Here we go again!
(as a reminder, here’s how things shaped up last year:

NOTE: White Ash is being published through Scout but also crowdfunded issue 5. The series doesn’t match up 1 for 1 between the crowdfunded and published issues. No matter, it is fantastic and is still a favorite (our favorite creator title last year) regardless of means of consumption. It sits between the criteria though so I’m mentioning it up front here along with its Scout library brethren Atlantis Wasn’t Built for Tourists. Originally crowdfunded as an OGN it is being given the single issue treatment now. These titles in particular epitomize one of the strategies that has helped propel Scout into the mainstream conversation. Excellent titles from fantastic creators that have a proven fan base isn’t something that is built into comic publishing. Given how consumption and availability have changed over the course of 2020 this means to an end has inserted itself into the conversation and is proving very successful. Both of these books may land outside of the two categories but absolutely land firmly on the 2020 Favorites list.


We kick things off with books put out by those fancy publishers we all love. There are several quality imprints from which to choose and our favorites of 2020 showcase this. Perhaps more so than ever the independent publishers have produced top tier books. No matter where you look on the rack you can find a comic that deserves to be not just on your pull list, but in your keeper box or on your keeper shelf. Truly you can look just about anywhere today and you’ll see a book from an indie publisher that, if there were no logo on the book, you’d swear was from a “top” brand or team. That’s the thing though. This year more than ever has shown that top brands and creative teams are finding and creating homes where THEY FIT and with imprints that are THE RIGHT HOME for their projects.


The book that began the acclaim for Vault came to an end in 2020. That end wrapped a truly magnificent book. Using Norse mythology to craft a tale that fights for the outcast and exiled was a stroke of brilliance. Deeply meaningful and executed to the point of importance, rather than preaching, Heathen is one of the most important books of the last decade.


Fantasy and horror collide in the dark pages of SIKTC. Children are being slaughtered and a fantastical savior is all the town has to battle the evil. Just as horrific as the killings, the tales the children that survive tell are even more unnerving. The true brilliance in the book is the in-between though, as people try to process and reconcile what’s happening.

NO HEROINE(Scource Point Press)
(Scource Point Press)

Take Buffy, sprinkle in drugs and mash until you get an excellent redemption story. This is No Heroine. The dark gritty truth of recovering from addiction plays out literally and metaphorically in this book and it is beyond excellent. The battles against the Vampires is but the surface of the war that must be waged in order to come out the other side. Very well done.


Campy comic goodness with some drama tossed in is exactly what superhero books need. Ahoy delivers with the second installment of the love letter to yesteryear. A second read through provides even more as commentary on the superhero narrative becomes quite clear, and is expertly done. And come on there’s a mystery right out of the Silver Age to boot!


Pulp is a dominant statement on the brilliance of this partnership. A departure from their norm, this reflection of life connects two times that both were and weren’t worlds apart. Bridged by an aging gunslinger turned comic writer, the Wild West and bustling 1930’s New York tell the tale of a violent life and the reality of its end.


Black Ops collides with Black Magic. Diving right into the moral questioning of doing right in both the personal and bigger picture senses, this book immediately establishes itself as more than just a supernatural detective book (which it is). Stunning visuals help punctuate the horrors involved. Excellent storytelling gives a sense of how deep this world is. Exploring it is both fun and frightful.


Through the universal language of sex Money Shot tells the awkward, comedic, tragic, empowering and revealing act of being real. Everyone has guilty pleasures and we’re all perverts in our own ways. Whether it’s actual porn, or a pornographic need for something, we’ve all got to get things done. If sex pays the bills for space travel and intergalactic heroism, why the hell not?


I love throwbacks and especially so in the horror genre. The classic interconnected tales of doom are on full display at the Pierrot Courts Hotel. While anthological in storytelling the creative team is consistent across the series which really seals the deal (and doom for some poor saps) for the book. Not just an update, but a very nice modernization of the Hitchcockian tale.


The perfect example of simple and to the point can be the most effective approach. Seducing in its tension and inviting in its terror, this book is powerful. Knowing you’re going someplace dark and terrible you reach out and take the hand it extends from the page anyway. The look of the book sets an atmosphere that genuinely sinks in and gets under your skin. There’s definitely a mood set between the covers.


Darkness hides all sorts of dangers and threats. Instead of the still of night it is the depth of the ocean that keeps the real danger hidden. Usually with anything involving Nazi anything things go sour. No different here except the how and by what means. These waters are not just icy, but filled with terror. As terrible as we are there’s something even worse waiting down below. Jump in, the water is cold and deadly as hell!

(Action Lab)

It’s hilarious and absurd in all the right ways. Ultimately a love story by way of Tarantino and heist flick, mastery in comic making is on full display. Finally revealing just how good it is when it wraps, you’re going to wish it was more than four issues. We always hate how things never quite go how we’d like but that certainly doesn’t mean they don’t go as their supposed to. GTTC reminds us of that.


Small town big secret amirite? I am, and of course if it’s too good to be true then it isn’t. Horror works best when it is familiar and the setting for this book is just that. Even better, we get an over the top visual horror that is disturbingly perfect for the gurgling underbelly of our setting. Every type of ugly is given face time whether real, imagined, in the shadows, or in our face. Toss in satire that fits perfectly because why not?

CANTO II: The Hollow Men

(The original Canto series was on our 2019 favorites list)
The follow up to the epic all ages saga has landed as our favorite published book of 2020. As I’ve stated before, This is a brilliant piece of work. The real world emotion is still just as much of a driving force as the fantasy world that Canto resides in. The second installment delivers equally for both younger readers, and those of us that have been at this a while, just like the first one did. That’s part of the mastery of this book.

Continuing their love for creation the creative team inadvertently (or perhaps on purpose) gave us the exact thing we have all needed this past year. There have been nothing but questions and fears about who we are, what we are, what we’ve done, and where we’re going. Inspiring and frighteningly poignant messages can be lifted directly from the pages of The Hollow Men and applied directly to this past year. Hope is one of the most powerful simultaneously dangerous things one can posses. This book takes the fine line we walk with hope and paints a tapestry of uplifting revelation that all of us need whether we realize it or not.

As much as there is on the surface of Canto II, there is infinitely more being given to us in this book. Representative of the systemic chains that bind us (both literally and figuratively) the crux of this book’s storyline resonates with the social revolution we’ve seen across the world this past year.

It is the perfect book, with the perfect message, in perhaps the most socially imperfect time we’ve ever had.


The creator funded books are powerful expressions of the true vision of those that make them. Year after year this route of comic making is producing works that not just equal, but in many cases far exceed what any known publisher is putting on the shelves. What’s more, is that the intimacy and involvement in the creation of these books that we the readers get is something that simply cannot be matched by a book done traditionally. These truly are the creations of the team behind them.

(Fair Spark)

Yes, Fair Spark has this title now but it was Kickstarted first! A gaming console for a brain is one heck of a tag line. There’s a nostalgic pull for older folks and an empathetic connection for younger ones that makes this story accessible to anyone that wants to give it a go. It isn’t just trope playing though as a very heartfelt story comes through.

(Reckless Hero)

Fantastic usage of existing legends and lore to create an entirely new adventure! Arthur and the KOTRT against Blackbeard and his band of misfits? Yes please. But there’s also the Holy Grail, a wormhole in the Bermuda Triangle, and uh the King of Atlantis? It’s a straight to the point wild ride of historical fiction and legend.

(Queer Comix)

Poignant delivery dealing with heroism and politicism. A far cry from its sibling works, this level headed statement on world affairs shows that messages can be delivered without campaigning an agenda. It works as a superhero book in just the same fashion by marrying real world events and struggles to characters that many can relate to.

THE SHOW(Jed McPherson)
(Jed McPherson)

The Black Mirror Truman Show is one hell of a social commentary. It pulls no punches in tearing down societal issues and reality tv’s connection to them. Raw and slightly disturbing but only because the truth of it can be seen, this book entertains while throwing its punches. That truth is uncomfortable but makes a great comic.

(Dan Brereton)

Yes it is an ‘old’ story, but this remastered homage to Godzilla and Kaiju inspired fantasy delivers all new fun. Absolutely gorgeous, GK can stand alone as an art book. When a volcanic wormhole rips open an unapologetic love letter of all things monstery is written. It reads like a movie and looks like a dream.

COMMANDER RAO(Hound Studios)
(Hound Studios)

Expertly put together and visually fantastic RAO is a compelling tale of redemption. It begins with the ending and relives the tragic and heroic events. Folding the past and present together enriches the reading experience. Beautiful imagery guides us all through this captivating emotional tale that hits on a personal level.

20 FISTS(Frankee White)
(Frankee White)

A book about love and connection when the world needs it most. With vibes of cult classic movies the queer romaction uses the familiar storytelling devices to go back and forth in time to really set up the stakes for our main characters. Ultimately the books is about love and how sometimes even that isn’t enough. Or is it? Either way the tale avoids cliche trappings and delivers.

PALOMINO(Dark Planet Comics)
(Dark Planet Comics)

This noir infused trip back in time does well in creating a timeless feel to a place you thought you knew. The gritty in-between of the 80s Country Music scene is just as lively, and deadly as the stories you’ve already heard. There was a time when the Cowboy was an icon for all that was American, and this book dives into the crooked lines that many lives travelled.

(Andy Perry)

A fascinating re-imagination of a tale that continues to be an outlet for people to learn about their own humanity and what it means.  You will find a scientific, philosophic and theological exploration using Lovecraft’s characters and concepts. This book pushes the boundaries of what we can imagine (just as Lovecraft initially did) while rooting our exploration in comprehension. 

THE O.Z.(David Pepose)
(David Pepose)

The emerald land reimagined as a fantasy warzone? Not too far fetched if you remember the actual tale of Oz. Sticking to the hook of personal connection and every day relatability the O.Z. smashes together the beloved fairy tale and the cold hard truth of actual war. Even with the gritty real life overlay there’s plenty flying monkey fantasy still there from the source. It is a masterful blend of genres that brings about an engrossing dose of truth.

(Mario Candelaria)

Old school comic love with seamless application of a modern look has born an expertly done period piece that certainly won’t be restrained by the times. The emotional gambit we’ve faced during this crisis gets a full discourse. All of us face our own demons and challenges when things are “normal” but tossing a global pandemic into the mix tests the resolve of even the best of us. A bevy of top notch artists tell Mario’s Twilight Zone-esque stories.

QUARANTINE(Jordan Thomas)
(Jordan Thomas)

A unique approach to our common problem sees a singular story told by one and illustrated by 28. A family trapped in their apartment with limited info and their imagination running wild is the stuff of tall tales, except it was reality this year. Playing on that reality we’re given a glimpse at ourselves and just how far we’ll let our imaginations run in order to try and pacify the voice of clarity in our heads. Captivating and distubring, just like 2020.


(Ancient Noise was a 2018 favorite but the third and fourth issues were delayed to 2020)
I can’t get enough of the big lug SILVER. Wrapped in an entertaining package is a thought provoking tale of warning. Yes we are doomed to fall victim of the machinations of being human, and we all know the road to hell is paved with good intentions. That’s a kind of summation of the events that have lead us to issues three and four in this series (with one more coming).

It’s a little outrageous but it’s well written and down right beautiful. As a reminder there’s time travel, space bending, and a sentient gorilla named Silver. Of course there’s all sorts of goings on when the time travel mission goes awry. The nature of the book is quite simple really. It drops the pretense of what time could be and gets right to the ugly truth of what it absolutely will be would be should it ever become a thing. GREED AND PROFIT folks. It’s viewed through a lens of slapstick and dark humor while delivering an important message.

Visually it is an absolute treat as well. Big splashes and vibrant imagery really hammer home the zaniness of approach to this book. Some of my favorite double pagers are in these books. It’s got a dynamic pop and is worth flipping through just to look at after you’ve read it through.

I can’t wait for issue 5.



Truly an imprint for all ages, IDW has found a very nice niche in providing the perfect bridges and on ramps for comic reading. Yesteryear calls loudly with TMNT, Transformers, GI Joe and several other licensed hits. Cooperation with Disney/Marvel has also helped provide impressive titles/names to the stable of available books. Every age and type of reader can easily find a favorite book.

That doesn’t tell the whole story though as they have added the likes of Usagi Yojimbo to the ranks. For me it is their willingness to embrace the breadth of comic making that has me looking over their releases. Hits such as Locke & Key, Wynonna Earp and October Faction have given rise to the likes of CANTO, Mountainhead and Sea of Sorrows. Diverse and open to all ages is one hell of a way to present yourself as a publisher.

Other media outlets continue to take notice. Remember 30 Days of Night? That was IDW as was V Wars. For my money CANTO would be a dream as an animated series, and the Road of Bones/Sea of Sorrows ‘tied’ series would absolutely crush as an American Horror Story kind of show. Currently there are no less than five (that I can confirm) IDW properties that have been optioned.

Right now IDW is nailing it.


It’s no secret I’ve been a fan of Vault since day one (perhaps slightly before day one). They’ve only had books on the shelves for three years yet Vault is LEADING the evolution of comic publishing. One would think that honing in on a couple of specific genres would artificially limit what Vault could do. Nothing could be farther from the truth however, and in fact, it has been that razor sharp focus that has allowed them to blow the doors off conventional thinking in regard to comics.

You can’t help but be grabbed by Vault books as you look down the shelves at your LCS. The demand your notice thanks to an absolute living legend of Design in Tim Daniel. What his designs represent on the outside is the care and love that Adrian Wassel employs in helping craft the stories inside. I’ve not seen as many creators openly and genuinely state their appreciation and admiration for members of the publishing team as have for these two folks. The rest of the Vault team puts in the work as well as is seen by partnerships like those with Heavy Metal and Brandon Sanderson, as well as seeing Vagrant Queen on SyFy!

The tag line: Icons for Now, Iconic Forever
Honestly it feels like they’re underselling pretty steeply. I’ve stated since forever that you can just about count on the latest book they put out as being their best. This has been illustrated by recent release GIGA nabbing 28,000+ pre-orders. It seems that the wider comic reading audience is finally tuning in to the critical acclaim Vault has been collecting since their launch with Heathen. They aren’t stopping either. Their YA graphic novel line WONDERBOUND launches in 2021, they announced that NIGHTFALL will be an imprint of sorts rather than a special seasonal line, and they’ve also started to really give collectors a reason to head on over to the selection with foil, variant, and special edition covers as well as the announcement of their second statue.

Vault is the most mature 4yr old ever.


Good luck finding a publisher that has taken as many steps forward in a short amount of time as Scout did this last year. The executive shake ups and behind the scenes hires have been coupled with a shift in focus on creator curated titles shows their intent and capability to be a major player in comics. With books from Eric Palicki, the WordBros, and one from Mario Candelaria on deck you’d be smart to have a look.

Innovative outreaching to the readers has helped Scout gain traction very quickly. Their monthly subscription box is a huge hit and allows easy, instant access to the entirety of their current releases. On top of that NOBODY does merchandise for their books like they do. They also directly interact with the readers and offer up exclusive partnerships for variants with the likes of ComicTom101 and CBSN. Oh, that’s on top of their own webstore exclusives. The first person to believe in a successful person, is themselves. Scout absolutely believes in itself and acts accordingly. They have good reason to believe.

If you’re looking for something to believe in then look no further than Scout.

AWBW – Dead Legends/Mezo #1

A Wave Blue World has been making a name for itself by way of graphic novels and their highly popular anthologies (Dead Beats, All We Ever Wanted, This Nightmare Kills Fascists, Broken Frontier). With the release of Dead Legends and Mezo they’ve entered some new territory as a publisher. Released with a “premier” 1st issue comic book and then followed by the full story in trade form, the two newest titles from AWBW sees the company branching out into what more people would call a traditional comic book approach.

Dead Legends

Written by James Maddox, with art by Gavin Smith, and letters by Ryan Ferrier the 80s kung-fu flick of a comic comes straight at you. Some parts Kill Bill and some parts Enter the Dragon, the action kicks off early and doesn’t ever really let up. It’s the best part of an 80’s action flick and uses the Kung Fu theme to deliver a ramped up story of revenge. As with real life the characters in Dead Legends are drawn to those like them. Without knowing much other than perhaps a reputation cliques are formed and battle lines are drawn. Other than the obvious revenge motif the intentions of the combatants in the tournament are hinted but held close to chest for the unfolding of the whole story. The read is quick but that’s not to say empty or missing something. The point of this book is simple. Revenge, flat out. By using the tropes of the 80s action flick and the Kung Fu genre the quickness of the read and the A to B point of the story doesn’t fall flat or leave you thinking there’s nothing there. Rather, the approach makes the book come off as if you’re watching the first part of one of those 80s jams. While a serious story on the whole there are bits of humor that help break the pages and keep the seriousness from being an overbearing weight for the reader to lift.

The art and lettering lend to this feel. The aesthetic of the book is perfect of what it is conveying. It’s action full on and the lines and effects push that off the page and into your face. The use of red especially sets things off and seems to be drawing a connecting line through the different threads we’re presented in this first issue. It also ties the literal action portrayed to the story being told. Everything about the book visually enhances the point blank tone of the book.

This is an absolutely solid introduction to the series. It hooked me and had me wanting to pick up the trade upon release (which I did).


Written by Tyler Chin-Tanner, with art by Josh Zingerman, colors by Doug Garbark, and lettered by Thomas Mauer this Mesoamerican inspired offering brings the promise of a grand new mythology to explore. Upon picking up the book it is beyond clear that the people, lands, and mythology of Mezo are drawn from the rich history of the Myan, Incan, and similar civilizations. In Mezo and empire is on the rise and the tribes of the land are endangered by it’s growth. Their safety, way of life, and the peace that runs through the lands are all threatened by the Emperor and God driving the expansion. Familiar tropes are blended with a scarcely used setting to create a wholly new take on the fight against what appears to be emotionless power. While the rest of the series will certainly explore it, the religious and over reliance of divine will that these types of cultures held is on display. While it introduces quite a bit this first issue isn’t crowded and gets enough across to effectively introduce all that it needs to in order to keep you reading. Seeds are planted that leave tabs of exploration open for the characters that are hard line introduced in terms of their place in the struggle. While painted as black and white it is clear that there’s grey within more than one of the main players in this saga.

The book is beautiful. Having the burden of presenting an entire world and mythology isn’t easy. Everything about the book looks and feels grand in stature. The expanding empire is both beautiful and imposing. The tribe is appropriately barbaric in look but clearly more so in culture. Each side of the struggle has a distinct look and the colors just explode the visuals off the page. It all presents as an epic presentation.

I loved this intro into an all new fantasy realm. An absolutely beautiful book that warrants further reading on the art alone, Mezo’s narrative promises plenty to keep you intrigued.

REVIEW: RV9 #1 Mad Cave

RV9 #1 opens with a dramatically striking front cover by Nicolas Salamanca, coloured by Mauricio VIllarreal. A young woman dancing, arms elevated, lit in red against a blue and violet background.
Part One of Five of this Mad Cave release is written by Ben Goldsmith. It’s the future, 2055 in fact, in Rome. The assassin Velveteen has ‘regrettably’ escaped the clutches of the Order of 9. And they want her back. The Order had abducted her from here family as a child, you see, and molded her into an assassin. Now, intent on revenge on the Order, Velveteen is helped in her quest by two men: an American hacker named Jasper and a rookie cop named Pazzi.
Created by Mark London, RV9 has promise. The concept of the abducted assassin seeking revenge is not a new one, but hey, it’s all in how you tell the tale. What storylines, which characters, and so on. Unfortunately, the telling here is confused, hard to follow. We are frequently confused by the twists, turns and just plain mysteriousness of it all. We need the synopsis and the libretto to understand the opera. Speaking of opera, there are scenes in RV9 that seem gratuitous, extra to the clarity of the central plot, which is: Who is Velveteen, who abducted her and why?
Penciller Travis Mercer and inker Miguel Angel Zapata put their best foot (feet?) forward in illustrating this story of the prodigal assassin, but again, things get off track. The drawing angles confuse us, we slow down to decipher strangely angled panel shapes, and some well-meaning closeups only disorient us. What is going on? On the plus side, the faces, hair, expressions are wonderful, and colourist Maria Santaolalla provides plenty of atmosphere. Santaolalla gives us dramatic environments, candy coloured buildings, moody shadowed alleys.
RV9 #1 is a mixed bag. Good concept, but a slow read, full of twisting threads that we need to unravel. Let’s hope issue 2 is a smoother yarn to work with!
Mad Cave Studios, RV9 #1, $3.99 for 34 pages of content. Assume Teen + Rating
@nsalamancaa, @spinneyalan, @MarkLondonMCS, @TravisMercer15, @MSantaolallart

Review: Savage Bastards #1 Mad Cave

It’s the Savage West where men were men and women were women. Oh, and let’s face it, they way history tells it, there was a lot of savagery all around!
Savage Bastards gets right to it in issue 1. Writer David Galiano brings forth the sixguns of blazing hot pistol drama to the dusty Mexican town of Guanajuato Mexico in 1873. The beautiful Rose Franklin is eating apples, laying low and aiming her pistol high. But then The Spider sits down beside her, and things get violently worse for Rose.
I like the gnarly, cussing feel of this story. Carlos Angeli nails down the dusty, the downtrodden horse-faced locals, the neighing and nodding of the themes and motifs of the old west. Whereever there’s a cliche at play, you can be sure it’s done right, “gol’darn it to tarnation”. Fun reading, I tell ya. Galiano’s dialogue rings true enough, the gun fights bring us back to Clint Eastwood and Alan Ladd, and the desperation sweat is everywhere. Plus, half brothers, Sam and Elliot, fight across a series of satellite towns in the Sonoran Desert in order to save Elliot’s mother from their sadistic, sociopath of a father,
There is great value, loads of great moments, and a great many panels of lesser men just trying to make a go of it. Sons of a Gun, check out this title!
Mad Cave Studios, Savage West #1, $3.99 for 21 pages of content. Assume Teen + rating
@MadCaveStudios, @spinneyalan,

Review: Wolvenheart #1 from Mad Cave

Wolvenheart #1, from Mad Cave Studios is enough to make your hair stand up! Or in my case, to make my former follicles quake in fear, wherever they may lie!

Creator and writer Mark London begins Part One (of Seven) back in the olde days: upstate New York, in 1858. An experiment is being conducted under a full moon at the Fairfield Psychiatric Facility.
A man is strapped to a gurney, insisting that he’s a werewolf. The doctor scoffs: we’ll just see! Just as things are starting to go really REALLY wrong for the doctor, enter Sterling Cross, legendary Werewolf slayer of Wolvenheart!!

The resulting tale is a time-travelling, multi-dimensional dive into an evil conspiracy that reaches as far as Queen Victoria’s royal family!

Mark London is clearly in his element in Wolvenheart. There is a joy and cackle ever-present in the proceedings; it’s part old monster movie, part Back To The Future. The dialogue is direct and dramatic, the scenes carefully choreographed for maximum impact. Alejandro Giraldo contributes wonderful optics: bad beasts, wicked women, plenty of period costumes dripping with daggers. The colouring is murky, atmospheric and delightful.

If you like your horror served with a side of science fiction à la Doctor Who, well, Wolvenheart may be just for you!

Mad Cave Studios, Wolvenheart #1 (of 7), $3.99 for 28 pages of content, Assume Teen + rating

Alan Spinney