It’s been another great year for comics and manga. As always, there have been a lot of fantastic titles out there that can move you to tears in their drama or in the laughs they provide. Some are inspiring, some shed an interesting light on a subject, some are flash with no substance (though still fun), some knock the wind out of you with the twists they pull, and some just leave you wanting more.
This is my Top 30 Favorite Comics and Manga of 2015 list. Like always, let’s start with a disclaimer: This is all just personal opinion and what I think is good may not reflect or match up with what you think is good. So if a favorite comic of yours is not on the list (like Saga, Omega Men, or anything Hickman’s written), there’s no reason to get upset. Also, this list is based on what I ENJOYED the most this year. There are comics out there, or even some on this list, which may be better than some of my choices here, but that’s not how I decided things.
Kagamigami (Viz Media): Of all the Jump Start titles that Weekly Shonen Jump tried out this year, this one was easily the best and brightest. While Black Clover ultimately won and is still currently running in the digital magazine, Kagamigami had a lot of charm. The male lead was a bit bland, but his furry sidekick and the female lead, Mako, were really enjoyable and provided a lot of laughs. Quite frankly, Mako was easily the best part of the manga and one of best new female characters in a Shonen Jump title with her goofy, yet serious personality and comedic timing. Sadly, the title wasn’t picked up and as of last November, was cancelled in Japan. It’s a shame, but if you can somehow read it, it’s worth a look.
Sheltered (Image Comics): Now this comic was a heartbreaker. Sheltered ended its fifteen issue run this year and it honestly had one of the best climaxes I’ve seen, resulting in its fourteenth issue receiving my first 10 out of 10 score in 2015. It was even shaping up to have another perfect score for its final issue, since it was all just coming together wonderfully. Everything made sense and felt natural given the situation in the series. Then the very, very final panels of the comic ruined it. While it may fit thematically, it fails completely at making any bit of logical sense in the slightest and was filled to the brim in plot holes you could drive a semi through. It’s a crying shame, easily being my most disappointing comic for the year. It was almost there… so close…
And with that, let us begin.
30. Paper Girls (Image Comics)
Reflecting back on everything, despite the love and praise from other critics and fans, this wasn’t the best year Brian K. Vaughan has had in my eyes. We Stand On Guard was a disappointment all around and the ending left a lot to be desired, while Saga sadly suffered from multiple problems. From a meandering plot, to killing characters left and right, Saga was underwhelming and Vaughan just didn’t seem like he was at his best…
…but then along came Paper Girls. A loving tribute to 80s films about a bunch of kids getting involved in a crazy situation that only they can solve (at least, that’s what I’m guessing is going to happen), this series is a ton of fun. The characters were likeable, the situation was exciting and pulled out some pretty good and surprising twists, the threat the characters faced was rather interesting, and it really captured the era with its dialogue and visuals. Speaking of which, Cliff Chang’s artwork was terrific looking as well, making some very mind-bending and out there visuals that really jumped out at you. The only things keeping this comic from being any higher on the list are that the main characters are not uniquely distinct from one another (they all sort of blend together), some emotional bits don’t ring true, and there’s just not enough of the comic out to get a good read on where it could be going. Outside of that, Paper Girls is easily Vaughan’s best comic in 2015 and if you are fan of his, this is the one you should definitely read.
29. Starfire (DC Comics)
Harley Quinn‘s creative team, Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti, brought us Starfire during the launch of DCYou. While similar in some ways to their past books (it’s about a young woman trying to find her place in life and all the shenanigans she gets into) and aimless when it comes to the plot, Starfire is a comic full of charm and lots of cuteness. The writers do a fantastic job capturing Starfire’s character, taking bits and parts from her past appearances in other comics and mediums (like the Teen Titans cartoon, Wolfman’s Teen Titans, to even some harsh bits from Red Hood and the Outlaws) to flesh her out. The stories and situations she gets into are a lot of fun and the humor is light and pretty amusing, and aren’t as harsh or dark as in Harley Quinn. Maybe not the most stellar comic you’ll ever read, but in a medium that’s trying to be so serious or have comedies that feel edgy no matter what company you go to, it’s nice to have something like this as an alternative.
28. Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches (Kodansha Comics)
Our first (and certainly not last) manga on the list, Yamada-kun is by far one of the best comedies I read this entire year. High school delinquent Ryū Yamada one day accidentally changes bodies with the school’s ace student, Urara Shiraishi, and both discover that they have the ability to switch back and forth. It’s a high school romantic comedy that starts off with a body-changing twist, but quickly expands beyond that with the addition of new characters, different powers, and a couple of fun twists along the way.
While certainly shameless at points and definitely not the deepest manga out there, Yamada-kun excels by having a terrific, memorable cast of characters and changing up some tropes to keep things fresh and different. The story never feels stagnant, since things are always developing and the status quo is constantly changing. The comedy is well timed, with lots of visual jokes that are constantly being pumped out. It’s a manga that’s not for everyone, not by a long shot, but in terms of fun and laughs, this was easily one of the better mangas I read this year.
27. Slash & Burn (Vertigo Comics)
Of all of the new Vertigo ongoings that came out this year, Slash & Burn was by far the best title of them all. From Si Spencer, creator of Bodies, came a rather interesting tale about a firefighter named Rosheen Hayes, a woman with a bit of pyromania in her. While only two issues have come out so far and we barely got a taste for what the story is (which is why the series is only at this ranking), the series has shown tremendous promise. Rosheen is a really fascinating character, the mystery introduced involving the Matchstick Man is only in its early phases but is intriguing, and the writing and artwork are top-notch from what we’ve seen so far. There’s not a whole lot to say with how little there is available, but I’m more than excited to see more of this comic in the future.
26. Komomo Confiserie (Viz Media)
I am so not a part of the target demographic of this manga. It’s a romantic comedy aimed at young teenage girls that’s a riches to rags story about a rich girl losing everything and living and working at Confiserie with an old childhood friend with nowhere else to go. This should definitely be out of my zone of interest, but yet, the quality and execution of the story made this one of the more pleasant discoveries I had this year.
The male lead could use some work, but the female lead is a lot of fun. Komomo is character that starts off as your stereotypical irritating rich girl, but quickly evolves throughout the first few chapters. By the end of the second volume, she has surprisingly developed quite a bit and is much more mature than she was at the start, even though some flakiness and naivety continues to shine through. The humor is great, especially when played at the lead’s expense, and the series usually avoids being quite as dramatic as other Shojo titles, which tends to end up dragging down similar series in annoying melodrama. Overall, Komomo Confiserie is great and fans of Shojo series should definitely give it a look.
25. Wytches (Image Comics)
There were only a few issues of Scott Snyder and Jock’s Wytches out this year before the comic disappeared, but they were good enough to put this title on the list. This year saw the climax of the first arc, seeing Sailor and her father deal with these monstrous, frightening creatures. There were twists and surprises, including a very harsh and bittersweet ending to it all. It left me wanting more and wondering what will happen next to the survivors, especially considering the titular monsters could be anywhere. It’s only downsides are the coloring, which is awful with how much visual noise there is, and the monologuing at times. Otherwise, it’s a fantastic three issues and I’m excited to see where it goes in the coming year.
24. Tokyo Ghoul (Viz Media)
Speaking of creepy, Tokyo Ghoul finally came out this year and it was a fascinating one&mdash a young adult is pulled into the underground world of Ghouls, human-looking monsters with a taste for human flesh, after receiving an organ transplant from a ghoul. However, the more he gets involved in their world, the more he sees things from a different perspective and sees the tragedy of them and the cruelty of the people who hunt them. While it has plot elements we’ve seen in other series and even movies before, the execution is what makes everything work.
Tokyo Ghoul is painted in many different shades of grey—no one is exactly right or wrong in how they live, what they do, or what motivates them (to a certain degree). The characters are complex or memorable, with their own small storylines that push them forward, and the world itself has so many intricate rules and so much complexity. There’s a lot to take away from the series, even if the main character isn’t nearly as complex as the other characters. Tokyo Ghoul is something that I can easily recommend to almost anyone. Don’t take my word for it. Just give it a shot and see what you think.
23. Birthright (Image Comics)
The best way to describe Birthright, as one person put it to me, is that it’s like Narnia without the reset switch, but also with a twist. Following the story of the Rhodes family after their youngest son disappears and then reappears a year later as a powerful warrior, Birthright is a slow-burning, but engaging tale. The amount of character development, growth, and big twists throughout this underrated Image title is impressive. It always knows how to keep you on your toes with how the story will play out or how the characters will react, some of which lead to moments that are downright shocking. The artwork is luscious and captivating as it brings reality and the fantasy worlds to life. Joshua Williamson has really created something special here and continues to keep me interested with each passing issue.
22. Robin: Son of Batman (DC Comics)
Following the events of Peter Tomasi’s Batman and Robin run, Patrick Gleason steps in to write and draw the continuing adventures of Damian Wayne as our lovable brat decides to correct wrongs he’s made in the past. Teaming up with a huge red Bat-creature named Goliath and the daughter of Nobody, a villain he had killed way back at the start of the New 52, this comic provides an energetic and exciting tale that takes the characters through several different locations across the globe. It’s a story about fun, but also redemption for many of the characters as they try to see if they can truly fix the mistakes they made.
Robin: Son of Batman is a comic that I wasn’t really expecting much from when it first came out, since I’ve never seen Gleason actually write anything before. And at first, it was a bit rocky when it came to delivering exposition and dialogue, but it quickly got better as time went on. The stories got more enjoyable, the character development was wonderful, there was a lot of strong emotion in the flashbacks as we saw more of Damian’s past during the “Year of Blood,” and it was all topped off with jaw-dropping artwork. While the latest issue of the series bombed (mostly due to being in a crossover event), this is an utterly terrific comic and I’m so excited to see where it goes next.
21. Food Wars! Shokugeki No Soma (Viz Media)
This year, I got a subscription to Weekly Shonen Jump and was able to start following a lot of the Shonen Jump titles as they came out on a weekly basis. One of those was Food Wars, which was on my best of list for 2014. This was a great year for the title and it was exciting to follow it as each chapter came out. From a simple arc about Stagiaire Week at the start that focused on character development, to the big shakeup that shook the entire school down to its core in the final months, Food Wars really kept things interesting throughout 2015.
There was plenty development for the characters across the board, lots of great and amusing humor, terrific artwork that helped sell how good the food looked, and a big introduction of a huge villain with big ties to one of the female leads. There was a lot to enjoy this year from this manga, especially looking back on certain parts of the story and seeing the foreshadowing taking place. The series ended the year on a triumphant note with our characters striking back at the new school regime and putting one of the higher ups in his place. Where things will go next year, especially since the main villain hasn’t appeared in a while, is thrilling to ponder. Either way, I can’t wait to find out.
And that was #30-21. Check back soon for numbers 20-11!