While historically ‘best of’ lists are best suited at year’s end, the reality is that waiting until then actually leaves some doubt throughout the year itself what is considered great as it’s happening. With that in mind, throughout 2021, I’ll be regularly updating Comic Book Herald’s best comics of 2021 guide, so that the work can function as a check-in for your next series to read, and by year’s end, a summary of everything we recommend.
best of 2021
Best New Graphic Novel: Muhammad Ali, Kinshasa 1974
The more I learn about Muhammad Ali, the less I realize I actually know about the near mythical boxing champion. As an all-around sports fan growing up decades after Ali’s final fight, I’m certainly familiar with the sound bites (“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,” and “I am the greatest!”), and the widely accepted knowledge that Ali, previously known as Cassius Clay, was not only the greatest boxer of his era, but one of the most dominant sports figures of all time.
All of that leaves out so many fascinating details that shape the full figure of the personality; Ali’s public refusal to go to Vietnam, his connections to the likes of Malcolm X or Sam Cooke, his thoughts and influence on race, or – and this one blew my mind – that in 1990 Muhammad Ali met with Saddam Hussein to negotiate the release of 15 hostages!
The new Titan Comics graphic novel Muhammad Ali, Kinshasa 1974 doesn’t deign to capture all of this in full, but in its way it does manage to shade in a more fully realized portrait of the world heavyweight champion, from his origins through his iconic comeback against George Foreman in Zaire (popularly known as “The Rumble in the Jungle”). The end result is one of the most interesting sports documentary graphic novels I’ve read, and one of my favorite reads of 2021. [Read more…] about Best New Graphic Novel: Muhammad Ali, Kinshasa 1974
Best New Graphic Novel: The Department of Truth Vol. 1
I’m sitting upright in bed, quietly crying, hoping my wife doesn’t notice.
For most of my adult life, I have 1 part joked, 3 parts bragged that I only cry when old wizards die (You know the ones), or when Ben Grimm and Johnny Storm are dramatically separated (Waid/Wieringo Fantastic Four or Hickman’s “Three”). In Junior High, the first date I ever went on was spent gulping a clearly empty giant-sized coke to stem back the tears of Gandalf’s apparent demise. She would go back to school and tell the cool 7th graders that the time was spent in all sorts of hot make out sessions, but I will remember that mostly I was trying to make out those rascally little Hobbits through the tears. Nonetheless, my reputation grows. My first conspiracy theory.
Here I am, nearly twenty years later, and the unassailable nerdiness of my stunted tearducts hasn’t changed much, but the content of The Department of Truth #3 is decidedly void of bearded magic makers. The comic by James Tynion IV, Martin Simmonds, Aditya Bidikar, and Steve Foxe continues one of the most captivating Image Comics premises in years with a dig inside the conspiracy universes of false flags and school shootings. In The Department of Truth, sufficient belief in a conspiracy can drive that fiction to manifest in reality, and the third issue focuses on a mother’s attempts to cope with the loss of her son in a school shooting. On the bottomless well of evil and inhuman agendas that insist her loss is a fiction. On the psychological and emotional trauma these conspiracies unleash. On the spiral of grief-stricken escape that could lead a woman to welcome this unreality over her own truth.
And while my wife is more than the ideal listener and confidant, I don’t want to talk about it. I don’t want to explain myself. I just want to cry. [Read more…] about Best New Graphic Novel: The Department of Truth Vol. 1