- December 22, 2021
Top Ten Comic Book TV Shows of 2021
Last year, I only did a video about the best comics of 2020, but now I want to do more. There were a lot of comic book shows to come out this year as the pandemic slowed down. Some were about superheroes and some weren’t. Unlike with the movie list, there were a lot more than ten comic book shows to watch. This means that there was a comic book show here and there that couldn’t make the list.
This includes shows that I never got the chance to watch, some I couldn’t bring myself to finish, and… some I just didn’t like all that much. There are going to be some shocking omissions I’m sure for some people.
FYI, I’m including live-action and animation in this one list, which should be no surprise. I like animation better 9 times out of 10.
For the MCU’s first foray into streaming, now that the Netflix shows and Agents of Shield are basically non-canon, WandaVision was a really strong start. It made the most of its weekly release schedule with twists that got fans chomping at the bit. There were so many fan theories and this show built up the mystery of what was happening incredibly well.
Not to forget, it was also really funny, especially as it recreated some of the best sitcoms in television history. The way each episode matched a different style made it the biggest departure from the MCU’s typical visual style than other projects. And the actors made the most of it too. They were able to carry their own throughout each era of comedy and into the MCU’s more modern sensibilities.
The reason though that it has to rank so low is that in its last few episodes it doesn’t pay off the most exciting things the show built up. The mystery around the town, and Quicksilver, and Agatha were all pretty big letdowns. That all worked to drag down the show’s excitement factor, but also its climax and pacing.
While the final twenty minutes, with Wanda’s tearful goodbye to Vision was heartfelt, it didn’t totally save the finale to an otherwise strong mini-series.
This may seem shocking for several reasons. For one, Lucifer is barely a comic book show. In fact, it kind of mutilates one of my favorite comics of all time. It’s also a cop procedural, in LA, which can make it pretty tone-deaf at times. For the seasons Lucifer ran on FOX it was almost a guilty pleasure. I enjoyed what was wrong with it rather than what was good.
Since it came to Netflix, it added more overarching plotlines, brought in more fantastical elements, and felt free to get wacky. The final season to air this year was barely a cop procedural and even owned up to the flaws of cop procedurals. At the same time, it told a heartwarming, and enjoyable story about the Devil being a dad in this last season. Rather than feel the need to be a direct adaptation, it had fun with it, and I had fun too.
But it also wasn’t afraid to tackle some more mature and emotional subject matter surrounding the Abrahamic source material the original comic adapted. Minor spoilers, the plotline of Dan dealing with being in Hell, and trying to be there for his friends despite being dead… almost brought me to tears on several occasions.
For a cop procedural turned fantasy comedy, this show had a lot of wise things to say. It echoed and gave rather insightful opinions about the nature of God, the afterlife, and the denizens of Heaven and Hell. It’s a show that, honestly, turned out better than it had any right to be.
#8. Aquaman: King of Atlantis
This three-episode-long mini-series about Aquaman trying to earn the love and support of his people was both hilarious and action-packed. Aquaman: King of Atlantis was filled to the brim with personality in the characterizations that seem both outlandish and human, and the animation style that doesn’t waste a single frame.
Arthur Curry became a comedically relatable character as he tried and failed again and again to impress the people of Atlantis. The way he constantly battles through doubt and failure creates laugh-out-loud hysterics and legitimate emotion. He’s treated unfairly as a king for only trying to do what’s right in a job he didn’t want in the first place.
By the end, you understand why Arthur is the right man to be king, and why the art style looks the way it is. I understand if it puts people off, but give it a chance. It lends itself to stunning visuals in the action and the humor that other styles could never do.
This is a one-of-a-kind show, one of the best comic book shows of the year. It does Aquaman right, and the spirit of DC right. I seriously want a second season, or volume, or whatever it should be called.
#7. Superman & Lois
Alright, the comic book shows on the CW get a bad rap, and for good reason. They are under-budgeted, have inconsistent cinematography, and constantly interrupt each other with crossovers that used to be interesting. That’s just tackling the mechanical problems they have.
Superman & Lois, from the start, doesn’t have these. This may due to a deal with WB to give the show a bigger budget, but it paid off. The action scenes, the set production, the stunts, and the overall way the show is shot set it apart from other CW shows.
The way it takes its time to tell a story is improved too. The show never crams in crossovers or artificially stretches out plot points to hit 20 episodes. It takes time to really explore what it’s like for Superman to be a superhero and a dad.
Pair this with his Kryptonian lineage, and what that could potentially mean to and for his sons, makes for a show with emotional highs other superheroes on the CW don’t match. Most of all, it’s a live-action Superman that understands and captures the character in a way people have been wanting for a long time. Cameos on other inconsistent shows are one thing, but this is what DC fans have been asking for.
#6. Young Justice
I’m just gonna come out with it, I loved season 3 of Young Justice, and this season so far too. Is it everything I wanted? No. It doesn’t have the budget for the long-form storytelling of seasons 1 & 2, or to properly act on the twists it makes to the DC Universe.
That hasn’t stopped me from enjoying what we have been getting. The first two arcs of Young Justice have pulled back on the large cast, taking the time to focus on small groups of characters at a time. I love getting a look at Miss Martian’s past and Martian culture. It took time to tell a story about class and race politics, while also entrenching it in a foreign culture. This made it relatable where it counts, and separate from real life when it needed to be.
Artemis’s mission to rescue Orphan, and give her sister a chance at happiness with her daughter hit a lot of the same points. I never thought we’d take a chance to see a character like Cheshire develop and heal from her traumatic childhood and life as an assassin. Seeing Artemis fight, struggle, and refuse to give up on her sister, did a lot to develop both characters without involving their love interest. That hurt Artemis more last season than Cheshire admittedly in my opinion.
Despite this being one of my favorite shows, I’m not going to act like this season is perfect. I don’t believe all the changes to Orphan’s backstory were necessary, but some fit the world of Young Justice better. Making Lady Shiva Cassandra’s trainer and abuser rather than David Cain makes sense when Shiva’s such a big part of the Light. Also, she’s a villain too, and abusive to Cassandra in the comics. She literally attacks and beats her up on regular basis, so this change didn’t bother me.
I do find the change that made Cassandra responsible for Barbara Gordon’s paralyzation in poor taste. The consequences of this change are never explored in a way that develops Cass’s character in the arc. That doesn’t ruin this comic book show, but it can only rank so high when it cuts corners when it counts for some beloved and important characters.
#5. Super Crooks
This anime adaptation of an American comic book was a real surprise for me at the end of the year. An animated spin-off of the less than stellar Jupiter’s Legacy, Super Crooks fleshes out and captures a world of superheroes that feels as big as DC’s or Marvel’s. By focusing on villains, the mechanics of the world become so well realized and entertaining in itself. The world itself serves the plot of several heists and plot twists in natural ways that never feel cheap.
Then there’s the stellar animation that fully realizes some amazing power sets, both simple and complicated. One of the things this show does better than every other show on this list is take superpowers that sound pretty one-note and use them in creative ways. Unlimited regeneration has never felt so useful.
And despite being a comic book show about villains, the characters are incredibly likable for the most part. There are a few character traits that feel lost in translation, but more often than not every personality feels 3-dimensional, fleshed out, and likable when it comes to the main cast. Even the villains are pretty interesting, creating intrigue and tension throughout the show.
I’ll be honest, I’m not a terribly big fan of Mark Millar’s work, save for Old Man Logan. I find that they can be more than a bit crass and gross for the sake of being so. Nothing on the level of Garth Ennis, but more than most. And then there are the plots that seem to sometimes level plot twists over characters. Looking at you Civil War. When the opening to this show first came up, I was not excited, but by the end of the second episode, this show proved it was something special.
#4. The Falcon & the Winter Soldier
The Falcon & the Winter Soldier is a show that defied my expectations. For me, it’s living proof that the MCU can take the time not only to tell timely stories about serious subject matter like race but is willing to take on an earnest tone usually reserved for the comics. This isn’t Daredevil-level storytelling, don’t misunderstand me. But being unafraid to show that the MCU isn’t a perfect world devoid of real-life horrors really helped this comic book show stand out from other MCU projects.
Steve Rogers giving Sam Wilson, a black man, the shield is not just a passing of the torch. This isn’t like when Wally West replaced Barry Allen, and people couldn’t tell there was a different man under the cowl. This show speaks honestly about how the black community feels about serving the military and a country that doesn’t respect them. Then it even takes the moment to question if a black man should ever want to be called Captain America.
Match that with stellar action scenes fit for the films, and the charismatic main character, and this show is the full package. I can’t describe how this show turned me around on Sam Wilson as a character. This year, we got to see our MCU protagonists really try to talk and communicate with the antagonists more than usual to see their side of things. Sam Wilson’s origins come from helping veterans get through coming home. Watching him have hope that he can use that same experience to help the villains is great.
Is this show perfect? No, this show was clearly affected by COVID. It’s obvious they cut a plague storyline from the show, and couldn’t film the finale they wanted. This left the ending to feel more than a bit rushed. There are also pacing issues across several episodes that while didn’t ruin anything, were pretty noticeable. But overall, it remained one of my favorite entries in the MCU.
#3. What If…?
I have been waiting for a good animated series from Marvel since they canceled all the ones they had. Now there’s What If…? that not only thrives off the visual freedom of animation but also the creative freedom as well.
Superhero zombies, villains (who aren’t Thanos) winning, and heroes falling to the dark side, are all things this show does well with twists on characters we know. The original What If…? comic was more than a little gimmicky. They had to end in a way where you didn’t like the story more than the main 616 Marvel Universe. This show, either by design or mistake, isn’t afraid to make changes to the old original MCU canon to create characters and plotlines more interesting than what the MCU has done.
I’ll say, I was more interested in the Guardians of the Multiverse than I was with any of the team rosters in the MCU so far.
And the animation was stellar. There were a few character models that don’t quite match the MCU, but that’s alright. We get stunning action and fight scenes, unburdened by the limitations of live-action. Thor vs Captain Marvel, the Guardians of the Multiverse vs Ultron, and Ultron vs the Watcher, are all visually stunning, and excellently choreographed. Even the 1 vs 100 action scenes that fill space are amazing. I could watch Captain Carter leap around the battlefield, tearing apart Nazis all day. This may just be my favorite show in the MCU, at least since Daredevil isn’t canon it seems.
The adaptation of Robert Kirkman’s, Ryan Ottley’s, and Cory Walker’s comic is one of those adaptations that improves on the source material. For the most part, Invincible directly adapts the comic’s story beats and a crap ton of panels. Though, it does take into account that the original comic started almost twenty years ago. There were more than a few characters who got a much-needed update and some plot points that could use much better placing.
Moving the biggest early reveal of the comic to the first episode instead of issues in, really added this sense of dread and tension to the whole first season of Invincible. What kind of person is Omni-Man? Is he really a hero? Is he a danger to his family?
Of course, if you’ve read the comic, you have an answer to this question. Thankfully, this show sets a perfect pace so fans are still enthralled as they wait to see what has changed. This comic book show kept so many viewers chomping at the bit like no other in a long time.
The freedom that animation gave the show to depict violence and grotesque characters only helped to translate the comic world to the page. The horror of superpowered individuals is translated to screen in a way I never would have imagined. At the same time, this was not a satire or a deconstruction. This show loved superheroes and pushed them the farthest they could go in a world with permanent consequences.
I’ve heard, honestly to my annoyance, that people don’t see how future seasons can top season 1. Well, the arcs that season 1 adapts are far from the best arcs of the comic. The best has only yet to come for Invincible.
Something Central’s #1 Comic Book Show of 2021 is….
Doom Patrol may just be one of, if not the best live-action superhero show out there. This comic book show is up there with Watchmen and Daredevil with its emotional maturity and thematic immaturity. In the same episode, we saw literal man-eating butts and the Chief sacrificing himself to cure people whose lives he’s ruined in eye-teary fashion.
That’s bonkers, and it’s this kind of out-of-the-box writing that makes Doom Patrol one of the most emotionally satisfying shows on television. Every season we see these broken individuals learn how to be just a little bit better after excruciating pain and effort. Then we come back and see that things aren’t all that different because people don’t change overnight. Grand adventures don’t fix people, they’re lucky to stay the same.
These characters fought tooth and nail just to be a little bit healthier than they were the day before and fail a lot. There’s a lot of laughs to be had as they faced conflicts that could only be written by people on LSD. This show really hit on about everything but that Emmy nomination it so dearly deserves.
This show was somehow both madness incarnate and driven by the most well-thought metaphors for the human condition possible. It’s a show that needs to be seen to be believed. Every new season, it shows us why it’s so important that people be as imperfect as we are. No other comic book show has as much to say or takes half the risks to say it. How often this show succeeds, is a testament to the hard work of everyone involved.
Doom Patrol, far and away, is the best comic book show of the year. It’s also an easy contender for one of the best comic book shows ever made.
What’s your favorite comic book show of the year?
Let me know in the comments below look out for videos on our other top tens on the Youtube channel!