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

WYTCHES by Scott Snyder & Jock, Volume 1

I was already a big fan of Scott Snyder and Jock from their individual work and their prior partnerships (BATMAN: THE BLACK MIRROR is incredible). This collaboration somehow slipped by my radar completely. It was my wife who heard about this one and tracked it down at our local Barnes & Noble. After reading it in about one sitting, she strongly insisted I bump it to the top of my reading list so we could talk about it….. Must she ALWAYS be right?? Yes, apparently she must.

WYTCHES by Scott Snyder & Jock, Volume 1

Scott Snyder and Jock go together like peanut butter and jelly. Their envy-striking talents complement one another in a duet of visual story telling. It is really hard to write a review of WYTCHES without stinking it up with spoilers. I think part of my enjoyment came from the fact that I went into it with literally zero prior knowledge. What I can say is this volume boasts a multifaceted brilliance that gripped my attention from the front cover to the back. It’s not perfect (because no story is perfect) but it is pretty damn close.

The idea is fairly original in the graphic novel world. Imagining an ancient evil lurking throughout the woods that thrives on the inevitable qualities mankind possess is downright unnerving. Jock’s spindly, monstrous interpretation of Snyder’s idea will remain in your thoughts with every shadow or around every dark corner. The horror link is supported by imagery and relatability rather than simply showing gore or violence. Connections between characters feel genuine; parents especially will experience an extra element of tension as the pages progress.

I also really enjoyed Scott Snyder’s musings at the back of the novel. His explanation of the story’s personal origin made me want to jump right back to the front to read it again. Knowing how his own experiences and the relationship with his own children helped inspire WYTCHES gives it a rare depth that your average Superhero story lacks.

My rating of WYTCHES, Volume 1 is a rare 9.5 out of 10 because PLEDGED IS PLEDGED!

9 out of 10

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Scott – I was already a fan of your work…. Now I’m a fan of your work that wants to buy you a drink and give you a hug. Thanks for sharing your visions with the rest of us!

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