Hi all, James here. Yeah, they’ve not fired me yet so I’m bringing you a very special list of comics today. Lauren is editing and posting this because I’m recovering from a surgery…so who knows what kind of snark that she is going to bring.
Editor's Note: Look, y’all, I tried to convince James to write from bed- I thought there could really be something there but apparently, writing after a surgery is a “bad idea”. PFFTTT. (Love you James!)
Anyways, I spend a lot of time on Twitter and follow a lot of amazing artists and writer…and artist/writers. One of my favorites to follow is Patrick Zircher. He is a pretty cool guy and you should follow him if you aren’t. A couple weeks ago, he tweeted out about how groups never make a list of the “so-so stuff”. He says that everyone does the best and the worst but never those things that just are really good and never get any attention.
That really struck me because there are a lot of great comics out there that do not get any love from anyone. They pop up and you are like “Wow, this is awesome. Why isn’t anyone talking about this?”
This is what we want to highlight today in our “Most Underrated Comics of 2021”, here at the Wednesday Pull List! I hope that you find some gems here that you weren’t aware of and then you go buy them. Repeat after me…I will buy all these books…I will buy all these books…
I’m going to let Lauren and Joe go first here and put their top 5 comics…then I'll throw in the absolute best 5 books that came out this year that are underrated... and then Lex will give us the finale!
5. Tales Told In Technihorror
This series blew me AWAY with how fantastic it was. Usually, anthologies aren’t my favorite- for every 5-10 stories in an anthology, there’s usually only 2, maybe 3 that really steal my heart. I want them ALL to steal my heart! (I know, I’m greedy huh?). Well, TTITH met me right there folks! I absolutely LOVED this anthology of multiple horror stories. It has something for every horror fan out there. Whether you love old 70s/80s horror, psychological horror, jump-scare horror, monster-focused horror, this anthology will have you enjoying EVERY. SINGLE. STORY! I’m not a big horror person, particularly turned off by horror films, but this anthology had me eating up every page!
You can get Tales Told In Technihorror Season 1 from Scout Comics here, and Season 2 comes out SOON!
4. Bliss/Second Chances
There are SO many books that flew under the radar this year. So. MANY! I couldn’t decide between these two so I made it a tie.
BLISS is a story from Sean Lewis and Caitlin Yarsky. It’s a heart-wrenching story about a son, his father, and what sacrifices people make trying to attain their own bliss. Bliss from their own pain, bliss from their own choices- can we attain bliss, or peace rather, simply by trying to forget? My friend Mason, from Comics and Crosses, and I had the pleasure of speaking with Sean Lewis himself all about this story- you can view/listen to it here. You’ll be ordering BLISS in a heartbeat after watching!
Second Chances is a story from Ricky Mammone and Max Bertolini, telling the story of a man who works to help give other people second chances in their lives, under the guise that he just does it because it’s the right thing to do. Truth be told, through various psychological analyses and interactions with others, we find out there’s more to why he does what he does than that. I absolutely love this story and how invested I got in it within a few pages. There’s nothing more relatable than trying your damnedest to be the best human possible and feeling like you’re never doing enough.
I specifically put Bliss and Second Chances together because they are two of the most human stories I’ve ever read. They both comment directly on the human condition and how it pertains to our own self-image, worth, and how we interact with our loved ones. If you missed out on these two series, get them TODAY!
Bliss is available from Image Comics here
Second Chances is available from Image Comics here
3. The Autumnal
This. Book. YALL!! Let me tell you! I saw many people read issue 1 and then give up on this series and if you were one of those people… you couldn’t have made a worse decision!! From Daniel Kraus and Chris Shehan, this series sets up everything that seems unimportant in the first two issues, but by issue 3, you realize EVERYTHING matters. Every. Tiny. detail. Everything connects in the most horrific way possible. This series had me in a chokehold by the last issue and, upon finishing it, I couldn’t move out of my chair for a solid 30 minutes. I was stunned in the most terribly fantastic way possible. What would you do for your child? Would you lose your humanity, even at the cost of those that matter most to you? This series answers those questions almost too honest. It’s real in ways I never thought any creator would attempt. Psychological horror focused on the human condition at its best. The best horror series of the year and no one is talking about it! Well, guess what? The Autumnal will come unless you talk about it…
The Autumnal is available from Vault Comics here
2. The Other History of the DC Universe
These are the stories that we have been missing. All these years, the stories of other superheroes, other white superheroes, always overshadowed the stories of black superheroes. This line, from John Ridley, Giuseppe Camuncoli, and Alex Dos Diaz is utterly magnificent. It’s written more like a book. There’s tons of prose, and each issue takes a good while to read, but every single word is absolutely worth it.
I still can’t believe they only gave this team 5 issues of this series. This should be an ongoing series. 5 issues were nowhere near close to telling all the missing stories in between the stories of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and moreover the decades of DC comics.
Ridley’s ability to capture the perspective of each individual character each issue highlights blew me away. Issue 4 completely dumbfounded me because he made me fall in love with a character that I otherwise would’ve never fallen in love with- Renee Montoya. She is flawed, terribly so, and as I was reading it, I couldn’t believe I was so invested in her, even if from other characters’ perspectives, she was incredibly problematic. It didn’t make her experiences and her perspective any less valid.
Truly, this series needs to continue- as long as the same creative team can continue it. This is a must-read for everyone- whatever genres you like, whatever you read or don’t, you must read The Other History of the DC Universe.
The Other History of the DC Universe is available from DC Comics here
1. Vampire: The Masquerade - Winter’s Teeth
So, there’s still a vampire craze going around, yes? Then why can I only think of one other person I know who reads this series??? Before I read this, I had no idea it was a total franchise, with RPG stuff and everything. All I knew was that after issue 1, I was solid. Recently, the world lost Anne Rice, the most iconic vampire author out there (screw off Bram Stoker), and if you’ve ever wondered what her books could be like as comics… This series is a good parallel to that. VTM focuses on the politics of the vampire world, how vampires interact with one another, and what it would mean to actually live as a vampire in a vampire society with hierarchies and such much like our own in modern society. It’s cruel, unkind, bloody, grotesque, and I wouldn’t want it anyway. The characters suck me in (pun intended) and the plot is magnifique. I’ve been dying for top-quality vampire content lately and VTM delivers that and THEN some. I love this world and I’m so glad it's a total franchise because that means they just keep giving us more! I can’t wait to continue having my heart ripped out each issue/series of this universe.
Vampire: The Masquerade - Winter’s Teeth is available now from Vault Comics here
5. Commanders in Crisis
Do you like superhero comics? Maybe though, like some readers I see, you’re feeling a bit burnt out on them? When it first came out, I praised #1 for “reinventing the superhero comic” because as drastic as it sounds, that was my first thought when reading it. Such a fresh, exciting, diverse comic that feels wonderfully comic-booky in all the best ways possible.
The ideas are brilliantly wild, I loved getting to know the characters over the 12 issues, and the artwork is so perfect for the tone of the book. It has that smooth, slick animated feel, especially with such vibrant colors like one of your favorite Saturday morning cartoons, so much fun!
Absolutely worth checking out if you want something a bit different but are still in the mood for an epic, zany, indie superhero comic.
Commanders in Crisis is available from Image Comics here
4. Suicide Squad
Okay why did no-one tell me this series was so much fun? I mean sure, I'd heard things here and there that people were enjoying it, but I've recently caught up on it and wow what a fun time! About a month after the release of The Suicide Squad, towards the end of the summer, I was finally able to check it out. Great movie, by the way.
In a moment of impulsiveness, I then went over to eBay and found someone selling off the first 7 issues of this series, plus the annual, for a reasonable price, so I couldn't let a deal like that go! A few months passed where I hadn't got round to reading them yet, and I worried I'd let impulsiveness get the better of me, but no I absolutely loved it!
My previous exposure to the Squad was with Taylor and Redondo's run, which was spectacular itself, so I was intrigued to check out the latest run and it did not disappoint. My point is: If you're tired of all the Batman-related books, but still want something firmly rooted in the DC universe, (and despite movie synergy comics sometimes feeling cheap and hollow) if you enjoyed the movie I think you'll enjoy this as well. I certainly did. Some of the most fun I've ever had catching up on a series.
Suicide Squad is available from DC Comics here
3. Six Sidekicks of Trigger Keaton
These days some series can be quite lengthy reads. Commanders in Crisis was only a mini-series, but 12 issues is still a substantial amount to get into. Suicide Squad currently has less than that, but is ongoing so who knows how long it'll go for.
But this is different. This is a tight, fun, action-packed 6 issue mini-series with some great characters. One storyline all the way through the series. It worked well reading it gradually month to month, but now it's finished it will work really nicely as an all-in-one read.
It's like a classic, fresh original action movie. It's a relatively simple premise but the way it gets expanded upon across the series is so brilliant. So much is explored in so little time. You get to know all the different dynamics between the six sidekicks and the eponymous Trigger Keaton. It's comedic, it's fun, it's action-packed, it's paced incredibly well and the balance between those elements is perfect.
This series was an absolute joy to read as it was coming out, and something I would absolutely recommend you read if you're looking for something different from the usual superhero fare.
The Six Sidekicks of Trigger Keaton is available from Image Comics here
Continuing with that theme of non-superhero mini-series, we have Mamo, from Boom! Box. A more younger readers-oriented side of Boom! Studios, but honestly I would say that anyone can enjoy this.
Each issue was oversized, and the artwork was so gorgeous, that it was hard not to get lost in the story every month it came out. It was such an enchanting read.
I quickly grew attached to the two main characters, and by the end, I considered it some of the best character work I’d seen all year. Just the way their dynamic was developed gradually over the 5 issues, I loved seeing where they were going, both as characters and in the story. The ending made me so happy, I thought it was just perfect for them.
I would describe it as a fantasy story, but honestly, it’s very lowkey in that aspect. Compared to other stories I’ve read this year, like Wynd, it’s simple about it but so effective. Such a calm relaxing read, if you want a break from whatever you’re currently reading definitely check this out. Absolutely one of the most underrated books of the year that I, unfortunately, haven’t seen enough people talking about.
Mamo is available from Boom! Studios here
1. Home Sick Pilots
We should throw a gig in the house that kills people.
This series man. Read. Home. Sick. Pilots. I mean, just read this description for the first issue:
“The team behind LIMBO, DAN WATTERS (Lucifer, COFFIN BOUND) and CASPAR WIJNGAARD (Star Wars, Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt), launch a brand-new ONGOING SERIES.
In the summer of 1994, a haunted house walks across California. Inside is Ami, lead singer of a high school punk band - who's been missing for weeks. How did she get there, and what do these ghosts want? Expect three-chord songs and big bloody action that's Power Rangers meets The Shining (yes, really).”
I mean come on! That description gives me chills every time I read it. It sounds so epic. But that only scratches the surface of this magnificent series. There's so much more going on that gets developed and I just adore seeing how it all unfolds as more and more gets revealed.
That first issue blew me away. One year ago, I was so impressed by it and very excited to see where the series was going to go. Now, I can safely say it’s been not only one of the most underrated comics of the year, but my favorite series of the year period. It’s so wild, it’s so fascinating, the different plot lines that have been introduced so far two story arcs in are making for such a great story.
I adore the characters, I adore the artwork and the overall aesthetic of the book. It's so vibrant, the colors are so bright and the lettering is just on point. I can't wait to see where this series goes next when it returns for a third arc next month, but for now you can check it out in two trades so far. Just try it out and if you're not hooked then fair enough, but I don't think you'll regret it.
Home Sick Pilots is available from Image Comics here
5. Hedra (One-Shot)
This one-shot by Jesse Lonergan (writer/artist…artist/writer…you know those stories about the writer coming up with ideas and the artist is like “what the hell is that?” I wonder what this is like when you do both…okay…digressing back on track) published by Image was one that I totally missed at first and a buddy on Twitter told me about this one and I picked it up and I was blown away.
Here is what Image put on their website about this book.
“In a glorious exploration of the comics medium with echoes of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Flash Gordon, Chris Ware, and Moebius, a lone astronaut leaves a world ravaged by nuclear war in search of life. What she finds is beyond all explanation.”
4. Lucky: The Pizza Dog
I love Marvel Unlimited. I just subscribed recently. Have you all seen their Infinity Comics? I love this format. These digital issues are designed for continuous scrolling and are fantastic on your phone. During a commute, a few minutes of downtime, and boom! You can read an amazing Marvel comic.
Lucky: The Pizza Dog is one of my favorite books on Marvel Unlimited. Lucky is finally getting some love over on Disney+ and this comic is perfection. Kate Bishop is waiting forever for her pizza and Lucky has to go investigate. This book is so much fun! I love books like this. You can check it out here.
3. Taarna: The Last Taarakian #1
Two of my favorite creators are working on this book and it is phenomenal. Published by Heavy Metal (which is my first book by this publisher) is written by Stephanie Phillips and art by Patrick Zircher…I may or may not have accepted a small sketch for adding a book by Patrick to this list but you will never know…
Anyways, this book is amazing. The story is fantastic and the art fits it so well. Just a little bit from the Heavy Metal website about this book.
From the death of the last Taarakian and a collapsed universe, Taarna was born. Heavy Metal's flagship character from the animated film returns in a new series of cosmic mysteries and battles throughout the multiverse in her war against Kako, the embodiment of chaos. This is the story of a millennia-old battle between godlike beings, with all sentient life caught in their path. Check it out here
So, I had no idea about the animated film, which I’m totally going to watch soon, and I love this book so much. I found this on Comixology and was amazed by the cover by Christian Ward and I saw the other creators and I’m like “Okay, I’m in” and I really need to find this in print…Maybe Stephanie can help me out since Patrick did it for this list…D’oh…I wasn’t supposed to say anything…
2. Spine-Tingling Spider-Man
Another Marvel Unlimited Infinity Comic, but this is literally the best of the Marvel Infinity Comics. No disrespect to the other creators or to Pizza Dog a little above here. Saladin Ahmed is writing this amazing horror-ish comic and art is by Juan Ferreya. If you don’t know Saladin…where have you been? Juan Ferreya, who is probably best known for some book about an arrow that is green over at the Distinguished Competition, is just perfect on this book. I’ve known Juan for a while through Twitter and when I saw that he was working on a Spider-Man comic I knew I had to read it. Just check out this art here.
Saladin is writing a great story as well. Let’s not leave him out at all. These two gentlemen when they were told you have to create a continuous scrolling comic for a cellphone really took that and elevated that. Kinda like MasterChef…MasterComic?...they just really took something and really pushed it forward. You can find it here.
1. The Imaginary Voyages of Edgar Allan Poe and Pip's Monster House
This one…if I had to bet…is one that is not on many folks' radar. Hocus Pocus Comics is an independent publisher that is really small but is telling some amazingly fun stories. I first came across Dwight MacPherson through Kickstarter with a comic called the Amazing Voyages of Edgar Allan Poe (which the first volume has a cover by Juan Ferreya) and these stories being put out by Dwight are just amazing. Magical, monsters, horror, but all in good fun.
I would like to introduce you to Pip’s Monster House available on Webtoon. There is a bit of a backstory with this one. Dwight and Rebecca recently got a lovely dog and named it Pip. They got this idea about writing a comic featuring them and a monster hunting dog named Pip. Just truly a fun book and you should really check it out. It has become a personal favorite that I look forward to weekly when a new one drops. I highly recommend it.
Bonus: Invisible Kingdom Vol 3
(Because I do what I want and this is a trade anyways)
Tony Stark famously says “I am Iron Man” and that really is a mantra to follow sometimes. That means to me that you kind of do what you want because you are effing Iron Man and can do it.
Editor’s Note: Quoting Tony Stark? That’s a new low. Anyways, continue! <3
Invisible Kingdom came out in March of 2019 and no one has been talking about it at all. These were released as monthly comics for a little bit and then volume 3 had to be released as a trade. A book put out by Dark Horse and written by G. Willow Wilson with art by Christian Ward. I had such a hard time getting these at my LCS and eventually just had to get the trades. But that is totally okay. The basics of the story are that it is a space opera that is what if a major online retailer goes to space and ships items quickly between planets and they are entangled with a group of nuns who “walk the path”. What kind of horrific things could possibly happen. This is such a good story and I would highly recommend picking it up.
I’m so excited for the direction that Valiant is going in 2022. It all kicks off from Shadowman. I loved everything about this run from the refreshing story to the illustration and character designs. From the bestselling master of horror Cullen Bunn (Venom) and bone-chilling artist Jon Davis-Hunt (Clean Room) comes a shocking supernatural odyssey. Jack Boniface is SHADOWMAN, a powerful protector who keeps humanity safe from the demons that claw at the fabric of our reality. The forces of darkness are awakening and they are hungry for life. Will Shadowman be able to save us all, or will the darkness devour the world as we know it? Check it out here
4. The Good Asian
This book snuck up on me and when more people check it out I think they will enjoy it as much as I did. Writer PORNSAK PICHETSHOTE’s long-awaited follow-up to the critically acclaimed INFIDEL with stunning art by ALEXANDRE TEFENKGI (OUTPOST ZERO)! Following Edison Hark—a haunted, self-loathing Chinese-American detective—on the trail of a killer in 1936 Chinatown, THE GOOD ASIAN is Chinatown noir starring the first generation of Americans to come of age under an immigration ban, the Chinese, as they’re besieged by rampant murders, abusive police, and a world that seemingly never changes.
Read the First Issue Here
Killadephia has been so consistently good that It seems to be flying under the radar. People aren’t talking about it nearly enough! Featuring the show-stopping talents of Spawn series artist JASON SHAWN ALEXANDER, and the writer behind such hit shows as Wu-Tang: An American Saga, Marvel's Runaways, and Starz's American Gods--RODNEY BARNES. When a small-town beat cop comes home to bury his murdered father-the revered Philadelphia detective James Sangster Sr.-he begins to unravel a mystery that leads him down a path of horrors and shakes his beliefs to their core. The city that was once the symbol of liberty and freedom has fallen prey to corruption, poverty, unemployment, brutality… and vampires. But the mystery goes even further when Jimmy's investigation leads him to uncover the source of the outbreak is long-thought dead President of the United States John Adams--a man secretly biding his time as he builds an undead army to start a new and bloodier American revolution. Read the First Issue Here
2. Bitter Root
Bitter Root seems to be in the same boat as Killadelphia for me. It is one of my all time favorite comic runs that has not dropped the ball. In the 1920s, the Harlem Renaissance is in full swing, and only the Sangerye Family can save New York-and the world-from the supernatural forces threatening to destroy humanity. But the once-great family of monster hunters has been torn apart by tragedies and conflicting moral codes. The Sangerye Family must heal the wounds of the past and move beyond their differences… or sit back and watch a force of unimaginable evil ravage the human race. DAVID F. WALKER and SANFORD GREENE, the creative team of Power Man and Iron Fist, along with indie veteran CHUCK BROWN (Trench Coats, Cigarettes and Shotguns) bring you 24 action-packed pages of monsters, mayhem, and family dysfunction in a brand-new ongoing series.
1. Seven Secrets
I consider Seven secrets to be the most underrated comic book run in the past decade. It is seriously in the running for my all-time favorite. It is the book that turned me into a Tom Taylor stan. For centuries, the Order has trusted in Keepers and Holders to guard the Secrets in seven briefcases against all harm but when their stronghold is attacked and the secrets put in peril, the entire Order must face their greatest fear—an enemy who knows too much and is willing to kill to get what he wants. Now, the Order's newest member, Caspar, must discover the truth of the Secrets before the enemy does, or risk losing everything. New York Times bestselling author Tom Taylor (DCeased) and fan-favorite artist Daniele Di Nicuolo (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers) present a new series about seven powerful secrets—words, wonders, weapons, and worse—with the power to change the world. Check it out here