Here’s what Looper considers the best comics of 2020, and as you might’ve expected, there’s some pretty biased picks cited here, though at the beginning, they make a point about what became of this year’s financial situation, even in comicdom:
2020 sure was something, eh?
As you may already be aware, the entire entrainment industry took a historic mauling this year, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. Small and mid-sized concert venues closed down in droves. The entire institution of movie theaters is in serious trouble. Comics, meanwhile, basically had to cease publication and distribution from April to June. The sequential stories biz got off comparatively lightly, although victims of August’s avalanche of layoffs at DC might push back against that sentiment.
No argument there. Though if they’re implying the worst writers didn’t deserve to be part of the layoffs, I must decidedly dissent with that sentiment. Now for an example from the article, here’s a description of John Constantine: Hellblazer, starring the guy introduced by Alan Moore in the pages of Swamp Thing in 1985, and soon went on to get his own solo book:
Tragically cut off after only 12 issues, this modern-day tale of the reluctant sorcerer sees him struggle amid a dangerous moment in British history. But not every malignant force emerges from supernatural origins. In addition to the usual demons, devils, and other adversaries of that ilk, Constantine takes on xenophobia, nationalism, misinformation, and, on top of all that, the numerous unpleasantries attached to his own legacy. No wonder he hasn’t quit smoking.
Campbell generally handles the night-time issues, while Bergara draws the new age-y, occasionally stomach-turning sights of London in the daylight hours. Their work is spectacular, and continually innovative. While there are dozens of vampire comics being produced at virtually all times, how often do we see unicorns in mainstream horror stories? What about mermaids? Or, for that matter, what about mermaids who are also allegories for exploitation under unfettered capitalism?
I wonder if this is an allegory for what the PC crowd considers the “real” issue, that being right-wingerism? Well if so, there’s one example I’m not sorry to see get dropped. The part about capitalism certainly gives a clue something’s awry. How comes socialism never factors in to these issues? Here’s also what they say about the recent overly sci-fi oriented retcon in Daredevil:
We’re not pointing this out to complain, only to note progress. Mike Murdock — an imaginary scummy twin brother Matt Murdock made up back in the 1960s — is certainly too goofy to exist in a world alongside Jon Bernthal’s Frank Castle, right? And yet this year, the series made Mike Murdock an integral part of Daredevil’s public deception once more. This demonstrates the series’ strength: Zdarsky’s Hell’s Kitchen has gained its own identity, and is no longer beholden to any previous iteration. Recent developments surrounding one of the Man Without Fear’s deadliest foes places our expectations for 2021 high enough to attach a billy club cable to and swing to a nearby building, if one were so inclined.
This twin brother is too contrived to exist in a world alongside Hornhead either. It makes me think of that old argument that change must be consistent with what came previously, and to make an imaginary twin that “real” does not follow. What it does do is signal how Marvel’s running on fumes at this point, with political correctness affecting the Man Without Fear just as terribly as many other characters and series in the MCU, which includes the Hulk, whose “immortal” version is cited as well:
Like many of his superhero contemporaries, the Hulk can attribute his versatility to a continuous, decades-long presence in the mass media. Since The Immortal Hulk launched in 2018, Al Ewing and a team of artists led by Joe Bennett have taken full of advantage of this, taking certain attributes of the not-so-jolly green giant to hyper-literal, often disturbing extremes.
The Hulk gets real skinny for a bit. He switches personalities on a routine basis. And most infamously, he gets sliced up into pieces, which are separated into individual jars. Of course, he emerges mostly intact from every ordeal, because, like the title says, he is no long a mortal Hulk. This year’s batch of Immortal Hulk sees pop culture’s most popular rage monster and his pals take over the remnants of Shadow Base and bask in their access to all the cutting-edge scientific gadgetry their position entails. Hulk winds up in a fight for global sanity against the embodiment of toxic nostalgia, who also happens to be an obscure Jack Kirby creation from 1960. And unless the internet has already spoiled it for you, you’ll be pleased to see an arch-nemesis return in an abrupt, jump scare-style reveal that may cause you to pee your pants. The definitive Hulk saga for modern times wraps up in 2021 with issue 50, so let’s buckle up for a smashing to end all smashings.
I knew this series built on rabid leftist politics, and gotta wonder if this alludes to more (and doesn’t making the Hulk immortal defeat the purpose along with any suspense?). It certainly sounds like an insult to the memory of Kirby. Just as the new Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olson sounds like an insult to Siegel and Shuster:
Images of Dex-Starr the Red Lantern kitty cat projectile vomiting a geyser of blood all over Jimmy Olsen’s hotel room in Superman: Leviathan Rising Special cracked fans up back in 2019. Matt Fraction and Steve Lieber carry on that madcap spirit with Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen, a 12-issue series about Superman’s goofiest ally.
Nonlinear chronology keeps readers slightly off balance, but the narrative only loses coherency when it’s doing it on purpose. When it does, it’s spectacular, but let’s not get too preoccupied with Olsen’s excellent nonsense. This is, first and foremost, a murder mystery … albeit one where the would-be victim survives the attempt on his life, moves to Gotham City, and keeps his profile low by resuming his media career under the rock-solid alias of “irresponsible blogger Timmy Olsen.”
Olsen maintains a sense of heart and wackiness that’s utterly its own, without abandoning its connection with the larger DC universe. In fact, the ending has the potential to alter Superman and Lois Lane’s status quo for the foreseeable future. […]
With crude humor like that, I’m not sure what they’re talking about. Also note that of all places where Jimmy could think to take up residence in this solo book, it’s in Batman’s burg, symbolizing darker terrain. Why not in Flash’s Keystone/Central City districts, or maybe even the Atom’s Ivy Town if it has to be where another superhero already lives? Not that it would redeem it from the vulgarity seen in the loathsome picture with the intergalactic feline, alas. The part about Clark and Lois is just as discouraging, mainly because in some way or other, their status quo already has been, for the worse. Which has also been the case with Adam Strange in the Tom King-penned Strange Adventures miniseries, which, wouldn’t you know it, comes up next:
With 2018’s Mister Miracle, Tom King penned one of the greatest DC comics of the millennium so far. Whether he’ll ever equal this feat remains to be seen. But following a very inconsistent 2019, he pulled out a pretty stellar 2020.
With only one issue out, it’s too early to form an opinion on King and Clay Mann’s Batman/Catwoman. The first three issues of King’s second-newest DC series, Rorschach, with Jorge Fornés, have not been universally praised, but that’s to be expected, as it’s a violent political(ish) thriller set in Alan Moore’s formerly sacrosanct Watchmen universe. Any project fitting that description will ruffle some feathers, regardless of its merits. Meanwhile, with more than half of Strange Adventures on the shelf, we’re pretty sure we can describe King’s other 2020 superhero book as a rousing success without anyone getting mad at us.
The 12-issue miniseries Strange Adventures switches between present-day conditions on Earth depicted by Mitch Gerads and flashbacks to Adam Strange fighting in the war over the Pykkts’ invasion of Rann, his adopted home world, drawn by Evan “Doc” Shaner. The art serves a thematic purpose beyond just creating awesome outer space laser battles — which isn’t to say there aren’t plenty of awesome outer space laser battles in Strange Adventures. But the contrast between Gerads’ off-kilter realism and Shaner’s idealized retrospection brilliantly emphasizes the disconnect between heroic myth-making and the morally ambiguous, and maybe even shameful, truth.
The really shameful thing about this book, as with much of King’s other writings, is that it employs tons of depressing head trips and traumas. As expected, the writer didn’t even bother to mention how awful the depiction of Mr. Terrific number 2 is in the story. Of course, nobody even talks about how equally offensive Heroes in Crisis was in its own way; that’s all off the discussion charts now. And even if the Bat-and-Cat book is only one issue ahead, that doesn’t mean you can’t form an opinion on a single chapter, since all parts matter individually, no matter what the most PC advocates lecture in defense of bad stories. One more item mentioned in this article is the X of Swords crossover:
We’ll admit that we fudged the rules a bit with this one. X of Swords is a crossover event encompassing Marvel’s entire line of X-books from the summer of 2020 — it’s not a series unto itself. But since Wolverine, Hellions, X-Men, Cable, Marauders, and X-Force all make a case for inclusion on this best of 2020 list, and X of Swords ties all six and more together in a mutant fantasy epic of a magnitude unseen since 1988’s The Asgardian Wars, perhaps some rules were meant to be whimsically rewritten on the spot.
They sure did fudge quite a bit. Why must we be told for the millionth time that a crossover spanning a whole franchise or universe is perfectly fine, yet nobody advocates for writing such stories within the context of a simpler stand-alone miniseries? The vehement refusal of these mainstream news bureaus to ask pointed questions about what’s going wrong with mainstream superhero fare has gotten weary, and demonstrates perfectly why you shouldn’t take what they say at face value. Come up with separate books for different character teams, that’s one thing. But refusal to take a self-contained approach in any capacity only guarantees long term failure.
Originally published here.