With CBR wrapping up their list of the Top 100 Comics of 2015 – a list which is decided by their entire staff listing a top ten, allocating a set amount of points to each comic as a result. Your #1 comic gets ten points, your #10 comic gets 1 point, etc, or something like that. As they’ve finished and published their list, I wanted to post my top ten list too!
10 Godzilla in Hell #1
By James Stokoe
Published by IDW
The first issue of this series was the only one I’d call essential reading, but it was so very essential that there was no way it could be left off the list. James Stokoe seems to be part-Zilla, judging from the way he seems to simply understand the character in a way nobody else can match. He’s a consummate artist when it comes to drawing the landscape and distance of Hell itself, and this silent issue is humorous and calmly rational in the face of ensuing demonic hoardes. Each issue of the series is broadly based around one of the deadly sins, and here that means lust – the way in which Stokoe judged this to affect upon Godzilla is just the first of many delights found in this one-off issue.
9 Last Man
By Bastien Vives, Balak, Michael Sanlaville
Published by First Second
Charm personified in this first volume, the tale of a fighting contest and the various children and adults wrapped up inside is an enjoyable romp-styled piece of storytelling. At times the writing is a little ‘off’, which you’d expect from a translated work, but the general atmosphere of this series is joyous and energetic, pulling you past awkward moments or strange touches in a way which makes the goofiness part of the drawing power of each sequence. The team synergise into a whole in such a way that you can’t tell who is responsible for which moment or character – everything feels to have emerged fully-formed from some kind of higher creative consciousness. Later volumes of the series go off-track in certain ways, but the first volume is a blast, both on and away from the drawn page.
8 Supermutant Magic Academy
By Jillian Tamaki
Published by Drawn & Quarterly
Originally published online as a series of vignettes, you can feel the impact that the quick-hit digital style had upon this collection from Jillian Tamaki. It’s been a fantastic year for her in general, but this book was the one which caught my attention most. It feels personal because these feel like characters and jokes which very specifically make her laugh first and foremost, and each new page invites us to join her or stand aside. This isn’t a general story where big gags or sloppy punchlines are thrown out, but a series where Tamaki offers her perspective and lets you stand next to her as she does whatever she wants. There’s a huge sense of fantasy in the series, like you’ve just seen a whole world unspool in front of your eyes as you watch on in admiration.
7 Midnighter by Steve Orlando
Art by ACO, Stephen Mooney et al
Published by DC Comics
Probably the best matching of character and writer that we saw in comics in 2015. Steve Orlando came from Image with a mission, determined to take Midnighter and drag him straight to the top of DC’s most valuable, interesting and entertaining characters. And he succeeded with such strength and force that it’s hard to remember a time when Midnighter wasn’t a hugely important concept for the company. Orlando leans hard into everything that was indicated about the character in the past but with a sharper sense of insight, cutting through the syndicated nature of superhero comics with aggressive verse. This was blunt-force comics, and some of the most daring and exciting work we’ve ever seen from DC. It’s a thrill, the first comic you want to read each week.
By Zander Cannon
Published by Oni Press
Zander Cannon’s Oni Press series was a bizarre treat of a comic, taking the serious format of a prison story and flipping it round entirely, stomping it up and spitting radioactive weirdness all over. Kaijumax is a high-security prison for giant monsters, which works in the exact same way any other prison might work – there are gangs, drugs, favors, risks, horrors. But because everything is filtered through the “giant monster” prism throughout, the series becomes even more darkly humorous than if it was about a human prison. Sometimes with a high-concept comic, the concept is all you have and you see the story slowly spiral away into nothingness – Kaijumax is a series where the high concept is just the first step into a complex, multi-faceted social system where every character has their own agenda and interests. You just have to work out what it is before they turn on you.
5 Jem and the Holograms
Written by Kelly Thompson
Art by Sophie Campbell, Emma Vieceli, M. Victoria Robado et al
Published by IDW
This is one of those franchises I knew nothing about until I picked up the first trade, so what I got here was a visually brilliant, dynamic series which matched stunning visuals, colors and design with a smart, contemporary set of characters. Sophie Campbell (and later Emma Vieceli) stole the immediate spotlight with a series of character designs which emphasise their characters without distracting from them, but Thompson’s writing came in and provided such a solid foundation that really the series couldn’t fail. Each character is distinctive, their look indicating towards their personalities without outright betraying them – it’s not like there’s a character who likes guitars who only wears guitar-themed jewellery, or anything like that. These feel like real women, who dress up, fight, talk, empathise and basically… totally rock.
4 Cow Boy
Written by Nate Cosby
Drawn by Chris Eliopoulos
Published by Archaia
Gruff, stern and betrayed, the young Cow Boy at the heart of this Archaia series is an immediately distinctive character. Forced by his own nature to track down, arrest, and jail the various errant criminal members of his own family, he travels the Wild West in methodical fashion to ensure that justice is dealt wherever necessary. He’s also about seven. Nate Cosby and Chris Eliopoulos tell an all-ages story here with calculated weight, so that each new storyline not only gives us more insight into the mind of a hardening hero, but also breaks your heart just that little further. It’s an exceptionally well-told story, with an unbreakable sense of morality which never feels anything less than sure.
3. Lighten Up
By Ron Wimberley
Published by The Nib
The Nib has a rollercoaster year, but never because of the on-site content it put out. On the contrary, this year we saw a series of intelligent and challenging works find their way onto the site, offering unexpected perspectives on a regular basis. Ron Wimberley had perhaps the msot memorable work of them all, however, with his story ‘Lighten Up’. Very simply, it’s a comic which looks at a simple part of comics process – the coloring of characters’ skin – and plainly states a story from Wimberley’s own experience. He was asked to lighten the skin color of a character who wasn’t white, and this made him question why and how these sorts of internal requests can recur within comics so frequently. It’s stark and excellently made, raising an interesting point whilst telling a compelling story.
2 Dungeon Fun
Written by Colin Bell
Art by Neil Slorance
Published by Dogooder Comics
Concluding this year, Dungeon Fun managed to not only wrap up the storyline in a surprisingly emotional, smart manner – but it also connected every previous issue and tightened the narrative into an unbreakable bow. Funny above all else, the series made itself known by offering characters who broke up the gags with intelligence, verve and wit, rendered adoringly by Neil Slorance. Slorance gave the comic a style which was suitable for all-ages, but also appealing to everyone – it’s not cutesy, but it is silly, and it gives bright bouncy characters who still retain a sense of depth and heart. Ending on a hint that the characters may well return at some point in the New Year, Dungeon Fun was the single most purely enjoyable comic released this year.
Written by David Walker
Art by Bilquis Evely
Published by Dynamite Entertainment
When Dynamite announced they had the license for Shaft, most people were expecting a simple nostalgia spin of a comic, which hit some beats of the movies and delivered basically a generic story of some kind. But instead Dynamite went all-in with the incredible creative team of David F. Walker and Bilquis Evely, both of whom decided to use this as their launchpad into huge things across the rest of the year. The pair told the story of a younger Shaft during his less-explored days as a boxer, and before he came to right wrongs and generally be the man. It made for a considered, exciting, tense comic, with electric dialogue and a parade of fascinating, flawed characters – with Shaft as the fledgling moral center trying to work out if he wanted to do right or do wrong.