Sunday, January 3, 2016

Best Comics and Graphic Novels of 2015

Contrary to popular belief, comics and graphic novels are not just all about DC and Marvel. Being a huge DC Comics fan myself, I can be pretty biased when it comes to what I think are the best. Still, 2015 was a big year for comics, and it’s only fair that we focus on what else is out there in this year-end roundup. So based on international rankings around the Web, here are a few representatives of the cream of the crop.

1.Sandman: Overture

After more than two decades since the world first read the epic tale of the Sandman, Neil Gaiman is back with a vengeance to bring us The Sandman: Overture Deluxe Edition. With beautifully surreal art by J.H. Williams III, the comic book is listed by Amazon as the best graphic novel of the year as chosen by the editors. The legendary story of the Dream King is reintroduced to the readers as a prequel to the main series released 25 years ago, and it chronicles just exactly what happened before Morpheus was captured—vulnerable, weakened, and burdened by an inexplicable conflict.

Be that as it may, Sandman: Overture actually brings the whole tale full circle. As a prequel, it’s supposed to fill in the blanks and give readers some insight as to what happened between certain events, but with Overture, it does so much more than that. It goes deep into what was already established in the whole Sandman mythos, and at one point in the story, Dream even encounters alternate versions of himself, and the experience leaves him reflecting about who he truly is and how others perceive him.

Of course, the well-loved characters and familiar faces from the old days make very welcome appearances, including fan favorites such as the loveable Merv Pumpkinhead, the loyal Lucien, and the horrific Corinthian. Plus, no Sandman story would be complete without the siblings of the Lord of Dreams, namely, Death, Desire, Despair, Delirium, Destruction and Destiny—that alone should drive any fan to snatch this hardcover right off the shelves.

2. Saga

It’s a classic love story, really: two souls drawn together fall in love and raise a beautiful child together—all in the midst of an intergalactic war. Plus robots. And spaceships. And bounty hunters who are after their heads. Pretty textbook.

The amazing thing about Saga is that despite all of the elements that are out of this world, the emotions and the relationships contained within are all too real. Writer Brian K. Vaughan and artist Fiona Staples make this graphic novel from Image Comics a perfect picture of domesticity in married life—along with all the challenges that go with it. It’s incredible just how extremely relatable the story is despite its setting, and the contemporary connection keeps the drama of Marko and Alana’s life fresh. By the end of the volumes, you will feel like you’ve grown up along with the characters and learned all of the lessons they’ve learned as well. So if you’re ready to go on a space adventure with seahorse people, topless half-spider women, flaming gorillas, and a hairless cat who’s basically a lie detector, then Saga is the graphic novel of the year for you.

3. Wytches

When you put together a Stephen-King inspired Scott Snyder and the haunting art from Mark "Jock" Simpson, it will no doubt produce one of the most sinister graphic novels this year, and with Wytches, the whole world definitely agrees. Here’s how it all begins: a woman with her nose cut off, trapped inside a hollow tree, desperately trying to claw her way out. Through the bark’s knothole, she pleads with a boy on the outside who we find out is her son, and asks him to help her get out. His response? He unceremoniously bashes a rock across her face. Lovely.

If that’s not enough to intrigue you, then perhaps the man-eating wytches will. They can give you your heart’s desire if you “pledge” to them the life of someone you hold dear, and because this power comes from humans too, herein lies the horror of it all.

4. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl

Okay, so we said there would be no Marvel or DC entries in this list, and if it were up to me, I’d cram a few DC Comics entries in like the biased geek that I am. But despite it being a Marvel published piece, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl tells of a whimsical tale that while it’s set in the Marvel universe doesn’t feel like it’s actually part of the mainstream landscape. The lighthearted way that writer Ryan North and artist Erica Henderson present the story is fun and incredibly refreshing—how can it not be with a heroine who can speak to squirrels? College freshman Doreen Green has definitely had a few adventures of her own—babysitting for Avengers included—but at the heart of it all, she just struggles to live a normal life. And amidst all the bloodshed, epic battles, and huge scale universe-at-stake catastrophes in graphic novels today, Squirrel Girl can be pretty refreshing.

BONUS: Octopus Pie

This one is actually a web comic, and Meredith Gran has done a wonderful job of portraying the everyday lives of two twentysomethings just trying to find their way through life in Brooklyn, New York. These young urbanites from Generation Y have misadventures very much like our own, and it’s no wonder readers can relate to their plight. It’s hard not to feel for the characters in Octopus Pie when they are so grounded in real life. Take nerdy Eve, for instance, with her meddlesome mom and her flawed but genuinely honest character. She’s caught between being young and being an adult at the same time, and together with her eccentric roommate Hannah, they traverse the maddening world of boys, jobs, and everything in between. Very rarely does a comic capture the intricacies of ordinary life in a way that moves readers with every issue, but Octopus Pie does so in the most authentic—and sometimes melancholy—way possible.

 *This article was first seen on The Philippine Online Chronicles HERE.

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