August is one of my favorite months of the year for two reasons. One, the weather in my home state of New Jersey begins to flatten out a bit. Two, it means the start of the pro football season is only 4 weeks away. Now I can add some of my favorite comics of 2015 came out in the month of August. Sure it has been a great year for comics all around but a lot happened in August to solidify the claim. Now without any further ado…
Best Issue: “Batman” #43
I had the great pleasure of getting to review “Batman” and it typified what “Batman” is all about. Still recovering from the events of Endgame, Bruce Wayne is taken to places that have polarized fans. I however do not agree with the detractors who want to vilify Scott Snyder. “Batman” should evolve, veering off the beaten path to give some freshness to the near century old hero. Add in the introduction of a terrifying new villain and this issue was a high point for the month.
Honorable Mention: “Welcome Back” #1
Best Writer: Scott Snyder
The man has a set of brass ones I can tell you that. Scott Snyder is not afraid to push a boundary or two in his epic run on The Dark Knight. He has such a grasp on Bruce Wayne’s psyche you almost wonder if Snyder dress up as “Batman” when he isn’t writing him. I love the fact Snyder does not give into the pressure of telling things quickly. The delay sets up for a massive payoff that is satisfying to the point of trying to recapture that feeling again with a re-read. Of all the writers who have come and gone on “Batman”, Snyder is cementing his legacy as the absolute best.
Honorable Mention: Matt Pizzolo
Best Artist: Greg Capullo
Surprise another “Batman” cohort. Greg Capullo makes this list for a different reason then expected. His work on “Batman” has been nothing short of fantastic, which is something any reader of “Spawn” or “Batman” will tell you. But where things get interesting is Capullo drawing “Batman” during the daytime hours. Yes I know that sounds odd but “Batman” is a night time story no matter which way you cut it. You do not think of Gotham or Wayne Manor in the day time. To be able to put all those elements into the daytime is so refreshing and bold. There is a great sense of how different a book “Batman” is now by the art being displayed that way, giving it it’s own identity without sacrificing the core elements.
Honorable Mention: Jonathan Brandon Sawyer
Best Cover: “Book of Death” #2 by Cary Nord
I have always been a fan of an image that makes the imagination go off with just a glance. That exact feeling is what I got when I saw “Book of Death” #2. Why is this happening, why is there a knife to someone’s throat? Is that Ninjak looking like a total badass? There is a true sense of danger just from a cover, the story has to be up there too (it was!). Easily one of my favorite covers of the year and without a doubt the best Valiant cover I have seen since the relaunch.
Honorable Mention: “Drive” #1 Subscription Variant by Mike Collins
Best Non-Batman Issue: “Airboy” #3
There was an attraction I had to “Airboy” when I saw the front cover. It was clear that “Airboy” was not going to be about the eponymous hero but something different altogether. Anyone who has ever been a fan of comix or the work of R. Crumb would get a huge kick out of this book. This particular issue resolves a major cliffhanger but also gives an emotional punch that most (not all) autobiographical books wish they could have. If anything it reminded me of one of the greatest autobiographical novels of all time in Craig Thompson’s “Blankets.” At the heart of “Airboy” is a story about a man’s fall and his redemption through self discovery. It is the kind of comic that anyone can connect with because we have all been there before and it sucks. Think of it like a bit of visual therapy that is so wrong but feels so very right.Continued below
Honorable Mention: “Young Terrorists” #1 by Amancay Nahuelpan
Best Non-Hero Book from DC, Marvel or Image: “Arcadia” #4 & “Kaijumax” #5
While it is true that I grew up with super heroes, I am really not that big of a fan of them. I like a story that is either something relatable or off the wall to the point of hilarity. “Arcadia” is something I can relate to since I am in the IT world by trade. The concept of humanity being stored on databases is not that far off from our current reality. Add in the fact that there are many ethical issues surrounding it and you have an excellent metaphor for modern society.
“Kaijumax” on the other hand is the perfect “What If…” story that got past being blurted out in a drunken stupor. What if monsters had to go to prison for the crimes of destroying cities? The core idea is fascinating but Zander Cannon’s execution is what brings it all together. He makes all of these monsters human with real emotions and doubts adding depth. The prison settings gives you an idea of what you think but not what to expect. While this is not Oz it most certainly is a very dangerous place to be inside of “Kaijumax.”
Honorable Mention: “Hip Hop Family Tree” #1 & “Archie” #2
Best Company You Are Not Reading: Black Mask Studios
Black Mask Studios might be a name you have a passing familiarity with. They made a splash back in 2013 with “Occupy Comics” and the company spun off from that. As a follow up, Black Mask has been publishing some excellent creator owned stories that remind me of Image in the early days. In August the company published the excellent “Young Terrorists”, my favorite for the year “We Can Never Go Home” and continued with “The Disciples” & “Transference.” Black Mask does not really seem to have a set niche they publish in, if anything they are incredibly diverse. Image is one of my favorite publishers but lately they have a lot of sci-fi style books dominating their releases. The diversity in Black Mask gives new readers and old veterans a lot to offer in terms of options. There is a lot of new talent coming in too which is something you expect from Image and not a small indie publisher. The studio has a look of cool new books on the horizon and a recently announced sequel to “We Can Never Go Home” to make me even more excited! The only draw back is the limited availability at the local comics shop level. But their excellent webstore will rectify that for anyone looking for the traditional floppy copy. Whatever your method is make sure you check Black Mask Studios out before the year is out.
Biggest Disappointment: High prices for new books
I will level with you, I think anything over $3.99 for a single issue is too much for a comic. Granted, “Island” & “Young Terrorists” have a lot of content in them for $7.99 and $6.99 respectively but the problem comes from these are new books. If you are someone looking to start comic collecting or an old collector looking for something new this would be a turn off. As well you might not know what the content is but a steep price tag might turn you away from a bonafide classic. In my case, I really enjoyed “Young Terrorists” despite its high price tag. However there was probably a ton of potential readers who were not going to even look at it for that price. Perhaps when the trade is available it will be a little less, $9.99 would be excellent for Black Mask Studios to do. Alas, this is a business and it is about making money not about actual content.