We’re back on this New Year’s Eve Day 2015 with our final “Top 10” from your site owner & editor, Bob Bretall! As with Al and Shawn’s picks, they’re not in explicit order from 1 to 10, but are 10 things I thought were outstanding from 2015. Also taking a cue from the other guys, I’m going to cheat a bit and slide in a couple of related groups of comics to extend me beyond the explicit boundary of 10, but hey, it’s my site so I can pretty much do whatever I want!
I’ll also take this opportunity to thank all the ComicSpectrum contributors who helped provide reviews and site content throughout 2015. Special thanks to Shawn Hoklas for all his reviews and guest blogs, the site would not be the same without you, my friend! Thanks too to Al Sparrow, I look forward to his eloquent monthly “review blasts” that I then post a bit at a time. We also got a lot of great content from Adam Alamo and contributions from Gabe Bustamantez, Amy Okamoto, and RC Killian.
We only have 3 active reviewers at this time (myself, Shawn, and Al) so I’d love to hear from anyone who is interested in sharing their thoughts about the comics they love a lot, or maybe didn’t like quite that much. You can e-mail me for review guideline if you’d like to become part of the ComicSpectrum “Review Crew”!
One thing I know about comics is that there is a wonderful variety being published today. My favorites might not be the same as yours, but if you look around, you should be able to find series that you love as much as I love the ones I’m naming here. Now, let’s get on with my Top 10 favorites!
The Walking Dead (Image) – Long before this was a hit TV series, I was enthralled by the comic. I first picked this up some time before issue #10 and have been with it ever since. For a while I switched to reading this in collected editions, but writer Robert Kirkman does such a great job of ending most installments with “I need to see what happens next” moments that I decided I didn’t like waiting 6 months for the next installment and switched back to getting this in single issue format. Walking Dead is the one comic that I will consistently read 1st as soon as I get a weekly shipment that contains an issue. It’s the only comic that I read that trumps everything else when it’s in a big shipment of great entertainment. Some people have drifted away saying it’s not the same as it once was. Others say it’s JUST the same as it always was. All I know is that I am thoroughly entertained by this series each and every issue and am loving the current storyline. Kirkman keeps me guessing and I love that about this book, I’d never have guessed a few years ago that the status quo would be what it is today and I look forward to seeing how it changes over the next year and beyond.
Archie Franchise Reboot (Archie) – If you would have told me a few years ago that there would be a bunch of Archie comics at the top of my favorites list I’d have said you were crazy. I have come to love ‘Afterlife With Archie’ and ‘Chilling Adventures of Sabrina’, both excellent series, but also both plagued by infrequent publishing schedules. These were a bit safer for Archie because they’re both standalone titles set in their own universes. Then they did something different (though a path previously tread by many other other publishers). The rebooted their flagship characters with top creators and a take that feels both fresh and respectful of what has gone before. Mark Waid and Fiona Staples created a masterwork in the opening arc of Archie. Similarly, Chip Zdarsky was born to write Jughead. Heck, he pretty much IS Jughead. And Erica Henderson is doing a pretty great job illustrating the hamburger-loving hero. I’m looking forward to the Betty and Veronica reboot in 2016 and hope Archie can maintain the momentum they gained in 2015 and accelerate it.
Women of the “All-New” Marvel – Marvel is making a lot of changes on how they treat their female super-heroes. It’s true that there is still a long way to go, both within Marvel and moreso in the industry in general, but Marvel made some really good progress both in having female characters not only headlining series, but also doing away with the largely T&A type of costumes that were mandatory for female super-heroes of the past. Add into that the great storytelling, and we got some really great comics. Ms. Marvel, by writer G. Willow Wilson, has been on my “Top 12” for over a year and stars comics first Muslim character to have a book of their own, teenage Kamala Khan a Pakastani-American. While she practices, Islam, the book isn’t a preachy story about religion or Islam, but it definitely plays a role in a way that helps shape her character and inform the audience. In Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur we get the story of an exceptionally bright young woman, Lunella Lafayette, who struggles with being picked on at school and shines through on the strength of her character. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is a wonderfully fun romp through the Marvel Universe led by our charming heroine in somewhat improbable adventures that never fail to bring a smile to my face. Spider-Woman got a costume make-over in her previous series and is now pregnant. Readers are able to watch how that affects things and I look forward to the birth of her child in 2016. We have a new Scarlet Witch series that is my favorite take on the character yet and the most enjoyment I’ve had from a comic featuring her in over 20 years. Jane Foster has taken on the mantle of The Mighty Thor. We have a new series starring Pasty Walker aka Hellcat. Spider-Gwen, is the story of a Gwen Stacey from a universe where she took on the mantle of the Spider and Peter Parker died. Silk, stars a woman who got her powers from the same spider that bit Peter Parker. Black Widow, had a great series with Phil Noto art that concluded in 2015 and will be getting an all-new series in early 2016 (mostly because Marvel seems to get uncomfortable once a series starts to have numbers in double digits). Captain Marvel, who starred in one of my favorite of the Secret Wars spin-off mini-series will be back in early 2016 with a new series. The Wolverine clone formerly known as X-23 is starring in the “All-New Wolverine” which has the distinction of being the only book from the X-Men family on my pull-list. That’s a lot of great storytelling with no cleavage baring tops or thongs in sight. They’re heroes who happen to be female and I’m very interested in reading their stories.
Sandman: Overture (DC/Vertigo) – Over 2 years in the making, this prequel to the award-winning Vertigo series by Neil Gaiman and artist JH Williams III completed and had its collected edition published in 2015. I’ll point to my review of issue #6 where I go on at length about why I thought this was so wonderful, suffice to say I thought both story and art were firing on all cylinders to create a masterpiece of comics art.
The Infinite Adventures of Jonas Quantum (Legendary) – Jonas Quantum is the world’s smartest man. The 1st issue opens tracking his life tracking and achievements. “Day One. Born. “ …and a bit later that day… “Master Speech.” Onward and upward! He cures death on day 12,995. And then things get interesting… This is by veteran comics creators Marc Guggenheim and Freddie Williams III, but may be a book many people have never even seen, since it’s from a newer, smaller Publisher. This is not a book I see on the racks at most comic shops I go into; it’s either not being ordered at all, or the copies that are ordered are sold quickly. If you’d like to check this out, ask your shop to order copies or you can wait for the first collected edition which is due out in May 2016.
Rebels (Dark Horse) – Brian Wood and Andrea Mutti bring us this fascinating piece of historical fiction set in the timeframe of the Revolutionary War. When I read the 1st issue I thought I was going to get a long form story of the Green Mountain Boys, but that story quickly ran its course and Wood moved on to another that was just as enthralling, and then another. Not just for fans of history, this is for anyone who likes compelling and realistic character-driven storytelling. No super-powers, costumes, or larger than life action, this series finds drama in realistic achievements of people who helped forge the country that grew into the United States of American.
Airboy (Image) – Metafictional mini-series about James Robinson trying to figure out how he is going to handle the relaunch of Airboy. We get to see Robinson interacting with Image publisher Eric Stephenson, interacting with artist Greg Hinkle, and generally bopping around San Francisco on a completely out of control bender whilst struggling with how he’s going to go about writing the series. Then it goes off the hook when Robinson and Hinkle find themselves in a WWII setting with Airboy, Valkyrie, Skywolf, and more! Highly recommended if you want something that will be totally different from every other comic you read.
Rachel Rising (Abstract Studio) – Rachel was murdered. Then she rose from the dead. Then things got interesting. There are ties to past lives, events that happened in the town hundreds of years ago, and even, quite possibly back to Biblical times. Containing complex characters, great dialogue, and delicately rendered art, all hallmarks of Moore’s work, Rachel is the latest tale set in the “Moore-verse”, following Strangers in Paradise and Echo. If you like horror that relies on a general feeling of unease built on supernatural phenomenon instead of monsters and killers, this would definitely be something to keep an eye out for.
Saga (Image) – This epic by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples has been at the top of my favorites list since it debuted. It has won the Eisner award for best continuing series three times and is almost universally acclaimed by fans and critics as a favorite, so I’m not breaking any new ground by including it on my list of favorites. It’s always at the top of my “to read” pile and the latest story-line that incorporates a time jump so we can see Hazel in kindergarten is a wonderful twist that is keeping the series fresh for me. Well worth checking out, but as with anything no guarantees. Though it is loved by many, there are people it just doesn’t click with.
Lazarus (Image) – Greg Rucka and Michael Lark’s tale of a dystopian future where government and countries are gone and the world is controlled by a handful of corporate “families”. Family members are in charge, supported by their main indentured employees, known as serfs (in a callback to the medieval). Everyone else is “waste”. Forever Carlyle defends her family as their enforcer and advance agent, a genetically engineered human with peak human power (not really super-human) but she can be brought back from the dead, thus her title of Lazarus. Kind of a frightening extension of the current culture where corporations pretty much control government via influence peddling enabled by lobbyists and manipulation of the media. Art and story blend perfectly to create a believable world once you suspend your disbelief for a few extraordinary leaps of technology and evolution of the world’s political infrastructure. Text pages, an extremely intelligent letters page, and some cool advertisements set in the context of the world of Lazarus make this a top of the stack package for me. But I hope it stays in the realm of sci-fi…
So there you have it, my Top 10 favorites for 2015 with a few liberties taken to allow for some thematic extras from Marvel and Archie. I’d like to thank all the people who have read our blog entries, comic reviews and web-sites in 2015. If you like what we’re doing share it with a friend. We don’t do advertising and the one thing I can guarantee is that opinions expressed are 100% genuine feelings of the reviewers. We’re not pushing anything we don’t like as recommended and if we don’t like something, we will say so because we’re not worried about losing ad revenue for expressing an unpopular opinion. That said, we tend to focus more on what we do like because we want to share our enthusiasm for the stuff we love!
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