The Best Comic Book TV + Movies of 2021, in our POPular opinion!
Like the comic book industry, many films and tv series suffered from COVID-related delays this year, but there were still some noteworthy MUST-SEES, including our favorites:
ANDREW CARR: This year has been rather disappointing when it comes to film and tv for me personally. The decline of the MCU with a poor Black Widow film, a mediocre Shang-Chi film (I enjoyed it but there wasn't enough Kung Fu in the film for me), and then a rather boring outing for Jack Kirby’s Eternals.
There are however two films that have elevated this year.
The Suicide Squad was a fun, violent, well crafted reboot of the team that was desperately needed. Helmed by James Gunn, he made them both villainous and endearing, in a film that had way too much emotion and heart than it had any right to.
The other is clearly the winner of 2021: Spider-Man: No Way Home. An epic, nostalgic journey through 20 years of Spider-Man cinematic history, this amazing script had Holland finally be the Spider-Man he should have been from Homecoming onwards. The superior acting from the entire cast was astounding, where the classic villains felt like they didn't miss a beat from 20 years ago. This is not just a standout for the year, but a spectacular Spider-Man film for the ages.
MICHAEL AUSTERLITZ: My Best Movie of 2021 is Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. In the same vein as Guardians of the Galaxy, this movie took an approach that blended humor, action, and typical superhero storytelling. I compare it to GotG because I love that movie for its wit and not taking itself too seriously, while still capturing emotion and what makes superhero stories so compelling. I don't think there was a single poorly designed character, and I'm a huge fan of Awkwafina (naysayers will say she may have been the exception to my statement), and I thought she brought some really heartfelt moments to the film. Some fight scenes were reminiscent of Tony Jaa films, sort of single camera, shot through multiple points in a set. Overall, a solid entry into the MCU and a character I hope shows up much more.
MACK JOHNSON: My favorite tv series or movie this year was a very easy choice for me. Super easy, you might say. As a lifelong Superman fan, I was anxiously awaiting and very pleasantly surprised at how good Superman & Lois was. In my POP reviews of early episodes, I compared it to the feel of Smallville, with some of the gravitas from The Man of Steel.
After Ma Kent's death, Clark and Lois decide to move to the family farm in Smallville to raise their twin teen sons, who may or may not be developing super-powers of their own. It is a CW show, so let the teen angst begin: there's love triangles, sibling rivalry, peer pressure, and more.
Clark and Lois have great chemistry together and are obviously great parents, even though they have made one whopper of a mistake: they have been keeping secret from their sons the fact that their father is Superman. Trust Issues Alert!
The special effects are far superior to any other superhero show on television, the casting is perfect, and the costumes and scenery are top notch. With SuperProducer Greg Berlanti guiding a solid writing staff to create grounded dialogue and storylines with plenty of twists, Superman & Lois is not only the Best Superhero Show on The CW, but the Best Show on The CW, period. It's a fresh take on the Superman mythos that will have plenty of surprises for even the most knowledgable Superman fan (like me).
TAHEG GLODER: Harley Quinn should not work. It just... shouldn't. It's hyper-violent, extremely rude, and every single character is an idiot, in one way or another (except Ivy. She's perfect.). And yet, somehow, despite the fact that everything about it feels wrong, it ends up being SO right. I gave it a shot because I figured it couldn't be any worse than Titans, and I'm so freaking glad I did. Hilarious, razor sharp writing, hilarious characters and A+ voice acting. Kaley Cuoco's Harley is probably a Top 3 all time version of the character for me now, and Alan Tudyk's Joker is right up there (His Clayface is #1 by leagues).
So, remember. If you ever think your idea might not work, or is too silly to even be considered: Remember that Harley Quinn exists, and is MAGNIFICENT. And just let your crazy light shine bright.
ARITRA PAUL: 2021 was a year where I cut down a lot on visual binging and clung to things that were in my comfort zone. The adaptation that totally occupied my mind came out in the final stretch of 2021, it is Baker Boys, a Thai TV series adaptation of famous cooking-comedy and slice of life manga Antique Bakery, written and illustrated by Fumi Yoshinaga. I was hooked on this adaptation the most, as some of my favourite actors were part of it, with beautiful set design in soft pinks and white! But most important, the creators of the series chucked out the super-toxic tropes and themes that need to stay in '90s only. The tv story revolves around a millionaire guy incapable of tasting sweets who runs this café named Sweet Day and his three employees: an out and flirty chef, a clumsy ex-bodyguard turned server, and a former boxer turned sous chef in training.
Despite the delicious pastry and individual stories that make the story special, the manga is also a murder mystery. It revolves around missing children who are lured away by desserts. The murder mystery runs parallel in the original text. In the Thai version, it happily turned their series into a cozy murder mystery from the first episode, with a dash of class criticism. As a slice of life manga, it had some terrible issues with its female characters. In the tv adaptation, they have added loads of females who are contributing to the story in their own way. Mone the young reporter was a good addition. Every episode was fast paced without rushing the individual storyline, hence the final episode was a beautiful balance of scary and sweet when the murderer gets caught! All the 12 episodes are legally available on GMMTV’s YouTube channel for international viewers.
BRITTON SUMMERS: My favorite TV show of this year was Loki. I know, I’m basic. But seriously, Loki was the best thing I saw on TV from the first episode onward. It explores some surprisingly hefty themes of identity, free will, and if the choices of the past define who you are. From the brilliant twists to the great, surrealistic music of Natalie Holt, to the phenomenal acting from Tom Hiddleston, Owen Wilson, Sophia Di Martino, and the cast, Loki is the best Disney+ Marvel show and my personal favorite out of the bunch thus far.
For movies, it’s a tie between Spider-Man: No Way Home and Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings. Spider-Man: No Way Home was everything I wanted it to be and more. It’s the MCU Spider-Man movie that felt the most like a Spider-Man movie, and showed us why this character still endures to the present. Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings is not just a great superhero film, it’s a phenomenal action movie all around. It’s a delicious throwback to old Asian action films like The Drunken Master and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, alongside humorous cues from John Carpenter’s classic Big Trouble in Little China. With some of the best action in the MCU, a surprisingly emotional story about coming to terms with your destiny, and with one of the MCU’s best villains so far in Xu Wenwu. Shang-Chi has become one of my favorite Marvel films.
AUSTIN KEMP: The Falcon and the Winter Soldier takes my vote for the Best Comics Based TV Show of 2021. The grounded narrative explores the motivations and challenges of these characters as they relate to their individual pasts, their relationship to Steve Rogers, and ultimately their relationship to the symbolism of Captain America. The Literature nerd in me adored the handling of these moments as they rendered gut-punch after gut-punch with words alone. Cap's symbolism is thoroughly interrogated and offers hope in a world somehow broken. The culminating final episode left me with tears of joy and excitement for where the MCU is going.
RUTH KOTSALOS: Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is my pick for Best Comic-Based Movie of 2021. This is definitely a movie I wish I had seen in theaters because of all the big action sequences and visual effects. The story of Shang-Chi’s family is discussed throughout in a manner that piques your interest. I knew absolutely nothing about Shang-Chi going into it, and honestly that seems like the best way to watch it. The actors did a great job of making you like their characters — even the baddies — and they all seemed like people I want to know more about. I look forward to seeing more of Shang-Chi in the MCU, even in small appearance spots, just so we get used to his involvement.
As for Best TV Show, I’ve been going back and forth on this quite a bit with three of the Marvel series on Disney+. My ranking has to go on the likelihood of rewatching the series outside of an annual binge of all MCU movies & shows. For me, that would have to be Loki. Call me crazy, but I think the first two Thor movies are funny —definitely bad— but funny. Still, the character of Loki has been one of my favorites and he’s been fantastic from the start. The Loki series emphasizes the significance of all of his evil deeds and mistakes and gives him a chance to redeem himself. I love a good redemption arc and this series has it and then some. The supporting characters are fantastic and the ending is so freaking good, I can’t wait to see how it unfolds in the MCU in 2022. Fingers crossed for a season 2!
Those are our Best TV and Movie Picks for 2021...we'd love to hear what yours are!