Here it is, our final year in review category. In a lot of ways, this is the biggest of the fifteen lists we’ve posted this week. The ongoing comic series is such a huge part of what we talk about here at Multiversity, so to choose the top ten feels like it’s got some weight to it.
Like our other categories today, this one had a lot of nominees. For maybe the first time in Multiversity history we saw some manga titles land in pretty high on the list, with strong showings from both “Food Wars” and “One Punch Man.” This may have also been the best year ever for a series starring Archie Andrews, as well as the long-running “Usagi Yojimbo,” with both series landing in the top twenty. So what, you ask, made it’s way into our top ten? Read on!
(Keith Dooley) “Grayson” took one of the most iconic legacy characters and brought him into the unexpected spy genre. After being outed as Nightwing during “Forever Evil”, Dick had to go on the run. What better place to hide than in the inner sanctum of the Spyral organization which deals in subterfuge and deceit? Writers Tom King and Tim Seeley continue to write Dick as a multifaceted character who is able to express his emotions and enjoy any situation he’s thrown into while gracefully utilizing his physicality to defeat any enemy or obstacle thrown his way. Artist Mikel Janin conveys everything the writers bring to the story and renders the sexiest superhero in all of comicdom in ways that causes myself and many other readers to fan themselves from the heat of intense sensuality and sexuality that oozes off the page.
(Kevin McConnell) 2015 saw Matt Murdock make his way to the small screen and have another excellent volume come to an end. Mark Waid & Chris Samnee did what was thought ot be impossible. They took the devil of Hell’s Kitchen and took him to San Francisco. And somehow along the way, they managed to keep Matt out of the ringer and make him impossibly fun still.
6. (TIE) Omega Men
(Ken Godberson III) Let’s be absolutely honest: This book had absolutely no right being as good as it ended up being. What seemed to be just a book to keep a trademark turned into one of the most interesting books to come out of the “DCYou” imitative. An exploration of war, terrorism, ethics, religion and more all with the backdrop of space war. To such acclaim that the backlash against its cancellation was so great, that DC decided to uncancel the book and give it the twelve issues it was promised. Between this book and the recently started vision, I have a massive eye on Tom King as a writer (and if you’re looking for someone to launch a Legion of Superheroes…), and the art by Barnaby Bagenda and Romulo Fajarado Jr. makes that balance between cosmic and the grit of something much darker. I long await the inevitable deluxe hardcover with all twelve issues.
6. (TIE) B.P.R.D.
(Mike Romeo) I think the thing with “BPRD” is that it’s got everything I want in a long-running series: best in the industry art, fantastic writing, mythos, giant monsters, memorable characters, impactful story lines, continuity, stand-alone stories, tight story arcs, and sprawling epics. Now, some of those things may seem like they contradict one another, but I promise they’re there. Series writer John Arcudi, along with a stable of absurdly talented artists, approach “BPRD” with both long and short term goals in mind. Arcs are built to be as tidy as possible, creating nice chunks of story to later be collected in trade. But each of these arcs are also crafted to be pieces of a larger whole, even if they may feel tangential at the time.
What’s made 2015 an especially good year for the long-running Dark Horse series is that, over the last number of months, “BPRD” has been ramping up to the massive conclusion of its “Hell On Earth” cycle. Storylines and character arcs that have been years in the making are being wrapped up as Arcudi not only brings “Hell On Earth” to a close, but also prepares to depart the series. This year has had been a rewarding one for long-term readers, and has set the series up for an explosive 2016.Continued below
6. (TIE) Batman
(James Johnston) Surprising no one: Snyder & Capullo’s Batman was one of the ten best comics of the year. Birds fly, fish swim, and Snyder & Capullo have an awesome time deconstructing Gotham City and how it exists in relation to the Batman.
“Batman” had a really solid story arc this year in “Endgame.” In a world where “EVERYTHING WILL CHANGE” means that nothing will, “Endgame” delivered, showing the Joker’s final attack on Gotham, the effects of which are still being felt in comics like “Robin” and the current story arc with James Gordon as Bat-Robot. Where other tie-ins to “Batman” have only resulted in a month or two of tie-ins, “Endgame” actively invited the Bat-Family of books to really feel like one connected unit, without diminishing any of their unique traits. And on top of all that, the backup stories in “Endgame” were a Hall of Fame for comic book artists. Kelley Jones did the back-up story for issue #35. Let me say that again, Kelley Jones drew a “Batman” comic in 2015, y’all.
And what a back-up that was. After the Joker comes back, face restored (don’t ask), he launches a massive attack on Gotham but with a new caveat. Joker reveals that he’s immortal and has been in Gotham for long before Batman. It’s a weird claim, but one that works perfectly against Snyder’s Batman whose entire existence revolves around his connection to Gotham and its history. It’s a total bluff on Joker’s part, but the back-ups where Arkham inmates try to figure out how the Joker came to be through various guesses is still one of the more memorable storylines of the year for me.
“Batman” in 2015 wasn’t just the comic that everyone pretty much universally loves. It took a look at “Death of the Family”, a comic I could do without, and decided to do it much much better. They succeeded. Admirably.
(Greg Matiasevich) Anyone can tell a story. Some people can tell two stories. A fewer number can tell three. While we focus on how comics are following the lead of prose and ‘literature’ by telling short, contained, complete narratives, the comics industry has predominantly been one focused on serial fiction. This issue was great, but what about the next? Getting readers to finish a chapter with enough satisfaction to feel fulfilled but enough anticipation to want the next NOW NOW NOW is a tricky skill. So how to Leila del Duca and Joe Keatinge do it?
By letting themselves be bats#!t crazy in their readers’ name every time they sit down at the drawing or keyboard.
“Shutter” is so eager to get you into its world that the story starts on the inside front cover! No time for credits; stick those at the end, let’s get on with the good stuff! This book has it all: globe-trotting adventure, lion people, Eugene O’Neill-level family drama, electric ghost ninjas, a sentient alarm clock reborn as a radical, and so much more I don’t have the space to go into. Del Duca and Keatinge put out a book that you NEED to have and CANNOT find a substitute for. Every hit thrills and can only be repeated by the next issue of this book. That’s how you do an ongoing series.
4. Mind MGMT
(Drew Bradley) MIND MGMT was published across four years. It made it’s way into the top 10 every year, including a first place finish in 2014. It slipped some this year, and that probably has something to do with it coming to a conclusion several months before this list was assembled. Nevertheless, it maintained it’s greatness by continuing to embrace the monthly format and push the boundaries of what words and pictures can do together.Not only that, but Matt Kindt wrote, drew, painted, and lettered 36 straight issues without ever delaying the book.
The series reached its planned finale, and it stuck the landing. If you were one of the many people who never got around to trying “MIND MGMT”, you can be confident that the book did not fizzle away incoherently, lost in its own plot twists. The details were all planned from the beginning, and as Kindt walks away from his first creator-owned monthly series, the he left behind an epic that will reward multiple readings.Continued below
3. Ms. Marvel
(Alice W. Castle) There’s probably not much to say about “Ms. Marvel” that hasn’t been said before. G. Willow Wilson and the art team of Adrian Alphona and Takeshi Miyazawa have all worked their asses off to take a character who is one of the most interesting ideas ever put on the comics page (and yet, a 16 year old Pakistani-American hero really shouldn’t be an idea that feels unique, it should be the most normal thing ever) and created a genuinely fun superhero comic unlike any other you will read on the stands.
“Ms. Marvel” was to 2015 what Peter Parker was to 1962 and it’s my sincere hope that Kamala Khan galvanises the Marvel Universe and its readership the way Parker did before her.
(Jess Camacho) Every year since it began, “Saga” has been listed on pretty much every “best of” list that the internet has to offer and with good reason. Brian K. Vaughan’s writing is consistently great and Fiona Staples is giving the world a visual stunner that blows everything else away. What’s interesting about “Saga” this year is that compared to some of the earlier stuff, this wasn’t the strongest year for the series but it was still better than almost everything else. This year things were much more personal as Marko and Alana fought hard to try and keep their child Hazel with them as they got wrapped up in the resistance. While the core of the story found our favorite family split up, Gwendolyn, Sophie and The Lying Cat found a very unique way to possibly save The Will. What was so great about “Saga” this was that even though the lead plot stumbled a little bit, there was this relatable quality that could be found with every reader despite the elaborate science fiction setting. As this series goes on, you can really see the evolution in the characters. Marko and Alana went from lovesick kids to parents with the problems of a war on their backs and it’s changed them. The way Vaughan handles this natural evolution is splendid but I would be remiss if I forgot to mention the work of co-creator and visionary artist Fiona Staples.
Staples is a large part of why “Saga” remains a must read series month in and month out. You cannot have “Saga” without her and thankfully for us we don’t have to do that. Her work is mind blowing thanks to fresh, wondrous creature designs with just the right amount of shock level. She does things that no other artists can. On one page we’ll get a cute little seal-man and on the next we’ll see a giant dragon penis and none of it ever feels out of place within the context of the story. Her work makes you think fantasy can be real but it’s the character moments that help make “Saga” so special. Each conversation, each argument, every hug feels authentic so when the sad moments happen, you feel the impact. “Saga” is a gem and there’s little doubt that next year won’t be an even better year for this series.
1. Southern Bastards
(Leo Johnson) There’s a lot to say about “Southern Bastards”, but, to put it simply, it’s the best book of the year. A Southern crime story in and of itself isn’t a special thing. Anyone could make a Southern crime comic. But only Jason Aaron and Jason Latour could make one as authentic as “Southern Bastards”. It’s simultaneously a love letter to the ideals of the South and hate mail to the realities of it.
As the title told us from the beginning, this book is about the bastards, the people we all hate, but even so Aaron and Latour gave sympathy and depth to the biggest bastard in Craw County, Coach Boss. We’ve seen the terrible things that pride and regret cause these people to do. We’ve seen the hospitality and hate present in Craw County. For someone who’s from a place not too much different than Craw County, it’s almost like going home. It’s all this and more that makes “Southern Bastards” not just one of my favorite books, but one of the best on the stands.Continued below
Mike Romeo – So, if you’ve been following our lists so far, there probably won’t be any huge surprises here. What was surprising, and this is a peek behind the curtain, is how wide the field was for this category. It was mentioned in the intro, but “Food Wars” fell surprisingly high on the list. To put a finer point on that, it was #21 out of 72 nominations, beating out MC favorites like “Sex Criminals” (#25) and “They’re Not Like Us” (#30.)
Brian Salvatore – One of the things I say all the time about writing to Multiversity is that we are a diverse group of readers who sometimes, almost bizarrely, coalesce around a book or a creator and champion it. “Southern Bastards” came close to take the trifecta of Best Writer, Best Artist, and Best Ongoing – for a staff that can barely agree on the way to pronounce ‘Multiversity’ (I’m look at you, Walt), it is pretty amazing that we all came together around this book this year. It shows you a) what a great book it is, and b) that if you aren’t reading it, that you should get off your duff and do so.