Thursday, December 31, 2015

Top Ten Comics of 2015

   As 2015 sputters to a close, it’s time for your official Chuck’s Comic of the Day Top Ten Comics for 2015 list.

   First, the usual caveats: 

1. Let the buyer beware. 

2. Chuck doesn’t read every comic printed, so this is a list of - in his opinion, not yours - the best comics printed this year (that were read by Chuck). Your mileage may vary. 

3. Feel free to share your list. You can post it in the comments below or email to us at and we’ll post it on this site. 
   Before we get to the list, let’s take care of the other rating first - the worst comic of the year. There were several good contenders, but the winner is Justice League of America #5. It’s put together professionally, but earns “worst of” honors because it was a fill-in comic in the middle of Bryan Hitch’s run on that series. And nowhere on it does it apologize for the “Dreaded Deadline Doom” or any of the usual comments - they just threw it out there, assuming no one would notice. 

   Now, to the runner-ups for our “Best of” list. These could have easily been one of the top ten, but were edged out by a nose. They include:
  • Archie 
  • Astro City 
  • Captain America White 
  • Doctor Who: Four Doctors 
  • Groo: Friends and Foes 
  • Hawkeye 
  • Johnny Red
  • Little Nemo in Slumberland
  • Justice League 
  • Justice League of America
  • Ninjak 
  • Ragnarok 
  • Saga 
  • Surface Tension
  • The Troop
  • Uncanny Inhumans
  • We Can Never Go Home
  • WinterWorld: Frozen Fleet
      Here are our winners, in reverse order:

10. Usagi Yojimbo: Senso 

   After a brief absence from the scene, Usagi Yojimbo returned in this miniseries (and soon will be back in his own series) - and what a welcome return it is!

   Writer / artist Stan Sakai really pulled out the stops for Senso - which pits Usagi and his friends and foes against a War of the Worlds-style invasion that threatens death and total destruction.

   But if you've read the original story, or seen the movie(s), don't think you've already seen this one. Just when you think you know where it's headed, it takes some surprising, chilling turns.

   To say too much would be a disservice, but this is a comic that no fan of Usagi should miss.

   It's a masterful work by an amazing craftsman - highly recommended!

9. Twilight Children 

 There are certain comics that fans (like yours truly) will buy just on the strength of the names of the creative team - and a comic that brings together Gilbert Hernandez and Darwyn Cooke is a “must-buy.”

   So I’ve been following The Twilight Children  - and both of the creators, happily, are living up to their “living legend” status. 

   The four-part series focuses on the people on a small tropic island - and the mysterious events that have changed lives, including a large, mysterious orb of light that pops up in the darndest places.

   It’s a series loaded with rich characters, from the inquisitive scientist who finds more than he bargains for, to the hot housewife who always gets what she wants, to her jealous lover, the irritated sheriff and an exotic woman who may not be from our planet.

   It’s a lot of fun trying to unravel the puzzles, and the story keeps you happily off-balance.

   The art is wonderful. Cooke is a tremendous artist, of course, but each page just ripples with energy and life and spirit. His style is unique and delightful.

   So where is the series going? I have no idea. Isn’t that great?

8. S.H.I.E.L.D. 

   Leave it to writer Mark Waid to throw us some curves.

   So we have S.H.I.E.L.D. (which stands for Strategic Homeland Intervention Enforcement Logistics Division) waging a war against a powerful mystic opponent that's usually reserved for Dr. Strange.

   But the good Doc (who shared space with S.H.I.E.L.D. in the pages of Strange Tales in the 1960s) has been taken out of action, along with every other magical hero - so it's up to Phil Coulson and his agents to find a way to save the world.

   What I love about this series (other than the sharp writing and excellent artwork) is that Coulson and his agents are very smart, and use their intelligence - and  S.H.I.E.L.D. assets - to win the day.

   This series, in addition to tying into the excellent TV series, also serves as a team-up comic, as the agents work with different super-heroes (and sometimes super-villains) to win the day.

   It's a heck of a lot of fun - if you've missed it so far, you really should be reading this comic. 

7. Star Wars 

   So the big trick in creating a Star Wars series that takes place between the existing films is not violating the existing continuity.

   But this comic seems to have no concerns about that - so we see Luke Skywalker confronting Darth Vader long before their eventual (and epic) battle in The Empire Strikes Back.

   So the die-hard fans may object to the way this issue plays out - but for the rest of us, it's loaded with hoo-hah action and adventure.

   The story centers around the attempts by the Rebellion (in this case, Luke, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Chewbacca, R2-D2 and C-3PO) to destroy one of the Empire's main weapons-making facilities.

   But they find their efforts blocked by an army of Stormtroopers, led by Vader.

   The story by Jason Aaron works perfectly with the stunning artwork by John Cassaday - as a long-time fan, I just kept smiling through the whole story. The next one can't get here fast enough!

    Oh, and let me just add: continuity schmontinuity.

6. Daredevil 

   It's the humor.

   That's the secret behind the success of Mark Waid and Chris Samnee's run on Daredevil.

   Well, that and the fact that they're telling great stories with interesting characters and fantastic art.

   But it's the humor that was missing before they came on board.

   This issue had all the earmarks of a tragic tale, as Matt goes public with the fact that he's in love.

   That hasn't gone well in the past - it's a deadly occupation, being Daredevil's sweetie.

   But give Waid and Samnee credit - they find a fresh spin on the topic, and take the story in unexpected directions - all while keeping a smile on our face.

   As should be obvious by now, if you're not buying this series, you're making a terrible mistake. It's one of the best in the business.

5. Sandman Overture 

 Finally, just shy of two years from its beginning, we arrive at the end (and, happily enough, the beginning) for The Sandman.

   This Overture mini-series by Neil Gaiman, J. H. Williams III and Dave Stewart has been a delightful (if twisty) return visit to Gaiman's legendary character.

    The story is appropriately big, visiting Dream's siblings - and his parents (!) - and placing the existence of... well, everything... at stake, and the survival of all rests in Dream's hands.

   It's all a prequel to the original series created by Gaiman, as the finale gives us the answer to how Dream ended up a prisoner of a mortal way back in Sandman #1.

   The art is amazing - each page (and that stunning cover) should be hanging in a museum somewhere.

   If you've missed this one, I suspect it'll read much better as a collection, but (perversely) if you haven't read the Sandman stories yet, you should read those first, then tackle this prequel.

   Trust me, it makes more sense that way (this series refers to characters that work better if you know more about them).

   What more do you need? Highly, highly recommended!

4. Avengers / New Avengers 

   Like last year, I’m cheating by combining these two series - but they actually tell one story that leads into Secret Wars, as written by Jonathan Hickman.

   New Avengers - What's not to like about a battle between the New Avengers team of gods and a mysterious (and possibly invincible) cosmic opponent?

   This issue absolutely kicks arse, in a Seven Samurai-style showdown at the edge of the universe.

   I commented recently that I wasn't crazy about Jonathan Hickman's take on Dr. Strange (everyone has a weak spot), but I love his take on Thor, who's been showing his true warrior potential in the series (unlike his own title, which has been taken over by an impostor).

   There's a scene in here that made me laugh out loud with pure delight. You'll know it when you see it. There are also grim, sad moments, and amazing art by Mike Deodato.

   Great, great comic!

   Avengers -  OK, the cover to this issue threw me.

   I thought: maybe they forgot to get someone to draw a cover, so they reused the one Bryan Hitch drew for the first issue of The Ultimates.

    But as you read the issue, you realize there actually is a connection to the Ultimate universe, as the various alternate universes continue to draw together.

   There's actually very little Avenger content here, as we see what happens to the evil Cabal (they were caught in a world-destroying death trap when last we saw them) and a new destructive force enters the picture.

   This series just keeps amping up the tension, and with just three months to go, the reader could be forgiven for beginning to wonder how the Marvel universe can survive.

    It's another fantastic story by writer Jonathan Hickman and amazing art by Mike Deodato - what an amazing, mature, complex tale they're weaving here. Highly recommended!

3. Secret Wars 

     After a solid start for the Secret Wars series, we’re finally getting some solid answers about the origins of Battleworld.

   Why is Dr. Doom in charge (and apparently a god)? Why is Dr. Strange his second-in-command? How long has Battleworld been around? What happened to the heroes and villains who tried to escape the final destruction of Earth-616 and the Ultimate Earth (1610)? And where is Reed Richards?

   The key to managing a series loaded with mysteries is to cut the readers some slack and actually give them some info to chew on.

   Don’t worry - there are still loads of mysteries to be unraveled.

   I admit, I'm not reading most of the spin-off series - but this comic is so well written and so strongly realized, I don't feel like I'm missing anything.

   The art by Esad Ribic and the writing by Jonathan Hickman is terrific - and the sheer magnitude of creating what is, for all intents and purposes, an all-new Marvel Universe, is simply stunning in its complexity. An impressive accomplishment!

   The slam on the original Secret Wars maxi-series was that the story was simplistic. You'll find no such complaints here.

2. Sculptor 

   When Scott McCloud speaks - or releases a new graphic novel - attention must be paid.

   And Sculptor is well worth your time and attention.

   It's the unique story of David Smith, an artist who is going through a rough patch. He came close to great success, but fell short, and he wonders if his career is over.

   That's when David receives an unusual offer from Death itself - incredible sculpting powers, but in 200 days, his life ends.

   What follows is an incredible roller-coaster of life and career, as David finds his muse renewed - but will it result in fame and fortune?

   His personal life also takes some unexpected twists and turns. It's a riveting story that unfolds over more than 500 pages of stunning, compelling art.

   McCloud has written several excellent books about the comics art form, and here he demonstrates his mastery of it, manipulating time, focus, emotion and environment to maximum effect.

   His art builds its own reality, and captures life in New York in amazing detail, from grungy apartments to alleys and rooftops and modern museums.

   This is a story that offers so much to the reader - surprises, heartbreak, ingenuity, passion.

   It's a mature tale, so I can't recommend it for young readers, but for everyone else, this graphic novel gets my highest recommendation.

1. Multiversity: Ultra Comics #1 

   Despite its serious tone, this issue of Multiversity had me smiling a lot.

   That's because this issue is trying to get into your head - and it succeeds!

   It's something comics have been trying to do for a long time. In the late 1980s I interviewed DC editor Julius Schwartz and he talked about the importance of a strong cover to generate sales.

   He said one of the comics that had strong sales was an issue of The Flash in the '60s that featured a closeup of that hero, holding up his hand and saying (in huge letters) "STOP! Don't pass up this issue! My life depends on it!"

   So here we have writer Grant Morrison, who has (with this series) been playing the comics medium like a maestro, going totally meta.

   So we meet the hero Ultra, who talks to you, the reader.

   I know, it sounds silly - but it's so artfully done that you have to admire the way the story gets in your head, playing with your concept of how comics work and how you react to them.

   It doesn't hurt that the finely-crafted art is by Doug Mahnke (with three inkers), one of the best in DC's stable.

   This issue will keep you guessing throughout. You might even be tempted to put it down without finishing it - but it would take a stronger person that me to manage that.

   Just wonderful!


    So that wraps up 2015 - a pretty good year for comics! If you’d like to share your own “Top Ten” list, feel free to send it the our email - - or place it in the comments below. 

   Happy New Year, everyone!

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