Tag Archives: first second books

Review: Secret Coders: Secrets & Sequences

Hopper never dreamed there was a connection between the Bee School and her missing father –  but it turns out that Albert Gracie was also a student of this mysterious coding school. His disappearance can only be the work of Dr. One-Zero. Once a star pupil of the Bee School, Dr. One-Zero is now a green-skinned villain on the hunt for “the most powerful turtle in the world.” And the coders may be the only ones who can stop him.

Secret Coders: Secrets & Sequences is the third volume of writer Gene Luen Yang and artist Mike Holmes all-ages series that not just entertains but also educates teaching readers how to code and even challenging them to do so. The graphic novel series is edutainment in every sense emphasizing the entertainment and packing in the education. Even as an adult I find myself learning with each volume as Yang slowly adds lessons and then asks the readers to apply those lessons while reading and on their own.

The series is one of the smartest and innovative out there marrying an entertaining story with actual lessons. And that entertaining story amps up a bit this volume which introduces us to what is basically a super villain, the first of the series. The introduction is an interesting one in that it takes the series from a grounded one dealing with bullies and mean teachers to a more fantastical adventure involving creepy castles and super lasers. It also fleshes out some of the world’s back story, especially adding to main character Hopper. It’s a solid pivot that matures the series a bit as the audience matures in ways. As they grow, the series can grow too. It’s a tactic we’ve seen successfully employed with the Harry Potter series for example and Yang I’m sure has that big picture growth in mind.

Mike Holmes’ art is fantastic as always. The art is clean, simple, and sparse use of color adds to the “programming” theme of it all in some weird way. The choice reminds me of old computer screens which used a minimal amount of tools to deliver a fun and entertaining experience. Here, we see that used well with Dr. One-Zero, the super villain whose green skin makes him stand out. That’s not a mistake, the guy really has green skin and other than a page where that’s not present, it’s a great touch that adds to the experience.

This series is one I recommend to everyone I can talk to. Perfect for kids and adults it’s a great way to learn computer coding and be entertained at the same time. With each volume and each lesson the series adds to itself expanding the fun and its lessons in a well planned out adventure. Yang, a teacher himself, has created the perfect marriage of graphic novel and education, not just teaching, but having the reader apply their knowledge throughout the reading, and most importantly delivering entertainment. You’ll forget you’re learning Secret Coders is so much fun.

Story: Gene Luen Yang Art: Mike Holmes
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

First Second provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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Graphic Policy’s Top Comic Picks this Week!

Wednesdays are new comic book day! Each week hundreds of comics are released, and that can be pretty daunting to go over and choose what to buy. That’s where we come in!

We’re bringing back something we haven’t done for a while, what the team thinks. Our contributors are choosing up to five books each week and why they’re choosing the books.

Find out what folks think below, and what comics you should be looking out for this Wednesday.

Joe

Top Pick: Grass Kings #1 (BOOM! Studios) – Matt Kindt and Tyler Jenkins are delivering a series that looks like it would come from Image or Dark Horse, but instead it comes from BOOM! The publisher has had multiple great series, but this looks like the start of something new from them, and boy did they get a hell of a creative team behind this book. Kindt is one of my favorite creators, and with Jenkins on art, this series looks fantastic.

Man-Thing #1 (Marvel) – RL Stine writing a Marvel comic about that other Swamp Thing dude?! Hell yeah! It’s about time Ted aka Man-Thing got his due with a good updated comic, and Stine may just be the perfect voice for that. Let’s hope he writes more Marvel stories!

Low #16 (Image) – Remender’s had some amazing series lately, and this is another one. I cannot wait to see what the heck is going to happen since this book left on a pretty crazy cliffhanger. Time to see if what I think happened actually happened. Knowing Remender, it did.

Action Comics #975 (DC Comics) – That last Superman issue was wild. What a way to kick start the “Superman Reborn” arc. I won’t give much away, but Fake Clark Kent is something else. I mean that kind of literally. This dude doesn’t seem to be human, and just made more questions than answers.

Old Man Logan #19 (Marvel) – Lemire is leaving the series after #24, and that makes me sad. Brisson has massive shoes to fill, and I can’t wait to see how Lemire ends this with the “Past Lives” arc, but we are not quite there yet. I am always excited for Logan, especially anything from Lemire on this run. It’s so good!

 

Brett

Top Pick: Secret Coders Vol. 3: Secrets & Sequences (First Second) – Gene Luen Yang and Mike Homes returns with the third volume of his kids focused graphic novel series. What’s wonderful about the series is that it not only entertains but also teaches how to code. Even as an adult I find myself learning more and more with each volume. Yang has a knack for teaching complicated (and at times boring) material in an engaging and fun way.

California Dreamin’: Cass Elliot Before the Mamas & the Papas (First Second) – This graphic novel is a biography of Mama Cass and the 1960s New York Folk scene. A fantastic graphic novel from Pénélope Bagieu taking a look at a music icon.

Grass Kings #1 (BOOM! Studios) – A new series by Matt Kindt and Tyler Jenkins. Those two creators alone have gotten me to take notice. The concept of ” three brothers and rulers of a trailer park kingdom, a fiefdom of the hopeless and lost, of the desperate poor seeking a promised land” just makes it all the more awesome.

I Thought You Hated Me (Retrofit Comics/Big Planet Comics) – Retrofit/Big Planet puts out fantastic indie comic series and this one by MariNaomi is a great read that focuses on friendship through the years. This should be your small press buy this week.

Man-Thing #1 (Marvel) – RL Stine brings his brand of horror to this classic character and Marvel. This has been a comic I’ve been fascinated by and can’t wait for. I have no doubt it’ll be fantastic.

 

Paul

Top Pick: Inhumans vs. X-Men #6 (Marvel) – This is the end!  The X-Men and Inhumans face off to end the war between them and when the dust settles, both sides will be left affected whether good or bad.  This has been an action packed event and I can’t wait to see the outcome!

Jessica Jones #6 (Marvel) – We now know how and why Jessica’s life has been turned upside down, and we know the big bad and their motives.  Now we have to see how Jessica will get through it all.  I’ve really enjoyed this book and I’m looking forward to see how this all comes around and if Jessica can get back to some level of normalcy…at least as normal as a super heroes life can be.

Old Man Logan #19 (Marvel) – This title has consistently delivered and I’m looking forward to this new story.  The solicit tells of Logan righting a wrong and getting some help from an unlikely ally – given what we’ve seen from this book, that could be anyone!

 

Shay

Pick of the Week: Nancy Drew & The Hardy Boys #1 – (Dynamite Entertainment) – It’s like the books we used to read when we were little, all grown up. Nancy Drew plays the femme fatale detective on a mission to prove that the Hardin boys, Frank and Joe, didn’t Menendez their dad.

Guardians of the Galaxy #1.MU (Marvel) – Groot has been kidnapped and the team reunites to get our fave monosyllabic nature man back from the bad guys.

Motor Crush #4 (Image) -An injured Domino might not be able to race and the origin of Crush is revealed.

Suicide Squad #13 (DC Comics) – Deadshot is getting out of the squad and the death of one of someone on the team is his way out.

Jessica Jones #6 (Marvel) – The new, improved bad guy is revealed and Jessica has got a lot of explaining to do.

 

Alex

Top Pick: Old Man Logan #19 (Marvel) – So…. I thought this was out last week… and it wasn’t. Anyway, having seen Logan twice now, I’m super excited to get my hands on this issue for the simple fact that Lemire has been writing so really good stories featuring one of my favourite characters.

Man-Thing #1 (Marvel) – I know nothing about this other than it’s a five issue miniseries on a character that’s always interested me.

Redline #1 (Oni Press) – Based on the preview text, this looks like it’ll right up my alley – which is strange since I normally don’t like much sci-fi.

Graphic Policy’s Top Comic Picks this Week!

rough-riders-on-the-storm-1Wednesdays are new comic book day! Each week hundreds of comics are released, and that can be pretty daunting to go over and choose what to buy. That’s where we come in!

We’re bringing back something we haven’t done for a while, what the team thinks. Our contributors are choosing up to five books each week and why they’re choosing the books.

Find out what folks think below, and what comics you should be looking out for this Wednesday.

Alex

Top Pick: Divinity III: Stalinverse #3 (Valiant) – The series, and all the tie-ins, have been excellent so far, and I’m really looking forward to seeing where Matt Kindt takes us from here on out.

Harbinger: Renegade #4 (Valiant) – It’s funny, but after getting into the Harbinger series more and more over the past few months reading the back issues whilst simultaneously following this series, I’ve found that my love and appreciation has grown exponentially – so much so that I’m salivating over getting this in my hands.

 

Paul

Top Pick: Hulk #3 (Marvel) – I didn’t know what to expect from this new (She) Hulk title, and only checked out the first issue to see what was up with Jen after the events of Civil War II.  And  I am so glad I did.  Only on its 3rd issue and I am loving the direction of this book.  It’s tackling Jen and some serious problems she facing after her injuries and doing so in such a great way, both in the writing and the art.  If you aren’t reading this book yet, jump in now while it’s still early, you will not be disappointed.

Extraordinary X-Men #19 (Marvel) – The tie-in issues to Inhumans vs. X-Men have been great, really tying in smaller stories to the larger conflict.  A few issues have been slower, doing some character building rather then focusing on action, but even that has added to the situation as a whole.  Really looking forward to this one.

Inhumans vs. X-Men #5 (Marvel) – The battle is raging on as we reach the second to last issue of this event that has delivered in every issue.  Buckle up kiddies, because I’m sure this is going to end with a bang!

Uncanny Avengers #20 (Marvel) – This title has been hit or miss with me, but with the latest issues finally bringing the team up against the Red Skull, things have gotten interesting.  The last issue saw the team trapped in their own minds by the Red Skull and his stolen telepathic powers, and this issue is promising to show us more of their torture.  I’m looking forward to see how they get out of this one, and if they will liberate Xavier’s mind from the Red Skull.

 

Shay

Top Pick: Suicide Squad #12 (DC Comics) – Suicide Squad goes up against some of the DC Universes deadliest inmates.

Justice League of America #1 (DC Comics) – Two words, Lord Havoc! There are extremists on the loose and the newly formed Justice League is coming to save us all!

Elektra #1 (Marvel) – Ninja Assassin tries to find her escape in Las Vegas. What happens in Vegas gets buried in Vegas.

Inhumans vs. X-Men #5 (Marvel) – Medusa sets out to release Black Bolt as the X-Men tries to rid the world of the rest of the deadly cloud.

SLAM! #4 (BOOM! Studios) – It’s a roller derby world and these are roller derby girls. As a derby girl myself, I can attest to its realness.

 

Brett

Top Pick: Rough Riders on the Storm #1 (Aftershock Comics) – It’s been three years since the first volume and the death of President McKinley has Vice President, Theodore Roosevelt convinced there’s a bigger conspiracy and he must get the band back together.

Heathen #1 (Vault Comics) – Originally released digitally, this Viking series by Natasha Alterici is awesome.

Highlander: American Dream #1 (IDW Publishing) – It’s Highlander, do you need any more reason to look forward to this? There can be only one!

Old Guard #1 (Image Comics) – Greg Rucka’s new series with art by Leandro Fernandez about old soldiers who never die. If the name Rucka is on it, it’s a must get.

The Time Museum (First Second) – A new graphic novel series focused on an internship at the Time Museum that leads to time traveling adventures. This is a great addition to the world of graphic novels aimed at a younger audience with lots of fun action and solid art.

The Best Comics of 2016 – Brett’s List

It’s the first day of a new year and so that means I’m posting my “best of” listing of the top comic books for 2016. Generally these are comic books that came out in 2016, though some are from earlier times and I got around to reading them, or limited series that continued. Keep in mind, this is what I have read (and does not reflect what other contributors to this site might think, they’ll hopefully have their own lists). If it’s not on here, I just might not have read it.

This was a particularly tough year of choices with some categories easily having their own top ten or twenty-five and some I struggled to even come up with one. 2016 was a year that ongoing, maxi-series, and limited floppies seemed to blend more and more and for me as a reader I found myself shifting away from one publisher to another and as a whole enjoying graphic novels and indie comics a hell of a lot more than I have in the past.

What stood out to me? Check out below what made the cut!

Best Super Hero Comic – The Paybacks

the-paybacks-3A new publisher, but still absolutely amazing. The Paybacks by Donny Cates, Eliot Rahal, Geoff Shaw moved from Dark Horse to Heavy Metal for its second volume, but it didn’t lose any steam in doing so continuing to deliver hilarity and upping the action.

The concept of the comic is that there’s a repo crew who have to deal with all the superheroes who can’t pay back the loans they take for all of their fancy gadgets. To pay off their debts those heroes then join the ragtag team.

A send-up of so many familiar characters and lets face it creators too, the comic has more jokes in each panel than some series have their entire run. It’s funny, action packed, and in this volume actually is somewhat timely with news with a focus on a data breach.

My biggest wish in comics for 2017 is someone is smart enough to invest in this series because I know it’ll pay off in the log run. Everyone who I’ve turned on to it falls in love and whole there were some issues with the second volume, it still is the one “superhero” comic I devoured as soon as possible.

Runners Up:

  • COPRA – There’s some arguments to be made that Michel Fiffe‘s indie series about a group of raftag characters should be the top pick, and there was long thought about if it should, it’s that good. Out of all of the series I read this year, this is one that delivered with every single issue. This is a comic that shows that superheroes aren’t the domain of just two companies anymore, especially due to how many issues have been released. I said this exact same thing in 2015 and it applies here.
  • The Legend of Wonder Woman – An absolutely brilliant max-series that went from digital to print. Renae De Liz and Ray Dillon delivered a Wonder Woman story that stands out in a year of solid Wonder Woman output. Fun to read. Beautiful to look at. Unfortunately, it looks like we’ll just get this one volume.
  • The Omega Men – Writer Tom King took this ragtag group of characters and has given us a maxiseries that explores revolution/terrorism in so many ways. This is one to read once collected and the ruminate on. It began in 2015 but wrapped up in 2016.
  • Tomboy – This series published by Action Lab: Danger Zone and by M. Goodwin is a comic that’s not on enough people’s radar. A mix of manga, Japanese horror, western vigilante stories, it’s a strange, creepy, haunting series featuring a teenage girl out for revenge against the people who killed her friend.

 

Best Non-Super Hero Comic – The Sheriff of Babylon

the-sheriff-of-babylon-12-coverI said above that 2016 was the year of Tom King, and guess who wrote this one! Tom King! The Sheriff of Babylon is another max-series that wrapped up, but we’ll get a second volume some time in 2017.

The comic is based on King’s experiences working for the CIA in Iraq taking place in the Green Zone after the recent Iraq war. The comic is brutally honest showing a world where there’s so little right and so much wrong and it all comes together in a muddied brown and gray.

That dirtiness of it all is helped by Mitch Gerads‘ art and the smart use of colors. The detail, every body movement, the framing of the panels, Gerads’ art adds so much to every issue. That’s saying something considering how amazing King’s scripts are!

This is a comic series that shows comics are political and can question the world we currently live.

Runners Ups:

  • Descender- Jeff Lemire has had a hell of year in general in comics and is one of my favorite writers of the year. This series features the stunning art of Dustin Nguyen. The sci-fi series is so hard to describe revolving around an android that looks like a little boy. Every issue is a treat to read, and Nguyen’s art helps with beautiful visuals. Seriously the art alone is a reason to pick up the series. We didn’t get an issue every month, but what we did get was fantastic.
  • The Fix – Two fuck up cops who are corrupt and get mixed up in a drug smuggling scam. The comic is absolutely hilarious. Written by Nick Spencer with art by Steve Lieber the comic is one of the funniest books on the market.
  • The Flintstones – Written by Mark Russell this series is some of the smartest and subtle political and social commentary in any writing going on today. The comic covers everything from religion to consumerism to the 2016 election. And like his writing in Prez no one is safe, the right and the left are equal fodder. Entertaining, smart, and elevating the classic characters to a whole new level.
  • Invisible Republic – A reporter investigates the truth of an uprising on a planet discovering fact from fiction in a series that bounces back and forth between the past and present. Each issue reminds us about the power of journalism and the need for good reporting. Myth can easily be twisted into fact and lies can replace reality. The comic series seems prescient in so many ways.

 

Best Limited Series or One Shot – 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank

4 KIDS WALK INTO A BANK #1 CoverWe got three issues of this series in 2016 and holy crap do I wish we got more. In those three issues we did get some of the best storytelling in any comics. I’m assuming this is a limited series since it is a “crime caper in five parts” but hopefully we get more after this volume wraps up.

The series involves a bunch of kids that find out one of their dads is possibly a criminal and has some buddies who plan to rob a bank. Their idea is to rob the bank before them.

But, it’s not the heist that’s the drawn it’s the kids themselves. Each one feels so real with so many quirks their personalities jump off the page. Everyone is relatable and each feels like real people we knew growing up. It’s absolutely amazing.

The art by Tyler Boss is top notch and the writing is why Matthew Rosenberg is one of the hottest writers in comics right now.

More please!

Runners Up:

  • Black – This series was a Kickstarter phenomenon and the concept is what if only Black people had superpowers? Political. Daring. In your face. The comic is layered and will leave you debating what it’s trying to say.
  • Love is Love – A charity comic to benefit the victims of the Pulse nightclub attack, this comic is a prime example of what the comic industry can do when profits aren’t at the forefront. Bringing together publishers and hundreds of creators it’s a touching tribute.
  • Refugees Book One – A hell of a find at Small Press Expo, the comic is haunting taking us into the world of refugees as they attempt to find a better life. There’s definite issues with the comic as far as some of the writing, but the message is clear and brutally honest.
  • Superman: American Alien – Featuring a bunch of different artists, this maxi-series by writer Max Landis explored a different time in Superman’s life with a different take on the character. It’s a fun and fantastic read and somehow actually gives us something that feels fresh for a character that’s been around for over 75 years.

 

Best Graphic Novel/Trade Paperback – March Book Three

MarchBookThree-CoverThe best thing to be released in 2016 for comics. This is an absolutely amazing finish to the award winning trilogy. The winner of the National Book Award among other things the graphic novel focuses on Congressman John Lewis’ experiences during the Civil Rights movement.

Written by Lewis, Andrew Aydin, with art by Nate Powell this is the crown jewel of comics showing that they’re more than tights and has been adopted by schools to teach about this time in American history.

As I read the graphic novel from cover to cover, I found myself filled with emotions, as Lewis’ life was there in print for those to see and read. The story is a complicated one, but it’s presented in a way that feels honest and open, both good and bad. This is an inside look at one of the most important, and turbulent times in American history from not just someone that was there, but a leader of the movement. And that’s a fascinating part of this third book, is its focus on Lewis’ role as a leader.

This third volume somehow leapfrogs the other two. Whether it’s due to learning or the material within, something about it created an emotional reaction I haven’t felt by any media in quite some time. And most importantly it got me to think about where we as a people and nation have been, where we are, and where we’re going.

Runners Up:

  • The Attack – A man’s wife winds up being a suicide bomber. This story is about his attempt to find out why and discovering he knew so little about the woman he called his wife. A spiral into despair and madness the end will leave you speechless and heartbroken.
  • Rolling Blackouts: Dispatches From Turkey, Syria, and Iraq – By Sarah Glidden this graphic novel is her experiences as she researches potential stories on the effects of the Iraq War on the Middle East, especially refugees. Beautiful to look at, the graphic novel is the second best thing I’ve read this year (behind March).
  • Soviet Daughter – Adapting her great grandmother’s journal Julia Alekseyeva provides an interesting look at someone who lived in Russia from 1910 to emigrating to the US in the 90s. The Revolution, WWII, the Holocaust, it’s all presented as Alekseyeva illustrates what is a diary. Between each chapter, Julia reflects on her own life and her closeness with her great grandmother. It’s an amazing piece examining women finding their place in the world. It’s also a reason you wait until the first of the year for your list, as this came out the last week of the year.
  • Tetris: The Games People PlayBox Brown takes what should be a boring story about the history of the video game Tetris and makes it really interesting! A fun graphic novel published by First Second that makes corporate maneuvering a bad business deals engaging.

 

Best Genre of the Year – Indie Comics/Small Publishers

Is it a “genre”? We can argue about that, but lets face it, 2016 was a year we saw major creators continue to shrug off the big two, instead launching creator-owned series at other publishers, digitally or through Kickstarter. We saw more comics, in more varieties, on more subjects and more ways to consume them, than any time before. It really wasn’t the year of the Big Two, this was a year that we as consumers could continue to find something that would fit our varied tastes.

With more channels for distribution and more ways to produce comics, we’re in a golden age where the old ways of publishing no longer hold back the creativity that abounds.

I named Indie Comics “it” in 2013, 2014, and 2015 and nothing changed in 2016. There’s a massive opening for someone to step in and be a mainstream breakout, maybe 2017 will be the year we see it.

 

Best Surprise of the Year – DC Comics

DC_Logo_RGB_0318162016 was a year that had everyone shaking their head when they heard DC was shaking things up again and “rebooting.” Except, their reboot was anything but.

In “Rebirth” the publisher blended the old with the new bringing back legacy characters and also pushing forward some of the newer ones too. They even moved away from grimm and gritty and gave us a bit of hope and fun in it all!

While Batman has always been strong for the company, Superman, Wonder Woman, and more all all returned to greatness with a new positive energy about them that could be felt.

But even better, sales increased and while they’ve leveled off and dropped quite a bit from the initial launch, the publisher is stronger and in a better position than it has been in a long time.

The company continued to expand upon its digital first program, and has begun to look towards expanding its market with its DC Super Hero Girls line.

They also did this as their movie output was mixed and television output strong. Now to get everything to line-up and the DC brand as a whole could be unstoppable.

The dots are all there, now we’ll see if the company has the vision to connect them all.

 

Biggest Disappointment of the Year – Kickstarter

KickstarterLast year’s disappointment continued to be so, as projects were delayed, vapor ware, or not as advertised. Also add in issues on the creator end of folks pledging high amounts and then disputing the charges, at times getting the goods. Add in the platform’s unwillingness to step in to deal with either situation and you get a tech company showing off it’s greed. What was once the toast of the town has shown its cracks which will only get worse.

The crowdfunding platform became a way for creators to raise funds for projects, only to get picked up by publishers, at times delaying projects and leaving bad tastes in the mouths of fans. If all creators were held to the standards of some of the best users of the system, there’d be no issue, but over 90% of the projects I’ve pledged to have been delayed or non-existent only creating angry backers and fans.

These issues have lead this site to rethink what we promote and how we do so, no longer choosing comics to promote, as we feel some responsibility for things gone wrong and your dollars being held hostage.

Kickstarter continues to be tone-deaf, and it’s only a matter of time before someone stands up and challenges the platform with a system that’s fair to creators, and protects those who pledge.

Oh how the mighty continue to fall.

 

Publisher of the Year – None of the Above

This one I’ve thought about the most out of all of the categories on the list. I keep going back and forth between Image, BOOM! Studios, Valiant, Action Lab, IDW, First Second, and so many more. For each strength one brings to the table, they also have major weaknesses. Whether it’s a focus on a genre, pigeonholing themselves with adults, failure in digital, a mix of quality of comics, none of them are at least good everywhere. But, the comic industry has really grown in 2016 with no one breaking out as THE publisher to rival the big two. Partially that’s because so many have stood out with some of what they’ve done, but none have stood out for their whole.

Of the big two Marvel has stumbled… a lot. Entire articles can be written in that department, but the company is not the juggernaut its been in quite some time and I’d expect their to be some big shake-ups in 2017.

DC on the other hand came really close to being named for this. They’ve done some amazing stuff in the year with Rebirth being a smash hit. There’s still something slightly off, but out of every publisher, they’ve gotten most improved.

Image has become of the home of amazing indie comics by big name creators, but they generally lack a kids line that gets the next generation of readers and the sales just aren’t their in floppies. BOOM! has had a great mix of comics, but they’re missing that ongoing series that goes on for 30 to 50 issues. Valiant is quality all around and have tried some interesting market tactics, but you have to like superhero comics, Action Lab is a solid up and comer with good consistent releases. IDW has shown its possible to do great licensed comics, while First Second has fantastic graphic novels of all sorts. Aftershock has quality and so has Black Mak Studios.

Out of all of that, where’s the standout above everyone else? They’re all good in their own ways, but each have some flaws, with some of those flaws being pretty big. After a lot of deliberation, I couldn’t decide on one, so I chose none.

Each publisher is close to going huge, it’s just taking someone to connect those dots. Or maybe no one will, and it’ll be up to the individual creators to fill up the gap.

Around the Tubes

deadman1coverNew York Comic Con has begun! What things already announced are you looking forward to? Sound off in the comments!

While you decide on that, here’s some comic news and reviews from around the web in our morning roundup.

Around the Tubes

The Beat – :01 is Serializing Spillzone Online – Check it out!

CBR – Arrow Ratings Down in Season Five Premiere – Well that’s not good.

The Beat – Marvel and Netflix’s Punisher announces three new cast members, including Micro – Are folks excited for this?

 

Around the Tubes Reviews

Atomic Junk Shop – Arcane Sally & Mr. Steam #1

Atomic Junk Shop – Bloody Moon

Talking Comics – Cage #1

Newsarama – Deadman: Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love #1

Talking Comics – Death of Hawkman #1

Talking Comics – Death of X #1

Newsarama – Death of X #1

Comic Attack – Nighthawk #5

Review: Secret Coders: Paths & Portals

Secret Coders Vol 2Stately Academy is just crawling with mysteries to be solved! In the last volume, Hopper and Eni discovered a robot in the supply closet and programmed him to do mischief. Now they’re trapped in an underground lair, and they must use their new programming skills to escape.

The second volume of the Secret Coders series, Paths & Portals picks up on the mystery laid out and begins asking readers if they did their homework. Yes, Secret Coders is an educational graphic novel that not only entertains but also teaches real world coding skills.

Writer Gene Luen Yang again nails it out of the park in this graphic novel which continues Hopper and Eni’s adventures but also teaches, it’s edutainment and holy crap is it good. Secret Coders teaches coding as the kids must solve problems using robots that run on the instructions they are given. Readers learn basic commands and how computer programming works with more and more complicated commands added as the story progresses.

This isn’t an information dump, instead, a particular command is taught and then used in a practical way for the story to solve some issue. It also asks the readers to participate by writing their own code along to see if what they came up with matches what the team comes up with in the story. It’s a fantastic and utterly brilliant way to get younger kids interested in computer programming.

It’s also not just for kids. Even as an adult, I felt like I was receiving a refresher on things I learned when I was much younger. It’s a great 101 introduction that takes you along on an adventure that’s as fun as it is educational.

Joining Yang is artist Mike Holmes whose art is fantastic. With minimal colors, the graphic novel has a look that’s inviting to people of all ages and what might seem like a dry idea is enhanced by the art which helps bring out the humor in Yang’s writing. This feels like something aimed at kids in look but as I said it’s great for adults too. I personally love the inviting art.

Like the first volume, this graphic novel is absolutely amazing and a must get for parents who want their kids to be entertained and educated at the same time. Even as an adult I found myself learning as Yang masterfully teaches without you feeling like you’re being taught to. Just an amazing accomplishment that has me excited for the next volume to see what I can learn next!

Story: Gene Luen Yang Art: Mike Holmes
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10 Recommendation: Buy

First Second provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Review: The Nameless City

The Nameless City CoverEvery nation that invades the City gives it a new name. But before long, new invaders arrive and the City changes hands once again. The natives don’t let themselves get caught up in the unending wars. To them, their home is the Nameless City, and those who try to name it are forever outsiders.

Kaidu is one such outsider. He’s a Dao born and bred–a member of the latest occupying nation. Rat is a native of the Nameless City. At first, she hates Kai for everything he stands for, but his love of his new home may be the one thing that can bring these two unlikely friends together. Let’s hope so, because the fate of the Nameless City rests in their hands.

The first volume of a new series of graphic novels by the talented Faith Erin Hicks, The Nameless City is a fun, easy read that feels like it’s geared more towards younger readers, though it’s still enjoyable by older ones too.

The story at its core is about tolerance, but there’s much deeper themes of fairness when it comes to political representation and leadership. But, through all of the themes and topics for the reader to debate, the graphic novel is foremost entertaining. Kaidu and Rat, though in a foreign land and city, are familiar to readers as the kids they are. The issues they face are those that we can all relate to in some way.

The story is lifted by Hicks’ art which adds to the fun feel. Hicks not only gives us a city and land that’s foreign, yet familiar, but the flow of the art works well for the story which often relies on racing and lots of movement. The flow matches the flow. Add on top of that detailed backgrounds that are impressive and yet don’t distract from the action. You’ll read a page, then return to see all of the small details present.

The graphic novel is entertaining and a solid mix of action and life lessons that’ll leave kids and adults alike entertained. The Nameless City is the first volume of what looks like a great new graphic novel series and by the time I came to its end, I wanted to see what’s next.

Story: Faith Erin Hicks Art: Faith Erin Hicks Color: Jordie Bellaire
Story: 8.2 Art: 8.35 Overall: 8.3 Recommendation: Buy

First Second provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

Graphic Policy’s Top Comic Picks this Week!

Moon_Knight_1_CoverWednesdays are new comic book day! Each week hundreds of comics are released, and that can be pretty daunting to go over and choose what to buy. That’s where we come in!

We’re bringing back something we haven’t done for a while, what the team thinks. Our contributors are choosing up to five books each week and why they’re choosing the books.

Find out what folks think below, and what comics you should be looking out for this Wednesday.

Elana

Top Pick: No Mercy #9 (Image Comics)This is the most powerful issue of a comic you will read this month. It actually can stand alone if you haven’t read the series, because it’s that good and complete.

This month’s issue features the only trans male character in a mainstream comic. The ONLY one. I’m not surprised that a series which has dedicated itself to portraying an honest, diverse and realistic range of teens is the book that finally has a character like this. The story offers insight into a great injustice happening to all sorts of young people who society labels as “deviant”.

No Mercy is an unflinching series with high stakes, zero predictability and an extremely high level of moral responsibility. It lives up to it and we are stronger for reading it.

Goldie Vance #1 (BOOM! Box/BOOM! Studios)A Girl Detective! A fun resort setting! Charming and accessible art! Could this be the diverse and actually creative Nancy Drew we never had before? Probably.

 

Alex

Top Pick: Moon Knight #1 (Marvel) – I am one of the few (read only) Moon Knight fans at my comic shop, and I knew I’d be picking this comic up anyway, but with Jeff Lemire and Jordie Bellaire involved Marvel may as well just take my money. I’ve been chomping at the bit for this comic ever since I saw who the creative team involved was.

A&A: The Adventures Of Archer And Armstrong #2 (Valiant) – Last issue took me entirely by surprise, and I absolutely loved it. I’m incredibly pumped for the second issue this week.

Voracious #3 (Action Lab Entertainment) – I can’t get enough of this series. I honestly can’t. It’s an amazingly fun comic about the owner of a diner who is also a time travelling dinosaur hunter (where else do you think he  that you have to read.

Wrath Of The Eternal Warrior #6 (Valiant) – After the brilliance of last issue, this issue has a lot to live up too (spoiler: it does). I can’t wait to get my hands on the print copy.

 

Javier

Top Pick: The Last Contract #4 (BOOM! Studios) – This is the last issue. The Geriatric Hitman with No Name closes the gap on his violent past.  Bittersweet moment, I was hoping it would continue as a series, or at least for 12 issues. Maybe we’ll get lucky and Clint Eastwood picks this up for film.

Black Road #1 (Image Comics) – I’ve been on a Viking kick these past few weeks with the History Channel’s show, and I have Wood’s collected Northlander series in TPB, so the more Vikings the better.

Carver Paris Story #3 (Z2 Comics) – Old school pulp noir in a Paris setting. It’s a brutally simple and effective book.

Delete #2 (Devil’s Due) – This is cool sci-fi action story with Armenian gangsters. Philip K. Dick meets Lone Wolf and Cub when a simple muscular Handyman teams up with an orphaned girl against killers.

Starve #8 (Image Comics) – Another Brian Wood book.  It’s underrated, but I think word is getting out on this series.  Food and comics, why didn’t I think of this first. It really is good reading.

 

Brett

Top Pick: Green Lantern Corps: Edge of Oblivion #4 (DC Comics) –  A great allegory about the Syrian refugee crisis and ISIS. A great example of how comics can be so much more than spandex and powers, even when they feature spandex and powers.

Monstress #5 (Image Comics) – As always a fantastic series that blends fantasy and politics. This is world building at its best, and I can’t wait to see where it all goes. Add on top of that beautiful art and you’ve got one of the best comics on the market.

Moon Knight #1 (Marvel) – Fascinated to see what they do with this series.

Nameless City Vol. 1 (First Second) – An adorable graphic novel, the first in a series. It’s a great read geared towards younger kids I think, but also very enjoyable for adults too. The series is about a city controlled by an army and the a new soldier becoming friends with one of the town people.

Star Wars Special: C-3PO (Marvel) – I want to know how he got that red arm!!!!

Graphic Policy’s Top Comic Picks this Week!

JR4_Cover B by Keith BurnsWednesdays are new comic book day! Each week hundreds of comics are released, and that can be pretty daunting to go over and choose what to buy. That’s where we come in!

We’re bringing back something we haven’t done for a while, what the team thinks. Our contributors are choosing up to five books each week and why they’re choosing the books.

Find out what folks think below, and what comics you should be looking out for this Wednesday.

Mr. H

Top Pick: Spider-Man #1 (Marvel Comics) – Finally Miles Morales in his own stand alone book in the Prime Universe! Very excited for this one. With Peter Parker as his mentor will the old Parker luck rub off on our hero? Or will he reach new heights? Maybe an internship at Parker Industries awaits? Come and see Web heads!

Action Comics #49 (DC Comics) – Did Clark survive his Kryptonite overdose? Can he stand up to Vandal Savage? Find out here…

Green Lantern #49 (DC Comics) – The race to 50 is on.. is Hal ready for the coming of Parallax?

We are Robin #8 (DC Comics) – More like we are Joker this month. Let’s see how the social media treats a gang of villains rather than the fledgling heroes. One question needs to be asked “Why so serious?”

 

Ashley

Top Pick: The Wicked + The Divine Vol. 3 (Image Comics) – Initially thought to be a low arc due to the use of guest artists, the “Commercial Suicide” arc ended up being a brilliant and heartbreaking arc that focused more on the other characters we don’t get to see as much of in the bigger scheme of WicDiv. Exploring issues of fate, misogyny, pop stardom, cultural appropriation, and death, this experimental arc demonstrated WicDiv’s staying power.

Batgirl #48 (DC Comics) – There’s only two things I know about this issue. One, Black Canary is back in town and teaming up with Babs. Two, BABS TARR FINALLY GOT TO DRAW A LUCHA BATGIRL. Kalisto is US Champion, Lucha Underground is back, and there is an actual Luchador Batgirl costume now. What a time to be alive.

Captain Marvel #2 (Marvel) – Exhale everyone, Carol is just as lively and hardheaded as ever in the hands of Butters and Fazekas. Not to mention those abs by Anka. While it hasn’t made me cry yet, the series has me intrigued with its new use of Alpha Flight and the mystery reveal of the skeleton crew from the last issue. It’ll be interesting to see just what is in store for Carol at this “desk job.”

Pretty Deadly #8 (Image Comics) – I have a special place in my heart for the Deconnick/Ríos/Bellaire supernatural western, but this arc has been breathtaking both in story and art. Now, we finally get to meet the Reaper of War and maybe figure out just what his deal is.

Rocket Raccoon and Groot #2 (Marvel) – The first run at the Rocket Raccoon comic was an absolutely uproarious affair that made it one of my favorite Marvel titles. Skottie Young and Filipe Andrade seem to be taking a slightly different route this time with Rocket not knowing who he is after his death in Secret Wars, but the humor still seems to be there.

 

Alex

Top Pick: Johnny Red #4 (Titan Comics) – I love this series, and I’ve been counting down the days to each issues release. It is a fantastic World War II era story that highlights the struggles faced in Russia around that time, coupled with some truly stunning visual techniques.

Howard The Duck #4 (Marvel) – If not for Old Man Logan, this would be the only Marvel book I’d be reading, and that’s thanks in a large part to writer Chip Zdarsky’s occasional digs at Marvel’s reboots and events over the past year or so. I’ve been told that this series doesn’t hold up quite as well as Steve Gerber’s first volume, but if you don’t have that basis for comparison (and I don’t, yet) then the current run on Howard The Duck will be highly enjoyable.

Klaus #3 (BOOM! Studios) – Talking about visually stunning, Klaus is fantastic. It may be billed as an origin story for Santa (and it is), but this comic is so much more than that. There’s a warmth here that you really must experience.

Swamp Thing #2 (DC Comics) – When I was initially getting this list ready, it never occurred to me that Swamp Thing #2 would be one of my top five picks this week. But then I saw the comic listed on Previews website a coming out and I got unreasonably excited to read it after I remembered the slower paced, modern feeling with almost classical twist of the first issue. Who’da known?

X-O Manowar #44 (Valiant) – I wasn’t, honestly, all that impressed with the last issue of this series. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t as good as it has been lately. Hopefully it was a slower start to the new arc and not something indicative of a trend. This issue will go a long way to assuaging my fears, so I’m eager to get a chance to read it.

 

Madison

Top Pick: Pretty Deadly #8 (Image) – Pretty Deadly is one of my forever favorites. Emma Ríos’s art is otherworldly, and I’m excited to see where the story goes as they continue to develop the new arc.

Batgirl #48 (DC Comics) – This week’s Batgirl looks especially promising–it has both the return of Black Canary and one of the cutest covers possibly ever.

Paper Girls #5 (Image Comics) – Paper Girls might take an issue or two to really get into–the action starts quickly and doesn’t stop when four girls are attacked on their paper route. However, as with most Brian K. Vaughan stories, it’s worth seeing through.

Shutter #18 (Image Comics) – Shutter is a great subversion of the adventure genre, but the real draw for me was the art. If you haven’t read Shutter, you might recognize Leila Del Duca from the recent and absolutely gorgeous Morrigan-centric issue of The Wicked + The Divine.

 

Paul

Top Pick: A-Force #2 (Marvel) – A-Force is assembling and I’m excited to see them together again.  True, it won’t be no holds barred like it was in Secret Wars, but it looks like it’s going to be a fun ride; and I’m really enjoying seeing things from Singularity’s point of view; she wants her friends back and is doing what she can to find them, even with a big bad energy monster on her tail.  To paraphrase Iron Man, she’s bringing the party to them!

Scarlet Witch #3 (Marvel) – I’m not all in on this title going into the third issue.  Yes, I love Wanda.  She is one of my favourite characters.  The debut issue was alright, and issue two was less than that.  So why is this on my pick of the week list?  I’m holding out hope this title picks up, and I do have a soft spot for Wanda.  There are some good ideas here, and I hope it gets a little more interesting.

Uncanny Avengers #5 (Marvel) – It’s no secret to many how I feel about this title.  So why is it on my list?  Gambit is on the cover.  That is the only reason I’m looking forward to it this week.  I’m curious to see what role he’ll play with the team and with Rogue.

The Vision #4 (Marvel) – Still the surprise hit, for me, from the All New All Different launch.  Vision just wanted to live a life with a wife and kids, what could possibly go wrong?  The reader is given very grim hints that plenty goes wrong.  Not to mention Vision’s own wife and kids have things happen to them, which they keep from him, that show us that they are a lot more like us then people would think.  It’s a great read that I highly recommend.

 

Javier

Top Pick: Sheriff of Babylon #3 (DC Comics/Vertigo) – Tom King has had the Midas Touch, as anything he writes turns into liquid comic book gold.  This militaristic detective story is a solid read.

Bad Moon Rising #5 (451 Media) – The end is near. Only two issues left in the series. It’s Werewolves versus full automatics and Silver Bullets. I got five to one odds on the Biker Werewolves.

Paper Girls #5 (Image Comics) – I’m just waiting for one of the Paper Girls to be like, “I want my two dollars!!” They deserve a little more, after all that they’ve been through so far.

Unfollow #4 (DC Comics/Vertigo) – Bruce Lee’s Game of Death meets Social Media as the Chosen gather together to thin the herd. Or will they rise above their human faults?

The Walking Dead #151 (Image Comics) – Who cares that  I am front running on the Zombie genre.  A real war is coming as General Rick builds his army.

 

Brett

Top Pick: Johnny Red #4 (Titan Comics) – This seriously has gotten better and better with each issue and has been filled with action and a lot of touching interaction of the characters. Garth Ennis is knocking it out of the park with this series focused on an English pilot leading a Russian squad in WWII. The story is good, and the art is even more amazing. Some of the two page spreads are just jaw dropping.

Last Man: The Chase (First Second) – Such a fun graphic novel series. I’m excited to see more and more as the world is expanded upon and we learn what’s going on. It’s a hell of a mystery so far with small clues that make you scratch your head.

Nailbiter #20 (Image Comics) – One of my favorite series. This arc has some of the cast in Georgia trying to catch a serial killer who may have ties to Buckaroo. Just a fun comic about serial killers.

Princeless: Raven Pirate Princess #5 (Action Lab Entertainment) – Somehow this spinoff series has surpassed the original it came out of. Raven is one of my favorite new characters of the past few years and the fun flows off the page. Every issue has delivered.

Tomboy #3 (Action Lab: Danger Zone)Princeless for adults? This series has a teenage girl turned vigilante. The first two issues blew me away and I can’t wait to read the third. This is one that was one of my favorite debuts of 2015.

Brett’s Best Comics of 2015

It’s the first day of a new year and so that means I’m posting my “best of” listing of the top comic books for 2015. Generally these are comic books that came out in 2015, though some are from earlier times and I got around to reading them, or limited series that continued. Keep in mind, this is what I have read (and does not reflect what other contributors to this site might think). If it’s not on here, I just might not have read it.

This was a particularly tough year of choices with some categories easily having their own top ten or twenty-five. Check out below what made the cut!

Best Super Hero Comic – Captain Canuck

Captain.Canuck 1 cover2015 continued the diversification of the comic industry and we saw an explosion of new comic characters and series that looked a lot more like us, the readers. But, for all of that, many of those series brought with them over the top violence or were aimed at specific audiences. That’s why Chapter House Comics‘ relaunch of Captain Canuck was such a fresh series and hero in 2015.

The comic series and character seem to embody Canadian ideals well and the series is a perfect example of a superhero series that can be enjoyed by both adults and kids alike.

Within its pages, there’s action and fighting, but what’s shown isn’t over the top, taking on a more PG/PG-13 tone compared to a lot of what else is out there. The series also celebrates the diversity that is Canada with characters from numerous backgrounds, including First Nations, and regularly uses French (without translation) to great affect. Plus that design is badass.

Each issue also gives you two-for-one, with a back-up story of equally high quality and fun. A retro tale of a Captain Canuck of the past, I’ve enjoyed these stories so much, I’m hoping Chapter House spins them out in to their own sister series or a regular anthology.

This is a series where the hero is one who not only wants to stop the bad guy, but also won’t put innocents at risk and go out of his way to protect them. Add on to the fact that he’s surrounded by a diverse cast, with actual depth, and we have a comic that can be enjoyed by all. This is a series to watch in 2016.

Runners Up:

  • COPRA – There’s some arguments to be made that Michel Fiffe‘s indie series about a group of raftag characters should be the top pick, and there was long thought about if it should, it’s that good. Out of all of the series I read this year, this is one that delivered with every single issue. This is a comic that shows that superheroes aren’t the domain of just two companies anymore.
  • Midnighter – Writer Steve Orlando‘s series has gotten me interested in a character I seriously had little interest in before. He’s take a one note character and added tons of depth showing that superheroes can be more than just punching.
  • The Omega Men – Writer Tom King took this ragtag group of characters and has given us a maxiseries that explores revolution/terrorism in so many ways. This is one to read once collected if you haven’t started yet.
  • Plutona – Is it a superhero comic? So far I’d say yes. Jeff Lemire is a master writer and Emi Lenox‘s art is fantastic. This is basically Stand By Me with superheroes and it’s a series that I want to see what happens next. With just a few issues so far, it has completely sucked me in.

 

Best Non-Super Hero Comic – Southern Bastards

southern bastardsWelcome to Craw County, Alabama, home of Boss BBQ, the state champion Runnin’ Rebs football team…and more bastards than you’ve ever seen.

Jason Aaron and Jason Latour have created a Southern gothic noir series that once you think you’ve got it down, pulls the rug right out from under you.

This series was my top pick last year, and it has continued to show with each issue why it deserves to continue to be so praised. Each volume has given us a new twist and new perspective on the greater world they’ve put together and Aaron and Latour aren’t afraid to bring the violence and make us wince.

It’s a brilliant exploration of the Southern community, especially its focus on sports and football. This is one of my first reads with each issue that comes out, and I have never known where it was going next. An original in every way.

Runners Ups:

  • Archie – I care about an Archie comic!? Archie took a gutsy chance and reworked their entire line. While it has failed with two other relaunches this year, this series (as well as Jughead) has been a standout for it’s new take on the classic character.
  • Bitch Planet- The series continues to explore tough topics and continues to entertain while doing so. This is a comic with a message, and it pulls it off with every single issue.
  • Descender- Jeff Lemire makes it on the list again, but this time with art by Dustin Nguyen. This sci-fi series is so hard to describe revolving around an android that looks like a little boy. Every issue is a treat to read, and Nguyen’s art helps with beautiful visuals.
  • Fresh Romance – Romance comics are dead! Who’d read them?! Well Janelle Asselin (a some times contributor to this site) proved folks wrong Kickstarting this line of comics that’s a romance anthology. Every issue has delivered with fantastic stories and extras like advice columns. Expect this series to be copied (poorly) in 2016.

 

Best Limited Series or One Shot – Secret Wars: Secret Love

secret wars secret love 1 coverMarvel’s Secret Wars as a whole was an event that started off strong and then sputtered along the way. However it did give us at least one highlight, and that’s Secret Wars: Secret Love.

Four stories that vary in tone and look, this comic is a spotlight on so many creators that should have been at the forefront of the All-New, All-Different Marvel.

Secret Wars: Secret Love was so good, with so many varied talented creators, it was a reminder how much Marvel dropped the ball with its relaunch just a few months. Whitley not on a Misty Knight series? Cmon! Michel Fiffe not being given something! Marguerite Bennet, Katie Cook, Felipe Smith, Gurihiru, Kris Anka, this comic was filled with folks who are comic stars. This is the type of creative line-up I’d be building a line around.

It was just a one shot, but when I was done it was clear I want more of this!

Runners Up:

  • The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage – Valiant cranked out so many good series this year, their miniseries especially were good. This one took on the new Doctor Mirage in a series that had her going to the other side and exploring her own past. This was a miniseries that in a short time gave us lots of depth, entertained, looked so good, and did it all in a short period of time.
  • Justice League: Darkseid War: Green Lantern – DC Comics released a series of one-shots for “Darkseid War,” and one stood above all others. The comics were supposed to explore what happens when regular humans get godlike powers, and this one did an amazing job as Hal Jordan was presented withed difficult choices. A great read all on its own.
  • Lady Killer – A suburban housewife is actually a contract killer. The comics was entertaining with a kick-ass female lead. The miniseries was fantastic playing with so many stereotypes and genres. This is Mrs. Smith, without the Mr.
  • The Paybacks – Mixing superheroes and comedy this miniseries has delivered. This comic has gotten me to laugh with every single issue and one of the downer moments of the year was the fact this wasn’t an ongoing series.

 

Best Graphic Novel/Trade Paperback – Mike’s Place

MikesPlace-300RGB

There was one graphic novel that haunted me for a good chunk of 2015, and that’d be Mike’s Place: A True Story of Love, Blues, and Terror in Tel Aviv.

Written by Jack Baxter and Joshua Faudem, Mike’s Place is a graphic novel spun out of their experience that you can see in the documentary Blues by the Beach. What was supposed to be a movie celebrating Israeli life, and the peace found between Israelis, Palestinians, folks of all different backgrounds, who come together in a bar, instead it captures tragedy, and perseverance.

The graphic novel grips and effects you at a personal level. Part of that is due to the fact it’s both tragic and uplifting. The lead up, and post event accounting of what happened shows strength in tragedy, it’s a mesmerizing, and in ways uplifting, story.

Beautifully haunting, Mike’s Place is a graphic novel that sticks with you for days and weeks.

Runners Up:

  • The Arab of the Future – A biography of Riad Sattouf’s life as he navigates between Libya, France, and Syria. The graphic novel originally came out in French in 2014 and was released in English in 2015. The graphic novel is absolutely fascinating, and makes Sattouf’s life entertaining.
  • The Fall of the House of West – The latest entry in Paul Pope‘s Battling Boy line of comics, this has the early years of the West family and everything from its pint sized hero to pint sized format is a win. This is fun pulp comics.
  • March: Book Two – The second volume of Congressman Lewis‘ biography recounting his life in the Civil Rights movement. Much like the first, the second volume will be taught in classes for decades to come.
  • The SculptorScott McCloud‘s latest graphic novel has its fans and haters. The graphic novel follows an artist who makes a deal with death and has a finite time to live. The story is haunting and one that’ll have you debating with your book club.

 

Best New Series – Monstress

Monstress01_Cover

Monstress kicked off with a triple-sized first issue (60 pages!), and even when you got to that last page, it didn’t feel like enough. The series is a magical world (pun intended) that mixes so many genres that there’s a little something for so many. Fantasy, steampunk, Kaiju, anime, it’s all here mixed together in an amazing combination that seamlessly flows together.

I think what’s more impressive is the inclusion of political and societal commentary within, and doing so in a way that doesn’t come of as preachy, and is almost not noticeable. The story at it’s core is about a woman, a minority, fighting against the oppressive majority. Choices to have what seems like a matriarchal society changes that context into something more than a woman fighting the patriarchy which the series could have easily been (and it still would have been great I’m sure). Instead it gives us women who are good, evil, and somewhere in between painting a broad swath that can be debated for hours on end. It’s this type of layering of ideas, themes, and concepts that has created one of the richest debuts of the year.

In two issues Monstress feels like a thought out world with a history that goes back decades. Battles are referenced, events mentioned, it all feels like its been thought out and meticulously put together. Add on top of that women (well character really) of all types, shapes, sizes, skin color, and you have what is a diverse, in many ways, debut. All of that together creates the best debut of the year.

 

Best Single Issue – Batman #44

Batman #44 CoverBatman has gone through a fascinating shift this year as Bruce Wayne lost his memory and James Gordon stepped in as the iconic hero in a new mechanized suit that’s more anime fighting robot than the great detective we’ve known.

The series has also brought us a new villain in Mr. Bloom who is a great addition to Batman’s rogues and feels like a worthy adversary.

Through all of that, this comic, which focuses on Bruce Wayne’s Batman, is the best single issue of the year of any comic as it shows us something we’ve never seen before in comics, a Batman who actually focuses on the interplay between institutional racism and economic injustice.

Titled “A Simple Case,” the issue was written by regular series writer Scott Snyder who was joined by Brian Azzarello, we find out the issues Batman faces here are anything but simple and more complicated than any villain he’s faced.

For an issue we see how superhero comics can address actual social and economic issues we face today such as gentrification, institutional racism and bank’s disinvestment in communities. But, more importantly, addressing those issues and entertain at the same time.

Add on top of that the usual beautiful art, this time by Jock, and you have a comic you can read on its own, and the best single issue this year.

 

Best Event of the Year – Book of Death

BOD_TPB_COVER_GILLWho has the best superhero universe out there today? That’s not the big two, the answer actually is Valiant who continued in 2015 to show off quality comics filled with quality writing and art.

Not only does the publisher put out great comics every month, but they also have figured out how to weave in major events in to their universe and make it new reader friendly.

Book of Death saw the Eternal Warrior with the newest Geomancer from the future on the run trying to both dodge and take on a great evil pursuing them. Along with the main series, we got a glimpse in to Valiant’s future along with the end of many of its heroes.

The battles felt epic, the use of characters were great, the story progressed at a nice pace with each issue being vital. Add on top a series of one-shots all of which were at least good, and you have the making of an epic tale.

But, what’s even more impressive is the fact that Valiant has figured out the outro in many ways with their events leading in to natural changes for their line of comics and characters.

They’ve consistently put out quality, and continue to do so with their events. I usually shudder when I hear some major comic event is coming, but with Valiant, I look forward to it in anticipation.

Runners Up:

  • Darkseid War – A good event should be epic, and DC’s storyline event currently running through Justice League qualifies. The story has been building for some time, but the Anti-Monitor has arrived to battle Darkseid, and many of the issues have left us with imagery that feels massive in scale. Hopefully the second half delivers as much as the first.
  • Secret Wars – So much good, and so much bad here. Delays and the second half that hasn’t quite delivered as much as the first has tarnished what started off as Marvel’s best event in some time. Still, there’s absolutely this world changing event hasn’t been absolutely huge touching every corner of the Marvel Universe. With one issue to go, the series isn’t perfect, but it does deliver a game changing event.
  • Transformers: Combiner Wars – This was a story that hit so much nostalgia, but what I think as really impressive was the synergy across platforms. Comics, toys, video games, they were all in sync and it all worked together very well.
  • The Valiant – Did you read about Book of Death above? Everything there can be applied here in what is the prequel that eventually led in to Book of Death.

 

Best Genre of the Year – Indie Comics/Small Publishers

Is it a “genre”? We can argue about that, but lets face it, 2015 was a year we saw major creators continue to shrug off the big two, instead launching creator owned series at other publishers, digitally or through Kickstarter. We saw more comics, in more varieties, on more subjects and more ways to consume them, than any time before. It really wasn’t the year of the Big Two, this was a year that we as consumers could continue to find something that would fit our varied tastes.

With more channels for distribution and more ways to produce comics, we’re in a golden age where the old ways of publishing no longer hold back the creativity that abounds.

We named Indie Comics “it” in 2013 and 2014, and nothing changed in 2015. There’s a massive opening for someone to step in and be a mainstream breakout, maybe 2016 will be the year we see it.

 

Best Surprise of the Year – DC Comics

dc-logo-252x3002015 was a year that it was cool to shit on DC Comics. But, for the bad, their best is some of the best. Batman, Batgirl, The Omega Men, Justice League, Midnighter, Prez, Bizarro, Doctor Fate, We Are Robin, Grayson, Black Canary, Constantine the Hellblazer, Cyborg, DC Comics Bombshells, Martian Manhunter, and lots more hit the shelves each week and show off the new quality of a publisher that has been in second place for so long. Add on top of that a resurgence and reinvigoration of Vertigo.

After sputtering for some time, the company shook up their line of comics with Convergence which saw the recreation of the multiverse and opened up the possibilities to tell stories out of continuity and with numerous versions of classic characters.

The company also decided to expand of the success they saw with Gotham Academy and Batgirl, trying new things with new series many receiving critical praise though middling sales.

The company continued to expand upon its digital first program, and has begun to look towards expanding its market with its DC Super Hero Girls line. 2016 sees the real launch of their new movie universe after dominating on television.

The company has really turned the ship around and 2015 was a stellar year that you can see them right the ship while continuing to be faced with criticism from armchair experts.

The dots are all there, now we’ll see if the company has the vision to connect them all.

 

Biggest Disappointment of the Year – Kickstarter

KickstarterLast year’s disappointment continued to be so, as projects were delayed, vapor ware, or not as advertised. Also add in issues on the creator end of folks pledging high amounts and then disputing the charges, at times getting the goods. Add in the platform’s unwillingness to step in to deal with either situation and you get a tech company showing off it’s greed. What was once the toast of the town has shown its cracks which will only get worse.

The crowdfunding platform became a way for creators to raise funds for projects, only to get picked up by publishers, at times delaying projects and leaving bad tastes in the mouths of fans. If all creators were held to the standards of some of the best users of the system, there’d be no issue, but over 90% of the projects I’ve pledged to have been delayed or non-existent only creating angry backers and fans.

These issues have lead this site to rethink what we promote and how we do so, no longer choosing comics to promote, as we feel some responsibility for things gone wrong and your dollars being held hostage.

Kickstarter continues to be tone-deaf, and it’s only a matter of time before someone stands up and challenges the platform with a system that’s fair to creators, and protects those who pledge.

Oh how the mighty have fallen.

 

Publisher of the Year – None of the Above

This one I’ve thought about the most out of all of the categories on the list. I keep going back and forth between Image, BOOM! Studios, Valiant, Action Lab, IDW, First Second, and so many more. For each strength one brings to the table, they also have major weaknesses. Whether it’s a focus on a genre, pigeonholing themselves with adults, failure in digital, a mix of quality of comics, none of them are at least good everywhere. But, the comic industry has really grown in 2015 with no one breaking out as THE publisher to rival the big two. Partially that’s because so many have stood out with some of what they’ve done.

Both DC and Marvel have stumbled in 2015 (though DC has shown improvement in many ways, see above), and it’s everyone else that has stepped up in an attempt to fill the gap left by the big two.

Image has become of the home of amazing indie comics by big name creators, but they generally lack a kids line that gets the next generation of readers. BOOM! has had a great mix of comics, but they’re missing that ongoing series that goes on for 30 to 50 issues. Valiant is quality all around and have tried some interesting market tactics, but you have to like superhero comics, Action Lab is a solid up and comer with good consistent releases. IDW has shown its possible to do great licensed comics, while First Second has fantastic graphic novels of all sorts. The year also saw newcomers like 451 Media, Aftershock, and Double Take, but each are having issues getting the word out.

Out of all of that, where’s the standout above everyone else? They’re all good in their own ways, but each have some flaws, with some of those flaws being pretty big. After a lot of deliberation, I couldn’t decide on one, so I chose none.

Much like I said about DC, each publisher is close to going huge, it’s just taking someone to connect those dots. Or maybe no one will, and it’ll be up to the individual creators to fill up the gap.

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