Last time we looked at #30-21 for my Top 30 Favorite Comics and Manga. Today, we look at the next ten and see where they fall.
Another quick reminder before we begin: This is all just personal opinion, so if a favorite comic of yours is not on the list (like Deadly Class, Attack on Titan, or Midnighter), there’s no reason to get upset. Also, this list is based on what I ENJOYED the most this year.
Gakkyu Hotei: School Judgement (Viz Media): Drawn by the same artist who did Death Note, Gakkyu Hotei is a ridiculous and silly manga. Taking cues from/paying homage to the Phoenix Wright franchise, it’s a series where there is a court system made just for grade school students; in this system kids can be tried for schoolyard crimes or pranks they committed or even sue one another for copyright infringement. It’s an over the top, weird manga, but plenty of fun with its memorable cast of characters and unique tone. Sadly, it was cancelled and the series had to rush out some last minute points and story arcs to wrap things up, so the ending was very heavy on the exposition. Regardless, it was a very enjoyable series and I look forward to the print release this coming February.
Star Wars (Marvel Comics): 2015 saw the beginning of Marvel making Star Wars comics and things have been going pretty well for them. Their comics have been selling like hotcakes and getting lots of critical praise. However, the best one of the bunch goes to Jason Aaron’s Star Wars; taking place after A New Hope, we see our band of heroes continue their efforts to take down the Empire. It’s a lot of fun, the art is great (for the most part), and the overall story works well to fill the gap between IV and V. Honestly, I wish I was actually more caught up with the entire series so I could do a better analysis.
And with that, let’s get back to the countdown…
20. Black Canary (DC Comics)
When it comes to flash, style, and music one of the best comics you’ll find is Black Canary. Following the events of Batgirl #40, Brenden Fletcher puts Dinah Lance into a different situation: being a part of a band! While certainly unusual, the idea worked and took us on a wild and energetic ride as Dinah and the band get into some crazy situations: an ex-bandmate with a grudge, a mysterious guitarist, creatures from another world hunting them, an old flame returning, a mysterious white ninja, and more fun and flashy situations. Not only that, it also gave us the best portrayal and characterization for Dinah we’ve seen in years and gorgeous and stylish artwork by Annie Wu and Pia Guerra. Maybe it got a little overcomplicated towards the end of the year, but besides that Black Canary is one of the best new series to come out of the DCYou. Hopefully, it sticks around for the foreseeable future.
19. Sunstone (Image Comics/Top Cow Productions)
The huge success of 50 Shades of Grey has also brought backlash from the BDSM community; they claim 50 Shades misrepresents what the community is all about, glorifies abusive relationships, and pretty much break all the rules of trust that are important. So, what’s the best way to learn about BDSM, that will also provide you with good characters and writing? Sunstone by Stjepan Šejić, an adult webcomic put out in trades by Image and Top Cow.
While I have no remote interest in BDSM on any level, Sunstone is fantastic comic that provides an interesting and mature look at the culture through two female characters, Lisa and Ally. Sunstone teaches and explains the couple’s desires and interest in bondage and dominance, but also develops a strong romance between them as well. We see the two grow and develop throughout the series, learn their innermost desires and insecurities, and their attempts to have a mature relationship in more ways than one. feels more real than most romance series or movies out there. Add Šejić’s gorgeous artwork that captures the humor, romance and eroticism perfectly and this comic truly shines. While this series is not for everyone and it’s pretty adult to say the least, Sunstone is a comic that just impressed me from beginning to end with its mature look at BDSM and adult relationships.
18. World Trigger (Viz Media)
I really wish I was reading World Trigger in 2014, since that’s when the title was at its peak. The manga features a huge invasion force attacking the city, intense but very smart battles that feature characters thinking out strategies to try and defeat the Neighbors, and tons of character development across the board. 2015, while certainly not as intense or harrowing as the previous year, was truly great and very deserving of the #18 spot on the list.
This year saw the beginning of the Rank Wars, as our lead characters fought with other teams to go up the rankings and reach Rank A. We meet more characters, see well-thought out and impressive tactical fight scenes, get more development from the supporting cast. The manga ended the year on a smaller, miniature invasion, building up to what is sure to be another intense and exciting arc. In general, World Trigger was great this year, even if the stakes weren’t as big as before. Here’s hoping the next year gets even better.
17. Manifest Destiny (Image Comics)
While the scheduling for this book was very inconsistent, Manifest Destiny remained a damn good series through and through. The book features a great setting (the Lewis and Clark expedition), strong writing, gorgeous artwork, and cool and distinct designs on the creatures.
However, what really impressed me was the story; while slow at first with Lewis and Clark encountering a strange Muppet-like creature and dispelling an attempt at mutiny — as time went along things really picked up when the story made a dark turn with the introduction of another monster. Then, the gut punch of the story arc’s ending, which was so dark that I felt uneasy as I read it; the turn made so much sense for the series though, given the characters/setting and also acted as a cruel reminder that these characters all have blood on their hands. I would love to rank this one higher, but with the slow release and beginning, Manifest Destiny just manages to reach this point on the list.
16. Chew (Image Comics)
Chew is a series that has been slowly getting closer and closer to its end. Chew #60 is fast approaching and with the way things have been building up, it’s not going to be pretty. In this year, we had more of the fallout between Tony and Colby in the Blood Puddin’ arc, but also them coming back together and defeating a long time enemy that’s been around since almost the beginning. Things were exciting, the writing was great, and the artwork was just as good as always. However, as the finale grows closer and closer, the story seems to be slowing down and not really wrapping things up much in the latest arc, The Last Suppers. It’s rather odd to see not a lot happening or very few revelations, which is what holds Chew back from being higher on the list. Regardless, I’m still excited and hyped to see where this comic takes us in the new year.
15. Revival (Image Comics)
Speaking of series getting closer to the end, we have Revival, whose writer Tim Seeley has said is coming to a close next year. While one the main plotlines feels like it is getting a bit overcomplicated with government conspiracies and assassination attempts, it’s a shame to see the series coming to a close, especially since it has remained in top form this past year. The truth about many of the storylines are becoming clearer (or foggier in some cases), revelations are happening, the status quo is constantly shifting, and many characters are dying off and quickly. It’s one hell of a creepy rollercoaster ride, that’s for sure.
Along with an intense and memorable story, the heart of Revival lays in its characters. Everyone in the series feels so real and fleshed out; they all have their backstories, motivations, and tragedies that define them. It’s what makes each death and big twist so effective and hard on you as you read. Plus, none of the deaths feel cheap, poorly handled, or derail other characters like a lot of the other series I read this year have done. While it may be coming to a close, I look forward to seeing the series out and discovering the horrible truths that lay at the end.
14. Batman (DC Comics)
Like last year, there was a lot of stiff competition and it wasn’t exactly easy to place Scott Snyder’s Batman on the list. 2015 was a great and surprising year all around for Batman, bringing us the end of… Endgame, but also the start of the new and unusual status quo shift with Superheavy. Batman disappeared and Jim Gordon took on the mantle, getting his own Bat costume and RoboBatBuny mech suit to pilot; very different from before, but still a lot of fun, especially with all of the small events brewing in the background that seemed to build towards the return of Bruce Wayne as Batman.
However the title also got held back by a lot of exposition dropping and long-winded monologuing that really broke up the pace of the story. As such, Batman just squeaks in at number fourteen on the countdown, one ranker higher than last year. Regardless of the dialogue, the execution of the series’ storylines have been excellent and the artwork by Greg Capullo was wonderful as usual. Snyder’s Batman is still one of the best superhero comics on the market and definitely worth your time.
13. Gangsta. (Viz Media)
Now you may be wondering about this placement if you’ve seen my reviews of Gangsta on this site. Didn’t I give the two volumes that came out this year both perfect scores? I did, but hindsight on a series allows you to see the flaws that weren’t as obvious as before. Like how the main characters were slowly not getting as much attention as they were before, there were too many villains and factions at play, and the real dark shift in the tone contrasted oddly against the mood earlier in the series. With all that said though, Gangsta. is still one of the best action series I read all year long.
Volumes five and six are where the new secondary villains, the Destroyers, enter the picture and start wiping out the Twilights in the city and attacking one of the Families that run the town as well. It’s brutal, intense, violent, and vicious, but it’s undeniably engrossing. The drama and execution are very effective and I love the continued expansion of the Gangsta. universe. The seventh volume isn’t scheduled for release until the middle of next year (probably won’t see much from the series after that either since the creator is currently in the hospital), but I’m so eager to read more and see what happens next.
12. Lazarus (Image Comics)
While it fell out of the top 10 from last year and also the year before, Lazarus still remains a truly phenomenal and unbelievable series that must be read. We brought an end to the Conclave arc from 2014 and saw the whole Poison arc from start to finish. Things remained shocking and thrilling, all the way down to the final issue of the year that just came out (what a note to end the year on). We saw the beginnings of war, the brutal and merciless bloodbath of the fighting, the return of established characters, and even more internal conflict and struggles. Lazarus was difficult to put down and kept me glued to the digital pages the whole way through when I recently reread it.
The only things that bumps it out of the top 10 is that the Poison arc wasn’t nearly as engrossing as the previous storylines and the Mercy one-shot issue about Sister Bernard was underwhelming. Not a lot happened and the lettering made the issue a pain to read. However, even with that all said, Lazarus was great this year with its wonderful female lead, strong drama, and plenty of moments that you won’t see coming.
11. Descender (Image Comics)
Looking over the entire year, outside of Paper Girls and Monstress, I can’t say there were many great new series from Image. There were certainly plenty of new titles that were good and nice to read, but very few actually clicked with me. Descender, from Jeff Lemire, was one of those titles that instantly had me. Taking cues from Astro Boy and other science fiction tales, Descender is a sci-fi tale that takes place in a distant galaxy where a bunch of gigantic robots showed up one day and nearly wiped out an entire galactic federation/empire. The reaction to this caused the mass extermination of robots and androids, in fear they would rise up and kill everyone. However, one day, a young robotic child by the name of Tim wakes up after a very long sleep and discovers that everything has changed. From there, we see him and several other characters get tangled up in this huge adventure and try to figure out where exactly these giant robots came from in the first place.
Descender is beautiful and Lemire is still a master craftsman when it comes to character writing — even the harshest characters, besides the villains, you end up getting to know and understand a bit more. You become invested in everyone as we see the characters interact with one another, and jump through the hurdles the writer puts in front of them. After a year, we are nowhere closer to discovery the truth about the robot devastation, but the new angles and things we do learn more than make up for it. Then you add in Dustin Nguyen’s line work and the water colors, which simply blow just about any other comic out of the water with the . If not for two other titles, this would be far in away, my favorite Image series of the year. As it stands, it is the best NEW Image comic released this year and highly worth your time.
Next time we meet, we look at my top ten. Stay tuned.