The one thing you learn quickly as you start reviewing anything, especially comics is the amount of great material that is out there. So much so that catching, let alone reading everything that is available for public consumption is almost impossible. Even if you are focusing on mainly the indie titles. With that in mind, I was fortunate enough to preview and review a large amount of great creative work. In fact, looking back over 2021, it was almost impossible to select which of these were the “best” of 2021. However, since that was the challenge before me, I went back and looked at every book I either previewed or reviewed and came up with a tentative list. These are not ranked in any order and are just a small sample of the books available throughout the year. Nonetheless, I give you, MY best of 2021.
Mad Cave Studios Nottingham by David Hazan and Shane Connery Volk.
This series actually started its run at the end of 2020 but ran through 2021. Its unique and extremely well-told adaptation of the tale of Robin Hood and his Merry Men hit all the right spots and emphasized the Sheriff of Nottingham as its main character. A great story arc and great artwork from Shane Connery Volk made Nottingham a constant best seller. One might say that comics were sick in 2020 and Nottingham was the cure and a no-brainer as a best of 2021.
Humanoids Space Bastards by Joe Aubrey, Eric Peterson and Darick Robertson
This series inspired some of the most out of the box reviews that I have written to date. No doubt due to the brutally fun tales of the Intergalactic Postal Service. Joe Aubrey, Eric Peterson and Darick Robertson created a stable of funny and original characters that leapt off the page. Starting with the CEO of the IPS Roy Sharpton who turned a down on its luck civil service employer into a cutthroat, win at all cost endeavor. Not to mention employees like the Manicorn, a sex-starved green meanie named Zordakk, a girl so special there should be six of them in Resurrection Mary and an everyman named David S. Proton. Put them all together and it was not only fun to write about, but even more fun to read. Space Bastards “delivered” as absolutely one of the best of 2021.
Image Comics Nocterra by Scott Snyder and Tony S. Daniels
This was one of two titles I have included that was not of the indie variety. However, when you mix the prodigious talents of writer Scott Snyder and artist Tony S Daniels, it made for a series that was impossible to ignore. Snyder’s tale of an apocalyptic Earth where darkness falls over the planet and begins to mutate all living creatures not exposed to light started strong and gained momentum with each issue. Great characters like Val “Sundog” Riggs and the stealer of scenes, the tar black Blacktop Bill made Nocterra a must read and a fan favorite. There was no way not to see clear to include it in the best of 2021.
Aftershock Comics Scout’s Honor by David Pepose and Luca Casalanguida
Writer David Pepose and artist Luca Casalanguida took a national institution and adapted it into an exciting and fast paced series that grabbed you and held on until the series final. The main character is a strong willed, uber driven young lady named Kit. Unfortunately, due to the Ranger Scouts antiquated rules, girls were not allowed. So, Kit disguised herself as a male. Her ambition was to one day reach the ultimate goal of every Ranger Scout, to reach the rank of Eagle’s Guard. But along the way, Kit will discover that she is not the ONLY one with secrets. And it is THESE secrets that could change their way of life forever. Scout’s Honor is a tight, well written and drawn series and was an easy choice for inclusion in the best of 2021… Scouts Honor.
Zenescope’s Possessive by Hans Rodionoff, Adam F. Goldberg and Eduardo Garcia
This was a relatively late comer to the party, but its mix of horror and humor won me over. Its main character Todd was having a bad year. Alcoholism will do that to you. Soon, he had lost his wife and his family, and his artist career had reached an impasse. So, what does a desperate man do? He buys a dilapidated home and sets about fixing it up. It will become his family’s dream home. His wife will realize he has changed and come back to him. Life will once again be as it was. All except for one thing. The ghoulish female creature living in the attic. The one that has a predilection for killing people. Is that all? Rodionoff, Goldberg and artist Eduardo Garcia made Possessive a fast moving, entertaining and bloody tale and did so in a three-issue series. Not an easy job to do but they pull it off with flair and with the hope of more to come. Not a surprise it “possessed” a place in the best of 2021.
BlackBox Comics Djinn Hunter by Jay Sandlin and Fabrizio Cosentino
I have mentioned in past reviews how much I love badass female characters. Why should the guys have all the fun? But when you mix a bad ass female lead with an exciting story and mayhem everywhere, then you REALLY have my attention. That was what Jay Sandlin and Fabrizio Cosentino created with Djinn Hunter for BlackBox Comics. A rogue Djinn is granting wishes indiscriminately to mortals, while knowing the age-old Djinn proverb, “No wish comes without a cost.” The carnage that is being unleashed leads the elders to bring back Zara, the Djinn Hunter from her lifelong imprisonment in her bottle. Her crime was not revealing the Sorceress Zamira’s location. The Sorceress that she loves. But now, the council need her skills. Along with her assistant Bennu, the Phoenix who serves as her guide and parole officer. Together, they must track down the rogue Djinn named Abyss and capture his essence. It is a tough gig. But that is why she was called and why it was not wishful thinking that Djinn Hunter was one of the best of 2021.
Image Comics Vinyl by Doug Wagner and Daniel Hillyard
This was the second “non indie” comic I chose. If there is a team that mixes bloodletting serial killers with a major dose of humor better, I haven’t come across them. Wagner and Hillyard followed up their cult classic Plastic with Vinyl. The second in what promises to be a trilogy of their textile themed kill fests. However, just as in Plastic, there is much more than meets the eye with Walter, the story’s main character. I mean, just because you like to kill people, doesn’t mean you don’t care. So, when the FBI agent who was tasked with bringing Walter in is kidnapped. Walter feels the need to intervene. The guy had been spending so much time with Walter, they MUST be friends. And that means trouble for those who took him. Even if they ARE a cult of sunflower farmers. Vinyl was another warped winner by the serial creative team of Wagner and Hillyard and one of 2021’s best.
Ahoy Comics Black’s Myth by Eric Palicki and Wendell Cavalcanti
Truth be known, I could have put any number of Ahoy titles here and it would have been fair. Ahoy has established a pretty strong reputation for quality books. But since I couldn’t put them all, I had to select a representative book for their greatness. That’s where Eric Palicki and Wendell Cavalcanti’s Black’s Myth comes in. Of course, as I had mentioned in previous reviews, they had me with Werewolf Detective. But throw in Vampires, Djinns, Grims, and all manner of Mythological beings, and you definitely had reeled me in. Who knew that a hunt for silver bullets could start such a calamity? But by the time it ended, Black’s Myth had solved the case of why it made the best of 2021.
Before I get into the single issues, I thought I would mention one of the best I encountered in another category.
Best Bang for the Buck in Kickstarter
Mercury Comics, ‘The Hostage’ by Sal Abbinanti
This started out with just Sal Abbinanti’s labor of love, The Hostage. A beautiful book that was inspired by Sal’s time spent in Brazil and the hard life he saw for the children there. By the time it was completed, there was a slick hard slide case, a beautifully bound book, a number of stickers, and post cards all meticulously done. Not to mention getting it personally signed by Sal. If he has proven anything, Sal knows how to give his fans a huge bang for the buck. Can’t wait to see what Atomika looks like.
Now let’s get back to the Best of 2021. This time, the single issues.
ComiXology Originals, ‘Adora and the Distance’ by Marc Bernardin and Ariela Kristantina
Truth be known, as the father of a son with autism, Marc Bernardin and Ariela Kristantina had me from the get-go on this title. A creative and heart felt story that explores the possibilities of what could be in the minds of those who fall under the spectrum. Adora and the Distance is a magical tale that embraces travel and discovery and the courage it takes to undertake the journey. Even if it takes place mainly in your mind. It is a beautifully told and illustrated book and definitely fell on my best of 2021 list.
Humanoids Shy Ninja by Adara Sanchez, Ricardo Sanchez and Arianna Florean
Another book that captured me from the start. A lovely tale of dealing with personal feelings and how to overcome them. Throw in an animated inspired art style and a huge dose of Ninja action and Shy Ninja both entertained and inspired. Created by Ricardo Sanchez’s daughter Adara and brought to colorful life by Ricardo and artist Arianna Florean, Shy Ninja was a welcome change of pace for both children and adults alike. It easily fought its way in and made my best of 2021.
Z2 Comics This Is Where We Fall by Chris Miskiewicz and Vincent Kings
A unique and original idea brought to life by writer Chris Miskiewicz and artist Vincent Kings, This is Where We Fall tells a story of an astronaut who runs into a problem during his espionage mission and literally falls and crashes into a planet. Without his spaceship. Miraculously, he appears to have survived. Until he finds a saloon and a cowboy who tells him otherwise. He in fact has died and landed in a place where all who met their demise by falling go. It is an interesting and original conversation about death, the afterlife, and what can or should be expected. Along with a twist ending, Z2 Comics This is Where We Fall fell squarely into my best of 2021.
Scout Comics White Ash Vol. 1 TPB by Charlie Stickney and Conor Hughes
A great mix of fantasy and mystery with Dwarves, Fairies, forbidden love, tragedy, secrets and more than enough action to satisfy any reader. It certainly got my attention. Writer Charley Stickney and Artist Conor Hughes created an enthralling tale that explored fantasy elements and intertwined them in a typical mining town. The combination made for an addictive read that I couldn’t put down. Not a surprise that White Ash Vol, 2 is underway. Nor that it mined its way into the Best of 2021.
Humanoids, Count by Ibrahim Moustafa
The classic Count of Monte Cristo gets a fresh, sci-fi adaptation in Humanoids Count by Ibrahim Moustafa. In Eisner Award winner Moustafa’s tale, Redxan Samud is framed and imprisoned for treason. He makes his escape and tries to start a new life, but his past intervenes, and he must once again face his past demons. In Count, Moustafa follows the basic plotline of the Alexandre Dumas classic while incorporating the devices and story elements of sci-fi, with great effect. Count was the first of a three-book deal that the Eisner winner signed with Humanoids. If Count is the standard which he is setting, then readers have much to look forward to. As for Count, it sailed off with a place in the best of 2021.
As I said, so may great publications, so little time. But I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a couple of titles that could have easily made my list.
Zenescope’s Grimm Tales of Terror Quarterly: H.H. Holmes by Jay Sandlin, Rodrigo Xavier and Allan Otero
Surprisingly enough, I went into this book without the slightest knowledge of who H.H. Holmes was or what he had done. Once I had done some research, it made it all the more impressive what story creators Joe Brusha, Ralph Tedesco, Dave Franchini and Main Writer Jay Sandlin had created. A demonic and bloody tale that took some of the facts of the Holmes case and made it their own. By the time the reader was done, they were probably exhausted and drained by the twists and turns that Sandlin lead them through. It was a classic horror tale with enough of the unexpected to satisfy almost any horror aficionado. And when combined with the art of Xavier and Otero, it killed enough to bury itself firmly into consideration as one of the best of 2021.
Albatross Funnybooks, Did You Hear What Eddie Gein Done? by Harold Schechter and Eric Powell
Another serial killer, like HH Holmes, that I wasn’t familiar with. At least until I read Did You Hear What Eddie Gein Done? The answer to that question was no, but I do now. Writer Harold Schecter used his vast historical knowledge about the case along with artist Eric Powell’s prodigious talents to create a graphic novel that will educate and inform. Whether you are an aficionado of the Gein case or like me a novice, you will get a firm grasp on the man whose unspeakable crimes inspired both book and films. It is an extremely well-done book and certainly worthy of being in the Best of 2021.
So, there you have it. My tentative best of 2021. Needless to say, there were so many more that easily could have made the list and even more that I never had the opportunity to read. But 2022 is right around the corner. Another year of exploring and sharing some of the best creators have to offer. I look forward to what the year has in store. If you have a book you would like to mention, by all means do so. There is always room for more and who better to talk about it than our learned readers. Let us know what you think at GeekVibesNation.
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Senior Writer at GeekVibesNation – I am a 50 something child of the 70’s who admits to being a Star Trek/Star Wars/Comic Book junkie who once dove head first over a cliff (Ok, it was a small hill) to try to rescue his Fantastic Four comic from a watery grave. I am married to a lovely woman who is as crazy as I am and the proud parent of a 18 year old boy with autism. My wife and son are my real heroes.