3. Sandman: Overture
Neil Gaiman/JH Williams
2. Shigeru Mizuki's Hitler
1. Terror Assaulter: O.M.W.O.T.
When I say that after I put this book down, and the first thought I had was: "I'm pretty sure I've never read anything like this", you should know that is pretty high praise. Benjamin Marra's subversive look at America's love of violence, counter-imposed with our nation's attitudes towards sex and masculinity, pitched in the shadow of the post 9/11 War on Terror, makes Terror Assaulter one of the most unique action-based comics to hit the stands in years. This is basically a Delta Force-style b-movie taken to its logical extremes, with all of the male power fantasy satirical elements that sort of comparison implies. The title character drop-kicks from one situation to another, protecting America's interests while making sure he's got time to get down with any ladies (or gentlemen) that might be available, in as graphic a detail as possible. Marra voices his characters in a matter of fact, hilarious style, where everyone is basically narrating the basest version of their thoughts and actions, in a sort of spin on really badly written comics of the early 80's. This is what hardcore punk looks like in comics form, with a hero whose dick is literally hanging out and guns ready to blow. I can't wait to read it again.
3. Houses of the Holy & Ikebana (tie)
Caitlin Skaalrud / Yumi Sakugawa
How could I choose between two such similar books? Yumi Sakugawa's Ikebana and Caitlin Skaalrud's Houses of the Holy are both poetic, inventive comics that seek to tell a story without necessarily telling you the story. In Ikebana, we see the senior art thesis of Cassie Yamasaki, a human take on the Japanese art of flower arranging. There is very little dialogue, and Sakugawa offers no interpretation within the book to tell you how to read it, but everything you need to pull your own meaning from the work is on the page. Similarly, Caitlin Skaalrud's Houses of the Holy is elliptical in the way it tells its story, and while it eventually gives the game away, it does so long after we've already come to mean what the gorgeously designed nightmarescapes that define the book mean. Both Ikebana and Houses of the Holy are visual poetry, personal and deeply felt.
2. Russian Olive to Red King
Kathryn Immonen, Stuart Immonen
Depression may be the least visually exciting thing to portray ever. It's such a profound emptiness, and even getting up the will to get out of bed can be difficult. In Russian Olive to Red King, husband/wife pair Stuart and Kathryn Immonen find a way to combine a genuine story about depression and grief with a wilderness survival narrative, contrasting the malaise of King with the wilderness trek of Olive. Essentially, the story goes: Olive and King are lovers, and on a business trip, Olive gets stranded in the Russian wilderness, leaving King to carry on without her. It's a simple story, but the Immonens find a great deal of profundity in it. With career-best work from one of the strongest artists working today and a richly emotional script from an immense and underappreciated talent, Russian Olive to Red King is easily one of the year's best graphic novels.
1. Sacred Heart
Liz Suburbia's debut graphic novel starts off seeming like it'll be in the realm of This One Summer, a coming-of-age story about a young woman with family problems, an inconvenient crush, and more. Suburbia mines things like Richard Linklater's Dazed and Confused for the book's opening, a series of vignettes taking place at parties and concerts full of unsupervised children. If that's all it had been... well, it'd likely still make the list, because Suburbia has a gift for ensemble storytelling, a genuine talent for page layouts that let her jump from person to person to person without losing momentum. But Sacred Heart is much, much weirder than that, slipping slowly from Dazed to Paul Thomas Anderson's Magnolia and revealing a number of quiet mysteries in the background of her book. But what's most astonishing is how much fun Suburbia's book is to read, whether it's in relaxed party mode or horror-tinged mystery mode. Once you start Sacred Heart, you probably won't want to leave.
Mark Russell, Ben Caldwell
Among the most puzzling of DC’s new books this year was a relaunch of the silly political satire Prez, which has only appeared in a handful of issues over the last several decades. Mark Russell is an accomplished satirist, though, and his wickedly dark sense of humor made this book something special and unique on the stands. It is often outrageously silly, but provides a smart and frightening look and where some of our current technology and political trends might lead us. Although we may never see the second half of the originally planned 12-issue miniseries, I’ll take the first six issues and a wonderful diamond in the rough at DC!
2. The Infinite Loop
Elsa Charretier, Pierrick Colinet
This time-travel adventure turned romance turned LGBT activist comic came out of nowhere and really struck a chord with me. A time-travel agent charged with eliminating anomalies comes across an anachronism in the form of the woman of her dreams and must go on the run to protect her. A pretty high concept idea off the bat, but when it smartly morphs into a metaphor for homophobic oppression, the comic really hits its stride. The art by Elsa Charretier is really fantastic, with a colorful feeling of wonder and awe amid the tight, impressive storytelling. A must read!
Josh Tierney, Afu Chan
Maybe this was just overlooked in the sea of science fiction comics coming out from Image and other indie publishers, but I haven’t heard a soul talk about this fantastic 4-issue miniseries from Boom! Studios. This series takes place in a world not totally dissimilar to Prophet, where science corporations are competing to find pieces of the corpse of a monolithic dead god. The lead character Rell has the ability to create holograms, and uses this to her advantage as she meets robotic assassins, corporate double agents, and a little girl who might herself be a piece of the ancient god. Tierney gives the whole thing loads of unique personality, and Chan’s art is elegant and action-packed. Here’s to hoping this gets put out as a trade soon!
Charles Soule, Alex Maleev
2015 was a pretty huge year for Marvel, but not because of any of their superhero titles. Marvel's continuously growing line of Star Wars comics are almost always featured on the Best Seller lists for graphic novels AND single issues. Lando, the second five issue mini-series in Marvel's Star Wars line takes us on new adventure with Billy Dee Williams's ever popular character from The Empire Strikes Back (this story is set before the events of that film). The story sees Lando Calrissian and Lobot trying to capture a ship, only to find more than a few huge surprises awaiting them. Charles Soule has a great handle on Lando's mannerisms as well as the kind of story that would perfectly fit this character (something the other Star Wars minis have had a bit of trouble with). Alex Maleev's work only helps to heighten the enjoyment of an already great comic. This is not only one of the best mini series of 2015, but easily Marvel's best Star Wars mini to date.
Mark Russell, Ben Caldwell
Looking back at all of DC's output in 2015, it is still so very hard to believe that something like Prez slipped through the cracks and actually happened. Part of the DCYou initiative that started this summer, Prez reinvents an obscure DC title from a long time ago in a way that is refreshingly funny and modern. A modern DC book that is really funny, you guys! This almost never happens! Mark Russell's satire about a teenager elected (through Twitter) to President of the United States takes our current political landscape to its inevitable hyperbolic conclusion, resulting in a funny and terrifying read. Ben Caldwell's excellent artwork only helps to further the humor with the numerous incredible design choices. If it weren't for my #1 pick on this list, I'd say Prez was the best DC series of 2015.
1. The Multiversity
Grant Morrison, Various Artists
It's hard to find more to say about The Multiversity that we haven't all said a hundred times over here at GeekRex. Nevertheless, this is a story that stuck with me in 2015 long after it ended, becoming the first comic in a long time that I now own in single issues and hardcover. Out of the three multiverse-spanning stories from DC and Marvel this year, Morrison's work struts way, way, waaaay ahead of the pack. THIS is how a story about your multiverse is done. THIS is how complex superhero stories are done. You may have a huge headache by the time you finish this intricate structure of storytelling, but you'll also have a hard time not being entertained the whole way. Not for the fresh comic fan by any means. Only time will tell if this goes on to be considered among Morrison's best work, but count me among that camp.