The Seventeen Best Issues of 2015.

by louis whiteford on January 05, 2016


17. Island #1
This ambitious new anthology series had a great 2015, and I look forward to where it goes in the future. Issue #1 was my most anticipated comic of the year, and even though the stories inside were often too esoteric for me to grasp, the 8 dollars for 120 pages price point kept me coming back for more. Island is a beautiful package, and a shining beacon of creativity in a crowded market. I might not like every story they print, but I know the creators involved are proud of their comics. Like Island itself, everything inside is a passion project, and that’s something to cheer about.

16. Jason Fischer’s Nightmare
This comic, released on Halloween, is still free online for anyone who wants to seek it out. It’s a stream of consciousness rendering of a spooky nightmare Fischer had years ago, and the young artist knows how to keep things moving. Nothing feels tacked on, and the terror expressed by Fischer’s cartoon stand in feels very, very real. Fischer’s avatar drifts through a world of scares. Perpetually hiding or running, it captures the feelings of being in a bad dream you can’t escape.

15. Secret Wars #1
I still haven’t read the rest of Secret Wars, but as the final issue of Hickman’s Avengers, I loved the first chapter. I knew it was coming. I knew this story was going to end with two planets crashing into each other, but I still appreciated the sheer audacity of it all. Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers run took superheroes far into the realm of science fiction, creating a denser than dense plots, splitting The Avengers into three to five teams at a time, and dedicating entire issues to Dr Doom talking about fake science. The best part is that in the end, they still all lost. Secret Wars will undoubtedly pull them out of the muck somehow, but until the collected edition comes out, the Marvel universe is over, as far as I’m concerned, and Secret Wars #1 is the perfect end point.

14. The Humans #6
I like a good fight in a comic, and The Humans #6 might have had the best fight of the year with this issue, because it also involved lots of moving vehicles, and plentiful Mad Max references. Also, all the characters are apes. So, sorry to the comics that weren’t pandering exactly to what I’m into, but The Humans scored a lot of points on that meter. Car chases aren’t the easiest action to express on the comics page, but The Humans’ team goes out of their way to make it look good and keep it going for nearly the entire issue. This comic is loaded with some real white-knuckle page flipping, earning its place among the year’s best.

13. Jem and the Holograms #6
Comics criticism has a big problem with generalization. So many comic reviews fail to grasp at deep meaning because they get hung up on awesome stuff, reveling in the glory of robot gorillas or wrestling references, hoping that the reader too finds these things awesome. That said, this is the issue of Jem and the Holograms where The Misfits ride motorcycles shaped liked guitars and I think that’s pretty awesome. It’s hard for me to single out an issue of Jem for inclusion in this list, but it has to be this one, because what I love the most about the comic is how it turns the very outrageous world of pop music into an even more outrageous circus event where bands compete for popularity like they’re protagonists in Shonen manga, and it shows in this issue, as the Holograms and The Misfits stage competing concerts on the same night, drawing concert goes back and forth with competing walls of noise. The writing’s solid, but Sophie Campbell’s art is what really makes this series worth it, with her Bjork-meets-Barbie fashion sense and yes, the motorcycles shaped like guitars.

12. Trap #Lionblood 
One of the year’s best American Crime Dramas. I like Crime, I like America, and I like stories that tie the two together well. Trap: Lionblood details the drug dealing exploits of the Detroit Lions’ #1 draft picks of 2007 and 2009, Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford respectively. Writer/artist Matt Seneca ties together football and drug dealing so well, you’ll think all athletes are part of multiple games by the end of the issue. Satire or not, Seneca is talking about some real issues here, and I’d recommend the comic to any football fan.

11. Criminal: Special Edition
Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips make great comics together, but they don’t usually make great issues. Their stories are ones that read best as a whole. They know how to play the serialized format, but they’re not too concerned with creating singular issues, except for this one. Criminal: Special Edition reads like a comic these guys needed to make, a short, mean piece of work. It’s the perfect breather between the lengthier projects Fatale and The Fade Out. It’s also a gripping and funny prison assassination story. I’m not the sort that needs my comics to be fun, but that’s what they did here, and it works for the shorter format. Our protagonist, Teeg Lawless is eager to get out of the clink and get this hit thing over with, and his sense of urgency drives the comic. This is a book that gets in, gets out, and gets shit done.

10. Ms Marvel #16
I’ve always been more interested in Ms Marvel’s art than its characters or writing, and issue #16 goes a long way justifying my bias. Adrian Alphona draws a world gone mad with so much style and detail, hiding little jokes on every single page. It’s his best work of the year. His mobs of panicked citizens look so silly as they flee to nowhere in particular, only adding to the hopelessness of their plight. It took Ms Marvel four issues to face down the apocalypse, but with art this invested in mood, it easily could’ve done it in one.

9. The Eltingville Club #2
The year long wait for the final installment of Evan Dorkin’s chronicle of the world’s worst nerds was worth it, as he pulls out all the stops to draw the most excessively detailed, meticulously lettered comic of the year. The story is a particularly upsetting look at how the Eltingville characters have grown or regressed since they last met a decade ago, and surprise, surprise, most of them are not in a good place. There’re comics on this list with graphic mutilation, excessive violence and gruesome sex, but nothing more upsetting than what these hateful, hateful nerds have to say about women. Luckily, the comic is not on their side, but it’s still a bittersweet comeuppance, kinda like life itself. We can lock as many Eltingville Clubs as we want inside the Ghostbusters car, but it’s not going to make them go away. The Eltingville Club lives in a cruel world, but it sure looks neat.

8. Tonya
Perhaps the year’s most depressing comic, Katie Skelly’s 13 page short about former Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding is still brutally effective, despite its short length. Tonya the comic is obsessed with failure, inadequacy and the loneliness that comes when failure and inadequacy dominate a life. It’s the sort of comic to read in a bad mood, to put yourself in a worse mood, to force yourself into a different mood. Emotional storytelling at its best.

7. Blubber
Good god, Gilberto. 
With Johnny Ryan devoting his time to a Nickelodeon kids show, I knew I had to get my shocks elsewhere this year. I didn’t expect to find them here. I knew Gilbert Hernandez could get a little more out there than his more human Love and Rockets work, but Blubber is something else, a sort of mating habits of animals special with Dr Seuss characters, and very, very graphic. It’s hilarious. It’s disgusting. There’s a bird that propels itself with farts. Blubber is a comic book monstrosity for the ages, if gross humor is your thing. If not, stay the hell away from Blubber. It’ll mess you up.

6. Jupiter’s Legacy #5
This comic features solid writing, a very solid fight scene, and one of my favorite Frank Quitely panels ever drawn. We’re talking career defining shots here. Mark Millar has done a lot to the comics medium with the way he brought the widescreen/storyboard approach to the forefront of graphic storytelling, and this one issue of Jupiter’s Legacy contains some of the best comic panels shaped like movie stills I’ve ever seen. It’s simple stuff, but it’s done so, so very well. It’s going to be at least a year till the next issue of Jupiter’s Legacy hits shelves, but this issue makes it worth it.

5. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1
Erica Henderson was on a roll in 2015, with two of the best new series in the mainstream realm under her belt. The first, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is probably the best new thing Marvel’s published in years, reinvigorating a character dying for a shot at stardom with wit, whimsy and a sense of inventiveness proving that superheroes still have stories to be told.

4. Jughead #1
We never really needed a rebooted, rebranded All New Archie-verse, but Jughead #1 is everything needed to justify the update. Chip Zdarsky and Erica Henderson might have the All Star Superman of Archie on their hands here, with a story that makes no attempt to reinvent Jughead, instead choosing to play him to perfection. It’s clear the creators care about the character, and it’s clear they know what makes him so funny, because this comic is hilarious. It’s the most perfect comic I read this year.

3. Frontier #7 
It was a good year for horror when a story about a haunted trance song isn’t the best one I read. “Sexcoven,” Jillian Tamaki’s contribution to Youth in Decline’s ongoing showcase title, Frontier, is that trance comic, and it’s great. A hypnotic six hour song creates an entire subculture around itself. Kids get high to SexCoven. They fuck to it. They study it. They live it. They try to understand what it is or get lost in the hypnotic flood. That all this is conveyed with Frontier’s mere 32 pages only adds to the comic’s eerie nature. Smart and inventive, this issue is not to be missed

2. Scab County
This horrifying comic by Carlos Gonzales came out of nowhere to rip me apart with its’ deceptively great art. I picked this comic up on the audacity of it’s design. At first glance, it’s a very ugly book, with a crude stapling of stacked paper and a cover that looks like it was drawn in MS Paint, but inside lies the best horror comic of the year. This story of a wagoneering father and son is a nightmare in the old west, and the shocks come out of nowhere and then they keep coming. Not for the faint of heart, this gruesome comic is the next level in terror!

1. Island #3
Island began it’s run as 2015’s most intriguing new title and it ended the year as it’s best series. Issue #3 is the one where everything clicked together, with stories long and short, from a range of talent, each a distinct comic with distinct emotions. It’s rare to get an issue of an anthology where everything hits home, and it’s even rarer to see an issue so good, it sets the precedent for the whole series. With its mass of pages and space, Island is a comic to be reckoned with, an ambitious experiment, and my favorite series of 2015. Here’s to a long and healthy 2016.