Hello everyone, and welcome to tastemaking 2015 with your host: Me! It’s that time of year again, and you’re probably seeing all of these “Best of” lists and wondering who to trust, which lists to pull from when you’re trying to impress your friends and coworkers at the holiday party. It’s a tough racket trying to fake taste. Luckily, that’s where I come in, now you don’t have to fake having good taste, just pretend yours is as good as mine. These are 15 of my favorite books of 2015 that Image released this year. This was a tough one on account of Image releasing 57 new titles a week for the entire year, but I was able to do it, I was able to whittle down the piles of just so much good stuff. Here we go.
Reboot of the golden age fan favorite and American hero, Airboy written by critically acclaimed old guy James Robinson and drawn by some guy Greg Hinkle comes the existential midlife crisis of the century! The job of rebooting Airboy becomes the catalyst for a Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas-esque trip of self discovery for our writer, professional old guy, James Robinson when new, young, hot shot artist Greg Hinkle tags along to get the creative juices flowing. Get ready for a trip with drugs, alcohol, sex, and general debauchery featuring cameos by Airboy and Greg Hinkle’s enormous schlong. Ok, in all seriousness this 4 issue series was really good. Filled to the brim with heart an old, jaded comic book writer figures out what’s important in his life to the backdrop of a bad drug trip that takes him to World War II and back.
TIM-21 was just your average everyday robot boy living a peaceful life with Mom and Andy, but then everything changed when the Fire Nat– the Harvesters attacked… Boom! Robot boy goes on an adventure. You guys, let’s be real, I’m really into post singularity transhumanist sci-fi future stories, and apparently so is Hollywood because Sony picked this property up for a big screen adaption before its first issue was released. As cool as it would be to see the themes of this book tackled in the movies, I know it’s probably not gonna be done right. It’s going to be another case of fat, gross, creatively bankrupt Hollywood lumbering around thinking it knows what the youths like. I like this story, Jeff Lemire paints a word picture like Dustin Nguyen paints with the beautiful water colors that bring this book to life. The first volume trade paperback is out, join me in being one of “those guys” that walks out of the theatre scoffing “the comic book was better”.
I Hate Fairyland
Gert is a 36 year old trapped in a 6 year old’s body and she is, forgivably, insane. I Hate Fairyland is kind of like if Pixar wanted to include some fun and jokes for adults, but instead said “fuck it” and made the whole damn thing for the adults instead. SKottie Young has finally found the perfect fit for his art style and it’s great. Young shows the happy, cheery fairy tale fun times for what they really are: nightmarish hellscapes devoid of humor for any sane person that would be stuck in that scenario, and it is fluffin’ hilarious. Gert’s adventures are adorably gorey, and wonderfully twisted. If you’re not rooting for the gruesome demise of all the cute critters in this comic you have no soul.
Ok, stop me if you’ve heard this one before: A steampunk cosplayer, a fantasy LARPer, an H.P Lovecraft fan and a furry walk into a bar, and they all decide they’re totally into their fandom a normal amount and there’s nothing weird or unhealthy about it. Anyway those people would totally dig this book and so could you! This book is set during some sort of steampunk time, in some sort of fantasy world, and it’s got animal people and witches, and they’re at war. No, wait, come back, trust me it’s actually good, I have taste remember. It’s written by Marjorie Liu and arted by Sana Takeda. The art in this book is real good, it’s very old school manga looking, and it’s beautiful and expressive. This book is also dark, and it works. I know we’re all tired of the dark&gritty archetype, but this is not that. Once you notice what’s going on it’s just “oh, shit… What kind of Mengele bullshit is this?”. This comic stands on its own, the first issue is extra long and at no point did I notice, I was in. Not to mention the complete and utter lack of ads, none, not even in the second issue which is so refreshing! I get the need to monetize and make things profitable, but an ad every other page and the last five pages of the book are ads for other books, it takes me out of a read faster than having to annotate a book in high school. No matter what your date night apparel looks like; Cogs glued to goggles? alright! Mystical pajamas? sure! Green faux fur? whatever! you’re likely to dig this comic.
Remember when print media was still relevant? Me either. Now go to the store and buy this comic book about girls who deliver newspapers. Get ready for some magical 80s movie level shenanigans when a group of rough and tumble paper girls get into some crazy misadventures the morning after Halloween when their small cul de sac is overrun with aliens? time travelers? the rapture? who knows! But it’s Brian K. Vaughan so you bet your sweet bippy you’re gonna buy it like the sheep you are! Just kidding Vaughan is amazing, praise be unto him. Working with Vaughan is Cliff Chiang whose art gives so much depth to each panel. There’s a lot happening in the story and the art keeps pace beautifully. This book is one of a few on this list that’s just a lot of fun.
In a world where an STI makes you suddenly gorgeous somehow, and the only downside is a slight fever, America’s idiots think it’s a great idea to go ahead and contract it because everyone’s idea of physical beauty is definitely exactly the same guys. In an age where billion dollar corporations make it a business to turn little girls into objects by picking them up with copy/paste pop songs and immediately shoving them back down by showing them that one Ukrainian model that looks like Barbie and making them feel like beastly little turds, who could blame them for risking it? Turns out The Beauty, that super sweet insta-hot STI, might be causing people to immolate from the inside. Infections are bad for us, who knew? The Beauty is a mystery/action/human interest story wrapped in a (sometimes more thinly superficial than I’d like) commentary on modern societal beauty standards. Writer/artist Jeremy Haun and co-writer Jason A. Hurley make this one of Image’s most interesting series currently on the shelf.
Here comes another sci-fi book I love! Strap in! Ok, so, imagine if Neuromancer [with more the gritty aesthetic of Blade Runner (maybe more like Snow Crash)] followed a cool lady with white hair, a dope ass robot arm, who is also kind of a film noir detective, but it doesn’t take a swift downturn in the third act. That’s Empty Zone. It’s all around one of my favorite books I read this year, Jason Shawn Alexander is the double threat writer/artist for the ages. This book is gorgeous! It’s one of those stories filled with those characters that make me want to be apart of the world they exist in even though it’s a horrible dystopia where I’d most likely die.
Ok, settle down, we all knew this was coming, Kelly Sue DeConnick’s name is on something so obviously it’s gonna be one of the best things ever. Did that sound like sarcasm? Because it’s not supposed to (Help me! I can’t turn it off!). This has become the norm for me and many people like me. Whenever Kelly Sue puts pen to paper it sings a siren song of fucking amazing stories and great real characters underlined with feminist sensibilities that would make Gloria Steinem proud, this time brought to life by Valentine De Landro’s vivid art style. Bitch Planet is as if America’s patriarchy never left the 1950s, but in the future. It’s like Orange is The New Black but instead of Piper and her dumb husband (god dammit Larry nobody likes you!) Bitch Planet follows a cast of ladies as diverse as they are interesting that are also IN SPACE. An homage to exploitation films of the past, this book highlights contemporary social issues facing women today stressing the importance of viewing these issues through the intersection of race. This comic is good you guys, (it inspired tattoos!) please read it. Plus, the title of volume 1 is “Extraordinary Machine” ugh! how sick is that title?!
We Stand On Guard
In this next playful romp the United States is up to its usual antics where it invades a country (Canada, screw those dang Maple Leaves, am I right?) based on little to no evidence that it’s responsible for a national tragedy in order to steal — I’m sorry — “sequester” that country’s resources and wealth. Yes, I know this is another Brian K. Vaughan book (praise be unto him) don’t look at me like that! Don’t be mad at me because he writes too many good things, I’m just the messenger, and I’m allergic to lead. Anyway you actually find yourself rooting for these dirty Hoser freedom fighters (I jest, Canada is actually a beautiful country, but we can never tell them we think they’re cool! It’ll go straight to their Tim Hortons filled noggins!) as they’re up against giant bad ass American robots, and Steve Skroce can draw a sweet ass giant robot, I mean, ‘nuff said.
Strap in guys, we’re going back to the 80s, we’re bringing it back. “The 80s will never not be cool!” — cries anyone who still owns a Members Only jacket and/or leg warmers. “Have you ever seen the movie Stand By Me?” I ask the youths at my comic shop pointlessly as their eyes grow pale in complacent silent judgment at my age and the things I like. Plutona is like Stand By Me, except the characters are diverse, and it’s present times, unfortunately Wesley Crusher has yet to make an appearance, oh! and the dead body they find is a super hero. Jeff Lemire captures the all differing angst of a cast of school kids almost like he was one once, which is weird because as we all know Jeff Lemire is a robot created in a lab to write good comics. Emi Lenox brings this motley crew of young hormone sacks to life just to watch them squirm as they deal with the anxieties of being a teenager combined with seeing a dead body! Now find this comic and poke it with a stick, but buy it after because that’s rude these are collectors items, come on!
They’re Not Like Us
They’re not like us, those sheep, in society, with their Starbucks, and their jobs. Pssh what a bunch of conformist buttheads. We’re individuals, we’re Special little snowflakes that can kill people WITH OUR MINDS. They’re Not Like Us is like X-Men if Charles Xavier never existed and Erik Lehnsherr was less megalomaniac bent on world domination, and more just general douchebag. It’s really a good story that touches on the fearmongering and abuse the cult mentality propagates in order to keep people in the cult and against the general populace. The main characters all have psychic abilities and are simultaneously told they’re better while being told to be afraid. Not that they shouldn’t be afraid, people are horrible and fear what they don’t understand, and hate what they fear, little monsters all of them. This is also a story that beautifully illustrates the struggle of self discovery and being ok with who you are, and how important it is to realize you can’t change some things while working to change the things you can. This book technically came out last year, but it was late last year, and I wanted to include it because it’s easily one of my favorite stories ongoing right now. Eric Stephenson does the story, and Simon Gane does the art, they’re fantastic, the first volume is out in trade paperback, read it, give it to the youths in your life, give it your time (even if Syd is basically Piper from OINB).
Huck is brand new, as I’m writing this I’ve only read issue 1, but I’m including this not because it’s Mark Miller (ugh… I didn’t even know when I read it, I wasn’t paying attention, it’s probably gonna get a movie) but because it made me feel good. It wasn’t laugh out loud funny, but it gave me a few chuckles. The art by Rafael Albuquerque is really nice, the colors are calming to me. I realize this is a “feel good” comic which isn’t really a thing right now as far as I know, not since Teen Dog for me (OMG check out Teen Dog if you haven’t). This comic follows a guy with superhuman abilities (don’t mind the creepy blonde hair, blue eyes, white messianic vibe he puts off) that just does nice things. Every day, he does at least one nice thing, which is really nice. It makes you think “man I wish I could do what he can so I could do nice things” and then you realize (or at least you should) “hey wait, I can do nice things, I don’t need superpowers to be nice!” and I think that’s the point of this book. Someone doing nice things makes us feel nice, we should do more nice things, there’s not enough nice in today’s world, maybe we can’t do huge world changing things, but changing one person’s world for the better if done on a grand scale to many people might be enough. Now be nice and support your local comic book store.
Hey, whoa, another sci-fi book, who knew?! You should have! Space is cool man, but space can also kill you! Like super easily! It’s Australia x1000! You blink wrong in space and your head explodes! Now imagine trying to solve the mystery of how your sister died on a claustrophobic space ship while being haunted by the ghosts of your past and like (maybe) for real ghosts in real life. I didn’t even mention the bevy of shady people that are all on the same ship for some reason. There should be a limit is all I’m saying, a limit to the number of shady people in a confined area. Becky Cloonan does a great job of making this a good who-done-it mystery where trust in a particular character is never warranted for long, and Andy Belanger and Lee Loughridge did a good job of showing that everything is blue in space. I mean, I’m not complaining, I like blue, but if you don’t like blue, maybe the art’s color pallette won’t be your favorite.
Alright guys, clear a path, here comes grandpa Rick Remender come to complain about your portable telecommunication devices, and your interwebs, and those damnable danke Me-Mes. Careful of his hip or he’ll kill a female character to progress plot. I’ll be honest the warning of technology ruining our life and our world, making our attention span shorter, and causing us to lose our humanity is a little heavy handed. Like, if the hand was made out of the contents of a white dwarf star, and it came hammerfisting towards your jaw at 300mph. That heavy handed. But have you seen the motorcycle though! Shit is straight up Akira, dawg! In all seriousness this book isn’t really about the evils of technology (kinda) it’s about the idea of dependence whether it be on technology or in a relationship and the illusion of that need created by self worth issues, societal pressure, or a departure of what is actually important in life (whatever that means to you). I like where this story is going, the dystopia vs. utopia duality I mean. I hope it leads to the realization that ultimately a utopia is impossible and is merely a failure of human conception! Segway! Now the art in this book is fantastic (I mean look at those lines man! The lines!). Sean Gordon Murphy and Matt Hollingsworth nail this book! Nail it with their massive swinging art hammers (the hammer is their penis). The colors in the polluted city, and the colors in Japanese paradise in comparison, and the lines! The lines! The details in everything bring the scenes to life, terrifying dangerous technology addicted life. Now go read this on your tablets, while checking your email in another tab, and tweeting about it.
You like creepy things? I like creepy things. Horror comics are slowly becoming a big thing in comics and I’m so excited because I can’t be jump scared to tears by a book! Scott Snyder wrote this book so already you’re off to a great start. Jock does the art?! This should be sold already. Jock’s art style is so vivid with just the right amount of surreal which adds immensely to how spooky this book can be. Snyder’s inspiration for this comic was a childhood fear, and this not only creates a constant looming dread felt while reading, but fits very well into one of the themes in the book which is growing up scared. How it feels to be gripped with anxiety your whole life or even just through the already difficult teen years, and how important a support structure and thinking positively is and can be to someone going through that. The trade of the first arc is out right now and I highly recommend it to everyone, but especially the people that use the word “spoopy”.