Comics collecting has been my primary geek interest since age 6, but I have a tough time writing about it with any regularity. My criteria can seem weird and unfair to other fans who don’t share them. I like discussing them if asked, which is rare, but I loathe debating them. It doesn’t help that I skip most crossovers and tend to gravitate toward titles with smaller audiences, which means whenever companies need to save a buck, my favorites are usually the first ones culled. I doubt many comics readers follow MCC anyway, so it’s the perfect place to talk about comics all to myself. Whee.
Anyway: time again for another list of lists with comics in them!
Favorite comics from 2015, in random order:
* Archie / Jughead: No, really! After a changing of the editorial guard, the survivors at Archie Comics HQ tossed dollar bills at Mark Waid, Chip Zdarsky, Fiona Staples, and Erica Henderson and hoped they’d go make the greatest Archie comics of all time. Gone are the ancient gag strips, the decades-old model sheets, the forgettable single-issue trifles; in their places are sharp wits, updated appearances, nuanced color tones, pop culture references that didn’t belong to your grandparents, and a cast of rebooted characters that remain true to the core of the originals, and who, despite their snark, every so often evince genuine affection for each other. The burger-addicted Jughead in particular has received a new lease on life and turned into the kind of breakout character who ought to be conquering other media any second now.
* Silver Surfer: Dan Slott and Michael Allred’s loving, unabashed homage to Doctor Who featured one of my two favorite comics moments of the year when he introduced his companion Dawn Greenwood to his former boss Galactus. Fighting once again to save billions of lives and stop his old master’s epic bingeing, this time he had the backing of a most unusual crowd: a planet populated entirely by refugees from other worlds previously consumed by Galactus. They’re not just a bunch of survivors; they’re a population who know what it means to sacrifice. Their collective, defiant stand was a rare moment of super-heroic inspiration. I could totally imagine a triumphant Who orchestra power-chording in the background.
* Manifest Destiny: That other great comics moment fell on the other end of the ol’ morality scale. Lewis and Clark continue leading their men through the secretly creature-filled lands west of the Mississippi and find themselves teaming up with a race of cute, feathery, silly, bitey, angry predatory bird-dwarves against an even bigger, angrier, grosser threat. “The enemy of my enemy of is my friend” only takes their truce so far before the end of the arc starkly reminds us Lewis and Clark aren’t crusading paladins: they’re government men on a mission from the President himself, and all the priorities the title of this book entails. As created by Chris Dingess, one of the showrunners on Marvel’s Agent Carter, and as brought to life through the rustic, sometimes bloodied palettes of artists Matthew Roberts and Owen Gieni, the undiscovered country was a terrifying place where Man fought hard for his place at the table with all the other monsters, and then planted his flag in the table.
* The Vision: Marvel’s strangest Avengers-related series in years was nowhere near my radar till I picked up #1 on a lark at a rundown Colorado comics shop (sort of a pity-purchase, to be honest), and now I refuse to put it down. After enduring one mega-crossover event too many, not to mention his big movie debut, the Android Avenger decides he needs more in life and moves to suburbia into a nice home with a wife and two kids who are androids that look like him, but possess their own distinctive, dysfunctional personalities. Fitting in with new neighbors and friends is hard enough when a normal family moves, but when your clan can turn diamond-hard and still hasn’t worked out all the kinks in their emotional subroutines, you’ll need more than Leave It to Beaver lectures to navigate the life lessons, the petty bickering, the troubles at school, and the one troublesome murder Dad doesn’t know about yet. Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta are staging an all-robot production of Picket Fences and it’s all kinds of messed-up.
* We Can Never Go Home: Upstart publisher Black Mask Studios first got my attention when we met co-writer Matthew Rosenberg at last year’s C2E2, where I bought the first issue of this stunning surprise. Two mismatched teenagers find themselves on the run in the worst way. She’s a popular girl who’s just learned she has super-strength; he’s an angry loner who claims he can kill people just by thinking really hard. Maybe it’s a premise worthy of a direct-to-video drama, but the tension and bonding between the duo are equal parts reality-grounded and unpredictable. This received very little distribution and required me to go to weird lengths to track down all five issues (one was at an itsy-bitsy hideaway shop in Terre Haute), but it was worth the hunt.
* Doctor Who: The Four Doctors: Sure, “Day of the Doctor” was one of the best of the Doctor Who TV specials, but it only had two doctors. Writer/superfan Paul Cornell (whose “Father’s Day” remains my favorite episode) and artist Neil Edwards had the privilege of adding Peter Capaldi and John Hurt’s War Doctor to the mix, plus a pair of comics-exclusive companions who might mean more to me if I were reading any other Who titles. I’m finicky about my licensed non-canon reading, but “The Four Doctors” was my idea of the perfect comics crossover, in that I only had to buy five (5) issues to read an entire satisfying story from beginning to end.
* Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: I loved it so much, I already wrote about it at length. Not even a post-Secret Wars forced restart has slowed her down, as the time-travel machinations of some form of Doctor Doom have proven no match for her, her plucky pals, or those value-added gutter captions hiding at the bottom of most pages. I SEE YOU DOWN THERE.
* Wild’s End: The Enemy Within: The sequel to Dan Abnett and L.J.N. Culbard’s wonderful, frightful miniseries (one of 2014’s best) in which The Wind in the Willows meets The War of the Worlds adds an unhelpful British government and an even more unhelpful science fiction writer, none of whom get it and are making things worse for our ex-military dog hero, the strong cat character, the increasingly more courageous piglet, and the craftiest drunken Cockney fox in all of fiction. I was so invested in this, I actually gasped aloud at the end of the most recent issue. And grown men do not simply gasp at just anything.
2015 honorable mentions: Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10 (Christos Gage remains my fave Buffyverse comics writer); Daredevil (Mark Waid and Chris Samnee exiting their long run on a high note); Injection (Warren Ellis fantasy/sci-fi weirdness reuniting him with Declan Shalvey, fast becoming a must-buy artist); We Stand on Guard (what if future America invaded Canada to take over all its clean water? Answer: things get ugly).
Special awards for books that nailed deadlines and held my interest all year long: The Virginia Romita Traffic Management Awards for books that saw twelve new issues in print and on my receipts in 2015:
Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10
Angel & Faith
Star Wars: Darth Vader
Highly commended series that got my money for eleven issues in 2015, despite crossovers and unnecessary restarts:
Groo: Friends and Foes
Unbeatable Squirrel Girl
Series that were canceled or ended as planned:
Alex & Ada
The Unwritten Apocalypse
Titles I either dropped, or tried once but opted out:
All-New Hawkeye (really tired of dumped-upon loser Hawkeye)
All-Star Section Eight
Captain Marvel (her previous outer-space cast weren’t doing anything for me)
Doctor Who: The Ninth Doctor
Invincible Iron Man (liked it till they announced a second series to go with it, and probably crossovers)
Moon Girl & Devil Dinosaur
Totally Awesome Hulk
Twilight Children (might work better as a collected trade)
Where Monsters Dwell
The Wicked & the Divine (I stopped remembering characters’ names, always my first sign of growing disinterest)
And that’s kind of an overview of my 2015 comics highlights. For reference and maybe unconscious oblique insight, here’s what I’m currently buying every Wednesday at my local comic shop, budget permitting, broken down by publisher:
Howard the Duck
Star Wars: Darth Vader
Star Wars: Kanan
Star Wars: Obi-Wan & Anakin
Unbeatable Squirrel Girl
DC Comics and DC/Vertigo:
Batman ’66 Meets the Man from U.N.C.L.E.
Prez (assuming they deliver the other six issues we were promised)
The Sheriff of Babylon (another Tom King project, another unique winner)
Superman: American Alien (short stories by Chronicle‘s Max Landis, given a lot of leeway)
Dark Horse Comics:
Angel & Faith
Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10
Fight Club 2 (hoping this begins to make unified sense any minute now)
Copperhead (though it’s a bad sign that the artist has announced another gig…)
The Dying & the Dead
Manhattan Projects: The Sun Beyond the Stars
Nonplayer (one issue published this year! Call it a comeback!)
Starve (about a scary post-apocalyptic cooking show? yep, I’m in)
Empire Uprising (…or is this dead?)
James Bond 007: Vargr (Warren Ellis bringing back the meaner Bond from the novels)
Wild’s End: The Enemy Within (but with only one issue to go, here’s hoping more are in store…)