As it turns out, we’ve managed to squeeze in one more “best of” list for 2015, as Jules runs down the books, creators and publishers that have impressed him most this year.
Keep your eyes peeled for our all-encompassing year-end summary in the next day or so, but for now, check out what Jules had to say and let us know your thoughts in the comments.
Best Publisher – Image Comics
It couldn’t be anyone else, could it? It’s strange to think that the company who pretty much drove me away from comics for a while when they first appeared are now head and shoulders above everyone else. The quality of Image’s output is ridiculously strong, coupled with a diversity of genres and styles that really sets it apart. For the first time since the glory days of Vertigo, I’m checking out the first issue of every new title a publisher release. They don’t always get it right, but it’s a testament to their hit rate that a new Image comic is always going to be worth investigating.
Best Artist – Jamie McKelvie
This one wasn’t difficult at all. I’ve been a huge fan of McKelvie’s art since I found a worn copy of Long Hot Summer in a bargain bin and he’s been pretty much one of my favourite artists ever since. He can make a conversation round a table as dynamic as a full on punch up. He can make a concert scene so real you can almost hear the music. His storytelling is so sharp, so dynamic, that you could be watching a movie, or even real life. And man, does he know how to dress his characters in the sharpest of clobber. Oh and action scenes? He’s got them covered too. And then some. It says it all that I’ve never seen a single page of his art that doesn’t blow me away. This year was no different.
Best Writer – Gordon Rennie
Tons of competition, but I’m going for this fella purely because of one story: Jaegir. By some margin the best new story to appear in 2000AD for years (since Zenith in fact), Rennie had taken the well-worn future war of Rogue Trooper and given it new legs. In Natalia Jaegir, we have a protagonist with real depth, one who’s public persona is slowly being unpacked through flashbacks and inner monologues revealing a complex and believable individual. The Norts were always one-note future Nazis in Rogue Trooper, but Rennie’s knack for worldbuilding has brought their whole empire to life, while telling a gripping tale that’s hopefully going to run and run.
Top 5 Series of 2015 (in no particular order)
The Wicked + The Divine (Image Comics) – I think about music more than I should sometimes. Not just about the music itself, but what it means, how it’s marketed, how it impacts on people and how it’s remembered. That’s partly why I love The Wicked And The Divine so much, because it’s obvious that Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie do too. Phonogram had already proved that, but it was always going to be an obscure classic, an out of print 7″ that someone would stick on the end of a tape for you. Here, they’ve unashamedly went for the Big Pop Hit and thank god they did. It says so much about music, about contemporary culture, about why it just matters so much to us, but wraps it up in a riveting story that I can never predict where it’s headed. The third act has taken a massive sidestep with fill-in artists while McKelvie world on the new Phonogram and it’s *still* phenomenal. That says it all.
Wytches (Image Comics) – I’m a huge, huge fan of Scott Snyder’s Batman run, but Wytches is where he really shines as a writer. It’s that rare beast, a horror comic that is actually frightening. More than frightening actually. Wytches is flat out disturbing. The rural setting and family dynamics call to mind Snyder’s acknowledged inspiration Stephen King, but this is no cheap copy. Right from the very off, Wytches ramps up the tension and fear, rarely letting up across its 6 issues before delivering a brutal but weirdly satisfying finale. It’s not all about Snyder’s scripts though. Jock’s artwork is equally responsible for the overall feeling of unease that every page of Wytches gives you, his scratchy, visceral style brilliantly bringing the story to life. The best horror comic on the shelves, bar none.
Southern Bastards (Image Comics) – Jason Aaron doesn’t let you down, but he’s outdid himself here. Southern Bastards felt like it was going to be one thing, then another, then something else again, the goalposts constantly shifting as Aaron built the foundations of what has turned out to be a sprawling epic not *set* in the South, but *about* the South. Aaron and artist Jason Latour have created a world so vivid that you can a most smell the food in the greasy diner. It’s a grim, nasty place where the football coach is God, but even he is given depth and a backstory that forces you to empathise with him, no matter how repugnant he acts. It’s not a fun read at any point, but Southern Bastards is bloody essential.
2000AD (Rebellion) – It’s had its ups and downs over the years, but 2000AD has been at a real high point for some time now. As always, Dredd and John Wagner leads the way, but with top-notch talent like Rob Williams and Michael Collins ensuring there isn’t so much as a dip with each change of writer. We’ve got old thrills like Slaine, ABC Warriors and Strontium Dog back to their very best, while newer thrills like Absalom, Brass Sun and (my absolute favourite) Jaegir are as good as any the prog has ever ran. For an anthology to maintain such a high quality week in week out is nothing short of spectacular. The fact 2000AD can do it year in year out is exactly why “The Galaxy’s Greatest Comic” isn’t just a tagline, it’s a fact.
Revival (Image Comics) – Revival is a funny little title. With all the attention on Image these days, it’s almost lost in amongst all the noise around titles like Saga and The Walking Dead. Instead, Revival just quietly goes about its business, subtly being one of the best books on the shelves, while everyone is looking the other way. Don’t get me wrong, sales are fine (it’s still going after all), but this should be a book at the top of everyone’s lists. A rural noir, with a truly inspired supernatural concept at the heart of it, Revival is pretty much flawless. Tim Seeley makes the weird as believable as the mundane, nailing casual conversations as much as disturbing horror, which are all then beautifully brought to life by Mike Norton. It’s a real team effort abc that comes over on every page. Seriously. Go buy Revival. You’ll be glad you did.
The Writer of this piece was: Jules Boyle
Jules tweets from @Captain_Howdy