Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Best of 2015, Part VI

"At the beginning of 2015, Marvel Comics relaunched Star Wars as a monthly series and I was finally able to come home to my own roots in comic book reading. I was 11 years old when I picked up my first monthly title: the original Star Wars series from Marvel (issues 73!). The stories were filled with what we would now call fan fiction because those stories were never coordinated with the movies and lacked creative input from Lucasfilm. But I will always have a special place in my heart for those comics. They are still some of the most inspired comics I have ever read.

Coming back to January 2015, Disney is at the helm of the movie franchise and Marvel Comics (another recent Disney acquisition) is tasked with creating a new line of Star Wars comics. Marvel made an obvious and incredibly wise decision: they made the original trilogy characters the heroes of the book! Luke, Han, Leia, and Chewbacca are back… and in their prime! Their story picks up shortly after the Battle of Yavin and chronicles the events leading up to the Rebel’s new base on Hoth. Star Wars the comic delivers on every level, from Luke’s earliest days learning the ways of the Force, he manages to take on Darth Vader in one issue and Boba Fett in another; and then there’s Han Solo piloting an AT-AT walker on a daring escape from the rebels latest strike on an Imperial stronghold! And did Han Solo just say he was married?! He did! You have to read it to believe it! Jason Aaron captures the characters perfectly, there is a love for these characters that comes through in each scene and considerations are given to each character’s place in the galaxy. John Cassaday originally led the charge in illustrating the book and Stuart Immonen picked up the reigns around issue 7, this book is never lacking in visual talent.

Marvel didn’t stop there as other Star Wars books also spawned including: the Darth Vader ongoing series, as well as (so far) three 5-issue miniseries: Princess Leia, Lando, and Chewbacca. In truth, I was originally going to name the Lando mini-series as my favorite, but I knew I would be ignoring the “Bantha in the room” if I didn’t mention the greatness of the flagship title first.

The Lando miniseries was simply excellent, and everything you expect from Star Wars and especially Lando Calrissian. With charm and intrigue, Lando is a self-made man who uses his wits to better most opponents, but isn’t shy about using a blaster when words fail. And when Lando and company discover dark secrets of the Empire, secrets no one but the Emperor knows; Lando handles it all in stride. He is the ultimate cool. And kudos to the creative team for making Lobot the talkative and interesting character I knew he could be! Writer Charles Soule and artist Alex Maleev capture force lightning with this one and put it to the page.

The best part of this new era of Star Wars movies is that all the subsequent books, comic books, cartoon series, etcetera, now have a role in the galactic story of Star Wars: They fill in the gaps between the movies. With this new era, every story matters and everything is considered “canon”. And sometimes the stories that take place off screen are the ones to remember."

Scott "Duke" Hedlund, artist and co-host of Comic Book Pitt

"As a company, Image killed it this year with a lot of great original content and compelling series. However as a fan of the big two, and of classic superhero mythos, Image lacked something I was seeking in comics.

Enter Michel Fiffe’s COPRA.   COPRA is satisfying on every single level for me.  The writing is great and straight forward.  Fiffe pays homage to his favorite works in the Marvel and DC universes without being tied down by continuity or editorial demands.  COPRA gives me the stories I wish I could read with classic characters I love.  It also helps that I’m a huge fan of John Ostrander’s run on Suicide Squad, which COPRA feels like a love letter to.

The fact that Fiffe does every aspect of the book is something to be applauded as well.  Every page and panel is a work of art that I would hang on my wall. I get more excited for COPRA single issues and volumes than anything else being published. Seek out the first three volumes (Round 1, Round 2, Round 3) published by Bergen Street Press, or find/order it monthly, and thank Mr. Fiffe for making comics that are FUN."

Michael Witherel, owner, Coffee Buddha

"My best comic book of 2015, hands down, is Southern Bastards by Jason Aaron and Jason Latour. Jason Aaron has this uncanny ability to write comics like Thor God of Thunder and Star Wars, with characters and adventures that make me feel like I'm 13 years old again. Then he writes a book like Southern Bastards, which pulls no punches in showing the awful, depraved, sadistic depths that men will sink to.

One might think, "Why read such a comic?" and I think the answer is I read Southern Bastards for the same reasons I watched shows like The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, Sons of Anarchy, and Mad Men. Despite the most of the characters in Southern Bastards having absolutely no redeeming value, being morally bankrupt, or just plain pathetic, Aaron's level of storytelling somehow manages to make us care about them even though we all know that there is no redemption waiting, that there is no happy ending to be had."

Dan Greenwald, co-host of Comic Book Pitt

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