It has been one heck of a year. I think everyone would agree, including Comic Book Publishers, Writers, Artists, and Editors alike. The big companies have had to make cutbacks, distributors have had setbacks, and physical stores have struggled to find their place throughout the new normal of COVID. However, even with these conflicts, amazing stories have still been pumped out by some of the very best creators and thinkers in comics today. Sure, we’ve all strived to find our new normal. Nevertheless, comics have been there throughout all of this as an escape from the everyday trials and hardships that are ever impacting the entire planet.
With that said, this article is more of a thank you to Marvel Comics, its writers, its artists, and its entire staff for the hard work they’ve done throughout this entire year. It takes a village to raise a child. And, it takes an army to make a great comic. So, here is my “BEST OF MARVEL COMICS” for the year 2020. Before I begin, let me once again say “Thank you” to everyone at Marvel from the publicists to the writers and everyone between. Without all of you, 2020 would have been so much more unbearable.
Now, this commentary could focus on so much more. However, I’m just going to hit on three key areas: Writer of the Year, Artist of the Year, and Book of the Year all at Marvel Comics. Sprinkled in, I will hand out some honorable mentions to spice up the article. Again, everyone at Marvel deserves some praise. Nonetheless, the individuals I name are who I think were at the top of their game in 2020. Amazon Links will be attached for you to snag all of these outstanding comics and work from these artists and writers. I hope you enjoy it and God Bless!
ARTIST OF THE YEAR:
Let’s begin with some honorable mentions. The first artist on my shortlist would be German Peralta. This year he’s worked on STRIKEFORCE and MAESTRO with some KING IN BLACK items on the horizon. Now, I wasn’t a huge fan of STRIKEFORCE. Still, that had nothing to do with the art. With MAESTRO as his main focus, Peralta has done a stellar job locking this reviewer into the series with some extremely monumental illustrations that are almost next level involving the Hulk. Another honorable mention goes to Stephen Segovia for his work on HELLIONS, CONAN SERPENT WAR, EMPYRE: X-MEN, and GIANT-SIZE X-MEN: A TRIBUTE TO WEIN AND COCKRUM. His style is very distinctive and incredibly vibrant which ultimately lends itself well to the unique X-team in HELLIONS.
Continuing with more honorable mentions, there is Nic Klein (who mainly focused on THOR) and Phil Noto who spread his artistic chops throughout the Marvel Landscape in 2020 from DR. STRANGE, CABLE, X-MEN, and a variety of covers including STAR and SYMBIOTE SPIDER-MAN: ALIEN REALITY. Together, these two both added their extraordinary artistic mark on their respective comics. Noto’s almost painted, yet overly realistic style of our favorite heroes appears natural, sometimes muddy, but exceptionally rich and textured. However, on the other hand, Klein’s THOR is sharp, bright, crisp, and almost surreal. Each artist offers something different to their respective comics that helped drive their stories to the top of my list in 2020. Nevertheless, the award for BEST ARTIST AT MARVEL COMICS for 2020 goes to Joe Bennett!
Joe Bennett, known primarily for THE IMMORTAL HULK, THE IMMORTAL SHE-HULK, and a variety of covers from MAESTRO to KING IN BLACK: IMMORTAL HULK, exudes his own frightfully violent style that’s scary good. Bennett is what has made THE IMMORTAL HULK such a huge success and has morphed everyone’s favorite Green Goliath into a horror comic. Readers, some of Bennett’s illustrations are so graphic and so unnerving, that I strongly recommend you don’t read THE IMMORTAL HULK at bedtime. In each issue, Bennett’s illustrations become more and more vivid, violent, and grotesque… but in such a way that truly amplifies the narrative. This year, Dispatch’s award for Artist of the Year at Marvel Comics for 2020 goes to the brilliantly talented Joe Bennett. If you’re not reading his comics, you need to get them on your pull list ASAP!
WRITER OF THE YEAR:
Just like Artist of the Year, let’s kick things off with some honorable mentions. I’m going, to begin with, one of my all-time favorite writers, Jonathan Hickman. This year, The Head of X, strung together X-MEN, parts of NEW MUTANTS, multiple GIANT-SIZE X-MEN, and pioneered X OF SWORDS. Now, X OF SWORDS was… ok… but it was no HOXPOX, which is ultimately why I can’t give my boy Hickman the title this year.
Continuing with my honorable mentions, let me focus on the “first-class” of X-Men writers this year: Ben Percy, Gerry Duggan, and Zeb Wells. Percy led the charge immediately after Hickman with X-FORCE, WOLVERINE, WEAPON PLUS: WORLD WAR 4, EMPYRE: X-MEN, X OF SWORDS, and he even dabbled on MARAUDERS with CARNAGE: BLACK, WHITE, AND BLOOD on the horizon for 2021. His hands are all over Marvel Comics write now and that makes this comic fan extremely happy. He’s the perfect fit for WOLVERINE and X-FORCE championing some truly intriguing stories while keeping the character’s voices intact. He’s a genuine rock star at Marvel right now and I can’t wait to see what he has on deck for 2021.
Now, if Percy is Hickman’s right-hand man, then Duggan is unequivocally his left-hand man. Duggan, who’s managed MARAUDERS, SAVAGE AVENGERS, CABLE, WOLVERINE: BLACK, WHITE, AND BLOOD, EMPYRE: X-MEN, X OF SWORDS, and even contributed on WOLVERINE, has become a staple to Marvel Comics. His take on Kitty Pryde is outstanding. Plus, Duggan has taken the extremely unlikeable concept of Kid Cable and made him digestible and interesting. Readers, that’s a task I wouldn’t wish on any writer, yet Duggan has done it masterfully. Additionally, he’s had the amazing opportunity of weaving CONAN THE BARBARIAN into the modern Marvel Landscape within the pages of SAVAGE AVENGERS, which is such a fun title everyone should be reading. I just can’t say enough about Duggan.
Now, I know these honorable mentions have been extremely X-MEN centric, however, it can’t go overlooked without mentioning Zeb Wells and the work he’s done this year with ANT-MAN, HELLIONS, EMPYRE: X-MEN, X OF SWORDS, and SPIDER-HAM. Readers, HELLIONS is no doubt my surprise series of the year. After some epic flops like FALLEN ANGELS, I wasn’t expecting much from the series. Nevertheless, HELLIONS and Wells are a true delight. His take on Mister Sinister is the perfect blend of snarky, sarcastic cynicism that I never knew I needed in my pull list. Plus, the band of Misfits he’s put together makes for a wildly fetching team. Give HELLIONS a look and let me know what you think!
Nevertheless, even after all of these honorable mentions that were remarkably X-MEN heavy, my writer of the year has absolutely nothing to do with the X-MEN. This year, the award for BEST WRITER AT MARVEL COMICS for 2020 goes to Peter David! David, who’s spearheaded so many original titles like SYMBIOTE SPIDER-MAN: KING IN BLACK, SYMBIOTE SPIDER-MAN: ALIEN REALITY, and MAESTRO, has been a breath of fresh air this year for both Peter Parker and Bruce Banner. Sure, these stories take place in alternate realities. But, both take aspects of the characters that David wrote many moons ago and has found a way to traverse these ideas into the future of Marvel Comics.
Both of these stories are utterly fascinating, incredibly entertaining, and exceedingly creative. Almost every issue of each of these titles has been a spectacular hit. For the older fan, these have elements of nostalgia mixed with a new age twist that show David hasn’t lost a step. I highly recommend any newer reader to check some of Peter David’s past work out. He’s been in the business for quite some time and I think you’ll be pleased with what you find. This year, Dispatch’s award for Writer of the Year at Marvel Comics for 2020 goes to the dazzlingly talented Peter David. If you’re not reading his comics, you need to get them on your pull list ASAP!
BOOK OF THE YEAR:
Marvel fans, this award is always more difficult to hand out each year. There are always some series that just start towards the end of a year, as well as some comics that ended early on in which we all forget. Plus, I place my criteria on this award that also entails a bit of longevity. Meaning, I try to only hand this award out to a series that’s been around for a minimum of 6-8 issues. That said. I would just like to mention one of my favorite titles in which I’m giving an honorable mention simply because it falls short of my criteria. Otherwise, it may have won the award. And that comic is MAESTRO by Peter David. This book has been an action-packed, nonstop success. It’s done so well that David is continuing the series this month with MAESTRO: WAR AND PAX. David takes his FUTURE IMPERFECT story and gives it a “prequel” with a spin. If you haven’t read it, get the MAESTRO trade and tell your shop you want MAESTRO: WAR AND PAX on your pull list. Additionally, if the concept of an evil, tyrant Hulk is new to you, grab the FUTURE IMPERFECT trade! You won’t be disappointed.
The next honorable mention that fits the bill is DAREDEVIL by Chip Zdarsky. Now, Zdarsky is also one of my favorite writers right now. However, I merely didn’t put him in my writer’s honorable mention because he’s only done DAREDEVIL and X-MEN/ FANTASTIC FOUR this year. And let me tell you, I was very unimpressed with X-MEN/ FANTASTIC FOUR. Nonetheless, DAREDEVIL has been cerebral, unique, emotional, and massively significant to the character Matt Murdock. Murdock has changed drastically and has been battling some demons all year. And the irony, Zdarsky is more known for his humor and wit. However, some of the very best comics he’s ever written have been so emotionally charged. I can’t say enough about this title that has slid to the top of my pull every month. I won’t spoil the story for you BUT I will tell you to grab some DAREDEVIL trades posthaste! Zdarsky is such a gifted writer that truly deserves our praise this year.
My last set of honorable mentions will solely be a group of titles… and those titles are X-MEN, X-FORCE, and WOLVERINE. These titles, forerun by Jonathan Hickman and Ben Percy are the top dogs of X-Men Comics at Marvel. Simply put: these are the three titles that you must read if you’re an X-fan. Sure, I do like many other titles. Nevertheless, if you had to make cuts in a time where money is tight, these are the three X-titles to grab. X-MEN is the flagship book that helps maintain the status quo each month written by the Head of X, Jonathan Hickman himself. This series gives you Cyclops, Jean, Magneto, Xavier, and the rest of the Quiet Council in all its glory. Ben Percy leads the charge with the two most high octane X-titles on the market in X-FORCE and WOLVERINE. Both of these titles have Logan (a fan favorite) deeply engaged and both titles focus on the war that’s been raging with humanity since HOXPOX and the creation of Krakoa. Furthermore, the best titles involved in the X OF SWORDS crossover event also happened to be these three titles as well.
So, with all honorable mentions aside, my book of the year happens to be the very same as 2019. This year, the award for BOOK OF THE YEAR AT MARVEL COMICS for 2020 goes to THE IMMORTAL HULK! Now, I know what many of you are probably thinking… why? Other than Joe Bennett, you’ve barely mentioned anything about this title throughout the article. Well, let me start by saying Bennett is a huge reason as to why this comic is so dang successful. Without him, this series would be typical and ordinary. It’s Bennett that makes this series almost transcendent.
Many would argue that if THE IMMORTAL HULK is your book of the year, then Al Ewing should have made your honorable mentions for writers. This is true. And, I struggled with that concept myself. However, this was the only work of his that I rather enjoyed. Plus, he had his fair shake at an event this year in EMPYRE that was a bit lackluster in my opinion. However, when Ewing has the opportunity to focus on one specific character and mold it to his will, he always does a fantastic job, which is the case in THE IMMORTAL HULK.
Readers, Bennett and Ewing are doing something special here. Furthermore, how often has a creative team been on a book that’s been consistently on fire? Hardly ever! When THE IMMORTAL HULK graced the pages at Marvel, it was a genuine Fresh Start that’s continued 40 issues later. This series is scheduled to end at issue 50 and I for one am not looking forward to that day. Many recent writers at multiple companies have tried to write their 100 issues of a character (cough… cough… Tom King). However, their stories ebbed and flowed worse than a rollercoaster ride.
THE IMMORTAL HULK has had very few duds in its over 40 issue run. It’s got action, suspense, thrills, and amazing cliffhangers that keep you coming back for more. It’s taken average B to C list characters and weaved them into the story as key players within the narrative while developing the multiple personalities inside Banner in the process. It’s explosive, diabolical, and volatile with the art telling just as much of the story, if not more than the writer. This year, Dispatch’s award for Book of the Year at Marvel Comics for 2020 goes to the bizarrely masterful IMMORTAL HULK. If you’re not reading this series, you need to get it on your pull list before it’s too late! And even if it’s too late, grab the trades ASAP!
2020 WRAP UP:
It’s been one heck of a year. I don’t think anyone would disagree. Even at Marvel Comics, we’ve seen a plant verse zombie verse human space war in EMPYRE, a Mortal Kombat style tournament that has ushered in hundreds of new mutants in X OF SWORDS, and now the KING IN BLACK has come as the year reaches a close. For a year encompassed by a pandemic, Marvel Comics has delivered some remarkable stories by extraordinarily talented individuals. I would once again like to thank everyone involved from top to bottom for the hard work they put forth this year. It’s because of these outstanding individuals that many of us have been able to survive and find some sort of escape this year. I hope that Marvel Comics can continue on this path throughout 2021 and I can’t wait to see what’s next for so many of my favorite characters, writers, artists, and series. Once again, Amazon Links were attached above for you to snag all of these excellent comics. Thank you once again to everyone involved and Thank you all so much for the read and continued support. Please have a blessed start to 2021.
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