Zeb Larson with his top ten comics of the year…
Top ten lists are always slanted to the preferences of the reviewer. In my case, most of my reading is concentrated in smaller publishers, especially Image. Still, a few other worthwhile books make this list. Take it for what you will.
It’s not just any book that could end up being my favorite book of the year despite only releasing four issues in the course of that year, but Bitch Planet pulls it off. Set in a futuristic dystopia that punishes women who are “noncompliant,” Kelly Sue DeConnick manages to deftly juggle references to ‘70s exploitation films, intersectional feminist commentary, humor and violence without ever letting slip on any of them. More than being entertaining or even clever, the book devastatingly lays bare the subtle and not-so-subtle sexism that undergirds life in the 21st Everybody should read this book.
This science-fiction take on gothic horror takes place aboard a spaceship traveling to Titan and a woman looking into the mysterious death of her sister. The idea of nameless horrors lurking out in the cosmos is a time-honored story, but Becky Cloonan gives it some extra heft by subtly interplaying it with themes of madness, guilt, and moral compromise. Having just finished its first story arc, I’m curious to see where it goes in the coming year.
As much as science-fiction is burgeoning in comics, fantasy is underrepresented. The Autumnlands is the best book out in this somewhat underpopulated niche. A world of anthropomorphic magic-wielding animals who worship a mythical “Great Champion” find their whole cosmos uprooted when he turns out to be a human. Ben Dewey’s art is continually inspired in imagining a truly fantastic world, and the book is fascinating in its treatment of heroism and myth. Not only are heroes rarely who we expect them to be, frequently they’re not anybody we would want to be.
A geopolitical horror comic? Sign me up. Mike Moreci and Tim Daniel translated their anger over the Iraq War and subsequent meltdown in the Middle East into this book which looks at an American and Iraqi working together to solve a series of grizzly ritualistic killings in Kirkuk. One could read it as a parable about the rise of ISIS, or corporate greed, or foreign policy adventurism (a nice term for the last 14 years of policy). Then again, it’s also just a good old-fashioned horror story with a deeply scary antagonist.
The Wicked + The Divine
When the book was just about the world of celebrity and what happens are our rock stars literally are gods, this was a very good book. But in 2015, Gillen and McKelvie took it to another level. In addition to a spate of shocking deaths, the book also dove straight into themes like cultural appropriation, misogyny (and even its effect on men), and the tricky gulf that separates the poet and the critic.
This Southern-fried noir, nominally about a corrupt football coach is more about the corruption and rot in one Alabama county. Coach Boss is a vicious bastard who controls Craw County through violence and football, all under a polite veneer that keeps things pleasant. Southern Bastards looks at the complicated relationship all of us have with our homes, and how places that seem so nice can be far uglier under the surface.
Rick Remender’s mission to torment the people in his narrative continued this year, to even more brilliant effect. Grant McKay and his Anarchist League of Scientists have desperately tried to bring the Multiverse under their control, but trying to control infinity is a losing proposition for just about anybody. This isn’t a book for anybody who likes happy endings, but damn, it’s cool all the same.
I found out about this series through an e-mail from the author and decided, on a lark, to read the entire volume in one night. Man, was I happy that did that. Andrez Bergen’s collage art style takes a bit to get used to, but once you do it really complements his genre-melting writing style, which looks at film noir, Silver Age comics, and video games and actually weaves it all together. It’s also hilarious. I don’t want to spoil this book for anybody by saying too much, except that you should really give it a chance.
Ah, the desperately needed rewrite of American history we’ve needed for a while now. Rebels started as a six-issue story of one New Hampshire man fighting in the Revolutionary War, exposing the divisions that existed not only between regions, but even between New Hampshire and New York. It has since looked at women, slaves who fought for the British, and Native Americans. Rebels exposes some of the contradictions between ideology and practice in American history as well as the groups who have been conveniently forgotten by subsequent historians.
Roche Limit: Clandestiny
The second volume of Mike Moreci’s Roche Limit series picks up 75 years after its predecessor and continues its exploration of humanity’s place in the cosmos. If the first volume was about what made living worthwhile in an infinite universe, this series is much more about how to defend it against the evils lurking out there. Can’t wait for the follow-up.
A late entry because it’s only a few issues in, but this book is already a winner. Four girls from suburban Cleveland in the ‘80s are witness to some truly bizarre happenings, as if the apocalypse was reimagined through an NES cartridge or a Saturday morning cartoon. It’s an homage to both the events of the ‘80s and the emerging geek culture, and an interesting look at the difficulty teenage girls experience in navigating those world as everything is trying to kill them.