Adam’s Top 5 Comics of 2015

Over the next couple of weeks we’re going to be sharing our top 5s of 2015, from everyone who writes here at The Lost Lighthouse. This time Adam will go through his favourite 5 comics of the year.

I’m taking a quick break from the depths of writing my PhD thesis to write about some of the things I actually cared about this year. For my final top five I’m ranking my favourite comics released in 2015. Comics are one of the few things I still manage to put a lot of time (and money) into, making a trip to my LCS every Wednesday for new comic book day. I read a lot of really excellent series, with new ones starting all the time. This year I’ve experienced a real shift from DC to Marvel, trying out and sticking with many new series of the latter before and after Marvel’s summer event ‘Secret Wars’, while dropping a large number of DC books – I’m now down to about 5 monthly books from them. But as this list will reflect, I tend to read more Image books than anything else these days.

A warning now, there may be a few spoilers along the way. If you get to a title and aren’t necessarily up to date with it, read on only if you don’t mind finding out the odd plot detail. In particular for my number 2.

5. Justice League – Geoff Johns & Jason Fabok (DC Comics)

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Justice League is one of the few DC titles I have consistently picked up since the start of DC’s New 52 back in 2011. Geoff Johns has been writing the book since issue #1, delivering the sort of blockbuster superhero action you’d expect from the title. The artist has changed every few arcs on the book, and since the end of last year Jason Fabok has taken over as the main artist. The previous arc ‘The Amazo Virus’ was decent, possibly one of the weaker plots of the last couple of years (certainly not due to the art). However, the current story ‘The Darkseid War’ has been superb, and more importantly has given Fabok the chance to really let loose with his art, not just with excellent superhero action but with huge god Vs god action between Darkseid and the Anti-Monitor. His action sequences are superb and relentless, while not falling down when it comes to facial work like many action-orientated artists do.

The story is moving in to its second act this week, with the various members of the Justice League converted to various New God status. A real positive for the series has been seeing the story through the eyes and narration of Wonder Woman, while she leads the remaining Leaguers in a desperate battle while gods wage war on Earth. Justice League makes my list because it is one of the series I look forward to most whenever it comes out, and always goes to the top of my reading stack.

 

4. The Fade Out – Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips & Elizabeth Breitweiser (Image Comics)

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The Fade Out started near the end of last year, and wraps up it’s 12 issue run next week. Created by long time collaborators Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, the series is a Hollywood crime noir set in the late 1940s. The Fade Out deals with the murder of Hollywood starlet Valeria Sommers, and follows writer Charlie Parish as he tries to piece together his fractured and drunken memory to figure out who is responsible for her death and why. It’s very different to what I would normally read, but I’m so glad I picked it up.

Brubaker creates an interesting noir mystery and it is clear that plenty of research and care has gone into making sure the era feels right for both the setting, story and dialogue. The same can be said for Phillips’s art, with the style and characters feeling very 1940s, so they all really standing out. A bonus to the whole package are the back up articles from Devin Faraci in every issue, dealing with a different star or theme of old Hollywood. It’s really fascinating stuff. I’ll really miss this series when it’s finished, and will be re-reading it all when the final issue is out to see what I missed.

 

3. Southern Bastards – Jason Aaron & Jason Latour (Image Comics)

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Another Image series that started back in 2014 that continues to go to the top of my reading stack whenever it comes out is the brutal Southern Bastards, written by Jason Aaron and drawn by Jason Latour. This is a fucking mean book. Set in Craw County, Alabama, Southern Bastards revolves around Coach Boss and his football team the Runnin’ Rebs, state champions that essentially run the town. The arc that has run through this year has largely focused on fleshing out Boss and his various violent cronies, presumably before we return to the plot moving forward in the new year.

Aaron’s writing is incredibly dark, I tend to feel fairly bummed out after each issue full of terrible people doing terrible things, but it is so well written and compelling. Latour’s art is brilliant, bringing this world to life and imbuing it with a dirty feel and colour palette. Everything in Craw County is ugly, and that includes the people. I can’t wait to see how low this series goes in 2016.

 

2. Thor/The Mighty Thor – Jason Aaron & Russell Dauterman (Marvel Comics)

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Another one from Jason Aaron, but this time decidedly less bleak. I jumped on to the Thor ongoing series during all the fuss over “Thor being turned into Lady Thor” and the huge amount of internet bullshit that followed that announcement that essentially boils down to people being afraid of change, of giving compelling stories a chance rather than knee jerk reactions and being unaware that if comic book companies only cater to the currently relatively small readership prices will continue to rise until the industry dies. And I don’t want that. I like comics. The storm in a teacup followed on from Thor as we know him, the Odinson, becoming unworthy to wield Mjolnir. In his place, a mysterious female picks up the hammer, and starts to use it more skillfully than even the Odinson. He spends a large amount of the first run leading up to Secret Wars trying to figure out her identity, which is revealed to be the cancer-stricken Jane Foster. And using the hammer is rendering her treatments ineffective, so being a hero is slowly killing her.

The story is tightly weaved and incredibly enjoyable, with really top notch plot and character work from Jason Aaron. Dauterman’s art is superb though, and probably the series’s main selling point for me at this stage. There are huge action splashes that are breathtaking to behold, and the cosmic and otherworldly elements and characters of the Nine Realms have looked great so far. When this series wrapped up for Secret Wars I was disappointed, but then delighted to hear that the same team was returning for the continuation after the summer event with The Mighty Thor. The issues so far from that I feel have been even better than the pre-Secret Wars material.

And calm down nerds. Eventually Odinson will be Thor again (in fact there is a fairly large hint in a Secret Wars tie in that we may be looking at having two Thors, which makes me happy as Jane Foster as Thor is great), Steve Rogers will be Cap again (it is his 75th Anniversary in 2016…) and I don’t really know or care what is happening with the Hulk. Just enjoy the stories. Or piss off. Either way do it quietly so the rest of us can read our comics in peace.

 

1. Black Science – Rick Remender & Matteo Scalera (Image Comics)

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Big Image bias in this list isn’t there? My favourite series of the year is the extremely high concept sci fi Black Science, written by Rick Remender and beautifully drawn by Matteo Scalera. Starting back in late 2013, Black Science focuses on a group of alternative scientists pushing the boundaries of conventional research, led by Grant McKay, formerly of the Anarchist Order of Scientists. Their project, ‘The Pillar’, breaches into different dimensions, but someone sabotages it. It’s stuck jumping across different worlds – dragging everyone that was present along with it, including the other scientists and Grant’s kids Pia and Nate.

The story has jackknifed through gorgeous worlds, deadly worlds, diseased worlds and the slowly dwindling cast of characters has had to interact with multiple versions of themselves in various realities. And while that is all pretty high concept and mind-bending, the latest arc ‘Godworld’ is utterly insane. Remender’s writing is complex and layered, with excellent and dark character work and intelligent science fiction that commands your attention. Scalera’s artwork renders Black Science as one of the most consistently superb looking books on the stands every month. The worlds he brings to life are just stunning.

The latest part of Godworld is due out next week with issue #19, and I’ll probably read it on the tube on the way home. And it will probably be weird, and anyone sitting next to me will be deeply confused and terrified. And I don’t care.

Comic Review – Justice League #41

Adam reads as many comics as he can afford. Every week he reviews of one of them, with potential minor spoilers.

With Convergence over, DC Comics started publishing some of their new titles this week along with the return of many of their ongoing series. I picked up Justice League #41, the latest issue of what is essentially DC’s summer blockbuster movie-style comic that I’ve been following since the line relaunch back in 2011. The book has been written by Geoff Johns since the first issue, with the art team tending to change every couple of arcs. As of the last few issues Jason Fabok has been the artist, with colours by Brad Anderson and letters from Rob Leigh.

This issue marked the first part of ‘The Darkseid War’, the latest arc in Justice League (that I’m hoping won’t cross over into other titles, like ‘Trinity War’ did). The story opens with two of Darkseid’s furies, Kanto and Lashina, breaking into the home of Myrina Black and murdering her in cold blood before realising that she wasn’t the woman they were looking for. Their use of a boom tube draws the Justice League to investigate the crime scene, and they start to realise that multiple Myrina Blacks have been killed already, as Kanto and Lashina try to track down their true target. Meanwhile, Mister Miracle breaks into Darkseid’s throne room on Apokolips, trying to ascertain what his adoptive father is planning. Stunned by what he sees, he narrowly escapes Darkseid and heads to Earth to enlist the help of the Justice League, the only group in recent memory who have succeeded in beating Darkseid back from their world.

The league continues to investigate the Myrina Black murders, before a mysterious woman appears – another Amazon (named Grail, but I think that was in the FCBD teaser) She effortlessly despatches a large portion of the team on her own, and uses some of their own abilities to draw the Anti-Monitor to Earth. Mister Miracle appears at the same time in front of the Myrina Black that everyone has been looking for. It seems she and Grail plan on waging war with Darkseid, with our world as the battleground.

If that sounds like I threw around a lot of random and dense DC lore, don’t worry about it. Basically two of the biggest threats in DC history are about to fight each other and wreck the Earth in the process, assuming the Justice League can’t stop it. While this story has been set up by more than a year of lead up from Johns in this series, I would argue that it remains very self contained if you were just jumping on now. Narration is provided mostly by Mister Miracle while sneaks into Apokolips, and Wonder Woman who ponders the motivations of her team mates and herself. This is a welcome addition to the story, as we haven’t had much from her perspective thus far in the main Justice League title, and Johns seems to have a very strong handle on her character. The moment she states that of the two youngest of the team “The youth doesn’t often show in Victor. It does in Shazam” at the crime scene, just as he looks down grimly and says “I’ve never seen a dead body before” is brilliantly written, and is a touching few panels. The story set up, while potentially huge, is intriguing, flooding the reader with different threads without confusion, leading into the main thrust of the plot as all the various elements came together.

Jason Fabok’s art really is very enjoyable, and out of the issues he’s done for Justice League I think this is the strongest. The scenes on Apokolips hold a sense of oppressive grandeur, full of a caustic feeling as Mister Miracle sneaks into the molten surroundings (with a pretty cool costume redesign). The fight between Grail and the league looks gorgeous, and as she tears through the team the action looks fantastic, while the splash of her arrival is genuinely awe inspiring. I often find that artists who show their strength largely in action sometimes suffer when it comes to facial work, but Fabok doesn’t seem to have any problem of the sort. Anderson’s colours are a great complement to the art, and while the colour work in the big fight looks great I think it really shines during the Apokolips scenes.

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I’ve included this photo to illustrate two things. The top is said brilliant art. The bottom is a Twix advert that rather than taking up a whole page, split up two pages at once, totally taking me out of the story and the art. I don’t know what a Nick Lachey is. I don’t even like peanut butter. I definitely don’t think this sort of thing should become a habit, as the normal adverts are obtrusive enough. Splitting up the actual pages of content is idiotic. There has been considerable disquiet about this already, as it apparently extends to multiple books. Hopefully this is a one off based on the advert’s actual content, rather than a sign of things to come.

The Darkseid War looks like it is going to be huge and bombastic, a little dark and ruthless but hopefully a bit of fun along the way. Johns continues to write Justice League like a big action film, and Fabok does a great job of bringing that to life. If you haven’t been following up until now, or dropped off the book before, consider checking this out. You won’t be much more in the dark than long time readers are, and the writing is strong enough to not need prior knowledge either. The issue is a bit pricey, but as it is 40 pages you do get your money’s worth. Pick this up at your LCS or digitally.

Score: 8.5 Mother Boxes out of 10