Favorite Comics of 2021- An Extremely Uncanny List
Another year is behind us. 2021 was a year like no other. For good and bad. Today, however I want to talk about the best comics of 2021.
Last year, I wrote how Myspace got me to read comics and my experience buying the Whedon/Cassady Astonishing X-men run in 2020 really drove me to be interested in comics again. At the end of the post, I talked about House of X and Powers of X plus the material lying ahead.
Well, 2021 is the year I returned to my Wednesday Warrior status. This is in large part thanks to the short-lived comic shop that opened down the street from my school (RIP Nerd Mall), but also my increased interest in the medium. I was finally interested in new and old comics again. A spark has been ignited in me for the first time in a long time. I went through a real rough spot in 2015 after my mom died. A lot of my hobbies withered on the vine in my depressive state. I would try to dip my toes in once and a while, but never could dive back in.
Nerd Mall and eventually Dewayne’s World really helped me get back to it. It was my primary hobby for the first time in 6 years. It felt great. I was in the comic shop nearly every week and I was reading a lot. Not only that, but I was also buying up trades I have been looking for and even single issues. I finished up my Morrison New X-men Trade run this year and I managed to buy the complete Heroes Reborn Iron Man series and the out-of-print 13th issues of all the series.
I even tried to do some gimmicks for the blog. Year of Spawn and Metropolis Report were good ideas, but I didn’t have the focus to keep them up. Maybe next year I will do a big project again like that but keep it focused. Either way, it was a lot of fun this year. I went to a lot of different shops and met new people online and in-person. I have thinned my pull list down to just one book to start the new year, but I will be adding more to it soon.
(Read more about my experiences with Local Comic Shops with my Obituary to Nerd Mall)
Favorite Comics of the year:
I have read more comics this year than I have for the last several combined. This is not a definitive list of the best comics nor is a complete breakdown of those comics. These are the ones I’ve read and enjoyed.
Way of X by Si Spurrier and Robert Quinn (Marvel Comics)
Way of X #1-5 and X-men: the Onslaught Revelation
This was my favorite X-men story I read this year. It is deserving of it’s own article in the future. I will save my words there, but I will briefly explain why it was my favorite. It took one of my favorite X-men—Nightcrawler—and had him address the morale issues of the Krakoan age. We see this hinted at X-men #7, but the series diverts quickly from Nightcrawler making a mutant religion. Instead, Way of X is more about how Mutant culture and society works when death isn’t the end. Also, it deals with how societies are built and crumble in the absence of the unifying culture. The series is a treatise on the 3 laws of Krakoa—1. Make more Mutants. 2. Kill no man. 3. Respect this Sacred Land—and it does it all well.
The story and art are top notch. Plus, it has the best take on Onslaught yet. Sorry for those that ranted on that. I know people were expecting Onslaught revelation to be this big event, but instead it was a part of the story, and it worked. It was so well done. Check it out.
Barbaric by Michael Morcei, Nathan C. Gooden, and Addison Duke (Vault Comics)
Barbaric #1-3 collected as Barbaric Volume 1 Murderable Offenses
This is my favorite new series of 2021. I reviewed the first issue back on release and the rest of the series brings that same energy. I will do a more extensive write up on this one in the future. Currently the book is on a planned hiatus, but the first three issues tell the tale of the cursed barbarian, Owen, as he aides the necromancer witch Soren in taking down a corrupt Abbey.
The main selling point on Barbaric is that it’s a violent, smart, and funny action comic that satisfies all the fantasy tropes I love. The art is wonderful, and it is colored in a style reminiscent of classic coloring with how color is used in the background and foreground. Like I said, I plan on doing a more compressive break down of the series closer to the release of Part 2 in 2022.
UltraMega #1 by James Harren and Dave Stewart (Image Comics)
I need to finish reading the other issues in the series, but the first one might be one of the best single-issue stories I read all year. Each issue of UltraMega is at least 44 pages of full-color, graphic story telling. It is a story about a world beset by a kaiju inducing plague and only the UltraMega can defend the world from kaiju. It is over the top in its violence and paints a rich story. It is a show begging for an anime style adpatation. It is the best kind of graphic violence. It is visceral and a must read for any fan of giant monster stories. The first issue alone feels like a complete story let alone the other 4 issues. The main thing that held me back from reading it more was the price point of $7.99. It is a great value for the page count and quality of the comic, but sadly couldn’t make it work. I will definitely be grabbing the trade, though.
The Hellfire Gala (The entire X-men line in June)
I am not going to list all of the individual issues here but let me say I was impressed with the Hellfire Gala as a whole. It was a different kind of event from Marvel. It did move the Krakoan plot along with the advent of Planet Arakko from the tera-formed Mars, but it managed to do something that most events like this falter with—it moved each series respective ongoing plots along. Hellfire Gala displayed a neat passage of time and it rewarded readers for reading the whole event. All while the event didn’t punish you for not reading it all. The only major story issue was Planet-Size X-men.
It isn’t often that a sprawling crossover like this stick the landing, but it managed to do it. Also, buying the entirety of a crossover was a lot of fun. I haven’t done something like since Blackest Night. I am still financially recovering from that mess.
X-men #18-20 by Jonathan Hickman, Mahmud Asrar, Francesco Mobili (Marvel)
I have enjoyed Hickman’s tenure on X-men. I hate that his stint on the book was cut short. I found the concept— a revolving cast book that explored the new Krakoan age with one-and-done stories and microarcs—an interesting take on the X-men format. I know it rubbed a lot of fans the wrong way. I can see why. While I plan on revisiting the Hickman run proper in the future, I briefly want to mention these three issues.
X-men #18-19 make up the Vault arc of the series. It picked up on the long dangling thread from Hickman’s X-men #5 from 2020 where Wolverine, Sync, and Darwin go into the Vault (of Children of the Vault fame). The story was one of the best arcs of the Hickman run with how he characterized the desperation and determination of the trio. The time skips felt natural and there was honest to goodness passage of time between the characters with rifts, romances, and reunions during the duration of their stay. Arsar’s art was amazing throughout using unique takes on Sync’s powers—copying the power of nearby mutants but in more analogous ways than say Mimic. Then there was the added bonus of the Children of the Vault one of my favorite villains from the mid-2000’s Mike Carey’s Supernovas era. So good.
As for X-men #20. This issue is a call back to the Mystique issue of Hickman’s X-men #6 where we see more of Mystique’s struggle working for Magneto and Xavier while being denied the resurrection of her long dead wife, Irene aka Destiny. We witness the birth of the new Nimrod and the events that lead directly into Hickman’s Inferno. It is a strong character study of Mystique and the art by Mobili is genius with so much raw emotion. For a writer that is often (unjustly) derided for not being a character writer, Hickman knocked it out of the park with the characters in his entire X-men run. This trio of issues exemplify the strength of his run.
Batman Black and White by various creators (DC Comics).
DC went out this year to deliver an anthology mini-series for each of the Trinity (Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman) with each series being themed around a color. The gimmick of each anthology was that the series would only be colored with the colors of their name- Batman: Black and White, Superman: Red and Blue, and Wonder Woman: Black and Gold. The main series I got to read the full extent was Batman: Black and White. The talent on these stories was excellent and the stories ranged from pulpy detective to silly. My personal favorite was David Aja’s Comic Strip format story- “The Devil in the Details” and Sophie Campbell’s novel take on black and white, “All Cats are Grey”
The Color Trinity series are all worth reading and needs to be checked out.
With that it’s a wrap on Comics of 2021. It was a wonderful time revisiting comics after years away and blogging about them has been a blast. There was a summertime lull this year but I plan on doing 2022 strong with many blog post lined up and more planned. It has been 12 years since I started blogging about comics and its been 1 year since I started Extremely Uncanny. Thank you all for following along. Follow me on Facebook-https://www.facebook.com/extremelyuncanny and over at twitter- www.twitter.com/xtremelyuncanny. Tell your friends.
2022 will be the year of the Comics Blog!