Matt Lesniewski comics are an event. And we got two this year. Static takes the edge over his Crimson Flower collaboration with writer Matt Kindt because it’s an unadulterated Lesniewski eruption. Static is his brain on the page, his heart in the inks. It feels like an unwarranted privilege. How’d we get so lucky to read this comic?
Plotwise, Static provides an apocalyptic future where the main character hunts parts for a Dr. Frankenstein type. Getting in his way is his conscience and some murderous drug dealers. It’s a rare comic where the character’s struggle seemingly matches the artist’s struggle. Lesniewski clearly agonizes over every composition, over every line. As his characters sweat, you imagine him sweating above them. He does not make it look easy, but no one wants easy.
9. That Texas Blood, Vol. 2
Chris Condon and Jacob Phillips‘ That Texas Blood travels into Sheriff Joe Bob Coates’ memory as he recalls a young boy’s murder, an even younger girl’s kidnapping, and the mysterious bat cult potentially responsible.
After releasing an exceptional first-volume potboiler last year, the two creators kick it up a notch with this somber stroll through violence already executed. You’re trapped upon Joe Bob’s tongue, waiting for him to reveal the next horrible detail, terrified that hope ain’t possible on this wretched, blood-soaked land.
That Texas Blood Volume 2 invites sinister forces into its Lone Star noir, weaponizing history against the reader, promising perpetual darkness, and supplying something surprising: a continuation. Life keeps on going even when most don’t.
8. Old Head
Image Comics sells Old Head as Fright Night meets Space Jam. If that’s enough for you, start reading. You won’t be disappointed. If you require more than a high concept mash-up, know that Kyle Starks is an incredibly creative and deceptive cartoonist. He lures you in with the goofy set-up, but somewhere along the way, you’re crying and talking back to the book.
Old Head pits an unremarkable basketball bruiser against Dracula’s minions, and somewhere within their war is a championship lesson we’re all craving. The way Kyle Starks operates, he’s constantly constructing a monumental payoff. Little tidbits build into gags, and those gags explode into profound character revelation. Then there’s another joke you didn’t see coming, but you should have. And another one after that. The giggles don’t stop, but it’s difficult for them to escape through your heart-choked throat.
7. The Dragon Path
The Wong Clan are on the verge of extinction. The earth below them no longer provides. They must return to the mystical Old Land where they once knew peace and prosperity. But to get there, they will travel the Dragon Path and wage war against the monsters who patrol it.
In The Dragon Path, Ethan Young has established an all-ages epic worthy of Jeff Smith’s Bone. It’s an engrossing, addictive read told simply and succinctly but with passionate detail and expression. The acting on display is exquisite and only upstaged when it’s time for action. Young creates kinetic, thoughtfully choreographed fight sequences, liberating the page count so the brawls can go where they need to go. And where that is is usually a devastating but necessary character resolution.
The Dragon Path is a high-stakes kids’ quest where family is your greatest ally and enemy.
Rumors of Monsters‘ existence circulated for decades. Thirty-five years ago, Barry Windsor–Smith attempted to tell the ultimate Incredible Hulk story and was told “no” by Marvel. He did not accept their word. He pressed on, expanding his concept into a tome as thick and hard as its subject.
Monsters tells Bobby Baily’s story, a child born from violence, recruited into violence, and forced to make more violence. The comic is ugly, upsetting, and unrelenting. With so much anticipation baked into its release, there was fear that it could never match its reputation. Monsters exceeds what it promised. Barry Windsor-Smith produces his magnum opus, a comic that celebrates everything a superhero book could say but frequently runs away from instead.
Read the top 5 of our best comic books of 2021 list on the next page…