2015 has been quite the eclectic year for comics, and this fact is reflected in our top ten list. Image Comics continues to be the true house of ideas with books ranging from a feminist twist on exploitation films to a murder mystery set in 1940s Hollywood and even a LGBTQ-friendly parody of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. Even though they are in the middle of big events (Convergence and Secret Wars), DC and Marvel respectively still have room for offbeat takes on their iconic or not so iconic characters and are represented on this list along with Valiant, which has attracted a veritable Murderer’s Row of creator to shape and develop their shared universe.
Here are the top ten comics of 2015 so far.
Written by Scott Snyder
Art by Jock
Colors by Matt Hollingsworth
Wytches is without a doubt the best new horror comic of the year. It’s also the most terrifying. In the first story arc, we are introduced to Sailor Rook, a teenage girl, who can’t seem to leave past traumas behind. Along with her parents, (her father Charlie, a graphic novelist, bears a certain resemblance to the writer himself) “Sail” has moved to Litchfeild New Hampshire in search of a clean slate. Along with the pressures of starting a new school, Sail must face a tormenting evil, the titular monsters, who live in the forest.
Wytches is also a comic with a family at its center. Indeed, Snyder draws on the horrors of parenthood to explore latent fears rarely addressed, including feeling inadequate to protect your child and how to care for a child who shares your own mental health issues. As the Rook family battles the primordial creatures seemingly bent on their complete ruin, the family finds themselves in a fight for both their lives and their sanity. It’s a heavy book and goes to pretty dark places. Yet, the early pages are captivating with Jock’s brilliant rendering of physiological horror and Snyder’s gift for storytelling.
Written by Brian K. Vaughan
Art by Fiona Staples
What praise hasn’t Saga received? By now, it has achieved legendary status as the seminal fantasy series of the decade. Quite frankly, I’m surprised it hasn’t made it higher on this list. Perhaps that is because the space opera antics lack the novelty they once had in the beginning. Still, this is one to keep reading, and one can pretty easily catch up with the lovely new hard cover that collects issues #1-18 in beautiful, supersize glossy pages. It’s so beautiful. Really, this is some of the most breathtaking art on the shelf today, and Fiona Staples is a god for the way she brings Brian K. Vaughn’s characters to life.
It’s difficult to pin down just what makes it so great because, well, it’s everything. The plot is sometimes tightly woven, but mostly entertaining. The love story is fangirl giggling certified and is narrated by the most adorable horned, winged baby you’ve ever seen. The action sequences are unrelenting in their brutality and simultaneously reveal just as much about each character as the dialogue. It’s also quite sexy. Somehow, the book feels like you’re finally reading the adult version of the best adventure story ever yet still possesses more than enough heart to have a distinct voice. Did I mention there’s a talking Otter with a pet walrus who lives in a lighthouse?
The Valiant #2-4
Written by Matt Kindt and Jeff Lemire
Art by Paolo Rivera
Colors by Joe Rivera
Though The Valiant is only a four issue miniseries, it packs more emotional heft than most six issues events. The Valiant acts as more than just a great jumping on point for new fans looking to sink their ocular senses into, featuring a wide array of Valiant Universe characters.
The backstory, epic in its nature, feels like those childhood fairy tales that you would read over and over again. Throughout time, the Eternal Warrior is tasked with protecting and ensuring the new Geomancer, a sort of protector of the Earth, from the maniacal nightmare that is the Immortal Enemy. Time and time again, the Geomancer’s mantle is passed to another, only to be brutally killed by this evil incarnate. Flash forward to the present time where the Immortal Enemy has taken on the form of Mister Flay, the current Geomancer Kay McHenry’s childhood fear, straight from the books she used to read.
Having Jeff Lemire and Matt Kindt at the writing helm is an absolute treat, as readers get a taste of two of the main individuals behind what makes Valiant so great. The further spoiling of creative talent extends to the brilliance of Paolo and Joe Rivera’s artwork. Dave Lanphear’s lettering completes the array of talent, paving the way for the storybook-like narrative that is contained in his well-placed captions.
The real focus of this grand and intensely told tale turns to humanizing and providing an emotional depth for characters, like Bloodshot. His healing abilities and tarnished memories take a beating, paving the way for his own series in dealing with the aftermath of The Valiant in Bloodshot: Reborn. All in all, The Valiant is another excellent taste of the level of quality that Valiant has provided to those willing to dip into their universe.
The Multiversity Guidebook, The Multiversity Mastermen #1, The Multiversity Ultra Comics #1, The Multiversity #2
Written by Grant Morrison
Pencilled by Paulo Siqueira (Guidebook), Marcus To (Guidebook), Various Artists (Guidebook), Jim Lee (Mastermen), Doug Mahnke (Ultra Comics), Ivan Reis (2)
Inked by Paulo Siqueira (Guidebook), Marcus To (Guidebook), Jonathan Glapion (Mastermen), Sandra Hope-Archer (Mastermen), Mark Irwin (Mastermen, Ultra Comics), Scott Williams (Mastermen), Christian Alamy (Ultra Comics), Keith Champagne (Ultra Comics), Jaime Mendoza (Ultra Comics, 2), Eber Ferreira (2), Joe Prado (2)
Colors by Hi-Fi (Guidebook), Dave McCaig (Guidebook), Jeromy Cox (Mastermen), Alex Sinclair (Mastermen), David Baron (Ultra Comics), Gabe Eltaeb (Ultra Comics), Blond (2), Dan Brown (2), Jason Wright (2)
Grant Morrison’s career is an ongoing attempt at telling The Last Super Hero Story, and with The Multiversity he may have finally achieved the genre’s (il)logical end point. Causing an immediate fury of thought pieces and divisive reactions in the second half of 2014 upon its debut, The Multiversity saved some of its biggest and boldest instalments for early 2015. The 80-page The Multiversity: Guidebook #1 is perhaps the comic’s biggest surprise. In solicitations it sounded like filler; a literal illustrated guide book mapping out the geography of the DC multiverse along with explaining the distinct qualities of each of the 52 worlds. This 40-page guide sandwiched right in the middle of the book is an actual part of the comic’s ongoing narrative, full of information that fleshes out the preceding and succeeding issues; the guidebook itself is an important construct inside the comic and sets the endgame into motion.
In a career made up of comics about comics, The Multiversity is perhaps more about comics than anything else Morrison has written; its final issues,Ultra Comics #1 and The Multiversity #2 are so alarmingly meta that the word meta loses all definition, too weak of a word to describe the exact quantity of meta-ness contained within. It’s an overwhelmingly dense love letter to the superhero comic genre. Wait, scratch that. “Love letter” is too small a statement to do this comic justice. The Multiversity is Morrison’s epic poem about why comics matter. Sure, to understand this comic in full would require reading dozens of pages of annotations and/or to be a 55 year old who has been devoted to the medium for an entire life, but there’s a manic joy that comes out of reading this comic and not understanding the full extent of the narrative. The Multiversity is a comic too big for our small universe to handle; it spans a multiverse.
-Trevor James Dobbin
Ms. Marvel #11-15
Written by G. Willow Wilson
Art by Adrian Alphona (11), Elmo Bondoc (12), Takeshi Miyazawa (13-15)
Colors by Ian Herring, Irma Knivila (13)
In Ms. Marvel‘s second year, writer G. Willow Wilson and artists Adrian Alphona, Elmo Bondoc, and Takeshi Miyazawa have brought victory, romance, heartbreak, and a deeper connection to the larger Marvel Universe for their teen hero, Kamala Khan. After a hilarious Valentine’s Day issue guest starring Loki, Wilson probed deeper into Kamala’s feelings by introducing Kamran, a friend of her family, who shares similar interests to her and happens to be quite attractive and a little on the rebellious side. He is also an Inhuman.
In this arc, Wilson and Miyazawa explore the time honored connection between young love and superpowers while also looking at important things, like consent. Takeshi Miyazawa’s manga inspired art with its big facial expressions and bright action sequence is perfect for showing Kamala’s “embiggening” powers, and colorist Ian Herring adds a cool spin on her foes’ Inhuman powers.
G. Willow Wilson also further develops the relationship between Kamala and her family along with Bruno, who helps her in superheroic endeavors as well as continuing to have romantic feelings for her. This balance of interpersonal relationships, diverse cast of characters, creative depiction of superpowers, and interesting commentary on being a teenager in the 2010s is why Ms. Marvel is one of the best superhero comics period.