With half of the year already over, we list the new comics that had us most excited for the medium going forward.
It seems like it was only recently that we were ringing in the Year of the Sheep. And yet here we are, already a couple of weeks into summer, halfway to the end of another trip around the sun.
Some of you may be wondering why I’ve decided to make this list about the “most interesting” new comics of the first half of the year, instead of making it a list of the best new comics. Here’s my long-winded explanation, as best I can justify it:
A lot of the time, a work being lauded as the best among its peers is a function of audience consensus. Now consensus is a wonderful thing when we’re talking about democracy. In art, however, consensus often results in the safe, the trendy, and the most risk-averse material rising to the top. That’s just how it works. Something that aims to please everybody, or at least aims to avoid offending anybody, isn’t art. It’s beige—plain, unremarkable, bland, and ultimately forgettable. I don’t want beige comics. I want comics with character. Sure, like everybody else, I like comics that reaffirm my own opinions about what makes for “good comics” and I place a high value on technical craft and execution. But I also want comics that will challenge those ideas and make me think of what technical excellence and successful craft should mean in different contexts.
What I want, for lack of a better term, are “interesting comics.”
Below, then, in no particular order, is my list of the most interesting comics of the first half of 2015. None of them are perfect (is any comic?), but that they succeed despite their flaws is what makes them worth reading.
[NOTE: To qualify for the list, a series must have debuted at retail between 31 December 2014 and 30 June 2015.]
Invisible Republic by Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman (Image Comics)
A socially-minded science-fiction thriller that is part detective story, part political drama, and part fictional biography by the creative team behind the excellent Heathentown and Betrayal of the Planet of the Apes. This comic about the rise-and-fall of a planetary dictator isn’t just one of the most engaging new science-fiction comics of the year… it’s one of the most engaging comics you can read right now, full stop.
Harrow County by Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook (Dark Horse Comics)
As solid a horror series debut that I’ve read in recent memory. Bunn does his best impression of Ray Bradbury while still bringing the punchy modern storytelling that made The Sixth Gun a breakthrough hit. 2012 Russ Manning Most Promising Newcomer Award recipient Tyler Crook does some of the best sequential work of his career thus far (no easy feat, given a résumé that includes stuff likePetrograd and the “Lake of Fire” storyline in B.P.R.D.: Hell on Earth).
Airboy by James Robinson and Greg Hinkle (Image Comics)
Robinson and Hinkle expose themselves, figuratively and literally, in this autobiographical comic about their struggles to revive the public domain Golden Age comics property Airboy. The duo lay bare their substance abuse issues and marital infidelity but the cocaine and liquor-fueled attempts to kickstart the creative process raises the question of how much of what we’re seeing on the page is “true” in the conventional sense.
EI8HT by Rafael Albuquerque and Mike Johnson (Dark Horse Comics)
Based on ideas Brazilian comics art sensation Rafael Albuquerque (American Vampire, Blue Beetle) initially explored in his old webcomic Tune 8, EI8HT actively seeks to involve coloring in the process of telling its tale about a time-lost chrononaut. The position and origin of events, objects, and even characters in the comic’s timeline are indicated by their hue, which adds a secondary layer of visual storytelling. The main narrative is a tad too shaggy at this point, but the inventiveness of the techniques in play are worth tolerating the meandering plot.
Kaijumax by Zander Cannon (Oni Press)
If the description of the comic as “HBO’s Oz-meets-Toho-era Godzilla” doesn’t sell you on this comic, I don’t know what will. Will a free-and-legal download of the first issue help? A hilarious send-up of prison drama TV and kaiju movies, underscored by Cannon’s genuine love for both.
Cluster by Ed Brisson and Damian Couceiro (BOOM! Studios)
Brisson brings the sense for hard-hitting drama that he’s honed in the crime comics genre to the outer reaches of space in this solidly-executed, futuristic sci-fi actioner about rebellion in a prison colony planet. The attempts to address—via the sci-fi metaphor—issues of colonialism, class struggle, and racism can be clumsy at times, but Brisson and Couceiro’s execution matches the comic’s ambition for the most part.
RUNLOVEKILL by Eric Canete and Jonathan Tsuei (Image Comics)
A showcase for artist Eric Canete’s dynamic, animated sense of storytelling and action choreography. There’s also a solid story about a futuristic tech dystopia and the protagonist’s attempt to break out of it all, but it’s really all about the visuals driving the narrative for me in this case.
Red One by Xavier Dorison, Terry Dodson, and Rachel Dodson (Image Comics)
An unofficial recouching of the Wonder Woman premise, with the Soviet Union subbing in for Paradise Island and a sexually liberated covert agent as the super-powered woman who is tasked with the mission of saving the world from itself—think of it as Superman: Red Son, off-brand Wonder Woman edition. The comic’s gender politics (and actual politics) won’t be for everyone, but it’s that dissenting character that gives the comic its verve. Oh, and the spectacular art by Terry and Rachel Dodson doesn’t hurt, either.
- Age of Reptiles: Ancient Egyptians by Ricardo Delgado (Dark Horse Comics)
- Arcadia by Alex Paknadel and Eric Scott Pfeiffer (BOOM! Studios)
- The Auteur: Sister Bambi by Rick Spears and James Callahan (Oni Press)
- Descender by Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen (Image Comics)
- The Empty by Jimmie Robinson (Image Comics)
- Giant Days by John Allison and Lissa Treiman (BOOM! Box)
- Hex11 by Lisa K. Weber and Kelly Sue Milano (HexComix)
- Hit: 1957 by Bryce Carlson and Vanesa R. Del Rey (BOOM! Studios)
- The Infinite Loop by Pierrick Colinet and Elsa Charrtier (IDW Publishing)
- Jem and the Holograms by Kelly Thompson and Sophie Campbell (IDW Publishing)
- Lady Killer by Joelle Jones and Jamie S. Rich (Dark Horse Comics)
- The Legacy of Luther Strode by Justin Jordan and Tradd Moore (Image Comics)
- Miami Vice Remix by Joe Casey and Jim Mahfood (IDW Publishing)
- Mister X: Razed by Dean Motter (Dark Horse Comics)
- Neverboy by Shaun Simon and Tyler Jenkins (Dark Horse Comics)
- No Mercy by Alex de Campi and Carla Speed McNeil (Image Comics)
- Past Aways by Matt Kindt and Scott Kolins (Dark Horse Comics)
- Poet Anderson: The Dream Walker by Tom DeLonge, Ben Kull, and Djet
- Rebels by Brian Wood and Andrea Mutti (Dark Horse Comics)
- Resident Alien: The Sam Hain Mystery by Peter Hogan and Steve Parkhouse (Dark Horse Comics)
- Southern Cross by Becky Cloonan and Andy Belanger (Image Comics)
- Stray Bullets: Sunshine & Roses by David Lapham (Image Comics)