2015 was a big year for comics. The Marvel Universe assembled into Battleworld. DC delivered a whole new wave of books under their Vertigo imprint. Image continued to deliver high-quality, creator-owned books. It was a great year for comics.
There was a lot to love when it came to comic books in 2015. There's a plethora of companies and books to choose from, making picking the best comics of the year quite the challenging task. The staff of Comic Vine took on the task of going through everything they read this year and picking out their favorite series of 2015.
Barbara Gordon's always been a polarizing character and one of the most interesting things that happened to her was becoming wheelchair bound and running the background tech for the Bat-crew as Oracle. When the New-52 launched, she was not only ambulatory, but back in the cowl with very little explanation, but beyond that: the book wound up feeling like simply another Bat-title on a shelf that was already overcrowded with them. This wasn't the fault of the creatives behind it, it was more a symptom of a larger problem: Batgirl had become simply girl-Batman. When the title was taken in a completely new direction, including a new style, the new team of Cameron Stewart, Brendon Fletcher, and the appropriately named Babs Tarr reinvigorated the character by giving her her own setting, her own missions and her own support network as well as a completely different, more playful, tone and tenor. And it WORKED. Batgirl's never been more compelling than she is in these pages, but she's also never been more relevant and stood out this much. This made a believer out of a friend who has HATED the character from day 1, so even if you've never had any interest, there's no reason to pass this one by.
One of the biggest problems cited about comics is that, by and large, they don't have defined beginnings, middles, and ends. Often whether or not a story will continue hinges on whether or not the book is doing well, not any kind of storyline necessity. Chew is setting out to break that mold and it's beginning its wind-down with one of the most intensely satisfying storylines in the series' history. Going back and reading John Layman and Rob Guillory's ode to hilarious foodstuffs, it's hard to tell if they were always planning on winding up here, but it's also completely irrelevant: everything built to this moment and the climax of the story could not have been more satisfying. And there's STILL more to go! That's the best part! Without spoiling anything, if you've been reading Chew for a long time, but either lapsed or lost interest: do yourself a favor and get back on it.
1602 WITCH-HUNTER ANGELA
One of the most clever and humorous books came from an unlikely source as Marguerite Bennett, Kieron Gillen and a host of wildly talented artists took us on a trip through a surreal, magical world. 1602 has become a classic in its own right, but almost none of the spin-off titles it spawned, all without Neil Gaiman, amounted to much or captured the sense of whimsy like the original. This is the first one that really belongs up there as we experience a tale of tragedy, action and redemption all framed with some of the sharpest writing I've ever read, including an actual Shakespearean pun that delights me every single time I think of it. The artistry on display here can't be undersold either with Stephanie Hans doing most the main storyline while guests filled out the side stories that accompanied each issue. Everything always tied back neatly together, though, creating a sense of cohesion and story symmetry.
The ol' stand-by for Top Comics lists. Saga's consistent quality in the hands of Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples is nothing short of incredible and the momentum with which the book sustains itself is almost shocking. The stakes are always high, but the book isn't exhausting or poorly paced. Just...maybe don't get attached to any character ever because they are ALL on the chopping block. But that's part of what makes the book great: the knowledge that ANYTHING, short of the main character's death (as the story's being told in flashback) is possible, which makes it feel like everything that happens in this book matters. It's also not all doom, gloom and epic tales, this book has some of the FUNNIEST (and completely not safe for work) moments of any comic series this year or any years. The scene with the dragon, and those who have read it know to what I refer, must've gotten quite the reaction when the script page was sent across Staples' desk...
It's not supposed to work like this. Tie-ins to big event books are either supposed to prop up the big event or just be a way to slap a new logo on a title and get some extra sales out of it. They're not supposed to be one of the most compact, compelling stories of the year with one of the greatest twist reveals of the year. All in a 5 issue, self-contained package that may be short on "long-term impact," but is absolutely perfect as a stand-alone story, regardless of Secret Wars. Charles Soule and Leinil Yu take one of the best story ideas and tell JUST enough to keep us hooked while introducing a world that feels genuine, real and lived-in. Again: all in five issues. I cannot stress enough the perfect pacing of this book and how well it earns its end reveal.
I've said this a lot, but I need to say it again. I love what Valiant is and has been doing, but I never once liked Bloodshot, up until Jeff Lemire and Mico Suayan delivered BLOODSHOT REBORN. This wasn't a reinvention of the character by any means, but it took the character a bit more away from the "run-and-gun" vigilante and made Ray feel human, which is so much more important than a dude just shooting people up. We got to see who this character really is and the lengths he's willing to go to in order to stop the nanites from taking over other people. Suayan delivered some amazing looking art and David Baron did some stunning color work. This book wasn't a reboot or reimagining though. It's a continuation with a whole new tone, which is what makes this series work.
When I was thinking about on-going series that really gripped me, month after month, this was the first one that came to mind. This has been a crazy year for the series, and there were quite a few jaw-dropping and surprising moments, especially with how the third arc closed out in issue #18. MANIFEST DESTINY has really flown under a lot of people's radars, as the series, by Chris Dingess, Matthew Roberts, and Owen Gieni takes the adventures of Lewis and Clark and adds a whole bunch of monsters to it. Conceptually, I'm in love with what the series is doing. The artistic team of Roberts and Gieni provides some compelling and gritty visuals, truly enhancing the tone of the story. While other Image books like BIRTHRIGHT, THE WALKING DEAD, and THE WICKED + THE DIVINE are some of my favorites, MANIFEST DESTINY is the series I look forward to the most.
MS MARVEL feels a little ahead of its time since this series debuted in the spring of 2014. It's a bit of a step away from the tradition super-hero story by adding quite a bit of fun into the mix. MS MARVEL is a spectacular look into what it's like to be a Muslim in America. It's cultural insight and it speaks to readers young and old, although it obviously has a story and characters that speak more to a younger generation of readers. Kamala Khan is a delightful character who is coming into her own as a super-hero and still "geeks out" about seeing the heroes that she idolized before getting powers of her own. The catch here is that this does include two different volumes of this book: one with Adrian Alphona on art and the other with Takeshi Miyazawa. It's a cartoonish style and Ian Herring does colors of both volumes, so there is a cohesiveness to it all. Marvel has debuted a lot of fantastic new titles in the past couple of years, but this is one of the best.
One of DC's best series almost got the ax earlier this year, but luckily, the top dogs at the company got their act together and is letting OMEGA MEN run for 12 issues, which is incredibly sad because this is such a beautiful and brilliant series. OMEGA MEN is the most cinematic comic reading experience of 2015, thanks in part to the art of Barnaby Bagenda and colorwork of Romulo Fajardo Jr. Alongside the art comes a story about a fan favorite Green Lantern, Kyle Rayner, as he's kept as a prisoner. Along the way, we meet more players in this story and there's a whole lot of betrayal and enough to keep reader's on their toes as the book moves forward. While this book is seemingly only going to run 12 issues, it's easily one of the coolest series that raises the bar in monthly storytelling. Hop on this book now, so maybe we can get more than just 12 issues of the series.
The new solo series is a gigantic leap away from what we thought a Vision solo series would be. Frankly, VISION is just moments away from being a 100% horror story. While the series is still very new, the first couple of issues really gives a great insight into what writer Tom King is trying to do with these characters and world. Vision now has a wife and two kids and is trying to have what he considers to be a normal life in suburbia. Vision's family, however, seems to be just mimicking what "normal" is, which comes off as pretty unsettling. Gabriel Walta, with Jordie Bellaire on colors, does a wonderful job at delivering the story while adding a bit more to the horrific feeling this book puts off. VISION adds a lot of suspense as well, as there's this anticipation for the reader that everything is moments away from crumbling in the worst way possible.
Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo have continued the fun and excitement in BATMAN. With Endgame, we saw Joker’s crazy scheme come to fruition. The epic confrontation was years in the making and it gave us a shocking ending. The conclusion of Endgame took the series in a completely different direction with Superheavy. Having someone else take on the mantle of Batman isn’t something new. The way it was handled felt fresh. For the first time, we had someone that wasn’t immediately within Batman’s inner circle take his place. Jim Gordon has always been a big supporter of Batman but this was someone that didn’t have his approval or training. Batman in a robo-suit was crazy and we’re seeing Snyder and Capullo make the idea work. The story is continuing into 2016 and the series is approaching its fiftieth issue. Both Endgame and Superheavy will definitely be stories I read again when they’re collected. Greg Capullo’s art will be missed after he leaves.
There’s just something about this series I really love. Part of it is the comic being set in the 80s. Rick Remender introduced us to Marcus the previous year. While he may not be the most likable character, you can’t help but get sucked into his story. After living on the streets of San Francisco, we saw him enroll at a school for assassins. With an enemy from his past showing up, we saw Marcus and his new friends wage war against him. The results were pretty insane. Wes Craig’s art gloriously captures all the action and violence contained in Remender’s stories. The results from Marcus’ actions and the involvement of his friends are still playing out. There have been some serious repercussions which were only compounded when the deadly final exams began within the halls of the school. The series will start out the new year in the midst of some brutal carnage. Despite all the killing and destruction, each issue just brings a smile to my face.
2015 started with The Amazo Virus in progress. We saw the League face what seemed like a pretty deadly threat. Wonder Woman was in the thick of the action and Superman was forced to trust Lex Luthor in order to defeat their foe. Immediately after this, we were thrown into the Darkseid War. Darkseid War has taken the series to a completely different level. Geoff Johns has been building up this story and there is a deep ambitious feel to it. Many of the characters have gone through some massive changes. We’re seeing things brought to a large scale and its been so easy to just dive into the story and not worry about the rest of the DCU. Joining Johns, we’ve had amazing artwork by Jason Fabok and a couple issues by Francis Manapul. These two have kept the pace with the crazy developments and the series is living up to the fact it should be DC’s biggest book due to the fact it’s about their most powerful characters. Some may be ready for the story to end but I’m loving every moment of it.
A series from Mark Millar and Sean Murphy that deals with time travel? What isn’t there to like. Mark Millar has been known for delivering big and over the top action stories. While CHRONONAUTS did contain plenty of crazy and over the top moments, we had a fascinating story with a slightly different take on the notion of time travel. There’s also a set of rules when it comes to characters being able to travel through time. Here, our main characters pretty much threw all the rules out the window. They did whatever they wanted and didn’t care about the consequences. This obviously leads to some big problems. Sean Murphy’s art is always a joy to see. The only problem with this series is it was only a four-issue miniseries. I would love these two to team up again and give us a continuation of the story.
We had recently had a really good STAR WARS series over at Dark Horse (written by Brian Wood) but with the characters returning to Marvel, we were left wondering what would happen. The very first issue of this series, written by Jason Aaron with art by John Cassaday, showed us how glorious a Star Wars comic could be. The series has an interesting vibe to it. With the stories now canon, there is a deep feeling that these stories could have actually happened with the movie characters. Some of the moments feel like a Star Wars film with an even bigger budget. Despite being rooted in the period immediately after Episode IV, there’s still a great sense that big things can happen. It’s easy to forget that we already know where characters have to end up by the time The Empire Strikes Back should occur. Cassaday’s art was great for the series but he was then followed by Stuart Immonen. The series ended the year with the Vader Down crossover between this title and Kieron Gillen’s DARTH VADER. It’s a great time to be a Star Wars fan.
In addition, there's a few Honorable Mentions as well:
- THE SCULPTOR by Scott McCloud
- THE ULTIMATES by Al Ewing and Kenneth Rocafort
- ART OPS by Shaun Simon and Mike Allred
- HUCK by Mark Miller and Rafael Albuquerque
And with that, we say goodbye to the awesomeness that was comic books in 2015 and head into the new year. Those were our favorites. What books last year did you love? Stay tuned to this week's episode of the Super Massive podcast, in our Comic Vine podcast feed, where we'll be talking about the best in movies in television this week!