Friday, January 1, 2016

Donist World 2015 Year-End Roundup - Part 1!

(Sung to the tune of The Sound of Music's “My Favorite Things”)

Robotic youngsters evading scrappers
Hollywood murders drag lives into crappers
Archie and Betty’s “Lipstick Incident” stings
These are a few of my favorite things

Cibopath chompings soon will be ending
Hornhead and winger marriages mending
’80s girl paper boys live where weirdness is king
These are a few of my favorite things

Bad Southern a_holes and below water missions
Teen POTUS hopefuls and dead ladies risen
Tech-free utopias and glow-sticky peens
These are a few of my favorite things

Diamond misships
Then my beer spills
When I'm feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don't feel so bad

Friday Slice of Heaven For the Year!

Happy Holidays, denizens! Y’know, come to think of it, this year’s holiday season wasn’t all that bad. Uncle Billy Joe Jim Bob (or UB-J2B as I like to call him…yeah, I just saw Star Wars!) and his brand-new, red sports car retreated to the woods so he could “find himself” once his and Aunt Bea’s divorce finalized. So, the liquor cabinet was thankfully spared, and I wasn’t forced to endure any of UB-J2B’s predictable “Dang, Donist, I can’t just pinch an inch on that ol’ brisket of yours…I can pinch a dagburned football field!” jokes. Don’t ask. I don’t want to go there. Anyhow, holiday horrors were mild, and the Reverse Obie (my friends’ Boston terrier, whose surly attitude changed for the better after his fur colors swapped when a corrupt businessman’s curse backfired) and Tulip (my dog, and Donist World marketing director / administrative assistant / party planner / gingerbread house connoisseur) and I are having our own little holiday party at the corporate office (Mom’s basement).

Not only have we been having a blast putting this post together, we’ve been spreading the cheer with some winter warmer beers, gingerbread cookies, and whiskeys and ryes by the fire as we reminisced about the comics that captured our hearts over the course of 2015. So, if you have your own UB-J2B making things unbearable, then by all means you owe it to yourself to swipe a beverage to warm your innards and abscond to your place of peace to enjoy some fantabulous comic books. Oh yeah, grab some of them there Christmas cookies on your way out, especially the ones with the crunchy frosting, as you check out the list.

***Probably NOT Spoilers Below***

If you have a moment, check out our past FSoH/SitW Year-End Roundups for 201420132012, and 2011 to see all things heavenly from the past. For the comic series listed below, I provide an image of the best way to experience the comic if you have not yet read it. Basically, I will try to show an omnibus, then a hardcover, then a trade, and finally, if no trade is yet available, the first issue of the series. We at Donist World thank you for reading and hope you enjoy these comics as much as we do.

Donist World 15 (+1) Favorite Comic Series of 2015 (In no particular order)

Read More!

Descender Vol. 1
1) Descender - Written by Jeff Lemire, illustrated by Dustin Nguyen, published by Image Comics. I know I said “In no particular order” up top, but Descender is not just my favorite new release of 2015, but my favorite comic seeing release period. I positively love it. With this gorgeous, otherworldly tale, Lemire and Nguyen capture the golden age of sci-fi that was the late ’70s and early ’80s whether you were talking about film, anime, comics, or what have you. The story is set in a distant universe where the main unified worlds are all simultaneously attacked by monstrous robots that vanish as quickly as they appeared, leaving billions dead. Fast forward ten years, where robots are hunted and destroyed, as a lone boy robot, Tim-21, awakens on an abandoned mining asteroid to realize he might hold the key to the robotic nightmares known as the Harvesters. Not only is the story one one of the most fascinating and compelling things I have read this year, the watercolor art is simply mesmerizing in its beauty. Descender is the book I give to friends and family when I want show them why comics are important forms of art, or when I want to brighten their day. I can’t wait to see what Lemire and Nguyen have in store for us in 2016.

Archie #1
2) Archie - Written by Mark Waid, illustrated by Fiona Staples and Annie Wu, published by Archie Comics, Inc. As I say most every single time I mention anything from Archie Comics, I came late to the game with this publisher. When I was a kid, I wrote the publisher off as specifically for girls…I was 100% wrong. It doesn’t matter whether you are talking about the old comics from the early days, the more modern offerings from the past five years, the amazing (if not chronically delayed) Afterlife with Archie, and now the “All New” Archie; there’s something for everyone. This reboot(ish) of the Riverdale gang captured my heart by the second page of the first issue as I fell in love with Archie, Betty, and Jughead (my personal hero) all over again. I laughed out loud with each issue, and got completely enveloped by the mystery of what broke up Betty and Archie’s near-lifelong relationship, and I felt my heart break with issue four when we see the “Lipstick Incident” in its entirety. Its honest look at life’s changes really struck home. But the sad times ebb and the laughs continue to flow as this truly all-ages comic delivers on this experiment gone right. So. Very. Fun.

Chew: The Omnivore
Edition Vol. 1
3) Chew - Written by John Layman, illustrated by Rob Guillory, published by Image Comics. Yeah, this series is quickly wrapping up as issue 60 looks to hit in 2016. This is a joyous and a sad thing, Denizens. I don’t want what is easily the most unique book on the stands to end, but the creators are telling the story they wish to tell in the manner which they want to tell it, and this entire series has been created on their terms since day one. Sure moments in Chew have been a tad gross, given how lead character Tony Chu is a “Cibopath” who gains a psychic impression from everything he eats. This makes him the ultimate detective when tracking down a homicide victim’s killer (yeah, do the math to figure out how he does this…“chomp!”). However, as dark as Tony’s powers might be, the story leans towards being fun fun fun as Guillory’s lovely cartooning and background gags leave you cracking up at some of the wackier moments. Be warned though: don’t get too comfortable, as there are rare moments that drop like a sock to the gut, that just might leave you shedding tears of sadness alongside the many, many tears of laughter. If you haven’t been reading Chew but are wanting to take the plunge, do so with the gorgeous Omnivore Edition volumes, which I gushed about here.

The Fade Out Vol 1
4) The Fade Out - Written by Ed Brubaker, illustrated by Sean Phillips, published by Image Comics. If you like crime / noir / mystery comics, then The Fade Out is THE standout offering from 2015, if not, well…ever. I don’t say this lightly, as Criminal: The Last of the Innocent  (also by these creators) is a masterpiece that blew me away a few years back, but Brubaker and Phillips’s latest offering is a treasure in an of itself. With one issue left to go in this 12-issue series, we will finally get to see the how and why a starlet was murdered toward the end of Hollywood’s Golden Era, and the repercussions that fall upon a pair of damaged and flawed writers as they investigate her death. The story is complex and intriguing, the art dark, haunting, beautiful. As I always say in my reviews of the individual issues, you should pick up the floppies (get them here) as each issue includes an essay about actual events and figures from Hollywood’s Golden Years that are bizarre, shocking, and well worth your time. Or if trades are your thing, then go for those. What’s important is that you read this amazing series. I cannot wait to see how it all ends.

Lazarus Vol. 1 HC
5) Lazarus - Written by Greg Rucka, illustrated by Michael Lark, published by Image Comics. First off, I know I interrupted the regular FSoH/SitW post for the week to bring you this year-end roundup, but I need to state that the just released 21st issue is a phenomenal comic before the last three shocking pages, and left me stunned with the final three pages of the cliffhanger ending. Criminy! Now, do not expect to get any warm fuzzies from this series. With each issue in this post-apocalyptic comic, I was left completely freaked the heck out by what I had just read. Lazarus is a futuristic book where those few families holding the world’s wealth write the rules, and each family has a “Lazarus,” a deadly guardian who protects them by whatever means necessary. Needless to say, the world is a dark place where much of humanity has been cast aside so the families can fight amongst themselves for control of it all. What terrifies me the most about this book is just how close we might be to seeing this nightmare come true given the current distribution of wealth. Lazarus is as fascinating as it is scary, and it is so very well done.

Low Vol. 1
6) Low - Written by Rick Remender, illustrated by Greg Tocchini, published by Image Comics. Let’s see, we have sci-fi, post-apocalyptic world, monsters, robot-looking suits, underwater adventure, action, tragedy, and an overall belief that things will go right despite all evidence to the contrary. Not only that, you throw in some great protagonists — one of which being Stel Caine, for whom I have an immense crush — and an epic, near-hopeless mission as depicted by a great writer and a fantastic artist; there’s no way this here Donist could not fall in love with this series. Thus far only two trades have been released on this fantastic comic, which everyone needs to be reading, and I fully intend to double-dip on this series the day an oversized hardcover releases so I can better appreciate this jaw-dropping art. Remender has been on a tear with ALL of his great creator-owned work, but everything about Low makes it the cat’s pajamas for me.

Paper Girls #1
7) Paper Girls - Written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Cliff Chiang, published by Image Comics. Even if only the first issue of this awesome new series had been released in 2015 it still would have made it on the top 15 list. Seriously. I mean, how could you go wrong with a Vaughan / Chiang / Wilson book? The crazy thing is we’re three issues in, and I still don’t know what the heck is going on, which means we know about as much as the four fantastic main characters as they try to understand why monsters and butt-ugly ninjas have invaded their sleepy, 1988, Cleveland suburb as most of the inhabitants up and vanish from existence. The dialogue is as great as you would expect from Vaughan and the art as stunning as you would expect from Chiang and Wilson. With a book as fun and engaging as Paper Girls, I am cool being in the dark as to events going down, just so long as I get to follow these foul-mouthed paper girls as they try to make sense of a world gone completely mad. Honestly, if a few more issues had been released in 2015, this series might have tied with Descender as my favorite new release of the year. So very good.

Prez Vol. 1
8) Prez - Written by Mark Russell, illustrated by Ben Caldwell, published by DC Comics. Speaking of ties for best new series of 2015, Prez is right up there with Descender. I instantly fell in love with the first issue and its commentary about our broken and corrupted political system, the immense power held by the mega-corporations and the detrimental effect they can have on society, Americas’s fascination with reality television, the every-moment-captured nature of social networking, our healthcare system, and the list goes on and on. The magic of Prez is that where one would expect me to curl up in fetal position on the couch muttering f_ this s_, I instead was covering my mouth to avoid breaking out in uproarious laughter at the absurdity of it all as aided by Caldwell’s humorous illustrations. The screwball thing is that this is a DC Comics comic, not Vertigo, but I honestly do not care how or where the book comes out, just so long as the final half (issues 7–12) see release in 2016. Dang, Denizens, this comic is fan-frickin’-tastic. Love!

The Private Eye HC
9) The Private Eye - Written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Marcos Martin, published by Panel Syndicate. Wait a minute! These links go to the hardcover edition of a digital series that was supposed to never see print! Well, I guess when Robert Kirkman offers to put the book out in a beautiful format you do it. Regardless, you can still get this phenomenal series for pay-what-you-want-including-nothing (please don’t pay nothing, though) at the Panel Syndicate site, but just make sure you read it. Imagine a world where the internet broke and released everyone’s secrets for all to see. The result is a future where extreme privacy is the most protected right of all, which makes learning secrets a very lucrative business. The Private Eye kept me on the edge of my seat with each of the ten releases, and is one that I have already reread twice in 2015, and see myself reading again at some point in the new year. I also greatly appreciate seeing creators cut out all unnecessary middlemen so they can reap the well-earned rewards of their efforts.

Rachel Rising Vol. 1
10) Rachel Rising - Everythinged by Terry Moore, published by Abstract Studio. What do you get if you mix Twin Peaks with a horror comic beautifully written and gorgeously illustrated by one of the most important writer-artists of all time, Terry Moore? Why you get Rachel Rising, of course, duh. It confuses the heck out of me, Denizens, that I don’t see all the online comics news sites talking about this great series that just upped the stakes tremendously with the latest issue. (Okay, sadly I’m not really all that surprised, but C’MON! This comic is great.) Basically, a woman comes back to life to find herself in a shallow grave, deep in the woods. From there, she vows to find her murderer as things get truly bizarre in the sleepy town of Manson. In addition to the cool story, and the oh-so beautiful character acting and storytelling of the art, Moore successfully makes readers fall positively in love with most all of his characters, including some of the more wicked ones. Rachel Rising is as “creator owned” as it gets, and it is one that all fans of good, non-gorefest horror should be reading and talking about.

Saga HC
11) Saga - Written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Fiona Staples, published by Image Comics. Okay. Seriously? Three comics on the Top 15 (+1) list?! You bet your sweet patootie, Denizens. Saga has been on this year-end roundup list since it debuted, and I kind of suspect it will be here until the day the series concludes — which is hopefully not for a long, long time. Do I really need to tell you why I love this book or why everyone on the planet needs to be reading this phenomenal Romeo and Juliet tale set in outer space? Could I possibly ask any more questions in this little blurb? No worries, I’m sure that most all y’all are reading this ever-great comic with the gorgeous art and the oh-so good story. I’m also sure that you have shared the countless laughs, the gasps of shock and horror, and the heartbroken tears of loss along with me for the most important comic in jumpstarting the recent creator-owned revolution. Saga. It’s good. Read it. Love it.

Sex Criminals HC
12) Sex Criminals - Written by Matt Fraction, illustrated by Chip Zdarsky, published by Image Comics. First off, I’m not really sure what is going on with the release schedule of this adults-only, Donist World Darling, but a handful of issues came out this year, and each of those charmed me just as much as what came before. Sex. It’s weird, funny, fluid and Fraction and Zdarsky capture it all with laugh-out-loud humor, immense absurdity, and such brutal, heartfelt / heartbreaking honesty that each issue manages to be deeply touching (not that way…sickos!). I wish I could say (I really mean this) that Sex Criminals is one of those books you can hand to you mom, or your boss, or your non-comic-reading buddy, but that might be a little…weird. Nah. You read this one on your own or with a significant other(s), or blog about it incessantly or somethin’ so that people continue to read what TIME Magazine heralded as their #1 comic of 2013.

Southern Bastards HC
13) Southern Bastards - Written by Jason Aaron, illustrated by Jason Latour, published by Image Comics. As I’ve said with most all of Southern Bastard’s releases, and which might shock and appall some of the Denizens out there…I don’t care one bit about football. Actually, I don’t care about any sports, and I have some ideas about what should be done with the exorbitant pay players currently receive. Let’s leave it at that. BUT…Aaron and Latour have crafted such a dang-fine crime tale centered around one Coach Boss, his illegal doings, and his high school football team that I can’t help but find Craw County’s obsession with the sport fascinating. I’m also still very much reeling from the first story arc (I ain’t spoilin’) that left me completely floored and uncertain of where the comic is headed. I’m cool with that. Part crime, part sports, part character study, Southern Bastards is all about building a world grounded in reality with some truly abhorrent characters. Regardless of the subject matter, comic books of this caliber will keep me coming back for more more more.

Tokyo Ghost #1
14) Tokyo Ghost - Written by Rick Remender, illustrated by Sean Murphy, published by Image Comics. With the quality of Remender’s creator-owned work, it should really come as no surprise that he has two titles on my list. It’s also no surprise that after the incredible Fear Agent the creator delivers yet another career defining sci-fi work. This futuristic tale deals with a post-apocalyptic world where technology and connectivity have become an addiction, an addiction for which the tech-free Debbie Decay wishes to rid the love of her life, Led Dent (aka Teddy). This comic has actually made me much more aware of my phone use, and internet surfing habits as I kind of share Remender’s fears on where it is all heading. But there is no better way to completely freak you out gently than to feast your peepers on some of Murphy and Hollingsworth’s stunning visuals, especially on their jaw-dropping double-page spreads. I’m very excited to see where we go next. Oh yeah…special bonus…Led’s motorbike is named “Zeus’ Dick,” so what’s not to love!

The Twilight Children #1
15) The Twilight Children - Written by Gilbert Hernandez, illustrated by Darwyn Cooke, published by Vertigo Comics, a DC Comics imprint. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez is one of my favorite books, so is it any wonder that the beautiful The Twilight Children so thoroughly grabbed me? Hernandez skirts the edges of magical realism and sci-fi with a tale of a sleepy fishing village that has repeated visitations from strange glowing orbs that appear only to shortly vanish without a trace. There’s love, loss, jealousy, desires, and dreams set to die and even with only one issue remaining in this mini-series, I have zero idea of where we are headed or how this story will end; fine by me. It also doesn’t hurt to have Darwyn Cooke as the artist to make even a tiny fishing village one of the most magical places on Earth. My only gripe about the individual issues was that for the $4.99 price tag, there were an abundance of ads attempting to ruin the flow of the story, but the hardcover collection coming in May 2016 looks to solve that problem. You need to check this one out as soon as possible.

Weirdworld Vol. 0
16) Weirdworld - Written by Jason Aaron, illustrated by Mike Del Mundo, published by Marvel Comics. Leave it to this here Donist to so thoroughly enjoy one of the most non-event event books of the yet-to-be-concluded Secret Wars. I tried a few of the tie-in books, but only Weirdworld succeeded in grabbing my attention. What I love about this…well, weird…hero’s journey is that it is so very different from anything else that Marvel is putting out. You have the C-list character, Arkon, roaming around a crazy world filled with monsters and mostly unknown characters from Marvel’s past (I’m not going to spoil here) who both aid and impede poor Arkon’s quest to return home. Aaron’s story is fairly straight forward, which honestly made it all the more enjoyable. But with Del Mundo on art, Weirdworld comes to life through his striking, vibrant colors and insane designs that beg you to take your time and enjoy the ride. Although Aaron is now off the book, Sam Humphries has just started up as writer with Del Mundo continuing on the sumptuous visuals with the second issue arriving in January 2016.

But wait, there's more...
There were a ton more comic books that I read and that were released in 2015 that I must mention: Universe! (Monteys), Barrier (Vaughan / Martin), Afterlife with Archie (Aguirre-Sacasa / Francavilla), Sabrina (Aguirre-Sacasa / Hack), Hawkeye (Fraction / Aja / Wu), The Autumnlands (Busiek / Dewey), East of West (Hickman / Dragotta), Wytches (Snyder / Jock), Black Science (Remender / Scalera), Creature Cops: Special Varmints Unit (Anderson / Melek / Malgappo), Deadly Class (Remender / Craig), Jughead (Zdarsky / Henderson), Satellite Sam (Fraction / Chaykin), Pretty Deadly (Deconnick / Rios), The Sixth Gun (Bunn / Hurtt), The Dying & the Dead (Hickman / Bodenheim), Bitch Planet (DeConnick / De Landro). I'm sure there are plenty of other comics I somehow forgot to mention or have not yet bought or read, so if there are any glaring omissions, please let me know. There's plenty of room at the Donist World corporate offices for more comics and...hold on a sec...actually, Amy the intern (my wife) has corrected me and said that "No, there is not plenty of room here." <psssttt...hey denizens, let me know anyways. I can totally sneak more comics in on the down low. Just let me know. We can do this…>

Stay tuned next week for the “Donist World 15 (Times Two) Heavenly Things (In Alphabetical Order).”


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