Well, as usual, I’m well late with all this.. but here we go, my very late best comics of 2015. To be honest with you, for various reasons to long and complicated to go into here, I sort of fell out of love with comics (and various other things) around the end of November, shortly after a brilliant Thought Bubble con. You may have noticed I’ve really stopped doing all that many reviews… still got the comics to review, just lacking time (and some inclination) to do so.
However, just because the end of 2015 was a bit hmmmm, it doesn’t mean there hasn’t been a wonderful surfeit of great comics in 2015… and here, in alphabetical order, is my top 10. As usual, a proviso, I’ve not read everything, hell, right now it’s pretty impossible to read everything in these days. So obviously I’ve missed some great books this year, and so have you. But these are what I really loved….
“… within the first few panels of this one I was sold on the idea, on the art, on the delivery. It’s a really lovely little comic, a slice of delight, of lightness and fun, although there’s a possible ominous darkness sneaking in.”
“…think Mr Benn, in space, wandering onto the set of Alien. That’s pretty much all you need to know.”
“I’ve read and re-read it several times over the last couple of days, and it’s just improved and improved until it’s now turned into one of the best things I’ve read thus far this year.”
Seriously, it’s a magnificently charming comic, full of so much darned fun.
The psycho drama set in Whipsnarl Zoo blew me away this year, with an intensity that hits you hard as you read the comic. Described by the authors variously as “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest with talking animals“, “an anthropomorphic comic book set in a safari park”, “an examination of systems and control“, and “a debauched tale of insanity“. Incredibly, it’s more than managed to live up to each one of those descriptions. In fact, the only fault I can throw at it, as with several comics on this list is that they simply don’t come out enough. I was left hanging at the end of issue 2 and there’s no hope of more for a couple of months. Damn.
Whipsnarl Zoo in the middle of a heatwave, the animals are going various stages of mental, bizarre moments abound, there’s talk of a golden messiah arriving, and the madness is extending to the keepers and humans in the park as well. All in all it’s a spectacular assault on the senses, weird, didturbed, pyscho trauma comic book… brilliant.
Debut of the year. Spectacularly young author, great publisher, and they came together to publish this wonderful, evocative fantasy tale. I said in the review that it was pretty much nailed onto the bet of year list…
” Inside she tells a tale of twins, Lars and his sister Maja, it’s a beautiful and poignant tale. A massive fantasy, but in the closeness of the twins there’s a lot of autobiographical elements from Walden and her own twin brother. Best of the year? Well I reckon it will make the list.”
It’s a sublime tale of innocence, growing up, ennui, isolation, confinement, and all the complex psychological effects that come along with all that. And the art.. oh, the art, it’s gorgeous.
Oh, I so love Kurtzman. And I’m not alone. Terry Gilliam has called Harvey Kurtzman a God. As I said in the review, “I reckon Gilliam undersells him.”
Because make no bones about it, Kurtzman is a genius, absolute pure perfection going on. The Jungle Book is a flawed work sure, but most of that is due to production, and even I had to acknowledge that the brillaince of Kurtzman’s sublime artwork far out-strips some of the narrative tricks the artist tries here, but hell, even with that, it’s STILL a book of the year, as will probably be every single volume of DH/KS’s Kurtzman library. Here’s some of what I said ….
“The art here is incendiary, incredible, magnificent, amazing. Every single page shows you something incredible, the unusual format, the pages way narrower and taller than we’re used to, but all of it in service to Kurtzman’s style, Kurtzman’s ideas, Kurtzman’s genius for motion. There’s a deceptive nature to what you see, everything about the art looks absolutely loose, flowing, free, yet in actuality Kurtzman put in so much work to every mark on the page, every line, every stroke. His careful, meticulous flow is deceptive, his art looks so loose, freeform shapes implying movement, guiding the eye so easily around the page and panel. Yet his method was one of refining and refining and refining more, starting off loose, working harder and harder to minimise, creating something that looks effortless. It’s all about the stripping down of the complexity, Kurtzman creating something so beautiful, so perfectly relaxed, something that absolutely took so much work to create. The Jungle Book is absolutely full of this, gorgeous ink-washes, greys and greys and greys, the reproduction here finally able to take what Kurtzman threw at the page, it’s simply gorgeous.”
I loved these couple of issues, all about the paranormal private investigator with strange magical powers, ex-Luchador wrestler, ex-movie star, Askew capturing all the ridiculously surreal element that set-up entails.
Imagine Raymond Chandler playing it for laughs and you’re in the rough neighbourhood of Jupiter, maybe. But it sort of works as a comparison, so what the hell. As you’d expect for the hard boiled detective with a colourful mask, it all starts with a dame… they always do…
The comedy here undercuts everything, with Askew really nailing it, the dialogue has a noir feel, but it’s all laced with the funny.
Mega Rob Bros: Mega Robo Definition by Neill Cameron (The Phoenix Comic)
A zine that really wasn’t, such was the excellence in both production values and content of this brilliant tribute to influential band Sleater Kinney, another great book from Scheele and Broadhurst’s One Beat Zines label.
“But above all else, there’s a real sense of passion and enthusiasm that’s palpable in every single piece here, comics and prose. This is a love letter to the band, but that’s just fine, Sleater-Kinney are the sort of band that inspires this sort of love and passion, the sort of band that affects people, that encourages and supports, and it’s always good to read smart folks talking smartly about the things they love.”
With The Rabbit, Smith’s come good, taken a huge step forward and released a work that beautifully mixes a rich and wild fantasy adventure with the heartbreak and misery of two obviously messed up kids. The idea may be Harvey-esque, with the discovery of a talking rabbit, but the direction Smith takes the story into is far from Jimmy Stewart’s lighthearted and poignant performance opposite his invisible friend. Here in The Rabbit, it’s a far darker, far more dangerous animal we’re dealing with.
Oh my, this was incredibly powerful comics work by Gordon, a completely wordless comic that managed to say so much, sensual, harrowing, upsetting… brilliant. I’ve not read anything this year that was quite so harrowing.
“Make no mistake about it, these are incredibly sensual images, the look on her face, the slow seduction, the delicate movement… Gordon draws it so incredibly beautifully, nearly half of the comic taking up with the striptease, so slowly done, the very stylish and expressive nature of each page, the very natural rhythms of the body language and art makes the eye slow down, you find yourself drinking in every detail of the panels, of the page.”
I was always told, by those who know far better than I, that Valerian and Laureline was a sublime piece of classic comic sci-fi, but for the first few volumes I simply couldn’t see it, it simply wasn’t working for me. And then came Volume 9 & 10 and I was absolutely, completely, utterly convinced. Magnificent, incredible, wonderful comic work.
The scale of the strip is huge, incedibly huge, but it’s the emotional context where V&L really comes good in these two volumes, with Valerian trapped on Earth and Laureline in space, the emotional connection between them both is perfectly, heartbreakingly observed, or as I said in the review…
“…the story and the epic nature of things is great, but this drilling down to the absolute confusion and miscommunication between Valerian and Laureline is simply perfect. Valerian’s increasingly disorientated and disconnected psyche reads as a man losing his way, perhaps losing his mind, out of place and out of time, away from someone he might care about. Similarly Laureline is affected by the distance and by Valerian’s increasingly unpredictable and frustrating behaviour. She’s by far the more intelligent one here, by far the one in control, but she can’t help but react. And the subtle emotional tone that comes out in the conversations between the pair really sets the quite brilliant tone of the book, where you’re engulfed by feelings of rejection, confusion, doubt…. it’s a very, very dark read masquerading as a very good sci-fi adventure.”