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The Top Fifteen Comic Book Series of 2015 — Part One!

I’m excited to wrap up by Best of 2015 lists with my look back at my Fifteen Favorite Comic Book Series of 2015!

There were a TON of amazing comic books that I read in 2015 that didn’t make this list.  Powers by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming.  Trees by Warren Ellis and Jason Howard, and Injection by Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey.  Nameless by Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham.  Chrononauts by Mark Millar and Sean Gordon Murphy, Huck by Mark Millar and Rafael Albuquerque, MPH by Mark Millar and Duncan Fegredo, and Starlight by Mark Millar and Goran Parlov.  Guardians of the Galaxy by Brian Michael Bendis and Valerio Schiti.  Justice League by Geoff Johns and Jason Fabok.  Batman by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo.  Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang, and We Stand on Guard by Brian K. Vaughan and Steve Skroce.  Black Magic by Greg Rucka and Nicola Scott.  And so many more.

Also, there are several series that I have fallen way behind on, and so I am waiting to find the time to go back and do a major re-read to catch up on these titles.  These series include Stray Bullets by David Lapham, Astro City by Kurt Busiek and Brent Eric Anderson and Jesus Merino and others.  The Manhattan Projects by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra and Ryan Browne, and East of West by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta.  Had I been up-to-date on these titles, I have no doubt that they would all be on this list, and probably very high on it.

OK, onward!

15.  Groo and Friends (by Mark Evanier & Sergio Aragones) — I’ve been reading Groo since I was a kid, when the series was published for a long run under Marvel’s Epic imprint.  Somehow, Mark Evanier and Sergio Aragones are able to keep making the continuing adventures of the witless barbarian and his faithful dog companion thoroughly entertaining, even after all these years.  There aren’t too many truly great humor comics out there, but Groo is always dependable, and the dazzlingly intricate illustrations by Sergio Aragones are always a feast for my eyes.  This twelve-issue miniseries (a very long run for a Groo tale these days) was great fun.

14. The X-Files Season 10/Season 11 (by Joe Harris and Matthew Dow Smith and others) — I have always considered The X-Files to be one of the great unfinished stories in the modern entertainment landscape, and so I was excited for this series which was designed to be a tenth season for the show.  About mid-way through this year that tenth season concluded and an eleventh season began.  The series has been fun, though I wish the stories were more fleshed out, as many feel too rushed, like a “Cliff’s notes” version of an X-Files story.  X-Files creator Chris Carter is credited as “Executive Producer” of this series, so it felt as if it had an official blessing.  (Though I assume these stories will be contradicted by the X-Files‘ six-episode return to Fox.)

13. JLA (by Bryan Hitch) — Bryan Hitch illustrating a big crazy super-hero epic is always fun, and this new DCseries, which Mr. Hitch has also written, is terrific.  In the story, the ancient Kryptonian God Rao arrives on Earth and begins converting Earth’s population into his worshippers.  Naturally, the Justice League doesn’t take too kindly to that.  This story feels like a “classic” version of the Justice League, one not-too-tied to modern DC continuity, which I like very much.  (As an example, the characters all sport their “New 52” costumes, though on the other hand Mr. Hitch draws Superman’s face very much like the classic Superman.)  This story has been great fun so far!

12. Marvel’s Star Wars series (Star Wars by Jason Aaron and John Cassaday and Stuart Immonen and Mike Deodato, Darth Vader by Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca) — I was bummed when I read that Dark Horse, who had been publishing terrific Star Wars comics ever since I was a kid, had lost the Star Wars license to Marvel.  When Marvel announced a whole slew of Star Wars comics, I wasn’t interested.  But I kept hearing good things, and eventually I couldn’t resist giving their main Star Wars series a try.  It blew me away, and I quickly began following the entire line.  I’ve been very impressed by how interesting the stories have been.  The two main series (Star Wars and Darth Vader) initially focused on Darth Vader’s discovery that the boy who blew up the Death Dtar was in fact his son (and that therefore the Emperor had lied to him at the end of Episode III about Padme’s fate).  That’s a fascinating story, one that I had never really thought about before!  (When Empire Strikes Back begins, Vader seems to already be in posession of this knowledge, something I’ve never questioned.  But how did he find out?  These comics are telling that story.)  The art on the series has also been spectacular.  Marvel has also published several mini-series focusing on specific characters (Lando, Princess Leia, Chewbacca, Kanan from Star Wars Rebels) and they’ve all been pretty great.  Consider me a converted believer!

11. All-New X-Men/Uncanny X-Men (by Brian Michael Bendis and Mahmud Asrar and Andrea Sorrentino and Chris Bachalo and Kris Anka and others) —  Brian Michael Bemis’ X-Men run came to an end this year.  Too soon for my tastes, as I had been enjoying Mr. Bendis’ X-Men run more than any other X-Men run for many years!  I’d have liked to have seen some of his story-lines come to a more definite conclusion, but on the other hand I understand that the X-Men is a continuing saga/soap-opera, and so there can’t ever really be an ending.  I loved the way Mr. Bendis focused on exploring all the characters.  His portrayal of the young original X-Men was phenomenal, making me really love those characters in a way I’d never expected.  Mr. Bendis also had a lot of fun with many of the modern versions of the X-Men characters, from Beast to Cyclops to Emma Frost to, of course, Kitty Pryde.  No one since Chris Claremont can write Kitty the way Mr. Bendis does, a fact much-appreciated by this long-time Kitty fan.

10. Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man/Ultimate End (by Brian Michael Bendis and David Marquez and Mark Bagley) — Mr. Bendis’ decades-long run on Ultimate Spider-Man also came to an end this year as Marvel finally did away with their “Ultimate” universe (a modern-day reimagining of the Marvel universe begun back in 2000).  I have been reading and loving Mr. Bendis’ Ultimate Spidey comic monthly, in all its incarnations, ever since it began.  I adored Mr. Bendis’ version of Peter Parker, and I have also grown to love Miles Morales, the new Spider-Man Mr. Bendis and Sara Pichelli created several years back.  This year’s adventures were great as always, even though I was sad that the latest relaunched book (Miles Morales:The Ultimate Spide-Man) was cancelled after only twelve issues when Marvel decided to end their Ultimate universe.  Ultimate End, reuniting Mr. Bendis with long-time collaborator Mark Bagley, was a lovely swan-song to the Ultimate universe, but even if Marvel didn’t want to publish any other Ultimate titles I wish Mr. Bendis had been allowed to continue Miles’ solo adventures for many more years.  (Miles is apparently being brought into the main Marvel Universe, and Mr. Bendis will continue to write his adventures.  So while I am sad to see the Ultimate universe end, I look forward to future Bendis-written adventures for Miles!)

9. Jupiter’s Circle (by Mark Millar and Wilfredo Torres) — I very much enjoyed Mr. Millar’s series Jupiter’s Legacy, about the havoc wreaked on the globe by the children and grandchildren of the world’s first generation of super-heroes, who came on the scene during the Great Depression.  When Mr. Millar announced that the series was going on a hiatus so that artist Frank Quitely could get ahead, and that a twelve-issue new title, exploring the characters’ backstory, would be released in the interim, I was very dubious.  It seemed like a long fill-in, a distraction from the main story!  Boy was I wrong.  Jupiter’s Circle has proven to be one of Mr. Millar’s best series to date.  I’ve been loving how this series has connected many of the dots of events hinted at in the main series.  And this series has boasted some of Mr. Millar’s best characterizations, as he has fleshed out the very human foibles and failings of this universe’s original six-person super-hero team.  Complemented by gorgeous, elegant artwork by Wilfredo Torres, this has been a big hit for me.

8. Miracleman (by Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman and John Totleben and Mark Buckingham) — Marvel’s re-printing of the long-out-of-print Miracleman series (originally Marvelman) has continued to be a joy.  The rights to this series was tied up for so long that I had doubted I’d ever get to read these comics.  I’m so glad to have been wrong.  Marvel’s presentation has not disappointed, as the series has been gorgeously re-colored and re-lettered, and each issue has some fun behind-the-scenes materials.  (I’ve particularly enjoyed the glimpses of the gorgeous original black-and-white artwork.)  This series is a classic, and I am pleased to see it getting the attention it deserves.

7. Secret Wars (by Jonathan Hickman and Esad Ribic) — the culmination of Jonathan Hickman’s terrific run on Avengers and New Avengers was not at all what I’d expected.  Almost entirely separate from the events of his Avengers series, Secret Wars is a phenomenal What-If tale, in which most of the multiverse was destroyed but Dr. Doom managed to save aspects from certain Marvel realities and wove them together into a patchwork planet called Battleworld that he ruled as a god.  This was a fun reworking of concepts from Marvel’s original Secret Wars mini-series from the eighties, and it was great fun getting to explore the bizarre new world that Doom had created (with Stephen Strange as his sheriff, a cadre of Thors as his enforces, and Susan, Franklin, and Valeria Storm as his wife and kids).   Esad Ribic’s art was extraordinary, truly the finest work he has ever done.  (The series was significantly delayed so that Mr. Ribic could get the project done, and Marvel made the right decision in waiting for him.)  The series sprouted a TON of great mini-series, revisiting many famous Marvel story-lines and alternate worlds from throughout Marvel’s publishing history.  As for the main series itself, as a stand-alone tale it is terrific.  As a device to wipe out many of Marvel’s alternate universes — most notable the “Ultimate” universe that had launched back in 2000 — I’m not sure that I see the point.  (And I already miss like hell the designation of the Marvel Universe as Earth 616 — something created decades ago in Captain Britain, of all places, and gradually accepted throughout the wider Marvel universe — with the one-and-only “Prime” Marvel Universe.  This all feels very DC, with a “Crisis” event destroying and recreating worlds, and with the DC universe as the most important “Prime” universe.  I loved the idea that the Marvel Universe wasn’t number 1, it was number 616, just one of many perfectly important and valid realities.  But I digress.)  As a culmination of Mr. Hickman’s Avengers run, it’s something of a mixed bag, as many of the main story-threads from his Avengers saga (specifically the abhorrent actions taken by many of the Marvel heroes in the “Illuminati” group, and the schism between Captain America and Tony Stark) were ignored.  However, in the end, I was very pleasantly surprised that Secret Wars turned into a spectacular Fantastic Four story!  That last issue in specific felt like a great wrap-up to stories begun by Mr. Hickman in his terrific Fantastic Four run (his first major run at Marvel, that I wrote about at length here), and a terrific ending, for now, for the Fantastic Four characters.

6. Saga (by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples) — This wild and crazy, funny and deply moving sci-fi fantasy adventure continues to surprise and delight me at every turn.  Mr. Vaughan is a Joss Whedon-level master at creating characters that we fall in love with, and then putting them (and therefore the audience!) through torturous hell.  There’s no other comic book out there that is anything like Saga, with its roller-coaster-ride style of storytelling, merging a boatload of stunningly original ideas and concepts with rich character arcs.  Fiona Staple’s gorgeous artwork never disappoints, and is evidence, panel-after-panel and page-after-page, that she is now one of the master illustrators in this business.  I have no idea where this story is going, but you’d better believe I am along for the ride.

C’mon back soon for my Top Five!

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