant
8. Suicide Squad
DC’s best ongoing of the year is already cancelled. That’s right, Tom Taylor, Bruno Redondo and friends delivered a bombastic book that blew our minds with every page turn, from the very beginning to the final page. When they announced this book they introduced a whole bunch of characters to the team, only to kill half of them in the first issue, but the creative team made sure every death had weight on the story, like Scale’s death at the hand of The Shark, not only did Fin saw his twin brother die, they were telepathically connected so he also felt it.
Artist Bruno Redondo, colorist Adriano Lucas, along with guest artists Daniel Sampere & Juan Albarran, gave it all, with pages full of color and gorgeous layouts, like every title page with the help of letterer Wes Abbot and that page in issue #3 of Jog fighting goons in a Fibonacci spiral, (https://twitter.com/Bruno_Redondo_F/status/1239973845030719491). This title was gory in a tasteful way and the team deserves praise for the design of all the new characters they created for the book, everyone had a distinctive image and personality and they could very well be a permanent part of the DC universe.
And of course, Tom Taylor’s script were phenomenal, with witty dialogue, hilarious moments, tragic deaths, and a well-designed overarching story, Taylor knows how to distill every character to their core elements, that’s why his character development is so great, particularly with Deadshot and Harley Quinn.
It is sad that DC cancelled this book, but Taylor says that they knew it was going to be practically a maxi-series and planned accordingly, so every issue delivered appropriately, without feeling rushed or cut down. Besides, they already are planning something with the survivors and we are confident it’s going to be great. -Ramon Piña
In 2020, Tini Howard became the de facto co-show runner of the “X-Men” titles at Marvel with Jonathan Hickman. Together, they developed ‘X of Swords’, a sprawling crossover that weaved its way through all of the X titles and acted as the first big event since the ‘Dawn of X’ status quo began. Last year, I had the pleasure of writing Howard up as one of our 10 best writers of the year 2019, praising her for her ability to take disparate personalities among B and C-list Marvel characters and weave them together into compelling, emotional, and oftentimes funny stories. That talent was on display in this major crossover arc, whose tone and narrative concerns seemed mostly drawn from our #7 ranked ongoing series of the year: “Excalibur.” The series featured a “swords & sorcery” aesthetic that informed all of the X books by the time the year was over. High fantasy is a surprisingly good look for the X-Men; one that somehow manages to show us something new, while exhibiting the same kind of soap operatic personal (sometimes even Shakespearean) drama that has been a hallmark of the X-Men for decades. The clean lines of Marcus To, Wilton Santos, Mahmud Asrar (whose covers are particularly eye-catching), RB Silva, Phil Noto, and Stefano Caselli came together to give the book a consistent and regal look, and possess the kind of fantasy design work that can catch your eye from across the room. -Vince Ostrowski
Taking on a run of “Daredevil” must be so daunting. It’s the superhero series that has been the most consistently good in the 21st century. When you are following up series written by Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, Andy Diggle, Mark Waid, and Charles Soule, how do you stand apart? How do you find something new to say? The answer is- you don’t! Not if you’re Chip Zdarksy. And that’s what makes “Daredevil” so damn impressive.Continued below
Zdarksy is tackling the same themes the comic has been exploring since the 70s. It’s about justice, law, morality, hypocrisy, wealth, fear, Catholicism, and knowing that you’re kind of a creep. Zdarsky is putting a modern spin on some of those themes- Wilson Fisk is the mayor of New York City and is profiting off his corruptions, which is a sort of new idea- but what makes them work isn’t how audacious his ideas are, it’s the execution. Considering that Zdarksy came on the book with a reputation for being a talented funny-man, that’s even more impressive. This “Daredevil” series is as dark and pensive as you’d hope. It turns out the same thing that makes you good at writing punchlines also gives you a talent for dramatic reveals.
The book is joined by an ever changing row of excellent artists like Marco Checchetto, Jorge Fornes, and Lalit Kumar Sharma. The scripts use pretty standard “Daredevil” storytelling techniques but again, to great effect. You get to see Matt Murdock’s powers rendered as a bunch of rippling vibration lines. There are pages of overwhelming cacophony (lettered wonderfully by Clayton Cowles). This is a book that eschews the high concept reboot, or back to basics marketing. It’s just a bunch of creators knocking it out of the park on exciting issue after exciting issue. -Jake Hill
5. Something Is Killing The Children
Perhaps unsurprisingly, 2020 was a great year for battling nasty beings from another realm, with series like “Bitter Root,” “Once and Future” and “Something is Killing the Children” leading the way. So what makes this series so damn good? Well, badass protagonist Erica Slaughter and her iconic character design, obviously. Illustrator Werther Dell’Edera and colorist Miquel Muerto are also masters of chilling, but not overwrought blood sprays and dismembered body parts. Often, the most grizzly acts take place just out of frame, with the gore spilling over to what we see. They let the characters’ faces convey the horror and it can be deeply unsettling.
It’s not all spectacle, though. Writer James Tynion IV has steadily made the world of the comic more complex and layered, raised the emotional stakes and fleshed several formerly minor characters – one in particular who wasn’t very likable in the beginning. More than any else, however, this book keeps you on the edge of your seat. In the words of our friends at Pulp 716: Coffee & Comics, “This comic doesn’t hold back. [K]ids are getting chomped, nobody is safe, your favorite character will probably be eaten. If Edgar Allen Poe were alive today, he’d be making a gothic horror comic like this.”
With giant, spider-like monsters that literally feed off the worst fears of children, the tension rarely lets up. You think you know where it’s going, but suddenly you don’t. There’s a steady, foreboding creepiness edging ever close and it’s coming for you, whether in the form of monsters or the ruthless Order of St. George. This book keeps gaining momentum and shows no signs of letting up. -John Schaidler
Right now, we’re blessed with what just might be the best era X-Men comics has ever seen. In a line absolutely packed with genuinely great series, “Marauders” still manages to be a standout. Longtime Marvel writer Gerry Duggan brings the book a dynamic, youthful energy (which comes as a bit of a surprise given that he’s a 47 year old white dude) with plenty of help from his primary parter, Matteo Lolli. This tightly plotted thrill ride of a book is really something to behold.
Perhaps the best part of “Marauders” is its incredible versatility. At times it’s a swashbuckling romp, others a political thriller, and sometimes it’s just a story about a bunch of young messy X-Men, kind of like New Girl but with mutants. In the midst of the sweeping story “X of Swords,” Marauders delivered one of the strongest single issues exploring Storm’s relationship with Black Panther while also creating some real conflict between Krakoa and Wakanda. The greater arc of the comic in which Sebastian Shaw is making big power plays, we get the murder, mourning and revival of Kate Pryde and within that an incredibly fun standoff with YellowJacket, heavy, resonant moments between Storm and Emma Frost, and the intriguing, energizing post-revival money moves of Kate. And as it delivers all of these different types of stories, “Marauders” retains a core sense of fun. Even in the moments where our heroes are at their most emotionally fraught, this is a total blast to read.Continued below
Best of all, “Marauders” is only going to keep getting better! It’s got tons of momentum, plenty of material yet to be covered, and even more potential beyond what we’ve already seen. There are some comics that catch lightning in a bottle and you’re lucky you get to see it happen. “Marauders” is one of those comics. -Quinn Tassin
Jonathan Hickman’s “X-Men” hit the ground running in 2020 with a series of fantastic one-off stories. Issue #4’s World Economic Forum doubled down of the geopolitical ramifications of HoXPoX. Issues #5’s trip into The Vault was visually stunning, setting up for the subsequent “Giant Sized X-Men” one-shots and post “X of Swords” plot threads. The intimate focus on Mystique and Destiny in issue #6 was one of the powerful issues of the year, but it was quickly rivaled by the oversized issue #7’s introduction of the Crucible and the seed of a mutant religion.
These small bottle episodes then gave way to the first multi-chapter storyline, with issues #8 and #9 reintroducing the Brood and picking up on threads from Hickman’s runs on “New Mutants” and “Fantastic Four.” These six issues make up some of the very best art and storytelling among Big 2 comics this year. Hats off to Leinil Yu, R.B. Silva, Matteo Buffagni, Mahmud Asrar, Sunny Gho and Marte Gracia for their stellar work.
Then comes the dreaded crossover to derail everything. This is a bit dramatic as “X-Men” continued to impress in the second half of the year, though some of its spunk was missing in its two issue tie-in to “Empyre” and its subsequent chapters of mega story “X of Swords.” The “X of Swords” chapters especially were some of my least favorite in that otherwise very enjoyable crossover, bogged down with the somewhat necessary Rashomon-esque retelling of the fall of Arakko to Amenth. However, leave it to Hickman to make us realize in issue #15 that he helmed over a year’s worth of X-Men stories without specifically having a team called “The X-Men.” That triumphant movement with Scott and Jean in front of the Quiet Council felt like a major turning point for this rather bizarre and unique take on the flagship X-Men title and I can’t wait to see where things go in 2021. – Zachary Wilkerson
2. Bitter Root
“Bitter Root” was the comic I was most consistently excited to see on my pull list. A comic that delivers action-packed adventures with some spectacular thrills, fun character dynamics, and some of my favorite visual storytelling of 2020. If you’re just looking for an exciting series, you would be hard-pressed to find a better series out than “Bitter Root.” The thing that elevates “Bitter Root” to be in the upper echelon of 2020 is the creative team’s ability to weave the strong thematic elements in a way that elevates the surface level cool of the series.
The second arc, ‘Rage and Redemption,’ expands the world to show that the Sangeyere family isn’t alone in their hunt against monsters, that most cultures deal with the monsters of racism, but the conflict of race is just one of the themes that “Bitter Root” explores. Central to “Bitter Root” is watching the family deal with the changing world of the 1920s. There are generational conflicts about gender roles in the business or the best ways to deal with the Jinoo, all set in a time when black excellence lives side by side with a society that refuses to accept them. The thing is, that Chuck Brown and David F. Walker present these ideas in a way that is consistently engaging, at no point does “Bitter Root” take a break from the action for a very special episode, the themes are the primary driver of the story.
I would also be remiss if I didn’t talk about the amazing art of “Bitter Root.” Sanford Greene creates some spectacular dieselpunk gadgetry for the family, but also creates art that draws major inspiration from the artists of the Harlem Renaissance like Aaron Douglas or Louis Delsarte, which makes the series feel like a piece of history being remembered by the creators of the day that made Harlem the epicenter of the African American art scene.Continued below
At the end of ‘Rage and Redemption,’ the family knows that the war with Ardo is far from over, if the exceptional work this team did in 2020 is any indication, you know that next year is going to be even better. I wouldn’t be surprised if you see “Bitter Root” on this list for years to come. -Joe Skonce
1. The Immortal Hulk
“The Immortal Hulk” has been Multiversity’s favorite ongoing series for three years running and, honestly, I think this year has been one of its strongest. From reintroducing Xemnu, the Hulk before The Hulk (2 years older, in fact) to bringing The Leader into the mix in a truly horrific way, “Immortal Hulk” has deepened its mythology, its characters, and its commitment to being the only Marvel series published that would almost certainly be a MAX title, were the line still around.
This book is nasty and if you are not into body horror, you will not want to read this series. You will see bodies twist and melt and morph and mutate in the most unnatural of ways and you may even find yourself dry heaving by the end of an issue, that’s how intense it can be. But BUT Ewing, Bennett, José, Mounts, Cowles, Petit and the host of guest artists are such a masterful team that even the most squeamish of you will want to give this series a shot. The composition of these horrific panels are beautiful as well as viscerally unsettling. It’s easy to get sucked into looking at a single panel, just appreciating the intricate details of the inking and the colors.
“Immortal Hulk” is weaving a tale of grand cosmic bullshit, of a man trying to reconcile his awful past with the present he is trapped in, and of trauma and loss and whose rage is accepted and explained away and whose is deemed “abnormal” and “disruptive.” It’s a series that isn’t afraid to get philosophical and mystical but is well aware of when it needs to pull back and just sit with its characters and let them just be. Every new issue deepens some aspect of my understanding of who these people are, of Banner’s alters, or just of some obscure bit of Marvel history without ever making it feel prohibitive.
It’s also funny??? Like, it’s a grim humor but just as often as you’re biting your nails in anticipation or looking away in revulsion or crying from cathartic sadness, you’re laughing your ass off at some joke. Ewing made the ending page of issue #40 a pun, y’all. I DIED when I got there.
Then I saw a green door.
Then I got better.- Elias Rosner