Guy Thomas's Top Ten Favorite Comics of 2015

While I was trying to determine my favorite books from the past year, I came to realize that how I consume comics is different, now. Weekly visits to the local comic shop are no longer a thing for me, and really, I had a hard time keeping current with almost anything. I ended up reading a lot more in the way of minicomics than larger books, and even that was mostly provided to me from shows and subscriptions.

So, with that in mind, here are my ten favorite comics from 2015, in no particular order.

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Origin (Yoshikazu Yasuhiko, Vertical Inc) – I’ve included Gundam: The Origin on my top ten list for the last three years now for a reason. My love for the Gundam franchise is deep, but it is Yasuhiko (the character designer to the original 1979 anime) who I feel tells the definitive version of that first story. With The Origin, Yasuhiko maintains all the political intrigue and action expected of a Gundam tale, while delving deep into the back stories of some of the major players and generally improving the whole thing. Vertical ended their 12 volume run just a few days prior to writing this, and their high quality hardcovers are, without a doubt, my preferred way of reading this manga.

The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal Omnibus (E. K. Weaver, Iron Circus) – Initially published online between 2009 and 2014, Iron Circus’s hefty 528 page omnibus edition of The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal came out in June. Weaver’s depiction of a love that grows between two people during a long and adventurous road trip is incredibly real and moving. I was particularly pleased by how the sexuality of the characters never felt like gratuitous fanservice, but rather, was a thoughtful representation of both gay and bisexual lifestyles.

Epilogue (Kevin Budnik, self published) - I have spoken at length about my deep love for Budnik’s work. Epilogue is yet another in a string of poignant autobiographical comics that depict the beauty in mundanity. Following moments both large and small in Budnik’s life throughout the year, Epilogue shows how much and how little a person can change and grow in such a relatively short period of time.

An Entity Observes All Things (Box Brown, Retrofit/Big Planet) - Collecting several Box Brown (Andre the Giant: Life and Legend) shorts, An Entity Observes All Things proves that Brown is not to be boxed in by wrestling comics. With mostly sci-fi themes, all of Brown’s work is an excellent example of what comics can do, as well as a great introduction to independent comics for the newly initiated.

The Sculptor (Scott McCloud, First Second) - It was pretty impossible to be in the comics world in early 2015 and not be aware of The Sculptor, Scott McCloud’s (Understanding Comics) first standalone fiction work in almost 20 years. Although there was something of a divide between people who loved the book and people who hated it, I personally found it to be an excellent example of pacing, storytelling, sequential art, and comics in general - a wonderful companion to Understanding Comics that exemplifies much of what McCloud talks about in that earlier work. But more than anything, I feel as though this work is an excellent and emotive non-cape introduction to comics as a whole, a great thing to share with that friend who doesn’t believe that comics aren’t just for kids.

Sea Urchin (Laura Knetzger, Retrofit/Big Planet) - A huge black sea urchin resides in Laura Knetzger’s brain, and she has to do her thinking around it. Sea Urchin is a powerful metaphor for depression, and Knetzger portrays the illness in a way that is both helpful to people who have known it, and eye opening for those who have not.

Burn Your Demons (Isabella Rotman, self published) - Although I am a huge fan of all of Isabella Rotman’s work, the pieces where she is working through her own emotions are easily my favorites. Burn Your Demons is a beautiful minicomic dealing with vulnerability and the effects people have on each others lives. As always, Rotman gives her audience something gorgeous and meaningful, in which you can plainly see the love she has for the medium.

Ikebana (Yumi Sakugawa, Retrofit) - Beautiful in both story and art, Ikebana follows a girl who leads a confused class around a city in an effort to deal with her life. As this piece of performance art is created, things get in the way, interrupting her. Life interrupting art, which for some, defines life.

Rigel and the Star-Teens #2 (Josh Lees, self published) - I have been a big fan of Rigel and the Star-Teens since I discovered it in the pages of Maple Key Comics. It feels a bit like Archie… in space, depicting the lives of teens living on backwater planet years after some sort of space war. What impresses me the most about this series, though, is how Lees uses it to innovate - particularly interesting in the physical version of issue, which contains a six foot long fold out page. Lees is clearly not content to let comics be, and Rigel is an inspiring footstep indicating how far he is willing to take them.

Laffy Meal (Pranas Naujokaitis, Ghost Car Press) - The second of Naujokaitis’s bagged meal comics, Laffy Meal follows every member of a family (including the dog) on a trip to the local fast food joint. Each of the five tiny comics contained in the paper bag is dedicated to a different family member, which I found to be a fascinating and innovative way to explore how different people experience and perceive the same amount of time.

2015 was a great year, and there are a lot of books I would have loved to include (or read). I'm looking forward to all the great things I'm going to get to see in 2016!