Well deck my halls and jingle my bells! 2015 is over, and, while I’m sad to be saying goodbye to yet another bumper year for comics, there’s still just enough time left for some last minute splurges before the New Year’s resolutions start tightening those purse-strings and old acquaintance be forgot’ altogether.
And remember, the best gift is one you give yourself!
Best issue: Saga #32
The popularity of Vaughan and Staples’ space epic is already pretty well documented, but, for me, this latest issue really hammered home exactly why so many people have connected with this story. While the time between issues has started to ramp up, Vaughan slowed down the pace in #32 to offer us a tentative, emotional reunion set against the backdrop of a high-stakes heist. Staples’ hugely expressive artwork and effortlessly inventive alien morphology is also on top form, and this issue is yet another addition to a beautifully human narrative about war, sex, and star-crossed alien lovers from different worlds.
Runner Up: Head Lopper #2
Best Writer: Grant Morrison: Klaus #2
If the idea of a dark and gritty Father Christmas reboot sounds ridiculous, that’s probably because it is, but that doesn’t mean that Morrison and Mora’s serious Santa isn’t strangely compelling. Morrison has mixed the melodrama of classic fairytale narratives with the methodical wraithlike darkness of “Batman: Year One” and come out with a self-aware, action-packed story that could easily be adapted into the next big Liam Neeson films (but, like, one of the good ones). Morrison’s scripting oscillates between earnest and tongue-in-cheek with a confidence that should help suspend the disbelief of all but the naughtiest of readers.
Runner Up: Joe Keatinge: Ringside #2
Best Artist: Skottie Young
Skottie Young’s distinctive style has already made him something of a household name in the comic book world – especially amongst Marvel fans and variant collectors – but while I’ve long been a fan of his cartoonish style he’s never really been an artist that springs to mind when I think ‘subtlety’. “I Hate Fairyland” changed all that. This auteur-level passion project reads like a hyper-violent Saturday morning cartoon, but, while there’s a lot of surface-level fun to be had in the bubble-gum pink and arterial scarlet world of Young’s fairies, he’s also packed this series with a host of understated sight-gags and sneaky visual references that make his first truly independent venture well worth a closer viewing.
Runner Up: Sana Takeda: Monstress #2
Most Likely To End Up On The ‘Nice’ List: Huck: Huck #2
Mark Millar is probably best known for his complicated and morally ambiguous characters, but it’s great to see that he can handle a more altruistic hero without the book feeling dull or preachy. The hazy, white-picketed world is sweet without feeling saccharine, and feels every bit as fragile as its titular character does strong. Only two issues in, it’s hard to say just where this mysterious book is going to end up, but Millar and Albuquerques have already managed to reimagine the ‘Steve Rogers/Clark Kent’ aesthetic for the 21st century, set up a compelling super-story, and keep the issues themselves as smooth and serene as a Grant Wood painting.
Runner Up: Rathraq: Rumble #10
Best Secret Santa: Barrier #1
BKV, Martin, and Vicente treated us all to an unexpected early Christmas present by dropping the touching and politically charged first issue of “Barrier” seemingly out of nowhere. Beautifully realised in a straight-to-digital format that gives Martin a unique flexibility to jump from vast Texan plains to close, personal moments from page to page. A poignant and perfectly paced reminder of the universal nature of humanity, and, as we’ve come to expect from BKV, a romp of a story that grips from the very first page.
Runner Up: Dark Knight III: The Master Race #2
Best All-New, All Different Stocking Filler: Scarlet Witch #1
Jason Aaron’s “Doctor Strange” has already started to set up the magical corner of the ANAD as a pretty mysterious place, but Robinson and Del Rey amp up the intrigue even further with their fantastically spooky debut issue of “Scarlet Witch”. This atmospheric, moody, noir-heavy look at the mystical underbelly of New York should sate the thirst of any Marvel fans with a Jessica Jones shaped hole in their lives at the moment, and Del Rey’s deliciously dark representation of Wanda and her chaotic abilities is an artistic joy. I can’t wait to see what this long-underused team player does now that she’s alone in the big city.Continued below
Runner Up: Carnage #3
Best Festive Antidote: Harrow County #8
If you’re not feeling the festive spirit and fancy a break from the heart-warming schmaltz of the season, you won’t do much better than the latest issue Cullen Bunn’s eerie, Southern Gothic smash. “Harrow County” is a brilliantly unsettling book that harnesses the chills-down-the-back-of-your-neck side of horror perfectly. While the overarching narrative has been purposefully lackadaisical, focussing on building atmosphere and on Tyler Crook’s gorgeously creepy watercolour artwork, issue #8 sees the story rush to a chilling crescendo that hauls a host of horrifying creatures from the depths of the forest and into the light.
Check it out and I guarantee that the weather outside won’t be the only thing that’s frightful.
Runner Up: Fight Club 2 #8