The Best Comics of 2020 (So Far)

This article was originally published at ComicBook.Com on August 3, 2020.

THE LONELINESS OF THE LONG-DISTANCE CARTOONIST

Adrian Tomine occupies a rare space within American cartooning alongside the likes of Chris Ware and Daniel Clowes, successful, recognized beyond comics circles, and entirely unaffiliated with superheroes. Yet Tomine’s work holds a special place within that subset for me as it has remained the most humane, as evidenced in The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist. This collection of self-deprecatory tales of failure and embarrassment taken from Tomine’s own life are consistently hilarious—offering both broad humor and specifically stinging rebukes from within comics—yet ultimately focuses on Tomine’s very human reflections on what it means to succeed and provide value. It’s this expansion on the humanist tendencies found in Scenes From an Impending Marriage that makes Loneliness one of his most accomplished works to date as his personal failings are connected to universal experiences. Tomine’s style also pulls back from the blueprint perfection of Killing and Dying to offer inviting, clean cartoons without alienating the very real people and problems being depicted. Whether readers are familiar with Tomine or picking him up for the first time, The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist offers a perfect introduction to one of his generation’s most skilled and approachable cartoonists in a volume bound to evoke plenty of laughter (and some quiet reflection). — Chase Magnett

Published by Drawn and Quarterly

Created by Adrian Tomine

SUPERMAN SMASHES THE KLAN

The classic radio serial featuring Superman exposing the very real secrets of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1940s is a highlight of the superhero genre, if only because of the very real villains it addressed and the good it created in further exposing them. The modern update Superman Smashes the Klan—still set in the same era of American history—delivers a retelling that honors this legacy with one of the best Superman comics of the 21st century. Even with a setting almost 80 years in the past, it is a story about our present moment. Writer Gene Luen Yang has addressed forms of American racism in his work for years, and here he examines the terrible harm visited upon communities and individuals by xenophobia, racist rhetoric, and hate-based movements. No person living in 2020 could fail to recognize America in these pages. Yet the story is ultimately one of hope, emphasizing how young people can push back against dangerous, engrained philosophies and lead older generations toward a better future. Gurihiru’s artwork captures that tone beautifully in a story filled with hefty topics and classic adventure fare. Superman Smashes the Klan is one of the best all-ages superhero comics published this decade and it provides readers a vision of what heroism looks like in our modern world (whether or not it wears a cape). — Chase Magnett

Published by DC Comics

Written by Gene Luen Yang

Art by Gurihiru

SUPERMAN’S PAL JIMMY OLSEN

I understand there are still five months left in 2020, but this is my favorite comic of the year. Sorry fellas, time to pack it in and head home because no one is topping Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen. From the very start, this series announced itself as something radically different from all other fare found in the direct market. Each issue gave readers a half-dozen stories or more, often only a page or two—complete with an extended title sequence—to deliver absurdity, gags, and shenanigans in a manifold manner appropriate for the superhero genre. Yet as each new issue delivered a ton of laughs, they also worked to slowly weave those seemingly unrelated pieces together into a story that could summon meaning from madness. The conclusion has secured Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen a place amongst the best superhero comics of the decade as it managed to deliver on both long-running mysteries and seemingly innocuous recurring jokes about crocs. It functions simultaneously as an escape from the most stressful year in my lifetime and a commentary on the politics of wealth in modern America; no minor feat by anyone’s imagination. Readers can focus on the genuinely perfect comedic design of Lieber’s work or the themes woven into one of the most complex narratives in superhero comics, either way they will discover a masterpiece. — Chase Magnett

Published by DC Comics

Written by Matt Fraction

Art by Steve Lieber

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *