Top 10 Graphic Novels I Read in 2015 by Jake

A list of collected comics or graphic novels that Jake picked up in 2015.  Requirements: purchased in volume form or in bulk in 2015.  Either taken as part of a sale or trade-waited.  Actual publishing dates vary.  1 volume per book, other volumes read will be mentioned.  New and Improved with Colorists and Letterers, because he’s less of a prat now (character growth? surely not).

The Also Reads: East of West Vol. 3, The Manhattan Projects Vol. 3-5, The Shadow Vol. 1, Aliens: More Than Human

#10: Superman: Earth One Vol. 1

DC Comics
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Pencils: Shane Davis
Inks: Sandra Hope
Colors: Barbara Ciardo
Letterer: Rob Leigh
Relatedly Read: Volume 2

A modern Superman origin story for the modern world, with all the highs and lows that description entails.  When I originally read this, it was probably going to be much higher on the list.  Then, I saw Man of Steel and realized how much of that film was based off this GN and my opinion of it soured.  Still, it’s hard to ignore the deft hand with which Stracynski creates this new story of Clark Kent.  The story also has a few legs up on its dour adaptation in that we get some really great insight into Clark’s thought process which wonderfully humanizes him, and Pa Kent isn’t a total prick.  The supporting cast gets some nice moments, with Jimmy Olsen being something of a scene-stealer.  The art team makes a wonderful use of scenery and Davis’s lines are incredible.  All-in-all it’s a good update to the Superman mythos, one that respects what came before and throws some interesting new twists on old standbys.  

#9: Swap Thing Vol. 1: Raise Them Bones

DC Comics
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artists: Yanick Paquette & Marco Rudy (Victor Ibañez)
Inkers: (Sean Parsons & Michel Lacombe)
Colorists: Nathan Fairbairn, David Baron, Val Staples, & Lee Loughridge
Letterers: John J. Hill & Travis Lanham

Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing is one of the legends of comics that I never really delved into but have some knowledge of.  From what I can tell, Scott Synder’s New 52 take on the lichen leviathan both utilizes existing Swamp Thing continuity (while making it accessible to new readers) and adding his own take on the mythos.  Alec Holland, formerly the Swamp Thing, was never actually Swamp Thing at all, but rather had died when he fell into the swamp and the Parliament of Trees used a shell of his former self as their avatar.  In the wake of Brightest Day, Alec Holland has been resurrected.  How does he deal with the Parliament’s past actions and where does he go moving forward?  For something evil stirs in the world, one that might require Alec to give up his newfound freedom.  With gorgeous, mind-bending visuals from the art teams, and the typical dose of Snyder horror, Swamp Thing’s new adventures are definitely something to check out.  

#8: Red Sonja Vol. 1: Queen of the Plagues

Dynamite Entertainment
Writer: Gail Simone
Art: Walter Geovani
Colors: Adriano Lucas
Letters: Simon Bowland

The She-Devil With A Sword returns in a new tale by veteran comics writer Gail Simone and artist Walter Geovani.  Red Sonja is called upon to repay a debt to a king that once showed her kindness and ends up facing the demons of her past and the horrors of the present.  Simone gives us a lovely low fantasy tale that isn’t afraid to crack a few jokes every now and then.  Geovani’s character work is fantastic and his choreography is spectacular.  I just recently bought the second volume of this run, and if it’s anywhere near as enjoyable as this one, expect to see it on this list next year.  

#7: Hellboy and the B.P.R.D. 1952

Dark Horse Books
Story: Mike Mignola & John Arcudi
Art: Alex Maleev
Colors: Dave Stewart
Letters: Clem Robins
Relatedly Read: Hellboy Vol. 1: Seed of Destruction

Hey, look at that, a Dark Horse book makes it on to the list.  So glad they were added to comixology.  Anyway, this volume of the eponymous red demon turned government agent details one of his first missions for the Bureau and involves all of the best pulpy action one could ask for: Nazis, ancient curses, undead monsters, attack monkeys, betrayal, haunted houses.  It’s a classic tale by John Arcudi and series creator Mike Mignola and one that’s easy accessible.  Maleev’s scratchy, gritty style is a perfect fit for the title and Stewart’s colors keep things wonderfully haunting.  While I strongly considered Seed of Destruction, the very first volume of Hellboy, on this list instead, its story was already portrayed so well in the first movie that I found myself enjoying this new tale a bit more.  Still, both are great and are excellent outings for one of comics’ legendary characters.   

#6: Green Arrow Vol. 4: The Kill Machine

DC Comics
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Andrea Sorrentino
Colorists: Marcelo Maiolo & Andrea Sorrentino
Letterer: Rob Leigh

According to the internet, the New 52 version of Green Arrow starts with this volume (aka the previous ones weren’t great, according to the internet) and it’s fairly easy to see why.  Lemire crafts a hard-hitting tale based around Oliver Queen’s family legacy and Sorrentino’s visuals are incredible, giving the volume a classic feel straight out of the Bronze Age of comics while looking distinctly modern.  Frankly, the Count Vertigo tales at the end of the book are worth the price of admission alone, thanks to Lemire’s masterful take on the character’s voice and Sorrentino’s trippy visual effects.  

#5: Thor: God of Thunder Vol. 4: 
The Last Days of Midgard

Marvel Comics
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Esad Ribic
Color Artist: Ive Svorcina
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino

The first return entry of 2015, Thor: God of Thunder makes its way onto the list in its fourth and final volume, The Last Days of Midgard.  It’s about as dire as the title makes it out to be.  In the present, Thor goes toe to toe with the Roxxon corporation and their sinister CEO Dario “The Minotaur” Agger as they try to ruin the Earth for financial gain.  In the future, Old King Thor must stop Galactus from consuming a barren Earth.  Both battles are incredible and hard-hitting.  Even if Aaron’s story wasn’t amazing, the art from Ribic and Svorcina would be reason alone to buy the book.  While the new Thor comic has been pretty great, it is a shame that this title had to end so that the other could be born.  Still, it’s a hell of a finale, one that fits such a worthy (eh?) series.  

#4: Phonogram Vol. 2: The Singles Club

Image Comics
Writer: Keiron Gillen
Art: Jamie McKelvie
Colors: Matthew Wilson
Lettering: Jamie McKelvie

Kieron Gillen. Jamie Mckelvie.  Matthew Wilson.  Phonogram.  ‘Nuff said.  Okay, I’m getting a glare from Charlie, so that means I should probably explain at least a little.  Seven separate stories about different people all in the same nightclub.  And music.  It’s always about music.  Several issues, such as the last one, are pure joy to read.  If you want to get into Phonogram, and why wouldn’t you, this is the volume you should start with.  

#3: Afterlife With Archie Vol. 1: 
Escape From Riverdale

Archie Comics
Story: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Artwork: Franceso Francavilla
Lettering: Jack Morelli

It shouldn’t work, right?  Wholesome Archie Comics line mixed with gruesome zombie apocalypse.  But it does, and it works wonderfully.  Aguirre-Sacasa has such a masterful command over every inhabitant of Riverdale and his script hits all the right horror buttons, never being gratuitous for gratuitous-ness’s sake and making every loss mean something.  Francavilla’s moody, neon colors are a perfect fit for this series and his lines are simplistic yet detailed when required.  This could have been just another petty, undeserving horror series, instead it’s the third best book I read all year.  A closing example, nearly half a year later, I read it again and I still got choked up at certain points.  Damn good on every level.  Now, if only this series would continue publishing, that would markedly improve 2016.

#2: Saga Vol. 4

Image Comics
Writer: Brian K. Vaughn
Artist: Fiona Staples
Lettering: Fonografiks
Relatedly Read: Vol. 3 & 5

Jumping two spots from last year’s list is Saga, which, I mean do I really have to say anything about?  It’s Saga.  The industry’s golden comic of the modern era.  The space opera about not-dumb Romeo and Juliet having a kid on the run from their warring planets.  Surviving against all odds against assassin, giant monsters, and homicidal rebels.  Volume 4 is the story of how the parents separate.  Fiona Staples.  Brian K. Vaughn.  Fonografiks.  Everything it’s cracked up to be.  Read it.

#1: Fables Vol. 6: Homelands

Vertigo Comics
Writer: Bill Willingham
Artists: Mark Buckingham, David Hahn, & Lan Medina
Inkers: Steve Leialoha, David Hahn, & Dan Green
Colorist: Daniel Vozzo
Letterer: Todd Klein
Relatedly Read: Vol. 4-14

Ten volumes purchased, two years in a row as the number one graphic novel I read in the whole year.  Fables is stellar. It’s incredibly engaging and inventive in its use of old stories.  Willingham’s world has taken on a life of its own as the players and settings naturally evolve and grow.  Regular artist Mark Buckingham’s storybook-esque pages are incredible, and every guest penciler contributes wonderfully.  Volume Six focus’s on Boy Blue’s excursions in to the Adversary-controlled homelands, the first time they’ve been so heavily featured in the series. It’s an excellent entry and it was really difficult to choose from the TEN volumes I bought this year.
So there you have it.  What you think of the picks this year?  
Leave your thoughts in the comments!

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