Coloring Between the Lines: Matthew Wilson

Hello Revuers! Sorry for the absences a of late, but we are officially back. What better way to return than with an interview with one of the top colorists in the game today: Matthew Wilson! We appreciate Matthew for his time and are grateful to him for answering our questions. We hope you enjoy this interview as much as we do!

 

Hello Matt, Thanks for agreeing to this interview!

 

  • How long have you been a colorist?

I started coloring for Lee Loughridge’s coloring studio, Zylonol Studios in 2003. I first colored books under my own name, and colored less for Zylonol between 2007-2009.

 

  • Was it what you wanted to be when you were a kid?

No, not really. I liked to draw, paint, and sculpt as a kid and wanted to do any of those things when I grew up. I read comics as a kid, but never thought of coloring as a career I might have one day. I took a class on digital coloring for comics in college, and enjoyed it. I only began coloring comics as a job because Zylonol was located in the same town as my college and I applied to work there after I graduated. It was one of the only places locally that I thought I might like to work. One thing led to another and now it’s 13 years later and I’ve colored a lot of comic books.

 

  • What’s the first comic book series you really got into?

Hm. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles collections they put out in the early 90’s. The colored collections, not the original black and white comics. I wasn’t aware of them until I saw the collections in a bookstore. Then, around the same time was the death of Superman, and then the creation of Image comics by a bunch of creators that I already liked from reading their previous work. Another early influence was Marvel and DC trading cards, because there was a card shop near my house that I could ride my bike to after school, and buy cards. Also, Batman The Animated Series was something else I was really in to as a kid.

 

  • Do you prefer superhero comics or other genres?

If I had to pick, I guess I’d pick other genres, but I like reading both superhero books and non-superhero books.

 

  • Who is your favorite superhero?

Hm, that’s a tough one. Probably Batman if I’m picking just one. Or maybe Spider-Man.

 

  • Who is your favorite non superhero character?

Hellboy, maybe? Or maybe John Constantine. Again, that’s tough.

 

  • What’s your favorite series that’s not a superhero series?

Hellboy or Hellblazer in terms of all-time favorite. More recently I’ve really enjoyed East of West, Lazarus, The Autumnlands, and Southern Bastards.

 

  • What is your process like for coloring?

Black and white pages come from the publisher, I give them to my flatter. He puts in flat colors so it’s easier for me to select areas to color. I then read the script and look over the pages to get an idea of how I want to color the issue. I tend to work on an entire scene at one time, if I can. I’ll set the palette for the scene. Then, I’ll color the backgrounds in all the pages, then go back and color all the characters in the pages.. Lastly I’ll do any of the glows or coloring of the lines for things like powers or explosions. I tend to spend about 1 to 2 hours on a page on average.

 

  • How do you choose a color palette?

I usually look for a story reason first. For example, is there an emotion I can help bring out in the color that will help better tell the story? Or do I need to indicate a particular time of day or a specific kind of lighting? I want to make sure the colors are servicing the story. Then I look at what the artist has given me to work with. Have they set up an interesting light source? Is there a clear indication of the time of day, or something in the environment that might suggest a certain color? Then I’ll also take other scenes in to consideration when picking the palette for the scene I’m working on. Like, what came before? What’s happening in the next scene? I like to have an obvious change in palette when the story changes scenes. So, for example, if we’re inside a laboratory in one scene, then we exit the lab to find it’s in the middle of a desert I want to make sure the lab and the desert don’t use similar palettes. And my choice for the lab palette will be very different if the story shows the next scene to be in the middle of the arctic or something, rather than a desert. So I like to know the context around each scene before deciding on a palette.

 

  • What’s your favorite project you’ve ever worked on?

That’s a tough question to answer because I work on so many that I’m probably forgetting an older one that I really enjoyed. And also, as I try to get better at coloring all the time, I tend to like my current projects more because I feel like I’m doing better work now than I did in the past. For example, I worked with Cliff Chiang on Wonder Woman for 3 years, and after that we moved to working on Paper Girls for the last 2 years. I like our work on Paper Girls much more than what I did on Wonder Woman, but that’s because it’s more current, and I believe I’ve gotten better at coloring. But yeah, some of my favorite projects recently are certainly Wonder Woman and Swamp Thing at DC. Daredevil and Black Widow, both with Chris Samnee at Marvel. The last few years of Thor with Russell Dauterman at Marvel. And many of my collaborations with Jamie McKelvie, including Phonogram, The Wicked + The Divine, and Young Avengers.

 

  • Do you have anything coming out soon that we should keep an eye out for?

There’s a series coming out at Image called Black Cloud that I think will be interesting. It’s written by Jason Latour and Ivan Brandon, with art by Greg Hinkle and colors by me. The premise of the story is allowing for some wildly varying visuals, and really pushing me in different directions depending on the scene.

 

  • Who are some of your favorite colorists in the industry today?

Probably my all time favorite is Dave Stewart. His work is what inspired me to keep getting better when I was first starting out. Currently, I’m always amazed when I see something colored by Bettie Breitweiser, Jordie Bellaire, Tamra Bonvillain, Nathan Fairbairn, Jordan Boyd, Nolan Woodard, Frank Martin, Dave McCaig, Nick Filardi, Kelly Fitzpatrick…. And probably just as many names that I’m forgetting. Honestly, there’s SO many good colorists doing interesting work now. Not to mention artists that are fantastic at coloring themselves like Jen Bartel and Kris Anka and Ryan Browne.

 

  • Is there anyone you draw inspiration from?

Just about everyone I mentioned in the last answer, for sure. In terms of art history, or more historical influences, I’ve always been partial to impressionist painters. My earliest influence on how powerful of a tool that color palettes could be was the Rouen Cathedral series of paintings by Claude Monet. Another artist I like to cite in these kinds of answers is Japanese artist Hiroshi Yoshida. He was a 20th century painter and printmaker. His prints were amazing.

 

  • I’ve personally really enjoyed your work on The Wicked and the Divine, especially how your color art is an intricate part of the story telling. How did you build the aesthetic for that book?

A lot of discussion with the rest of the creative team, building on work we had done together as a team on previous works, and trial and error with different ideas for depicting the god’s abilities and performances. We set out knowing we wanted it to look like something “more” than a typical depiction of superhero powers. So pushing things further than I might go on a superhero book was important. We passed a lot of inspiration images back and forth from things like fashion photography and music videos. The fact that the gods are pop stars meant we took a lot of influence from pop culture. Overall, I’m still using the same framework of how I approach coloring a book, but for this book the pieces I bolt on to that framework just happen to be a bit more neon and glow-y.

 

  • In issue 8 of the wicked and the divine your color work is used as a visual aide for the reader, how did you come up with that idea?

That was one of the hardest issues of coloring I’ve ever done. Not because the technical aspects of coloring took me any longer than other books. But the conceptual part was very time consuming. I came up with new palettes on every page, and sometimes in every panel of the page. Trying to figure out how to convey the experience Laura was going through while being influenced by Dio’s powers was a big challenge. One of the biggest ways we could help the reader “feel” what Laura was feeling was how the pages are colored. Things like the tempo of the party and her experience were noted in the script, and I had to try and make sure the colors matched that tempo. Higher contrast, more saturated when the tempo sped up. And then less saturated and intense when the tempo slowed down. This was another instance of using contrasting palettes to really sell each scene. The pages before and after the party are intentionally less saturated and a bit duller in terms of color. That way, when the party scene starts and I use a bunch of saturated colors, they seem even more saturated and brighter because the previous scenes were so dull.

 

 

  • You have worked with the team of Gillen and McKelvie and with Waid and Samnee on a couple of series’ now, what’s it like to have that level of understanding built with the other members of a creative team?

Long term collaborations are great, because we’re able to really understand each other. Kieron can write to Jamie or my strengths and know we’ll pull off the idea he’s trying to convey. For my part, it means the artist and I can work out exactly how to set up the files to get the best result. Like, any time Jamie draws a god’s crazy power it’s usually on a separate layer so I can easily experiment with it in color. The same goes for Russell’s art on Thor. Each issue we learn something, and as you do dozens of issues together all that accumulated knowledge builds up and makes the process easier and gives us great opportunities to experiment. Working with the same artists for so long also lets us grow and evolve as artists, because we can try different things based on what we liked or didn’t like in our past work. How Jamie or Russell or Samnee are drawing the current issues of our projects has evolved from how they drew earlier issues. And I’ve subtly changed how I color them too. From issue to issue it may be hard to spot, but over time we’re always changing our approach in little ways.

 

  • You have a very distinctive visual style, how did you cultivate that aesthetic?

I have no idea, honestly! I did not set out to cultivate this style. And I’m not even sure I could telly what my “style” is. I kind of feel like I don’t have one, but I hear people say they recognize my colors, so I must have something people identify. But, like most artists, the style is probably a result of the influences I consume and how those influences get pieced together in to the art that I make.

 

  • Burritos or coneys?

I probably like burritos more but I definitely eat more hotdogs.

 

  • Where’s your favorite place to pick up a burrito or a coney when you’re at cons?

JJ’s Red Hots in Charlotte, North Carolina is my favorite hotdog place.

 

  • What’s your favorite convention?

Heroes Con in Charlotte, North Carolina.

 

  • What would be your dream collaboration?

I don’t really have one, I don’t think. I get to work on so many different projects every year, with so many different collaborators that I’m kept busy and fulfilled, which doesn’t leave me much time to dream about future collaborations.

 

  • If you weren’t a comic book artist what would be your career?

A park ranger!

 

  • What’s the biggest difference between working for the big two and on your indie titles?

Some small technical things on certain books, but creatively I’m given a lot of freedom regardless of if the book is work for hire for the big 2 or a creator owned book.

 

  • Who are some of your favorite artists to work with?

All of my regular collaborators like Jamie McKelvie, Cliff Chiang, Chris Samnee, Russell Dauterman, and Kris Anka. I did a bunch of Secret Avengers issues with Michael Walsh and they were a ton of fun to do. Greg Hinkle, who I’m coloring on the upcoming Black Cloud is an amazing artist that’s incredibly fun to color.

 

  • Who are some of your favorite writers to work with?

Again, my regulars are great: Kieron Gillen, Jason Aaron, Brian K Vaughan, Mark Waid. Coloring Star-Lord is the first time I’ve worked with Chip Zdarsky, and he’s been really enjoyable to work with. I only worked with Matt Fraction once, on a Mandarin annual, but he put a lot of thought in to the color when writing that story and that was an enjoyable assignment.

 

  • Who’s your favorite character to color?

Hard to say, as I’m more in to storytelling with palettes than I am in to coloring a specific character. Thor has been fun because it’s been pretty much a straight up fantasy book with some sci-fi visuals. So that’s allowed me to do some really fun and wildly varied palettes. I can say for sure that I often hate coloring red costumes, and I usually don’t like coloring shiny metal. So, I guess it’s good I don’t work on Iron Man!

 

  • What would be a dream series for you to work on?

Black Widow, and I already did it! I enjoy spy stories, so that was a lot of fun to help create the look of one in the latest run of Black Widow. I’ve never worked on a Batman book, and would like to do that one day. But I’d probably want to do some kind of stand alone Elseworlds type story where it’s Batman in the 1920’s or something. And another answer I could give would be anything Hellboy. But I’d never want to try and fill Dave Stewart’s shoes.

 

  • As the comic book industry moves more digital do you feel like there’s been a shift in the industry to recognize the importance of Color Artist?

Yes, but not really because of the trends toward digital. I think the art of coloring is becoming more appreciated as it matures. Digital coloring isn’t that old, it’s only been around a few decades at this point. And the tools we’re using to color have really only become widely accessible even more recently than that. So you’ve got the tools getting better together with the colorists, and artist that color themselves, getting better at using those tools and the result is coloring is getting better and better. A lot of the traditional inking techniques were developed to convey information that older coloring methods could not. Hatching for shading and showing volume in a shape, things like that. Now, there isn’t anything that color can’t convey, and artists have responded to that by sometimes making less marks in black and white and leaving it up to the color to convey those elements of the art. So the role of the colorist has grown more important as their ability to bring substantive additions to the page and the story has grown.

 

Thank you for your time Matt, I’ve enjoyed talking to you. Looking forward to your great work in the future.

 

 

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New Comic book Day Top 5: Sept 21st

Hello Revuers! Another great comic book day is upon us! Which means it’s time to take a look at my top 5 most anticipated comic coming out tomorrow. This week there was, once again, some stiff competition. But in the end there could be only 1…..er I mean 5! Tell me what you think of my picks in the comment section below, and let me know what’s on your pull list or what you are most looking forward to.

 

5: Horizon #3

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Horizon from Writer Brandon Thomas and artist Juan Gedeon has been a fun and often surprising comic so far. It takes a very common place idea and puts a unique and fresh spin on it. The first two issues were very solid with great world building from Thomas and Gedeon. The third issue has promised to show us our first glimpse at a villain so I am excited for that. If you haven’t had this series on your pull list you may want to rethink your priorities.

 

4: Mighty Thor #11

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This series from the acclaimed team of Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman and Matthew Wilson continues with what is being billed as the Team up no one expected. I have been following Thor since Jane Foster first took over the mantle after the events of Original Sin. Before that I had never been much of a Thor guy as I always found him to be sort of one note. This new Thor is an evolving, relateable character with a ton of nuance. We can thank Jason Aaron for that. This series is one of few that has always been on my pull list for the last two years and it’s looking like it’s place is firmly cemented there.

 

3: Batman #7

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This issue starts a new arc for Tom King and sees a new artist, Riley Rossmo, take over art duties. The title of this arc is called NIGHT OF THE MONSTER MEN, and is a continuing story over all of the Batman titles. I don’t know much about this story arc other than it involves mad science monster. Really though, do I need to know any more than that? I love the writings of Tom King and the art of Riley Rossmo, so you know that I’m in 100%

 

2: Patsy Walker: AKA Hellcat #10

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I have loved this series from the very first issue. Kate Leth, Brittany Williams and Megan Wilson have crafted a world that is so fun to explore each and every month. This issue sees the end of the series’ second arc! It has been an excellent series for the first 9 issues and I expect no different from this issue. I’m excited for the future of the series and saddened by the departure of Megan Wilson (if you would like to read the interview we did with her then click here)

 

1: Wicked & Divine 1831 (one shot)

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I love this series. Thecreative team of Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matthew Wilson and Clayton Cawles can do no wrong in my mind. This issue looks interesting as it i a one shot set in the past. 1831 to be exact. I like the idea of a sort of anthology of the Pantheon, and looking at them in the past. I think that’s an interesting concept. The art in this issue is by Stephanie Hans (Journey Into Mystery, Angela), who I really enjoy. Should be a great issue!

 

So there you have it! Did your most anticipated books make the cut? Tell us in the comments below. We would also love to see you list of most anticipated comics!

 

-Andrew

 

 

 

 

 

The Voice is All: A Manifesto (Of Sorts)

Hello Revuers. As I am sure you have seen already, there is a new kid on the block. That kid is me. I am that kid. By way of an introduction, I thought I should write a few brief thoughts on comics. What I think of them. What draws me to them (or not). What I look for in a great comic. My plan is that this post will set the tone a bit for my contribution to this site. Andrew (who was so kind as to ask me to write for DR) will continue all the great stuff he is doing – the week to week stuff, the interviews, the cons, etc. – while I will tend to gravitate toward the bigger picture, both literally and figuratively as I will be writing about comics, writ large, graphic novels (and trades), and about comic book films, which have turned what was once a throwaway entertainment to one of the most popular mediums in the world. This is my first post here, so thank you for reading this far. I’ll try not to lose you.

I would describe myself as a comics agnostic. I am not a zealot, and I do not think I am a heretic (though some may disagree). There is a ludicrous amount of comic books, and comic related films, produced each year. Some of them are good. Some even exceptional. Most of them are not very good. This is true of every artistic medium, especially in an age when we can create something and then release it to the world in mere seconds.

So here is what I love: Sandman, Calvin & Hobbes, Fables, Watchmen, Essex County, Blankets, The Long Halloween, Peanuts, Kingdom Come, Little Nemo in Slumberland, Persepolis, Marvel 1602, Hellboy, The Far Side, All-Star Superman, Tintin, Maus, The Dark Knight Returns, Bone, Garfield Minus Garfield.

I love Jacques Tardi. I love Sam Raimi’s Spider-man. I love Nolan’s Batman. I love del Toro’s Hellboy. I love Ang Lee’s Hulk. I love Donner’s Superman. I love Batman: The Animated Series. I love The Incredibles.

I love that Miles Morales is Spider-man. I love that Riri Williams is Iron Man. I love that Amadeus Cho is Hulk. I love that Jane Foster is Thor.

What unites these things, and what separates them from the many comics I have read and merely liked, or read and not liked at all, is the strength and singularity of their creators’ voices and their unwillingness to play by the usual rules of comics. They mess with tradition. They forge new territory. They take creative risks. Above all, they tell good stories. Comics as a storytelling vehicle works best when a strong, individual voice, meets a distinctive visual stylist. This is why Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Black Panther is so exciting and wonderful. It’s why things like a prominent essayist for The Atlantic writing a mainstream comic book should happen more often. Call it an auteurist theory of comics. Call it heresy. Call it whatever you like. I call it comics at their best.

Forget the canon. Forget what comics are “supposed” to be. Once we begin to reach uncharted waters, that’s when I start to get interested.

So that’s what I’m here to write about. And hey, if you know where to find more good stuff, I’m always looking for recommendations. I’ll be around.

 

-Ian

End of the Year Top 10 List from Deja.Revue and Friends

Hello Revuers! Hard to believe it’s that time of the year again. 2015 has just flown by! It proved to be a fantastic year for comics. With so many great series it was hard to limit it to just 5 or 10. So I asked some of our friends of Deja.Revue to help me, by picking their favorite series’ as well. The contributors names will be centered and emboldened. When applicable it will also be a hyperlink so that you can check out their blog. I highly recommend that you do as the contributors to this article are all top notch. So with out further ado, here are the top comics of 2015.

Andrew Horton

Head Writer: Deja.Revue

10. Spider-Gwen, Publisher: Marvel, Writer Jason Latour Art: Robbi Rodriguez, Color Art: Rico Renzi.

Spider-Gwen suffered from to many reboots in to short of time. First they had their first issue then less that a year later it was back to a new issue one. This wasn’t the creative teams fault and they did the best they could to salvage what they could from the situation. The post Secret Wars have been great so far and I think that next year this title could be much higher on this list.

9. Dr. Strange, Publisher: Marvel, Writer Jason Aaron, Art: Chris Bachalo

With Dr Strange coming to cinemas next fall a post Secret Wars universe seemed like a great opportunity to launch a new solo series for our Sorcerer Supreme. Luckily for Marvel they hired writer supreme Jason Aaron, who can do almost no wrong. I picked up the first issue and feel completely under it’s spell (to much? Okay okay no more terrible puns).  The art by Chris Bachelo really gives us a glimpse of the oddness and absurdity of the world in which Dr. Strange lives. Overall a spectacular job!

8. Invincible Iron Man, Publisher: Marvel, Writer: Brian Michael Bendis, Art: David Marquez

The creative team behind Ultimate Spider-Man team up again to bring a normal Iron Man back to a solo adventure (by normal I mean not a “Superior” Axis influenced Iron Man, He’s still a billionaire playboy). This series sees an exciting shift of the status quo for one of Marvel’s biggest villains (no spoilers) and a quite compelling story line. O also a night beach fight with sword wielding ninjas (yeah, it’s as awesome as it sounds). The writing is the nest by Bendis in quite awhile and the art is amazingly well done.

7. Silver Surfer, Publisher: Marvel, Writer: Dan Slott, Artist: Michael and Laura Allred.

Enough can never be said about the fantastic art by the Allreds on this series. They truly take it from being a good comic to being a great comic. That being said I was happy to see how the events of this series influenced Secret Wars.  Made the series fun to read as a companion piece to Hickman’s saga. I can’t wait until it starts back up!

6. Thor/The Mighty Thor, Publisher: Marvel, Writer: Jason Aaron Art: Russel Daughterman, Color Art: Matthew Wilson

The first volume of a Female Thor was cut short by Secret Wars. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t good. In fact it was spectacular. Jane Foster added a depth to the character of Thor that was so fun to read. Now that we can focus our main attention on the story and less on who is Thor I feel like the title will get even stronger. If the first two issues are anything to go by I might be correct. Now that the story tellers can do some character building with Jane they are taking full advantage. The opening scene of issue one was a tear jerking emotional roller coaster. The play between the power of a God and the frailty of the human condition is really what makes this series so compelling.

5. Injection, Publisher: Image, Writer: Warren Ellis, Art Declan Shalvey, Color Art: Jordie Bellaire

The creative team behind the magnificent first volume of last years Moon Knight returns. This time with a slow burning supernatural drama that left the readers with more questions than answers for much of the first arc. This lead to a fantastic payoff that was a thrill ride in of itself. The writing is solid, but really the art is the stand out. The team of Shalvey and Bellaire work so well together and really compliment each others style. I hope they work on more books together in the future.

4. Gotham Academy, Publisher: DC, Writer: Brenden Fletcher and Becky Cloonan, Art: Karl Kerschl

The first and only DC title to make my list. It had a bit of a break during DCs Convergence event and just started up again. Still the story telling alone is worthy of the number 3 spot on this list. Cloonan and Fletcher take a rag tag group of kids and turn them into lovable characters that you genuinely feel a connection to (esp. maps). The art is excellent as well, with a heavy digital design and a slight manga influence. the next arc looks to be just as good if not better than the last.

3. Tokyo Ghost, Publisher: Image, Writer: Rick Remender, Art: Sean Murphy, Color Art: Matt Hollingsworth

Tokyo Ghost is a hauntingly gruesome look into (possibly our) the future. It asks the question what happens if we never have to look away from our screens? It questions society’s reliance on technology and what the repercussions of that reliance may be. Especially in relation to the children who grow up in this society. Tokyo Ghost has the most eerie and haunting line I have read this year (heck maybe ever) at the end of issue one.

2. The Wicked + The Divine, Publisher: Image, Writer: Kieron Gillen Art: Jamie McKelvie, Color Art: Matthew Wilson

I really struggled with the top two. Which is funny because the couldn’t be less similar. TWTD is, on the surface, a story of Gods and men and the interactions between them. Beneath the surface it is a cunning social commentary of the way people treat Pop Stars and the emotional repercussions the “Gods” and the “common folk” alike. The art is beyond anything I’ve ever seen. The team of McKelvie and Wilson consistently bring innovative designs and fresh panel work. The coloring is an art in and of it’s self. If you took any of the elements by themselves (story telling, art, colors) they would be fantastic, but this is one case where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

1. Southern Bastards, Publisher: Image, Writer: Jason Aaron + Jason Latour, Art: Jason Latour

Southern Bastards was my pick at six months and it is still my pick at the end of the year. Such fantastic story telling and art. Rough and tumble pages spilling forth gritty takes on a (slightly) exaggerated South. Jason Aaron and Jason Latour have crafted a masterpiece. Its that simple. They consistently toy with the emotions of the reader and in that regard show us that living is a messy thing and hardly anything is as simple as it appears. Except Ribs. Ribs are simple.

Andy Eschenbach

Comic Book Author and Tattoo Specialist

Top 10 comics of 2015 by Andy Eschenbach Wow! Twenty-Fifteen! Nice job, everybody! Except you. Yeah, you:) Comics is in such a great state right now. That said, it wasn’t hard to figure out which ten books I was most excited to pick up and read each beautiful Wednesday. And so it goes:

10. Joe Golem: Occult Detective (Dark Horse) – Mignola and Golden give us an intriguing combination of pulpy crime and Hebrew mythos. The environment, a sunken Manhattan, is appropriately depicted by the tough-looking art of Patric Reynolds, and stylish palette of Dave Stewart. Palumbo’s pulp-novel covers drive it right off the rack, too. This mini-series makes me want to dive right into it’s predecessor- a graphic novel unknown to me prior- just as much as I anticipate it’s next few issues. I WAS highly offended at the treatment of Witches throughout the story so far, as I personally practice Wizardry on a daily basis. HAHA! No I wasn’t! Less Witches= more magical power all for me! HAHAHAA! Kill ‘em, Golem!

9. Island Magazine (Image): Go ahead and get mad that I’m not going to mention every person involved in this book- but your time would be better spent reading. Any one of the creators in the past four issues of Island has made something strange and awesome, and more than worth your time. It’s also great to see a regularly-scheduled anthologystyle book on the shelves! What a great way to showcase talented folks and their work! More of this, please!

8. Tet (IDW): A dark human drama/mystery surrounding a group of people bound by events taking place during the Vietnam War, brought to us by Paul Allor and Paul Tucker, that is most certainly worth your attention. Not many stories that share setting or subject deal with it in such a smart or emotional way. It’s compelling and heartfelt, realistic to motives as much as to history, and supported by simplychiseled art. Really good. Really hard. Real.

7. Mythic (Image):  Phil Hester is my new hero. What a gift to Comics: a book that combines an American sense of humor to a theme of Myth and Magic- something more often tackled, with such a skill level, by European writers. Duly brought to life by the sharp, intense art of John McCrea and refreshingly simple-yet-poppy colors of Michael Spicer, this book simultaneously brings back everything good about old-school Vertigo-style stuff, with none of the garbage, while presenting characters and jokes you have never seen or heard before. The funny thing is, they’ve been here all along, in our own histories and fables.

6. Invisible Republic (Image): Gabriel Hardman. Corrina Bechko. Jordan Boyd. Perfect. Gritty and grim, immersive and convincing, politically
poignant, and beautifully executed. Give this first arc a read, and find out about the lies people perpetuate- the truths they inhibit- to reach or maintain power. In space. Stories like these help remind us  that true history isn’t always the commonly accepted one.

5. We Can Never Go Home (Black Mask Studios): Punkrock runaway story? With Super-Powers?! Fuck yes! 🙂 I mean… whatever, man 😐 Great characterization by Matthew Rosenberg and Patrick Kindlon- the kind that really captures those moments, from awkward to awesome, that defined us in our salad days- as they weave us through an explosive gauntlet of violent reaction, tense uncertainty, and knee-jerk decision making in true Comic Book fashion. Josh Hood’s illustrations are just the right thing, too, along with Tyler Boss’s colors, providing the action and clarity to move the story forward in a smooth and exciting way. And there’s a bonus hit from Brian Level in the back five pages of the fifth issue! I’m stoked to see this continue! Good stuff, Black Mask Studios!

4. The Violent (Image): “Whut?! He put a book with only one issue out in his Top 4?!” Yeah. It’s that good. Perfect Crime by Ed Brisson, Adam Gorham, and Michael Garland. It’s moody and raw, and it’ll get your gut more than once in the first 22 pages. Don’t read any spoilers. Just go buy it.

3. Paper Girls (Image): It’s refreshing to read a book that seems to have no overt intentions of becoming a movie, as far as approach goes, but still imbues the qualities of those great pre-teen adventure films from the 80’s. Vaughn serves up all the delicious fun and excitement from the Goonies or Stand By Me rolled around in a mysterious sci-fi breading, beautifully presented by Cliff Chiang and Matt Wilson with bold and simple excellence. For all it’s movie-like charm, it presents outlandish events in a way that seems fluidly plausible, due to the perfect capturing of the feel of the era. Grab your Walkman, get on your bike, ride to the Comics Shop, pick up Paper Girls, and sneak a smoke in the back alley with your angsty friends while you read it.

2. The Vision (Marvel): I was massively excited to find out that my favorite Avenger was getting a solo book, and, although I was unfamiliar with the team’s work prior, I will now be finding more things to read by Tom King, and look at by Gabriel Hernandez Walta. The Vision is an eerie tale designed with plenty of social critique and suburban strangeness. Kings writing has a unique way of forging gut-wrenching emotional sympathy towards replicant human characters. Walta’s art is beautiful, and follows suit with King’s style by perfectly presenting the Vision family over a homogenized landscape, with moments of action and excitement sprinkled in. Jordie Bellaire’s colors are the icing, lending picture perfect hues and gorgeous rendering to each scene. I heard a critique that a story like this couldn’t last for more than a handful of issues. Who cares?! If
Marvels’s going to put out mini-series of this caliber, then so be it! I’d lay wages on a bet that this team could deliver for as long as necessary, though- and have high hopes that they will be given the chance.

1. Tokyo Ghost (Image): With Tokyo Ghost, Rick Remender hits me in all the same soft spots he did with his famed Uncanny X-force run, but from all different angles. Sci-Fi Action and Ultra Violence, Love, Hate, Sex, Depression, Addiction- all properly tailored in to the story with pertinence and excitement. Sean Murphy’s art is the best possible thing for this “tech-addicted dystopian” society, edgy and clear, with just enough manga influence to bring out the neo-japanese aspects of the world. It’s great to see that Matt Hollingsworth can truly do Murphy justice with his colors, as well. The overall effect is a presentation of human motives and drives so true that it hurts, amazingly believable considering the fantastical setting their pitted against. I can’t wait to read more!  It would be wrong not to mention (although I’m not sure if they technically happened this year or last) “Rasputin” by Alex Grecian and Riley Rossmo, and “Blast Furnace” by Ryan Browne. The first run on both were new to me in 2015, and both have continued into this year in work that I have yet to read, but would unabashedly force into anyone’s hands given proper opportunity. Oh yeah- and I don’t care what anyone says- the Amazing Spider-Man is still super-cool! On that note, here’s to a new year, and even better Comics! HOORAY!!

Jerry Caskey

Associate Writer: Deja.Revue

 1. Providence

Alan Moore takes the original stories of Lovecraft, digests them, and skillfully transplants them into the framework of American history. Told as a series of segmented encounters, Moore skillfully glides through horror after horror to produce a canon of terror matched by none but Lovecraft himself. Moore is relentless in his quest to push the limits of his protagonist and to see how far the human mind will go to explain away what it can’t understand.

For an artist to stay out of writer Alan Moore’s way and let him narrate this story would have been sufficient. But that is not what Jacen Burrows does. The art throughout Providence is done with enough realism to create a sympathetic universe, but not so real that the supernatural cannot be accepted. In some cases Burrows’ art actually conveys critical information to the story (note the progression of the moon throughout issue #6) that would otherwise bog down the dialog.

Contrary perhaps to many other titles, or even comics in general, the coloring in Providence plays an important role in maintaining some semblance of sanity for the reader. The colors begin as one would expect for life in New York, but quickly deteriorate into drab almost sepia tones that convey the deteriorating mental state of Mr. Black. Through issues #5 and #6, the coloring of a panel also indicates whether some situation is reality or some perverted perception of reality. While less attentive coloring wouldn’t break this series, Juan Rodriguez does not let the opportunity pass to polish up an already gleaming work

2. Injection

Warren Ellis, Jordie Bellaire, and Declan Shalvey are quickly becoming a favorite of mine. The three riff off each other to create this story as a series of flashbacks mixed in with current events. As the story unfolds it is narrated by an enigmatic figure in the form of bright yellow boxes that starkly contrast the otherwise subdued pages. Ellis does not immediately reveal the identity of this mysterious narrator, which makes the moment of understanding that much more rewarding. In this Ellis ensures that the narrative is vibrant and never stays in one place for too long. This vibrant narrative is admittedly confusing at times and, without the colorful guidance of Bellaire, could quickly lose the reader. Shalvey comes in to create a sense of physical movement in each character as they move through breathtaking environments

3. Descender

To those familiar with Jeff Lemire’s previous independent works need no other reason to read Descender. Lemire presents TIM-21 as a relic of a time before the outlaw and subsequent holocaust of androids. The narrative strolls through uncertainty and self-reflection in the mind of an android who may hold the key to understanding these recent activities. Dustin Nguyen presents this odyssey in a watercolor fashion that truly conveys a sense of wonder. For a series so focused on introspection, Nguyen conveys emotion masterfully through movement and facial expressions. This may be the best true Sci-Fi series for a while.

4. Radioactive Spider-Gwen

Due to the unexpected success of 2015’s Spider-Gwen series, our spider clad heroine gets her third introduction of the year. Radioactive Spider-Gwen reiterates some of what we already know about Gwen to bring new readers up to speed. Some would say that an entire issue is too much recap, but Jason Latour drives the story along at a comfortable pace such that the slow start can be forgiven.

As usual, the art continues to awe and inspire. Robbi Rodriguez and Rico Renzi continue to leave their colorful mark on every page. Keeping up with the (surprising) amount of action Latour throws at them, Rodriguez and Renzi still invent new ways to present the story. We get a POV look at Gwen slinging her way through the city among smaller images of the same event to convey movement. Together they highlight small details that make re-reading this series as rewarding as ever.

5. They’re Not Like Us

In a world of worry, planning, and lies that exist only as thoughts in the minds of stranger, the curse of hearing these thoughts would get the best of most people. How can you silence the thoughts of everyone in the world? Eric Stephenson introduces us to Syd, a girl who has determined that the only way to make it stop is to kill herself. Simon Gane presents this world with dramatic and impactful art that enhances the narrative in some clever and unique ways that would be best un-spoiled. Bellaire follows up and gives a familiar feel to an otherwise unfamiliar world.

6. UFOlogy

Beneath it’s symbols and bright hues of pink and orange on faded blue and green backdrops, UFOlogy is a coming of age story with aliens. A genre that has established itself as legitimate since the days of E.T. and persisted through the likes of Super 8, Earth to Echo, etc. In spite of this, James Tynion and Matt Fox have managed to keep UFOlogy fresh and entertaining.

7. Divinity

Divinity is the third title in Valiant Entertainment’s “Valiant Next” series. Matt Kindt keeps a straight face for the first third of issue #1 as he tells a down to earth story of Cosmonaut Abram Adams’ progress through the Soviet space program. After this slow start, the story is moved forward very quickly, skipping years and continents to continually astonish the reader. The art team, Trevor Hairsine, Ryan Winn, and David Baron give the story a timeless quality. The shuttles and space suits are vaguely historical but heavily imagined. Although Hairsine seems to be a master of establishing shots, sometimes the expressions and close ups can fall flat. Do not let those moments deter you though. This is an entertaining and rewarding read.

8. No Mercy

 

Alex de Campi fully understands the idea of looming dread. He also has completely digested the idea of a “teenager”. To use almost every stereotype of teenager as one’s prtagonists is a bold move, but to do so without seeming pandering or tongue-in-cheek is amazing. De Campi utilizes the technique of cluing in the audience without making the characters aware of some looming demise to instill dread. Throughout the series, Carla Speed McNeil is one of the best artists I had never heard of. She presents characters who are full of live and expression, truly one of the best aspects of No Mercy.

9. Age of Reptiles

Ricardo Delgado is back! Age of Reptiles returns as a shining light for the (criminally underpopulated) genre of wordless storytelling. Needless to say, the art surrounding the journey of Spinosaurus aegyptiacus is awesome. The scenery is full of life and no space is wasted. The vibrant colors pop. The Dinosaurs are unique and barbaric. It’s easy to get lost in this rich world in an age long past our own, the age of reptiles!

10. Kaijumax

For a story about a maximum-security prison for the world’s Kaiju, Kaijumax is surprisingly serious. Zander Cannon brings to life a world where even the largest monsters have personal problems. Kaijumax is a pleasant read filled with genuinely interesting characters and bright cartoonist artwork. A real treat!

 

Kuliebear

Writer: House Of Flying Scalpels

 

1. Low

Remender has had another good year but it is Greg Tocchini that has made this book shine so incredibly. The story does not play out as you would expect but more like chapters that barely follow on from one another. But as each comic forms a unit of an overall story, they each have well-structured ideas and a character that truly suffers and transitions from beginning to end. The art is so unique and beautiful that what seems a little obscure becomes very familiar very quickly: just wonderful each and every time.

 

2. Ms Marvel

As a man of Indian descent I am very akin to Kamala and her heritage. This is the first time that I felt like a book was intimately related to me, and it feels very odd but amazing at the same time. Having gone through similar family turmoil, I fully appreciate the back-story at hand. But G Willow Wilson is expert at having a hero being effective and fearful at the same time, but overcome those odds to become amazing. Whether it is Miyazawa or Alphona on the art, as long as Herring is colouring, it feels very homely.

 

3. The Wicked + The Divine

The end of the original arc was devastating and quite upsetting as we lose yet another character, but the specialist single issues featuring guest artists were also incredible. The Tara issue saw Tula Lotay being emotional in an issue that was truly disturbing but also befitting of the story. I very much look forward to the rest of the story, but with a touch of trepidation.

 

4. Invisible Republic

The political machinations of this book are very well described and subtly revealed. The first arc was brilliant in its ability to start with a simple murder cover up but lead onto a story about how a dictator came to lead. That level of powerful story telling required a solid story but also an impressive artist that was capable of the gravity of the task. Hardman and Boyd are up to that task and create a guttural and intense society in need of repair.

 

5. Southern Bastards

It used to all be about Earl Tubb but that was a long time ago. Now we have seen the second arc pass with the tragedy of Euless Boss’ origin and also snap issues of other members of the community. These were very compelling and also terrifying tales of prominent members of that community and indicated how enough was soon to be enough. Earl Tubb’s death will not be for nothing as the Jason’s make for unmissable reading.

 

6. Rasputin

Riley Rossmo has a beautiful ability to produce emotive responses from Rasputin that depicted the turmoil and weight of his past. Both of Grecian’s arcs were fantastic in their story and brining together of a true story and yet a modern twist to a character that died many years ago. Utterly fantastic to look at and a joy to read.

 

7. Gotham Academy

As Ms Marvel delivers in a naïve yet enthusiastic way, Academy delivers in an exuberant and adventurous one. The writing is quite sweet and very akin to teenage life but it is the sense of wonder and exploration that this book captures, that makes it so fun to read. Kerschl and Msassyk deliver a stunning cell shaded effect to their work but it is fun and caricaturist for a teenage book.

 

8. Daredevil

I said a fond farewell to this book because Waid and Samnee produced their final issue. And what a run it was, ending with a finale that changed all we knew about Daredevil but they took him to a place where he belonged and was happy to go to. It made sense because they made it make sense and I loved every issue of it. His relationship with Kirsten and with Foggy developed in tune and his own insecurities brought out into the open. I shall miss this book dearly.

 

9. Mind MGMT

Matt Kindt has never produced a comic as good as this one. That is not a surprise given that he had full control of it and produced it month in, month out for years. The story progressed to a fantastic finale that was befitting of all the mystery and magical powers that we have seen since issue one. Meru was a beautiful central character that was worthy of the weight placed on her, and Kindt’s imprecise watercolours became the only way to tell this story.

 

10. Secret Wars

It seems wrong that Hickman’s books don’t feature higher on this list but it has been a slow year. Secret Wars has come and not gone but the Marvel universe has moved on around it. This is a problem but despite the tie-ins and the delays, it has generally been wonderful. The story has taken its classic slow twists and turns but the art is stunning. Each Ribic page will blow your mind in its depth and dexterity. It is a befitting end to Hickman’s run but we are still waiting for it.

 

Jaythreadbear

Writer at: Jaythreadbear

 

Here’s a list, in no particular order, of comic book runs that I have had a hell of a lot of fun reading this year; these are the ones for which I counted down days, constantly re-read previous issues, and told everyone I know to go buy them immediately:
They’re Not Like Us
This truly has been an stand out book for me this year; a constant source of both amazing writing and beautiful artwork. It’s really a disservice to the book to describe it this way, but it is almost like a contemporary retelling of the X-Men, with Magneto taking the place of Professor X. The plight of ostracized minorities and those considered ‘different’ is still in there, but instead of costumed super heroics there is brutal vigilante justice, and in place of sage guidance from a wise mutant there is an insidiousness and paranoia at every turn. In a year when X-Men comics were really not very good it has been a great relief to find a book that takes a similar concept and then tells a fresh and compelling story with it. They’re Not Like Us is a brilliant, dark, and thrilling book, and that is even before you take into account the outstanding art and colouring in every panel on every page.
Batgirl
Despite faltering somewhat in it’s sophomore arc this book remains a pleasure to read, due largely to the ever joyous artwork from Babs Tarr (the colouring from Serge LaPointe has been consistently wonderful too). Tarr’s art continues to elevate the book, even as the story elements that made the first arc such a success have fallen by the wayside. The overarching mystery that underpinned the narrative, the establishment of Barbara Gordon’s new life & friends in Burnside, the integration of contemporary visual elements like phone screens and playlists, and even the complex layouts demonstrating Batgirl using her eidetic memory, have all been oddly sadly absent. Fortunately there’s still that art from Babs Tarr, and a winning supporting cast that still make the book a strong read.
Descender
Of all the great new indie scifi books this year Jeff Lemire’s futuristic fable is the one that has captured my imagination most utterly. Following a cataclysmic and unexplained event (featuring giant Galactus sized robots!) a futuristic inter-planetary society spends decades picking up the pieces and persecuting the few regular sized robots that remain. The discovery of a particular AI, in the form of a small boy, brings together a ragtag band of unlikely heroes on a quest that really isn’t clear yet, but damn do I want to know where it goes next. The art is stunning, the characters are broadly drawn but engaging, and the universe is magnificent – this is Star Wars meets AI meets Darren Aronofsky, and it is sublime.
Prez
On paper this book sounds awful; the zany adventures of the first teen President of the United States. On actual comic book paper it is awesome. Besides anything else the top-notch art is by Ben Caldwell, someone who I’ve been waiting for more work from ever since he blew me away with his Wonder Woman pages way back in Wednesday Comics. And alongside those excellent visuals is a wonderfully sharp and pointed political satire, tackling everything from lobbyists to corporations to healthcare policy. Against the backdrop of an exaggerated, explicitly corrupt, hyper-capitalist America, writer Mark Russell works wonders telling an interesting, personal story about Beth Rogers, aforementioned teen President, but also manages to weave some genuinely worthwhile political debate into the book too. The first volume wrapped up this year, with another 6 issues allegedly planned for 2016 (sales sadly haven’t been great) – quite frankly EVERYONE should buy this so that we definitely get more issues!
Silver Surfer
If there is a character whose comic I never thought I would be at all engrossed by, even more so than teen President Rogers, it was the Silver Surfer. And yet, every month the combined talents of storytellers Dan Slott and Mike Allred have come up with outlandish, inventive, heartwarming, heartbreaking, space adventures for Norrin and his companion Dawn Greenwood to go on. This book is like the best of Star Trek and Doctor Who and Red Dwarf rolled in to one, and for every imaginative plot there is an innovative artistic representation to go with it (the time loop issue that has to be read backwards and forwards in a physical loop is a particularly stunning example). And not only is it a fun book with goofy aliens and comedy and spectacular space encounters, but the relationship at it’s heart, the blossoming love between Norrin and Dawn, is genuinely the most engaging romance in contemporary comics – it is lovely and realistic (in space!) and believable. Silver Surfer is somehow both a madcap adventure through the galaxy and a wonderful drama, and every issue is a marvel.

Tales From the Pull List (Aug. 12th): We are living in a (Im)material world

Pick of the Week:

Phonogram: The Immaterial girl #1: So full disclosure: I own the first two volumes of Phonogam, and I have read them both numerous times. When I found out that they were making another volume of it I freaked out. I marked the day on my calender, and stared longingly at it. With this hype I had built, a worrisome thought crept into my mind: what if it didn’t live up to the hype I had created in my own head? What if the beauty of what it had been overshadowed what it will be. I am happy to report that it lived up to the hype I had created for it, and then some. The issue is a nostalgia filled roller coaster of emotion. Gillen’s script is so good that at times it hurts. The art by McKelvie and Wilson holds up to its standard of excellence and more.  Wilson has cemented (in my mind at least) his status of the best color artist in the game. Seriously, is there a better creative team than Gillen, McKelvie, and Wilson? I dare you try, I know you’ll fail. Go buy this issue.If you haven’t read the previous volumes of Phonogram you will still enjoy it. If you have you’ll enjoy it even more. Rating: 10/10

Buy

Injection #4: More of the back story is explored in this issue, but the answers are coupled with more questions. Ellis, Shalvey, and Bellaire craft an excellent issue with lots of character development. With more of the background being revealed you finally get a sense of what’s going on, and that in and of it’s self is exciting. Not as much action this issue as the bulk of it was dedicated to back story. An almost antithesis of issue three really. I’m excited to continue this series and see which bends first: Science, or magic. Rating: 7/10

Gotham Academy #9: Another strong showing for my favorite series from DC. Could there be a wolf at Gotham Academy? Or something more sinister? This issue builds on the mystery that surrounds Olive’s mother while providing plenty of action in the for of a man bat and a wolf man(?). We discover that certain people are excellent at science, and that they may or may not have a secret layer. The creative team of Cloonan, Fletcher, Kerschl, Lapointe, and Msassyk continue to deliver month after month. At this point if you aren’t reading Gotham Academy you might want to re-evaluate your life. Rating: 8/10

A-Force #3: She-hulk finds herself in the midst of trouble after jumping threw the portal from the end of issue two. Will she be able to make it back to her team? Whats the meaning of the portals? What’s causing them? All these questions are, more or less, answered in this issue. I’ll keep this mini review spoiler free though. A-Force continues to be a fresh air in what is starting to feel like an aimost-stale mega event. The only titles I read from Secret Wars is Secret Wars and this title. I am glad it’s continuing after Battleworld is no more. Rating: 7/10

Secret Wars #5: Speaking of Secret Wars, the main title continues to surprise me. I know I’ve said it before but Jonathan Hickman is a genius, or a mad scientist. One of the two. In this issues we see the repercussions of the shocking end to Issue 4 (no spoilers, just know that it was indeed shocking). We learn more of how God Doom was able to save what fragments of the muti-verse that he did save (with the helm\p of a very special someone). Truly the exploration of how battleworld came to be is fascinating to me. It’s clear that this event was months, no, years in the making. The art by Ribic continues to astound. All in all a great addition to a great series. Rating: 8/10

Skip

Starfire #3: Honestly the only reason I got this issue is because I pre-ordered it months ago. I can see why other people like it, it’s just not for me. Rating: 3/10

Descender #6: This issue really fell flat for me. Which is a pity because I’ve really enjoyed the overall series. I hope that Jeff Lemire can turn it around for the next issue. Rating: 5/10

Diversity in Comics

So I have felt some rumblings for awhile about the addition of diversity in comics. This includes any change in a persons race, gender, or sexuality. For this rant I’ll focus on Captain America being black, and Thor being a woman. Comics are an ever evolving and changing medium. Often the trends in society affect comics (and trends in comics affect society), the effect of this has led to a more diverse cast of characters. To this I say good. Before female Thor I had no interest in reading Thor. He came across as a hulking brute (admittedly with beautiful hair), who liked to smash things with a hammer…..bor-ing. The addition of a now female Thor has led to a more nuanced character with several levels of personality. Shes funny, witty, intriguing, and still kicks butt. Overall a large improvement on old Odinson. As for Captain America, Steve Rogers is like a billion years old and he decided to retire and pass his mantle on to some one else. That someone happened to be Sam Wilson (formerly the Falcon), who also just happens to be black. Whats the big deal!? Sam was a sidekick of Caps and a close friend. It makes perfect sense for him to step into that role. So I have no problems with it.

black-captain-america

The second thing that makes me mad is when people say “You have to uphold the integrity of the creators characters”. When utilizing this argument you have to realize the context in which the characters were created. The two listed up above were created between the 40s’60s. That era in Americas history was much more close minded about diversity than we are today. So even if the creators had wanted to put a black person as, say, Captain America, there’s no way that would have been published. Society then was going through such a shake up, and the powers at be would never have let that happen. We are in a much better place now, for comics to more properly reflect the true diversity of America than we were then.

Another argument people use (which usually is a thinly veiled attempt to not appear racist) is “Why don’t they just make new ethnic characters?” The answer is they are. You can look to the big two and see some expanding of diversity in new characters (Ms. Marvel, Silk, etc.). Where the big explosion really is is in the indie market. Companies such as Image, Boom!, and Dark Horse just to name a few, really put out great works with a large amount of diversity. Often these series are creator owned (meaning the are created by the writers and artist, and they maintain the rights to the characters). This lends some credibility to the idea that when given the opportunity to work with a more diverse palette, creators often will. Which would seem to validate my last point

I guess to sum it up: Stop complaining and enjoy this era of comics we are in. There’s much more diversity, which leads to more interesting and layered story telling, and fresh new and exciting characters. Society, like comics, is not static. Its dynamic. Ever evolving ever changing. I think our comics should be the same.

Half Year Top 10 List

Hello Revuers! It’s hard to believe that June is upon us! With that the first six months of 2015 are behind us. So now its time to take a look back at our favorite series’ so far. To do so I have once again enlisted the aide of some of my friends! Some headings are clickable so feel free to check out the contributors blogs, they all do an excellent job.

Andrew Horton

The last 6 months have brought a plethora of exciting changes in the big two, and some interesting new series from the Indie side of things. In this list I’ll be breaking down my ten favorite so far:

10. Spidergwen (Marvel)

This would have made it higher on the list if it weren’t for Secret Wars. The first two issues were great, and then it felt like they had to rush what they wanted to do and cut things out. Leaving the last few issues feeling a little hollow. I do love the creative team on this (Jason Latour is a fantastic writer and a true professional, Robbi and Rico combine to make beautiful art), and I am excited for what they have in store for post Secret Wars Gwen.

9. Groot (Marvel)

Fantastic start to a series that has great promise. I am glad it exists in a bubble outside of the events of Secret Wars. Groot is down right adorable, and his (her?) facial expressions really steal the show. I cant wait to see what new hi-jinx will befall Groot in the future.

8. Silver Surfer (Marvel)

Enough can never be said about the fantastic art by the Allreds on this series. They truly take it from being a good comic to being a great comic. That being said this series is also suffering from the events of Secret Wars. The last two or three issues have felt a bit stagnate as if they are just filling time until Hickmans saga comes to a close. It still makes it to this spot on the list, but only because its so dang pretty to look at.

7. Thor (Marvel)

When I first heard there was going to be a female Thor I was excited! I had never been able to get into Thor before because it felt (either justly or unjustly on my part) to me like he was a big brute with a hammer that liked to smash things. Having a change really felt fresh and seemed to open up a whole other dimension for the character. I am happy to report that I was correct. female Thor is one of my favorite major changes to the status quo of all time! Jason Aaron also did a great job of completing a whole arc before Secret Wars began, managing to avoid the pit fall of a couple sires before this one on this list. The art has improved from the first few issues, making this title one of the most well rounded on this list.

6. Secret Wars (Marvel)

Hickmans Avengers and New Avengers saga finally comes to a head. The multiverse is dead and now all that remains is batteworld!!! At the helm is the Lord God Doom. Overall this is a fun event with interesting religious themes peppered through out. Its fun to see different heroes in new ways. The premise is exciting and it feels very well planned out. I am convinces Hickman is a mad genius or exists in a higher plane of sentience than I do.

5. Descender (Image)

Finally we move away from Marvel for number five on this list. Descender is a tale of a futuristic society that has sustained an attack by giant androids. It then scrambles to figure out where they came from and how to defend themselves. The answers lie with a rejected scientist and a small Android boy named Tim. This title feels much like a book that could have been written by Phillip Dick, or George Orwell, or some combination of the two. Its exciting and I cant wait to see what Lemire thinks Androids dream of.

4. Southern Cross (Image)

This is the first title on this list to feature the word Southern in it. This is another Sci-fi adventure, set on a ship. Southern Cross is a bit of a genre blender melding some horror aspects in to the sci-fi story. Personally I love it. I think the setting of a ship in transit lends itself well to a horror element. Through the first 5 issues we are left with more questions than answered questions, with each new issue opening it’s own can of worms. The art is phenomenal and adds a whole other element the the book.

3. Gotham Academy (DC)

The first and only DC title to make my list. It had a bit of a break during DCs Convergence event and just started up again. Still the story telling alone is worthy of the number 3 spot on this list. Cloonan and Fletcher take a rag tag group of kids and turn them into lovable characters that you genuinely feel a connection to (esp. maps). The art is excellent as well, with a heavy digital design and a slight manga influence. the next arc looks to be just as good if not better than the last.

2. The Wicked and the Divine

I really struggled with the top two. Which is funny because the couldn’t be less similar. TWTD is, on the surface, a story of Gods and men and the interactions between them. Beneath the surface it is a cunning social commentary of the way people treat Pop Stars and the emotional repercussions the “Gods” and the “common folk” alike. The art is beyond anything I’ve ever seen. The team of McKelvie and Wilson consistently bring innovative designs and fresh panel work. The coloring is an art in and of it’s self. If you took any of the elements by themselves (story telling, art, colors) they would be fantastic, but this is one case where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

1. Southern Bastards

Jason Aaron and Jason Latour have crafted a masterpiece. Its that simple. They consistently toy with the emotions of the reader and in that regard show us that living is a messy thing and hardly anything is as simple as it appears. Except Ribs.

Again, Jason Aaron and Jason Latour have created a masterpiece.

Jaythreadbear

Hasty scribbler on comics and culture // My top ten of the year so far:

Batgirl

The reinvention of Barbara Gordon by the creative team of Brendan Fletcher, Cameron Stewart, and Babs Tarr, is one of the real success stories at DC in recent years. The setting, character, and stories have all been revamped, replaced, or refined and it is much the better for it. Barbara now operates in a world of apps, social media, and public perception, areas that the rest of the Bat-family (and most superhero books) have yet to engage with, and the smart takes on contemporary culture mesh perfectly with the witty and aware writing that permeates the book. Plus Tarr’s art is wonderful.

Bitch Planet

Kelly Sue DeConnick has been writing many great titles recently, but perhaps the best is Bitch Planet. Taking sexploitation and pulp scifi B-movie tropes and reworking them into a powerful feminist message this book is intensely character driven at the same time as developing an intriguing and sophisticated setting and ever so compelling plot.

Elektra

This globe-trotting martial arts extravaganza from writer Hayden Blackman and artist Mike Del Mundo came to a close earlier this year, but it warrants a mention here due to its genuine brilliance. The writing was tight and inventive, the characterisation was rich and deep, and the art was truly sublime. If you didn’t have a chance to read this when it was coming out then it is well worth picking up in trade; if you like ninjas, beautiful page layouts, ninjas, creative storytelling, or ninjas then you won’t be disappointed.

Gotham Academy

The ‘young Gotham’ sub-brand at DC (that also includes Batgirl and the newly launched Black Canary) is where the best DC titles are coming from right now. Inventing a Hogwarts-esque prep school for the children of Gotham’s high society has paid off with spooky stories, exciting mysteries, and teen drama. This book may be aimed at the YA audience, but the knowing writing from Becky Cloonan and Brendan Fletcher, and the lovely art from Karl Kerschl, make this a rewarding read for everyone else too. It’s fresh and fun and different.

Secret Wars

Several years in the making and coming after a fatiguing run of self-destructive Marvel summer event books it has been a very pleasant surprise to find that this mini-series is actually really good. The Marvel multi-verse has been reshaped with different versions of many classic heroes and stories all existing together on a single patchwork planet under the rule of god himself, Victor Von Doom. As the tie in books (many of which are also great) continue to explore the alternate versions of our heroes the core book has been expertly telling a character driven drama about an impending political upheaval. If you want bombastic universe wide storytelling with every Marvel hero in the mix then this is a very good option.

Silk

Much like Batgirl this book has a playful contemporary tone, a kick-ass yet nuanced leading woman, and accessibly delightful art from Stacey Lee. Cindy Moon is an interesting new character in the Spider-family having arrived on the scene in the Spider-Verse event, and she is characterised in the sassy yet vulnerable mold of classic Peter Parker. The core narrative has played with deep issues like abandonment and post-traumatic stress whilst keeping the fast paced hi-jinks coming. There have been a few bumps in the road (including some underwhelming fill-in art) but the central mystery of the book and Cindy herself keep this a compelling read.

Silver Surfer

It feels like I’m constantly talking up how surprising this book has been, but it is worthy of the praise. The pitch, and indeed opening arc, was one of goofy inconsequential science fiction fun with the Surfer and his new pal Dawn, and whilst this book has certainly delivered on the goofy and the fun it has been anything but inconsequential. The story has taken on a wonderfully romantic slant as the Surfer and Dawn have grown to know each other, and this has been followed by some tender, tragic, and touching stuff as the Surfer’s past has caught up with him. The art is tremendous and the story telling is top notch – this is an inventive and rewarding book that I never expected.

Spider-Gwen

This book started strong, very strong, and although the art and colouring remains stunning the central arc has become a little bit directionless. That’s not to say this isn’t worth picking up, in fact it remains a brilliant reinvention of the Spider-Man universe with some great characters in play; Gwen in particular (unsurprisingly) is an exciting and refreshing lead.

They’re Not Like Us

This indie title takes the cliche of many superhero origin stories and uses it to delve into the darker corners of human insecurity. Syd discovers, in the middle of a suicide attempt, that her mental condition is actually a powerful gift, and that there are others like her with whom she can be safe, train, and take action in the world. But rather than use their powers to protect the people that hate and fear them this group are intent on taking what they want and punishing anyone they thing deserves it. This is such an intense, thoughtful, and beautifully drawn book that it might be my favourite of the year; the questions it raises are universal, and the rare answers it offers are ambiguous, complex, and challenging.

All-New X-Men #37

And I’ll finish with a contentious possibly rule breaking choice – I’m not that interested in Brian Michael Bendis’ lukewarm All-New X-Men run, but this one issue was simply so sublime that it stands alone as one of the best books of the year to date. Featuring stunning art and page layouts from Mike Del Mundo, perfect colour work again from Del Mundo working with Marco D’Alfonso, and some career high writing from Bendis this issue tells a very small story exceptionally well. Featuring a cast stripped back to essentially just young Jean Grey and Emma Frost Bendis is still able to work in witty dialogue, subtle character development, intense action, and a positive moral message. This issue does everything right, and for my money it is easily worth 6 issues of many other books

The Burning Blogger of Bedlam

Spiderwoman

As a long-time Jessica Drew fan (she’s one of my favorite characters),

I was excited as hell for her to have her own, fresh solo title. I

haven’t been disappointed. The first few issues of the Spiderwoman

series have been highly enjoyable, packed with humour and that famous

Jessica Drew wit, good character dynamics, some really well written

cameos (Carol Danvers, Steve Rogers, Silk, Spiderman, Spider-Gwen),

and particularly in Spiderwoman #1 some fascinating settings brought

to life by terrific art and absorbing colours.

Silk

In Cindy Moon we have a really rich new character with a substantial

backstory, a well-developed emotional core and a witty repetoire, all

of which makes her both interesting enough and likeable enough to

carry her own series. The first couple of issues of this series, while

not overly elaborate (I’m guessing after ‘Spider-Verse’, no one really

wants ‘overly elaborate’ anyway), do a nice, neat job of establishing

her on her own and getting us into her head-space. This series has a

really vintage sort of feel to it, in the art and in the internal

monologue among other thigs, and Silk comes across as the real female

Spiderman. Addictive.

Uncanny Avengers

Rebooted somewhat after the ‘Axis’ event, I’ve been surprised by how

awesoem this series is so far. For starters, the art is fantastic,

feeling somewhat unique among Marvel titles in its style. But the

character dynamics are interesting too; Rogue is still by far the best

thing in it (making up somewhat for the majorly dull Sam Wilson), but

the still ‘inverted’ (as in good) Sabertooth adds something new to the

mix (even if he is being turned into essentially the new Wolverine),

and Vision is always a top-draw character to focus page-space on. On

top of that, Counter-Earth and the High Evolutionary are more than

adequate settings and themes to return to. Hell, it’s even made Wanda

and Pietro Maximoff enjoyable to read again.

Darth Vader

As psychological subjects for a comic-book go, they don’t come much

richer than the Dark Lord of the Sith, Darth Vader… or the Artist

Formerly Known as Anakin Skywalker. While other characters might be

the most loveable, the coolest, the funniest or the niftiest, Vader is

undeniably the most psychologically complex. He is therefore almsot

the perfect fictional legend to base a comic-book series around, and

this series so far has been suitably compelling.

Star Wars

I told myself that I wasn’t even going to read any of these Star Wars

comics, as I didn’t want to mix two of my loves – Star Wars and Marvel

Comics. But I was kidding myself, because once I saw those covers, I

was drawn like a moth to the light. Set immediately after A New Hope,

this main Star Wars series is just impossible not to get addicted to.

While it offers nothing revelatory, the style and tone is just spot-on

and the story is filling in the gap between A New Hope and the Empire

Strikes Back nicely.

Andy Eschenbach

It’s been an awesome year for Comics so far. The past six months have shown an abundance of creative excellence, wrought with action, change, and intelligence. Even so, it wasn’t hard to pick what I believe to have been the ten best things to have happened in Comics in 2015. What I couldn’t do was narrow it down to single-issues in every case. Most comics just aren’t written that way, so you’ll just have to deal with my favorite runs being listed. Call me what ever you want over it. I’ll still love you.

10. Black Canary

Yes, I’m a grown-ass white dude. Yes, I bought Black Canary. What an exciting and stylish start to a potentially awesome book! Great command of voice and characterization out of Brenden Fletcher, and the fittingly rocky art of Annie Wu becomes a full-on sock to the jaw when combined with Lee Loughridge’s colors. I love that the title character is actually the whole band as much as I love the forming dynamics between them. My only complaint is a common one: DC’s ad placement- particularly the double Twix ad mid-story— is piss poor, and breaks the otherwise great pacing. Still, more issues could only move this title up on my favorites list, as far as I can tell after the first.

9. Silver Surfer 8-12

I imagine books from this run will be all over other people’s lists as well. Particularly issue 11 for it’s great feat of moebius madness. Even beyond that, this tale combines popfantasy strangeness with a love story so honestly human that I can’t help but concur with fellow fans. Slott and the Allreds make a great team, returning to the hidden romance of early Marvel superhero books without fumbling over predictable cliches or sloppy regurgitation. Plus, it’s funny. I’d like to see some longer arcs come from this formula if the title survives the big rebirth and all- but even if it’s left as it stands, it’s been a great run.

8. Uncanny X-Men 28-32

I feel like I’d spoil the story if I really said what I like most about this run. Bendis’s Cyclops- his choices, and the subsequent reactions of his teammates and peers- has me really excited. You won’t see me waving any “Not My Scott Summers” flags. In fact, I think it makes sense that after all this time the guy finally slips up and breaks down, and the looming concern of whether he’ll pull through is what makes this story compelling. You can see the classic X-Dysfunction playing catalyst to Slim’s conflicted state from a multitude of directions as this series nears it’s end. I do wish Bachalo’s action-abilities were more utilized by Bendis- but once that does happen, all the talking heads make perfect sense. There. Spoilers averted.

7. Weirdworld

Being an Extradimensional Barbarian myself, it’s great to finally see representation within the realm of comic books! And who better to pull it off than Jason Aaron and Mike Del Mundo?! This was the book I was most charged up about after the Secret Wars announcement, and the first issue exceeded my expectations. It’s gnarly, action-packed, insane, and gorgeous. The more I write about it, the less I do it any justice. Just great.

6. The Mantle 1 and 2

It’s not the fact that I’ve watched this book come to fruition at semi-close range that makes me love it. It’s the Villain. The Plague is horrifying. Ed Brisson’s treatment of such a juggernaut alone keeps me in waiting, puzzling over his true motivations. Brian Level’s art is as strong as it is adaptable, showing prowess just as readily in scenes of raw violence as in portraits of the mundane. He’s popping heads like grapes on one page, while super-types stop for a burger on another, and in each case there’s just the right energy for believability and effect. Jordan Boyd’s palette follows suit, both subtle and vibrant, giving each page it’s life or death, respectively. I can honestly say that even if I weren’t present for some of the process on this book, I’d be just as ready to read more about the multiple incarnations of The Mantle, and why they’re so viciously hunted by their nemesis. Comics needs more strange Super Hero books like this one. Take note.

5. Daredevil 11 and 12

If the covers from this mini-arc don’t immediately grab you, the content will. It’s going to be sad to see the Waid/Samnee duo off Daredevil soon, and it’s stories like these that kept me engrossed through their awesome run. Within these two particular issues you can find some of the coolest action and cleanest plot twists out of Waid- including a really great car chase(infamous for being difficult to write). I also have to applaud the overall treatment of depression and friendship throughout the entire run. Really well done- and it couldn’t have come across the same way without Samnee’s clarity and finesse. Everything is there that needs to be, nothing is there that doesn’t, and as big as my soft spot for post-modernism is, it’s been refreshing to see a new angle on old school Matt Murdock. Even if it’s a set up for another dive in to darkness for Daredevil, it will make the impact that much more intense.

4. Secret Wars

It’s been called the “Marvel Game of Thrones”, in both critical and praising voices, but even with it’s obvious parallels to the “Song of Ice and Fire” books, this story is strong and envelopingand original. Hickman’s ability to weave arcs is perfectly matched by Ribic’s capacity for drama. Once again, I find myself wanting to spoil everything for the potential new reader in praise of each character and their situation, but I won’t. Just read Secret Wars. God Doom requires it of you.

3. Invisible Republic 1-3

Please, Corrina Bechko and Gabriel Hardaman, show me how a regime will conveniently rewrite history for it’s own benefit! You’re the perfect pair to do it! And once again, Jordan Boyd’s mastery of color drives the mood home on each gritty page. I loved breaking Bad and Blade Runner, but comparing them to this book doesn’t really do it justice. Brave in it’s criticism, excellent in it’s execution, and undeniable in it’s pertinence- I can’t wait to find out where this tale ultimately leads. An exemplary Comics Magazine.

2. Rage of Ultron

Rick Remender successfully ties up his outstanding Superhero epic that started way back in Uncanny X-Force, supplying all the action and drama you need from an Avengers story, while tactfully tackling issues of life and death, creation and responsibility, and ultimately, love. Don’t get me wrong- his punk-rock angle keeps it gnarly and insane at each beat, but this is some real-life shit in fantasy format, given energy and breath by Jerome Opena’s command over the human form- a testament to knowledge and beauty. But don’t read it. Not until you’ve read Remender’s runs on Uncanny X-Force, Secret Avengers, Uncanny Avengers, and the Axis series. Then read it, and try not to cry when you realize that Marvel characters won’t be getting this kind of treatment anymore. You can always pick up a copy of The Black Science or Low if you’re left in wanting.

1. East of West 16-20

EASTOFWEHEHESSSSSST! I though it was over at issue fifteen, and am glad to have been wrong. Never before have I read such a masterful combination of social critique, cultural portrait, and pop-culture madness. It’s illusion and politics, sorcery and tech, cowboys and indians- it’s serious drama and manga at the same time, somehow- all the while unforgivingly shying away from dead tropes in exchange for new and intriguing characterization! Art and writing combine, unabashedly, to both question and promote everything you thought about everything. Hooray for Hickman and Dragotta! And now I’m left in that awkward state, like some skinflint in his underpants, having shown my true feelings for comics this year-so-far. I feel it necessary to further reveal myself by expressing enthusiasm for the rest of the year-to-come. I can’t wait to read more, and with books like Sebela’s “We(l)come back”, Mignola’s “Joe Golem, Occult Detective”, and Burnham’s “E is for Extinction” (featuring the gnarlyness that is Ramon Villalobos’s art), it looks like I’ll be well supplied. I’ll put my pants back on now.

Alright and that does it for this installment. A BIG thank you to the contributors on a job well done.

What’s your top 10 (or 5)? Let us know in the comments!