We can all agree that 2021 had plenty of great stuff for DC fans. From the growth of DC on HBO Max, the emergence of spectacular new characters and a sophomore DC FanDome that was even more spectacular than the first, the DC Multiverse is now bigger than ever. But with so many great comics, movies and TV series in 2021, what we won’t all agree on is what we liked best.
We all have our own unique tastes as fans, even here at DCComics.com, so we asked members of our writing team to share their personal three favorites. Look for a different top three every day this week! Today, our list was assembled by our content editor, Tim Beedle.
One of the blessings and curses that comes with serving as editor here on DCComics.com is the sheer number of movies, TV shows, comics, books, games and other great projects you’re exposed to each year. There’s very little that’s set within DC’s vast universe that I don’t read, watch, play, interact with or otherwise lose myself in…which makes settling on three favorites a particular challenge, especially in a year that saw some truly great DC stuff enter the world. There was so much I enjoyed, so much I learned from, so much I laughed with, so much I marveled at, so much that made an impression. But I could only pick three.
Ultimately, two of my choices were easy ones for me, while the third was the result of much back and forth. As for which was which, I’ll never tell…
Yes, I could have chosen Far Sector as one of my favorite DC projects of 2020 or of 2019, for that matter. But 2021 was the year that N.K. Jemisin and Jamal Campbell’s spectacular sci-fi adventure reached its end. Starting off as a murder mystery set in the far reaches of space, Far Sector introduces us to Sojourner “Jo” Mullein, a way off the beaten path Green Lantern with a self-charging ring and a beat that she describes as the farthest of the Guardians’ 3,600 sectors. Living in a city of twenty billion individuals made of three vastly different, but coexistent races, Jo is there to keep the peace in a civilization that has rid itself of emotion. It should be an easy gig, but needless to say, it proves to be anything but.
As Jemisin’s 12-issue narrative progresses, we’re drawn into a mystery that’s both completely unlike any I’ve seen before but also undeniably similar to the moment in which we now find ourselves in our world. Much of this balance is due to Campbell’s vivid, detailed and remarkably alive art. It’s not easy to bring to life, say, a race of sentient AI who both exist as humanlike manifestations in the physical realm and constructs within their own fully digital world and yet, he does it with style and skill.
However, as brilliant as Far Sector’s story and setting is, it’s Jo Mullein who made me fall in love with the book. A tough-as-nails former cop and soldier, she’s confident at times and completely unsure at others, a grounded balance that makes this thoroughly remarkable woman also entirely relatable. Jo Mullein has made her way to other Green Lantern books, and it seems like it’s only a matter of time before we see her in live action somewhere, but forgive me for hoping that Jemisin and Campbell aren’t quite done with her yet. Far Sector shows us not just what a Green Lantern series is capable of, but what can be done with comics as a whole. It’s every bit as defining a work as DC has ever produced.
Superman & Lois
I’ll have to admit, I was skeptical. We’re getting a new Superman show, but he’s going to be moving back to Smallville with Lois? And he’ll be leaving the Daily Planet to focus on raising his two kids?
Look, no disrespect to the parents out there, we know you’re all superheroes in your own right, but this just wasn’t what I thought I wanted from a Superman show. Now, with Superman & Lois’s first season in the rearview and the second a few days away, those uncertainties seem outright laughable. Maybe I didn’t want a show that focused on super-powered fatherhood, but boy, did I need it. Watching Clark Kent attempt to balance the needs of his family with the needs of the world has done what hundreds of Superman writers have struggled to do since his debut in 1939—make the Man of Steel relatable. Sure, he’s still bulletproof. He still can fly, which let’s face it, sure makes getting the kids to school on time much easier. But when it comes to helping his sons deal with their insecurities, social anxieties and broken hearts, Superman is as helpless as the rest of us. In even having a family, he’s made himself vulnerable in a way that he’d never be otherwise. Seeing the deep fear in Hoechlin’s eyes when he realizes he doesn’t know where on the planet his son Jonathan is—that’s something that every parent understands.
Fortunately, Superman & Lois hasn’t forgotten it’s a superhero show. There’s no shortage of thrills, with the appearance of John Henry Irons and the emergence of iconic villain the Eradicator offering the sort of “oh crap!” moments we comic fans love. But it’s the quieter moments built out of the genuine chemistry between Hoechlin and his onscreen family of Elizabeth Tulloch, Jordan Elsass and Alexander Garfin that we won’t soon forget.
Batman: The Long Halloween
Based on one of the Dark Knight’s defining storylines and brought to life over two beautifully rendered films, Batman: The Long Halloween stands out among DC’s consistently strong slate of animated movies not because it blazes any new territory (for that, see Alex Jaffe’s Top Three choice, Batman: Soul of the Dragon), but because it does what it sets out to do so well. Like many of the DC Universe Movies that precede it, Batman: The Long Halloween is a direct adaptation of a popular DC graphic novel. Yet it’s an adaptation that’s not afraid to evolve into its own story, one that stays largely true to the comic that inspired it while leaning into certain themes and making a few smart changes to tighten the narrative.
But what really impressed me about Batman: The Long Halloween was its refusal to dumb down its story. While the DC Universe line of movies are all arguably made for an adult audience, they’re still largely action movies, packed with high-octane fights and explosive set pieces. The Long Halloween has a few of these, particularly in the climax of Part Two, but aside from that, it’s a measured, thought-provoking story that for much of its first half is completely void of Batman’s costume clad villains. This should come as no surprise to anyone who’s read the graphic novel, but it feels startlingly bold and unique when compared to other superhero movies we’ve seen. Instead, we watch as the partnership between Commissioner Gordon and Batman solidifies while the downfall of Gotham’s traditional crime families is cemented, all centered around the tragedy of Harvey Dent. That it should also serve as the late Naya Rivera’s final film just cements it as a truly special DC film. One of the very best.
The DC Universe line of movies is still establishing its new voice under the oversight of supervising producer Butch Lukic, who took the series reins from James Tucker in 2020. But if Batman: The Long Halloween is a promise of what lies ahead, then this DC fan—to borrow a phrase that’s likely a favorite of the movie’s Calendar Man—is more excited than a kid on Christmas.
Visit DCComics.com tomorrow for another 2021 Top Three list!
Tim Beedle covers movies, TV and comics for DCComics.com and writes our soon-to-return monthly Superman column, “Super Here For…” Follow him on Twitter at @Tim_Beedle.
NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this feature are solely those of Tim Beedle and do not necessarily reflect those of DC Entertainment or Warner Bros.