I read an awful lot of comics/graphic novels in 2015… I’m not complaining. I enjoyed the vast majority of them and I know I missed several good and maybe even great ones. There’s simply not enough time to read everything. Yet here are the ten comics that I enjoyed most in 2015, stories that stuck with me long after I’d finished reading them. I hope you’ll find something here to discover as well.
Black River – Josh Simmons (Fantagraphics)
This post-apocalyptic tale pulls no punches and apologizes for nothing. Simmons’s story is bleak and brutal, yet powerfully explores what it is to be human and inhuman. Be warned: this is strong stuff. Read more about Black River here. (trade paperback; black-and-white; adults)
The Dharma Punks – Ant Sang (Conundrum Press)
Spectacular work from New Zealand creator Ant Sang about Chopstick, a punk seeking enlightenment and the meaning of life while participating in an anarchist group’s plans to disrupt the opening of a new fast-food restaurant. The Dharma Punks features a complex use of time manipulation and can sometimes be a bit confusing due to many of the characters looking alike, but the work is incredibly rich and powerful. If all New Zealand comics creators are as good as Ant Sang and Dylan Horrocks, I think I need to move there. (trade paperback; black-and-white; mature teens and up)
The Eternaut (1957-1959/2015) Héctor Germán Oesterheld and Francisco Solano Lopez (Fantagraphics)
I think I can honestly say a day hasn’t gone by that I haven’t thought about The Eternaut in some way. The story behind the story (included in the book’s introduction and afterword) is as amazing as the story itself. The Eternaut is a cultural icon in Argentina and after reading it, you’ll understand why. On the surface, we have a science fiction/alien invaders story, but the creators are going for something much deeper. How they do it – without being pedantic or heavy-handed – is staggering. As of this writing, the book is sold out from the publisher and most other online stores. Let’s hope for a second printing. If that happens, don’t miss it. (hardcover; black-and-white; teens and up)
Invisible Republic – Gabriel Hardman, Corinna Bechko (Image)
Gabriel Hardman is rapidly becoming one of my favorite writers. In 2843, a reporter named Babb discovers a secret journal containing information related to a recently overthrown dictator of a colonized moon. It’s a story no one else knows about, a story Babb desperately needs to resurrect his dying career, yet has the potential to create unimaginable havok, and not just for one remote moon.
The description that some critics are giving Invisible Republic – Breaking Bad meets Blade Runner – is far too simplistic. Comic Book Resources gets a lot closer: it’s more like All the President’s Men meets Battlestar Galactica. However you look at it, Invisible Republic is immediately compelling, nearly impossible to put down after the first page. Derek and I spoke with Hardman and Bechko earlier this year for The Comics Alternative Podcast. (trade paperback, color; adults)
Killing and Dying – Adrian Tomine (Drawn and Quarterly)
If there’s someone in your life that doesn’t get comics, someone that is more of a literary reader, Adrian Tomine’s work might just win them over. These “slice of life” stories are filled with humanity, humor and often revelation. If you’ve never read Tomine, you might want to start with one of his issues of Optic Nerve (the most recent issue being #14, the contents of which are included in this collection). (hardcover; color; adults)
Louise Brooks: Detective – Rick Geary (NBM Publishing)
Rick Geary has outdone himself with Louise Brooks: Detective. I feared that this venture away from Geary’s usual true crime stories into a fictionalized tale of a real celebrity would be a let-down, but such is not the case. Not only do we get a good look at silent film star Louise Brooks after her decline as a box office attraction, we also get a superbly told story. This book certainly belongs among Geary’s strongest work. Derek and I recently interviewed Geary about Louise Brooks: Detective and his other works.) (black-and-white; teens and older)
Saint Cole – Noah Van Sciver (Fantagraphics)
I met Noah Van Sciver last year at SPX, knowing nothing about him or his work. I picked up his collection Youth is Wasted and enjoyed it quite a bit. Van Sciver is at his best writing and drawing stories about young, often directionless people trying to understand life according to traditional standards of American society, which exactly what we have here in Saint Cole. Joe is a 28-year-old worker at a pizza joint and has a wife and infant child he’s attempting to support. It’s hard to support a family on that kind of money, especially when you drink most of it away. When Joe’s mother-in-law moves in, it’s even harder.
Van Sciver has the uncanny ability to create situations that are dark, grim, hilarious and powerfully substantive. This Ignatz Award-nominated book shows Van Sciver at the top of his form. You won’t see the ending coming, but you’ll think about it for a long, long time. (trade paperback, black-and-white; adults)
Russian Olive to Red King – Kathryn Immonen, Stuart Immonen (AdHouse Books)
I must confess: Russian Olive to Red King is my favorite graphic novel of the year. No other book had quite the impact of this one. You can read more about it here. (hardcover; color; adults)
Tim Ginger – Julian Hanshaw (Top Shelf Publications)
If Russian Olive to Red King was my favorite book of the year, Tim Ginger was a very close second. An absolute gem of a book. Read more here. (trade paperback; color; adults)
Two Brothers – Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá, based on a novel by Milton Hatoum (Dark Horse)
I never thought Moon and Bá could equal or surpass Daytripper, but with Two Brothers, they have done so. Reading this story of twin brothers (Moon and Bá are also twin brothers) is like watching an epic movie, not so much epic in length, but in depth and humanity. The illustrations are extraordinary and the pacing, layout… everything about it is superb. These guys are killing it. (hardcover; black-and-white; adults)
There we have it, my choices for the 10 best comics of 2015. I’d love to hear what your favorites were in 2015, so please feel free to comment.