Wednesday 16 December 2015

The Ten Best Graphic Novels and Comics I Read in 2015

Around this time of year, for the past six years, I've posted a top ten of the best books I read that calendar year. Given that the vast majority of the books I read in any given year were first published decades prior to that year – I am, after all, a collector of old books – it's a supremely pointless and arbitrary exercise, of no use to anyone in discerning which books actually published that year were any cop; but it's become something of a tradition, and so I persist with it even in the face of widespread indifference. (2015's iteration will be along shortly, as if anyone gives two hoots.) However, this year I wound up reading more graphic novels than is usually the case; and since a lot of those graphic novels were published in the last year or two, and I continue to read a reasonable number of comic book series as well, it struck me that this year I was in a position to proffer an additional top ten, one with slightly more relevance to at least one sector of contemporary publishing.

Hence this top ten of the best graphic novels and comics I read in 2015 (drawn from these big long lists of everything I read in 2015). I make no great claims for it being representative of the general thrust of comics and graphic novels in 2015; apart from anything else, half of the graphic novels I've picked were published in 2014. But it is at least in touch with prevailing trends and tastes in comics (unlike my best books top tens, which tend to be in touch with little other than my whims), and so might prove diverting for anyone with an interest in such things.

10. Ruins by Peter Kuper (SelfMadeHero, 2015)

Laced with autobiographical elements, Kuper's handsome travelogue is revealing on the subject of Mexico – its recent past and history, its culture, cuisine and, yes, invertebrates – and wise on the joys, revelations and tragedies that can either strengthen a relationship or rend it asunder.

9. Black River by Josh Simmons (Fantagraphics, 2015)

I'm a sucker for post-apocalyptic dystopias, but Jesus this was bleak, even by the standards of the sub-genre. A band of women and a lone man roam the eviscerated wastelands of North America, their destination hazy, their only certainty that violence and death awaits them. "I'm scared all the time," mutters the lone bloke at one point. Reading this, I knew exactly how he felt.

8. Megahex by Simon Hanselmann (Fantagraphics, 2014)

I wondered back in February whether Megahex was perhaps one of the best graphic novels of 2014 – but since I didn't get round to reading it until this year, it's now one of my best graphic novels of 2015.

7. Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann and Kerascoet (D&Q, 2014)

Another one from 2014, and another one that for many folk – including J. Caleb Mozzocco and Brian K. Vaughan – was among the very best graphic novels of last year. I liked it a lot too when I read it earlier this year. As gorgeous and unsettling as its title suggests.

6. Lazarus by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark (Image, 2015)

What was that about being a sucker for dystopias...? Rucka and Lark's vision of a world suffering under the tyrannical yoke of untrammelled capitalism remains to my mind the sharpest – and most terrifyingly plausible – vision of the future currently being published in comics form.

5. East of West by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta (Image, 2015)

Mind you, Lazarus has stiff competition in the serialised dystopia stakes in the shape of East of West. Month by month it's a toss-up as to which is my favourite of the two, but on balance Hickman and Dragotta's machiavellian, ravishing, deeply depressing take on the end times just about edges it. I think.

4. Sky in Stereo by Mardou (Revival House, 2015)

I wrote about Sky in Stereo, Mardou's quietly magnificent fictionalised memoir, in 2012 and 2014 when bits of it were published as minicomix, but its publication this year as a graphic novel – in expanded form – affords me the opportunity to include it in my ten best of 2015 too. Hurrah.

3. Avengers / New Avengers / Secret Wars by Jonathan Hickman, Stefano Caselli, Mike Deodato, Kev Walker and Esad Ribic (Marvel, 2015)

Hickman and co.'s sprawling, enthralling, befuddling Avengers/New Avengers epic culminated in nothing less than the demise of the entire Marvel multiverse, with Secret Wars acting as a by-turns brilliant and maddening extended coda. The perfect jumping off point for weary Marvel fanboys.

2. It Never Happened Again / HaunterNew Construction by Sam Alden (Uncivilized / Study Group, 2014–2015)

A bit of a cheat, I suppose, picking three books by Sam Alden instead of one; but I bought and read all three of these this year and they're all, in their own idiosyncratic ways, superb, especially the extraordinary and troubling pair of stories in Alden's latest offering, New Construction.

1. Beauty by Kerascoet and Hubert​ (NBM, 2014)

Rich, rewarding, arresting: those were the kinds of words I used to describe Beauty when I wrote about it back in April, and my opinion hasn't altered since. In fact fuck it: I might as well go the whole hog and quote myself: "The story of a peasant girl who gets more than she bargained for when she's granted exceptional beauty, and set against a backdrop of grandeur, squalor and the changing seasons, [Beauty] shows how man's basest desires cause wars to be fought and kingdoms to fall. So it goes."

1 comment:

  1. I am a novice in reading graphic novels, I only read Watchmen recently. I will try some of these as a start. On first look, Megahex seemed most interesting to me.