THE TOP 50 COMICS OF 2015: PART ONE: #50-41!

50. BLACK MAGICK by Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott (Image)

black magick
We’re only one issue in and it’s already genius. It starts out weird, and the reader has no idea what is going on. Then it becomes, seamlessly, a cop comic—something Rucka excels at. And then abruptly, near the end of the only issue I’ve read at the time I’m writing this, the paths merge and we get something fresh and different and I can’t wait for issue #2.

49. DR. FATE by Paul Levitz and Sonny Liew (DC)
dr fate #1

The first issue of DC’s most recent attempt to make Dr. Fate interesting started strong. It had tremendous art—really, that can’t be overstated—and a fairly good premise, albeit one we’ve seen before: The reluctant hero, chosen for the life by the instrument of his power. I read the second issue, hopeful, and was again blown away by the art. But by the time we got to issue #5, nothing had really happened. Khalid, the Egyptian-American student chosen by the helmet—continued to struggle with his powers and resist his destiny like so many others have before him, from The Greatest American Hero to Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Luke Skywalker and on and on. I keep reading, I keep hoping this book will take off, but it hasn’t so far and my optimism is waning.

48. ALL-NEW WOLVERINE by Tom Taylor and David Lopez (Marvel)

all-new wolverine

I’m not a fan of Wolverine’s solo comics.  I find most of them tired and routine.  And the whole idea of X-23 just seemed to me like a way to create a female superhero with minimal effort.  “She’s the same as Logan, but she has a vagina!  And two claws instead of three!”  But the early issues of this October relaunch have me hooked.  Tom Taylor made his bones with DC’s digital comic Injustice: Gods Among Us.  That book was basically just Taylor using the DC toys however he saw fit—it was like DC’s version of Marvel’s Ultimate Universe.  So what he did was take a lot of iconic DC moments and traditional narratives and tweak them a little, to give them a hyperrealistic edge.  It’s a concept that’s (ahem) tailor made for Taylor, and he basically does the same thing here, with the new Wolverine saying and doing the same things Logan did—she even talks with him in her head.  Lopez’s art is great, and the romance with Angel is a solid humanizing hook—a relationship for a killer is key (Logan was made relateable via his paternalistic approach to characters like Kitty Pryde and Jubilee).  My only hope is that they don’t turn her into a softie, the way they did with Logan towards the end.  A Wolverine should kill.  A Wolverine shouldn’t be nice.

47. STRANGE FRUIT by Mark Waid and J.G. Jones (BOOM!)

strange fruit

It’s like John Sayles’ classic indie movie Brother From Another Planet meets Superman in 1920s Mississippi.

46. ANT-MAN by Nick Spencer and Ramon Rosanas (Marvel)

ant man #4 coverI have a lot to say about Ant-Man. First, I had low expectations for this book as the only Ant-Man ever really worth reading was Robert Kirman’s, almost a decade ago, and Scott Lang only got a book because he got a movie deal. But it was
fabulous.

Why?

Because of covers (like the “Miami Vice” one at right) and retro flashbacks like what you see in the
ant man retropanel at right. It’s a tribute to those 1970s comics that constantly cross-referenced each other in editors’ blurbs. And this one’s especially funny because it references a 1970s comic!

In many cases, comics-for-movie-stars haven’t been a great thing. Books about SHIELD (focusing on Agent Coulson), Star-Lord, Gamora, and others haven’t been all that great. Having twenty Avengers comics hasn’t been good for the franchise. But Nick Spencer has a clear vision here, and it’s true to the essence of the character we’ve known for decades—it’s not an attempt to re-shape him into the vision of the filmmakers. There is some parity between the two, but the story in Ant-Man’s solo comic was distinct, and has a purpose. It was touching, funny, and great.

The book did come back after Secret Wars, but it wasn’t as joyous as it had been—it had lost momentum. For the sake of an event, we lost a quality book. I’m hoping they can hit their stride again and pick it back up. Soon.

45. SUPERMAN by Geoff Johns and John Romita, Jr. (DC)
Superman #39
In many ways, Johns and John’s brief run did a lot we’ve seen before in reboots of the character: It introduced a new, really powerful and morally ambiguous foe. It gave Superman a new and modified powerset. He lost his powers. But it was so well done, so well written and illustrated, that it felt brand new. It had been a long time since someone had taken the character on in such a traditional way. I loved Grant Morrison’s Action Comics reboot, but it was anything other than faithful to the iconic version of the character. I was very sad to see this run end.

44. E IS FOR EXTINCTION by Chris Burnham and Ramon Villalobos (Marvel)
E-Is-For-Extinction old xmen

What if Grant Morrison’s New X-Men’s story continued, with brilliant art by indie favorite Ramon Villalobos.  Lots of the Secret Wars tie-ins felt limp because we knew in the end they wouldn’t “matter,” but this one stayed tight and true throughout—it was a joy to read, and because of Villalobos, even a bigger joy to see.

43. TITHE by Matt Hawkins and Rahsan Ekedal (Image)

Computer hackers try to take down Evangelist con-artists, and the FBI is hot—even if sometimes ambivalently—on their tail. The first arc was originally billed as a miniseries, and these four issues are a complete story. The first three issues are terrific—there’s a double narrative point of view, one side from the criminals and the other from the Feds, and both sides get fair treatment. Nobody is a caricature, nobody is a stereotype or cypher. That’s a testament to how well written this book is. Unfortunately, the ending feels a little rushed and contrived—it’s a Hollywood-style big boom finale—and then the second arc isn’t nearly as good. But don’t let that spoil the experience of the first five issues, which were damn good.

42. MS. MARVEL by G. Willow Wilson and various artists (Marvel)

ms marvel

This book was far and away my favorite Marvel comic last year, but this year it suffered from several problems. First, its brilliant artist, Adrian Alphona, left the book for most of the year. Second, Secret Wars came along and Wilson tried to tie into it but it made the book an “event” book instead of what it truly is: A book with heart and soul and love, a book that understands the humor and torture of feeling different as a teenager and the joy and thrill of having abilities nobody else does. It was still a solid superbook, but it slipped. Hopefully, next year, Marvel will hook Wilson up with a permanent artist and leave her the Hell alone.

41. SUICIDERS by Lee Bermejo, with colors by Matt Hollingsworth (Vertigo)

suiciders #1
I’m more than a little tired of dystopian future stories, because they’re all usually about the same: Rich people control the world, poor are used for entertainment/soldiers/chattel/food, whatever. And we got a ton of these kinds of stories this year. But only one was drawn by Lee Bermejo, whose muscular pencils make you feel tough and gritty just by glancing at them. As for the story, Los Angeles has been bust up into New Angeles and Lost Angeles, and I’m sure you can guess who lives where. It’s a “use the poor as gladiators” story, but it’s well-written and, again, incredibly well drawn. Buy it for the art, but not because the story isn’t good. It is. But when you’ve got art like this, who needs words?

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