Day two in the Nick Lists His 2015 Favourites house, and we’ve made the logical jump from books to comics. Once again, I’ve read enough of these to produce a nice structured top ten list – just spent half an hour agonising over it in Notepad.
While putting this list together, I glanced at my 2013 comics post and its 2014 follow-up and was saddened how much of the stuff I said I “must read next” hasn’t yet been looked at. I gotta stop buying new stuff in Comixology sales and jumping straight into it.
But in terms of what I actually did read in 2015, here’s the list. The divisions between items in this list are kinda arbitrary in some cases – for example, first item is a crossover spread across multiple comics series…
10) X-Men: Age of Apocalypse by many, many people
Once again, I’ve relied on Marvel’s Unlimited app to supply me with their comics, and my big old-stuff reading project this year ended up being this 90s mega-X-crossover. Has serious shoulderpads/pouchs/tits/arse/grimdark issues, as with many comics of this period, but it’s still one of the highlights of its type. I wrote a longer blog about AoA here if you’re so inclined.
9) Avengers/New Avengers/Secret Wars by Jonathan Hickman and various artists
Sticking in the Marvel megacrossover subgenre for one more entry, this is Jonathan Hickman’s ludicrously ambitious multi-year epic, split across two Avengers titles and culminating in the still-ongoing Secret Wars mini. It’s a bit rambly and dry, not what everyone wants from Marvel action stories, but the scale and twists are great when they work. Especially from the Infinity arc onwards, I thought this did cool stuff.
8) Spectre by John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake
Moving house in summer, I had no internet access at home, so was forced to stop reading Marvel. For whatever reason, I settled on this five-year series from the late 90s about DC’s WRATH OF GOD character – writer Ostrander uses him to tackle serious questions of theology and crime/punishment, and Mandrake brings twisted horror images to back him up. It’s aged badly in places, but still, an impressive example of creators using a franchise character to do thoughtful, stylish stuff.
7) X-Force by Si Spurrier, Rock-He Kim and others
Si Spurrier popped up in the 2013 and 2014 top-tens as a writer of note, and here he is again, this time taking on the X-Men black ops team concept. And I don’t just mean that as a flowery way of saying he worked on the book, he really does take on the concept. Sometimes aggressively. Starts slow but ends up one of this year’s most interesting Marvel books, for me.
6) Batgirl of Burnside by Brendan Fletcher, Cameron Stewart and Babs Tarr
Already a cult hit without any help from me, this reimagining of Batgirl from troubled veteran vigilante to young, dynamic burst of energy is just fun. Is this how the kids really talk? I have no idea, but it’s incredibly likable, the art is beyond charming and, crucially, the lead character is always trying but allowed to screw up.
5) The Wicked And The Divine by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie
A big hit from last year and still delivering great stuff with second arc Fandemonium. Big fan of Gillen/McKelvie’s willingness to experiment and go in brave directions with their characters. It’s a nice reminder that you can be populist without taking the easy route – if anything, it just makes you more popular. Not yet caught up on the latest arc, but excited to check that out, as well as their Phonogram continuation.
4) The Sandman by Neil Gaiman and others
Kinda veering off the current-comics track now. I’ve been slowly catching up on a few classic books over the last couple of years, and in 2015, I took the plunge and re-read Sandman for the first time as self-aware adult. I… quite liked it, yeah. Interesting to see Gaiman working in a slightly more raw style, before he really developed a signature approach. The slow dreamy pacing is well realised (although when a story/arc isn’t working for you, it drags), and the art is lovely. Probably a good thing to have properly read.
3) Cindy & Biscuit by Dan White
As you may have spotted from the rest of this list, I don’t often venture beyond the Marvel/DC/Image Big Three bubble, so full-on indie books are a rarity. But I listen to the SILENCE! podcast and picked this book up at Thought Bubble as it’s by one of the presenters. And yeah, it’s a great girl-and-her-dog-versus-monsters story. Charming with a dark smile (not grim-and-gritty, just… not too saccharine), this works for me. Available from the creator’s website if it takes your fancy.
2) The Invisibles by Grant Morrison and various artists
Another one from the classic-catch-up-project, this is Grant Morrison’s weird scifi project, in which an anarchist cell try to defend us from the weird monsters that lurk behind the Establishment. I haven’t read the last two volumes, so it may fall apart, but from the place I’m currently at, this is hugely fun, fast-paced, brainbending stuff that really could only work in comics. I couldn’t always tell you exactly what’s going on, but I remain entertained.
1) Hitman by Garth Ennis and John McCrea
And at the top, another comic from a couple of decades ago. Hitman is a DC comic from the late-90s/early-00s in which a superpowered paid killer tries to make his way in their shared universe. It’s Garth Ennis at his most OTT comedy-drama with perfectly matched art by McCrea and it’s one of my favourite things I’ve ever read. A longer blog about it here if you want.
Potentially controversial to say I prefer Hitman (a superhero-violence-semi-comedy) to Sandman and Invisibles (two titans of the Serious Adult Comics field), but… the others are probably better technical works, but I’ve always been a huge Garth Ennis fan and I think it might be one of his best. Certainly the best thing by him I’ve read in a while.
And that, folks, was the comics of 2015. For next year, I might try and actually read some current comics again. Putting together this list, I can’t help but notice I’ve fallen massively behind in all the Image books I was following, for example.