Monday, December 28, 2015

Best of 2015 - Top 10 New Comics

Best New Series:
Marvel has eight of my top 10 (up from six last year), Image has one and Archie has one as well. This year, none of them are in any danger of cancellation, which is nice.

Five of them are superhero books, although three of those fall much more comfortably into humor comic territory. Four of the remaining are sci-fi (three of them Star Wars) and the last one is Archie, which qualifies as... humor? slice-of-life? I note that four of my books are notably humorous, with Silk and Captain America also having something of a humorous tone, or at least a bit of snark thrown in the mix.

1. Star Wars #1-13/Annual #1
I was more than a little skeptical about Marvel taking Star Wars back from Dark Horse, who have done well by the property for over 20 years. I needn't have worried. Jason Aaron, along with artists John Cassaday, Stuart Immonen and others, have created a Star Wars comic that feels like the Star Wars movies. The Dark Horse books, while great, always had a bit of an expanded universe feel to them, but somehow this big return feels like the story that took place between New Hope and Empire. Luke going off to find out more about being a Jedi, Chewie and C3PO teaming up, Han and Leia having misadventures with an old flame of Han and so much more. Amazing stuff, funny and clever and exciting... I hope we get a hardcover collection in 2016.

2. Darth Vader #1-14/Vader Down #1/Annual #1
Arguably better than the main Star Wars book is Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca's Darth Vader. It features Vader being the taciturn badass we all know him as, but it also introduces a stellar supporting cast, including rogue archaeologist Dr. Aphra, the protocol droid with a flair for torture Triple Zero and the homicidal R2 unit Beetee. It's funnier than it has any right to be, but it also shows Vader being clever, avoiding the bureaucracy of the Empire to cover for his own goals, and clears up a few things, like how and when he learned about Luke but not about Leia.

3. Descender #1-8
A beautifully realized science-fiction world courtesy of Jeff Lemire, Dustin Nguyen and Image Comics. Epic sci-fi is a rarity in comics, but Descender does some amazing world-building, reminiscent of that done in the Mass Effect universe, and features a lot of great characters, notably supporting cast member Driller the robot. It's also got a lot of twists and turns and mysteries, and I can't wait to keep exploring this universe in years to come.

4. Howard the Duck #1-5/#1-2
Chip Zdarsky and Joe Quinones take a pinch of Soule's She-Hulk, a healthy dollop of the Gerber Howard the Duck and more than a little of their own style and create a funny detective comic set square in the weird part of the Marvel Universe. Making fun of the heroes and villains while also making great use of them, introducing a new supporting character who's a great addition and running a goofy version of the Infinity Gauntlet story for its opener, this was a favorite. The relaunch so far has been pretty good as well, save a very weird second issue that might make more sense in context of the whole run.

5. Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1-5/#1-3
Ryan North and Erica Henderson take a goofy one-joke character and, while still remaining true to her one-joke nature, turn her into one of the most endearing new characters at Marvel. Bonus points for the Twitter style recap page and footnotes that make this a denser-than-usual funnybook.

6. Ant-Man #1-5, Annual #1, Larger Than Life #1/Astonishing Ant-Man #1-3
Scott Lang has always been my favorite Ant-Man, and I'm glad to see him getting the spotlight in the movies. Nick Spencer's take is closer to the movie take, a bit of a smartass screw-up, than the comics take, but has comics continuity built in as well, and it reminds me pleasantly of what Spencer did on Superior Foes of Spider-Man. No Steve Lieber here, sadly, but the artwork on the series has been pretty solid as well.

7. Captain America Sam Wilson #1-4 (Marvel)
This was a latecomer that almost went in the "too new to judge" list, but with four issues in, and a general record of liking Nick Spencer's stuff at Marvel (Ant-Man, Superior Foes) I think it's fair to put this in the top ten. Sam Wilson makes a very different and very interesting Cap, more overtly political and socially conscious than Steve Rogers, a black man from the '70s rather than a white man from the '40s, and I love that Spencer has taken things in that direction. What I love even more is that his touchstone seems to be the '80s Gruenwald Cap, which remains my favorite take on the character. Cap-Wolf, D-Man, the Serpent Society, Diamondback all make appearances in the first four issues. Throw in Misty Knight as one of his new supporting cast and great art by Daniel Acuna and you've got a great new Captain America book.

8. Archie #1-4
Last time Archie made my top ten, it was a full-on zombie book with gorgeous Francavilla art. This time? Mark Waid delivering a note-perfect modern take on the teens of Riverdale with beautiful art, first by Fiona Staples and then by Annie Wu. The reinvention of Jughead as the smarter-than-everybody narrator, a more sophisticated take on Betty and Veronica and his hapless-yet-noble Archie are all terrific.

9. Silk #1-7/#1-2
The Spider-verse (not the crossover, the editorial group) is, all told, probably my favorite thing at Marvel right now that didn't spring from a Lucasfilm property. Silk, the girl who was bitten by the same spider as Peter Parker but then locked in a vault for a decade or so, is a character I didn't know I wanted, but like Spider-Verse, Superior Spider-Man or Parker Industries or Spider-Gwen or any of the other curveballs Dan Slott and crew have thrown out, it turns out it's exactly what the Spider-Man universe needed to keep it fresh. A clever use of J. Jonah Jameson and Black Cat, strong writing from Supernatural's Robbie Thompson and fresh, fun artwork from Stacey Lee have made this a must-read. And the "eight months later" relaunch, bringing in Silk's lost brother as part of the Goblin Nation (another great Slott invention), Black Cat as her new "boss" and Mockingbird as her new partner or sorts, has only made me love it more.

10. Kanan the Last Padawan #1-9
I love Rebels, and I love Greg Weisman's work. So this prequel to Rebels by Greg Weisman is, no surprise, a real favorite. Showing off the early days of Kanan when he was a padawan, post-Order 66, becoming the more jaded man that Kanan will eventually become, is rich story material. The series is ending at issue 12, which is probably OK, as I'm not sure how much prologue I really want, but I'd love to see more of the Rebels universe in comic book form and hope Weisman will be back for that.

Just outside the top 10 is the Image book Beauty and the Marvel books Spider-Gwen and Agents of SHIELD.

New Series That Are Too New To Judge:
These series are not quite far enough for me to judge them Best New Series yet, but I really like them all, and I can see any of them making my Best Continuing Series next year. Because I don't think it's fair to compare a single issue or a two- or three-issue run to the more extended runs above, I'm ranking these separately. Last year, two of the 17 series (Birthright and Fade Out) on this list made my Best Continuing Series.
  1. Daredevil #1-2 (Marvel)
  2. All New All Different Avengers #1-2 (Marvel)
  3. Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #1-2 (Marvel)
  4. Paper Girls #1-3 (Image)
  5. Goddamned #1-2 (Image)
  6. Doctor Strange #1-3 (Marvel)
  7. All New Wolverine #1-3 (Marvel)
  8. Jughead #1-3 (Archie)
  9. Plutona #1-3 (Image)
  10. Hercules #1-2 (Marvel)
  11. Spidey #1 (Marvel)
  12. Huck #1-2 (Image)
  13. Web Warriors #1-2 (Marvel)
  14. Black Magick #1-3 (Image)
  15. Klaus #1-2 (Boom! Studios)
  16. All New Hawkeye #1-2 (Marvel)

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