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 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.

Top 5 2015 Releases – Movies (outside of Star Wars)

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 – Movies (outside of Star Wars)

 

I don’t make it to the theater nearly as much as I once did (thanks, fatherhood). This year I saw more than usual since my kids are no longer screaming toddlers. There are plenty of movies released in 2015 that I haven’t gotten to yet – so if you see any shocking absences it’s probably because I haven’t seen it. Recommendations are always welcome! Also please note that I’m intentionally writing this prior to the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens because my lifelong Star Wars obsession has a tendency to unfairly tip the scales.

 

So without further adieu, here are my Top 5 favorite theatrical movie releases from this year…..

 

#5 – Kingsman: The Secret Service

 

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The Kingsman seemed to take everyone off guard this year. Full disclaimer – I’m counting this in my “theatrical movie release list” even though I missed it in theaters. Right after watching I wrote a review/comparison between the movie and it’s Mark Millar’s graphic novel source material. Spoiler alert – the movie is better than the book…. a statement that is rarely true. Recently I caught three quarters of the movie again on HBO and instantly remembered how much fun the movie was. The Kingsman is making its rounds on the premium channels and is still on Redbox. Check it out if you haven’t yet! I hear there is (somehow) a sequel in development. It’ll be interesting to see how they can pull that one off. There is hope for it though as Matthew Vaughn remains attached to the project.

 

#4 – Krampus

 

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As my recent movie review explains, this year brought us a new holiday classic. Krampus is the trifecta of three pivotal ‘H’ words – horror, humor, and heart. Take the time before Christmas to go see it in the theaters so you won’t feel any regret during inevitable viewings in future holiday seasons. My kids really wanted to come with my wife and I to see this in the theater. I’m very glad I didn’t cave and allow them to join us. Although there are far, far worse horror movies out there with PG-13+ ratings, Krampus has some visuals/frights that would be too much for little ones. I can’t wait to expose it to them when the time is right!

 

#3 – Mad Max: Fury Road

 

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Here’s another one I’m kicking myself for missing in the theaters. I have a few colleagues in my office that paid to watch this in the theater upwards of five times. They hounded me to go but I still didn’t. God dammit were they ever right! Fury Road is a visual feast of perfectly executed action scenes supported by fantastic casting. It succeeds in being a totally immersive experience that leaves you gasping for breath. George Miller made a brilliant film because he took his damn time to do it! He did it right instead of rushing it out in a desperate bid for ticket sales. Now excuse me while I go kick myself once again for not making it to the theater.

 

#2 – Jurassic World

 

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I have very fond memories of seeing the original Jurassic Park movies in the theaters as a young, dinosaur-loving nerd. The original movie (and I suppose the two sequels) are timeless movies that hold up just as well now as they did twenty years ago. Recently I exposed my kids to the bluray versions and through them got to relive that excitement and terror I first felt. With this personal attachment, the prospect of Jurassic World scared the shit out of me for all the wrong reasons. Is nothing sacred to Hollywood anymore? Still, I had to give it a shot because JURASSIC PARK!

 

I took my son and my dad to an IMAX 3D showing opening weekend. My dad took me to the first movie when I was about my son’s age so regardless of how bad the movie could be, I knew seeing it in the theater was destined to be a great memory for us all. Thank flippin’ goodness our fears were unfounded! The movie was everything we wanted it to be.

 

Jurassic World did a fantastic job at paying its respects to the original while not being held in the sequel confines. It solidly set its own path that we’ll thankfully get to explore in the future. Casting was pretty good with Chris Pratt adding his magic touch to the blockbuster. Hooray – they didn’t ruin our childhoods!

 

#1 – Ant-Man

 

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Marvel ended their Cinematic Phase Two with an underdog who rose to the challenge. Ant-Man was a fantastically fun movie which created an origin story the called back to the enjoyment we saw in the first Iron Man. Paul Rudd has always been the kind of actor you’d like to buy a drink – in Ant-Man I wanted to buy him two. The special effects were awesome and unique. I’m very glad I shelled out the extra cash to see it in 3D. This was a rare instance where 3D was used to add depth to the film rather than just as a flashy gimmick. With the movie’s recent release on Blu Ray I will definitely be watching it again soon. If you’re not a comic book movie fan or haven’t seen all of the other Marvel movies then don’t let it stop you from watching Ant-Man. It started out as a self-contained one-off that was looped into the universe and thus doesn’t require the extensive background of the prior films.

 

What were your favorite movies? Think I missed something amazing? Let me know!

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