Best of 2015: Best Mini-Series

best mini-series 2015More self-contained than an ongoing series (which may build on decades of backstory), but capable of more depth than a one-off, the mini-series may stand as the truest analog to novels that monthly comics can provide. 2015 was a banner year for mini-series, with both of the big two switching to minis almost entirely during their respective crossover events, and many more stellar minis coming from other publishers. These our our top 10 mini-series of 2015.

10. Convergence: SupermanConvergence: Superman

Convergence was an event rooted firmly in the comforts of nostalgia, but its best installments found a way to be more than just a walk down memory lane. Convergence: Superman was clearly one of those installments; while it succeeded at tapping into the elements fans loved about the pre-Flashpoint Superman — largely thanks to bringing in 90’s Superman superstar Dan Jurgens on writing and art — it will probably be most fondly remembered for where it took Lois and Clark next. The birth of their son Jonathan would have been a powerful final story for this incarnation of the Man of Steel, but fan reaction was so strong that DC decided to continue their adventures. Jurgens also made smart use of his Convergence setting, highlighting the cynicism of the Flashpoint universe as a contrast to Superman’s infectious, all-powerful optimism. It’s a powerful exploration of everything that made — and continues to make — Superman such an inspirational character.

Convergence: The Question9. Convergence: The Question

Then, of course, Greg Rucka took everything that made Convergence: Superman work and dialed it up to 11 with Convergence: The Question. Rucka almost entirely ignored the trappings of Convergence to instead tell an intensely personal story about Renee Montoya and Harvey Dent, one that relied upon nearly 20 years worth of history with (and between) the characters, yet never got tripped up by all that continuity. Artist Cully Hamner also made his return to these characters, bringing to life both complex, intricately choreographed fights and some thematically dense staging (such as his focus on individual halves of Two-Face’s face, but on Flashpoint Harvey’s face as a whole). By focusing on these two complex characters — both as individuals and as something perhaps approaching “friends” — Rucka and Hamner not only managed to bring closure to fans of Renee Montoya, but to create Convergence‘s strongest tie-in as well.

8. The Infinite LoopThe Infinite Loop

While it’s an angle that’s gone increasingly by the wayside in recent decades, science fiction has incredible potential to explore social issues and ideas of progress, and few creators understand that better than Pierrick Colinet and Elsa Charretier. Their IDW mini-series The Infinite Loop tells the story of a couple on the run in a future that forbids any deviations from the norm, expertly balancing thrilling action, complex, heady time-travel concepts, and a smattering of erotica — more importantly, though, it’s also a rousing call to action. Colinet and Charretier use The Infinite Loop to show the efforts each and every one of their readers can make to break the unending cycle of hatred that continues to threaten the LGBT community. The Infinite Loop is more than just a story (though it is an excellent one) — it’s a plaintive call for change that simply cannot (and should not!) be ignored.

Godzilla in Hell 17. Godzilla in Hell

Godzilla in Hell made its way onto Retcon Punch’s pull list through the sheer outrageousness of its premise alone, but it stayed there because it sold the hell out of that premise. Godzilla in Hell almost defies explanation, transcending any real sense of continuity to instead focus on a variety of top-notch creators’ (including James Stokoe, Bob Eggleton, Ulises Fraines, Erick Freitas, Buster Moody, Brandon Seifert, Ibrahim Moustafa, and Dave Wachter) takes on what would happen if the King of all Monsters got trapped in Hell. While every creator’s approach varied, what each issue had in common was intricately detailed, achingly moody art, and a Godzilla who tore through each enemy that crossed its path with righteous fury. That all changed in the final issue (one of our best issues of 2015), where Godzilla discovered that the only way to escape Hell was to purposely submit to its horrors. That such a powerful moral (and such a cathartic finale) stemmed from such a bonkers concept still surprises us, but it can’t be denied: Godzilla in Hell is one helluva book.

6. Star Wars: Princess LeiaPrincess Leia

Mark Waid and Terry Dodson’s mini-series followed the titular princess as she sought to collect and protect the remnants of Alderaanian culture spread throughout the galaxy that were orphaned by the Death Star. But playing the role of Savior of Alderaan proved to be more difficult than Leia expected, not because she lacks the ability to save her people, but because there are some aspects of Alderaanian culture that maybe weren’t worth saving. The series weaves its way through original trilogy and prequel trilogy imagery, making the case that while not all of the movies are worth saving, they’re all part of the rich tapestry that is Star Wars. Leia’s responsibility to her people, flawed though they may be, echos the creators’ responsibility to their source material. It’s a beautiful plea for accepting the whole saga, warts and all. Terry and Rachel Dodson’s softer artwork helps sell a story that’s much more grounded in the emotional realities of its characters than the on-going series.

We Stand on Guard5. We Stand on Guard

The gritty reboot of Canadian Bacon nobody knew they wanted, Brian K. Vaughan and Steve Skroce’s We Stand on Guard traded Michael Moore’s focus on farcical politics for the horrors of war. The result was a much more potent message that emphasized the complicity of every American in pretending our wars are about anything other than material interests. Vaughan has never shied away from political messages — particularly in the wake of (and in regards to) 9/11 — and this series offered a clever mirror for America’s invasion and occupation of Iraq. In true Vaughan style, that seemingly straightforward message is complicated by diverging opinions and inconvenient facts, twisting his simple parable about our true interests in Iraq into a more fully developed (albeit cynical) portrait of the world — all within six issues.

4. Secret WarsSecret Wars

We are still holding out for the resolution on this one, but Secret Wars ended up being a breathing-takingly imaginative reshuffling of decades of Marvel history into one horrifically thorough Doctor Doom fantasy. The mini-series acts as a cap on Jonathan Hickman’s glorious — if indulgent — three-year epic in Avengers and New Avengers, and as such, started by destroying the final two Marvel Universes. Both the destruction in issue 1, and the introduction to Battleworld in issue 2, are spellbindingly rendered by Esad Ribic and Ive Svorcina, a team who’s artwork knows only one speed: epic. Every issue reads like a collection of the coolest and most mind boggling images Hickman could imagine. The end of the multiverse? Check! Phoenix-Cyclops obliterated by God Doom? Check! Ben Brimm, as a living wall, breaking free of his bondage? OH, MAN: CHECK! The creative team wields these powerful images with so much grace and confidence, that maybe we would have been okay never coming back from Battleworld.

The Sandman Overture3. The Sandman Overture

For all the popularity of prequels, they all share the same problem: the inevitability of the story they presage. Anakin Skywalker’s fall from grace might have been more compelling if the entire audience wasn’t already aware of his fate. Or that he’d father twins before that. Or that he’d become a Jedi before that. In true Sandman fashion, Neil Gaiman addresses that problem directly in The Sandman Overture, making the story’s predestiny a matter of narrative conflict. As the series wound to a close in 2015, Orpheus managed to break free of his brother Destiny’s book, setting the course for an ending none of us could have anticipated. The result was a series as alive and unpredictable as its predecessor — enlivened by some equally adventurous (and gorgeous) art from J.H. Williams — allowing it to break free of the strictures that normally limit the narrative possibilities of prequels.

2. The MultiversityThe Multiversity

Skipping from universe to universe with each issue, The Multiversity is arguably better categorized as a series of related one-offs than a proper mini-series — or, at least it might have been at the beginning. As the series approached its conclusion in 2015, the interconnectedness (and the subplot where a multiversal band of heroes rescues each other in hopes of saving the multiverse) became impossible to ignore, pulling the series into a coherent, if convoluted, narrative. That’s exactly the kind of narrative we’ve come to expect of Morrison’s DC work, but the premise of The Multiversity allowed him to work with a new artist every issue, bringing on some of DC’s heaviest hitters to create entire universes alongside him. That those distinct universes just happen to all be part of the same multiverse allows this mini-series to be more varied than any other series could ever hope to be.

Lando 11. Star Wars: Lando

Charles Soule and Alex Maleev’s Lando tells a relatively self-contained story about everyone’s favorite non-Han-Solo-scoundrel, Lando Calrissian, and his ability to get into and out of a jam using nothing but his charms. It’s a simple premise, and the heist that follows is equally by-the-numbers, but it’s Maleev and colorist Paul Mounts execution of this story that makes it our favorite from 2015. So much extra information is coded into every coloring choice and every subtly innovative layout. The series is also constantly inventive, embracing Star Wars’ habit of crazy aliens and cool new characters, instead of merely churning out more wookies and more protocol droids. Characters like Chanath Cha or Sava or Papa Toren all feel bizarrely at-home in the Star Wars universe. And by the end, Soule had even crafted an emotionally rich story about sacrifice and the lengths true friends go to for each other.

Want more Best of 2015 lists? Check out our Best CoversBest Issues, Best Artist and Best Writer lists!

8 comments on “Best of 2015: Best Mini-Series

  1. Definitely one of my favorite categories this year. I’ll rep for most of this list — the only ones I didn’t vote for were Multiversity (the stronger issues were in 2014), We Stand On Guard (It grew on me, but not Vaughan’s best work), Secret Wars (its tie-ins easily overshadow it for me) and Sandman (which I didn’t read).

    Besides the minis that already made the list, here were my favorites of 2015:

    Secret Wars: Runaways: My favorite mini of 2015, hands down. Noelle Stevenson’s characters were so charming, but it also packed a few poignant emotional gut-punches. I wish this could be an ongoing. I miss this book.

    Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl: Even when I don’t necessarily understand every beat, this book manages to hit home for me. I relate a lot to Emily’s belated coming of age and Kohl’s attempts to navigate the world of music as he grows older. Plus, Jamie McKelvie. Hell yes.

    Convergence: Justice Society of America: Admittedly, this is mostly for that phenomenal final issue (which captures the pure joy superhero comics are capable of bringing better than anything else I read this year), but still, one hell of a story.

    Convergence: The Flash: A tribute to Barry Allen the martyr’s importance to the DC universe, and some incredibly interesting, dynamic artwork and fight sequences to boot.

    Dead Drop: Ales Kot’s tour of the Valient Universe managed to give me a new favorite character every issue.

    Secret Wars: Amazing Spider-Man Renew Your Vows: A beautiful exploration of Peter’s family and responsibility that also managed to make some smart statements about the collecting culture of comic books.

    Secret Wars: Siege: A tragic goodbye to Gillen’s work at Marvel (for now, I hope) that manages to find some pride and hope even in its downer ending.

    Secret Wars: Warworld: Letting Jason Aaron and Mike Del Mundo’s imaginations run loose couldn’t have had better results. There’s a reason this got an ongoing.

      • You know, I loved the first few issues of Thors, but the ending was underwhelming to me. The massive delay on it didn’t help

        • Thors just couldn’t reconcile the closing of the case with Jane Foster leading the Thors to war, which made a sudden swerve for no reason at the end. A real shame, as the rest of the miniseries was great

          And yeah, I want Noelle Stevenson’s Runaways to be an ongoing. Or at least, I want some sort of similar project from Noelle Stevenson in the Marvel Universe, since her Runaways relies on the Battleworld. How Marvel haven’t given her more work is baffling

  2. 2015 was year of the Mini-Series: And I mostly abstained. I was (and still am) very disillusioned by the nature of big events and the mini-series that are spawned from them, and both Marvel and DC went after that hard this year.

    Lando was fantastic. Secret Wars should have been great but loses points for not being on time and for needing to be on time since the rest of the Marvel Universe is waiting for it to end. I liked Renew Your Vows quite a bit.

    Other than that… I have little insight and I didn’t love most of the other miniseries I read.

  3. I didn’t end up reading a lot of miniseries as well (though I will admit that Convergence hasn’t worked on me as much as it has for other people. Too many one shots felt like they would be better if they were expanded. Morrison should have done something similar to his Seven Soldiers)

    The only Convergence title I read was Batgirl, which was unfortunately bad (but at least the future seems to suggest lots of Stephanie Brown anyway), and I still have no idea why I didn’t read the Question, as I have always loved Rucka’s work on Renee.

    The Secret Wars stuff I read were mostly great. Runaways was a true delight, a piece of magic. Siege was the perfect encapsulation of the sheer silly joy of Gillen’s work, combined with the dark heart inside. Thors was great, until the last issue struggled with its attempt to tie into the main comic proper. And Infinity Gauntlet was that secret success, hidden off to the side but telling a simple story fantastically, with amazing art that truly managed to pull off fantastic action beats and some of the best character designs ever (I want Dustin Weaver to redesign the Guardians of the Galaxy)

    I don’t think I can get away with talking about Sheriff of Babylon, since that only had one issue this year, but there is an obvious contender for best miniseries. Prez

    Prez is both truly hilarious, and cuttingly insightful. And, most importantly, it has a real heart, a real love of humanity’s potential even as it scathingly attacks so much of out society, especially political. Prez is honestly something special, and deserves not to be forgotten.

    I honestly can’t wait for Prez: Second Term this year

  4. Lando was noteworthy in it played a very successful long con on the reader about Lando’s use of violence. It was a pretty powerful finale and turned what was a very good character study into one of the best comics of the year.

    I have it on my “Best comics of 2015” list. I didn’t know I was going to need a mini-series list! I must have missed the memo.

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