The comic book industry had a pretty great year in 2020, despite the ongoing impact of the pandemic and major editorial shake-ups at DC. 2021 is looking even better, with major projects like Reign of X, Star Wars: The High Republic and Future State all vying for your hard-earned dollars.
As we look ahead to the new year, here are 21 comics, graphic novels and books that should definitely be on your radar in 2021.
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Reign of X
In 2020, most of Marvel’s X-Men comics were united under the Dawn of X banner, with each title exploring a different angle of the dramatic new status quo for mutantkind. Now that the X of Swords crossover has concluded, X-Men head honcho Jonathan Hickman and his team are beginning the next major phase – Reign of X.
With Krakoa having triumphed in Otherworld and gained thousands of new citizens in the process, things are looking up even more than ever for the mutant race. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t major challenges ahead, including both new and old enemies and growing divisions within the Quiet Council. If Marvel’s Reign of X teaser art is any indication, fans can look forward to big developments like the return of the Shadow King and Arcade and the birth of Nimrod. Along the way, we’ll see creative team shake-ups and entirely new series make their debuts in 2021.And we can only assume this is all building to another major crossover event in the latter half of the year. After the reign may well come the fall.
DC is kicking off 2021 with an ambitious, two-month crossover event wherein most of their ongoing books are temporarily replaced by limited series set ten years or more in the future. Future State sheds light on the DCU a decade after the events of Dark Nights: Death Metal, revealing a world full of new possibilities and a younger generation of heroes rising up to replace the old. Not only that, Future State promises to deliver some truly excellent creative pairings, whether it’s John Ridley and Nick Derington on Future State: The Next Batman or Jen Bartel writing and drawing Future State: Immortal Wonder Woman.
Nor is Future State a simple, hypothetical detour into a possible future timeline. While we don’t know exactly how these stories will intertwine with DC’s regular publishing lineup, it’s clear that at least some of these new characters will continue to appear after Future State itself has wrapped up.
Jeff Lemire and Jock are easily two of the biggest names in comics today, but they’ve never actually worked together on a project. That finally changes in February thanks to Snow Angels. This comiXology Originals series is set in a post-apocalyptic winter wasteland where a handful of survivors cling to life in a region known as The Trench. These survivors are forbidden from ever leaving, but what happens when that fundamental law is finally broken?
Things have been pretty quiet on the Eternals front at Marvel Comics, particularly after these highly evolved beings were slaughtered in a 2018 issue of The Avengers. But as with most characters in the Marvel Universe, the Eternals never stay gone forever. They’re making their grand return in 2021, just in time for the franchise’s MCU debut.
The new Eternals series looks to provide a perfect entry point for this quirky franchise, and one that emphasizes the team’s connection to Thanos. Marvel has certainly picked the ideal creative team to relaunch Eternals, with The Wicked + The Divine writer Kieron Gillen joining forces with Secret Wars artist Esad Ribic.
Technically, Batman/Catwoman launched in December, but so far we’ve only gotten a brief, tantalizing taste of this long-awaited follow-up to Tom King’s Batman run. The series will continue to play out over the course of 2021, showing the evolution of the Bat/Cat romance in three separate timelines. We’ll also see The Phantasm worked into Batman’s comic book mythology for the first time and learn how the Joker ties into this sordid love triangle. Batman/Catwoman is shaping up to be a worthy conclusion to a modern classic, in no small part because artist Clay Mann is delivering what may well be the best work of his career.
Scott Snyder’s Best Jackett Press
Writer Scott Snyder kicked off the new year with the conclusion to his and artist Greg Capullo’s latest DC epic, Dark Nights: Death Metal. But having laid the groundwork for Future State and a revitalized DCU, Snyder’s next step is to shift focus to his creator-owned work. For Snyder fans, 2021 is all about Best Jackett Press, a new publishing imprint that allows Snyder to join forces with some of the biggest names in the business. First up is Nocterra, a post-apocalyptic sci-fi book featuring art from Batman’s Tony S. Daniel. Fans can look forward to several more announcements over the course of 2021.
Marvel is in the midst of the King in Black crossover as 2021 gets underway. The symbiote god Knull has come to Earth, and things are looking pretty bleak for Venom and his allies. But even though this is the climactic story writer Donny Cates and artist Ryan Stegman have been building toward since 2018, it doesn’t appear that King in Black marks the end of Cates’ Venom saga. Immediately following the conclusion of this crossover, the monthly Venom comic will celebrate a big milestone with Venom #200, an issue that promises to redefine Eddie Brock’s place in the Marvel Universe and set the stage for whatever is coming next. It sounds like the perfect way to get in the mood for Venom’s return to the big screen this summer.
DC will begin publishing a revamped and consolidated line of monthly comics in March once Future State has wrapped up. None of these books has us more excited than Swamp Thing. Not only is the new series the first ongoing Swamp Thing comic since the New 52 series wrapped in 2015, it features rising star Ram V as its writer. V was our pick for the best comic book writer of 2020 thanks to his work on Justice League Dark, Catwoman and Blue in Green, so the prospect of him taking over our favorite plant elemental is definitely exciting.
Ditko Shrugged: The Uncompromising Life of the Artist Behind Spider-Man
Steve Ditko was one of the most enigmatic creators in the comic book industry, right up until his tragic passing in 2018. He co-created one of the most iconic heroes in pop culture, yet he shunned publicity and lived his entire life by a strict moral code. Ditko Shrugged promises to shed more light on Ditko’s mysterious life and the forces that shaped him. Writer David Currie is uniquely qualified to tell that story, drawing on years of correspondence with Ditko and the artist’s own work to paint a better picture of a reclusive legend.
Star Wars: The High Republic
To date, most Star Wars comics and novels in the Disney era have stayed very close to the events of the movies, fleshing out specific moments and bridging gaps. With the advent of The High Republic, creators now have a chance to paint on a much broader canvas. The High Republic isn’t a singular story, but rather a collection of interconnected tales (both novels and comics) that all spring from a single instigating event 200 years before the movie era. Those who still pine for the storytelling freedom of the Expanded Universe may find plenty to like here. And now we know this ambitious saga will spill over into live-action, as Leslye Headland’s Star Wars series The Acolyte is also set in the High Republic era.
Post-Death Metal Batman Books
DC may be consolidating its publishing lineup in 20021, but there will never be a shortage of promising Batman comics on the stands. James Tynion IV is continuing his ongoing Batman run after Future State, with Joker War artist Jorge Jimenez returning for a major Scarecrow storyline. Tynion is also launching the first ongoing Joker comic in 40 years alongside artist Guillem March, with the series showcasing the international manhunt for the Clown Prince of Crime.
We’re also very excited for the new creative teams announced for Detective Comics and Nightwing. Mariko Tamaki and Dan Mora will helm the former, and Injustice: Gods Among Us’ Tom Taylor and Bruno Redondo are on board the latter. In short, the Batman line will be packed with creative firepower in 2021.
While we’re still waiting to see the first fruits of Netflix’s purchase of Mark MIllar’s Millarworld imprint, Millar himself is keeping very busy on the comic book side of things. Millar recently tweeted an image teasing a number of new books set to launch in 2021 and 2022. While he didn’t reveal the names of those books, the creative talent alone – including Frank Quitely, Olivier Coipel, Stuart Immonen and Travis Charest – is more than enough cause for excitement.
Marvel’s Alien & Predator
Marvel may not publish as many licensed comics as they did back in the ’80s, but both Star Wars and Conan have become major weapons in their arsenal in recent years. Now Marvel is adding Alien and Predator to that arsenal. In addition to publishing new omnibus collections of Dark Horse’s back catalog, Marvel will kick off brand new projects that expand on the movies. The first of these is Alien, from Marvel Zombies Resurrection writer Philip Kennedy Johnson and Star Wars artist Salvador Larroca. We assume a Predator series will also be announced for a 2021 debut, with even more spinoffs to follow.
Clowns are scary enough as it is, but now writer W. Maxwell Prince is tapping into the true horror behind the laughter. Haha takes the winning horror anthology formula of Prince’s Ice Cream Man (which was among our nominees for the best comic book series of 2020) and applies it to clowns. Even better, each issue will feature a different talented artist, including Vanesa Del Rey, Gabriel Hernandez Walta and Roger Langridge.
X-Men Legends & Demon Days: X-Men
As psyched as we are for Reign of X, we understand that Marvel’s current X-Men status quo isn’t for everyone. Fortunately, the publisher has two new X-books lined up for an early 2021 debut that promise to take a very different approach to the franchise. The first of these is X-Men Legends, where each issue brings back classic X-Men creators to tell new stories set during those classic eras. For example, Fabian Nicieza and Brett Booth are finally solving the mystery of the elusive third Summers brother, and Walt and Louise Simonson will tell a new tale set during their classic X-Factor run.
Elsewhere, Peach Momoko is completely reimagining the franchise in Demon Days: X-Men, which takes a samurai fantasy approach to characters like Psylocke and Wolverine. Momoko was among those inducted into Marvel’s Stormbreakers program last year, and Demon Days will show exactly why she deserves the honor.
Locke & Key/Sandman: Hell & Gone
Any new Locke & Key content is good news, but even more so when it involves a crossover with one of the most critically acclaimed fantasy comics of all time. Locke & Key/Sandman: Hell & Gone blends these two franchises together, as a member of the Locke family is dragged into the Sandman Universe’s version of Hell. Hell & Gone is anything but a simple detour for the Locke & Key franchise. Creators Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez are still steering the ship, and the book is designed as a lead-in to the long-awaited World War Key storyline.
When Brian Michael Bendis announced he was leaving the Superman line to tackle an even bigger DC project, there was really only one place for him to go. Bendis is reuniting with The Defenders artist David Marquez in March to take over DC’s flagship Justice League comic. In the tradition of Bendis’ landmark New Avengers run, the new League roster will be an unusual mix of iconic favorites and unpredictable newcomers like Queen Hippolyta, Black Adam and Naomi. As an added bonus, Justice League Dark writer Ram V is continuing his run in the form of a recurring backup story.
Writer Saladin Ahmed is spinning storytelling gold wherever he turns, but 2018’s Abbott is easily among his strongest works to date. That’s why we’re so happy to see Ahmed reuniting with artist Sami Kivelä for a sequel dubbed Abbott: 1973. This sequel is set against the backdrop of the election of Coleman Young, Detroit’s first black mayor, with Detective Elena Abbott drawn into another dark, supernatural conspiracy.
The New Daredevil
Daredevil #25 really threw us for a loop in December, as writer Chip Zdarsky and artist Marco Checchetto introduced the new heir to the mantle of Daredevil – Elektra. Needless to say, the series will undergo a dramatic shift in 2021 as Elektra settles into her new role and Matt Murdock continues fighting to stay alive in prison. The series was already among Marvel’s best monthly comics, and we don’t see that changing in 2021.
DC’s YA Graphic Novels
DC may be publishing fewer monthly comics in 2021, but the company is placing an ever greater emphasis on standalone graphic novels for the YA market. As the massive success of YA projects like Raina Telgemeier’s Guts shows, that’s clearly where the market is shifting in recent years. DC has several promising new books lined up for 2021. We can’t wait to read The Mystery of the Meanest Teacher: A Johnny Constantine Graphic Novel, a family-friendly Hellblazer revamp from Jughead’s Ryan North and Derek Charm. We’re also intrigued by I Am Not Starfire, which features Mariko Tamaki and Yoshi Yoshitani exploring the plight of Kory’s gloomy daughter Mandy.
Terry Moore has a real knack for creating deep, nuanced female protagonists. And then there’s Zoe, the underage, bloodthirsty killer who quickly became a fan-favorite character in Moore’s Rachel Rising. Zoe is getting the spotlight all to herself in Moore’s newest project, Serial. We’re looking forward to a gory, lighthearted alternative to apocalyptic drama of Five Years, though with the same impeccable character work we’ve come to expect from Moore.