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Josh’s Favorite Comic Book Series of 2020!

Thanks for reading my lists of my favorite movies of 2020 and my favorite TV series of 2020!

Here now are my favorite comic book series of 2020!

First let’s start with some terrific graphic novels:

Superman Smashes the Klan (by Gene Luen Yang and Gurihiru) — Based on the classic Superman radio serial from the forties, this fantastic all-ages retelling was a beautiful story about acceptance and inclusion.

Powers: The Best Ever (by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming) — The grand finale of this long-running indie comic book about the homicide cops in a super-hero and super-villain filled universe was everything I wanted.  (Click here for my full review.)

Reckless (by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips) — The first of two glorious new graphic novels by my favorite writer/artist team in comics today, Reckless appears to launch a series of hard-boiled noir stories, and I couldn’t be happier.

Pulp (by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips) — As much as I loved Reckless, it was Pulp that was Brubaker & Phillips’ true 2020 masterpiece.  Pulp depicts an aging cowboy who scrapes together a meager living writing pulp adventure stories based on his younger days.  When he encounters a Jewish Pinkerton agent with a connection to one of his adventures, his life takes a dramatic turn.  This book was genius, and if you read only one book from this list, make it this one.

And this notable one-shot:

Giant Size X-Men: Tribute to Len Wein and Dave Cockrum This beautiful salute to the original Giant Size X-Men #1, which introduced the “all new, all-different” X-Men (the team that contained Wolverine, Storm, Colossus, Nightcrawler, and others) way back in 1975, was amazing.  Each page was redrawn by a different artist. The result was a wonderful new work of art that was a fantastic love-letter to one of the most important comic books ever made.

And here, now are my favorite comic book series of 2020:

20. Dark Nights: Death Metal (and tie-ins) (by Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo & many others) — I hardly understood any of this absolutely bonkers DC crossover storyline, but dang if it wasn’t a heck of a lot of fun anyway, as “heavy metal” versions of the DC characters battled their evil alternate universe counterparts as age DC multiverse faced destruction once again.  Extra points for how much fun all of the tie-in books were; usually, crossover tie-ins are a huge waste of time, but not so here.

19. Marvel’s Star Wars comics — It’s pretty impressive how consistently good-to-great Marvel Comics’ Star Wars series have been!  This year, their main series finally caught up to the events of The Empire Strikes Back, and I enjoyed the exploration of what Vader and our heroes were up to during that time-frame.

18. Superman/Action Comics/Legion of Super-Heroes (by Brian Michael Bendis & John Romita Jr. & Ivan Reis & Ryan Sook & others) — I quite enjoyed Mr. Bendis’ run on DC’s two main Superman books.  I was surprised to see his run end this year!  I’d expected it to last longer.  But I quite enjoyed what we got, and I also really dug his Legion of Super-Heroes book, which was gorgeously illustrated by Ryan Sook.  I also want to share my love of Greg Rucka & Mike Perkins’ Lois Lane series, which took place simultaneously with much of Mr. Bendis’ run, and which was a fantastic story centered on Lois, one of DC’s greatest (and most often underused) characters.

17. X-Men (by Jonathan Hickman & others) and the X of Swords crossover — Jonathan Hickman’s reinvention of the X-Men line has continued to be fantastically entertaining, showing a great respect for the X-Men’s long history (Mr. Hickman has been bringing back characters and story-lines I’d thought long-forgotten) whole also being a wonderfully new, original take on this classic concept.  The X of Swords Crossover series was a lot of fun; I was particularly delighted to see Saturnyne and other characters and concepts from the classic Captain Britain and Excalibur comics that I so loved when I was younger.  I’ve quite enjoyed almost all of the books in the revamped X-Men line; I have to give a particular shout-out to Gerry Duggan’s Marauders book, which has been weaving a very compelling new Kate Pryde yarn.

16. Empyre (by Al Ewing & Dan Slott & Valerio Schiti) — I loved the deep Marvel roots of this Avengers/Fantastic Four crossover series, which dipped back into the stories of Mantis and the Celestial Madonna from classic 1970’s issues of The Avengers!

15. Wolverine: Black, White and Red (by many writers and artists) — This new series of Wolverine short-stories features the work of a fantastic array of creators, and all the stories are illustrated using only black and white and red.  It’s a total rip-off of Batman: Black and White (which appears higher on my list), but it’s still pretty great.

14. Firefly (by Greg Pak & Lalit Kumar Sharma & Daniel Bayliss & others) — I was skeptical about this series, but I’ve found myself quite enjoying these new stories of Mal & co., set in the time between the end of the TV show and the start of the movie Serenity.  I also really enjoyed the Firefly graphic novel that was published this year, Watch How I Soar, which was a beautiful spotlight on Wash.

13. Batman: The Adventures Continue (by Paul Dini & Alan Burnett & Ty Templeton) — I was overjoyed to learn of the existence of this series, written by two of the key creators behind Batman: The Animated Series (which still stands as the greatest non-comic book depiction of Batman), and which told new stories set after the end of the animated show.  In the end, I didn’t quite dig the opening storyline, which brought Jason Todd & the Red Hood into the Batman: The Animated Series continuity… but I hope this series continues and we get lots more stories set in this world.

12. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Too Long a Sacrifice (by Scott Tipton & Denton J. Tipton & Greg Scott) — I love Deep Space Nine, and I quite enjoyed this new short-story, a murder mystery set during the latter seasons of the show.

11. Dune: House Atreides (by Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson & Dev Pramanik.) — Despite my love for Dune, I didn’t care for the prequel novels written by Mr. Herbert & Mr. Anderson.  But Jae Lee’s gorgeous cover got me to buy the first issue, and I’ve been surprised how much I’ve been enjoying this comic book retelling of those novels’ stories.  I also quite enjoyed the Dune graphic novel that was published this year, retelling the first third of Frank Herbert’s classic novel, adapted by Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson and beautifully illustrated by Raul Allen and Martín Patricia.

10. Moonshine (by Brian Azzarello & Eduardo Risso) — The team behind 100 Bullets (one of my all-time favorite comic book series) re-teamed for this story of prohibition, gangsters, booze, dames, and werewolves.  What’s not to love?

9. Marvels Snapshots (by many writers and artists) — Kurt Busiek oversaw this wonderful collection of one-shots, each telling a story about a different Marvel character, taking place during different time-periods from throughout Marvel’s vast history.  Each story was unique, but they were all beautifully grounded, character-based tales, brought to life by an incredible array of writers and artists.  Capped with Alex Ross’ gorgeous painted covers, this series brought me great job.  I also enjoyed the other books connected to Mr. Busiek and Mr. Ross’ classic Marvels story that were published this year.  Marvels X was the prequel I never knew I needed to Alex Ross & Jim Krueger’s Earth X story from the early aughts, while Alex Ross oversaw the loose anthology of short stories in the series called simply Marvel.

8. Batman: Black and White (by various writers and artists) — The classic Batman anthology series returned, and I couldn’t be happier.  We now have a whole new assemblage of talented writers and artists, telling Batman short-stories in black and white.  I love the wildly eclectic array of new Batman tales found in this series.

7. Three Jokers (by Geoff Johns & Jason Fabok) — This series postulates the notion that, over the years, Batman has battled against three different Jokers, rather than one character.  It’s a fascinatingly bizarre method of explaining why the Jokerv has been depicted so differently, by different creators, over the years.  The concept sounds silly, but this intense series was dead serious.  Jason Fabok’s gorgeously intricate artwork was astounding, and I was captivated by Mr. Johns’ taut story-telling.  I’d love to read a sequel!

6. The Old Guard: Force Multiplied (by Greg Rucka and Leandro Fernandez) — The second miniseries, chronicling the adventures of this group of extremely long-loved warriors (which was adapted into a Netflix film this past year!) was just as entertaining as the first one.  (And far stronger than the movie.)  I really dug this series, which has just the right balance of drama, violence, and whimsy.  This second volume ended on a hell of a cliffhanger; I can’t wait for the next story!

5. Black Magic (by Greg Rucka & Nicola Scott) — I was so happy that this phenomenal series returned for a new story-arc in 2020!  Black Magic tells the story of Detective Rowan Black, a homicide cop in Portsmouth who is also a witch, part of a long line of witches.  Mr. Rucka has crafted a fascinating alternate world, in which witches are real and have been living among us for centuries.  And in Rowan, Mr. Rucka has created another in his long line of wonderful strong, complex, fascinating female characters.  The book is beautifully illustrated by Nicola Scott, who uses an extraordinary technique of grayscale washes to bring her amazingly intricate and realistically detailed panels to life. It is incredible, career-making work; I adore every single page.

4. Gideon Falls (by Jeff Lemire & Andrea Sorrentino) — This mind-bending story came to a compelling conclusion in 2020.  I miss it already!  I’m not sure I entirely understand everything that happened, but I love this series deeply for its beautiful weirdness.  This story of faith and religion, of time-travel and alternate worlds and the devil, has been one of my very favorite comic book series for the past few years.  Andrea Sorrentino’s endlessly inventive page layouts blow me away again and again and again with each new page.  Have I said that I already miss this series?

3. Lazarus (by Greg Rucka & Michael Lark) — Wow, another appearance by Greg Rucka on my list!!  In the future of Lazarus, global society has regressed into a feudal system, with several warring families controlling the planet.  The young woman named Forever is the “Lazarus” of the Carlye family, her family’s ultimate warrior/protector.  I’ve enjoyed the new quarterly format of the series; while I wish it came out more frequently, I’ve adored all of the supplemental material to be found in each issue (most particularly the short stories and Mr. Rucka’s great letter column, a rarity in comics these days).  The world of Lazarus grows deeper and deeper with each new issue; I love all of these characters and fear for them deeply.  Mr. Lark’s artwork continues to astound me page after page.  He is as skilled at capturing individual characters and their subtle facial expressions as he seems to be at drawing any location, any vehicle, anything at all. Amazing, inspiring work on every page.  Lazarus is a truly brilliant and well-researched piece of speculative fiction; it’s a gripping character drama; and it’s one of the very best comic book series I have ever read.

2. The Other History of the DC Universe (by John Ridley & Giuseppe Camuncoli & Andrea Cucchi) — This gripping, heartbreaking story tracks the history of several African American characters through the years of DC Comics’ continuity.  The series brilliantly expands upon the stories that have been told with these characters over the decades, weaving them in and out of other major events within the DC universe.  Written by 12 Years a Slave screenwriter John Ridley, the story is a compelling and important exploration of the lives of these Black characters, giving them a richness they didn’t always have in the hands of other creators.  The story is a wonderful look back at the history of the DC universe, as well as a tale that feels completely of the moment.  I loved the extensive prose style of the book.  Giuseppe Camuncoli’s art has never been better.  This is a major work; it blew me away.

1. Hellboy (by Mike Mignola & co.) — Well, yet again Mike Mignola’s continuing Hellboy saga tops my list, but wow, this was a tougher choice than ever this year, because each of numbers five through two certainly could have been my number one choice this year.  All of these series were amazing.  But in the end I felt I had to go with Hellboy.  What began as a series of mini-series about a big red paranormal investigator who likes to punch things has expanded into a huge saga encompassing an array of wonderful characters.  Mr. Mignola now oversees multiple titles following multiple different characters and set in multiple different years, and yet they all have consistent quality and they all fit together into a larger, expanding saga.  It’s quite extraordinary, and I can’t think of a single other shared universe, in any media, that shares such a singular vision.  The incredible inter-connectedness between all of these stories, the way Mr. Mignola and his collaborators will often wait years before making a connection or expanding on a detail or a small piece of back-story, is astounding.  Each of these mini-series or story-lines stand alone, but together they fit into a hugely entertaining tapestry.  It is incredible.  This year saw the fewest number of new Hellboy universe stories in years (mostly due to the disruption caused by COVID), but each time a new Hellboy book appeared on the stands, I was overjoyed.

Thanks for reading!

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