Friday, January 01, 2016

My top 10 comic books of 2015

I skipped making this list last year, because I honestly couldn't think of 10 comic books I wanted to include, but this year I have been making some better reading choices (and/or I just feel more positive about the stuff I've been reading). So when the fine folks at Comic Book Resources asked me to contribute to their Top 100 Comics of 2015, I was happy to participate. The list used several of my write-ups at various points, but in the interest of having them all in one place (plus the ones that didn't make the cut at CBR), here's my full annotated top 10.

1. Saga (Written by Brian K. Vaughan; drawn by Fiona Staples; published by Image Comics)
Vaughan continues to find surprising new directions for his intimate and epic space opera, introducing new characters and new settings that immediately become essential to the ever-changing story. And Staples depicts them all with boundless creativity and stunning expressiveness.

2. Shutter (Written by Joe Keatinge; drawn by Leila del Duca; published by Image Comics)
There seem to be no limits to the always expanding story of explorer Kate Kristopher and her massively messed-up family, with shocking new discoveries in every issue. Keatinge and del Duca constantly come up with crazy new directions, new characters and new worlds to explore, keeping the story grounded in Kate's mix of skepticism, wonder and fury.

3. Astro City (Written by Kurt Busiek; drawn by Brent Anderson and various; published by Vertigo/DC Comics)
Even after 20 years, Busiek is still finding new emotionally rich ways to examine and celebrate the age-old traditional superhero genre, telling deeply human stories with characters who wear silly costumes and fight crime. This year, he's opened up the series to new artists, and while Anderson's work is as solid as ever, it's been a treat to see other talents (including Gary Chaloner, Joe Infurnari and Jesus Merino) take on Busiek's stories.

4. Copperhead (Written by Jay Faerber; drawn by Scott Godlewski; published by Image Comics)
Faerber's best work to date combines his strengths at low-key character-building and meat-and-potatoes genre storytelling with a simple but evocative premise: A sheriff on the rugged frontier -- in space. Faerber and Godlewski seamlessly blend conventions of Westerns and science fiction without either one ever feeling forced, and they've built up a rich cast of complex characters, led by human Sheriff Clara Bronson and her gruff, resourceful alien deputy Budroxifinicus.

5. Ms. Marvel (Written by G. Willow Wilson; drawn by Adrian Alphona and Takeshi Miyazawa; published by Marvel Comics)
Every month, Wilson evokes the wide-eyed magic of classic superhero storytelling while combining it with the equally wide-eyed discoveries of coming-of-age stories. Kamala Khan is both an immensely relatable everyteen and a character tied specifically to her time, place and background, making Ms. Marvel the perfect combination of the universal and the specific. Also, it has a giant teleporting dog.

6. Southern Cross (Written by Becky Cloonan; drawn by Andy Belanger; published by Image Comics)
What started out as a sort of murder mystery in space has developed into something more cosmic and psychedelic, while retaining the emotional core of main character Alex Braith's search for her dead sister. Cloonan builds a convincing future world and populates it with realistically flawed characters, and Belanger brings to life the dingy, low-rent locale of the space freighter that serves as Alex's temporary home and potential final stop.

7. Descender (Written by Jeff Lemire; drawn by Dustin Nguyen; published by Image Comics)
As he did with Trillium, Lemire tells an emotional, humanistic sci-fi story with this worlds-spanning tale about a young android boy, his robot dog and the war they find themselves caught in the middle of. Nguyen uses soft watercolors to give the futuristic world a sense of beauty and timelessness.

8. The Fade Out (Written by Ed Brubaker; drawn by Sean Phillips; published by Image Comics)
Given the freedom to tell any kind of story they want, Brubaker and Phillips have synthesized the noir tone of their Criminal series with the grand scope and historical detail of Fatale, along with a deep love for the seedy side of classic Hollywood. The Fade Out is a top-notch murder mystery, a fascinating history lesson and an insightful character study about an industry full of compromised characters.

9. Wild's End (Written by Dan Abnett; drawn by I.N.J. Culbard; published by Boom! Studios)
Like their underrated Vertigo series The New Deadwardians, Abnett and Culbard's Wild's End combines old-fashioned British reserve with genre staples (in this case an H.G. Wells-style alien invasion) to both suspenseful and dryly comic effect. Wild's End has the added benefit of starring anthropomorphic animals in the roles of characters who respond to a potentially world-ending threat with a stiff upper lip.

10. Nutmeg (Written by James F. Wright; drawn by Jackie Crofts; published by Action Lab Comics)
Crofts' bright, thick-lined art provides the perfect counterpoint to this surprisingly dark story about teenage girls peddling addictive brownies, a sort of cross between Mean Girls and GoodFellas. The cute, sunny suburban look gives Wright's story an extra sting when things get serious and dangerous. 

Honorable mentions: 8house (Image), Black Widow (Marvel), Chew (Image), Gotham Academy (DC), Velvet (Image).

No comments: