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Best Comics for New Readers in 2021

Best new reader friendly comics of 2021!

As we near the end of 2021, our team reflects back on all the phenomenal comics released this year. We felt it was important to include a “Best Comics” list, but we’re going to skip right over ranking them like all the other sites do. We’re approaching this round-up in the GateCrashers way. Each of the comics discussed on our best-of list include the trades that are most approachable and accessible for new readers, as well as answering, “Who may like this?” and “Why is it good for new readers?” This list spans many genres of comics, so there is sure to be something for everyone.

If you have a local comic shop or book store you frequent, call them up and see if they can order whatever you like from this list. If you don’t, I always suggest checking out Third Eye Comics who ship internationally. This is the comic shop that raised me and is the shop I can most comfortably say you won’t ever have a bad experience with, so it’s great for someone who has no idea about where to find comics.

And now the list (in no particular order)

Home Sick Pilots

Creative Team –  Dan Watters (Writer), Caspar Wijngaard (Artist), Tom Muller (Designer), Aditya Bidikar (Letterer)

Publisher– Image Comics

Who may like this? Fans of haunted house stories, 90’s punk aesthetic, or mecha/kaiju can all find something to enjoy in this truly original series. 

Why it’s good for new readers: The first few pages throw you right in the middle of a sci-fi horror set piece before flashing back to the beginning of a much more relatable story: a group of kids trying to find their place and share their voice. The vibrant blues and pinks on the pages are as attention grabbing as the comic’s central mystery. And the occasional page consisting of only captions on a black background brings an element of traditional prose to the story.

Written by: Josh Brown

The Many Deaths Of Laila Starr

Creative Team – Ram V (Writer), Filipe Andrade (Artist), Inês Amaro (Colorist), AndWorld Design (Letterer)

Publisher– BOOM! Studios

Who may like this? The Many Deaths of Laila Starr is not a light read, but it is a great read! People who want to go on a journey with pretty colors, beautiful art, and lots of emotions should check this out.

Why it’s good for new readers: A quick five-issue read, this will easily catch someone’s eye skimming a bookshelf. The sunrise hues and surreal art bring the characters alive as the book deals with heavy topics like class inequality and death. Despite that, it manages to avoid being pretentious and is incredibly accessible! Laila Starr will make a great gift for anyone, even your friends who aren’t into comics yet. 

Written by: Eliza

Barbaric

Creative Team – Michael Moreci (Writer), Nathan Gooden (Artist), Addison Duke (Colorist), Jim Campbell (Letterer)

Publisher – Vault Comics

Who may like this? This would be good for fans of Conan, Gladiator, or even Lord of the Rings. It’s a great sword and sandal genre story that’s super easy to dive into. Anyone who watched Game of Thrones and wanted more of characters like The Hound, this is for you.

Why it’s good for new readers: This book is an absolute bloody blast. There is a talking axe who gets blood drunk, so order the damn book already! It’s funny, violent, and has great character dynamics. I typically don’t read fantasy stories but this one caught me and didn’t let go.

Written by: Dan McMahon

The Swamp Thing

Creative Team – Ram V (Writer), Mike Perkins (Artist), John McCrea (Artist on #5), Mike Spicer (Colorist), Aditya Bidikar (Letterer)

Publisher – DC Comics

Who may like this? Fans of Swamp Thing both old and new; whether you treasure your dog-eared copies of Moore, Bissette, and Totleben’s Saga of the Swamp Thing or always wondered what was the deal with the big green plant guy. It’s also great for horror fans, in particular fans of body horror and ecological horror. 

Why it’s good for new readers: It’s a new creative team and a whole new Swamp Thing with Levi Kamei taking on the mantle as the Avatar of the Green. You don’t need to know anything about the history of Swamp Thing, but can learn along with Levi as he tries to figure out exactly what is happening to him and find his place in the story. Ram V is a phenomenal writer. His scripts are well-crafted, tense, and emotional. Mike Perkins and Mike Spicer have combined for artwork that is dark and disturbing but nothing ever feels unapproachable. Levi is also one of the only, and I believe the first, Indian lead of a DC Comic, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that the character’s perspective and place in the larger pantheon of DC characters is important. 

Written by: Jimmy Gaspero

Made in Korea

Creative Team – Jeremy Holt (Writer), George Schall (Artist), Adam Wollet (Letterer)

Publisher – Image Comics

Who may like this? Anyone interested in human-cyborg relations – particularly involving an artificial child. Jesse the AI child has unique interactions with everyone, including her “parents,” creator, classmates, authority, terrorists, and certainly you well before the end of the story.

Why it’s good for new readers: The layouts and visual design are clear and attractive. The reading order of panels and general tone are easy to navigate. There are plenty of ideas on display, but everything links back to Jesse’s growing intellect and social skills. This is a self-contained comic, so you don’t have to worry about buying two dozen books or waiting through a creator’s hiatus. There are also some short stories from a variety of creators of Asian descent with alternate takes on artificial beings’ places in families and society. You’re getting a bunch of comics in one package about what it means to be human and find your place.

Written by: Thomas Maluck

M.O.D.O.K.: Head Games

Creative Team – Patton Oswalt & Jordan Blum (Writers), Scott Hepburn (Artist), Carlos Lopez (Colorist), Travis Lanham (Letterer)

Publisher – Marvel Comics

Who may like this? M.O.D.O.K.: Head Games is a great read for people looking for something that isn’t afraid of a little violence. Blum and Oswalt aren’t blood shy and they really capture the darker nature of this Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing. The writing team blends together the comedic nature of such a silly character with the grim side of science and family drama. If you have a friend who is vaguely familiar with Marvel from the MCU, this is a comic to push them deeper into the comics with ease.

Why it’s good for new readers: People who are looking to dive into Marvel Comics might want to add this mini-series to their reading list. M.O.D.O.K. is a classic recognizable character and the authors sprinkle in plenty of cameos of more famous figures in the Marvel pantheon, along with some lesser known characters that might interest you! ( ahem Skids) Blum and Oswalt spin a beautiful tale of a machine made for violence seeking out memories of a love filled life lost. It’s a wonderful peek into the world of Marvel and I highly recommend picking it up! 

p.s. Jordan Blum and Patton Oswalt are also the co-creators and showrunners for the M.O.D.O.K. TV series on Hulu!

Written by: Akira King

The Good Asian

Creative Team- Pornsak Pichetshote (Writer), Alexandre Tefenkgi (Artist), Lee Loughridge (Colorist), Jeff Powell, (Letterer)

Publisher – Image Comics

Who may like this? Fans of crime fiction, especially of the noir genre with hardboiled detectives, would be a huge fans of this series. Additionally, for those looking for such stories with a POC protagonist, this story is perfect. 

Why it’s good for new readers: While I have a fair share of crime stories that I do like, I will admit that my reading of stories of the noir genre is rather limited. There is a diversity of stories that are told and can be told with comics, and this comic is an example of that in that it’s a perfect first comic, but it is also a perfect first comic for those who are interested in reading more crime stories, especially of the noir variety, even if they don’t know where to start. The Good Asian is gritty in the best way in its exploration of 1930s America through the lens of its Chinese-American protagonist, inspired by the fictional character of Charlie Chan. There’s a relevancy to the story as it tackles social themes of racism and Asian masculinity and the creative team perfectly utilizes the visual storytelling potential of comics. Every issue is bound to stick with readers as they ponder the story’s implications, both inside the world of the story and in the real world in itself.

Written by: Bobby Varghese Vinu

I Walk with Monsters

Creative Team – Paul Cornell (Writer), Sally Cantirino (Artist), Dearbhla Kelly (Colorist), AndWorld Design (Letterer)

Publisher – Vault Comics

Who may like this? This is a suspense/horror story, but it’s also a personal story about trauma, the effects and aftermath of it, and how people confront it to either overcome or be overcome by it. It’s a bit as if Drop Dead Fred were directed by Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman), except it’s not funny and Fred is real and can turn into a dog monster. Fans of Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook’s Harrow County will find a lot to like with this comic.   

Why it’s good for new readers: I’ll be honest, I Walk with Monsters can be a difficult read, not because of any aspect of the story or text, but because of the subject matter once the story gets going, but it’s a worthwhile read and a good foray into horror comics generally and Vault Comics, specifically. It’s a self-contained, complete story as well. Jacey has been looking for the Important Man ever since he took away her brother. Her companion in this endeavor is David and together they hunt men that would prey on children. It’s not gory, but David’s monster form is terrifying. Paul Cornell’s script is sparse, but impactful. Sally Cantirino’s art captures well the emotion of the characters and Dearbhla Kelly imbues the panel with an autumnal color palette that fits both the quieter and unsettling moments of the story. AndWorld Design sets a steady pace to the story. 

Written by: Jimmy Gaspero

Radiant Black Vol 1.

Creative Team – Kyle Higgins (Writer), Marcelo Costa (Artist), Becca Carey (Letterer)

Publisher – Image Comics

Who may like this?  This is the start of a superhero epic that a lot of struggling 30 somethings can relate to. If you’re a fan of any of Higgin’s previous works, like his hot run on Power Rangers, Ultraman, or if you’re just looking for some good old bright superhero stories with a mature take, you’ll want to check out Radiant Black!

Why it’s good for new readers: This is a perfect issue #1. It does everything right in terms of introducing a brand new character. Higgin’s sets the stage on what we can expect for the story’s atmosphere and we know it won’t be all sunshine and rainbows. You’re introduced to the main character Nathan Burnett and his hometown pal Marshall and their fun relationship dynamic. Higgin’s also does a great job at giving us just enough of the story to keep us really wanting more. On top of the intriguing world being built for Radiant Black, the artwork lends to the story really well with rich color and dynamic scenes. This is a great book to get in on the ground floor of something that is going to be huge.

Written by: Matt Ringel

Djeliya

Creative Team- Juni Ba

Publisher- TKO Studios

Who may like this? Fans of fantasy, especially in a non-Western setting. Those interested in folklore would also appreciate this comic as it takes from a lot of West African folklore.

Why it’s good for new readers: Djeliya is an original graphic novel, which gives it an accessibility in that it is not a series and it is one single self-contained story. This comic boasts gorgeous art with a frenetic sense of energy, an excellent use of colours, and an amazing cast of characters, which are all landmarks of a great comic, especially one that could be anyone’s “first comic.” Fantasy fans who appreciate world building would be thrilled at how much storytelling is present in the comic, with its stories-within-stories to show readers a world that is expansive yet intimate, with its two protagonists who are on a journey to restore the glory of a fallen kingdom. 

Written by: Bobby Varghese Vinu

Catwoman: Lonely City

Creative Team – Cliff Chiang 

Publisher – DC Comics

Who may like this? Fans of Gotham as a setting and the expansive cast of rogues and Bat-family who operate in it; anyone who would root for a cat burglar against a fascist police state

Why it’s good for new readers: Cliff Chiang’s one-man-show production of Gotham’s near future works on two separate but mingling layers. Fans already marinated in all things Batman will recognize callbacks, background Easter eggs, and intentional shifts in character personalities due to the changes between DC’s status quo and the events of this book. However, newer readers will be just as engrossed in Selina Kyle’s underdog (undercat?) attempts to right some of the wrongs that have turned the city of Gotham into more of a hellhole than usual. She’s getting the band back together, hatching schemes, getting into shape, and grieving for a bygone era, all with the sort of fluid pacing and smooth paneling one would expect from Chiang at the top of his game. The only reason new or old readers might avoid this book is because there are so few others quite like it. Read my lips: this is the new Fraction/Aja Hawkeye, meaning people will get hooked on this book and not know where to look next. 

Written by: Thomas Maluck

The Nice House On The Lake

Creative Team – James Tynion IV (Writer), Alvaro Martinez Bueno (Artist), Jordie Bellaire (Colorist), AndWorld Design (Letterer)

Publisher – DC Comics (Black Label Imprint)

Who may like this? This is a must have for any fans of horror. If you have a horror fan who thinks the medium of comics can never match up to what film can, slam this one on the table in front of them.

Why it’s good for new readers: Even with this story being under the DC Black Label, it’s fully original. It’s a fresh horror story that’s filled with twists, turns, and complicated human relationships grounding everything. The artwork is some of the best in the industry that elevates the horror to 11. This is one of the books that will be talked about any time horror is brought up in comics.

Written by: Dan McMahon

Moon Knight (2021)

Creative Team – Jed MacKay (Writer), Alessandro Cappuccio (Artist), Rachelle Rosenberg (Colorist), Nick Russell (Designer), Cory Petit (Letterer)

Publisher – Marvel Comics

Who may like this? With the new Disney + show on the horizon, this is a series primed for new readers. It’s a darker superhero story, but it’s still got a lot of comedy and heart that makes it a good read for a number of people. It deals with some mental health things with care which is important.

Why it’s good for new readers:

I have never read a Moon Knight comic before this series. I truly only knew the character from memes, so I didn’t want the actual comics to ruin that fun mental image I had of Moon Knight. This series has a sort of comedic energy that captured me from the jump. It was super easy to jump into with little knowledge on the character. It has a great supporting cast who is being built out from the debut issue. It made me want more of the character, but I never felt left out in the cold because I didn’t have all the details of his messy past.

Written by: Dan McMahon

Green Lantern: Far Sector

Creative Team – N.K. Jemisin (Writer), Jamal Campbell (Artist/Colorist), Deron Bennett (Letterer)

Publisher – DC Comics (Young Animal Imprint) 

Who may like this? It’s primarily a sci-fi book, but really anyone who enjoys high concept and political works will feel right at home

Why it’s good for new readers: It is a completely stand-alone title, requiring no knowledge of the DC or even the Green Lantern mythos, which is always great for new readers, but more than that, this book incredibly political, touching upon just about every modern issue in America, from police brutality to disenfranchised voters/voter suppression, even including a stray shot at cryptocurrency. This could be a tough task, as it’s very hard to write a book so politically charged and not just bash you over the head with the desired lessons, but this book is created in a such a way that it never feels like that; the readers are respected and the story never even dips in favor of the political messages. What does that all mean for new readers? It means that this is a book that anyone can pick up and see what the world of comics can truly offer. It pushes the medium to the brink, to tell not only a fantastic story with jaw-dropping art and immaculate lettering, but to teach some of the most important political lessons of our time. The creative team understands the responsibility given them, designing a book like this and they take full use of the opportunity to once again demonstrate that art is political and with these messages told this immaculately, this is good art.

Written by: Luke Nally

Dead Dog’s Bite

Creative Team – Tyler Boss

Publisher – Dark Horse Comics

Who may like this? Dark Horse described this series as Twin Peaks meets Lady Bird and I don’t think I can do any better than that. It’s a mystery and a coming-of-age tale. As someone that read both The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew as a kid, but liked stories about weird towns like the television show Eerie, Indiana, I was a big fan of this series. 

Why it’s good for new readers: It’s a self-contained story of four (4) issues with Tyler Boss taking on the creative roles so it is his singular vision. It’s a comic that, in both its dialogue and visuals, pushes the boundaries of comic storytelling without ever feeling precious or pretentious. It is rich with moments that may not reveal themselves at first and is a comic that readers can go back to and discover things that may have been missed the first time. This shouldn’t be something that scares off new comic readers, but rather shows the depth and complexity of comic storytelling at its finest. 

Written by: Jimmy Gaspero

Witchblood

Creative Team – Matthew Erman (Writer), Lisa Sterle (Artist), Gab Contreras (Colorist), AndWorld Design (Letterer), Jim Campbell (Letterer on #1-2)

Publisher – Vault Comics 

Who may like this? All my fellow rock’n’rollers, crash queens, and motor babies will surely delight in the world of wonder in the pages of Witchblood. Love Near Dark, Kate Bush, and all manner of witchery? Then boy howdy is this the book for you! The world Erman, Sterle, Contreras, and Andworld have created is rich, vibrant, and full of never-ending adventure and intrigue. Yonna, her friends, enemies, and let’s be honest, frenemies, are a ragtag bunch with incredible design from Sterle and Contreras’ colors elevate them that much more.

Why it’s good for new readers: This is a great book for new readers and people new to comics altogether because there is relatively little of it in terms of sheer volume, but also it does not come saddled with decades of lore and world-building. You can jump right in at issue one and ride along with Yonna without worrying about prior storylines!

Written by: DW

Batman ‘89

Creative Team – Sam Hamm (Writer), Joe Quinones (Artist), Leonardo Ito (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer)

Publisher DC Comics

Who may like this? Welcome to the immersive Burton-verse that is Batman ’89. This comic, which debuted in August 2021, took fans of Batman and Batman Returns back to a nostalgic love of their Batman, Michael Keaton. The story is a continuation of the first two films and fans of either will rejoice at its immersive artwork and plot direction. As someone who grew up with the action figures and playsets from this era, this series is recommended to all those who are still looking for the Batmobile with detachable sides. 

Why it’s good for new readers: As someone who has very limited time, and tends to shy away from comics, I was surprised at how much I absolutely loved this ongoing series. Some of it can be attributed to my love of the films and lore it derives from, but I think this is just a great narrative around the duality of Batman/Bruce Wayne. Drawing from the problems of today and addressing them in a manner that is neither heavy-handed nor lighthearted allows fans to make their own judgements at the end. As a new reader, you always look for the thing that ‘hooks’ you, the thing that makes you keep turning the pages, and I can tell you that Batman ’89 has it. This series can be found at any comic shop, but be warned, it’s popularity is evident as even I had trouble securing the latest issue at my own local haunt.

Written by: RJ Durante

Home Vol 1

Creative Team – Julio Anta (Writer), Anna Wieszczyk (Artist), Bryan Valenza (Colorist), Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou (Letterer)

Publisher – Image Comics

Who may like this? Latinx people, people who want to learn about migration and people who want to read a powerful story, with superhero touches, that illustrates an uncomfortable truth.

Why it’s good for new readers: If this were a superhero story we would call it an origin story. But it’s much more than that. It’s a story of family, of overcoming, and of facing adversity. In a time where society is quite disunited, it’s important to know the problems of other cultures to be empathetic to those less fortunate.

Written by: Oscar Osorio

Wynd Vol. 1

Creative Team – James Tynion IV (Writer), Michael Dialynas (Artist), Scott Newman (Designer), Aditya Bidikar (Letterer)

Publisher – BOOM! Studios

Who may like this? Fans of fantasy stories, magic, Dungeons and Dragons, stories about queer identity, or ones where a character feels they have to hide who they trule are.

Why it’s good for new readers: Practically speaking, each issue of WYND was oversized (more than the standard 22 pages) and therefore Volume 1, collecting issues #1-5, is a hefty tome for about $15.00 so new readers can rest assured they are getting plenty of story for the price. That story is also fun and masterfully told, filled with colorful characters and adventure as Wynd lives in a world where magic changes you and so is forbidden in the City where he lives. Wynd must hide his true nature while navigating his fear that magic may be changing him into something…else. Dialynas art and colors are easy to get lost in plus this story has one of the best designed antagonists in The Bandaged Man. 

Written by: Jimmy Gaspero

Nightwing Vol. 1: Leaping into the Light

Creative Team – Tom Taylor (Writer), Bruno Redondo (Artist), Rick Leonardi & Neil Edwards (Pencillers on #82), Andy Lanning & Scott Hanna (Inkers on #82), Adriano Lucas (Colorist), Wes Abbott (Letterer)

Publisher – DC Comics

Who may like this? Anyone who’s looking for some classic superhero storytelling with a modern perspective on social issues.

Why it’s good for new readers: After far too long away from the blue spandex and escrima sticks, Dick Grayson is back as Nightwing in Tom Taylor and Bruno Redondo’s latest collaboration. With a fresh new perspective on his purpose in life, Dick sets about bettering life for Bludhaven’s unluckiest. And he’s not alone, not only does he have an adorable puppy along for the ride, but Dick has also reconnected with his one-time love, part-time Batgirl; Barbara Gordon. Thanks to Taylor’s new-reader friendly scripting and Redondo’s gorgeous art, Nightwing: Leaping into the Light is the perfect book to get started on your DC journey.

Written by: Ethan Chamberlain

Department Of Truth Vol. 1

Creative Team – James Tynion IV (Writer), Martin Simmonds (Artist), Aditya Bidikar (Letterer)

Publisher – Image Comics

Who may like this? Anyone frustrated with how easily misinformation can spread in this day and age will find the story here equally horrific and gripping.

Why it’s good for new readers: The abstract artwork may initially rub some new comic readers the wrong way, but it is essential in setting up a world in which reality is not set in stone. The premise revolves around the concept that if enough people believe in a conspiracy theory, that theory will turn into the truth. Even if someone has never read a comic before, a world in which the truth can be weaponized will still feel eerily resonant.

Written by: Josh Brown

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