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.

Top 5 2015 Releases – Graphic Novels

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 – Graphic Novels

 

I have read over 80 different graphic novels thus far in 2015. My wife tells me I have a problem…. she may be right. It is my favorite medium so I personally see it as commitment. But I digress…

 

A few of those 80+ were re-reads of titles that sat on my shelf from years past. Most, however, were ones I’d always wanted to read but never got around to crossing off the list. A surprising few of those graphic novels were actually released in the 2015 calendar year so narrowing it down to a ‘top 5’ list wasn’t all that difficult. Next year I should be able to check out more new releases since I’m in a better place with required reading from comics’ past.

 

Here are my Top 5 favorite graphic novels released this year….

 

#5 – INJECTION: Vol. 1 by Warren Ellis

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Warren Ellis holds a permanent place on my top 3 all-time favorite graphic novel authors. The man has a different view of our world and every page he writes tends to be a window into that view. His latest trade paper release, INJECTION: Volume 1 boasts outside-the-box-styled characters in pieces of an underlying story that is creepily feasible with the proper hints of imagination.

 

INJECTION was enjoyable, yet a tease in many ways. I plan on reading the rest of the story once an omnibus edition or larger collection has been released. I’m sure I would have felt the same about PLANETARY had I not waited for the 864 page beast of an omnibus before reading it – now it is one of my all-time favorite books. A volume with 120 pages doesn’t do justice to the trademark scope Ellis crafts in his stories. I’m confident it’ll be worth the tease of regularly seeing the new issues on the comic book store shelves.

 

#4 – NAILBITER, Vol. 2: Bloody Hands by Joshua Williamson

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NAILBITER is a must for fans of horror comics. It is dark and twisted while still having a backbone of solid dialogue and characters. The concept is very fresh – Buckaroo, Oregon – one town that is the breeding place for some of the world’s most notorious serial killers (16 so far). As the world makes this connection, Buckaroo becomes a media magnet as well as the focal point of serial killer cult followers. It also does a great job at balancing the story focus through key characters like the Edward ‘Nailbiter’ Warren, Nicholas Finch (an often cliche, yet fun protagonist), and the policewoman who is involved on more levels than she would like.

 

I was lucky to find both volume 1 and 2 on the same visit to my favorite used book store. It’s one of the few (non-DC) running comics I’d like to catch up on enough to pick up the new issues when they hit stores. If you haven’t heard of it, and don’t mind some seriously twisted concepts, then NAILBITER should be added to your ‘to read’ list.

 

#3 OUTCAST, Vol 1: A Darkness Surrounds Him by Robert Kirkman

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Robert Kirkman has done something other than The Walking Dead? That’s what I was asking myself when I stumbled across OUTCAST. In reality, he’s done quite a bit outside of the post-apocalyptic adventure he’s so well known for. OUTCAST is an intriguing approach to demonic possession (which I am a total sucker for). It starts off a bit slow but once it finds its footing the story is quite gripping. Although it’s classified with horror, it leans more towards the creepy side rather than shock and gore like other horror-centric comics. I don’t want to go any deeper into the particulars because it’s worth a read. This is definitely a personal priority for me to get current with in 2016.

 

#2 – INJUSTICE: Gods Among Us Vol. 2 by Tom Taylor

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I absolutely loved the first volume. Rather than coming off as a cheap novelization of the video game, both volumes instead give the story much needed depth with engaging characters and dialogue. The second volume started a bit slower than the first, but then quickly got to the elements that have made the storyline fantastic. Everything in the volume culminates quite dramatically. I found myself furiously trying to finish reading before needing to return to work from my lunch break. I’m eager to jump into ‘INJUSTICE: YEAR TWO’ after having my appetite whetted by both halves of year one. You don’t need to be a DC-devotee like I am to enjoy this – it is written in a way to carry equal impact even to those who don’t stick to the comic book cult.

 

#1 – WYTCHES by Scott Snyder & Jock, Volume 1

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READ.THIS.BOOK! I wrote a full review of it after first reading so I won’t rehash anything here. Scott Snyder and Jock are at the top of their game in this unnerving and often emotional journey. It will have you making double takes passing dark, wooded areas. You’ll be suspicious of others when things may not seem quite right. A shudder will go down your spine if there is ever an unexplained clicking noise. WYTCHES belongs in the number 1 spot because it sticks with you long afterwards. The duo of Snyder and Jock is a powerful creative force to be reconned with. Please, PLEASE let volume 2 come out early in 2016!!
Did you read any of the titles I listed here? What are your top 5 graphic novels in 2015? Let me know what you think!

Batman #44 by Scott Snyder, Brian Azzarello & Jock

Batman #44 by Scott Snyder, Brian Azzarello & Jock

I’ll try to make this a quicker review because I don’t want even the remote chance of spoiling this issue for anyone. It’s not that there are any “shocking” moments or “this page changes everything” aspects…. it’s because I really enjoyed Batman #44 and wouldn’t want to sully the childlike captivation that a new comic can bring to someone. Also, I normally hold off on reviewing a title until it has been published as a trade paper volume that I can sink my teeth into. This issue is worth making an exception.

Batman #44 is written by Scott Snyder, co-written by Brian Azzarello and guest-illustrated by Jock (‘guest’ because he hasn’t worked on this particular Batman series). Scott Snyder and Jock make a hell of a team so once I heard about Jock’s involvement I immediately went on the hunt for this issue.

One neat factor about Batman #44 is that it is somewhat separated from the current storyline, meaning, it can be enjoyed even if you’re not up to speed on the Jim Gordon Batman/ Mr. Bloom era. The connections it does have to the ongoing Batman series are perfect and thought provoking. It takes place five years before the current story. Batman is still rather new on the job so he has more to prove to himself than he does to Gotham. To do this, he sets out to solve an ‘everyday’ murder in one of the worst areas of the city. He reasons that doing this will remind him why this crusade is so important. In Batman’s eyes, this is a simple task in the city he knows so well… or does he? It’s a question he’s forced to ask as Gotham reminds him nothing in this urban jungle is simple.

Jock’s style is perfect (as always) because it possesses a certain dark, gritty whimsy that reinforces the jump in time. There’s plenty of social commentary present in Batman #44. These prevalent themes could easily turn me away from the pages. Comics regularly walk a line with social commentary; they involve heavy issues that can tip the scales of enjoyment in the wrong direction. If this issue was handled by any other creative team then that could have been the case. Thankfully, DC is trusting Batman to very capable hands.

My rating of BATMAN #44 is a solid 9 out of 10. Pick this one up – you won’t regret it!

9 out of 10