As with my top books, these are the best that I read in 2015 for the first time, not necessarily that were released this year. And man, this was hard, so there’ll be some honorable mentions just because of how many great ones I read.
Top Ten of 2015 — Grpahic Novels
- Sandman: Overture, by Neil Gaiman and J.H. Williams III. I’ll sing the praises of it in a minute but I just wanted to say first that I never thought anything published this year (at least in part) could beat Endgame. But then I read this. Talk about art, and if anyone ever doubted that comics can be art, this proves them so utterly wrong. Each and every page was just so gloriously illustrated, and Gaiman’s writing enhances it so much. You could literally sit and look at every single page for five or ten minutes, just taking all of Gaiman’s words in and all of the incredible art by Williams III. While I don’t necessarily dislike it, I was never the biggest fan of the art for the original Sandman series, I think just because it was very much of its time (though revolutionary in its own right) and I didn’t start reading comics till recently. The art for Overture, however, is nothing short of utterly fantastic and simply must be taken in for longer than it takes to read the page. Another thing I love about this is how it’s a prequel, and prequels usually don’t work simply because we know exactly what the end result is, so there’s no tension or anything. Gaiman, however, shows his true skill by making a prequel still completely fascinating and gripping. The only thing is that I would recommend reading the entire Sandman series beforehand, as there’d be a bigger resonance and catharsis that way.
- Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?, by Neil Gaiman. One of the most powerful books I’ve read, for sure. It’s no secret that I’m a huge Batman fan, so sure that has something to do with this, but honestly this book is just written so well. Gaiman is at his best when he plays with fantasy elements, and it’s those supernatural elements that work best here. I liked it so much that I immediately went on eBay and found the single issues simply because I wanted them as part of my comics collection. There’s so many great emotions that come from the plot—if it had truly been the last Batman comic, I would’ve been totally okay with it, as it was such a great finale (though of course then we wouldn’t have Snyder and Capullo’s Batman run, which, speaking of…: )
- Endgame, by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo. Oh man, talk about emotions, this was incredible. Snyder & Capullo are by far the best comic team working today. I really can’t say enough good about them, as somehow they keep pulling every storyline and every situation off. With the absolute genius of Court of Owls, I didn’t think they could get better or even match it, but every single volume has been just as good if not better, and Endgame is no exception. In fact, it might actually be my favorite so far, but it’s just so hard to choose. The last chapter of this storyline was especially brutal emotionally, and I’m so glad I decided to start getting them month-to-month (and now I do, I’m proud to say, own every single issue of their run—took me a while to track them all down for a decent price).
- Saga, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. For this, I’m talking about the beautiful light-blue hardcover collection of the first 3 volumes. And, having Saga be #4 just shows how great this year has been for me comics-wise, because this comic deserves the #1 spot itself. So many people have praised this, and rightly so. I love the richness of the world, and how, like Star Wars, it’s a fantasy story but set in space/different worlds. It held my interest all the way through, and I can’t wait for the next hardcover.
- Wytches, by Scott Snyder and Jock. Man, this book is creepy. Another fantastic book from Snyder, and my favorite so far of his non-Batman stuff.
- Rio Bravo, by Matt Fraction and David Aja. A really fun read, and a spectacular finale to Fraction’s run of Hawkeye.
- Superman Unchained, by Scott Snyder and Jim Lee. First off, the art on this is amazing, especially in the nice Deluxe Hardcover DC published, or the awesome fold-out page in issue #1. And it was really cool seeing Snyder in a completely different type of story, but still just as engaging.
- Secret Identity, by Kurt Busiek and Stuart Immonen. Very different from most superhero comics, but really good. What I remember most about it is the art, and how I would just take in the various splash pages for long periods of time—it definitely fit with the overall feel and tone of the book.
- Swamp Thing, by Scott Snyder and Yanick Paquette. Another Snyder hit, and a really unexpected one. I kept hearing that Swamp Thing was great, but never really believed it—until I read this.
- Aquaman, Vol. 1: The Trench, by Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis. I decided to put this one on here over some of the others just because of how much it surprised me. I never really expected to like Aquaman all that much, but this—and the subsequent volumes—was amazing, and now I can say confidently that I’m definitely a fan of Aquaman.
- It’s a Magical World, by Bill Watterson. Now, normally this would probably be #1 on my list (or very close to there, at the least). The only reason I made it an honorable mention instead was because I’d read about half or so of this a long time ago (Calvin & Hobbes was my childhood, though this was the only collection my family actually never owned for some reason). But I finally read the whole thing cover to cover and, well, Calvin & Hobbes definitely holds up, it’s just incredible.
- Harrow County, by Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook. This really should be on my top ten. I think it’s better than Aquaman, and maybe even some of the others. The only reason I decided to leave it off was because I already have Wytches on there which is similar in tone. Which I know is unfair to Harrow County, but I wanted to feature a bigger variety, hence my stating clearly that this was better than some on the list. But I really did love this. It’s just so creepy and gripping that I couldn’t stop buying the first arc in single issues even though I had just promised myself I would only be getting #1s for the most part because I was buying too much. I’m definitely going to be picking up the subsequent trades.
- The Wake, by Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy. Another great story from Snyder, and just not on my list because I didn’t like it quite as much as the others, which isn’t a knock on it at all because it was still fantastic, and just shows how great of a writer Snyder is.
- American Vampire, by Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque. Same as The Wake—I’ve only read vol. 1 so far, but I’ll definitely be picking up and reading the rest.
- Dark Victory, by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale. Again, just another example of how many great comics I read this year when this doesn’t even make the top ten (though, like Harrow County, it’s probably better than Aquaman and maybe some of the others). I preferred this over Long Halloween, but both are fantastic Batman stories, and of course Sale’s art is amazing.
- Superior Spider-Man Vol. 1, by Dan Slott and Ryan Stegman. I wasn’t expecting to like this as much as I did, but now I can’t wait to read the rest of the series.
- Justice League, by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee. Really a fantastic series, and I can’t wait to start reading the Darkseid War once I pick it up in TPB.
- Wonder Woman, by Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang. Honestly, it was the cover that made me want to read this the most, and the art is definitely fantastic. But I wasn’t expecting to love the story as much as I did. Azzarello proves how great of a writer he is here, and I can’t wait to read the rest of the volumes. I really love all the mythological elements he embraces and threads through the story.