The Top 30 Comics of 2015

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Its finally here!  We are huge fans of creating extended lists to clog your internet feed, and there is something about “best of” lists that we just cannot seem to get enough of.  Now that we have seen the final releases of the year, we can clearly say what miniseries and series have really topped out what was an amazing year for comics.  Here we saw a massive surge of Image titles, both new ones and those in their second year, Boom Studios really step out of the dark, Vertigo see an amazing relaunch and end to one of their most beloved series, both Marvel and DC launch new groundbreaking titles, and a series of amazing books from Dark Horse.  This is a difficult list to make, mainly because so much of it is based in personal opinion, but is time to let our unmitigated opinions fly!

30. Prez (Mark Russell and Ben Caldwell, DC Comics)

Who would have thought that a Prez comic would make our list?  As a testament to DC’s attempt to do things a little different with some of their smaller books, Prez resurrects the “teen president” idea and updates it to the near future and changes the gender of the character.  As a subversive commentary on money and corporate capitalism in politics, Prez follows the unlikely promotion of a poor country teen woman to the Oval Office, and watches her as she battles her corporate masters through layers of satire.  A fun read for its first run, and a happy turn for DC in one of their DCU titles.

29. Cognetic (James Tynion IV and Eryk Donovan, Boom! Studios)

This follow up to last year’s wonderful Memetic looks again at viral memes, this time with a focus on cognition.  This draws multiple character who are constantly communicating through mobile media, all as the world inside of Manhattan begins to self destruct as random people exposed to the consciousness virus begin committing suicide.  Though it sounds unbearably grim, it is much more involved and character oriented than it sounds, and a great follow up to the groundbreaking Memetic first volume.

28. Starve (Brian Wood, Dave Stewart and Danijel Zezlj, Image Comics)

Told like Anthony Bourdain was dropped into a world not unlike The Massive’s collapse planet, forced into a brutal Iron Chef competition, and brought back into a world of booze-and-drugs-as-escape.  The first five issues of Starve, the best book that should be on Vertigo, are such a massive creative feat that we are surprised it did not happen sooner.  Brian Wood is perfectly employed to write a story like this, and executes this complex premise perfectly while also taking us into the subtle art of cooking.

27. Outcast (Robert Kirkman and Paul Azaceta, Image Comics)

This book was billed as sort of a follow up of Walking Dead for Robert Kirkman, who had not released a new creator owned book for quite a while.  This book also had the dual media of being tapped almost immediately for a television adaptation.  The book itself has actually had a quiet run, with each issue having an almost silent appeal with its limited color palette and sparse dialogue.  The story looks at demons among us and a man, who is falsely labeled a domestic abuser, is coming into the power to confront those demons.  Both scary and allegorical, this is a nice monthly book that reminds us exactly what Kirkman is best at.


28.Lazarus (Greg Ruck and Michael Lark, Image Comics)
Dystopian science fiction will never go out of fashion, but Lazarus shows how it can be exciting, insightful, and incredibly relevant all at once. Rucka’s vision of a neo-feudal world of warring families has only grown over 2015 and become bigger and more challenging that we ever thought early on. This is a series to catch up with as quick as you can, but let the issues stack up so you can enjoy multiple in a row!


27. Drawn & Quarterly (Various, Drawn & Quarterly)

Drawn & Quarterly’s flagship anthology, which is moving from once a year to a little slower, is not the first book that many “comic fans” usually pull, but they should start.  This collection of just a few personal comic tales is the antithesis to the tired capes with archaic continuity and unoriginal storytelling.  What you will find in this collected volume is scores of storytellers you already know, like Paying For It’s Chester Brown, as well as new talent that feels as cutting edge as it is.


26. Captain America: White (Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, Marvel Comics)

This may be the most awaited comic book of the year, with their being the better part of a decade between this book and the last book in the Daredevil: Yellow, Spider-Man: Blue, and Hulk: Gray series.  The legendary duo of Loeb and Sale bring back a retro version of Captain America and Bucky, really drawing a poetic history of the character and using beautiful Sale art to tell the story that we have always wanted from Cap’s past.  This is the rare kind of Marvel story that can crossover to non-Marvel superhero fans, and really be a timeless classic.

25. Secret Wars (Jonathan Hickman and Esad Ribic, Marvel Comics)

Not only are we not the most steadfast supporter of Marvel Comics, we are also not always on board for big crossover events.  We expected to stay on the fence for this large end to Marvel continuity, but Hickman brought much of the apocalyptic mythos that made his Avengers, God is Dead, and East of West such successful books.  With amazing art from Ribic, this is exactly what we would want from a book like this, and set up an event that blew Convergence away completely.

24. Berlin (Jason Lute, Drawn & Quarterly)

Though we only got one issue in 2015, #19, this book has been such an amazing story of the experiences in pre-WWII Weimar Germany that we had to read that single issue more than once.  The story of Marthe is more personal than any you might read all year, and is the kind of thing that reminds you that personal narrative is perfectly suited in the comics medium.

23. Twilight Children (Gilbert Hernandez and Darwyn Cook, Vertigo Comics)

Three issues are now out for Vertigo’s headlining miniseries of their relaunch, and all have been perfect examples of what its name talent can do.  This story of magical realism is perfectly set in a Latin American coastal village, where affairs and passions ride at the center of both the story and the relationships between characters.  It is almost as though Darwyn Cook is cartooning an untold story from Love and Rockets, or simply that Gilbert Hernandez can do amazing stories no matter who he is teamed up with.

22. Revival (Tim Seeley and Mike Norton, Image Comics)

It is hard to say why Revival really gets onto this list other than its consistency of great storytelling, enriched characters, and a grand mystery that is still compelling after 35 issues.  Tim Seeley is not known for his supernatural noir comics normally, but here he writes this small midwestern town pitch perfectly as they attempt to find out why a small subset of the dead have rose and are unable to return to the grave.

21. Archie (Mark Waid and Fiona Staples, Archie Comics)

The relaunch of Archie was one of the most anticipated books of the year, maybe the decade.  Archie Comics has been doing things differently with Afterlife With Archie, Life With Archie, and Sabrina, but Archie was a new vision: to bring their landmark character into the present.  They have done this well by using incredible talent to do it, and while we are only four issues in this seems like an Archie book that is going to stay relevant for tweens and those who have fun looking back.

20. Island (Brandon Graham and Emma Rios, Image Comics)

Island was a big sign that Image Comics is heading out into territory before only taken up by small indie companies.  The anthology comic magazine brings together small and serialized comics stories that stray far from the mainstream and doing things their own way.  Each issue has been a new revelation, always challenging, with art that redefines what your comics look like.  Not every story may be your own, but they will always be fresh, and will help to really move away from “Big 2” hegemony.

19. Martian Manhunter (Eber Ferreira and Eddy Barrows, DC Comics)

This is the last book that we thought would hit out top list, but Martian Manhunter has been a great alternative to traditional superhero books.  Reading more like a dark fantasy or science fiction book, Manhunter sees a curious character that can see the mythological aspects of the superhero culture he is thrown into.  What is great here is that it is also perfect for Manhunter fans of the past, and also represents a major turn that DC made with many of the wonderful small titles it used in the 2015 relaunch.

18. Fables (Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham, Vertigo Comics)

This could simply be that we are rapping nostalgic and this point, but the final run of Fables was just what we wanted it to be.  For 2015, this was mainly just the 160 page final issue, which wrapped things up by bringing together many of the people from Fables past.  The final issue was then sold as the final trade, which is also an acknowledgment of how so many people actually read the series.  Though we still have A Wolf Among Us for a few more issues, we are already missing this landmark series in ways we never anticipated.

17. Astro City (Kurt Busiek and Various, Vertigo Comics)
Astro City has been one of our staples for years, especially since it headed over to Vertigo Comics in 2013.  This year has been especially stellar, with storylines like the rock n’ roll gorilla becoming immediate fan favorites.  The series has so much life in it, and will maintain its spot in our hearts for many years to come.

16. Walking Dead (Robert Kirkman and Cliff Rathburn, Stefano Guadiano, Charlie Adlard, Image Comics)

Many people moved past Walking Dead a few issues after All Out War, but this newest phase of the seminal comic has kept our interest consistently.  Now set in a world of a burgeoning trading society, we see the forces of organized barbarism coming to haunt them and Rick questioning his new found commitment to peaceful civilization.  This is a series we intend to stick with until the very end.

15. The Goddamned (Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera, Image Comics)
It is hard to put a comic with only two released issues on the list of the top 25, but Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera’s The Goddamned is so fresh and frightening that we had to keep in on.  Telling the story of a violent hero in pre-Noah Genesis, this very early Torah set tale is one that looks at a world in crisis and cruelty, which is equal parts terrifying and intriguing. We love our comics steeped in mythology, and this is a great turn in that direction.

14. Klaus (Grant Morrison and Dan Mora, Boom Studios)

Moroccan does to Santa Claus what he does to just about everything else.  Looking at the pre-Christian pagan roots of Santa, Klaus tells him as a shamanic character trying to restore Yule in an oppression monarchastic Bavarian state.  That also includes psychedelics, violent medieval battles, and presents galore.  It is, like The Goddamned, only two issues in, but all have been stellar and stand out as some of the year’s best.

13. Jacked (Eric Kripke, John Higgins, Glenn Fabry, Vertigo Comics)

We may be the only outlet to put Supernatural creator Eric Kripke’s miniseries on our list, but is was just right up our alley.  Telling the story of a down and out loser who finds a pill that gives him superpowers, Jacked has the ability to be a modern parable because it draws on common daydreams with an easy to approach story.  Fun and fast moving, this is a great addition to the Vertigo line-up, even if we only have a couple issues so far.

12. Angela: Asgard’s Assassin (Marguerite Bennett and Kieron Gillen, Marvel Comics)

While we enjoyed the new Thor that Jason Aaron was doing, it failed to have the deep Nores mythological themes that made Thor: God of Thunder so striking.  Much of that tone was moved into Angela coming out of the Angela revelation during Original Sin.  This builds on the “nine worlds” mythology by adding the tenth: Heven.  Asgard’s Assassin has enough of the superhero stories to keep it interesting for the six issue run.  This is an interesting selection because it actually runs over different issues including Original Sin, the first run, Secret Wars, and the relaunch.  Check out the reading order for the new Angela here.

11. Vertigo Quarterly: SFX (Various, Vertigo Comics)

This quarterly anthology is classic Vertigo, the follow up to the original Quarterly color theme.  With some very stellar issues this year, the stories are one shot goes, often ironic cultural takes on known tropes.  This is really the return of Vertigo to the anthology format that has become so difficult in comics, and with landmark talent in almost every page this is exactly what will inherit the anthology legacy.

10. Mad Max Fury Road (George Miller, Vertigo Comics)

This is an interesting selection because we are including the series of one-shots and the two issue “mini series” are all included.  These are all built off of the recent Mad Max Fury Road movie, each drawing out the characters further, as well as having an art book that Vertigo released with different artists doing spreads inspired by their love of the Mad Max film series.  All of which blew away the idea that all licensed properties are immediately garbage, which a lot of people were worried about when it was announced with a prestigious publisher like Vertigo.  There is immense vision and quality in every piece of this, which continues to show how powerful the idea of this catastrophe is.

9. Lady Killer (Joelle Jones, Jamie S. Rich, and Laura Allred, Dark Horse Comics)

The individual issues of Lady Killer were so hot that you could not find them as it was being released, a product of how smashing the team was.  The art was so incredible, mixed with a story that is both basic and perfectly pitched, creating a miniseries that is just dying to return with a sequel or to turn into an ongoing.  Telling the story of a 50s housewife who is a secret assassin, this is exactly what you would want from a violent and ironic story like this.

8. Ms. Marvel (G. Willow Wilson, Marvel Comics)

Years ago, there is no way that we would have labeled a comic called Ms. Marvel as our favorite, but G. Willow Wilson has tapped into something special.  Here writing is key at developing the first Muslim American major superhero who draws on her faith, her local culture, and the changing shape of the Marvel landscape.  The first run was incredible, and maintained much of its story and artistic flairs even into Secret Wars, and the first issues of the relaunch may be even better.

7. Fight Club 2 (Chuck Palahniuk and Cameron Stewart, Dark Horse Comics)

Sometimes comics are just pitch perfect, from concept to execution, page after page, issue after issue.  This is exactly what Fight Club 2 is, Chuck Palahniuk evolving the original story in ways that are both familiar and completely unexpected.  Following the original protagonist into his barely-maintained suburban life with Marla.  From here things devolve into international revolution and intrigue, with a storytelling style that is wonderfully paced and beautifully drawn.  This was one of the biggest surprises of the year, and we mean that to say that it was one of the happiest new arrivals we could have expected.

6. Paper Girls (Brian K Vaughan, Cliff Chiang, and Matt Wilson, Image Comics)

This is the best 1980s young adult movie that was never made.  Brian K Vaughan brings his mastery of characters into full focus with this new book, which looks at a group of paper girls when an alien invasion interrupts their newspaper delivery.  We have raved about each and every issue of this series so far, and this is the type of book that hits the top of the pile every month.

5. Southern Bastards (Jason Aaron and Jason Latour, Image Comics)

For those who miss scalped, this is the perfect spiritual sequel that strings us between different characters and intersecting storylines in the profane south.  This is Jason Aaron’s finest work bar none, with each issue feeling so perfectly balanced and executed that it is difficult to see how he could do any wrong.  He may not continue to write every issue, but the world he has created is just so strong that almost anyone can take it and make it work at this point.  This is the work that Aaron will be known for for years to come.

4. The Fade-Out (Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, Elizabeth Breitweiser, Image Comics)

This new crime collaboration between Brubaker and Phillips may be their best yet, even above Criminal.  The books drops you into the seedy underworld of Silver Age Hollywood, with a screenwriter damaged from WWII using his name to publish the work of an alcoholic screenwriter blacklisted for supposed Communist affiliation.  The star of the movie is found dead in the company of our protagonist, who has no memory of what happened, but sets out to discover what darkness lurks in the alleys of the studio.  The art is perfectly matched with the writing that is well paced over the 12 issue run of this series.  This is a shorter run for this type of collaboration, but it reads like the mystery novel you cannot put down, with something deeper coming out of the relationships our characters form.


3. Saga (Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples, Image Comics)

There seems to never be a time when a new issue of Saga is not just incredible, when this groundbreaking book does not hit our “best of” lists.  In 2015 we saw the end of one story arc, which may have been its most “action” oriented, though it never sacrificed the beautiful character pieces that has made this comic such a gem.  The new arc is even more surprising, introducing us to a transgender character that is not done with prudery or apology, as well as shifting out characters into places we never would have expected.  This is the type of book that keeps our pull list going, and why monthly comics and the “local comic shop” are not going to die.

2. Airboy (James Robinson and Greg Hinkle, Image Comics)

Who would have guessed?  The story follows and aging and depressed James Robinson as he gets offered to adapt Airboy for Image, an old character that would draw on his reputation for doing “golden age” type characters.  He tracks down a new artist, Greg Hinkle, where they indulge in drugs and their own self loathing, until Airboy shows up.  This is the most confessional work done in mainstream comics in years, and was a shock in the arm of Image who is known more for creative genre books rather than personal narrative.  The issues in Airboy’s world maintain the character analysis as well as does the WWII action style panel well, and Greg Hinkle knows how to render both art styles beautifully.  These were four perfect issues, something that reminds us that there are no throw away stories can be ignored because of the angst and struggle that lies underneath.

1. The Wicked + The Divine (Kieron Gillen, Jamie KcKelvie, Various, Image Comics)

Comics can be anything, set anywhere, showing you whatever the artist imagines.  This comes from deep within the story before going to panel, but draws on oral traditions and mythology steeped in morality, spirituality, and philosophy.  The Wicked + The Divine understands this perfectly, which is why it works when it shouldn’t.  The premise is bizarre from the start, gods and godesses from different pantheons are resurrected every ninety or so years into young adults who will die after two years.  They live like rockstars, their divinity is debated, and they draw together a conflicting sense of who they are and what the world is.  The entire comic, which is so bright its almost hurts, draws you into the obsession with these character, both for their pagan appeal and the feelings that drive their extreme behavior.  Plot twists have all been perfectly times, all the character beautifully rendered, and it is hard to put down any issue.  This is the best book of the year, and it is hard to see how it won’t be in the years to come.

 

And, because we cannot just leave this list be, we added a few Honorable Mentions!  Several of these would have been on the list, but the majority of their issues did not come out this year.

-The Chilling Tales of Sabrina

Bitch Planet

Death Head

Harrow County

Scarlet Witch

The Sandman: Overture

-Superman: American Alien

All-New Hawkeye

The Multiversity

Sons of the Devil

Miracleman by Gaiman & Buckingham

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