- Southern Bastards (Image)
Image have been the publisher to pick up for several years now. Four of the top ten titles on this list are Image books, and a great deal more would make up the next ten. But right at the top of the pile, month in, month out, is Southern Bastards. Jason Aaron and Jason Latour’s epic southern tale of football, crime, violence and barbeque, got far more intricate a complex in its second year, after killing its lead character. At least two issues of this book are contenders for the best single issues of the year. From Latour’s incredible art (and in the latest issue, great writing chops too), to Aaron’s phenomenal writing and plotting – this book is a gateway into comics for folks raised on the new golden age of American TV. It’s the Breaking Bad of comics, but so much better.
- Secret Wars (Marvel)
Event comics are rubbish. Every year Marvel and DC pump out another big crossover in which everything changes, and everything is at stake, and when the dust settles and it’s all over, readers are left with very little to chew on. Event comics are rushed, with no conclusion. Event comics are a tired marketing technique. Secret Wars is an event comic like no other. Jonathan Hickman’s high-concept love letter to the Marvel Universe and Jack Kirby, is not only the best event comic in decades, but it’s also a perfect swansong for the writer to go out on. Art from the incomparable Esad Ribic doesn’t hurt either. A book that starts with the complete and utter destruction of the entire Marvel universe, and features Dr Doom as a god, Dr Strange as his lackey, and The Thing as a Game of Thrones-esque wall. Utterly bonkers, but pure comics.
- Bitch Planet (Image)
Bitch Planet is a perfect 2015 comic. This big, loud, feminist exploitation book captures the mood of the world. In a male-ruled world, women deemed Non-Compliant are forced onto a prison planet, and once there, made to fight in archaic gladiatorial combat. It’s sparked a cult fandom (all of whom have Non-Compliant tattoos); it’s angry and rightfully so. Kelly Sue DeConnick hasn’t really set comics on fire before, but she absolutely nails it here.
- We Can Never Go Home (Black Mask Studios)
A fantastic Badlands-esque book about two teens on the run, at least one of whom has superpowers. We Can Never Go Home’s biggest strength is that it never apologises for what it is – a loud, angsty book, and it’s all the better for it. Bringing that same youthful anger that made Malick’s debut such a great film, this is a great indie title which never outstayed its welcome.
- Beast Wagon (Changeling Studios)
Backed by an inordinate number of people on Kickstarter, Beast Wagon is the very definition of indie comics, and a perfect example of what the format can do. Only two issues have been released so far, but this story of rebellion amongst animals in a zoo is a strange, hallucinogenic trip. Owen Michael Johnson has released a couple of great books this year (Reel Love was so close to making this list), but Beast Wagon is head and shoulders above most mainstream books.
- Sex Criminals (Image)
Sex Criminals absolutely should not work. Even more, it absolutely should not be the title of one of the best comics on the stands. This book, ostensibly about a couple who can stop time when they orgasm, could very easily be a bawdy sex comedy, but in the hands of Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky, it is not only one of the most charming and heartwarming books out there, but also one of the most intelligent discussions around mental illness you’ll find in mainstream comics. Fewer issues came out this year, but each one was a treasure.
- Multiversity (DC Comics)
A project in the making for so long it became comics legend, Grant Morrison’s magnum opus (after his past three magnum opus’) finally concluded this year, and what a conclusion. A bonkers journey through the DC multiverse which included a pastiche of Watchmen, a handbook within a story within a handbook, and the final issue – a sentient cursed comic which infected readers. Grant Morrison never fails at ambition, although at times he can mire a reader in convoluted, and confusing story (Nameless), but Multiversity found him marrying spectacle, storytelling and high-concept perfectly.
- Island (Image)
2015 was the year the anthology came back in full force. Island, Brandon Graham and Emma Rios’ title, featuring contributions from both of them, plus a whole host of others, is exactly the kind of comic Image should be publishing. Experimental at times, it’s the perfect book for newcomers to test their skills out on. Graham’s trademark pun-laden street-art infused style makes his stories dense and laugh out loud funny, but the real highlight of the whole book was Farel Dalrymple’s contribution to issue #4, a sequel to his beloved Pop Gun War.
- Meanwhile (Soaring Penguin Press)
Meanwhile…the other anthology of note this year, would get a spot in this list just for returning Gary Spencer Millidge’s Strangehaven to the stands, but it didn’t harm its chances when the rest of the content turned out to be quite good too. Strangehaven was of course the highlight – think Emmerdale meets Welcome to Nightvale – although David Hine’s The Bad Bad Place was a close second place, the kind of strange black comedy that only Hine could achieve. Pick up volume 4 of the book for Darryl Cunningham’s fascinating piece on the Mystery of the Marie Celeste too.
- Phonogram (Image)
Phonogram is a book that’s hard not to fall in love with. Kieron Gillen’s unabashed love of music and interest in celebrity/fandom, and Jamie McKelvie’s gorgeous art have nearly always resulted in something interesting, never more so than this series about phonomancers who wield music as magic. Volume three finally launched this year, with a tremendously fun homage to Aha’s Take on Me video. It’s an interrogation of how our tastes shift, and our personalities change over time, it’s witty and fun and it’s as though this book has never been away.
Daniel Carpenter’s The Pull List will be back in the New Year.