Top 5 2015 Releases – Individual Comic Book Issues

With the 2015 nearly behind us, it’s fun to take a look back at the highlights from what came out of the year and get excited about what 2016 might bring. In regards to my ‘Top 5’ lists, please keep in mind that I am only going to list what I have personally dealt with. I’m not going to write opinions on something I haven’t experienced. Sadly, stupid adult responsibilities prevent me from spending every hour of the day reading comic books, building LEGO, playing Xbox, or watching TV/movies. With that said, there’s a very good chance I’ve missed out on something list worthy. If you think something is missing then PLEASE let me know! If there’s one thing the geeky community is good at, it’s sharing opinions. I want to hear yours!

Top 5 2015 Releases – Individual Comic Book Issues

 

I love supporting my local comic book shops. They are local establishments that are very reliant on local patronage to keep things going. This year I’ve tried to stress the importance of supporting local business and our regular visits to comic book shops have been an excellent resource. 2015 has brought multiple storylines worth following across several publishers. I’ve tried, and mostly succeeded, to keep up with the ones that really grabbed me. I went through my stack of 2015 comic conquests and picked the top five individual issues that stuck with me the most. This was not and easy task!

 

So here are my Top 5 favorite individual comic book releases from this year…..

 

(Slight spoilers for the current Justice League run – skip the runner up and #4 if you don’t want to find out.)

Runner up – Justice League #44: The Darkseid War Part 4

 

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I hadn’t planned on listing any more than five individual titles in any of my year’s best lists but this one was worth including. The Darkseid War story arc has definitely been an interesting one. Some points have been a tad ‘out there’ while others managed to satisfyingly hit on factors that make Justice League so great. This one issue is a stand out because you finally get to see the thunderous conflict between Darkseid and The Anti-Monitor. I was shocked to see Darkseid actually die! He’s come close in the past in fights with Superman and Doomsday, but this time he wasn’t so lucky. Seeing the Flash (possessed by Death/The Black Racer) punch through Darkseid’s chest like a cannonball was flat out awesome. Jason Fabok’s artwork in this entire series is phenomenal. He succeeds in bringing life to the clash of titans on each page. If you’ve missed any of The Darkseid War, and wish to check it out, I suggest you wait until the trade paper graphic novel is available. Jumping in mid-story would not only be confusing, but it would lessen the impact of moments like this issue.

 

#5 – Star Wars: Shattered Empire #2

 

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I’ve already done a write up of the full SHATTERED EMPIRE storyline so I won’t go too deep on this one. The series was good, not as great as many Star Wars nuts may want, but still good enough to read. I will establish the second issue in the arc as one of my favorites because of its battle scenes. Overall, Star Wars battles are fought in space (it’s right there in the title). The few ground battles like Hoth or Endor (the forest moon, that is), feature vehicles and weapons that are the highlight of epic toy fights from childhood. SHATTERED EMPIRE #2 combined all of those elements into a dramatic war scene with an AT-AT stomping through a city with a swarm of TIE Fighters and A-Wings overhead. A squadron of Y-Wings swoops in dropping a wave of magnetic mines that attach to the AT-AT like explosive parasites. It’s a very, very cool scene portrayed with top-notch artwork. I also liked the creepy post-mortem messenger sent by the Emperor to relay is final nefarious orders.

 

#4 – The Darkseid War: Batman

 

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The fallout from Darkseid’s fall reminds me of the clusterfuckery that followed DEATH OF SUPERMAN. Now the Justice League are “gods”? What the hell? Fortunately, some of the one-off stories work very well. Batman’s issue is definitely the standout (big surprise). It carries the strength of a one-off storyline while keeping ties to the current arc.

 

Now “The God of Knowledge”, Batman returns to Gotham to get back to basics. I love that he can still effectively be a vigilante will never getting up from his chair (the all seeing/knowing Mobius Chair). I respect any crime fighter that can do it while sitting. Extra-All Knowing Batman is more ruthless than ever and uses the Mobius Chair to give Gotham the hero he believes it deserves. I absolutely love how he handled Joe Chill. Rather than killing the thug who forever altered his life, he put the fear of “the boogeyman” into him in order to make the unpleasant realities of prison even more terrifying. If you come across The Darkseid War: Batman, be sure to pick it up.

 

#3 – Huck #1

 

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Mark Millar and Rafael Albuquerque make a great team. Millar has the vision and Albuquerque has the style to use all of the Image Comics prowess to create a unique experience. Huck, the tail of a simple minded hero in our busy world, is down right charming. His origin is familiar but stripped down to the core theme of doing right by other people. Superman, an oh-so-familiar orphan, lives two exciting lives in adulthood – one of a globe trotting reporter and also as the most powerful being ever known. Then you have the mysteriously orphaned Huck – a normal guy raised to do one good deed a day. That’s it! No ulterior motives, no gradiouse plots. Just one good deed for people who may not even know they need it. Thanks to his super abilities, Huck’s good deeds are often performed on a fantastic scale with the only thing asked in return is to not tell anyone it was him who helped. The story is a refreshing read. I can’t wait to see where future issues will take the gentle hero.

 

#2 – Superman: American Alien

 

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I previously did a full writeup of Superman: American Alien #1 and thus won’t get too deep into it here. It’s worth restating that this is a fantastic instance of DC thinking outside of the box. Their ability to take one of the most established characters in pop culture and find a fresh way to tell stories of his past. The second issue came out almost a week ago. I’m kicking myself for not getting out to the comic book store yet for a copy.

 

#1 – Batman #44

 

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I love, love this comic. One day I want to get my issue autographed and frame it (next to our framed/signed copies of WYTCHES #1). The creative team behind it bats a hundred with me and I simply cannot get enough. My review at the time it was first published goes into my reasoning deeper so I’ll try not to gush here. What I can say now in retrospect, is that of all 2015’s great comic titles, nothing could top the Dark Knight in issue #44. Jock’s style is one of a kind. Scott Snyder understands comics and what makes them great. Together they are unstoppable. It doesn’t matter if you’re up to speed with the current Batman story arc with the creepy Mr. Bloom – find this and read it!

 

What comics were your favorites from this year? Did I miss anything? If I did, PLEASE let me know! It can be very difficult to keep up with the never ending flow of good comics out there. I know for a fact that I’ve missed out on some highlights.

STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS (Spoiler free review)

STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS (Spoiler free review)

 

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I’m not going to lie to you here…. this review is 100% biased. No, I don’t work for Disney or Lucasfilm (but I’m available if they want me!!). It’s biased because I, like the millions of other fans who purchased tickets two months ago, went into the theater with decades of love for the franchise. My infatuation with a galaxy far, far away began the moment I first saw A New Hope as a small child. There hasn’t been a single year of my life where I strayed from that path. It’s hard not to be biased when you’ve watched the movies more times than you can count.

 

Star Wars fans all approached this new saga with excitement masked in conditioned caution thanks to the prequel trilogy. J.J Abrams and crew had an unenviable job when it came to this movie. The fan legions are so quick to judge, even though they’re going to watch whatever comes out regardless (BECAUSE STAR WARS!). Disney did an admirable job keeping details of the movie under wraps. In the internet-poisoned era of everything being known ahead of time, they ensured we had to experience Star Wars the way it is meant to be experienced.

 

When the day finally arrived, I felt like a kid on Christmas Eve. It had been many years since I felt that way. I had no qualms using vacation time to take half a day off from work to make preparations. On the drive in my wife and I had a serious talk with our children about the dangers of spoilers. It wasn’t exactly the ‘sit down talk’ I ever imagined having with my kids, but it was treated like a drug-awareness lecture. I referenced a scene from the Simpsons to make sure they understood how gravely important the matter was…

 

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Palpable excitement was shared by my wife and kids as we arrived at the theater an hour and a half prior to showtime. Lines for the various first showings stretched out the door. Each pulsing column of nerdom was peppered with Jedi, a Luke here and a Leia there, and even the random maskless Mandalorian. The most notable feature was that everyone seemed happy because the day had finally come. We found our seats then eagerly waited with 3D glasses in at the ready.

 

Butterflies swarmed my stomach as those giant yellow letters popped from the screen. Originally, I told my 5 year old daughter that I’d summarize what was written afterwards rather than reading it like I normally do when we watch Star Wars; she understood we shouldn’t bother others in the theater. Instantly, I had an instant change of heart then leaned over to whisper every line into her ear. She gripped my arm tighter with every word.

 

As much as I’d like to go through specific details, I would never risk lessening it for others so I will focus on my impressions instead. Throughout the movie I found myself laughing, cheering, and even crying. It was all one of the most curiously awesome experiences of my life. I can claim that because once again I felt like a six year old boy being introduced to this fictional universe all over. What made it all so surreal was the fact that my own children sat beside me going through the same thing. We did it together and formed a special memory in process. The feeling was oddly overwhelming, to be honest.

 

THE FORCE AWAKENS is everything we wanted/needed it to be. It is a proper homage to what came before while setting an exciting stage for what’s to come. Focus on the use of practical effects kept it away from the sterile realm which plagued the prequels. All the while, John William’s score drives the emotion on screen like it always has.

 

There are some who will nitpick or criticise because ‘no movie is truly perfect’. However, when the film is approached with even a hint of the love and respect it deserves, I think you’ll agree that it’s pretty damn close to being perfect.

 

My rating of STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS is a 10 out of 10.

 

10 out of 10

 

I cannot wait to go see it again, and again, and again.

STAR WARS ANNUAL (2015) #1

Annuals are hard to predict. Both DC and Marvel have a habit of trying to tie an annual into a current storyline. The problem with this is that if you’re not current with the story then it feels disjointed and loses the desired impact. I felt this way with 2015’s Suicide Squad Annual – it was alright, but just alright. When I picked up the flashy new STAR WARS ANNUAL #1, I was cautious yet still optimistic (because Star Wars… duh).

 

STAR WARS ANNUAL (2015) #1 written by Kieron Gillen

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The Star Wars Universe is overwhelmingly expansive. Oddly enough, we only get snippets of this whimsical galactic fairyland through the common film/television outlets. We see the most well known characters and places while much of the rest turns into a revolving background. In the STAR WARS ANNUAL #1 we are treated to a rarely seen aspect of the conflict between the Empire and Rebel Alliance: espionage.

 

Eneb Ray is a deeply embedded operative working undercover in the Imperial bureaucracy on the Coruscant, the capital of the Empire. Coruscant is seen several times in the prequel trilogy. It’s as a massively urban planet with a fog of aerial traffic, the Jedi Temple, Senate Chambers, and activity around the clock. Seeing this ‘everyday life’ viewpoint of life on the busy capital was fascinating to me. Eneb is a believable character in an unenviable situation. The only familiar face is Leia, who is only featured as a hologram. I’m glad they limited her involvement to that so emphasis wasn’t taken away from Eneb and the other spies.

 

Readers are treated to Eneb’s thought process throughout an opportunistic plot at assassinating the Emperor. Adding his internal monologue was perfectly subtle; it enhanced the spy’s character without derailing the momentum of the story. Other characters are introduced just enough to make their fates believably tragic for Eneb. Palpatine is delightfully evil (as always). It’s so easy to read his lines in that trademark twisted growl of his.

 

The artwork is quite good. Interior work by Angel Unzueta brings life to character features while downplaying the technical flash that could come with views of Coruscant. I almost wish we could have seen more of that flash, but then the ‘underbelly’ feel of the environment wouldn’t have been as believable. I’m not at all familiar with Unzueta or Gillen, however, my enjoyment of this issue will certainly keep them on my radar.

 

My rating of STAR WARS ANNUAL (2015) #1 is 8 out of 10.

 

8 out of 10

 

Star Wars fans – pick this one up! You will definitely appreciate what it has to offer.

Non-Star Wars fans – please reevaluate your the priorities in your life.