Best of 2015: Best Series

best series 2015
We all love a good one-off or anthology, but it’s the thrill of a series that keeps us coming back to our comic shop week-in, week-out. Whether it’s a brand new creator-owned series or a staple of the big two, serialized storytelling allows for bigger casts, bigger worlds, and bigger adventures. That bigness was on full display this year, as series made grand statement after grand statement about what they were all about. These are our top 10 series of 2015.

10. Darth Vader

darth vaderYeah, yeah, yeah, Star Wars, whatever. Marvel’s first of two on-going series set in the Star Wars universe was sort of destined for greatness — even a competent execution of those characters and those ideas was going to be exciting. But Darth Vader? There’s so much less to inherently love there. So, rather than being a series that benefits from great ideas, Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca’s series thrives on excellent execution. Darth Vader patiently explores the bewildering place the Sith Lord holds in the Military Imperial Complex, shedding light on the many ways he’s strategically and politically outclassed by his peers (and even by his subordinates). The series is a true portrait of, frequently impotent, rage and has grown the character immeasurably. In addition, Darth Vader has introduced immediately classic characters to the cannon, including the torture-obsessed protocol droid Triple-Zero, the gun-crazy astromech droid, BT-1, and the savvy anti-anti-hero, Dr. Aphra. Also, (astonishingly) Marvel published 14 regular issues of this series this year, all of which were drawn by Larroca – that’s an insanely prolific out-put for an artist working at this high quality.

9. Ms. Marvel

Ms. MarvelMs. Marvel extended its winning streak throughout its second year as G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona, and Takeshi Miyazawa continued to establish Kamala Kahn as one of Marvel’s top-tier characters. Whether challenging Kamala with something as personal as a bad crush or something as grand as the (literal) end of the world, Wilson and company never lost sight of Kamala’s unique point of view, that mix of everyday teenage problems, more specific cultural concerns, and grand heroic action that’s made her a refreshing and relatable hero to readers of all ages, nationalities, and religions. Combine that with Alphona and Miyazawa’s cheerful and expressive art — chocked-full of fun details — and you’ve got a book that’s just an absolute pleasure to read month-in and month-out. It’s been a joy to see Kamala Kahn so readily embraced by fans both in-universe and in real life; she deserves it.

8. Paper Girls

Paper GirlsWhat is Paper Girls? What started as a Spielberg-esque portrait of childhood in mid-80s middle America quickly transformed into some kind of adults vs. teens sci-fi rapture. Our understanding of just what this series is may still be developing, but the one thing we know for certain is how well it’s done. Writer Brian K. Vaughan and artist Cliff Chiang both have the kind of track-record to warrant that kind of benefit of the doubt sight-unseen, but every single one of Paper Girls‘ 2015 issues was incredible, layering all of the otherworldy madness with well-observed period and character details. Vaughan and Chiang’s skills at both interpersonal dramas and batshit Fourth-World zaniness are on full display, cohering into a comic that is unlike anything we’ve seen before.

7. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl

SquirrelThere’s no other comic quite like The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. Ryan North and Erica Henderson have created not only the funniest book on the stands, but quite possibly the most joke-packed comic I’ve ever read. Seriously, this book is comedically dense — jokes’re crammed into nearly every panel, all the backgrounds, even into a running narration in the margins! While that would be enough to make this book great on its own, North and Henderson aren’t content just to rely on their (unparalleled) senses of humor; Squirrel Girl is also blessed with a tremendous heart. Despite her (similarly unparalleled) physical prowess, Squirrel Girl is more likely to win a battle by befriending a foe than beating them up. Combine that with North and Henderson’s willingness to play with typical comic conventions and a cast full of characters of all shapes and sizes, and you’ve got a book that’s equal parts funny, aspirational, heartfelt, and unpredictable. That’s a hard combination to beat.

6. Hawkeye

HawkeyeWith only two issues that arguably should have landed in 2014, Hawkeye had an uphill battle to make it to this list, but no amount of demerits could undermine the power of those two issues. Packed with emotional climaxes for every character still in play, those final issues pulled the themes of the series into focus, revealing just how perfect the series’ inner-workings truly were. The first was issue 21, which started with a rousing “we can do it” attitude, only to end with Clint at the bottom of his pit of despair (albeit with the twinge of hope brought on by Kate’s unexpected return). Issue 22 sealed the deal, allowing Clint and Kate a kind of Phyrrhic victory, defeating the bad guys, but not without making themselves targets of much badder guys. That’s a perfect distillation of both Clint and Kate — their best intentions can’t save them from the one-two punch of the repercussions of getting involved and their own rotten luck.

5. Daredevil

DaredevilAt the start of Mark Waid’s Daredevil run (two volumes ago), Matt decided the best way to cope with the darkness in his life was to choose to be happy — a philosophy he doubled down in at the start of Waid’s second volume, escaping infamy and disbarment by heading to San Francisco. But Foggy was never convinced that Matt wasn’t just in denial, a kind of ticking time-bomb that finally started to self-destruct at the end of 2014. That darkness threatened to consume Matt as more of his past came back to haunt him in 2015 — a tonal shift reflected beautifully in Chris Samnee’s inks — but Matt’s friends proved just as stubborn as his depression, refusing to let him wallow in self-doubt. It was an inspiring ending to an inspired run, allowing Matt to hold on the the optimism he could only pretend at before.

4. Grayson

GraysonFor all its genre trappings and off-the-wall plots, the most interesting aspect of Grayson is, appropriately enough, Dick Grayson himself. After kicking off 2015 by asserting that, no matter what he’s put through, we’ll always recognize Grayson, writers Tim Seeley and Tom King proceeded to test their claim by pushing Dick to his limits, stripping away all of his comforts and safety nets to see if Dick could remain his usual suave, confident self. He could, but only for so long, because another one of those incontestable aspects of Dick Grayson is that he’s built up by the people who love him. He needs his family, and thus was eventually rewarded by being reunited — albeit briefly — with them. Throwing the rest of Gotham’s vigilantes into the mix added a new element to Grayson‘s already intriguing formula, yet it was still Dick Grayson in all his charismatic, quippy, sexy (thanks, Mikel Janin!) glory who stole the show in each and every issue, and made Grayson a “can’t miss” title.

3. Thor

ThorProving once and for all that no one “changed Thor into a girl” arbitrarily, Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman’s adjectiveless Thor title embraced both the mystery of Thor’s identity and the meta-emotional side of seeing a woman wielding the hammer. The mysterious figure wasn’t always welcomed or embraced as “Thor,” and the old-school Thor, going under the moniker “Odinson,” kept showing up and inserting himself into her business. But Aaron and Dauterman remained steadfast in their love and celebration of all the women of the Marvel Universe, high-lighting everyone from classic Thor cast members, to other female superheroes, to other characters Aaron had been seeding throughout this run on Thor, God of Thunder. For being such a radical new idea, which Dauterman’s amazingly clear aesthetic, Aaron was careful to tie this series into the past of, not only Thor, but the entire Marvel Universe. Bright, colorful, out-of-this-world and down-to-earth all at once, and with a final twist that defines the character as something new and exciting: it’s hard to deny Thor.

2. Midnighter

MidnighterMidnighter is a character that necessarily has to keep the reader at arm’s length. He’s not like a Sherlock Holmes or a Batman – he’s not just very smart and observant, he’s literally forced to see all possible outcomes of a scenario and then is supplied with the information needed to address it. Hell, his brain is even called a “fight computer” – that’s not exactly a state of being anyone is going to understand. Steve Orlando and ACO have found a way not only to understand that, but to explore and express that micro-omnipotence in every issue of Midnighter. The series frequently dips into a detached mode of storytelling that would be off-putting if a) it weren’t so cool and b) that off-putting-ness weren’t a central part of Midnighter’s character — which it totally is. The character is just so frighteningly competent, and the audience so thoroughly buys into that competence, that the villain that finally gets the drop on him — Prometheus, in one of the finest character re-introductions you’ll ever see in any medium — truly violates our sense of how Midnighter’s world works. It’s an amazing series, one that establishes and subverts his own stellar mood in a scant six issues.

1. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

TMNTIt was a banner year for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, as the series hit its 50th issue. That issue was so good (one of our favorites, in fact), it’s easy to see everything else in relation to it, but much of the skill of the creative team lies in how they built up to that climactic battle. This year saw Krang defeated (however temporarily), Shredder knocked on his heels, and Donatello grievously injured. It also left plenty of room for artists Mateus Santolouco and Cory Smith to show off their skills with dynamic fight scenes, as the turtles faced off against everyone from the foot to the flyborgs. Eventually, of course, everything changed in issue 50, forcing the series in bold, unexpected directions. We have no idea where this series is headed in 2016, but we can’t wait to find out.

Want more Best of 2015 lists? Check out our Best CoversBest Issues, Best ArtistBest Writer and Best Mini-Series lists!

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25 comments on “Best of 2015: Best Series

  1. While not all my choices made this list, this is probably the one list we did this year where I can wholeheartedly agree with every entry. Thor, Grayson, Ms. Marvel, Daredevil, and Squirrel Girl all made my personal top 10, but I read and thoroughly enjoy every entry on this list.

    My other favorites/the rest of my top “10”/the other books I voted for and/or nominated for this list:

    The Wicked + The Divine: Several of my biggest “holy shit” moments of the year, giant stories combined with intensely personal drama and character studies, Jamie McKelvie and five other fantastic artists — what’s not to love? I’m going to get this series some love if it kills me.

    Archie: Fiona Staples is a goddess, and she and Waid tapped into some sheer elemental magic. While there’s some simple charm and fun to be found in these stories alone, Staples really did give this book something special. It’ll be hard for any book to top the sequence of Archie rocking on stage or Veronica’s breakdown in issue 3, and that’s not even counting smaller scale moments like all of Jughead’s scheming.

    Gotham Academy: It took me a few issues to fully invest myself in this series, I’ll admit, but 2015 found it firing on all cylinders. Love the characters, love the mystery, and man oh man do I love Karl Kerschl. It’s going to be tough to recover from losing him.

    Descender: One of the few books that I really feel transports me somewhere else, thanks to Dustin Nguyen’s dreamy, moody art. And how can I not fall in love with Tim-21? How can ANYONE not?!

    The Fade Out: A complete murder mystery full of intriguingly bleak noir elements and set against the fascinating backdrop of 1950’s Hollywood, it’s hard to find a series more fascinating and complex than the Fade Out.

    Silver Surfer: The schedule got screwed up a bit this year, but every issue was full of raw, unfiltered emotion, inventive layouts and storytelling techniques, brilliant alien designs, and some tried-and-true lessons.

    Batman: I’ve liked Superheavy more than most, but even a weaker Snyder/Capullo arc is better than 90% of the stuff on the stands.

    Groot: This series surprised me. A real underrated gem. Heart, humor, adventure, and a tear-jerker finale. So good.

    Also: yes, this IS the end of our lists for the year. Fun to read, fun/exhausting to put together. Here’s to 2016!

    • I was as excited as hell about WicDiv. I got the alternate covers, and I DOVE IN. I hated every single word and every single panel. I hated each character. I wanted Namor and Thanos to show up and blow up the world. Reading it felt like watching Kieron Gillen jerk off on a 1940s record player while quoting Spoon B-sides as Jamie McKelvie played on Geometer’s Sketchpad.

      But others seem to like it.

      I tried to get into Archie. I just don’t think I’m ever going to buy another Archie comic that doesn’t include the word “Digest” in the title or costs more than 99 cents. It’s just not a world that is interesting to me.

      I have the first couple Fade Outs. I want to read the trades, the single issues were too hard to read each month and keep up. I want to read Gotham Academy as well in a collection.

      I missed the last issue of Groot. I didn’t know there *was* another Groot. I thought it ended at 5 when the sad robot saved everyone and Groot and Rocket were off to America.

      Silver Surfer: I did not get this at all. I tried and just did not get it at all.

      • I think Gillen said something about Wicked and the Divine, in that while many people accuse it of being pure fanservice, that to him, it is quite a critical picture of the things it depicts. And honestly, I agree. If it isn’t for you, it isn’t for you. But I think that a lot of the time, it isn’t a celebration of a lot of the things it depicts. Hell, this year had one of the gods commit suicide because her fans abused her constantly, which isn’t a particularly fanservicy image. Again, if it isn’t for you, it isn’t for you. But I think that Wicked and the Divine, most of the time, isn’t a celebration of the things it is about.

        And yeah, Archie is painfully mediocre. Part of me is tempted to read Jughead, considering the team, but Archie’s only selling point is the now departed Fiona Staples

  2. I feel I have to ask this. At what point does Mark Waid’s Daredevil actually decide to address Daredevil’s dark past and dramatize it, instead of simply acknowledge it, and tease the idea instead of doing anything?

    When I started reading Waid’s Daredevil, I enjoyed the many scenes that hinted at Matt’s new personality being an elaborate facade hiding the darkness he couldn’t escape, and was looking forward to the moment where the house of cards was going to collapse and Daredevil actually had to face his darkness deal with it. To work through his issues instead of hiding it. Kind of like Batgirl 40, where Barbara actually faced her past, her hurt and damaged self, and moved on.

    Yet what Fletcher, Stewart and Tarr did in six issues, Waid just couldn’t do. When I read his Daredevil, which is much better than, say, his mediocre Archie (damn he owes a big debt to Fiona Staples, who, as Spencer correctly diagnosed, is a Goddess), I kept waiting for these hints of Daredevil’s darkness to become something material, something dramatic. For Daredevil to be tested in a way like Batgirl was. Once that test was made, once the darkness had been faced and defeated, Daredevil could have all the fun adventures Waid was obviously more interested in writing. But very quickly, his constant hints but refusal to actually tell the story that needed to be told ruined it. The fun, well written adventures turned into a cheat, an attempt to avoid being about anything. The drama became false, as the central conflict became inert, as Waid refused to address the elephant in the room. There is a reason Fletcher, Stewart and Tarr got it out of the way in six issues.

    So, when do you guys actually think Waid’s Daredevil starts actually dramatizing that darkness, instead of just referencing it? Stops cheating out of a fear that once the darkness arrives, the comic won’t be fun again, and Matt Murdock actually has to face it, like Barbara Gordon did in Batgirl 40? Because I want to like Waid’s Daredevil, but I can’t read it without getting infuriated at its refusal to do anything

    —————————————————————-

    Onto your lists. Got to say, I mostly like it. I’ve already said that I don’t believe that Midnighter is quite as good as everyone else says it is (I think it is good, but not that good), most of this list is very agreeable. I love that Darth Vader is on there, as it feels to me like a comic that could very easily be passed over simply by being grouped in part of the Star Wars line. Because Gillen has made something quite special.

    The three I will certainly make the case for belonging on this list is Batman, Catwoman and Omega Men.

    I completely disagree with Spencer that the current arc of Batman is a weaker one, and think it is second only to Snyder’s very first story, the Black Mirror, back when he was doing Detective Comics with Dick Grayson (Spencer is correct, though, when he says that even a weaker Snyder/Capullo arc is better than 90% of the stuff on the stands). This year, Batman has been a complex and intelligent look at how the current state is failing those in need. Mr Bloom has been a truly fantastic villain, as the personification of the wound done to the city by the failings of the police and the state (even better, Snyder has wisely moved away from the traditional hopelessly corrupt Gotham for one startlingly realistic). Add to that the fascinating exploration of Batman, and the perfection of Batman 44, and this has been one of the strongest series’ all year

    Genevieve Valentine’s Catwoman reminded me why I love Catwoman so much. Simple recipe for great Catwoman: Impossible Situation, a Catwoman with a mission to protect and lots of moral compromises. Seeing Selina Kyle try and balance the demands of leading the Calabrese family was amazing. Characterization was superb, especially when combined with atmospheric art. The the best part was how expansive it was. Despite being new to comics, Valentine gave Catwoman a scale that only Snyder and Hickman could match. While the final issue feels like it was a too quick resolution when Valentine found she was to have less time than she thought, the rest managed to make the gang war feel big, create a complex political situation, and use other characters effectively like Stephanie Brown.

    And lastly, Omega Men. It is hard to think of many comics that experiment with form as well as Omega Men has. By using the nine panel grid, Omega Men have constantly experimented in all sorts of clever ways with the very form of comics (and that isn’t counting things like its recent, clever use of art with respect to Hypnos). But more interesting is the actual story content. The first issue is a weird beast, and when I read it, it didn’t feel right even as it felt like it was exactly what it should be. But that is the important. Omega Men is in dark waters, and challenges you. It is never a comfortable book, and instead it wants to place you into something that is impossible to understand. Most obviously, the fact is that both sides are different types of evil. On one side, you have an imperialistic force who rule with an iron fist covered by a silk glove, and on the other side, you have terrorists who have long forsaken any sense of morality. And Omega Men wants us to understand both their evils, by forcing us into a zone that we so rarely go. This book is a masterpiece

    On Spencer’s Gotham Academy nomination, I have to say no. Gotham Academy started strong, but the recent arc got so trapped in trying to tell lots of little stories that the stories always felt like they were missing their middles, and never got the time to explore character. Just not good enough

    Trying to think of any good Marvel comics, that haven’t been given a shout out, but Secret Wars was a miniseries. Marvel is doing a lot of really strong stuff lately, but few that I think deserve to be on this list, especially as the Vision is probably too new.

    Creator owned is also hard, as I love to read my creator owned as a trade. Wytches was amazing, deeply personal and deeply scary. Fade Out is almost in my favourite list, especially after reading the finale, but I feel that it let things get too complicated, and rereading is a bit to important. Things like Saga, Revival, East of West, Wicked and the Divine and stuff are always great, but I also haven’t read half of their year’s work yet. Would have loved to have seen more from Image in this list, as so much truly fantastic stuff is coming out from there at the moment. OWuld happily drop things like Daredevil, Midnighter and Grayson (yes, it is possible for me to drop a TOm King book from a Top 10) for some more Image stuff. Maybe even drop Ms Marvel, considering for all its strengths, It has also had Bruno related flaws recently

    Still, a fantastic year. Honestly, it will be hard for 2016 to beat (especially considering the state of the Avengers line at the moment, and Capullo leaving Batman)

    • Oh, forgot to praise Giant Days, which is a wonderfully charming comic that deserves to be praised. Don’t know if I would call it the best, but it is a great read, unexpectedly addictive with really lovable characters. Takes something as simple as three friends in college, and truly shows the sorts of fun stories that can be told. What comics like Archie should be looking at to know how to do things

    • I’ve never fully understood your objections to Waid drawing out Matt’s denial about his depression — ignoring it was a decision that he justifies as one Matt is choosing to make, and the series can’t really address it until Matt does. In my mind, that resolve was tested with each new horror Matt was confronted with, from human trafficking to Foggy’s cancer diagnosis. Moreover, that his mental state was in question allowed for the fantastic storyline where Matt starts to question his own sanity (starting in issue 18 of the Waid’s first volume).

      I agree that Matt (and Waid) eventually needed to address the elephant in the room, but I guess I always saw it more as the hook that draws us through the rest of the narrative — the “who killed Laura Palmer?” It’s the force behind the narrative, sure, but that seems like a logical reason to NOT resolve it until the end of the narrative. That starts happening in earnest with the Killgrave story, which starts in issue 8 of Waid’s second volume. Those three issues, and then the final six issues of that volume (13-18) are all about Matt’s past literally coming back to ruin his life. He manages to make it through, but the optimistic facade has fallen away. Matt eventually emerges from Waid’s tenure more optimistic than immediately before Waid started, but not nearly as optimistic as immediately after Waid started, if that makes any sense. To me, that’s an inspiring message, and one that unfolds on a very real time-scale. It also leaves room for the kinds of fun stories that Waid is best at, while allowing him to leave Matt more-or-less in the same condition as when he started (as I said, he’s decidedly more optimistic, but not quite the happy-go-lucky huckster of those first issues).

      • Matt Murdock ignoring his depression is great characterization. Waid ignoring it is bad writing. The issue isn’t that Matt was in denial. It was that Waid never dramatized the what Matt ignoring his depression meant. It was acknowledged, but it never meant anything. It never felt like Matt Murdock refusing to come to terms with it meant anything other than the fact that the eventual storyline was being put off for a later date.

        If we look at the Human Trafficking storyline, since you brought it up, that is a great example of the problems. Despite everything that happens, all questions about his mental state are simply… delayed. The idea of each horror building it up and making the darkness darker is a decent one, except the comic rarely provides something that makes the darkness feel darker.
        Human Trafficking is a truly despicable crime, but after everything Matt Murdock has had happen, just isn’t bad enough to truly suggest that facing this makes things worse. There is already enough darkness in Daredevil’s past, that quite simply, human trafficking is relatively routine (I will give you this, though. Foggy getting cancer is a legitimate increase to the darkness). Meanwhile, that same storyline actually asked questions about his sanity, and ended with a ‘oh, he’s fine. Coyote was just gaslighting him’, without even a sense that being gaslighted like that had any meaningful effect on Matt. There is lots of talking about Coyote making him doubt his sanity, but I don’t think I can remember a single sign that his sanity had actually been hurt. That the events of the storyline had actually made things worse. Instead, by the end of the storyline, he’s in the exact same place as he was before. There is no sense that there has been any progression to the story about Matt repressing his depression.

        You are right that dealing with the elephant in the room is a climax. Batgirl proved that there is nothing wrong with having it as the climax of your first arc, then spend the next arc continuing the happy, fun adventures without the elephant in future arcs. However, let’s say that you don’t want to continue. Let’s say that what interests Waid is Matt trying to deny the darkness instead of facing it. If so, the answer isn’t just ‘wait until I’ve had enough writing the book, then do the long planned finale’. He should have waited for the right moment, and told the story, instead of constantly delaying. The fact that it took around 59 issues to tell could have worked (as you said, this sort of story working on a realistic timescale, instead of the usual ‘all your problems solved in a 90 minute movie is of immense value), if most of those 59 issues weren’t filler that didn’t advance the story, that didn’t dramatize, instead of merely acknowledge, the fact that Matt Murdock was currently desperately trying to deny his depression. This may have led to a darker overall tone, due to the need to be constantly developing and progressing quite a serious topic, but that is the cost of telling that sort of story. But if you didn’t want to do that (and there is nothing wrong with not wanting to do that), tell the story quickly. Don’t wait and wait to tell the story, never progressing the key character arc, so that you can tell yet another fun Daredevil story. Because the central dramatic conflict is the core of the story, and you can’t tell a good story by refusing to develop the core of the story

        You bring up ‘Who killed Laura Palmer?’ but there is a big difference. Laura Palmer is a mystery to justify the story exploring the characters and the setting. The question is used to justify the story. Meanwhile, Matt Murdock’s psychological state is intrinsically linked to the character of Matt Murdock. It isn’t the justification to telling the story, it is the story itself. There is an amazing piece of writing advice that says ‘Start late, end early’. Quite simply, just do the dramatic stuff. Which, according to you, starts in earnest in the 48th issue (including the early crossovers with Spiderman and Punisher).

        The inspiring story you discuss at the end, is a great story. Batgirl told it beautifully, and to be fair, I have that story tucked away in my head, to tell one day. Hell, my version of the story is much closer to what Waid was aiming for than Batgirl was,complete with a character denying the dark past (in fact, I may have developed this idea a few years ago in response to my frustrations with how Waid was bungling this). But my version of the story isn’t 99% filler. My version is designed to being dramatizing that very conflict with every scene. Waid’s isn’t.

        Honestly, you are right when you said that Waid treated Matt Murdock’s psychology ‘as the hook that draws us through the rest of the narrative’. And that’s the problem. You can’t treat the central dramatic conflict of your story as the hook the drags you through the rest of the narrative. The central dramatic conflict isn’t supposed to be the hook, it is supposed to be the narrative itself. That’s storytelling 101. And that’s my problem with Waid’s Daredevil. I shouldn’t have had to wait for Kilgrave.

        ‘It gets good 48 issues in’ is never a recommendation. It is a grievous flaw

        • “It gets good 48 issues in” is your assessment, not mine. I thought it was good for the entire run. It doesn’t address its own endgame until 48 issues in, but that makes sense to me. I guess I don’t know what to tell you other than that I never felt distracted by Matt’s denial — it definitely hangs over the series, but I felt it did so productively, and never thought it was avoiding addressing it in an unbelievable way.

          If you don’t like the Twin Peaks analogy, perhaps Loki’s allegiance in Thor: The Dark World is a better one. There, like in Waid’s run, the point is the tension, not the resolution of that tension. That story doesn’t work if you know Loki’s mindset from the start. The question is sometimes not the central focus of the story (to the point that you might even forget to worry about it for a while), but it’s always there, and will have to be addressed eventually. For me, Waid’s Daredevil isn’t about justifying Matt being happy-go-lucky, but about the tension of Matt denying his depression. Addressing the latter quickly might have better facilitated the former, but I just don’t agree that that was the point of the run.

        • I struggle to see a material difference between a story refusing to address the central dramatic conflict and the story not being good. If you aren’t addressing the central conflict, what is the point?

          On Thor the Dark World, that movie simply doesn’t work. But to be fair, it doesn’t work because all three acts are dedicated to compeltely different stories. So let’s talk about Loki. Loki’s central conflict is clear from the beginning. On the one hand, he is power hungry, and feels entitled to more than his position. On the other hand, he wants the love of his family. He is given a chance for redemption, and the chance for love of his family, when Thor lets him out. But it comes with conditions. He will only get what he wants if he gives up his power hungry ways, if he helps Thor but does not betray him. This sets up his central dramatic conflict. Loki values both power and family, but can only choose one. Nearly every scene in the movie (especially the second act, as that is the act that is Loki’s story, instead of Jane’s story or… I guess it is Maliketh’s story in the third act, despite being the shallowest villain marvel has? This was a bad movie) is about this. His conversation with his mother has her dispel the illusions he has been making to empower himself despite his imprisonment. The break out heavily emphasizes how Loki will have to give up his power seeking, betraying ways to be accepted, the conversation with Thor on the skiff is about proving the possibility for Loki to be redeemed is there. Each scene builds the dramatic conflict. We don’t know how Loki’s story will end, but with every scene, the dramatic conflict shifts and changes. This leads to the climax of Loki’s arc (in the middle of the movie… this is a bad movie) where Loki betrays Thor, cutting off his hand and stabbing him in the back, and making his choice, only to be revealed as a lie by Loki, he actually chose family. Except in the coda, we learn the real twist. Loki didn’t. Instead, he rejected family, stabbed his own father in the back and took his place, ultimately choosing power over family.

          Each scene builds on the central conflict of ‘is Loki going to choose power or family?’, even though the exact choice he will make is never clear. Instead, the stakes are very clearly set throughout, while Loki is given the chance to develop in ways that suggest he will make the right choice. The story becomes more and more tense as it becomes more and more ambiguous on whether Loki is going to choose Power or Family. Loki’s central conflict is dramatized. And it is through this dramatization, that the tension is developed

          Tension in something like this ultimately isn’t too different in the tension of any other sort of sequence. Let’s talk about one of my favourite tense scenes, the Hobbits hiding from the Nazgul in Fellowship. Tension is racketed by constantly developing the situation. The Nazgul isn’t stationary, and is instead constantly acting. He rides up. He stops jsut next to them, he listens. He gets off his horse. He comes close, kneelign down right outside their hiding place. He starting smelling them. Frodo gets tempted to put on the ring. The Nazgul seems to sense this… With every action, it gets closer and closer to the Hobbits. With every action, the tension is raised. And, at its most tense, the Nazgul is right on top of them, just about to peak into their hiding place.

          A Nazgul standing in place doing nothing isn’t tense. It is boring. And that’s what Waid does. The tension never develops. Nothing ever changes. As I said in my previous post, Waid had two choices. He could have dramatized all 59 issues, and have each issue ratchet up the tension, or he could have done the payoff much earlier. Instead, he did neither. The tension never increased. Instead, it atrophied. If the last three stories had no effect on Matt’s relationship with his depression, why is this story going to be any different?

          That’s the problem. If Coyote gaslighting Matt Murdock seems to have utterly no effect on his sanity after the storyline is over, how does telling the Coyote story in any way address that central tension? If Kilgrave is the first villain to actually affect Matt’s sanity, and therefore raise the tension, what is the purpose of the rest of the stories? Why should I continue reading Daredevil, when the Coyote story is yet another example of a story that is supposed to test Daredevil, yet he passes, again, without cost, without any sign that that his ‘tense’ efforts to deny his depression is ever going to legitimately be challenged

          If you aren’t raising the tension, you should be deploying the payoff. Waid spent most of his run refusing to raise the tension, and yet took 50 issues to actually reach the payoff.

          That’s got what got to stop reading Daredevil. The tension never increased, nothing ever changed and yet.. the payoff was still 30 issues away. I was primarily reading trades, and very behind, so I knew which issue Waid had just released, and I also knew that Waid still hadn’t reached the payoff 20 issues later. And yet every previous story refused to raise the stakes, raise the tension. Instead, seeing Daredevil successfully navigate the stakes without harm each and every time just made me disinterested. What were the stakes, if Daredevil could successfully navigate every other crisis without harm? Nonexistent until Kilgrave, it seems

        • It seems like we’re talking across a central aspect of Waid’s Daredevil run: how episodic it was. Matt’s denial is part of the central premise of an episodic series, but not necessarily the point of every issue (or even arc), which take Matt’s mental state as a world to explore, rather than a linear thread to follow and make progress with.

          Plenty of very episodic (and great) tv series have a similar setup of a master premise that plays out in only a select few episodes, while the bulk of the series is made up of one-offs that have fun within the premise. The X-Files springs immediately to mind, but even heavily episodic shows like Law and Order feature some amount of serialized slow burns. (If defending Law and Order disqualifies me from this discussion, so be it, but I don’t think anyone’s problem with it is that it took too long developing Briscoe’s relationship with his daugther or whatever.)

          The premise of a series can’t be resolved before that series is done, or it becomes a different series. I think it’s fine to not like a premise, or how it’s handled, but I can’t really see taking issue with the fact that the central premise isn’t resolved until the end. I didn’t find the way it was developed too slow at all, and had Waid’s Daredevil as one of my favorite series every year it was running.

        • Plenty of great episodic TV has managed to find the balance between telling a story for the sake of telling story, and actually having progression. Especially after Buffy the Vampire Slayer changed TV. And especially in today’s TV landscape, where it is easy to watch a missed episode. Shows like iZombie, early Hannibal, Arrow, the Flash and the Blacklist have managed to always develop the characters and the world in some way, even as each episode is a murder/villain of the week. Not all the shows are good (in fact, half that list I don’t like), but they all progress things with each episode. It is possible to do both. And that is on TV, where they can tell a complete story in 45 minutes, and you only have to wait a week between each episode. Comics take months to tell a single story, and then you have to wait another month for the next episode to start (and therefore, the cost of telling a story that doesn’t effect anything)

          A show like Law and Order, as opposed to the ones I listed above, is generally designed for the type of viewer who wants ‘easy’ TV, TV that doesn’t require a lot of investment in continuity etc. This isn’t a criticism, and in fact the fact that we have TV like this is great. Shows like Law and Order may on occasion entertain long term arcs (never remembered any when I watched Law and Order, but I didn’t watch for long), but generally that isn’t the point, and the point is to tell a story that is finished quickly with familiar characters (the comic equivalent would be like Waid’s SHIELD, which is where I think he is perfect for). The Law and Order style of TV, while certainly a perfectly fine model for TV, is a very poor choice for a story that wants to be as psychological as Waid’s Daredevil purports to be.

          Honestly, I think the real comparison to Waid is the recent works of David O. Russell. I haven’t watched Silver Linings Playbook, which apparently does the same thing, but American Hustle and Joy are both movies that make the appearance of exploring ideas, like identity and lies or the struggles of a divorced housewife trying to run a business with a fun, bright texture. But Russell falls in love with the texture, the characters and pulls his punches. The characters in American Hustle get out unscathed with the perfect ending, rendering everything without purpose. Joy never actually meets truly real challenges until the end. Apparently, Silver Linings Playbook undercuts everything the movie is about for an ending that nakedly caters to the audience. Ultimately, Russell cares more about it being fun and entertaining, about the texture, about placing form of function, that his movies are ultimately empty. Utterly surface level, despite making the appearance of having a point..

          Until I gave up, Daredevil felt very similar to American Hustle and Joy. The texture was fun, but the supposed deeper themes weren’t there. They were painted on to make the story appear deep, but that depth wasn’t there. It seems like the ending actually had some of that depth, but the rest of pure David O. Russell

          My problem isn’t that the central conflict wasn’t resolved until the end. My problem is that the central conflict wasn’t properly explored until the end. That in every issue I read, Matt’s struggles with his depression was handled with pulled punches. That, until the very end, his struggles were never dramatized, and instead treated as window dressing.

          I didn’t necessarily want his struggles to be resolved. But if it was going to be in the comic, I didn’t want window dressing. And I shouldn’t have to wait until Kilgrave for that to happen

  3. I will look at your list(s) and think about them after I write mine. I needed to get home and spend some time in the archives.

    10) TIE : The Vision, Hercules, Karnak, Spider-Woman. ANAD Marvel Now is reimagining C list heroes at a spectacular rate with some spectacular results. None of these are characters I had an active interest in before their rebooted series and now are all must read comics. All have different voices and looks and there’s not a lot in common with any of them other than major shifts in character tone.

    9) Squirrel Girl: Both series are exceptional. She’s a joke character. She’s supposed to be so bad it’s funny. She’s supposed to cap out at Spy Hard or maybe Hot Shots. Instead, she’s turned into a cult hero with some of the cleverest writing and art in comics today. I’m not sure Ryan North is getting the credit he deserves, because his writing is brilliant. I’m not sure if he’s a one trick pony or not (Squirrel Girl reads a lot like his Adventure Time, which is also very good), but for now, it’s a trick that is holding up well.

    8) Darth Vader: This is Gillen at his second best. Vader becomes a more fully realized character and his work on Aphra has made something unique in fill-in tribute stories like this. This has no reason to be this good, but Gillen’s brilliant writing and character work have made this fantastic.

    7) Invincible: The best reboot that nobody talked about. How this gets overlooked while The Walking Dead and Outcast outsell it by factors of 5 or 10 is incomprehensible to me.

    6) The Autumnlands
    5) The Spire
    4) Descender: Three very different stories that are examples of what good science fiction should be. World building like this almost never occurs in movies and would take 600 pages to do in a novel, but within 5 pages of each of these titles you are fully immersed in a fantastic world where there really are no limits. Busiek and Lemire are household names to comic readers and Spurrier should be. His X-Men Legacy was criminally ignored, and I don’t know if this is garnering much attention, but it should. I think the Spire is going to end after 8 issues: I have no idea how long the others are going to last but I hope they continue on and on.

    3) Uber: Gillen’s finest work to date. Most know him as a glib and clever writer who creates stories filled with meta-commentary and music references that you claim to get but have to go to wiki to figure out what the hell he’s talking about and teen characters that are exactly how cool we all wish we were when we were 17. Blech. Screw that noise. This is his best. A dark and grim war story where the Allies are always one step behind the Nazi Juggernaut as the Nazi super soldiers lay waste to Europe in 1945. This book got me reading more war stories and has led me to appreciate the modern representatives in comics’ rich tradition of war tales.

    2) Manifest Destiny: I’m not sure I’ve read a comic like issue 18 of Manifest Destiny. I thought I knew what would happen, but when it concluded I honestly was afraid to move for fear of losing control. I still I can’t even write about it with feeling sick to my stomach. It’s smart and funny and dark and hits way way way too close to home at times. This is brilliant story telling on multiple levels. It’s not nuanced or subtle, but it’s a great story that does more than just tell a story about what might have been. It’s one of the best historical science fiction stories I’ve ever read and I can’t wait for Volume 4.

    1) Avengers/New Avengers/Secret Wars: By my count there were 7 issues of Avengers, 8 issues of New Avengers, and 9 Secret War comics put out by Hickman in 2015. These 24 comics were the comic event of the year. The delays were unfortunate, I’m still not sure I understand everything exactly, but this is what events are supposed to be. His Avengers/New Avengers/Infinity/Secret Wars run will be one of the defining comic events of the 2010s.

    • Thor, Ms Marvel, Batman, and Amazing Spider-Man were the ones that I wanted to put on the list but ran out of room. Thor had some great moments, but whereas everyone else loved the art, I couldn’t handle the colors and honestly reading it gives me a headache. Ms Marvel could have been on the list, but the reboot fight vs. gentrification hasn’t been great, just ok.

      Batman had some amazing moments but the transition to Bat-Jim hasn’t been 100% smooth. It’s very telling that there’s no DC on my list. I could have made a case for Grayson which I like ok, Midnighter except I’m not as hip to the original artist as everyone else was, and I’ve liked Constantine quite a bit also from DC. Honestly, Convergence caused me to almost 100% drop DC as a publisher.

      • What part of the transition to Jim-Bats did you have a problem with? Thought that was generally handled pretty well. Mostly done through a time skip, with flashbacks of only the key moments. And what’s happened after it is fantastic.

        I do think DC’s Batman line is the strongest line there is in the Big 2 at the moment. With the exception of Detective Comics, everything, even the bad stuff, is interesting. Not every Batman books will fit every person, adn some have been designed particularly for certain demographics without care of what another demographic thinks, but Martian Manhunter, Constantine, Prez and Omega Men are the only things close to the Batman line DC have at the moment (counting things like Midnighter and Black Canary as Batman books)

        • I don’t buy any of the Bruce amnesia stuff. I don’t find the Bruce Wayne character at this point a believable one, so much so as it takes me out of the story. I like a lot of the Jim Gordon as Batman, I think Bloom is a very good new villain, I think the spectre of Bat-Bruce hanging over everything has led to stories that feel like placeholders until Bruce comes back swinging.

          I don’t feel tension because the hero is still sitting there waiting. Which, to me, is a mistake on the part of the storyteller.

        • I think Detective Comics has had a real problem with not having anything to it except ‘wait for Bruce to return’, but I feel Snyder’s story isn’t a placeholder. In fact, it relies on being a different status quo. You can’t tell Mr Bloom in this way with Bruce as Batman (or at the very least, the fact that Bloom is such a good villain, currently pushing an epic plot forward with ease, makes Superheavy a story that isn’t just a placeholder, even if Bruce could have done it as well). In fact, it is built on the fact that Batman is missing, and that we all know he will return (a lot of the Bruce Wayne stuff is about dramatizing that return. When Bruce returns, it will be a choice with a real cost, a loss of a life that was both happy and good).

          I guess the simple fact is that you don’t buy the amnesia, which interests me. Any reason why you didn’t just believe what Snyder said. The dionesium healing the head injury, but wiping his memories at the same time is a perfectly good explanation, and it is hardly like comic gives you any reason not to doubt his amnesia. What is it about the amnesia and the mindwiped Bruce that you find to be a problem?

    • Honestly, the real success of Marvel Now is the real attempt to just find new ideas. It isn’t trying the same thing again and hoping for new results. It is about finding something really new. And the true success is not just that Hawkeye, Spider-woman, Vision are interesting (though it is a truly great thing). Marvel have actually discovered new ways to be a superhero. And honestly, DC have done similar stuff with Gotham Academy, We Are Robin and Martian Manhunter. I love that we have this real attempt to expand what the superhero genre actually is.

      I’ve read the first volumes of Autumnlands and Descender lately, and while I don’t think I like them as much as everyone else, I love the universes they build. That’s part of what makes Image so great, these truly new worlds, whether it is a magical world of animals built on the ruins of a sci fi world, a collapsing universe struggling after a robotic invasion or even something ‘in the real world’ like a school for assassins in the 1980s. Can’t wait to read the Spire.

      Hickman’s Avengers is certainly going to be remembered. I can’t believe he managed to pull of an event called Secret Wars. I thought there was no way you could get away with taking that name and making an event. Yet he did. For all of the problems if the run, it is so full of successes that it deserves to be one of the Avenger’s highest hours

      And I really need to pick up Uber at some point. And Manifest Destiny

  4. My comments on your original list, of which I’ve read all but TMNT (and I probably never will, I just don’t care for them as characters all that much).

    Darth Vader I agree with. I understand Ms Marvel’s appearance at 9. The end to her first volume was great comics. As far as Squirrel Girl goes, I think Ryan North is Marvel’s Wolverine. He is the best he is at what he does. I respect Grayson’s placement, but I have no affection or interest in the character and I think the Spyral stuff is boring, but I think the stories are well made. Thor is going to be on a ton of “Best of” lists, but the more I’m reading Thor, the more I realize that I might need to go to an optometrist or something, because I honestly can’t see the shit in Dauterman’s art that the rest of you do. Every single page of action is like an optical illusion test for me. “I know you see an ocean, but can you see the Thor and three ice giants in there? What do you mean, ‘no’. They’re right there!” Midnighter: See Thor. I found ACO’s style to be visually confusing.

    On the other hand.

    Hawkeye: Two issues, about a year late, on a best of list? Better to put both of Lemire’s All New Hawkeyes on there as Ramon Perez has put in superstar work.

    Daredevil: Was fine. I thought the SF run was the weakest of Waid’s work. It was hurt by Secret Wars looming: Any drama there was diminished by the fact that the world was going to end anyway.

    Paper Girls: I just don’t get it. I’ve read the first 3 or 4 issues and I just don’t get it. Breakfast Club meets ET fan-fic would be more interesting to me.

    TMNT: Even if I wanted to read about turtles with katanas, I’m not sure where I’d start. I feel about TMNT the way I feel about Hellboy and all that in the Mignola-verse. I just don’t know where to start.

    • TMNT 51 makes a decent enough jumping-on point, though I’ve really enjoyed IDW’s entire run, so would always recommend starting with issue 1. That’s as far back as you could possibly need to go with this incarnation of the turtles — there are plenty of nods to other versions, but this is an entirely rebooted/relaunched/unrelated world they live in. For a happy medium between #1 and #51 might be issue 22, which is the start of their stellar “City Fall” storyline (and, not coincidentally, when Santolouco came on as an artist on the series). I appreciate that that’s still a daunting number of issues, but seriously, this series is incredible. I would recommend every issue between 22 and 50 without any reservation (probably more than anything since issue 50).

  5. I haven’t sat down to make a list of my favorite series of the year, but, if I did, I certainly think Loki: Agent of Asgard would have nabbed the top spot. The work that Ewing and Garbet do with that character and that world is pretty amazing; it is at once over the top mythical and deeply personal. It’s a story that actively plays with the idea of what stories are and what they can do, especially comic book stories. I admittedly never read Kieron Gillen’s work on Journey into Mystery, but, having read Gillen and McKelvie’s Young Avengers, following the transformation of Loki from someone consumed by his (or is “their” a more appropriate pronoun for Loki?) flaws, self-doubt, and (potentially misplaced) guilt into a person at peace with himself is a powerfully beautiful narrative, and the fan-service callbacks to various corners of the Marvel U certainly didn’t hurt either.

    To each is own, though. I’m sure the books I didn’t read on this list are all worthy of praise too, but, for me, “Agent of Asgard” was the best series of 2015.

    • Agent of Asgard was on my personal list as well. I just loved how it addressed the kind of anxiety that comes along with something like Secret Wars – the fear that we’re losing something we love and that it won’t be replaced with other things we love. Ending the series with Loki stepping through the door and just taking on whatever’s next is inspiring for readers who just want to bask it what they already love.

      Actually, looking back on our lists, there are a lot of near misses for Loki. Ewing was in our top 15 writers, that last issue was in our top 20 – these things always end up going to series and issues that speak to a wider cross-section of our writers.

  6. Looking through my notes, I forgot one thing.

    Saga.

    I have been critical of Saga at some points in the past couple of years, but it’s still very, very close to me to being a top 10 title, and would have made a top 20 list. For open minded adults, it’s still my gateway comic. It’s still very close to the comic that I have to read first on Wednesdays. I thought this year had some weak points: I thought the teacher passing out and hitting her head was overly dramatic and veered into corny, and I also am uncertain that Staples and Vaughan need to cross as many lines as often as they do; I think the story would work just as fine without (but I also recognize that is a matter of taste, but really in many cases that’s what a Best of list is, your Tastes).

    I didn’t see it on many lists this year. I think only 8, maybe 9 issues were released. Is it possible it’s peaked?

    • I was a little bummed Saga didn’t make our list — it was definitely on my personal list, though I have to admit this wasn’t it’s strongest year. Splitting up Marko and Alana allowed for the story to go in interesting directions, but their chemistry is a huge draw for the series (which I think the most recent issue proved). I suspect this year will be stronger — especially if, as I hope, it sees the return of the Will.

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