New To You Comics: The Guys Look Back On Their Favorite Columns From 2021

by Tony Thornley

Who would have thought nearly two years later that Brendan Allen and I would be continuing to use our introduction about fighting the effects of the pandemic, and running a column to do our small part to help. Now as we near 100 columns, we wanted to take a look at some of our favorites from the past year, in more ways than one.

So what were some of our favorite books we chatted about this year?

Tony:

We probably enjoyed few books more than the Archie Horror flagship title. Our guest David Pepose probably said it best right out of the gate about Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla’s horror hit: “Afterlife with Archie is probably the single comic that made me decide to take the plunge and make comics of my own. I think it’s because it not only spoke to my subversive streak and love of all things ironic, but it was a profound wake-up call at the elasticity of the Riverdale gang as a concept. “

We dug deep into James Tynion’s work this year, even before his Substack deal covering everything from his early Batman to the first volume of Department of Truth. None of them quite haunted us like this one with Eryk Donovan though. It’s an under-the-radar horror classic that I described with- 

“…one thing I really liked about this story is how Tynion grounded it in the characters and in the real world science of memetics. You feel for Aaron, Ryan, Marcus and the rest. The story (told in three oversized issues) is about the world falling apart across three days. And fall apart it does. The entire human race is … well … It all happens in three days but I won’t spoil exactly what it is.”

We covered so many good horror comics, but one I can’t get off my mind is still Alex Paknadel & Nil Vendrell’s Redfork. Even before it gets scary, it’s remarkably relatable, to the point that it could have simply been a damn good drama without the horror. As we said in the column: “Paknadel does a great job of world building here. Redfork feels like a real place, but it’s not a good place. It’s broken and dying. The mining company that’s keeping it running is only doing it for deep, dark reasons that become clear later in the book. It might be a little, stereotypical dying Appalachian town, but I liked the setting. Taking two issues or so to really establish that was a strong start to the story, so when the supernatural shit started, you cared.”

Brendan:

Jeff Lemire & Andrea Sorrentino have been a creative team for watch for years now, but nothing hits quite like their Image Comics juggernaut. Brendan said it well: “Jeff Lemire has a gift for engaging readers. He sets up some interesting pieces right out of the chute. The dual protagonists are both deeply flawed and interesting. They run parallel courses through most of this first arc, and as the art suggests in a few places, are almost mirrored opposites. At some point, their paths will converge, and there’s no telling what will happen then.”

Southern gothic horror is a subgenre that doesn’t get enough love. The crown jewel of that subgenre in the last decade has to be Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook’s Harrow County. Equal parts magical mystery and supernatural terror, the book was one of our favorites, and one that we’ll likely revisit as we continue the column. Brendan said it best when talking about the art with this one: 

“Uniquely horrifying, while somehow maintaining a wholesome, small town feel. It’s an odd balance, but it works so well it’s absurd. There are the big monster events, but even in the quiet moments, there’s a presence, some awful thing cooking in the peripheral, just out of sight.”

One of our most recent reads took us to a dark corner of the real world, and upped some of the surrealism into a pitch-black dark crime comedy. Dead Eyes wasn’t just a unique spin on a revenge thriller. It’s a very timely bit of commentary from Gerry Duggan & John McCrea, two legends in the industry. As Brendan said:

“Dead Eyes is an extremely dark comedy, an ultra-violent crime noir that leans heavily into mafia and antihero tropes. It’s also a love story and a buddy picture. Doesn’t really seem like all those themes should be able to occupy the same real estate, but it works incredibly well. If you’re looking for an intense, character driven series, you can’t really go wrong with this one.”

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