The Best Comics of 2015

Created by: Kathryn Immonen, Stuart Immonen, Gabriel B√°

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The Best Comics of 2015

The Best Comics of 2015

Welcome to my annual attempt to share what I feel are the best comics of the previous year (in this case, the books of 2015). Of course all the usual obnoxious caveats apply: a) that these lists are always only going to be a highly subjective record of tastes of a particular moment in a given segment of time; b) that it’s virtually impossible and actually impossible to retain the same memory of a work read in January as it is of one read in November; c) that I of course haven’t read a great many of the potentially fantastic works from across the year. All that’s the same-ol’ same-ol’.

I’ll be including:

(Example: I don’t read comics as individual issues. Even though the entire Mind MGMT series ended in 2015, it won’t end until 2016 for me because I only read print comics series in collected form. So when I list Mind MGMT, that’s only referring to vol 5.)

I believe that covers all my bases. Really though, I’m less interested in being a stickler for details than I am in just flat out recommending you some great comics reading from over the last year. So let’s do that.

My Best 75 Comics of 2015

1–1011–2021–3031–4041–5051–6061–75

MetricsExclusions 1Exclusions 2Navel Gazing

In Russian Olive to Red King, we have this magnificent admixture of craft, colour, tone, and experiment that helps nudge the seams of the comics package in exciting ways. It’s not perfect and I have quibbles, but it really is lovely and tells a compelling story. Stuart Immonen’s illustration is some of the best of his I’ve ever seen and the colouring is at all points perfect.

Russian Olive To Red King by Kathryn & Stuart Immonen

This wasn’t actually my favourite book of 2015, but a number of features combine to push it ahead of everything else. It’s not a clear winner. But it is, I think, still the winner.

Matsumoto’s evolving series of pericopes peeking in on the lives of the residents of a late ‘70s foster home is at once vital, brooding, joyous, grim, and heartfelt. It may be the perfect encapsulation of the human condition. And amazingly, the series improbably improves with each volume. In 2015’s volume 5, I feel more and more the need for the series’ finale in volume 6 to provide some sort of “20 Years Later” epilogue—if only for how crisply and seamlessly these characters have been brought to life for me. My heart pulls for these kids—and for the adults who mind them. With every victory I soar and with every defeat I sorrow. I can think of no better compliment than to say that Sunny is one of the most honest, affecting works I’ve encountered. I love that this exists and I love the care with which Viz has packaged it.

Sunny, vol 5 by Taiyo Matsumoto

The chapter this is pulled from is existential human madness. (aka everyday life)

This kid, Sei, is introduced in the first chapter of vol 1. He’s the new kid. His mom dropped him off at the foster home because she has her own stuff going on. He is sure it’s temporary, but by vol 2, it’s pretty clear that it isn’t. In this chapter, a new kid is introduced to the home. Same circumstances as Sei, so Sei’s showing him around, being a pal, trying to help him through what will inevitably be total abandonment from his family.

Like two panels after this, the new kid’s mom picks him up and the remaining six pages are just Sei taking that in. It’s very WTF in the normal life kind of way.

At the same time as things are falling apart and hope is being trashed, human nature is standing strong and willful. I wouldn’t argue it’s one of the most important comics series ever made, but if I heard someone make the argument I’d probably listen closely and nod along at appropriate points because I’d half believe him.

Sacred Heart was phenomenal. It was like reading Roberto Bolaño fish together a comic about American teenagers and rapture cults. It was chaotic and haunted and full of life. It’s a brutal, mysterious book and really embodies the kind of visceral realism Bolaño introduces in Savage Detectives. It also carries the apocalyptic kind of vibe from 2666. Suburbia’s pacing was magnificent and the slowburn of discovering what is actually happening is delectable. I loved the way she would sometimes punctuate each cell of a montage with onomatopoeia.

Sacred Heart by Liz SuburbiaThe punctuation of each action/panel with onomatopoeia is great.

Suburbia’s illustration of music was so so so much better than anything else I’ve seen in the field. Scott Pilrim has this sort of wobbly ghost electricity rising like incense from the instruments and that’s okay. Jem has these crisp, sterile pink streams that swirl around and ghost through everything, but it always feels electric but soulless. (Which is fine because Jem always feels like corporate pop to me.) In Sacred Heart music has this physicality. It bombards and punches and people get swept up in it and get out of its way.

Sacred Heart by Liz SuburbiaLookit those kids being slammed with music!

If I have one thing against the book, one quibble, it’s that I wanted more resolution at the end. Without spoiling for anyone playing along: I want to know who would appear in a Sacred Heart 2 if there is one and in what capacity. It’s not necessary to the book, but that bit of ambiguity stung me slightly.

I expected to like Lulu Anew, but I didn’t know to expect it to be quite this good. In a lot of ways, the book is a tonal sibling to Ruto Modan’s The Property. Lulu, tired of her husband’s lightly abusive (but also persistently abusive) manner, takes a break from her life. She disappears, telling no one of her whereabouts and begins a small adventure with no particular end in mind. The entire episode is told after the fact by gathered friends, piecing together the mystery of her absence and what it all means. The device allows for information to trickle out at exactly the right pace, and by the end when we circle back on the beginning of things, we are immediately satisfied. (If that kind of thing is where one finds satisfaction.)

After reading Lulu Anew I was made so confident in the creator’s abilities that I immediately purchased his earlier work, The Initiates. I hope to read it soon after finishing this present list.

Two Brothers is foremost a book to be laid on a coffee table so that guests will have something astounding with which to occupy themselves while you futz around in the kitchen preparing exotic teas and fancy adult beverages. It is a work of beauty. Dark and grueling, yes, but beautiful for all that. Bá has always held a little dynamo of the kind of expressive shadowed minimalism that makes Mike Mignola’s art the most magnificent stuff to ever grace the earth, and the choice to publish Two Brothers without colour forces that to be on full display. There were pages I stared at overlong just trying to understand how they were accomplished.

Two Brothers by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá

As for story, Two Brothers won’t likely have you asking existential questions about faith and purpose and meaning. It is, instead, pretty firmly rooted in the pre-20th century family of novels dedicated to charting the collapse of a family or dynasty. From its first page we know where things are headed and our goal is only to lend an ear while the fall of the house of Halim is laid out like funeral clothes, that we too might mourn the passing of a well-meant but ultimately self-destructively selfish family.

In 2014, when the final chapter of the original Stray Bullets series landed, I was elated. It was the perfect, flawless capstone to what had gone before. Virginia Applejack, wounded but triumphant! It was one of my favourite finds of the year. When I heard Lapham was beginning a new Stray Bullets series, I was skeptical and reluctant because that’s how I am. Once it was collected, I purchased the volume but let it sit unread for a couple months. There were other books I was excited about and I doubted that Lapham could actually capture what made Stray Bullets special and amazing in the first place.

Killers, though, is the perfect distillation of everything the series is. Killers is lightning bottled. It’s frantic, depraved, and vibrant. Killers is its own series with its own numbering, but it might as well just keep the chapter numbers going, 42, 43, 44, etc. Except that this Virginia Applejack story is so much a standout Virginia Applejack story that it may as well just continue standing up and apart.

Stray Bullets: Killers by David LaphamThis may not look like mind-boggling crime comics but, man, there is so much crimes.

I’m rather horrified that I haven’t yet reviewed Stray Bullets, as it’s one of the best comics of all time and easily far and away my favourite for the spot of All-Time Best Crime Comic. And while picking up the Stray Bullets: Uber Alles Edition (the fancy name for the single-volume collection of the original series) is a perfectly sensible place to start and gives a lot of background on the context for the present volume, Killers functions perfectly fine on its own.

(My only complaint is that as this is a Virginia Applejack story, there is the obligatory Amy Racecar story included—and I hold a hate for the Amy Racecar stories that goes back even to the late ‘90s.)

 

With the English-language release of the final volume Yumemakura and Taniguchi’s mountain-climbing thriller, we receive the complete chronicle of among the best manga series ever devised. Taniguchi is one of the treasures of the medium, and the majesty of his work on Summit of the Gods should not be underestimated.

Summit of the Gods by Jiro Taniguchi

I have essentially no interest in mountaineering and largely view Everest climbs as the province of fools, but Summit is among the most thrilling, grand, and empathetic examinations of the culture one could ever hope to read. So much of the time reading these five volumes I was on tenterhooks. I highly highly highly recommend throwing yourself into the magic of what these two creators have brought together here.

It’s hard for me not to gush over Last Man (even if I cannot figure out whether it’s Last Man or Lastman). For whatever reason, I am tempted to pretend that I’m above passionately boosting for a series. All the same though, I’ve long argued for the essential subjectivity of the critic’s role—and even more than a critic, I count myself an evangelist for good comics. And Last Man is good comics. Actually, it’s very good comics. So maybe now I’ll have another book to recommend constantly and incessantly and breathlessly forever—right alongside Cross Game, the book I’m generally most known for hyping rabidly.

Lastman by Balak, Sanlaville, and Vivès

In 2015, three volumes of Last Man reached us here in the US. The first two were stunningly devised with some of the most fluid, vibrant drawings you’ll ever see. The third volume is a straight-ahead departure but functions as a bridge between the two-volume preface and the final nine volumes we will expect to roll in over the next three years. This is pure shonen-esque excitement, only done from a Continental vantage with its own tropes to flaunt and engage.

Matt Kindt continues to produce one of the most bafflingly smart series on the market. The twists and turns come furiously and often. Honestly, with only a single volume left in the series, there’s not a lot to say but that he never disappoints and I can’t wait to see how he wraps this up. (Vol. 6 drops later this month and I am bursting with excitement.)

Mind MGMT by Matt Kindt

Writer David Carlson does an admirable job taking what could have been a story told via a wikipedia summary and twists it into something ranging and delicious, a complexity revealed by pieces and parts through visions and allusions. It’s an informational book that educates while it goes. Don’t know what a glim box is? You’ll soon learn. The history of Bentham’s panopticon? Covered. Want to know more about Braille? This is your book. Education is only employed so far as it will make the story come alive, but for that Carlson chooses exactly the right things to highlight. Like a map of the railroad lines circa 1929. Just a bit piece, almost entirely unnecessary. But it informs and magnifies the work.

As well, The Hunting Accident is a very literary work. Those of you who’ve read my review of Fun Home may recall that I was skeptical of Bechdel’s use of the literary allusion, that I found it skirted pretension too closely for me to be entirely comfortable with it. It often felt tacked on and sometimes gimmicky. With The Hunting Accident, we feel none of that because the profusion of Homer and Virgil and Dante and Emerson and more obscure authors are intimately connected with Rizzo’s own Infernal descent through the hell of Stateville prison.

Review of The Hunting Accident: The True Story of Matt Rizzo by David Carlson and Landis BlairLandis Blair, in the process of ruining his wrist and eyesight for all time

Sometimes when you have a larger-than-life figure, the best way to approach them isn’t through straight biography; sometimes you want to sneak up on them obliquely. My favourite treatment of Hollywood legends is David Niven’s Bring on the Empty Horses. Niven collects a series of personal anecdotes to paint the portrait of a bucketful of Hollywood names. Clark Gable, Errol Flynn, Bogart and Bacall, etc. The story is resolutely Niven’s, but through him we unveil full and real lives for these other giants of the era. It’s delightful and probably far better than a straight biography would have been. And that’s exactly how we see Leopold in The Hunting Accident. He’s not the star. He’s not the focus. But he’s so much a looming presence—and so essential to the development of Rizzo’s story—that the book can’t help but pull back the curtain on who he was a bit. The Hunting Accident is never not the story of Rizzo and his son, but since Leopold plays such a tremendous role in that story, it becomes his story as well.

The Hunting Accident was available in 2015 as a Kickstarter project, but the creative duo have found a publisher and will be announcing details on wider release soon.

In 2013, I saw Nate Powell at SPX and we talked a bit about March, about what to expect from vol 2. He described it as kind of the Empire Strikes Back of the series, a dark, dangerous extrapolation of John Lewis’s story. And Powell was dead on the money because this is some grim history. I hate that this story is so relevant and important at this precise hour in our American experiment, because March Book 2 chronicles some deeply revolting stuff—the story of the playground of civil rights, the tug-of-war between good and evil (to vastly simplify and reduce the powers and motives of those involved).

March by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell

I talk up a lot the value of graphic novels in drawing out empathy in readers. For many of us, the best way to understand people who are different from us or other than us is not through dry academic description—much better to feel the life of another person as if you were intimately concerned with their fortunes. Representative John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell have succeeded tremendously in bringing a particular milieu of the middle of the twentieth century to a point of contact with the soul of the reader.

Post-apocalyptic zombie fiction has never been better. Which is good because the post-apocalypse is pretty well played out and man do I hate zombie fiction. But Sundberg’s vision here is almost entirely unique in every way.

1) The remaining civilized world is so far limited to Iceland, fortified pockets of Norway, Sweden, and Finland, and a single island of Denmark. That’s a rare and interesting setting for a story told in English.

2) The zombies aren’t zombies like we typically think of zombies. There’re also corrupted beasts and now, apparently, ghosts (?). The lore of this new world is extensive, detailed, and imaginative.

3) Sundberg’s art is gorgeous. It’s luscious and the way she affects mood through colour is essentially like nothing I’ve seen.

Stand Still Stay Silent by Minna Sundberg

The series continues online but I was fortunate to pick up a hardbound collection of the first volume. It is one of the prizes of my too-extensive-for-our-house graphic novel collection.

After years of leaving the art in his Hellboy series to competent and talented (though lesser) lights, Mignola returns to his major character to usher him through the realms of the afterlife. It’s fascinating and lovely and Mignola once more proves that probably no one can come near to touching even the dais of his throne. Hellboy In Hell is a weird work and i look forward to seeing it complete. It’s ambitious as hell. Obviously.

Hellboy in Hell by Mike Mignola

The drama of daily living with a fading mind is told with humour and verve and a lightness of being. And I found myself growing more and more anxious. These amusing anecdotes and funny bits and pieces of lives gone askew were toying with my deepest and tremblingest insecurities. On the surface I was enjoying Roca’s book and the story of Ernest’s progressive psychological collapse. It’s bright and colourful and lovely and well-illustrated and well-paced. But in the midst of my enjoyment, the terror of existence roiled and rumbled. By the end, I was panicked and undone. Roca had done so good a job of exploring the gradual dissolution of selves that I was entirely exposed, my oldest fear made raw and calamitous—all within one hundred pages in which nothing incredibly terrible happens save for that a handful of people gradually forget themselves. And that’s the magic of story.

Wrinkles by Paco Roca

The Greek stories are old and by their familiarity often become unfamiliar to us. We forget the details. We remember the names, some of them, sure. Heracles (or maybe we insist on Hercules). Zeus. Hera, Hades, Aphrodite, Hermes. We remain cognizant of the tentpole events probably. Heracles vs the hydra. Uhm, some other stuff. Did he fight the Minotaur? Medusa? He did those twelve things, right? We forget all the details though. All the motivations. All the crazy, disgusting, maddening dramas that consumed the hero simply because a Goddess was pissed off at her philandering husband who chose cross-species romances instead.

The Hero by David RubinOh snap

The Hero is simultaneously fanciful with the details and wildly accurate with them. It tells a version of Heracles’ life that blends fantasy with technology set against a vibrant palette of colour and violence. There’re internet and cellphones and television and cars and people wearing togas and using swords and archery. It’s bizarre and perfect for its vision. And I feel as though I’ve been reintroduced to Heracles after decades of estrangement.

Several years ago I ran into a stand-alone story by Oima called “A Silent Voice” about a deaf girl new to an elementary school and the mischievous boy who instigates a prolonged war of bullying against her. It was a sweet, tragic story of redemption and comeuppance. I loved it. When I saw the story had been expanded into a 7-volume series, I was excited but worried that she would over-extend and pad the story and suck all of its charms away. I needn’t have worried. Oima proved herself perfectly able to extend her vision for the story and created one of my favourite manga stories ever.

A Silent Voice by Yoshitoki Oima

A Silent Voice explores themes of identity, belonging, alienation, disassociation, suicide, bullying, self-confidence, anguish, forgiveness, friendship, and deafness. It is a thoroughly winning and charming book and Oima’s art is fluid and self-assured. She has a deep talent for illustration.

Frederik Peeters’ euro-sci-fi wrapped up with its fourth volume at the beginning of Autumn 2015 and fills out nicely as an expansive extrapolation into the evolution of the species and what a forced renegotiation of the nature of the human consciousness might look like.

Aama by Frederik Peeters

Easily the best comic I’ve read about a band in a decade. Van Meter’s return to the series goes off hitchless from the reader’s end, and this was one of the most thoroughly delightful books I had the fortune to read this year. McClaren’s art is the perfect marriage to the story of Zero trying to keep her band together through the stress of freshman year of college.

Hopeless Savages Break by Jen Van Meter, Meredith McClaren, and Christine Norrie

I caught Tamaki’s series occasionally in its online publication—but so occasionally that I was unaware that it wasn’t just a series of quirky one-off gag strips. Reading the entire thing on paper and in a single sitting was a joy.

Supermutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki

Obata pens a story about a young woman who really has no home. She’s long expatriated from Japan to the UK, but is still of course Japanese and friends and co-workers still interpret her social differences as being directly tied to her national origin. Neither is she at home with the country she left. Just So Happens has the woman returning to Japan for a funeral and investigating her self and perceptions. It’s a quiet work—and rather lovely, featuring some of the most beautiful art of the year.

Just So Happens by Fumio Obata

The Oven is a well-wrought glimpse of greener pastures and how two people can love each other and still fall apart. It’s a utopian world where genetic expression is regulated and couples with bad genes cannot procreate. Eric and Syd think they want a baby, but Eric has a gene for acne so they leave civilization for a hippie commune so that they can breed it up unrestricted. Neither are sure they want this, but they want to give it a shot. It’s not easy and by the time they realize that their eyes were bigger than their stomachs for this new lifestyle, it’s too late to make a decision that won’t destroy something they’ve built together. Good, simple, worthwhile.

The Oven by Sophie Goldstein

JH Williams is a mystery to me. He is an entirely gifted illustrator and designer. He experiments (sometimes wildly) and many of those experiments are perfect. Like this example where the panels of the page are the teeth of the Corinthian’s eyes—on the pages introducing the Corinthian.

The Sandman Overture by Neil Gaiman and JH Williams IIIThis page introducing the Corinthian has
his eye teeth functioning as panels (!!)

At other points, his layouts fumble and confuse the reader, making it difficult to ascertain which text should be read next, which panel should follow from the present. Williams simultaneously elevates and diminishes Gaiman’s tale. But he elevates it far more than he diminishes it.

I’m always pretty leery of anthologies because even the best tend to be a combination of great things, middling things, and shabby shabby things. Generally, they’ll major on the middling things. Dream Fossil, though, does much better than expected and should be a strong value for any fan of Satoshi Kon.

Dream Fossil by Satoshi Kon

Kon is actually probably the only celebrity death that has affected protracted mourning in me. I still mourn our loss of him. Too young and with too much promise. He was amazing. And this anthology of comics shorts gives a fair taste of the years between when he assisted on Otomo’s manga, Akira, and the beginning of his film career. The art is often straight out of Otomoworld, but the ideas and stories spit a lot of the idealogical fire of Kon’s most famous work (his films and the televised Paranoia Agent). We see a lot of his thematic culture alive and growing in these early works.

And fortunately, none of these comics are bad, which is a victory for any anthology.

On the heels of Lovecraftian noir Fatale, Brubaker and Phillips elect to do a straight-ahead murder mystery set in the Golden Age of Hollywood (Clark Gable even makes an appearance). With two volumes out and probably two remaining, I’m not certain where the story’s going exactly but I’m delighted to be along for the ride.

Jason Shiga’s story of immortality is kind of a diabolically clever math problem. It twists, it turns, and it constantly has me saying “Oh-ho!” as I turn the page and find everything has changed once more. As of writing this, he’s 600+ pages in and at 85% of the story. Everything is heading toward a massive, exhilarating climax and it is certain to be worthy of our time.

Demon by Jason Shiga

Eat More Comics (the comic with possibly the least appealing cover of all time) is subtitled “The Best Of The Nib!” As an anthology of a variety of comics that appeared in The Nib, my wish is that the book would have been shorter and called “The Best of the Best of the Nib.” Because while there are some sublime works included, there is also some plebian dog crap. Usually, it’s the political cartoons that are the festering blights corrupting the value of the book. And often, I agree with the thesis of these comics. They’re just so dunder-headed and lack so much nuance that they can’t come close to communicating anything worthwhile. The essay comics and journalistic comics, however, are almost all fantastic. I’m glad I bought the book but I wish it could have had an editor with a wiser eye for value (or an editor with greater strength to follow their wise eye).

Eat More Comics, the Best of the Nib

My favourites of the bunch included:

Thing 1: Ada Lovelace was pretty badass and her story is more fascinating than a lot of stories.

Thing 2: The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage is an exciting book about a lot of really boring subjects.

There’s a lot of math and engineering and economic theory that form the bedrock of this book, but Padua approaches it in inventive and humourous ways. I’m sure people who actually have an interest in those subjects will be over the moon for this book, but for the rest of us, Padua still crafts something interesting and informative and funny and crisp. And her footnotes are nearly as interesting as those that inhabit Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrel.

Sam Zabel is a book about the morality of the mind and the responsibility of the artist. It’s a line of inquiry that is currently the focus of furious (and usually unfocused) debate in the contemporary pop-cultural landscape. Gamergate, women in refrigerators, 50 Shades of Grey, sex in Game of Thrones. All of these discussions circle the same drain. Sam Zabel picks up the discussion, and while not coming to any answers, really does remind us of some of the principal threads.

Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen by Dylan Horrocks

There are probably three kinds of people Sam Zabel is meant for: 1) those who have a community with whom to discuss the Idea Books they run across; 2) those already invested in the book’s principle question regarding the nature and place of fantasy; and 3) those with a special interest in nude green women. And man, if all three of those describe you, consider this book a slice of your heaven.

Ian Edgington and INJ Culbard team up again to deliver a magnificently inventive set of worlds (whose nature I will refrain from discussing). In any case, they’ve created a delightful science fiction adventure and this first part has me well onboard for the remainder. I take a special joy in watching Culbard age his characters little by little—by three months here, by six months there.

Brass Sun: The Wheel of Worlds by Ian Edginton and INJ Culbard

In the seventh volume, Mori takes another excursion from series favourites Amir and Karluk to investigate one more marital custom of the 19th century Caspian region. In this case, two already married women covenant to be lifelong sisters. They get their own ceremony and vows and non-sexual form of romance. It’s fascinating because it broadens the perspective, allowing us to better see how our cultural binary for marriage-type relationships of having sex vs not having sex seems a bit narrow and offers speculation that sex may not be the ultimate culmination of love between two people.

A Bride's Story by Kaoru Mori

Unflattening, as a doctoral dissertation (with its continuous use of citation and its existence not as narrative but as extended argument) is a deeply ambitious project. And probably even an almost entirely successful project. It’s worthy of your time and its greatest value may be in discussion of its ideas with others. I recommend it to you and recommend (as the best reward for the use of your time) that you engage in the critics’s work yourself.

Fumi Yoshinaga continues to put out a volume per year of one of the most interesting alt-history experiments I know of. For those keeping up with the series (on vol 11 now), there’s not much to say save for that she continues to bring the fire and puts out a book that is every bit as engaging as its earliest chapters. (And I continue to get completely furious with these people and their political machinations and the tragedies they perpetrate in the name of securing for themselves personal power.) For those who haven’t begun the series, check out my review, and then pick up the first volume and give it a shot.

Both Kelly Thompson and Meredith McClaren had banner years in 2015. Thompson’s blowing up with Jem and McClaren had three books published last year. After what I initially felt was a bit of a shakey start (not helped by the poor choice of very square text balloons—the tails are neat though!), Heart in a Box resolves itself into an engaging, lovely little story about hearts and what we give up when we love. I’m glad I picked it up. And McClaren’s art is pretty well delicious.

Heart in a Box by Kelly Thompson and Meredith McClaren

Urusawa’s story about an unstoppable killer vs the doctor who saved his life as a child keeps on trucking. It feels overlong and padded but, simultaneously, Urusawa does such a good job that we can largely forgive him the excess. The story could definitely use tighter plotting and fewer excursions, but because those rabbit trails provide better and clearer portraits of the protagonist, they ultimately help more than they hinder. And of course, his art is still top notch. The story wraps later this year, and I can’t wait to see what twists and turns are in store.

Emma‘s been out of print for ages (which is evil), but Yen Press brought it back in lovely double-sized volumes (which is good). While the art isn’t as intricate as Mori’s later work in A Bride’s Story, it’s still beautiful and the story of cross-class romance is delightful and thrilling.

Emma by Kaoru Mori

The epic journey of Evan Dahm’s third comic in the world of Rice Boy continues to unspool in exciting and interesting ways, and Dahm continues to prove himself one of our great imaginations in the medium.

Vinland Saga is an explosive story from the viking era about the rise of < ahref="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cnut_the_Great">Cnut the Great that doesn’t believe in status quo. That so many of the characters are apparently Naruto-style superhuman took some getting used to but that kind of thing has its own charms.

Vinland Saga by Makoto YukimuraDefinitely going for the epic saga feel

2015 marked a pretty great year for Sakai’s rabbit samurai. Volume 29 represents more strong work. Maybe not as sublime as vol 28, but 28 was some of the best work of Sakai’s career—so that 29 is nearly as good is still high praise. Add to that Sakai’s Elseworlds-style conclusion to the Usagi legend (in the stand-alone graphic novel, Senso) with a War of the Worlds-style pre-invasion force from Mars. Good fun, good year.

I don’t know where this is going but after one volume, I’m in love with the world Ellis has forged and am interested to see who the story finally settles on (as main character after main character take vigourous and final hold of their mortality and depart the series for good). Howard’s art is stunning as well—and perfect for this story.

An engaging street-level crawl through a night-and-day following immediately the fall of Nanjing to Japanese invasion in the lead-up to WWII. There’s nothing really wrong with the book (it’s well done), but its intimate nature keeps the vantage discrete, and I occasionally felt that panning out to the wider misery would have been more impactful. Still worth a read and its PG-13 nature will make it useful reading for teens looking to learn more about world history and the effect of (very NC-17) military actions on local populations.

The second volume of Bandette is as much a joy as the first. Tobin continues to write the character with a punchy flair that makes light of her thief’s life and its mortal dangers—and Coover is still throwing aces in terms of the drawings. A whimsical read.

Bandette by Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover

This high school romance between two teen girls in China is still rather one-sided in the romance department, so there’s lots of that dramatic tension that naturally draws from the Unrequited Love engine. Also, Tan Jiu keeps his lead charming and emotive, so it’s a pleasure to watch her do whatever it is she’s going to do at any given moment. This is so far only available on the internet, but as soon as there’s a physical product, it will enter my library.

Their Story by Tan JiuThat look of joy

I’m not super familiar with the Chinese comics scene. That is, I’m not familiar at all. I’ve read (possibly) five Chinese comics ever. I don’t know where Their Story fits within the industry there, but if a story as buoyant and bubbly and fun and straight-up enjoyable as this is at all common there, then the Chinese comics industry must be one of the best things ever. If it’s not, then at least they’ve got a great example of where to aim. Their Story is one of my favourite things coming out right now.

Their Story by Tan JiuSeaweed, oh seaweed

Ajin‘s a thrilling ride and I’ve been comparing it to the clever excitement of Death Note. There’s some fantastic cat-and-mouse going on here, and Sakurai keeps things fresh by coming up with new ways to utilize the same basic set of powers. I not infrequently found myself smiling at the ingenious way the creator chose to get his characters into and out of scrapes.

Ajin: Demi-Human by Gamon Sakurai

The pace isn’t nearly so relentless as Death Note‘s. In the first five volumes, there are two major action set-pieces. These are pretty tremendous, but much of the series is psychological and relational in nature. So far (in six volumes), I believe this staggering of tensions has really worked in favour of the series, but we’ll see if that continues to be the case. At this point, I’m pretty well along for the ride and the series would really have to drag out (like to 25+ vols) or go south pretty quickly for me to lose interest. For now, I’m just having a lot of fun.

2015 was apparently the year in which I, who don’t usually go in for science fiction, read a bunch of science fiction and liked it. I don’t want to make this a habit necessarily, but I have to admit I’ve enjoyed myself.

Kenya, set in the post-WWII ‘40s and in Kenya (surprise!), is pulpy and fun. In a lot of ways, it’s kind of like a more mature Tintin book featuring a female protagonist and dinosaurs and alien visitors.

In a bizarre decision, Cinebooks (the publisher) decided to edit on underwear in the couple nude scenes but retained dialogue like “All I think about is you. And your little breasts and lovely pussy.” It’s a kind of hilarious bit of random censorship that briefly takes the reader from the work but didn’t ultimately diminish my enjoyment of an otherwise fun story.

Another anthology, largely well done. This one features stories by Ken Niimura, who did the art for I Kill Giants. He alternates stories between fiction and memoir, with the fiction being much stronger and more enjoyable than the memoir. (Though, bias alert, I’m no great fan of memoir these days.)

Henshin by Ken Niimura

Another long-running series you’re pretty much either in the bag for or you aren’t. 2015 wasn’t quite as exciting as the previous year’s confrontation between Liz and the Black Flame, but even so it’s a strong read. Following Howards’ evolution into a Conan-like figure has been fun, and even Enos is getting some good air time and character development.

McCloud’s illustration work is a bizarre chimera of intricate and sloppy. His page designs are tops and the storytelling from panel to panel is lovely. His linework is rough and is often just layers of scribbles. Shadows are a mess and some characters’ hair is just hilarious. But for all that, there’s a certain cohesion to the style. I’m always kind of aggravated by detecting the obvious presence of digital tools in comics art, but after a few minutes managing my prejudices, I gave in to the story and was largely able to forget my tastes.

The Sculptor by Scott McCloud

 

 

Good Ok Bad features reviews of comics, graphic novels, manga, et cetera using a rare and auspicious three-star rating system. Point systems are notoriously fiddly, so here it's been pared down to three simple possibilities:

3 Stars = Good
2 Stars = Ok
1 Star = Bad

I am Seth T. Hahne and these are my reviews.

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Comics by Seth T. Hahne

Monkess The Homunculus, a graphic novel for children by Seth T. Hahne

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