Top 10 Comics for the Week of 1/20/2021

This was the best week of comics this year thus far. There may not have been a standout book that was clearly above everything else, but there were a number of solid comics thad did not even make the list this week. Not everything was roses of course as there were a few disappointments as well. I choose to focus on the positive though so let’s get to this week’s countdown.

Also, make sure to check out my other articles focused on this week’s comics:

Most Anticipated Comics
Best Comic Covers
Best Comic Panels

American Ronin #410. American Ronin #4

Writer: Peter Milligan
Artist: ACO
Publisher: AWA Upshot

Description: War is over, democracy an illusion, real power now lies not with nation-states but huge corporations engaged in a silent war for global domination. Their number one weapon: highly-skilled, technologically-enhanced operatives trained since childhood to pledge their allegiance to the corporate flag. But what happens when one such operative breaks free of his mental chains and decides to bring the whole system down? Can one “Ronin” make a difference?

Why it Made the List: This is spy vs spy done right. Reading through this I get lost in the design of ACO’s art. As shown in the Best Comic Panels article he finds so many creative ways to utilize sound effects and lettering within his art. Much of this narrative is based on showcasing a living nightmare and the power of empathy. A task that is difficult to visualize for any artist. His visual flair makes it seem easy.  Now there are plenty of fights and chases as well. Not just this existential back and forth. Often the best spy stories are those that can keep you on your toes and this does just that. 

9. Iron Fist: Heart of the Dragon #1

Writer: Larry Hama
Artist: David Wachter
Publisher: Marvel

Description: Someone is killing the ancient dragons that power the HEAVENLY CITIES, and only IRON FIST and the DEADLY WEAPONS can stop them…if they can discover who they are in time! Zombie armies, mystical portals, dragon hearts, some of the Marvel Universe’s deadliest fighters all converge in one action-packed extravaganza, and the fate of all worlds hangs in the balance! LARRY HAMA and DAVID WACHTER are building a story that hits as hard as the Iron Fist itself!

Why it Made the List: Well Larry Hama clearly still has it. Very much enjoyed the first issue of Iron Fist: Heart of the Dragon. It was refreshing how it just got up and dove right into the story. A quick aside and bam face to face with the central conflict. They paired Hama with a solid artist as well. David Wachter nailed both the character scenes and the bigger action beats. As shown in the Best Comic Panels article he has a scene where Iron Fists throws a zombie head at demon ninja. The glory of comics told in a few beats. Each character’s voice is here and well represented. Sometimes Iron Fist stories can get lost in their own mythos. So far there is no risk of that. 

8. Seven to Eternity #16

Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: Jerome Opeña
Publisher: Image Comics

Description: SPRINGS OF ZHAL, PART THREE. In the penultimate issue of RICK REMENDER and JEROME OPENA’s fantasy epic, the honor of the Osidis family is put to a final test as offers are presented and an even greater threat is unleashed.

Why it Made the List: In this one week of comics you got to see the wide range of Rick Remender’s talent as a writer. You had an issue of Scumbag that was off the wall insane. It was a story full of lewd and crude content, which could have easily made this top ten. Then you had this issue of Seven to Eternity that was a hard-nosed fantasy full of serious drama. Both widely succeed at what they attempted to do. If someone came in blind I doubt they could tell they are coming from the same writer. No offense to Remender but the biggest reason I had to include this issue was the artwork of Jerome Opeña. At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, this was some of the best looking art I have seen in a long time. From the storytelling to the vast variety of staging Opeña is doing some Eisner level work here. I understand why it has taken so long for this issue to come out. They clearly wanted to make sure they got everything to look as best as possible. Mission accomplished.

Crimson Flower #17. Crimson Flower #1

Writer: Matt Kindt
Artist: Matt Lesniewski
Publisher: Dark Horse

Description: After losing her family in a violent home invasion, a woman uses folk tales to cope. In a blood-soaked journey toward revenge, she tracks down the man responsible for her family’s deaths, only to discover a startling government plot-to weaponize folk tales and use them to raise children into super assassins.

Why it Made the List: One of my most anticipated comics going into this week and it ended up being even better than I expected. Matt Lesniewski’s art style may not click for everyone, but it clicked for me. So much so he had what was easily my favorite panel of the week. In that panel, we see the texture and life that is already a mainstay in his work. Comics are better when you have more unique styles like this in mainstream books. We see this story of messy revenge that has a twist unlike any you normally get with this story. One that can maintain both realism and supernatural element. One month into the year and we are already getting some promising new series.

6. Killadelphia #12

Writer: Rodney Barnes
Artist: Jason Shawn Alexander
Publisher: Image

Description: Jupiter and Abigail have decimated the city of brotherly love, and as their reign of terror reaches its climax, things look bleak for our heroes. If Philadelphia stands any chance of survival, James Sangster Sr. and son will have to reach out to the one person they’d never ally themselves with, or else no one will survive the night. But will that be enough to save them, or will the casualties continue?

Why it Made the List: When I included The Autumnal #4 last week, I mentioned it had one of the most disturbing scenes you will probably see all year. Apparently, the creators of Killadelphia took that as a challenge. Only a few pages in and my jaw was ajar in shock. You will know the moment when you see it. Being shocking does not equate to a great story. Here you have both. This second arc of Killadelphia rapidly expanded in scope. To the point, characters are traveling to hell for hope. It’s been that bad. Despite the rapid expanse, the narrative stayed tightly woven. Some major surprises as well will further change the status quo for the next arc.

5. Rain Like Hammers #1

Writer/Artist: Brandon Graham
Publisher: Image Comics

Description: KING CITY AND PROPHET writer and artist BRANDON GRAHAM returns with an all-new OVERSIZED FIVE-ISSUE SERIES! Eugene is a new inhabitant of Elephant, a walking city on the desert world of Crown Majesty. Far from friends and family, he spends most of his time navigating melancholy daydreams, toying with alien technology, and researching the best places to find high-quality fast food. At best, his life is lonely and monotonous-but all of that changes when a mysterious force begins destroying Crown Majesty’s walking cities!

Why it Made the List: The biggest surprise of the week comes from Rain Like Hammers #1. Brandon Graham is not a creator I am super familiar with, but after this issue that will change quickly. For those who are Black Mirror fans, this issue reminded me a lot of the episode ‘Fifteen Million Merits’ both in general narrative and thematic exploration. A great week for unique art as Brandon Graham style is another that may not fit everyone’s aesthetic. Very clean lines with superb storytelling all around. Often indies struggle with the balancing of world-building and creating characters. This was one of the better examples of how to use one to inform the other.

4. DCeased: Dead Planet #7

Writer: Tom Taylor
Artist: Trevor Hairsine
Publisher: DC Comics

Description: The Justice League fights an army of Amazos for Earth, while John Constantine goes head-to-head with Trigon! The Justice League fight for Earth and the lives of the…infected?! The final chapter of the best-selling series will be talked about for years to come!

Why it Made the List: Is this the end for DCeased? If so this is the way to end it. This two-year long run has been one of the best things DC has put out. All these threads have come together and yet character moments were plenty. As we are deep in Future State I find this version of Jon as Superman by far the most interesting. He has those tropes you want with Superman, but there is just enough twist to make him his own character. His back and forth with John Constantine was a standout moment this week. Knowing how Tom Taylor loves to leave his breadcrumbs there is a good chance we will return to this world sometime in the future. If so I am all for it.

3. We Live #4

Writer: Roy Miranda
Artist: Inaki Miranda
Publisher: Aftershock Comics

Description: Humbo’s plan for escaping the Acceptists might not be enough for the group to make the train headed to Megalopolis Mother 9. This might be the end of the trip. The fragile fantasy world created by Tala for her little brother Hototo finally crumbles under the cruel weight of reality. Tears are the only language left between them. The long journey to the extraction point suddenly reveals the open wound.

Why it Made the List: Well this was emotionally devastating. We Live works well as a comic because ultimately the narrative is as basic as you can get. These characters need to get from point a to point b. There is a lot surrounding that goal, and those trappings are what make it more than a generic adventure comic. I am impressed with the directions this is willing to go. How they will make you love characters and then take those characters away from you before you are ready. This is a journey that is taking an emotional toll. You have this endless gauntlet of challenges that gets more and more difficult with each passing step. When or if we get to that final ending it will be one hell of a cathartic finish.

Barbalien: Red Planet #32. Barbalien: Red Planet #3

Writer: Jeff Lemire, Tate Brombal
Artist: Gabriel Hernandez Walta
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

Description: Barbalien continues to flee the Martian bounty hunter Boa Boaz-and continues to develop a relationship with a young activist under an assumed identity. But past and present collide when Boa begins targeting people in Barbalien’s life.

Why it Made the List: This is the first Black Hammer series to dive this deep into social and political issues. Here the AIDS crisis of the ’80s is a major focus. One of the key early scenes has a nurse trying to plead with a mother of a dying patient, but she is rejected because that mom cannot get over the fact her son is gay. In a story about Martians, there are plenty of human moments like that to ground everything with a general sense of realism. Barbalien is an intriguing character to put in a situation like this. He can morph his body to be whoever he would like, yet he still finds it impossible to navigate this world. Rejection is this cloud hanging over him throughout. Despite literally traveling to another planet those who cannot accept him still wish to punish him for being different. These Black Hammer mini-series have always been welcoming to new readers. This is one I would give to someone who does not usually like to read superhero books. 

1. Rorschach #4

Writer: Tom King
Artist: Jorge Fornés
Publisher: DC Comics

Description: At last, it’s time for Laura’s story. The detective following Rorschach’s trail turns his eyes toward the vigilante’s female companion. Who is behind that domino mask, and what led her to team up with an old comic book creator to try to assassinate a controversial presidential candidate? These are the threads the detective must unravel—and they lead him to a circus sideshow and the strong man she once convinced to kill for her.

Why it Made the List: When Tom King talked about doing this project he mentioned taking the approach of a chapter book. Being someone who first came from novels that style aligns with his past experience. This issue shows the benefit of that storytelling design. You get an issue that is as much self-contained as it is designed to progress the general narrative. Instead of cross-cutting or flipping back and forth between storylines, you have everything centered on this one character. King’s strengths are in the ways he approaches characters and their inner workings. In one issue we come to know this Muscle Man character and how he relates to other key figures. His story is a compelling tale of unrequited love and how it can blind your ability to depict reality from fiction. Jorge Fornés is also doing his career work with this book. Not trying to directly evoke the work of Dave Gibbons, but rather put his own stamp on the Watchmen universe. His page designs are especially impressive including a scene during a circus live show. A moment that could be forgettable is infused with pristine artistry. I know many have issues with the fact this book even exists. While I understand and even agree with many of those points, ultimately I try to judge something on its own merits. After reading this issue there was no question it was the best comic I read this week. 

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Dan Clark

A fan of all things comics, movies, books, and whatever else I can find that pass the time. Twitter: @DXO_Dan Instagram: Comic_concierge

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