Coming up with my top five stories for 2021 was much more difficult than I thought it would be. For one, the pandemic has seemingly messed with my perception of time as some of the books I initially thought to write about were written entirely in 2019 and/ or 2020. Others started in 2021 but haven’t reached a point yet where I’d be comfortable including them. One such book is Marvel’s Dark Ages. I’m thoroughly enjoying it, but with only three issues in, I need to save it for a later date. I’m still not sure how I feel about Apocalypse being villain again after his recent redemption discussed here, but it does appear to be an alternate timeline. Therefore, I’ll give that book honorable mention for now.
For number five, I choose Marvel’s Hellfire Gala that took place last year across numerous X-titles. It was a significant event cementing Krakoa’s role and possible dominance in the Sol System through the terraforming of Mars and renaming it Arakko. This is essential to set up the current events in Hickman’s vision. Since this story was also my most recent review, which you can read here, and learn more about my reception of Hellfire Gala.
At number four, I select Marvel’s five book mini-series Kang the Conqueror. This book gives us a much deeper insight into Kang than we have ever seen before. Within this short series, I went from hating him, to rooting for him, to feeling deep sympathy for him. Many already knew of Kang’s future destiny to become Immortus. As well as why Kang later attempts to avert that outcome. However, now we learn that Kang is haunted by something that has haunted so many mortal men and women: love. It may seem cliché, since there are countless stories of people doing both great deeds and committing terrible horrors in the name of love. Kang is not one I had ever envisioned falling into that trap. Kang has literally conquered countless realities and time itself, but can he ever master himself? The line “Only Myself Left to Conquer” is perfect for describing this epic. Can Kang earn love? Can he control his own emotions and desires, or do they conquer him?
At number three, I pick IDW’s The Last Ronin. This is an interesting selection in that it is only a five-issue series, yet the first issue took place in 2020, the next three in 2021, and the last issue comes out in 2022. Unlike Dark Ages where I feel I need to read more to select it, I feel comfortable putting The Last Ronin in at number three with only one issue left. Enough has happened in this story to pique my interest and keep me hungry for the last issue. Eastman shows Michelangelo like I’ve never seen him before. Losing his family and friends has hardened him into a ruthless warrior, but he remains disciplined in the teachings of Master Splinter. We get to meet April and Casey Jones’ daughter who is a strong female character in her own right yet is missing the discipline Mikey can teach her. This is an awesome tale of seeking justice in a post-apocalyptic style setting. Depending on how issue 5 finishes, this selection could easily move up or down in this list.
At number two, I choose Marvel’s Inferno, the second selection that took place across Hickman’s X-books. This story also concluded in 2021 (and I cheated- I read the last issue before writing this review- but I’m confident it would have still made the list otherwise). Everything is coming to a head in this book. Mystique is able to resurrect her lost wife Destiny, against the wishes and blocking attempts of Xavier, Magneto, and Moira. Orchis is making moves with Nimrod learning of their inevitable future for the Omega Sentinel. We also get to see what’s been culminating for a while, a physical showdown of Magneto and Xavier against Nimrod and the Omega Sentinel. The artwork is amazing as neither holds back. We get to see all four use their powers in full fury. We also see that Nimrod holds true to his character that was set up in Powers of X. If you read Powers of X, there is a scene where you will be screaming at the page for Xavier and Magneto not to fall for it. Excellent writing can have that impact. Finally, what happens if Moira dies? Has everything we’ve read so far been for nothing? Will we really have to start over? Can Moira be trusted? What happens when the rest of council learns of Magneto and Xavier’s secret? I very much look forward to what happens next in Destiny of X.
Finally, at number one, I select Marvel’s King in Black. Although King in Black started in 2020, some of the best parts, including the finale, occurred in 2021. I would be doing Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman’s best work a disservice by not including it on this list. This book seemingly completes the character arc of Eddie Brock, fleshes out a new and terrifying “big bad,” brings in all the heavy hitters including one of my personal favorites, the Silver Surfer, and sets the stakes remarkably high as the entire galaxy appears to be in danger. This is the other story on this list I had already reviewed which you can read here.
It is only fair that I add a disclaimer as I’m sure many are wondering why this list only includes four Marvel titles and one IDW title? Where is DC? Where is Image? Those would be fair critiques. I will never claim to know everything. This is only my list based on what I have read as this is only the fifth review article I’ve ever written. I intend on taking this privilege seriously and expanding my comic book horizons and venturing out into a wider array of titles. I hope you join me as I continue to grow in my comic knowledge and explore a variety of titles. Please check back next time as I review my first DC title: Batman: The Killing Joke.