Some great new superhero comics have been released in 2021.
Comics are capable of telling stories in any genre, but more than anything else, they especially excel at depicting superhero stories. The debut of Superman in 1938’s Action Comics #1 by Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster forever changed the world of comics by introducing the first classic superhero, starting a tradition that continues into the present day.
Now, dozens of comic companies release new titles every year, delivering truly groundbreaking and thrilling stories. While Marvel and DC have cornered the market for superheroes, the Big Two aren’t the only ones introducing fantastic new series of larger-than-life heroes with incredible powers. Whether the titles come from Marvel, DC, or smaller companies, this year has introduced some absolutely stunning new superhero comics.
The X-Men have always been one of the most interesting superhero teams around. Tini Howard and Alberto Foche’s new X-Corp series follows some of Marvel’s smartest mutants into the corporate world, showing that corporate warfare and business politics can be every bit as bloodthirsty as any supervillain.
Rather than dealing with the usual tropes of good and evil, this is a story about the nature of power, and how different companies use it for their own ends. That said, it also has all of the explosions, sci-fi gadgets, and brutal over-the-top combat one expects from an X-title.
Superhero stories are frequently described as modern-day myths. Of course, many of the gods, heroes, and monsters from mythology have also been incorporated into superhero comics, blurring the line between past traditions and contemporary comic-book epics about superpowered heroes.
Written by Jason Aaron and Torunn Gronbekk and drawn by Nina Vakueva, The Mighty Valkyries is a story inspired by the Valkyries of Norse religious myths. When Knull, the fictional symbiote god, plungers Earth into primordial darkness, the Valkyries challenge death itself with their mystic might, as some of Marvel’s strongest and bravest heroines come together to prove just how heroic they all are.
Valiant is the third-largest superhero universe after Marvel and DC. The new Shadowman series by Cullen Bunn and John Davis-Hunt is the coolest and darkest Valiant comic of the year.
The titular hero protects humankind from undead and malevolent spirits that cross over from the mystical realm known as the Deadside. Powered by the Shadow Loa, Shadowman is able to see and interact with spirits. But in his new series, he has just made a discovery about the true nature of the Deadside that will shake the Valiant Universe to its core, creating a great twist for old readers to enjoy while being the perfect entry point for new ones.
Vault has published some of the best sci-fi, fantasy, and horror comics of recent years. The Blue Flame is one of the company’s only superhero titles, but it still defies expectations, being more a Vonnegut-esque work of post-modern sci-fi than a traditional tale of cape-wearing vigilantes.
Written by Christopher Cantwell and drawn by Adam Gorham, The Blue Flame is about a Milwaukee maintenance man named Sam Brausam who fights crime as a superhero when he’s not engaged in janitorial work. When he’s hit in a mass shooting, Sam finds himself on trial before cosmic entities who demand that he must justify the very existence of humanity. The Blue Flame is no mere deconstruction of superhero tropes, but rather a complex psychedelic interrogation of the human condition.
One of the boldest, most unapologetic comics of the year is White by writer Kwanza Osajyefo and artists Jamal Igle, Khary Randolph, and Tim Smith 3. This is the sequel to the groundbreaking 2016 series Black, which imagines a world in which superpowers are real, but only Black people are capable of manifesting them.
White is a perfect jumping-on point for new readers. One of the world’s most prominent white nationalists, Theodore Mann, has been elected President of the United States, riding a wave of populist support after many Americans became radicalized in response to learning Black people could have superpowers. But the heroes are not willing to let Mann spread his message of hate unopposed. This book is direct in its politics and has a story as hard-hitting as a fist to a Nazi’s face.
Millennials are sometimes referred to as “the Lost Generation.” They entered the job market right after the 2008 Financial Crash, resulting in lower starting wages than previous generations and therefore lower overall wealth throughout their lifetimes. In fact, they are the first generation in a century to have both lower wages and life expectancy than previous ones. Now, there is a superhero comic that speaks to these experiences.
Radiant Black by Kyle Higgins and Marcelo Costa is a superhero comic for millennials. The protagonist, Nathan Burnett, has mountains of debt and almost no income, forcing him to move back home at 30 years old. When a mysterious event gives him his powers, he learns to use these new abilities while adding his superhero responsibilities to his already overworked and overcomplicated life.
Back in the early ’90s, Milestone Comics introduced a series of new superheroes who reflected different experiences, backgrounds, and beliefs. Raquel Ervin, AKA Rocket, is a teenage girl who aspires to become a professional writer. When her boyfriend convinces her to break into a home, she encounters the house’s owner Augustus Freeman, who is actually a superpowered alien passing himself off as human. Seeing how powerful he is, Rocket convinces Augustus to become a superhero, Icon, and to take her on as his sidekick.
The duo returns in Icon & Rocket: Season One by Reginald Hudlin and Doug Braithwaite. There is a lot to love about this comic, but the coolest part is that it explores what would realistically happen if superheroes disturbed the old status quo. How would those in power fight back? And how would communities react to these new heroes?
Way of X is arguably the most interesting new X-Men title to come out this year. The spiritual heart of the X-Men has always been Nightcrawler, whose devout Catholic faith has guided his moral code, simultaneously contrasting and complementing his swashbuckling heroism.
In this new comic by Simon Spurrier and Robert Quinn, Nightcrawler begins to form a new mutant religion. He challenges his own faith with its traditional roots to build something new that reflects the realities of mutants living on Krakoa. Now that resurrection is possible, life and death take on new meaning. Nightcrawler shepherds his people into the future, even as he defends them from a new predator who moves among them.
This is easily one of the best superhero comics of the past year. The Other History of the DC Universe by John Ridley, Giuseppe Camuncoli, and Alex Dos Diaz returns to classic stories from DC’s past, examining how Black, Asian, and Latinx heroes feel about major events.
The story deals with heavy subject matters, offering a variety of perspectives on emotional and political topics. It does not reduce matters to black and white, but tackles them from many sides, as this is a story interested in all of the people impacted by DC’s history.
Static is a classic ’90s hero who first debuted in his own Milestone series before going on to star in the show Static Shock and make regular appearances in the Young Justice animated series. Already gifted with a genius mind and charismatic sense of humor, he received electrical powers during an event known as the Big Bang, in which police used an experimental gas against people in Dakota City.
The new series Static: Season One has everything fans loved about the original comic, updated for a modern audience. Writer Vita Ayala and artist Nikolas Draper-Ivey understand what makes the hero so beloved and are able to showcase all the reasons for his success in a tale that feels both personal and exhilarating.
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Theo Kogod is a freelance writer, educator, researcher, and activist. He helped found the magazine 3 Feet Left as its Resident Writer while working as an English teacher in Japan. Since then, he’s written for various online publications, including CBR, Screen Rant, The Gamer, and The Comics Vault. His published fiction includes the prose superhero story “Typical Heroes” released by Diabolical Plots and the sci-fi story “Antediluvian” in the anthology A Flash of Silver-Green. He currently lives in North Carolina with his spouse, two adorable cats, and an ever-growing book-hoard. You can find him on Twitter at @TKogod. You can also watch his videos on YouTube under the name Theo Kogod, where he posts sporadically.
Some great new superhero comics have been released in 2021.