Saturday, December 26, 2015

Top 20 Comics of 2015

These are my favorite comics of 2015, including manga, superheroes, graphic novels, reprints, etc. I try to be as true to how I feel about a book as possible when ranking them, which is why it may seem odd for some to see a superhero title hardly anyone read rank over an acclaimed graphic novel. If I enjoyed my experience of reading it more, it was placed higher on my list.

These are my favorite twenty comics of the year. I hope you enjoy my list, and hopefully check out some books that may have eluded you.

Honorable Mentions
Baba Yaga's Assistant (Marika McCoola and Emily Carroll)
Harrow County (Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook)
Junji Ito's Cat Diaries: Yon and Mu (Junji Ito)
One-Punch Man (ONE and Yusuke Murata)
Princess Ugg (Ted Naifeh)

20. The Legend of Zelda: A Link To the Past (Shotaro Ishinomori) - I subscribed to Nintendo Power growing up, so I have fond memories of the comics that ran in the magazine, including this classic from master Shotaro Ishinomori, creator of manga such as Cyborg 009.  Based on the Super Nintendo game of the same name, this is a lovingly-illustrated, frantically-paced story full of hideous monsters and plenty of action.

19. Spider-Woman (Dennis Hopeless and Javier Rodriguez) - Only a few issues of this new Marvel title are out, but it's already one of my favorite superhero comics.  The fantastic artwork, complete with bright colors and clean lines, compliments the exciting action that Hopeless injects into this story that sees Jessica Drew juggling pregnancy with being a hero.  Training a new team of heroes, and thwarting the plans of skrulls, Jessica Drew proves that she's still a force to be reckoned with, despite her delicate condition.

18. Moose (Max de Radigues) - Shy high schooler Joe is bullied terribly by another boy in his class, and escapes his oppressive life by enjoying nature.  This is a quiet, beautiful book with quite an unexpected turn of events that leads to a morally ambiguous ending.

17. Planet Hulk (Sam Humphries and Marc Laming) - In Battle World, there is a land ruled by hulks that the rest of the world fears, and with good reason, as it is a barbaric place where only the strong survive.  Good thing that Steve Rogers has been hardened by life as a gladiator.  Together with his trusted partner, Devil Dinosaur, Steve navigates the land that tries its best to eat him, in an effort to save a lost friend.  Laming's artwork is lush and vibrant, and perfectly captures the action and danger of Humphries' story.  And it's Steve Rogers with a t-rex, for Pete's sake!

16. Ms. Marvel (G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona) - Kamala Khan continues to entertain as a Muslim inhuman who protects her hometown of Jersey City from the many evils that threaten it.  Kamala is a well-rounded character who actually acts like a teenager, full of contradictions and whiny moments, but is also brave and selfless when she needs to be.  This is a bright superhero romp full of teenage angst and secret identities that brings to mind some of the best of its predecessors.

15. Just So Happens (Fumio Obata) - The beautiful watercolors of Obata's work captures the quiet story of a woman returning home perfectly.  During an especially trying return to her hometown in Japan, Yumiko contemplates her life, her past and her connection with Japan, while surrounded with the expectations of her family and the life waiting for her back in London.

14. Doctor Strange (Jason Aaron and Chris Bachalo) - This team was made for a book such as this.  Bachalo's stylized artwork coupled with Aaron's sharp storytelling make this book about a sorcerer wielding powerful magic and battling creatures of darkness, the best book currently coming out from Marvel.  It's bizarre, funny, action-packed and full of mystery and wonder.  I've never really had much interest in Doctor Strange, but this is certainly making me look at the mystical side of Marvel in a new light.

13. Gotham Academy (Brenden Fletcher, Becky Cloonan and Karl Kerschl) - Set in the Batman universe, Gotham Academy is a prep school full of hidden motives and monsters, secret passageways and ghosts.  The very Gothic atmosphere is seen through the eyes of Olive Silverlock, whose past is shrouded in as much mystery as the school itself (and who is constantly playing Nancy Drew and getting into general mischief).  This book sucks you in to its murky pages and leaves you wanting more.

12. Angel and Faith: Season Ten (Victor Gischler and Cliff Richards) - Angel and Faith protect Magic Town from all sorts of evil threats, including those from Angel's past.  Gischler writes the characters perfectly, while Richards draws the hell out of them.  This is a consistently high-quality book that continues to see its characters evolve with the ever-changing universe they live in.

11. Nimona (Noelle Stevenson) - Nimona has become the apprentice of the supervillain Lord Ballister Blackheart, but soon finds that the rules of the superhero game and the motives of those involved aren't exactly what she expected.  Funny and unexpectedly tender at times, Nimona is a fun book with a lot of heart.

10. Buffy, the Vampire Slayer: Season Ten (Christos Gage and Rebekah Isaacs) - The relationships between Buffy's supporting cast is put to the test in this season's Buffy, the Vampire Slayer.  With tough vampires and demons thrown into the mix, this is a high stakes adventure comic.  Gage and Isaacs have proven that their amazing Angel and Faith run last season wasn't a fluke, as they bring the funny and tense action to Buffy and friends.

9. Master Keaton (Naoki Urasawa) - Insurance investigator and former member of the SAS, Taichi Hiraga Keaton uses his wits to Macguyver his way out of bad situations and uncover nefarious plots in this early work from the master of suspense Naoki Urasawa.  This captivating manga is engrossing and full of mystery and action, and illustrated in stunning, painstaking detail.

8. Captain Ken (Osamu Tezuka) - As long as the Osamu Tezuka translations continue to come to America, I will continue to buy them.  This is another amazing manga from the master, with the top-notch cartooning we've come to expect to see from him.  Captain Ken puts a stop to scoundrels on Mars, while sympathizing with the Martians under the Earthlings' tyrannical rule, in this western/science fiction/fantasy.  And he may have a connection to the beautiful girl who arrived on Mars around the same time.  Funny, tragic, breath-taking and dramatic, Tezuka has flawlessly blended the elements of different genres to create something wholly unique and unexpected.

7. The Valiant (Jeff Lemire, Matt Kindt and Paolo Rivera) - This self-contained mini-series that brings together characters from Valiant Entertainment is my favorite superhero comic of the year.  Bloodshot and the Eternal Warrior protect the reincarnated Geomancer as she learns to utilize her powers, while The Immortal Enemy attempts to kill her, as he has done several times in the past.  The villain is unstoppable and the stakes are high in this amazing comic that is hard to put down.  The Immortal Enemy is genuinely scary; the horror in this comic very effective.  The action is clear, and the art is detailed and clean, thanks to Rivera, who translates Lemire's and Kindt's dark vision to perfection.  With unexpected twists and turns, this is everything a reader could want in a superhero comic.

6. Gunnerkrigg Court (Volume 5): Refine (Thomas Siddell) - The latest volume of Gunnerkrigg Court sees Antimony and her friends continue to evolve in a magical world of beasts and robots, alongside Siddell's stellar artwork.  There's a nice balance here of quiet character moments and heated action, continuing to secure its place as one of the best comics out there.

5. Descender (Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen) - This science fiction comic about robots is very imaginative.  It specifically follows a robot that looks like a little boy, TIM-21, who is being hunted by bounty hunters, and may have some connections to some scary technology.  There's a great cast of characters with varied motives, a mysterious cataclysmic event that occurred in the past, and some stunning watercolor artwork from Nguyen.  Lots of action and a real sense of wonder.

4. Frontier #7 (Jillian Tamaki) - Frontier features a different cartoonist each issue, and the seventh issue, featuring Jillian Tamaki, blew me away.  It's done in a documentary style that chronicles an internet phenomenon, some eerie music/sounds from SexCoven.  Its origins are mysterious, and the trances it supposedly puts people in, and the effect it has on people, is downright chilling.  This comic is just a really cool, creepy concept, and in other hands, it would not have been as effective.  It really does seem like this cult thing that could have blown up, with some people dismissing it, and others becoming obsessed.  The ideas here are inspired, and Tamaki really showcases her skills as a storyteller in a big way.

3. SuperMutant Magic Academy (Jillian Tamaki) - And more Jillian Tamaki.  This collection of Tamaki's webcomic features an oddball mix of teenagers dealing with angst and authority, while adjusting to their unique magical powers.  This is mostly a series of vignettes, but leads to a satisfying story that ties up loose ends.  This comic is really all about the characters and how they interact with one another.  It's funny, heartfelt and very honest about adolescence.  It also has magic, so there's some crazy stuff going on, but the result is a lovely comic about teenagers trying to figure out who they are.

2. Killing and Dying (Adrian Tomine) - Adrian Tomine is no stranger to acclaim - in fact, he had my favorite comic of 2007 with his powerful graphic novel Shortcomings.  His latest is a collection of six stories, mostly from his Optic Nerve series.  Many of the stories are about people struggling to find themselves, and while each are very different from one another, they are all terrific and most of them are quite moving.  Tomine has a way of capturing moments in a way that make them feel genuine, and you kind of can't help but feel a real connection to his work.  Whether struggling to be taken seriously as an artist, or fumbling through an abusive relationship, these stories are powerful.  My favorite story in this collection is "Amber Sweet," about a girl in college who wonders if it's her imagination that people are talking about her, until she discovers a porn actress who looks almost exactly like her, throwing her world into a tailspin of self-doubt and embarrassment.  Tomine gets a lot of things right with his work - characters, pacing, dialogue - and he draws it all with a confident hand.
1. The Wicked + The Divine (Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie) - Gods are reincarnated every ninety years for two short years in The Wicked + The Divine, which sees gods from various pantheons demonstrating their abilities for the masses of the modern world.  Gillen manages to make the type of story we've heard before into something completely fresh and inventive, with imaginative storylines, screwed-up characters, and pop culture commentary.  McKelvie's art has never looked better, utilizing a colorful palate for these gods to come to life in all of their destructive, self-absorbed glory.  It's no secret that I've been a fan of these two creators for years now, and they have really outdone themselves with this fantastic series.  It's been a long time since I've been so engrossed in a mainstream comic as when I read through the second collected volume in particular, with its twists and turns, petty rivalries, and moments that literally made my jaw drop in shock.  This is a spectacular comic, and was the most exciting book I read all year.

No comments: