Comic Diva’s Favorite New Comics from 2015

In case you haven’t noticed yet, I love comics. I’m down with the reading, with the collecting, and sometimes the speculating. I’m reflecting on comics that I really enjoyed in 2015. Oh, there were “tons” of them, and I can’t write about every one of them, so I narrowed the list to share the best. These were my guidelines:

I have 119 books on my 2015 “Pull List”; the majority of them are NOT DC or Marvel. The 2015 “Pull List” includes books from Boom Studios, Valiant, Image, Vertigo and Dark Horse. There are some smaller press books on the 2015 “Pull List”, though I admit the spectrum isn’t very broad. The books on this list have a release date within the year of 2015, despite the printed cover date. Also, I don’t include re-launched titles that start over with issue 1, because this is too gimmicky for me.  That’s it.  Ready?

IMG_2632Giant Days
I have really enjoyed some titles from Boom Studios. Their IMG_2347solicitations are truly unique, ranging from kid-friendly to mature, and much between. I really love the YA drama of Giant Days, and–honestly– some of the funny antics showcased in the book truly remind me of my college youth. Dating, roommates, drama IMG_2433fields, lost love, and secret crushes are all tackled in this engaging, ongoing series by John Allison and Lissa Treiman. IMG_2346Included in the mix are strong young women who push at social stereotypes, acknowledge self-doubt, and develop strong personal character. Initially solicited as a six-part mini series, Giant Days’ success was rewarded when the creative team was asked to extend the series to 12 issues. The comic was so popular that it’s now an on-going series with an updated creative team. I’m in it for the long haul as I find Giant Days too much fun to pass up.

 

IMG_2633Harrow County
When I first read about Harrow County in Previews, I immediately added it to my regular pull list. IMG_1623I instantly recognized this comic book was going to be something I’d love to read. Young Miss Emmy has a mind of her own and a soft heart for the dark souls that inhabit the creepy places of Harrow County. She can speak to the haints (haunts), and what she says to them is typically motivating, if not compassionate. Have a ghoul IMG_1626kicking up a fuss in your attic? Emmy will gladly quell the behavior. Just know, she’ll do it by letting the ghoul know it’s welcome, and by inviting it to stay put. Emmy has a strong streak of “right” versus “wrong”, and she condemns those that would use her for something evil. She adheres to the “live and let live” motto, even if it does not always work out for her. The writer, Cullen Bunn solidified his space on my “read everything” list when he penned “The Sixth Gun.” IMG_1399He truly is a fantastic writer and I’m a happy fan. I first came across the artist, Tyler Crook, while reading WitchFinder (another Dark Horse favorite). Tyler’s drawing style and color blends match so perfectly with Cullen’s words that their joint work has uncanny flow. They’re a creative combination paired in heaven, I say.

IMG_2634Postal
Eden, Wyoming is an intriguing place. It’s a layover town full of criminals. IMG_0515Throw in several random acts of violence, a dirty FBI agent, a postman with Asperger’s, and dark family secrets, and you have the backdrop for the comic Postal, written by Matt Hawkins & Bryan Hill, drawn by Isaac Goodhart. Mark is IMG_0516the local postman with Asperger’s. Actually, he’s the only postman in town. Mark pays attention to who gets what in the mail, and reports this information to the mayor, who “just happens to be” his mother. By way of post, the mayor collects the town secrets and uses what she knows to keep everyone in line. When things don’t go her way, the mayor calls in the sheriff. Can you guess with whom the mayor’s having an affair? Postal is more than family drama though,IMG_0835 the series is on issue… and so far what readers have learned about the townspeople is: there’s a former meth dealer in residence, a cheating federal agent on-site, the murderer of Mark’s sister on the loose, and a suspected child molester in hiding. Oh yeah! There’s so much going on, so many sub-plots in this comic, I can’t help but keep reading it.

Coming in Part 2: Head Lopper, Chrononauts, and Descender. (By the way, feel free to leave me a comment or drop me a line about your favorite comic book from 2015. I welcome the discussion.) ****Update****

I would have loved to continue this discussion but truth is, I let the time slip past me. With that understanding, here are the books I really enjoyed in 2015:

  • Descender
  • Chrononauts
  • Head Lopper
  • We Stand on Guard
  • Dark Corridor
  • Paper Girls
  • Clean Room
  • Black Magick
  • Monstress
  • The Goddamed
  • Toyko Ghost

Leaving Megalopolis

IMG_2452Publisher: Dark Horse Books
Writers: Gail Simone
Artist: J. Calafiore

Super heroes no longer fight crime, protect the public or seek justice. Instead, all the super-beings in this world have been infected with a virus. A virus that turns them against the people they once protected, and whom they now hunt for sport. Carnage and death ensue.IMG_2453

The story starts with a lone police officer walking cautiously down a deserted city street, chaos and destruction is all around her. What follows sets the tone for the story: a human body falls from the sky and splatters on the ground in the officer’s vicinity. Leaving Megalopolis is a tale of survival in modern America. A small band of people attempt escape the city limits while being dogged, if not herded, by murderous capes and tights.

Leaving Megalopolis focuses the human mind and how it behaves under extreme duress, and that is exactly what you get in this dark tale written by the illustrious Gail Simone. IMG_2456The story is jammed packed with all kinds of delicious details. All the action takes place within the city limits, and there’s a hidden twist at the end. (No spoilers!) Plus, we learn about human will, self-sacrifice, personal loss, treachery and redemption.

Cool Factor:
Can you speak, move, or breath quietly enough so as not to attract the attention of a killer with super-hearing?IMG_2455

Format:
Hardcover, Trade paperback

Villains…Villains are cool!

Villain: a cruelly malicious person who is involved in or devoted to wickedness or crime (source Dictionary.com). To me, a strong hero is only as good as his/her villain. In my opinion, weak bad guys can only promote weak good guys. So, I say, bring on the baddies! I’ve read comics depicting bad guys as morons or buffoons, which makes me wonder why any hero would waste his or her time. However, I’ve read some hardcore bad guys, the likes of which demand a reader keep lights on and have some form of weapon in hand while reading. Strong villains help shape strong hero characters. The adversity should be difficult and require Superhuman will to overcome. Here are some the villains I admire, yet fear:

Favorite Villain 1 – Red Skull from Old Man Logan (Marvel)

In the future, the bad guys win; Red Skull opens a can of whoop-ass on the Avengers and doesn’t stop until Captain America is dead. Then he and the rest of the baddies parcel out parts of North America like they are slicing a fresh made apple pie. Defining moment: Red Skull putting his fingers through Captain America’s eye sockets. Years later, this certified villain walks around wearing Caps uniform with Caps dried blood still on it.

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Favorite Villain 2 – Traveling Salesman from Severed (Image)

The villain of this story comes in the form of an elderly traveling salesman. This man has an unusual taste for human flesh and particularly enjoys victimizing fatherless boys who seek direction and the American Dream in 1916. Defining moment: it’s not unusual to see an older person remove their false teeth. What a reader might not expect is sharper and more deadly teeth to appear in the place of said removed false teeth.

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Favorite Villain 3 – Boogie Man from Stuff of Legend (Th3rd World Studios)

Some villains use physical strength or special powers to overwhelm their prey/victims. In the case of the Boogieman, though, it is a victim’s personal weakness that is used against him or her. If there’s a secret on the team, the Boogieman finds it and exploits it with deadly force. Defining moment: the Boogieman uses Percy the Pig’s cowardice to kill the Colonel by tearing him in half.

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Favorite Villain 4 – The Governor from The Walking Dead (Image)

It is the end of the world, and civilized life is a thing of the past. So, it’s easy to see how a psychotic narcissist ends up as the leader of a group of weakened survivors, desperate for a sense of belonging and some stability. When the Governor is first introduced, it is obvious his smile is nothing by which to take comfort. He very plainly explains to Rick, Glenn, and Michonne that he feeds town trespassers to walkers for entertainment. Defining moment: within moments of meeting, the Governor demonstrates his sadism by cutting off Rick’s hand.

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Favorite Villain 5 – Nixon Nun from Fell (Image)

Detective Richard Fell has his hands full dealing with cases of all sorts in Snowtown. But, what really has him spooked in his new town is the “Nixon Nun”; named so for the Richard Nixon mask she wears on top of her religious habit. Without muttering a single word, Nixon Nun causes Fell’s skin to crawl, and rightly so, as she always appears on the scenes of heinous crimes. Defining moment: as police look on, Nixon Nun solicits a prostitute for nefarious means.

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Favorite Villain 6 – Rat Creatures from Bone (Cartoon Books)

It would be easy to dismiss the Rat Creatures in Bone as brainless lemmings doing the bidding of an ineffective king. And, that would be a mistake. Though they have limited thinking capacity, what the Rat Creatures lack in brains, they make in sheer numbers and teeth/claw size. In large packs, Rat Creatures are quite deadly, destroying everything in their path as they carry out orders from their leader. Defining moment: Kingdok makes easy work of Gran’ma Ben, tossing her around like a rag doll. This is noteworthy as Gran’ma Ben withstood battles with Dragons much more daunting and seemingly treacherous than a pack of rats.

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Favorite Villain 7 – General Clarkson from Think Tank (Top Cow)

The military is no stranger to collateral damage and sacrifice. So, what is a general to do when a Colonel does not obey orders? When a Colonel gets wind of a clandestine operation not approved by the President, he attempts to blow the whistle and is met with a bullet from General Clarkson. Defining moment: General Clarkson issues punishment for disloyalty with extreme prejudice, spraying the Colonel’s brain matter all over the resident genius Dr. Loren.

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Favorite Villain 8 – The Purple Man from Alias (Marvel)

No need for subtly, Zebediah Killgrave, known as the Purple Man, emits a pheromone that allows him to verbally control anyone, including superheroes. In the Marvel Max universe, the Purple Man presents a formidable foe for Jessica Jones (a.k.a. Jewel), and toys with her for several weeks before he is apprehended. Defining moment: Killgrave initially suggests Jessica take her clothes off, using her nakedness as a way to humiliate her. However, upon learning the Avengers are in the area, Killgrave orders her to attack her teammates instead, with devastating results.

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Favorite Villain 9 – Doomsday from Superman (DC)

Possessing enough strength to gut punch Superman, Doomsday entered the DC universe with a vengeance. Arriving on the outskirts of Metropolis, he proceeds on a warpath to the city and destroys any superhero attempting to stop him. Defining moment: with a mighty blow Doomsday kills the Man of Steel, something that has never before happened.

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Favorite Villain 10 – Alien Invader from Wild’s End (Boom Studios)

An unrelenting machine with a single objective, to Kill! That is the villain of Wild’s End. Aliens land in the sleepy countryside and wreck havoc on occupants. There are no requests or demands, simply the burning of all organic matter (people) that interacts with the alien. Defining moment: villain issues a resident’s death with a full facial blast of fire. Ouch!

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This list is by no means all inclusive, there are tons of great villains out there. Have one you want to share? Leave me a comment.

Stumptown

Stumptown

Publisher: Oni PressIMG_0882

Writers: Greg Rucka

Artist: Matthew Southworth

In the span of 24 hours, Dex pisses off two rednecks, makes a reluctant deal with a local crime boss, gets shot point blank… several times, and ends up arrested. That’s quite an accomplishment for a moonlighting private investigator with a gambling problem. Dex is in the hole for about eighteen-grand, so when her credit is no longer good, casino management pulls her card. To pay off her debt, Dex agrees to honor a request by a casino manager, and sets course to find a missing person. The tale is gritty, dark, moody, and enjoyable. What appears to be a straight-forward missing person case morphs into gang wars, illegal drugs, and murder. Within the first few pages of Stumptown, Dex is shot and left for dead in a river. Quite the opener. From White Out to Lazarus, Greg Rucka consistently narrates a spectacular female tale. He creates strong female protagonists who do not lean on conventional stereotypes, and Dex is no exception.

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Cool Factor: Dex has a nonchalant attitude about everything, which may give the impression she is not interested or paying attention to people talking at her. Truth is, she is way more astute than the bad guys realize, and–nine times out of ten–she is 3 steps ahead of her enemies.

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Format: Floppies, Trade paperback

Gotham by Gaslight: A Tale of Batman

IMG_1526Gotham by Gaslight: A Tale of Batman

Publisher: DC Comics

Writer: Brian Augustyn

Artist: Michael Mignola

What would happen if the great detective went up against one of London’s most famous serial killers? In 1989 DC Comics tried something a little different with one of their main characters; they allowed Brian Augustyn and Mike Mignola to pen a one-shot Batman tale outside of Batman’s continuum. Gotham By Gaslight is set in Gotham during the 1800s, where a woman has been murdered a`la Jack the Ripper style. Thus begins a dark and suspenseful tale of Batman versus Jack the Ripper. Who is the killer? How did he come to be in Gotham? Is Jack the Ripper really Bruce Wayne? The story has a great period drama feel to it, with all the assumed pomp and circumstance. In Gaslight, as in the original series, Bruce’s parents are killed by a robber, which–in turn–sets Bruce on a quest for vengeance. Yet, in this story, he spends some time in London, learning detectives skills from Scotland Yard. Bruce happens to be in living during the time of the Ripper murders.

IMG_1520This version of Batman looks every bit the part of a highwayman and, of course, this is to strike fear in his enemies. Though Batman’s important utility belt is still present, it is full of anti-crime deterrents such as: rope, knives, and smoke pellets. The story was so successful that DC Direct created a Gotham by Gaslight Batman action figure in 2007. The detail was exceptional, and closely resembled the character concept of the graphic novel.

Currently there is a live-action version of Gaslight in the works by James Campbell, it is called Ripper. You can watch the teaser trailer here. Also feel free to visit the Facebook page for Ripper, as it has come very cool concept art to boot.

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Cool Factor: Gotham by Gaslight is the very first Elseworld title from DC and is one of the few with a standalone sequel.

Format: Trade paperback

The Stuff of Legend

IMG_0442 The Stuff of Legend

Publisher: Th3rd World Studio

Writers: Mike Raicht and Brian Smith

Artist: Charles Paul Wilson III

In 2009, three very creative guys got together and wrote the narrative for a fantastical child adventure. Set in the 1940s, The Stuff of Legend is tale of friendship and bravery. The Boogieman really does exist, and he uses closets and shadows underneath beds to capture his victims; victims who are never heard from again. One such victim is ‘the boy,’ who is taken by the boogieman into the world of shadowy dark. This is not a simple story about a little lost child, but rather the heroic adventure of the child’s loyal toys in their pursuit to find him and rescue him. In their quest to get ‘the boy’ back, seven toys and a faithful family dog enter the world of the boogieman, bonded in affection and displaying a fierce sense of duty to one another. It’s an epic adventure. What happens when older toys resent newer models? Are they willing to help? Can they be trusted? And, seriously how much help is a ballerina, a stuffed teddy bear, or a Jack-in-the-box? The Stuff of Legends is a dark, twisty tale of bravery and betrayal. Now in its fifth volume, The Stuff of Legend was picked up by Disney for film adaption.

Cool Factor: These toys turn into their real life counterparts once in the Boogieman’s world.

Format: Floppy (though the first arc sold out), Trade paperback, Hardcover & Limited Edition Leather-bound, Digital

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All images belong to Th3rd World Studios. For more indy goodies from this publisher, visit th3rdworld studios.

Let’s Begin…

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I’m an avid comic reader since early childhood. Some of my first loves were Ritchie Rich and Casper the Friendly Ghost. As I got a little older, I found Mike Grell’s Warlord. Man, I thought Travis Morgan was the bomb. Then my cousin introduced me to Peter Parker and the Uncanny X-men. Oh my god! The action! The drama! The crossovers! I was hooked.

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From the Death of Superman to Wolverine losing his adamantium, I devoured all things DC and Marvel. If either press published it, I bought it. (I bought what I could afford, anyway.) I had them all and read each issue like a junkie. And then I fell prey to the “collector’s hype,” wanting gold foil variants of every title. Alas—I shortly learned my habit wasn’t sustainable at that magnitude, and I left the hobby around ’95.

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Five years later, around the time Marvel’s Ultimate line launched, I walked into a comic book store and my excitement for comics returned. I really enjoyed Ultimate Spider-man, The Ultimates and Ultimate X-men. I bought every issue, and then some. I wanted to rekindle the joy I felt from titles like Wolverine Volume 2, but I didn’t have the cash. Though I wanted them all, I had to leave so many books behind, on the shelf. I started doing all the old things that caused me to leave the hobby before: buying every #1 issue of re-launch, purchasing every book on a crossover event, hunting down limited variants. I was headed for broke, and that’s when I realized… I needed to step back. Was I really enjoying what I was buying or was I just buying comics because of some perceived value/rarity?

Screen Shot 2015-07-20 at 11.06.27 AMMy tastes in stories and titles were changing, and they weren’t “collector’s hype” oriented. I didn’t want a typical collection of capes and tights. I wanted something different, something I could enjoy reading over and over again. Enter The Walking Dead circa 2003, a zombie apocalypse tale with blood and guts, and I thought, “Eh… what could it hurt?” I bought one copy and fell in love with my first modern Independent. (In hindsight I wish I’d purchased the whole stack.) Incidentally, did you know there are two different covers of the now famous issue one of The Walking Dead? One cover depicts the words, “Mature Readers” in white, while another cover, depicts the words in black.

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Today, some 15-years since my re-emergence into comic collecting, I really enjoy creator-owned works, especially original concepts. The imagination it takes to step “off the beaten path” of hero comics, away from the tried “capes and tights” formula stories, and try something new is–in my opinion–phenomenal. Currently on my pull list is almost everything from smaller presses (not exactly all “small,” cause… you know… Image, Dark Horse etc.).

I read comics ‘cause I like them. I’m not here to speculate. I don’t fancy myself a talented writer, so I’m not looking to write or draw my own comic; I’ll leave that to the experts. Comic writers and artists can have my money. I just really enjoy the energy of this hobby, and reading comics brings me happiness. I only write about books I like. If I read a series and think it holds a good story, I want to tell others about it.

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