Four Color Apocalypse 2021 Year In Review : Top Ten Single-Issue Comics


And so it begins : with the end of the year breathing down our necks, it’s time to take stock of the best (by my estimation, at any rate) comics of 2021, broken down, as usual, into six different categories so as to avoid the goofy shit you find elsewhere — like, say, a 12-page mini having to “compete” against a 400-page graphic novel, or a book of reprinted material being judged by the same standard as all-new stuff. My goal is to get three lists done this week, then do three more next week, beginning with the TOP TEN SINGLE-ISSUE COMICS, which means stand-alone “floppy” comics or minis, or single issues of ongoing series which were one-offs — any series (limited or ongoing) which saw two or more issues released in 2021 will be eligible in the TOP TEN COMICS SERIES category. Sound good? Let’s do this :

10. God Bless The Machine By Connor McCann (Strangers Fanzine) – An acid-trip science fiction conceptual free-for-all that takes dead aim at vapid celebrity worship and global media consolidation while never forgetting to be a ton of fun along the way, McCann’s comic is equal parts timely as hell and decades ahead of its time. If you miss the days when comics were insane, fun and insanely fun, I’ve got good news : they’re back.

9. Birth Of The Bat By Josh Simmons (The Mansion Press) – Simmons’ latest “Bootleg Batman” comic continues his trend of de facto deconstruction by taking the character of the Caped Crusader to its logical extremes — which is to say, well past the point of disturbing absurdity. Where some are content to merely mine the so-called “Bat mythos” for all its worth, Simmons strip mines it — and yet always seems to have more to say on the subject.

8. Epoxy #6 By John Pham (Self-Published) – Another sumptuous riso-printed feast for the eyes from the modern master of hand-printed comics. Who can say no to more “J+K” hijinks, another installment of “Deep Space,” and fold-outs and inserts galore? I know I sure can’t. Long may this series continue.

7. BUM : Unsmooth #2 By E.S. Glenn (Floating World Comics) – Glenn blows the doors wide open with this formally experimental, genre-hopping tour de force that plays with convention in the best way possible : by utilizing it for the artists’ own ends. Shifting styles as frequently as it shifts tone and perspective, this is one of those comics that leaves you with more questions than answers while all the time making its own kind of highly-specialized “sense” along the way. Ambitious, multi-layered, and metatextual, this is auteur work of the highest order.

6. The Future Is An Open Mouth By Dustin Holland (Self-Published) – Speaking of auteur comics, Holland produces nothing but, and this represents probably the most successful synthesis of his idiosyncratic creative vision with the always-nebulous concept of reader “accessibility.” Which is to say, it’s fucking ecstatically weird, but you’re never lost within its hermetic “universe.” Like all the best art, its borderline-impossible to define what makes Holland’s work so special, you just know that it is.

5. Dear Mother & Other Stories By Bhanu Pratap (Strangers Fanzine) – Arguably the year’s most disturbing work both conceptually and visually, Pratap’s full-length debut challenges notions of identity, bodily autonomy, and intrinsic need on levels both macro and micro. If you don’t think there can be beauty in nihilism, think again, but be warned : the more you do think about this comic, the more sleep you’ll lose.

4. Burg Land 1 – Sleemore Gank By Alexander Laird (Self-Published) – The most imaginative sci-fi comic to come down the pike in a hell of a long time, Laird’s loosely-paced but tightly-plotted opening salvo of what promises to be a sprawling sci-fi opus is breathtaking on every level, creatively and technically, rivaling the riso production values of even the esteemed (and aforementioned) Mr. Pham. Sure, this comic is a clinic on the art of so-called “world building,” but it’s got more than enough heart to match its brains, and that makes all the difference.

3. Speshal Comics, Edited By Floyd Tangeman (Dead Crow) – Essentially a “bonus issue” of Tangeman’s groundbreaking Tinfoil Comix, and showcasing the work of many of the same cartoonists who have appeared in that anthology, the strips in this one all honor the late Bay Area artist/tagger Evan “Spesh” Larsen, and while I admit I never knew the guy, this comic sure makes me wish that I had. This is no mere “tribute” publication, however — rather it’s a celebration and examination of an artist, his ethos, and his body of work as seen from multiple points of view, and well and truly runs the stylistic and tonal gamut. “Spesh” himself may be gone, but this comic is a monumental legacy in and of itself.

2. Scat Hog Volume One By Cooper Whittlesey (Self-Published) – Every year it seems a comic comes from out of left field and knocks me for a wallop. This year, that dubious “honor” belonged to this collection of Whittlesey’s straight-from-the-id strips, scrawled with all the energy and urgency of self-exorcism and not so much released into the world as it was thrust upon it. Still, in my defense, nothing can really prepare anybody for this torrential onslaught of unleashed artistic imperative. Shock and awe, baby — emphasis on the latter.

1. Crashpad By Gary Panter (Fantagraphics) – A bit of a cheat here in that this is an oversized hardcover book as well as a “floppy” single issue, but if anything is worth bending the rules for it’s this, Panter’s love letter to the underground. And while it holds true to many of the precepts of its artistic progenitors, it never takes the easy way out by wallowing in nostalgia — instead, Panter takes inspiration from the past to do what he does best : show us a way forward. Far out? Sure. But don’t be surprised if this one takes you on a journey inside, as well.

Okay, that’s one down, five to go — next up we’ll be looking at the TOP TEN COMICS SERIES. Until then, a reminder that my Patreon is updated three times a week with whatever is on my mind on the subjects of comics, films, television, literature, and politics. Depending on who you are, your support either is or would be greatly appreciated. https://www.patreon.com/fourcolorapocalypse

One response to “Four Color Apocalypse 2021 Year In Review : Top Ten Single-Issue Comics

  1. Pingback: Lisa Marie’s Week In Review: 12/20/21 — 12/26/21 | Through the Shattered Lens

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