Comics are unquestionably unique. The interplay of art and words-as well as its particular audience and the serial medium used by many creators-allows for stories that don’t exist anywhere else, even if those stories are increasingly being adapted for film and TV.
Last year was a weird year for comics (and every other damn thing). Conventions were canceled. Local shops that serve as a hub for comics communities shuttered or moved to curbside pickup. Fewer comics were released due to the pandemic and an abrupt halt to distribution for many publishers in March. If all of that threw you off your normal comic-book-reading, there are a lot of outstanding releases already in 2021 to welcome back your reading habit.
Throughout the year, this list will be updated to include some of the best comic book and graphic novel releases of 2021. It should go without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway: Any best-of-the-year list, whether it openly addresses the issue or not, is subjective. This list is absolutely that, and evolving, with hopes to include a wide range of publishers, as well as floppies and graphic novels, one-shots, and ongoing series. It’ll be updated regularly, with more comics added as they’re released or complete an arc. The year is already shaping up pretty wonderfully with exciting stories about alien outsiders trying to find their place on a new planet, radioactive vigilantes, hardboiled detectives, shapeshifting humans, and modernized fantasy folktales. Here are the best comic books and graphic novels to be released so far this year.
Story:Tate Brombal and Jeff Lemire Art: Gabriel Hernandez Walta Color Art: Jordie Bellaire Letters: Aditya Bidikar
Of all the tortured heroes trapped in Rockwood in the original run of Black Hammer, Barbalien was possibly the most emotionally engaging. He wasn’t full of rage like Gail Gibbons, lost in his own mind like Colonel Weird, or shrouded in mystery like Madame Dragonfly. This Eisner-nominated spinoff-one of many in the Black Hammer universe-digs into the omnipresent sorrow around the Martian shapeshifter Barbalien, who lives simultaneously as the alien Barbalien and the police officer Mark Markz, as well as, briefly, “Luke.” The five-issue run is set against the backdrop of an AIDS epidemic and mass protests in Spiral City. Barbalien is being tracked by the Martian bounty hunter Boa Boaz. He’s struggling with the ethics of his job on the police force when he lives as Markz. And he’s discovering himself through his love for the activist Miguel when he lives as “Luke.” It’s a beautifully constructed story that, like many Black Hammer comics, isn’t so much about superheroes as flawed individuals struggling to understand their place in the world.
Writer: Paul Cornell Artist: Sally Cantirino Colorist: Dearbhla Kelly Letterer: Andworld Design
I Walk With Monsters manages to be a quiet comic about Jacey, who lived through traumatic childhood experiences, while also being a horror story about monsters that live among us. Jacey and her shapeshifting dog companion, who is also something of a father figure in his human form, are hunting down the man who abducted her brother as she decides whether she has it in her to confront and kill him. The art is not only gorgeous but evokes the feeling of falling back into traumatic memories with an eye that is both unflinching and sympathetic. It’s a striking six-issue series that wins the award for the most tender and emotional you’ll feel seeing someone say “fuck you” and getting the response “fuck you, too.”
This Spanish graphic novel, which is getting its first official English language translation, follows a brief period in the life of surrealist filmmaker Luis Buñuel. After the release of 1930’s L’Age d’Or, Buñuel struggled with his belief in the power of surrealism. Along with his friend and movie producer Ramón Acín, Buñuel began work on the documentary-ish Land Without Bread in the remote, impoverished region of Las Hurdes. The surreal rendering of his time there deals with his personal struggles and the moral ambiguities of making a film like this, as well as confrontations with nightmares from childhood. While it is, in a sense, a loving portrait of the complicated filmmaker and artist, it doesn’t shy away from his flaws. It’s a probing exploration of the complexities of making art, a fascinating look at the life of an iconic filmmaker, and a beautiful book where the line between waking life and dreams is playfully blurred.
Dejliya is a winding epic fairy tale, a fantastical reimagining of West African folklore. It follows the quest of Prince Mansour and the royal musician Awa, living under the tyranny of the wizard Soumaoro, who has broken the world. It has a sharp sense of humor combined with stunning art that wears the influences of Senegal-born creator, Juni Ba, on its sleeve. You’ll see nods to inspirations ranging from manga-inspired fight scenes to Cartoon Network humor, Usagi Yojimbo to Wu-Tang Clan. The characters burst with color and recede into shadows, surprising expectations in every leg of the journey. There’s so much to enjoy on every page, including the back matter that delves into the folklore that inspired the book.
Art by Chad Sell Story by Chad Sell, Vid Alliger, Manuel Betancourt, Michael Cole, David DeMeo, Jay Fuller, Cloud Jacobs, Barbara Perez Marquez, Molly Muldoon, and Katie Schenkel
This book has a totally different tone from others here. Cardboard Kingdom 2 is for young readers, but it’s a love letter to the imagination and whimsy of childhood that anyone can enjoy. Though, of course, childhood isn’t simple. The kids in the “kingdom” aren’t exempt from the difficulties of growing up-divorce, depression, and learning to accept themselves among them. The first Cardboard Kingdom read like a series of interconnected short stories tied together by a neighborhood of kids who created alter egos out of cardboard costumes. The sequel is more of a connected single story, following the kids who are haunted by sightings of a monster in their neighborhood around Halloween, each tracking it in their own way as they deal with bullies, finding love, and how hard it can be to be a friend. It maybe doesn’t rise to the heights of the first installment, but it doesn’t need to. It’s its own book, with its own adventures, and they’re worth taking. Want more Thrillist? Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat.
Starting with the new moon on Sunday, January 22, this Lunar New Year ushers in the year of the Rabbit. We’ve put together a guide on celebrating the Lunar New Year in Australia.
What is special about the year of the Rabbit?
As you might know, each year has an animal sign in the Chinese Zodiac, which is based on the moon and has a 12-year cycle. This year, we celebrate the year of the rabbit, known to be the luckiest out of all twelve animals. It symbolises mercy, elegance, and beauty.
What celebrations are taking place and how can I get involved?
There are plenty of festivals happening all around the country which you can get involved with. Here they are per state.
New South Wales
Darling Harbour Fireworks When: Every year, Sydney puts on a fireworks show, and this year, you can catch it on January 28 and February 4 at 9 pm in Darling Harbour.
Dragon Boat Races When: Witness three days of dragon boat races and entertainment on Cockle Bay to usher in the Lunar New Year. The races will commence on January 27 and finish on January 29.
Lion Dances When: Catch a traditional Lion Dance moving to the beat of a vigorous drum bringing good luck and fortune for the Lunar New Year. The dance performances will happen across Darling Harbour on Saturday, January 21, Sunday, January 22, and Sunday, February 4 and 5, around 6 pm and 9 pm.
Lunar New Year at Cirrus Dining When: Barangaroo’s waterfront seafood restaurant, Cirrus, is celebrating the Year of the Rabbit with a special feast menu. Cirrus’ LNY menu is $128pp with optional wine pairing and is available from Saturday, January 21, to Sunday, February 5.
Auntie Philter When: Hello Auntie’s owner and executive chef, Cuong Nguyen will be dishing out some of the most classic Vietnamese street foods with his mum, Linda. All of Philter’s favourites will be on offer, as well as Raspberry Pash Beer Slushies and other cocktails being served at the Philter Brewing rooftop bar on Sunday, January 22 and Sunday, January 29.
Lunar New Year Festival When: Ring in the Lunar New Year with food, music, arts, and more on Sunday, January 22, from 10 am to 9 pm.
BriAsia Festival When: From February 1-19, Brisbane will come alive with performances, including lion dances and martial arts displays. There will be street food, workshops, comedy and more.
Chinatown Adelaide Street Party When: Adelaide is set to hose a fun-filled day celebrating the Chinese New Year on Saturday, January 28, from 12 pm to 9 pm.
Crown Perth When: Across January and February, Crown Perth hosts free live entertainment, including colourful lion dances, roving mascots, and drumming performances. The restaurants will also throw banquets and menus dedicated to the Lunar New Year.