Top Ten Favorite Comics of 2021 Header Image

Top Ten Favorite Comics (BD) That I Read In 2021

I wrote that headline very carefully. I don’t just read the new releases. I’m still catching up on 60 years of previous history, as well. It’s a mix of all sorts of stuff, though most of these particular books are available in English for the first time in the last 12 – 15 months.

I reviewed just shy of 40 books this year, but I read a few more that I never reviewed for one reason or another. One of those books made this list.

This list is in no particular order. They’re ten great books. That ought to be enough, really. Find the one that sounds like fun for you, and give it a try.

Marsupilami: The Beast

The Beast v1 cover by Frank Pe (written by Zidrou)

While not everyone appreciates the re-imagination of a beloved 50-year-old character, I’m open to all sorts of interpretations of any character. In other words, I think Elseworlds is a good idea.

Let’s have these short-term projects where a creator can come in, tell their story in a different style from the standard, and then move along. It’s not fundamentally changing the character. It’s a stylistic exercise that can be very entertaining.

Wilfrid Lupano and Mathieu Lauffray’s “Valerian” is a beautiful book. We have a “Lucky Luke” title that’s sort of in this mold coming up later in this list, and it’s not the only book featuring that character reinterpreted by a new artist in 2021. Spirou feels very malleable, as well, with a Tintin-flavored art style in a series lately that’s been getting critical acclaim.

But on this list, it’s “Marsupilami: The Beast” by Frank Pé and Zidrou that jumped out at me. Pé sets the story in Belgium, where the Marsupilami has hitched a ride on a boat into the country before passing out and being “adopted” by a schoolchild who loves animals and keeps far too many of them.

There is some stunning art in this book, including an opening sequence that reads like an amazing set of storyboards for the feature movie it ought to inspire. It’s beautifully cinematic. You will hear the sound design in your hide while you read it. It’s that good.

Yes, I’m a sucker for Belgian-themed books, and this one includes some references to famous Belgian comics creators. It’s no “Asterix in Belgium” but it is a great book. I don’t know when the second volume will ever come out, but I’ll jump on it as soon as it does.

Read my full review: “Marsupilami: The Beast

Karmen

Guillem March's Karmen v1 cover

This is Guillem March’s two-book tour de force. A woman commits suicide, only to land in a purgatory-type world where she has a guide showing her the world as a ghost-like figure. But where does she go after this? And what will she learn about herself along the way?

It’s an artistic tour de force from March, who draws Karmen completely naked, but without ever sexualizing her. On top of that, he uses a lot of interesting tricks in his storytelling, from unconventional angles to unique panel sequences. Every page is worth a second look.

A good story and beautiful art that uses the format well? That’s all I want from a comic book.

This one was also published this past year by Image Comics in single issues. There’s a collected edition coming in Spring 2022. (That’s an Amazon link. I may make a few pennies if you buy from that link. You won’t be charged any extra.)

Read my full review: “Karmen

Open-Hearted

Cover to Nicolas Keramidas' Open-Hearted OGN

Nicolas Keramidas has had a heart issue his entire life. Now, as a middle-aged man, it’s leading him to a major open-heart surgery one more time to keep his ticker going.

It’s a very funny story with moments of strong emotion and self-reflection. Keramidas has creative ways of explaining otherwise dry medical topics, then hitting readers with a great punchline or a strong emotional kick.

It’s a book of highs and lows, including some artistic tricks and storytelling experiments that work well in comics. Sure, this is a story that is do down to earth that it could work as a movie or as a tv mini-series or something. However, with its formatting and storytelling choices, it’s a story that takes advantage of its medium. It was meant to be a comic.

Read my full review: “Open-Hearted

Always Never

Always Forever album cover by Jordi Lafebre

If I had to choose a top book of the year, this one might be it.

It’s unbelievable that a story this good and told this well is coming from a first-time comic book writer. Jordi LaFebre of “Glorious Summers” fame makes his writing debut here with a story of two lovers that only get together at the end of their story, which is the beginning of the book.

The entire saga is told in reverse chronological order, with each scene set in a time before the previous one. The book goes all the way back to where the two first met.

It’s a rom-com in some ways, but that’s drastically oversimplifying it. It’s not quite that formulaic. It’s a deeper tale of two people who are right for each other at all the wrong times, and take a lifetime to get things together.

And since it’s LaFebre on art, it’s also a very pretty book. He captures amazing facial expressions and gestures in every panel to tell his story clearly.

“Always Never” is another book on this list that is well-drawn and takes chances in its storytelling, but it’s particularly impressive for a first-time writer. It was a lock for this list from the first time I read it.

Read my full review: “Always Never

Wanted: Lucky Luke

Wanted Lucky Luke cover by Matthieu Bonhomme

Matthieu Bonhomme returns for a second “Lucky Luke” story. As good as his first “Lucky Luke” book was, this one tops it.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: This book has a strong story accompanied by beautiful art.

Bonhomme’s panels are so well composed that I had to write a second article to explain some of it. He incorporates the colors in the book as an integral part of his art. The book is better off for it.

It also has some fun throwbacks to classic Goscinny/Morris stories for the long-time fans while not losing newer ones.

Read my full review: “Wanted: Lucky Luke

Days of Sand

Aimee de Jongh's cover to Days of Sand v1, featuring a photographer standing outside in the Dust Bowl

A young photographer struggling in New York City takes a job from the federal government to go out to the Dust Bowl to capture images of what’s happening out there.

This is a well-researched and beautifully-cartooned story from Aimee De Jongh that is so strong that I’m putting it on the list despite not having read the second and concluding book. Yes, this is another case of a long single-volume story that was broken down into a two-parter for digital English language release. I don’t mind it so much since it’s a longer graphic novel.

Read my full review: “Days of Sand

Forget Me Not

Forget Me Not cover by Alix Garlin

A woman fears for her grandmother’s happiness in a rest home, so she kidnaps her and takes her on a road trip back to her old home. While the story is kicked off by Clémence’s grandmother’s plight, the story is more about Clémence coming to terms with her own lot in life.

It’s a melancholy work that’s still gripping and affecting, and pretty much unlike anything I usually read in comics. Garin’s art style is super simple, yet effective. It has thin, spare lines and a soft watercolored style. It works well with the story.

Read my full review: “Forget Me Not

Mickey All-Stars

Mickey All-Stars cover from Fantagraphics and Glenat

This was a fun one. Before I was a European comics superfan, I was a big Disney comics fan. It was mostly with the Duck side of things, but I appreciated a good Cesar Ferioli Mickey Mouse tale, as well.

This book brings together dozens of European artists and writers to each do a single-page story of Mickey Mouse entering a room through a door and ending with Mickey walking out of another door. What happens between the doors is where the magic happens, and there are many different directions the artists go.

I love the concept and I love a good Oubapo comic. The list of artists, though, is spectacular. It includes the likes of Jose-Luis Munuera, Batem, Federico Bertolucci, Dav, Florence Cestac, Silvio Camboni, and many more. I’ve reviewed many of their books, and continue to be frustrated that Fantagraphics hasn’t taken the next step to publish Camboni’s books, in particular.

In the meantime, enjoy this sampler of great European art with a challenging set-up.

Read my full review: “Mickey All-Stars

Omni-Visibilis

Omni-Visibilis cover by Matthieu Bonhomme

This is a fun Twilight Zone-esque graphic novel by Lewis Trondheim and Matthieu Bonhomme that is more than a decade old now, but just had its English language release digitally back in March. So, in the course of this Top Ten list, you’re getting work from Bonhomme that is both a decade old and new this year. I think that’s pretty impressive, at least.

In this book, the lead character has a problem: The entire world sees through his eyes whenever they close their own. It’s a simple, yet crazy, high concept that leads to a bunch of craziness in matters both small and large. It ends with a city full of people chasing him down in the streets, but we also deal with the people who want to use his powers for their own self-interests and who his actual friends are.

It’s a fun read that makes some nice light weekend reading. I suppose you could read something into this about reality television and surveillance culture and corporate manipulation and self-dealing and —

Nah, just enjoy the book. It’s a fun one, and Bonhomme draws it well while using just one color.

Read My Review: “Omni-Visibilis

Someone to Talk To

Someone to Talk To cover by Greg Panaccione

The tenth book on this list is the one that I haven’t written a review for yet. When I do, it’ll be subtitled, “Your Younger You Has Some Difficult Questions.”

The setup for the book is a great hook: A man calls the only phone number he can remember after his phone takes a bath. It’s the number of his childhood home.

Much to his surprise, his ten-year-old self answers the phone.

Once he convinces him that he is who he says he is, the boy has some difficult questions for him to answer so he isn’t a disappointment to his twenty-year younger self.

It doesn’t go well.

It’s based on a novel by Cyril Massarotto and adapted and drawn by the great Greg Panaccione, who we all fell in love with as the artist of the silent “A Sea of Love.”

It’s a very enjoyable book.  I think most of us would have bad answers to our younger selves if we were in the same situation, which makes it so relatable and so much fun.

Honorable Mentions

Here are a few other books that made my initial cut at this list.  Ask me again in a week, and I could easily make an argument for adding a couple of these into the Top Ten.  I don’t know which books I’d remove to clear the way, though.

Blacksad: They All Fall Down“: I reread and reviewed all of the Blacksad books this year in anticipation of this book, which they then split in two for no good reason. Now that both parts are out, though, you can get the whole book and it’ll make more sense. The second and concluding part of this story won’t be out for a couple of years, but I’m looking forward to it.

“Undertaker” v6: I haven’t read it yet. I’ve flipped through it. The art is as amazing as ever. But I haven’t set aside the time to re-read v5 first so I can finish the story with v6. It’ll happen in 2022, for sure.

Asterix and the Griffin“: It’s the second-best installment of the series from Ferri and Conrad. It’s probably the 11th on my Top Ten here, and only by a hair.

Love Love Love cover detail by Andres Garrido

Love Love Love“: A surprising book that drew me into its world with strong art and writing. It didn’t make this list, but is a worthy honorable mention.

Mathieu Lauffray's Raven v1 cover detail

Raven” v1: This is Matthieu Lauffray’s new series, so you know it’s a visual treat. I even did a Hyperanalysis article for it. The second book just came out in France. I can’t wait to read it when it makes its English debut.

“Noir Burlesque”: This is Enrico Marini’s noir crime tale, painted in black and white and red. It’s a beautiful book and a lot of fun, but it’s only half-released so far. This is another example of a single longer book getting chopped up into two releases. I won’t review it until the book is complete.  It is still eligible for next year’s list, though.

I have a lot of reading to do before that, though.  

Are any of these books in your list of favorite reads from the last year?  Which one did I miss?  I have a comments section below.  Fire away!

What do YOU think? (First time commenters' posts may be held for moderation.)

8 Comments

  1. Also, Wanted: Lucky Luke is coming out in print from by Cinebook in February of 2022. And The Man Who Shot Lucky Luke is coming out in print form by Cinebook two months later in April of 2022.

    1. Somehow, I missed that, but I’m very happy to hear it. And I’m very happy that they reprint Lucky Luke at full size and don’t shrink it down. (Can you tell I’m reading Largo Winch at the moment? 😉

  2. Another good year (book-wise I mean; as for the rest…) following you navigating your way into European BD, both modern and classic. That was interesting. I look forward to the next, so best wishes to you and your family. May 2022 be better than this one.

    1. Thanks, JC! It’s been fun to learn in public like this. I don’t know how to be quiet, so this is a nice outlet. It’s more fun to share the excitement as it happens, you know? And Happy New Year to you, as well!

  3. Thanks for all the great reviews this year Augie! Thanks to you I’ve read (and enjoyed) all the comics on this list. Your recommendations make up a good 50% or more of my comics library from the last few years. Looking forward to reading all the reviews and articles you cook up in 2022! Happy New Year!

  4. Thanks to your blog I’ve read every book on this list! Your recommendations from 2021 made up about 50% of the comics I bought this year. Looking forward to more in 2022!

    1. Thanks, Zeke, that’s the best compliment a reviewer can ask for. I scream my head off for certain books, but I’m never sure if anyone gives anything a try. Always thrilled to hear that someone has, and that it paid off for them. Yay! Happy new year!