This last month had everything: A comic-book legend writing about Santa Claus, a pregnant superhero and a kooky road trip with Bizarro Superman and Jimmy Olson. It was also the best month for debut issues with excellent writing from Mark Millar (Huck), Justin Jordan (Spread) and a brilliant James Bond from Warren Ellis.
There's some new names this week with major moves (both up and down) by some of the best comic-book artists. We had to lose a couple heavy hitters, especially Mark Waid and Kelly Sue, but the addition of Nick Spencer and Marjorie Liu showcases some awesome new series coming out.
Agree or disagree? Tell me in the comments and I'll give it another read, but for now, let's see the ranking.
30. Grant Morrison
Typically any kind of Christmas comic I wouldn’t think twice about picking up, but a Christmas comic by Grant Morrison, well, that’s a different story. Klaus is Grant Morrison’s origin story for Santa Claus. A lot of bloggers and critics have named this Santa Claus: Year One, and that’s pretty apt, as this is very similar to how Bruce Wayne returns to Gotham with the view of someone who has been away for awhile. The amount of blood and violence might make this not the best gift under the tree for all ages, but the gritty and mystical elements of Santa’s origin should fulfill even the grinchiest comic book fan.
29. Brenden Fletcher
I never thought I would read a comic with a character that had a shirt that said Lord Byron Fan Club, and especially not in a punk rock context. But I’m frequently surprised with how well Brenden Fletcher has put together Black Canary, especially in the band narrative that is as endearing in its camaraderie and badass in its delivery. This is a fun and excellent series that really embraces the punk rock theme as well as providing a lot of hard-hitting action. His work on Batgirl has also been impressive, but let's be honest, Batgirl had one pretty good issue in October, while Black Canary has been rocking our world from the start.
28. Robert Kirkman
Ok, I’m going to say it: Reading a Walking Dead book is damn tough. Every now and again I tell myself that it’ll get better and it won’t be that gruesome but Kirkman loves to prove me wrong. This past month has been particularly dreary with Lydia and Rick reaching, what must be a confrontation that will undoubtably make me take more than a few deep breaths. Hickman is incredible in his ability to play with the reader’s emotion and build tension to a breaking point. There is also an excellent cliffhanger in this issue that I, like a moth to a flame, will run towards next month to find out what happens. I’m just afraid how much I might get burned.
27. Kurt Busiek
Every day that I see Astro City on the shelf is a good day. No other comic has such a beautiful image of the superhero genre as this wonderful series. In the latest issue, Busiek follows Zozat and his interaction with the First Family. I’m amazed at how many of my friends, who absolutely love comics and the superhero genre, don’t read Astro City. Not only is it one of the most beautiful series published, the work by artist Brent Anderson is perpetually astonishing with frequent Jack Kirby influences,. This particular issue is a great jumping on point for anyone that might be a little intimidated by the 29 next to the title.
26. Max Landis
Focusing on Clark’s hope for normalcy, Superman: American Alien is an interesting, introspective look at the boy in blue as he wonders what if he didn’t use his powers. Many times Superman stories that deal with adolescence have a lot of fear-mongering while Clark learns of his powers, which seems to be what the new movies tend to focus completely on. In Landis’s fresh take on the subject, Clark and Pa Kent really wonder what type of person he will be regardless of the powers and that builds emotionally driven scenes that are easily worth the price of the issue. Max Landis is well known for his work as a screenwriter (he wrote Chronicle as well as the upcoming Victor Frankenstein) but this shows excellent promise to take up a major character from one of the big two.
25. Nick Spencer
While generating a cult following for Morning Glories, the comic that loves to create more questions than Lost, The X-Files, and Jeopardy combined, Nick Spencer has had his hands full creating Captain America: Sam Wilson and Astonishing Ant-Man. Spencer always excels at injecting humor in with his relationships that provide a lot of drama while increasing the action and these are no exception (especially in Ant-Man with Ms. Thing). We’re learning more about Sam Wilson in these pages and how he’ll fit in the Captain America canon, and there’s quite a good amount of politics and pontificating around this in the debut, but I’m convinced that in Spencer’s capable hands this will be an excellent series.
24. Dan Slott
Spider-Man vs. The Human Torch? Well it’s definitely been fun as well as makes you realize how long it’s been since a Fantastic Four comic. Slott has had a low month with only an interesting look at a Peter Parker Secret Wars which Parker owns the previous Baxter Building. It’s a good but not great issue that will be worth watching in days to come ,but compared to the other series recently, there’s a little skepticism if this one will hold up.
23. Jonathan Hickman
The Secret Wars series with Jonathan Hickman has been a plain delight. At first I was a little mad about the issue 5. I wanted an advancement in the plot, not just hanging out talking about what happened. Yes, I understand that this is sometimes necessary, but jeez these book aren’t cheap and when there’s no significant advancement on something as highly billed as the Secret Wars, I’m beginning to think of how much money I spent on The Convergence and I get really sad. But everything is forgiven suddenly in issue 6. Miles Morales and Peter Parker get a scene. Reed Richards and Ultimate Reed Richards get a even better scene. Then issue 7 hits and the promised battles are everything worth waiting for (especially with Namor and Black Panther). While there were moments that made me wonder if Secret Wars would really live up to the hype, now I can confidently say that Secret Wars is showcasing how great a writer Hickman is and, with the incredible artwork of Esad Ribic, this is easily going to be one of the best events in comics of 2015.
22. Charles Soule
After his incredible series Lando, Charles Soule is now taking on Daredevil. It’s an excellent time to embark on the new series with a lot with a lot of new fanfare due to the Netflix show with the buzz around season two involving Electra and Punisher. Soule has been keeping himself busy with a couple of issues of Uncanny Inhumans, a solid two issues that give you a LOT of understanding on who the characters are and what they’re doing. I’m curious if, with the attention the Uncanny Inhumans are getting in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as well as rumors of a new movie, Soule may be thinking that perhaps Inhumans may be broadening out to a new audience as well. There’s a lot of Medusa and Black Bolt here but the focus Marvel is putting on the Uncanny Inhumans is pretty exciting and I’m going to be interested in what Soule, a veteran of developing excellent and exciting characters, will do to expand the series.
21. Skottie Young
I love everything about I Hate Fairyland. I love how the main character is a pain in the butt, how nobody knows what to do with her and how it reminds me of the same dark, twisted humor of such cartoons as Ren and Stimpy growing up. This is Skottie Young unleashed and the result is an unabashedly fun, bloody, politically incorrect mess that is as revolting as it is engaging. I totally want to say more. I want to talk about how crazy it is that she eats some of the things that attack her, that she enjoys being the irritant of Fairyland. It's completely worth it.
20. Marjorie Liu
There hasn’t been a bigger premiere this fall/winter than Marjorie Liu sixty-six page debut issue of Monstress. The fantasy epic issue has some of the most gorgeous art seen this year by Sana Takeda. The issue is surprisingly dense both in its page count and in its subject matter as well. It’s not a book that can be flipped through. Seriously, take the evening, relax and spend some time on this. The reader is responsible to really look at each page, understanding that the dialogue must be fully grasped to comprehend everything that Liu is going for. But that responsibility is exciting as I found myself, locking myself away knowing that the more I put in to Monstress, the higher the reward would be. This is one hell of a fantasy epic and one that combines Asian influences with steampunk to build a beautiful awe-inspiring world.
19. Heath Corson
So many times comics fans get obsessed with action that they don’t stop and relish in how difficult and fun a comic might be that is off the wall and fun. Heath Corson has made a wonderful, smile-inducing series named Bizarro about Bizarro Superman and Jimmy Olson on a road trip together. It’s a complete screwball comedy but it’s funny and effective. This past month Corson ended the Bizarro series and the whole thing has been one hell of a charming run that I highly recommend taking.
18. G. Willow Wilson
Battling physics homework as well as oversized rat villains, Kamala Khan is now a part of the Avengers, an adventure that seems greater than her wildest dreams. Yet, even though Wilson has placed her in the Avengers, she knows the heart of the character lies in the navigating her place as a teenager and most of the new arc focuses on Bruno and his new love Mike (short for Michaela). Kamala as Ms. Marvel is selling out, thinking too much about superheroing and conversely losing touch with some of the important issues as a teenager due to the responsibilities of her new powers. It’s an interesting opposition that Willow has already explored well with Kamala's family and this new character, Mike, should add an interesting development to the situation.
17. Ed Brubaker
When The Fade Out ends next month, I know I’m going to have to gather all my issues together and read them all over again. It might be my most difficult serial to read since there’s so much going on in each issue. I’m always impressed with how Brubaker is able to fully contain so many characters and storylines in establishing a beautiful symphony of plot and character development. Earlier this month, Brubaker came out with the 14th issue of Velvet, an issue that, I believe, contains as script in the facial expressions of the characters as it does with Brubaker’s script. This book might be the most elegant book being published today and a perfect collaboration for the noir genre.
16. Justin Jordan
Newcomer Justin Jordan is making quite a lot of noise with his most latest John Flood with Boom and Spread with Image. This is a writer that doesn’t mind jumping right in and terrifying the utter crap out of you and his latest horror story, Spread, attacks the reader directly. Many times horror writers play in the shadows, tempting you in as they get ready to unleash what they have in store, but Jordan comes straight for the reader, unabashed and confident. For a debut, it is phenomenal, and those that love horror books will love it.
15. Greg Rucka
Holy Schnikes did I love Black Magick. Before I’ve just been happy with Stumptown and Lazarus, which are solid Greg Rucka series but the number one issue of Black Magick plain left me giddy. Damn it’s a good debut and that involves witches and Nicola Scott, whom I have always loved her artwork. The story follows Detective Rowan Black as she tries to handle a hostage situation but the greatest parts of the script are the parts of the story that Rucka teases the reader without giving anything away. There’s a lot of shadows and intrigue here and so my expectations are sky high for this series.
14. Brian Michael Bendis
Man, if there’s ever one guy I wish people would comment about and tell me what they think of his writing it's Brian Michael Bendis. I love Bendis. I watch and read Powers. I enjoy Old Man Logan and what he did with Scott Summers in Uncanny X-Men. I loved his take on Guardians of the Galaxy and thought the new Invincible Iron Man was pretty good as well (It wasn’t Matt Fraction awesome but it was good). So I’m happy with Bendis’s recent work but, like watching Robert DeNiro movies now, I just want him to be the powerhouse he was before (especially how incredible he was in Ultimate Spider-Man). But that’s why Bendis is currently in the middle for me. Not at the top, not at the bottom. But please tell me, what you think? Do you currently like the new Bendis work or do you think he’s cruising on past accomplishments?
13. Chip Zdarsky
All comic book writers tend to hang out with each other at conventions and talk frequently through Twitter. It’s a small collective that interacts well with each other and the prankster of the group is Mr. Chip Zdarsky. It’s getting nearly impossible to read a Zdarsky comic without thinking of the inside jokes, often hilarious, that are available if you read his tweets and cameos in Matt Fraction and Kelly Sue DeConnick’s newsletter. That said, his plethora of new titles including Howard the Duck, Jughead, and Kaptara as well as Sex Criminals continue to be excellent but I highly recommend following up with him on social media to unlock even new treasures in his already fun work.
12. Dennis Hopeless
I absolutely love Hopeless’s wondrous new take on Jessica Drew, a smart, emotional, strong female character that, yes, is now a pregnant superhero. Most people have relegated Spider-Woman as a B-list superhero and frequently gets second (or third) fiddle to her male counterpart. But this amazing woman was an Avenger and has grown into a really good character. Hopeless has injected a wonderful personality in Ms. Drew, expanded upon her friendship with Carol Danvers as well as brought a wonderful humor to the role with her interaction with Ben Urich and Porcupine. This is the best female character being written by a Marvel comic today and the number one comic I would be buying my niece.
11. Mark Millar
I find myself hating Mark Millar so much at times. This is sad for me because he is such an amazingly nice guy and it’s not really his fault. I just love his writing. His characters are dazzling, his themes are wonderfully brilliant, and his ability to understand his audience might be the greatest of any comic book writer today. Yet so many times I find myself addicted to a Millar comic only to see a delay coming around the corner. I want my Millarworld! Luckily, he has promised me an upcoming schedule of Jupiter’s Legacy and Jupiter's Circle that will not be delayed as well as introduced possibly my favorite new series of 2015 in Huck. It’s a lot to look forward to for a Mark Millar fan but the excitement of multiple Mark Millar books this season is pretty exciting.
10. Jason Latour
Jason Latour is heading two of the most addictive and creative comic series being produced today: Spider-Gwen and Southern Bastards. With Jason Aaron seeming to have his hands full on lots of Marvel products, Latour is pulling double duty, writing and drawing issue 12 of Southern Bastards. Have I also mentioned he’s currently busy writing the script with Aaron to the television adaptation of Southern Bastards for FX?
9. Scott Snyder
I was definitely a little reluctant to embrace Mr. Bloom as a creepy villain but Snyder and Capello have definitely won me over. I’ve always signed on that Gordon as Batman is an interesting take and his, well, inability of excelling as a superhero definitely makes sense. Snyder and Capello have put a lot of time into character development with this series and, while seeing Bruce Wayne look happy with Julie Madison is something that’s difficult to get used to since I’ve always thought Bruce Wayne was a lot more comfortable being Batman than Bruce, this storyline offers an original take on Batman that reminds the comic book fan of how Dan Slott has always been able to make Spider-Man fresh and inventive. It’s been an excellent series thus far and it promises much more to come.
8. Matt Fraction
It’s difficult to push Matt Fraction so far down on this list but while Casanova, Ody-C and Sex Criminals have been good, they haven’t been as compelling and provocative as previous arcs. Take Sex Criminals for instance. The new arc of showcasing others with powers including an asexual who likes to jump from tall buildings and a full-bodied, good-natured individual with a fairy power has been interesting but it has ignored the arrestingly beautiful psychological relationship issues between Jon and Suzie (or even between Robert Rainbow and his girlfriend for that matter). Perhaps this is all part of a grand master plan as Fraction has definitely surprised me before in his ability to weave multiple storylines in one plot but I’m definitely hoping he returns to some of the mature subject matter in terms of relationships as well in this arc.
7. Ryan North
If you’re not reading The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl and you love comics then you and I will never understand each other. There is no comic that I am as excited for as this comic. Whenever I read it, I have a smile on my face and in this day and age, this is what the comic world needs. And, perhaps the most amazing part, is that North never tires in his wit and enjoyment of the characters. Each issue his characters are glowing with a gorgeous optimism and whimsy that is a pleasure to read. Also, he even created a Spotify playlist to listen to that fits perfectly with the comic. There’s no superhero that eats nuts and kicks butts the same way.
6. Rick Remenber
While I find it interesting to read Tokyo Ghost in between playing way too much of Fallout 4, I’m impressed with how Remender has built yet another world that sucks the reader in with, above all, excellent character development. This has always been the best part of Rick Remender’s comics which I always tagline “Come for the inventive plot, stay for the fascinating full-bodied character development”. The return of Black Science is a triumph for all those who love creative, well-written comics and we’re all awaiting the return of Deadly Class in December from last season’s cliffhanger. Remender has a lot on his plate but if there's anyone that can handle the extra workload and still produce excellent comics, it's him.
5. Kieron Gillen
With Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl and The Wicked + The Divine progressing well, Kieron Gillen stays strong on the power list this week. The last The Wicked + The Divine detailed The Morrigan (the one that got a beatdown from Baal). The issue wasn't as fun as the previous issue where Ananke totally House of Cards the panicked gods into red herrings (she really is one of the most diabolical villains published right now) but it was still a solid issue exploring the backstories of the two nihilistic Gothic characters. Possibly the most fun aspect of The Wicked + The Divine is learning about new characters that never are pegged into good or evil roles and, in the latest issue, Gillen does well at navigating the gods of death with irony and empathy.
4. Brian K Vaughan
With an excellent number one issue of Paper Girls on the shelves, Vaughan followed this up with a second issue that teased a lot more than it explained. Sure, there’s a lot of crazy things going on in the town but the major questions of what and why aren’t really explained yet. Thankfully, this month's issue of We Stand on Guard was one of the best issues to date. The two-four cells are increasing the fight against American forces and there’s hope that this series can easily go from pretty dang good to excellent in no time. It’s no Saga, which comes back next week, but it’s worth reading while we have to wait.
3. Warren Ellis
After creating the brilliantly atmospheric Injection for Image, Ellis continued his streak with a wonderful number one in Karnak and, most amazingly, the first James Bond in god knows how long. And the greatest part is that the James Bond is excellent (like really, really good). Ellis already stands as a hall of famer but his latest collections of series showcase an excellent run from a master at his craft.
2. Jeff Lemire
The Extraordinary X-Men and Plutona, both have intriguing starts while the continuation of the story of All-New Hawkeye and Descender are compelling and easily the first book you start reading out of any pull list. It’s a major scare that when one of your favorite writers continue to take on new projects that the quality will lessen but Lemire’s work has stayed consistent and each new series has been worth reading. Also, with Moon Knight coming in 2016 with the amazing Greg Smallwood, there’s even more to be excited about in the future.
1. Jason Aaron
Jason Aaron catapults to the top of our list this week with excellent reworking of old favorites (The Mighty Thor and Doctor Strange), a continuation of one of the best comic series available today (Southern Bastards), and a new take on the greatest villain of all time in Vader Down. Previously in Gillen’s Darth Vader, he was more of a political maneuverer, yet Aaron has a take on Vader, which he's working with Gillen in this new series, in making him into a badass action star that can take down unbeatable odds with ease. It's a change from how he is previously represented in both the movies and books but one that I believe fans will embrace. Also, Marvel just inked him into a deal to writing for them for 2016 and beyond so expect the wealth of ideas to keep flowing.
That's our list! What'd we get right? What'd we get wrong? Let us know in the comments!