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The Top Fifteen Comic Book Series of 2015 — Part Two

And so we come to it at last, my final Best of 2015 list!

A few days ago I began listing my Fifteen Favorite Comic Book Series of 2015, listing numbers fifteen through six.

Here now are my Top Five:

5. Velvet (by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting) — What if Moneypenny was actually a former double-oh agent, now assigned to a desk at HQ but forced back into the field by a terrible betrayal?  That’s the brilliant hook of Mr. Brubaker and Mr. Epting’s phenomenal spy yarn Velvet.  The year is 1973, and Velvet Templeton has been, for eighteen years, the secretary and right-hand woman for the Director of Arc-7, a super-secret British organization of spies.  When their best agent (think James Bond) is murdered on assignment, Velvet finds herself framed for the deed and on the run from everyone she once trusted.  Velvet is a rich conspiracy thriller and a loving homage to the mystique of sixties-era James Bond adventures  Mr. Brubaker’s twisty story constantly has me guessing, trying to put the pieces together (just like Velvet herself is doing).  Mr. Epting’s art, meanwhile, is jaw-droppingly astounding, filled with incredible period detail.  I don’t know how he does it.  I love this book and, as I wrote last year, I desperately need it to come out more frequently.

4. James Bond (by Warren Ellis and Jason Masters) — One of the few 2015 comic book series that was better than Brubaker & Epting’s Bond-inspired saga is Warren Ellis and Jason Masters’ take on the actual double-oh-seven himself!  I’d never have expected to see the phenomenally talented Warren Ellis writing a licensed comic book series, but it’s a match made in heaven.  This James Bond series doesn’t feel like any other licensed comic book series that I have ever read.  This comic is brutal, take-no-prisoners story-telling.  I love Mr. Ellis’ depiction of Bond as a merciless “blunt instrument” of Her Majesty’s Secret Service.  And Jason Masters’ art is extraordinary, with clean crisp lines that nevertheless manage to incorporate a staggering amount of detail into every panel.  It’s perfect for this series.  I love this team continues chronicling the adventures of James Bond 007 for many more years to come.

3. The Fade Out (by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips) — The latest collaboration between Mr. Brubaker and Mr. Phillips, the best team in comics, is a riveting whodunnit set in Hollywood of the nineteen-forties.  Hollywood screenwriter and drunk Charlie Parrish wakes up one morning to find himself in a room with the dead body of  young starlet Valeria Sommers.  As the story unfolds, Charlie finds himself in the middle of an ugly story whose tendrils stretch through-out the movie-making business. This gripping noir is a hugely compelling mystery and a wonderful behind-the-scenes Hollywood stories.  It’s full of tragic figures and hard-luck cases and it’s pretty certain that it’s not all going to turn out all right.  I love it.  The Fade Out is enormously entertaining and I don’t want it to ever end!

2. Lazarus (by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark) — The phenomenal Lazarus continues to be one of the best, most original, most gripping comic-book series I have read in years.  This saga of warring families across the globe, set in a dystopian future probably not more than a century removed from our own, focuses on the young woman named Forever, the “Lazarus” of the Carlye family. Trained by birth to be lethal in multiple forms of combat, and genetically engineered to be able to heal from almost any injury, Forever has been designed to be her family’s ultimate warrior/protector.  Forever’s innocence, combined with her lethality, makes her an extraordinary central character for the series.  Lazarus is an incredible example of world-building, as Mr. Rucka and Mr. Lark have clearly put enormous effort into fleshing out every detail of this world they have created.  With each and every issue, more fascinating pieces of this world come to light, an enormously entertaining journey of discovery for the audience.  And yet Lazarus works as well as it does not just because of the depth of this world that has been created, but because of the array of wonderful characters who inhabit that world.  I love Lazarus for the politics and combat, but I also love it for the coming-of-age story of Forever herself, and for the exploration of the many flawed characters who also populate the book.  I read each issue of Lazarus with my stomach clenched, hoping for the best for the characters I have grown to love, but fearing the worst. As for Mr. Lark’s art, I don’t think I have enough compliments with which to praise his work.  He is as skilled at capturing individual characters and their subtle facial expressions as he seems to be at drawing any location, any vehicle, anything at all.  Amazing, inspiring work on every page.  I love this book.

1.  Mike Mignola’s Hellboy Universe: Hellboy in Hell, B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth, Abe Sapien, Hellboy & the B.P.R.D., Lobster Johnson, etc. (by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, Scott Allie, Laurence Campbell, James Harren, Peter Snejbjerg, Julian Totino Tedesco, Sebastian Fiumara, Max Fiumara, and others) — Once again this year, no series has given me more joy than Mike Mignola’s Hellboy saga.  Last year I re-read the entire Hellboy saga from the beginning (starting all the way back with Seed of Destruction from twenty years ago), and I’ve been writing about it here on the site.  This re-read project has only increased my enormous love and admiration for what Mr. Mignola and his ever-growing team of collaborators has created.  (Click here for the beginning of my Hellboy re-reading project.)  What began as a series of mini-series about a big red paranormal investigator who liked to punch things has expanded into a huge saga encompassing an array of wonderful characters.  Mr. Mignola now oversees multiple titles following multiple different characters and set in multiple different years, and yet they all have consistent quality and they all fit together into a larger, expanding saga.  It’s quite extraordinary, and I can’t think of a single other shared universe, in any media, that shares such a singular vision.  The central book has been B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth, and this year has seen renewed focus in that series as our scattered heroes have finally begun to reunite and to take the fight to the many terrors menacing the globe.  Mike Mignola has returned to writing and drawing Hellboy with the periodically published Hellboy in Hell, which follows our lead character in Hell after he was quite surprisingly killed off a year or two back.  We only get a few of these issues a year, but each is an individual masterpiece.  Last year saw the launch of a new series, one whose title I have been waiting for Mr. Mignola to use for years now: Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. — this series of mini-series goes back into the past, starting with 1952, which was HB’s first year out in the field.  Mr. Mignola has promised that each subsequent miniseries will move forward by one year, which is a super-cool idea.  Abe Sapien has been following Abe’s wanderings around the mostly-destroyed world in the present-day of the B.P.R.D.  This continues to feel like the least essential of all the titles, but I’ve been enjoying this look at the effect of the world-wide “Hell on Earth” cataclysms on the average people across America.  Meanwhile we’ve also gotten several Lobster Johnson stories (following the pulp adventurer’s escapades in the nineteen forties), plus two other Mignola series not set in the main Hellboy universe but still awesome: Baltimore and Joe Golem (both expansions on illustrated novels co-written by Mike Mignola & Christopher Golden).  The incredible inter-connectedness between all of these stories, the way Mr. Mignola and his collaborators will often wait years before making a connection or expanding on a detail or a small piece of back-story, is extraordinary.  Each of these mini-series or story-lines stand alone, but together they fit into a hugely entertaining tapestry.  It is incredible.  This is the best comic book universe out there today, and whenever a new Hellboy universe comic comes out (usually multiple times a month, thanks to all the various series!) it goes right to the top of my to-read list.

Thank you all so much — I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my Best of 2015 lists!  Lots of exciting stuff coming up here at MotionPicturesComics.com in the coming weeks, in particular a TON of reviews of 2015 films that I caught up with in December while preparing my end of the year lists.  Thank you all for reading!!

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