The Top 15 Comic Book Series of 2015 — Part Two!
10. All-New X-Men/Uncanny X-Men by Brian Michael Bendis & Stuart Immonen, Mahmud Asrar, Chris Bachalo, & Kris Anka — A few years ago Brian Michael Bendis took over the two main X-Men books, giving the series a huge shot in the arm and getting me to start LOVING the X-Men again and desperate for the next issue in a way that I hadn’t been since the Chris Claremont/Marc Silvestri and Claremont/Jim Lee issues of my youth. All-New X-Men follows the original five X-Men, who have been transported to the present-day Marvel Universe, only to be horrified that, to them, the present-day Marvel universe is as terrible as the Days of Future Past alternate future. Meanwhile, Uncanny X-Men follows terrorist/mutant revolutionary Scott Summers and a motley crew of on-the-run new mutants. The two books could be read separately, but read together they present a gloriously entertaining and sprawling X-Men epic. These series tell big stories, filled with outer-space adventures and alternate-universe craziness (the recent crossover between the All-New X-Men and Bendis’ Ultimate Spider-Man, Miles Morales, is tremendous fun) and X-Men-versus-S.H.I.E.L.D. throw-downs, but what makes Mr. Bendis’ work stand out is his tight focus on the characters. Seeing how each of the original X-Men has responded to their time-travel in a different way, and seeing how quickly those innocent characters have already changed and evolved, is wonderful. Seeing the way Mr. Bendis continues to torture Scott Summers is wonderful. And good lord to I love the focus on Kitty Pryde, my favorite X-Men character ever since I read the original Excalibur one-shot (by Chris Claremont & Alan Davis) as a kid. Peter Quill + Kitty Pryde = genius. (Start reading here: All-New X-Men vol. 1: Yesterday’s X-Men, or jump into the middle with Guardians of the Galaxy/All-New X-Men: The Trial of Jean Grey.)
9. Manhattan Projects by Jonathan Hickman & Nick Pitarra — What if, beginning in the 1950’s, Robert Oppenheimer’s Manhattan Project was just the tip of the iceberg of secret government projects overseen by Oppenheimer’s insane twin brother Robert, an evil Albert Einstein from an alternate universe, a cybernetically-enhanced German engineer, an alien disguised as an Italian physicist, a warmongering U.S. army officer, Yuri Gagarin and his super-smart space-dog, and the computerized mind of F.D.R.? You’d get this gloriously insane sci-fi epic, a delightfully weird alternate history of the U.S. that is filled to overflowing with staggeringly original characters and situations. From month to month I have absolutely no idea where this bizarre story is heading next, and I adore it for that. (Don’t dare start reading this from the middle. Get started with Manhattan Projects vol. 1: Science Bad.)
8. The Fade Out by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips — In 1948, Charlie Parrish is a Hollywood screenwriter and a drunk. After a wild party, he wakes up in a bathtub in a bungalow in studio city. In the bedroom is the dead body of his friend Valeria Sommers, the hot young starlet starring in the picture Charlie was working on. This is the kick-off to a gripping noir of the kind in which Mr. Brubaker & Mr. Phillips have come to specialize. The Fade Out is a fascinating look behind-the-curtain at Hollywood of that era, a poignant character study, and a compelling murder mystery. The team of Brubaker & Phillips could be the very best collaboration in comic books today. The two work magic together. This is incredible work, a truly unique comic. I adore it. (Only four issues have been published so far, but eventually this first story-arc will be collected in The Fade Out volume 1.)
7. Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man by Brian Michael Bendis & David Marquez — Mr. Bendis’ Ultimate Spider-Man has been making my list since I started doing this. For a decade-and-a-half, this has been the most consistently entertaining super-hero comic book on the stands. That Mr. Bendis has been writing this series since it’s first issue back in 2000 is extraordinary. This is one of the great runs in comic book history. The latest installment of the series has been great, presenting lots of new challenges for the young Spider-Man Miles Morales, while also bringing back some major, major characters. The book is funny and heartfelt and exciting and fun, and it has some of the best cliffhangers in the business. I miss Sara Pichelli (who co-created the character of Miles with Mr. Bendis), but if she had to leave the book then I couldn’t imagine a better replacement that David Marquez. His art is gorgeous and sleek — he can draw epic action scenes as well as quiet, intimate moments. His artwork is as fun as Mr. Bendis’ stories. I hope to continue reading Bendis’ Ultimate Spider-Man for many years to come. (I’m not sure where to direct new readers. This latest installment is collected in Miles Morales: The Ultimate Spider-Man vol. 1: Revival. Miles’ story began a few years ago, in Ultimate Comics Spider-Man vol. 1. Mr. Bendis’ run on Ultimate Spider-Man began with his great new take on the origin of Peter Parker, collected in Ultimate Spider-Man Ultimate Collection vol. 1.)
6. The United States of Murder Inc. by Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Avon Oeming — Brian Michael Bendis has dominated this middle section of my Top 15 list! This is his latest creator-owned series and his second collaboration with Michael Avon Oeming. The two created and continue to produce Powers, which I still love but which dropped off my Top 15 list for the first time this year. I still cherish Powers but it doesn’t quite thrill me the way it used to. This new series, though, is absolutely dynamite so far. The United States of Murder Inc. presents a well-thought-out alternate history of the U.S., one in which the five mob families never lost their power — instead, they succeeded in gaining control of much of the Eastern seaboard. The story focuses on the young, just-Made Man Valentine Gallo and his partner Jagger Rose, who, on Valentine’s first mission outside the mob-controlled territories, find themselves embroiled in a deadly conspiracy. We follow their adventure while learning, in delicious tidbits, the alternate history of this world. (The series’ title is a play on Murder Inc., the nickname of the mafia killers of the 30’s and 40’s.) Mr. Bendis and Mr. Oeming are perfectly in synch on this book, and I am loving every page so far. (The first run will be collected soon in The United States of Murder Inc. vol. 1: Truth.)
Thanks for reading, everyone! C’mon back tomorrow for the conclusion of my list, numbers five through one!