As an adjunct to our Best of the Year Awards, Comicon would like to also recognize the best in television based on comic books. Plenty of shows take their inspiration from comics, but which best reflected the source or took the material in surprising new directions? Like comic books themselves, the following shows illustrate the breadth of creativity in the medium and the types of stories either can tell.
The following are Comicon’s 5 Best Comic Book Television Shows of 2021.
5. Wynonna Earp, executive produced by Emily Andras; starring Melanie Scrofano, Dominique Provost-Chalkley, Tim Rozon, and Katharine Barrell; available on Netflix
To an extent, it’s tough to revisit what made Wynonna Earp so great as the loss of it still stings all these months later. First there’s the writing, which goes to such emotional depths while finding a way back out of depressing topics with a well-timed quipped. There’s the cast, who breathed life into that writing with such seeming effortless and, dare we say it, sexiness. There was the bond between Wynonna (Scorfano) and her sister, Waverly (Provost-Chalkley); a bond that transcended blood, realities, and even the foundations of creation. There was the love between Waverly and her girlfriend, Nicole (Barrell). There was Doc (Rozon) … for everything that means. And, even if it had to end, it ended on its own terms with this oddball family finding some peace and happiness. At least, y’know, until we see them again.
4. Y: The Last Man, executive produced by Eliza Clark; starring Diane Lane, Ben Schnetzer, Olivia Thirlby, Ashley Romans, Juliana Canfield, Diana Bang, Marin Ireland, Amber Tamblyn, and Elliot Fletchery; available on Hulu
Admittedly, it took three episodes for Yorick’s (Schnetzer) story to gel, but Y:The Last Man‘s long-awaited television adaptation had a lot going for it. For one: Lane’s attempt to keep he government going in the face of unprecedented circumstances and an openly hostile opposition was chilling even as Tamblyn proved an interesting foe. Hero’s (Thirlby) journey felt like a separate-yet-equally-harrowing series. And once Yorick and Agent 355 (Romans) got on the road, the core of the comic book appeared on screen, if updated here and there with the addition of a trans narrative and a few other ideas. Also, we have to give this show credit for revealing just how terrifying Missi Pyle could be given a cult and a bulk goods warehouse. Shame it was cancelled so quickly.
3. WandaVision, directed by Matt Shakman, head writer: Jac Schaeffer; starring Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, and Kathryn Hahn; available on Disney+
With its extended riffs on shows like The Dick Van Dyke Show and Family Ties, and its meditation on grief, WandaVision wins the one slot on this list reserved for Marvel Studio’s foray into the medium. Hawkeye might be more crow-pleasing, Loki may be wilder, but WandaVision is a statement. Great performances, a wonderful meta-narrative, intriguing MCU hooks, and the introduction of Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) vault it into our Top 5 even if the ending lacked a certain punch. But then, what is a Marvel miniseries (in comics or TV) but a tease for the next big story? In the interim, though, we can look back at Olsen’s amazing range, the pairing of Agent Jimmy Woo (Randall Park) and Dr. Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings), and those delightful sitcom parodies as reasons to revisit this limited-run show.
2. DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, executive produced by Phil Klemmer and Keto Shimizu; starring Caity Lotz, Jes Macallan, Tala Ashe, Nick Zano, Olivia Swann, Lisseth Chavez, Adam Tsekhman, Amy Pemberton, and Matt Ryan; airs on The CW, available on Netflix
Considering Season 6 — and our mixed reactions to it — you may surprised to see Legends in the number two spot again. But make no mistake: this ranking rests entirely on the strength of Season 7, which began airing just six weeks after the previous one ended. Recovering from an awkward season nominally battling aliens, Season 7 opened with the team losing their timeship and trekking across 1920s America in the hopes of finding a way back to 2021. Sticking them in one time period for six episodes proved to be wonderfully rejuvenating as the stories reclaimed their spark, the cast found their joire de vivre again, and the program even redeemed the lackluster Season 6 villain, Bishop (Raffi Barsoumian) — well, for a moment, anyway. But that anarchic spirit (and the unexpectedly heavy themes here and there) is why we love Legends so much.
1. Invincible, executive produced by Stephanie Simpson, Kurt Mueller, and Luke Pearson; starring Steven Yeun, J.K. Simmons, Zazie Beetz, Gillian Jacobs, and Sandra Oh; available on Amazon.
But in 2021, nobody did it better than Invincible. Graphic, funny, sharp, poignant, and unexpected are just some of the adjectives one can throw at this animated gem. As an adaptation, it hits all the high points while remixing the source’s timeline. As a cartoon, it once again proves the medium can carry weighty topics with aplomb. It also gives Jason Mantzoukas the chance to play another character you love to hate. Within all the remarkable things it does, though, it also presents the early part of Invincible‘s comic book run with a tighter focus: the story of a young man discovering his father is not only fallible, but a bad guy. Whether you read that as a pulpy superhero hook or a metaphor for child abuse speaks to the sophistication and quality behind this series.