2020 was another year filled with great comic book storylines being told from around the comic book industries. From big crossover event to smaller character focused stories it has been a lot of fun to see what so many creative teams are able to do in telling new storylines in the genre. There were honestly so many great storylines that took place in 2020 that it is tough to narrow it down to just one. So I’ve decided to put together the five comic book storylines that were the most memorable for me in 2020.
Before getting to my five favorite storylines I did want to shout out two big events that unfortunately won’t have there final issues released until 2021. These two would be top contenders to be added to my list if they would’ve been able to conclude in 2020. That said I do want to speak a little bit about the following:
Dark Nights: Death Metal – What has turned out to be the culmination of everything that has been built during the New 52 and DC Rebirth eras, Dark Nights: Death Metal has become a goodbye to the last decade of DC Comics storytelling. The main series by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo has delivered the Crisis-level event style storytelling that is expected from a story that involves the entire DC Multiverse. Batman Who Laughs has turned into a threat that you do believe will take the might of the entire DC Universe’s heroes and villains to unite against. In the process Snyder and Capullo have finally given Wonder Woman a terrific spotlight as the lead protagonist of this event. The tie-ins to Dark Nights: Death Metal have all added to the storytelling, with The Last Stories Of The DC Universe the comic I most remember out of this event.
DCeased: Dead Planet – Tom Taylor has left a big mark on DC Comics as he has told some of the best Elseworld stories with his work on the Injustice and DCeased comic books. DCeased: Dead Planet has been a fantastic follow-up on the events from the original DCeased mini-series. Taylor and Trevor Hairsine took everything that happened in the original DCeased and have treated us to another emotionally heavy comic book. The time skip that takes place in Dead Planet opened up the opportunity further grow a lot of characters like Damian Wayne, Jonathan Kent, and others in a ways that take full advantage of the setting to give powerful character moments. It is actually a nice preview of what DC Comics is going to be doing with Future State, which will have its own time skip storylines.
BATMAN: ‘JOKER WAR’
Writer: James Tynion
Artist: Jorge Jimenez
Colorist: Tomeu Morey
Issues: Batman #95 – Batman #100
There is no doubt that 2020 was Joker’s year. This could be seen as appropriate since 2020 was Joker’s 80th anniversary. The Joker character was involved in many of the comic book released this year, with even the Batman Who Laughs that Dark Nights: Death Metal revolves around being a version of Joker. There was no better story that revolved around Joker in 2020 than James Tynion and Jorge Jimenez’s ‘Joker War.’ Taking full advantage of the events that took place in Tom King’s run on Batman, Tynion and Jimenez gave us a take on Joker who reveled in burning down Gotham City.
What makes ‘Joker War’ stand out from all the Joker stories and comic book stories in 2020 is how the character was used. Taking a bit of inspiration from Brian Bendis having Superman reveal his identity to the world we saw a Joker who no longer turned a blind eye to knowing the true identities of the Batman Family. But rather than reveal the identities of all the Batman Family members to the world Joker would use that knowledge to create even more chaos in Gotham City. Whether it was stealing Bruce Wayne’s entire fortune or turning Dick Grayson against the Batman Family, Joker was absolutely at the top of his game in ‘Joker War.’
The addition of Punchline, who no doubt was DC Comics breakout character of 2020, just further added to how memorable ‘Joker War’ was. Tynion and Jimenez developed Punchline to be her own unique character so she would not just become known as a Harley Quinn copy. She was fully realized as a villain who can be considered as dangerous as Joker in her own way.
Developing Joker and Punchline into such big threats made the way that Bruce Wayne ultimately had to defeat them by admitting that he needed the Batman Family’s help such a cool moment. Finally, after the Batman Family has been largely apart since Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s ‘Death Of The Family’ storyline we got them all back together. Seeing Nightwing, Robin, Batwoman, Red Hood, Spoiler, Orphan, and Signal all fighting together to save Gotham City with Barbara Gordon assuming her Oracle identity again was something I could not help but mark out at. This made the way Batman was able to overcome Joker in their final fight even more rewarding. It all set-up a strong future for the entire Batman Family when we get back to this continuity in March 2021.
DAREDEVIL: ‘END OF HELL’
Writer: Chip Zdarsky
Artist: Marco Checchetto, Francesco Mobili, and Jorge Fornes
Colorist: Nolan Woodard, Rachelle Rosenberg, and Mattia Iacono
Issues: Daredevil #11 – Daredevil #20
Chip Zdarsky took everything that he built during his first year on Daredevil in 2019 and continued that momentum with everything he did on the series in 2020. That was perfectly showcased with his eight part ‘End Of Hell’ saga on Daredevil. This is a bit of a cheat as ‘End Of Hell’ is broken up into two stories but they really are one big storyline.
With Matt Murdock having gone through a near-death experience that left him both physically and spiritually broken he needed to take time to recover. That is a lesson that Matt had to learn the hard way. But as we see with the two stories that make up ‘End Of Hell’ Matt finally accepts where he currently is in his life and how he can get back to being the Man Without Fear.
In accepting that Zdarsky tapped further into Daredevil’s mythology by bringing in Elektra. The training that Matt has under Elektra’s teaching did a lot to reforge the relationship between the two. Zdarsky highlighted how Matt and Elektra share a relationship that is both helpful and toxic at the same time. While they do bring out the best in each other there are also elements because of the world they have chosen to exist in that they also bring out the worst in each other. Establishing that dynamic made the major developments we would later see in Daredevil #25 one that creates even greater intrigue for their relationship.
Along with the way of Matt returning to becoming Daredevil again we also get to see how key people within Hell’s Kitchen develop over this period. There is a lot of major tension throughout this corner of New York City. At any point it does feel like things could explode in a way that will impact the larger Marvel Universe, at least on a street level. A lot of what happens feels like an old school mob movie with how there are so many different mafia factions seeing Hell’s Kitchen as such a big prize.
Because of that both Mayor Wilson Fisk and Detective Cole North become even bigger standout characters in Zdarsky’s run. With Wilson Fisk we get more developments in how unsteady his position of power as Mayor of New York City is. The way that causes Wilson Fisk to tap into his previous Kingpin persona made his character arc have just as much interest around it as Matt Murdock’s.
The same goes for Detective North as we continue to see how he is starting to grow to not just see things as purely black and white as he did when first introduced. There have been enough things that have happened around him that opens his eyes that the way he needs to be part of the change within New York City’s criminal system a fun arc to follow. The conversation that Detective North has with Spider-Man added to how his arc can expand beyond his current position at the Hell’s Kitchen NYPD precinct.
This all leads in well into a lot of great moments as Matt’s return of Daredevil causes both Detective North and Wilson Fisk to make big choices when Hell’s Kitchen becomes a warzone. Those developments all come across as rewarding payoffs to what was developed before the warzone was created. Which leads to even bigger character moments that would go on to define where the Daredevil series is at end of 2020.
Zdarsky also had great collaborators in Marco Checchetto, Francesco Mobili, and Jorge Fornes to work with. Marco Checchetto, who worked with Mobili on certain issues in ‘End of Hell,’ delivered the high impact art that has come to be expected from his work on Daredevil. He gets every intense aspect of the emotionally heavy scenes, best shown when Wilson Fisk goes full Kingpin on someone during this arc.
Fornes adds his own style to further enhance the story that we see take place in ‘End of Hell.’ There may be no better artist right now that merges old school and modern art style than Fornes. Everything just looks beautiful as Fornes taps into how emotionally heavy decisions by different characters are to the story Zdarsky is telling in his dialogue.
STAR WARS: DOCTOR APHRA – ‘FORTUNE AND FATE’
Writer: Alyssa Wong
Artist: Marika Cresta
Colorist: Rachelle Rosenberg
Issues: Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #1 – Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #5
Since Marvel has taken on publishing rights for most Star Wars comics the character in the franchise that has stood out most is Chelli Lona Aphra, also known as Doctor Aphra. First appearing in the first Darth Vader comic in this era of Marvel Star Wars comics, Doctor Aphra has continued to be a memorable character in every story she is involved in. Alyssa Wong and Marika Cresta continue what has made Doctor Aphra a breakout character in the Star Wars Universe with her latest ongoing.
The first arc of Star Wars: Doctor Aphra is a fantastic example of how to start a new series that both invites all types of fans. There is enough information that is sprinkled in throughout the ‘Fortune and Fate’ arc that by the end you feel you know everything you need to know about the character. Then there are a lot of great character moments for Doctor Aphra that continues to develop her place in the Star Wars Universe.
It’s the dynamic between Doctor Aphra and her supporting cast that really makes ‘Fortune and Fate’ such a blast to read. Alyssa really gets how Doctor Aphra is a quippy character and how she works of so many different characters is cool to see. Even when interacting with stereotypical one-note characters Doctor Aphra brings out an energy to the scenes that makes everything even more fun. The history she has with each character further adds to how Doctor Aphra shares a different dynamic with each character that appears in ‘Fortune and Fate.’
Marika Cresta does equally a great job showcasing what a Indiana Jones-style adventure would look like in the Star Wars universe. She brings out how different each race we have seen in the Star Wars Universe have their own style. This makes the world around Doctor Aphra feel bigger even though the story does not involve the Jedi or Sith the action all still has that energy you expect from things you see in the Star Wars movies and shows.
TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: ‘FROM THE ASHES’
Writer: Sophie Campbell
Artist: Sophie Campbell
Colorist: Ronda Pattison
Issues: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #101 – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #105
Taking over a series after a defining creative run is no easy tasks. Especially with how Tom Waltz set the standard for what to TMNT fans should expect from IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle series Sophie Campbell had her work cut out for her. Campbell showed she was ready to take on that task by immediately continuing where Waltz left off with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles dealing with the aftermath of ‘City At War,’ which included the death of Splinter. There was no shying away from the events that took place in Waltz’s final story arc. Campbell fully embraced those events to evolve the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to the next phase in their lives.
From the beginning of ‘From The Ashes’ we were given a clear idea that the death of Splinter isn’t something that Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo, and Raphael can get over. Even with a time skip the absence of their father and mentor weighed heavily on all four brothers. The way Campbell had Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo, and Raphael with not having Splinter in their lives added new layers to each of them as characters. The way they each dealt with that was a great way to use the different stages of grief alongside the new status quo the franchise now had. A scene between Leonardo and Michelangelo in the middle of this particularly got across how much Splinter meant to the four brothers.
With Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo, and Raphael dealing with Splinter’s death in their own ways the addition of Jennika as the official fifth member of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was a breathe of fresh air. Campbell does a great job establishing Jennika as being a big sister with the four other Turtles. That is best seen through how Jennika interacts with Raphael as they are both in New York City’s Mutant Town at the same time. Through that we get to see how Jennika is able to hold her own in a fight while also still having a lot to learn as she is still getting used to being part of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
The addition of the Mutant Town within New York City due to the events of ‘City At War’ causing many NYC citizens to be turned into different mutant animals created a intriguing new status quo that is multi-layered. This new status quo opened the opportunity for Campbell to continue to introduce classic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles characters along with new characters. It also opened the opportunity for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to operate out in the open moving forward as they established their own martial arts school in Mutant Town. At the same time Campbell is able to explore what it would mean for a New York City to create a wall around a whole area of the city and the toll it would take on that community.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #101
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #102
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #104
THOR: ‘THE DEVOURER KING’
Writer: Donny Cates
Artist: Nic Klein
Colorist: Matthew Wilson
Issues: Thor #1 – Thor #6
There may be no more important storyline that happened at Marvel than Donny Cates first arc on Thor with ‘Devourer King.’ The story was certainly great. But what makes it so important is that Cates story involving Thor and Galactus opened the Nexus portal for Marvel to have an in-continuity reason to crossover with Fortnite. The importance of this crossover with Fortnite, the most popular video game in the world right now, cannot be understated. This connection immediately brought more attention to Marvel’s comics than any MCU movie has done in the last decade.
It helps that Cates’ ‘The Devourer King’ is an excellent story on its own merits. Picking up directly from the end of Jason Aaron’s run on Thor, particularly in the fallout from War of the Realms, Cates does not slow things down in the God of Thunder and now All-Father of Asgard life. Things immediately escalate as Galactus turned Thor into his new Herald in order to combat the incoming Black Winter threat. Thor becoming Galactus’ new Herald who had to help the villain gain enough power to fight something that is a threat to the fabric of the Marvel Universe was a great challenge for the God of Thunder to take on.
Especially with how Thor at this point is the All-Father of Asgard, having the character take on this new Herald role made the questions about the God of Thunder’s role in the Marvel Universe come to the forefront. Now being the All-Father of Asgard there is no way Thor can continue going on adventures and being an Avenger like he was before. He has way more responsibilities now that his previous life is just not a realistic thing to continue. This story with Galactus and the Black Winter further emphasizes that, which made the vision the latter gives Thor at the end of ‘Black Winter’ that much more intriguing.
Nic Klein’s artwork throughout ‘The Devourer King’ further elevated the big event feel to everything that happens in the story. There are so many incredible moments that Klein brings to life. From how helping Galactus devour different worlds takes its toll on Thor to references to the DC Universe, Klein gets over the cosmic-level scope of this story. I would not be surprised if Klein is drawing one of Marvel’s next big events in 2021.
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