Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Top Ten Worst Movies of 2015

I stopped doing Worst Films of the Year lists a few years back.

I stopped doing them for a couple of reasons. One, often times when other people do these kind of lists, they end up packed with the type of no budget, no talent films that never had any other option but to be terrible, and pointing out their failure to do something there was never any chance at all of them accomplishing in the first place just seems like picking on the slow kid, and that bothers me. Also, most people have usually never even heard of a lot of these terrible no budget films, because they're terrible and they have no budget, so putting them on a Worst of the Year list becomes this weird film snob badge of honor, and that's gross too. Y'see, to me, a Worst Films of the Year list should be comprised solely of the films that had every available resource at hand, films that had every chance to be great, films that had money, talent, time, everything, and yet... and yet, they still somehow managed to turn out something terrible. Isn't that the true measure of failure? Isn't that the true disappointment? The second reason that I had stopped doing these lists is a bit simpler: Ever since Filmzilla closed (sad face), my free access to the sum totality of Moviedom was cut-off, and as such my willingness to spend time with (and pay for) some of these obviously bad films has dropped off considerably. So that means, when it came time to make a list of well funded and talent-packed Hollywood turds... I had nothing.

Enter 2015...

As happenstance would have it, this year I was given some Itunes gift cards, so... free movies! And while 2015 was a great year for film, a really great year actually, it was also packed with a ton of crappy films. A ton. And they're the good types of crap films too, the Big Budget Disappointments. 

Suddenly I had a list again...

Top Ten Worsts Films of 2015

10. Star Wars The Force Awakens

Gasp! But... but... people love it! It made a billion-zillion god damn dollars in 12 days! Han Solo! It was fun! I know, I know, but listen, here's the thing... it was also kind of disappointing, and in ways it didn't have to be either.

Let me be clear right from the start... I kind of liked it too. I mean, I don't love it or anything, but it's all right. It's definitely all right. I was mostly entertained. In fact, I'll probably see it again in the theatre. Plus, I was really glad to see that it did a reasonably good job of bringing back a much loved franchise. I'm actually excited to see what the next film is going to do. I loved all the Star Wars stuff.

It was the JJ Abrams stuff I had issues with...

Now, this didn't really surprise me, he has the same problems in every film he makes, so this was about what I was expecting. For awhile now, the best case scenario that I was hoping for would be for the film to hew closer to his Star Trek film from 2009 (dumb, but fun), instead of his follow-up Star Trek Into Darkness (just dumb). And it really did, but at the same time the script issues were just short of being a deal breaker. Characters disappearing, vague motivations for story lines that go nowhere, another god damn Deathstar...? And what the fuck is a map to a person? Why not just circle the planet he's on? Better yet. just write it down. Who even drew the damn thing 38 years ago and put it in the "Imperial Archives"? And who cut out the missing piece 38 years ago? Why? Y'see, Abrams' problem is that he makes good looking and fairly watchable films with stories that rely too heavily on Mcguffins and multiple coincidences, stories that then fall apart as soon as you give them a second thought, and that's because he sacrifices story foundation and character moments for forward momentum, which leaves all of his big moments unearned.

And the worst part is, it doesn't have to be this way.

I mean, why the hell wouldn't Poe look for BB-8 a little harder? The film starts out going on and on about how important this info is, but apparently it wasn't that important since Poe stood up from the crash and went: "Where's BB-8? (looks around) Oh well, guess I'll just go home." Also, when you cut the scene where Finn reports to Phasma after the raid on the village, you miss the opportunity to provide context not just for both of the characters, but the First Order itself. Also, during the whole scavenging scene in the beginning, there were several moments where you could've shown Rey's mechanical genius, her desire to be a pilot, and even that she was gifted in the Force, her three most important character traits. If they had done that, it wouldn't have seemed so out-of-left-field when she suddenly had these skills to call upon. Also, if there were a few more world-building scenes done early on, if the Resistance's relationship to the Senate was explored a little more, the moment the Senate is destroyed might have had some emotional impact, or at the very least, we could've understood why Leia's group was even called the Resistance in the first place. It goes on and on and on. Its frustrating. It's a frustrating film. It's fun, sure, but it's also really lazy, relying on fans to fill in gaps with off-screen meta-knowledge rather than relying on good story telling. It's just this close to being great, but it feels like a film where the script needed one more draft.

I look at it like this, yeah, it's kind of fun, but as it stands right now, when this film comes out on DVD, I don't think I'm going to buy it, and that's really disappointing to me.

And that's why it's Number 10 on my list.

9. Jupiter Ascending

Oh man, I really wanted to like this film. I really, really wanted to. I watched the trailers. I wrote about it, a couple of times even. I mean, the Wachowskis unleashed on a brand new original sci-fi property? I was totally ready for this.

But it was terrible.

There's no denying this. Jupiter Ascending is a lifeless, forgettable lump of a film. The lead character has no agency, and mostly just falls from high places so that she can be caught by Channing Tatum. The two of them together have a chemistry that is somehow worse than Anakin Skywalker and Natalie Portman, both of them seemingly made of stone. Honestly, I'm not entirely convinced they weren't shot in separate rooms and then CGI-ed in together later. This is a film that kind of stumbles between moments. It's never clear why anything is at stake, or why anything the characters do either help or hurt the situation. There's too many bad guys, who either get too much screen time being vaguely villainous, or hardly any at all, which makes you wonder why they were even included in the first place. Plus, are the bad guys royalty, or a corporation? Does Queen of the Universe really mean Queen of the Universe, because it doesn't seem to, it seems to mean newest Vice President of Acquisitions maybe. And is the bad guys' main industry really seeding planets, and then waiting the millions of years for some kind of human-like people to evolve far enough so that they can then harvest those people and... squeeze them like oranges, I guess?... for their Immortality Juice? That's a ridiculously long commitment to a really overly-complex system. Why not just have breeding farms that run continuously? There's no clear answer why the Harvest has to be done. And at the end, if the bad guys keep on taking their Immortality Juice, and Mila Kunis' character doesn't (because it's liquid people), then what did she really gain? Couldn't the bad guys just wait the probably 60-ish odd years left before her character dies of old age, and then harvest Earth? Devin Faraci at Birth.Movies.Death described this film best, saying that it "feels like a rushed adaptation of a book you never read."

The worst part is, the film looks great. There's some fantastic sequences, like the one where they have to navigate the bureaucracy of the Corporation? That's so good (and apparently directed by Terry Gilliam which explains why it stood out, I guess). It's stuffed to bulging with great designs and ideas, but there's just nothing there. Nothing. And by the time it limps to the end, its dull and boring.

I think this was my biggest disappointment of the year.

8. Jurassic World

Now, if you've already skimmed this list, you've seen what's on it, so I want to make sure that you understand that, I don't want to imply that I hate popular mainstream films. I am a big fan of all of the Marvel movies, this is known, so putting summertime tentpole actiony type films on the list is not a snob thing. I also don't want to imply it's an anti "popcorn film" thing either. I mean, I own Abrams' Star Trek film from 2009, and that movie is super dumb. So, no... loud, obnoxious, silly, dumb, I have no problem with these kind of films. I've probably seen more of those types of films than you have. I really do like them...

As long as they're done well.

And that's not this film, from the pedestrian film-making, to the swiss army knife type of dinosaur villain that pops up periodically like it's Jurassic Jason, to human villains that are needlessly villainous despite never actually doing anything evil, to the whole trained Raptors subplot, to a pair of boys that have no reason to be in the movie at all beyond franchise tradition, to a love story-line with no foundation or chemistry, let alone a reason to exist, to the ridiculous high heels worn by a woman who works in a god damn zoo, literally nothing actually works within the script. The film will act like it does, but only if you don't look too close. There's lots of running and screaming, but no actual reason for any of it to be happening beyond the immediate moment. It's just the latest in a film franchise built on awe and wonder, but for some reason is completely lacking in those traits. It's a film that seems to be damning its own very existence with its threadbare setting/plot about a dinosaur park that is forced to continually make things bigger, bigger, bigger in order to keep the audiences interested, until it finally destroys itself in the pursuit. To make it even worse, the film seems unaware of this.

If video stores still existed, I would call this movie the new Avatar... a lot of noise at first, and one of the biggest box offices ever, but no one is going to give it a second thought in two years. If Video Stores exist, it would have disappeared into the back stacks forever as soon as it came off the New Release wall.

7. Trainwreck

I hate to make the obvious joke (no, I don't), but the title of this film is not lying, folks... this movie is a trainwreck. A big, stupid, boring, tonally confused trainwreck.

I love Amy Schumer and Bill Hader. They're super funny. I'm... well, I'm cooling on Judd Apatow. Freaks and Geeks will live forever in my heart, but I feel like his movies have been a step down in quality since the beginning, each one more cloying and half-assed than the last. I know some of you might be mad to hear that at first, but just think about it for a second, every movie he has made has been worse than the previous one. With Trainwreck, I hope we have finally hit the bottom. This is a movie where you can see they never quite had a whole script, that instead they treated half of it like an Improv show, putting together three or four groups--Amy's friends, Amy's co-workers, Amy's family--each one filled with funny people in the obvious hope they might riff their way into something funny, but it never happens, it all flops. At least half the film contributes nothing to the main story, which is Amy as a fuck-up party girl, living the TV dream in NYC, working for a magazine, and writing an article about Bill Hader's sports doctor character, who she is supposed to fall in love with, almost lose right before the ending, and then, after making a grand nonsense gesture, live happily ever after with, but then the script veers wildly into darkness for awhile, forgetting about the main plot, before seemingly realizing its misstep and veering back while trying to act like it didn't veer off in the first place, salvaging the article plot line for a big wet fart of a finish.

The wild tonal shifts don't just affect the movie, but the individual scenes too, ping-ponging half-assedly between funny and serious. I mean, is this movie supposed to about a young woman with man problems and the funny sit-com alcoholism, or is she supposed to actually have the type of problem that a Pointer Sisters Scored Montage can't fix? The film has no idea. and this is unfair to the audience who went in expecting a Romantic Comedy, maybe not a good one necessarily, but still... and that's not what the movie gives you, all while acting like it thinks it's doing just that.

Even more than The Force Awakens, this felt like a film with an uncompleted script that thought it would be able to salvage itself in Post-production, but... it didn't. It really didn't.

Not funny. Not good.

6. Spectre

After Casino Royale, I was okay with Daniel Craig staying Bond forever, right? I think we all were. But after Spectre...? Now I'm ready for them to never make another one.

Did you see it? From as little that was said post-release, it seemed like people mostly didn't, or wanted to forget they had. That makes sense. this movie is basically the anti-Casino Royale. Everything Casino Royale did well, everything it rebooted and revitalized, all the good will it helped to return to a mostly dead franchise, it destroyed, first by giving fans what they've long wanted, (something this year has proven to be the worst possible of ideas)--the Evil Organization of Spectre, headed by the diabolical Blofeld, who has a menacing henchman--and then by trying to tie the main villain into the plots of the previous films, which not only undermines those films, but doesn't make any sense at all, and finally, most importantly... just by being so god damn terrible. The film gives no thought to story logic, or the idea of a plausible resolution. Is Bond not killing the bad guy supposed to be a triumph? I mean, what exactly did the main bad guy do that they could use to convict him and send him to jail for? What proof do they have of his wrong-doings? And were we really supposed to believe that the blond girl and Bond even knew each others' first names, let alone had somehow fallen in love? Are we noticing a pattern here, people? One: Fanservice is death to quality, and Two: There doesn't have to be a love story in every god damn movie just because a penis and a vagina happen to occasionally be in the same room.

And honestly, most of all, when your last three films have centered on the question of whether or not Bond is an outdated remnant of the Cold War world, then it's either time to pull the trigger on that lame horse, or find a new fucking tune to dance to.

5. Tomorrowland

This film is a total mess.

Mostly made up of an old man's rant about how shitty the modern world is, and how dystopian fiction is to blame, it's nominally supposed to follow the journey of a girl with big dreams and a bigger heart who has to save the world through the power of a bunch of nonsense and wind-baggery dressed up as science, but it contains lines like this: "Do I have to explain everything? Can't you just be amazed and move on?" which is a weirdly anti-intellectual line for a supposedly pro-science film. Well over two-thirds of the film is given over to set-up and character gathering and looooooong soliloquies about how great science is, and how it would've saved the world if it wasn't for those pesky safety regulations, before getting to the actual plot. This is one of those movies where it spends so much time running around and screaming, that you don't even realize you're watching the climax of the story until right before the movie is over. I mean, from the amount of time the film spends on the little lapel pin the heroine is given alone, you'd think it would an important piece of the story, but you would be wrong, as it's abandoned like an afterthought.

And that's not even the craziest part!

In the movie, George Clooney's character is still broken-hearted in love with the adolescent girl robot character that his character dated when he was 12, and when they meet again some thirty to forty years later, and he's old man George Clooney and she's still an adolescent girl robot, the film acts like every scene where they argue about their old relationship isn't actually ridiculously creepy.

Something else that's also odd? Despite her complete inability to wear a baseball cap convincingly, the actual star of the movie is Britt Robertson--an actress clearly in her late 20s playing a role that seems like it was supposed to be high school aged--but she is removed from the climax of the movie. Well, to be fair, she's busy thinking deus ex machina happy thoughts while George and his pre-teen girlfriend blow up shit, but still... the film side-lines the main character.

This movie goes on for awhile, barely tells a story, and then it just kind of ends. I imagine the lights coming up in the theatres, and the oddball mish-mash of freaks who actually went out to see this, slowly standing up, hesitant and looking at each other, unsure if the film is actually over or not. I think Disney was hoping for the same magic that happened after the first Pirates of the Caribbean film maybe, but after seeing the movie, it's clear to see why they dumped this film, and moved on.

In fact, let's all move on...

4. Terminator Genisys

The fact that this aggressively stupid film doesn't handily own the number one spot on this list really says a lot about the top three films ahead of it, because this is an unbelievably stupid film.

I mean, there's kernels of cool ideas here, There's a ton of interesting options--the idea is that the Temporal War is out of control and various time travelers are appearing in previously visited time lines and changing shit, that's all right, and I would love a film about Schwarzenegger's old man Terminator working a construction job for thirty years while he's waiting for Sarah to show back up--but no, whenever something sounds like it might be interesting in this film, it ruins it instead. If there's a dumb idea possible, this film latches on with both hands and refuses to let go. Nearly every single story decision in this film is terrible, and if I made a complete list of all of the lazy callbacks this movie makes to its better predecessors, it would kill you. It would literally kill you. I'm not even going to explain Matt Smith's character, or what they do with John Connor, because it's too stupid, but rest assured, at the 20 minutes or so left mark, just when you think you can see finish line, when you think you're safe, that there's nothing left ahead to endure but the obligatory smashing together of the pixels before Puddle of Mud, or possibly Stained, maybe Evanescence, launch into the end credits song, but nooooooooo... that's when Terminator Genisys is like, "fuck you, asshole! You thought you knew stupid? I will show you stupid!" And then it does. It does. And let me assure you, people... it is awful. It's not even "get drunk and watch it" bad, it's just bad. The people behind this film should all be fined.

Seriously, it's so dumb. Don't watch it. Ever.

3. Fantastic Four

The film that was doomed from the beginning. No pun intended.

Before this film came out, the director, cast and crew were out doing their press rounds, saying words like: "re-invention" and "gritty" and "lo-fi" and "grounded", and everyone got a bad feeling, because when you go out to see a movie called The FANTASTIC Four, the one thing you want to see is a "grounded" story.

Change is a requirement when you're adapting a book/comic to the screen. It has to happen. The secret to Marvel's success--and conversely, the reason this movie was such an abysmal failure--is that as they're adapting their properties for the movie screen, updating them for time, society, and their own cinematic continuity, they're still preserving the inner core of the idea, the thing that has driven the property to stay viable for 50-60 years. The little changes, the cosmetic changes, those things don't matter. Sure, I mean, it's cooler to have the Fantastic Four steal a rocket-ship and go up into space and get blasted with cosmic rays, but traveling to a parallel dimension? That works too. Who cares, right? But when you leave out the Sue Storm, the only female character on the team, from making that trip for no apparent reason, opting instead to just send the three guys plus Victor Von Doom, when you could've just sent all five...? I mean... what the hell?

This isn't the only problem, of course, just the creepiest.

Mostly the film is unexciting. It is decidedly UN-fantastic in the most unimaginative ways. The character work is almost non-existent, so much so that you don't quite believe most of the characters have ever even met each other. It's bad even from a technical standpoint, jokes flop, scenes feel stunted, it's hacked apart and poorly pasted together, obviously missing several prominent scenes from the trailers. They basically took a family-centered, exploration-driven, wild adventure sci-fi property, and churned out a half-ass dark, dour and dull version like it's an escapee from the black leather trench coat world of 90s action cinema. And it's yet another example of a movie where you suddenly realize you're watching the climax of the story mere minutes before the stupid thing ends.

Upon watching this complete wet fart misfire of a film, the question of whether or not Fox was only making this film in order to keep the rights from reverting back to Marvel is pretty clearly answered.

2. Entourage

Okay, I'll admit it, I haven't seen this movie, but... come on. It's the fucking Entourage movie, man. Come on! Come on. You guys... come on.

Seriously, come on....

1. Chappie

This one could be the worst movie ever made.

It's a total trash heap of a film. It's awful in every single way a thing can be considered awful. Everything is terrible in the movie, well... except for the CGI of the robot, that was very well done, but honestly if that is the only thing you're able to do right, than who cares? Way to almost completely fail at all aspects of your job...

Chappie starts out as a fake documentary, but then completely abandons the idea for the rest of the movie, and that drove me nuts. I mean, did he forget he was using that conceit? What happened? It didn't even come back at the very end. How does that happen? How did they not notice when watching the film later? "Oh yeah... the documentary thing... shit."

That bugs me so much.

Another weird little thing that bothered me--there's more than just little complaints, of course, there's actually a long litany of them, big and little, but I'm not going to bother going through it all. Basically, if a thing is supposed to happen in a movie, or when telling a story, just assume Chappie did a shit job of it... but I digress--Anyway, there's a central conflict in the movie that involves two different robot designs competing for the contract to police the city, one is designed like the one on the poster, and the other is more like the ED-209 from Robocop, and it drives me crazy that the ED-209 robot is clearly better suited as a military weapon, but no one in the film seems to notice this. In fact, in the film, the cops say no the ED-209 design because they don't need a robot cop with missiles, and yet no one brings up the option of selling it to the military instead, opting to use this "failure" as the thing that makes one of the characters become a villain. It makes no sense, and it drives me crazy. Also, Sharlo Copley is at his most unbearably obnoxious in this film, playing the innocent baby robot, and I hate him so much for it. Just picture him on set, being all serious, playing that role in a CGI suit, I just hate him so much...

I would say the tone veers wildly in this film, lurching between a gorefest action film, an angry police state screed, and a trash-punk Short Circuit re-imagining, but it has no real tone to begin with, and barely any story, so I just have to assume that any appearance of an attempt at a theme/tone is really an accident, just like District 9 obviously was. I mean, the god damn thing ends with the stupid Chappie robot beating the bad guy nearly to death, all while screaming "No more violence!"

I mean... what the fuck...?

Also, of terrible, terrible note... the South African "rap" group Die Antwoord is in the film, playing the dumbest criminals ever, but they use their own "rap" names. And they listen to music by Die Antwoord... but they're not Die Antwoord... they're supposed to be different people. It's inexplicable.

Look, just don't watch this film, and whatever you do, do not Google Hugh Jackman's haircut in the movie either. It's a crime against humanity.


And there you go. I'm spent.

So tired...

Monday, December 28, 2015

Top Ten Comics of 2015

The end of the year looms...

And that means it's that time again, boys and girls, time for the Internet's interminable march of the End of the Year lists, and never let it be said that I don't enjoy a good parade. In the coming days and weeks, Dear Readers, not only will I be posting a few more short films for your viewing pleasure, but I also have a Top Ten Films of 2015 list, AND--for the first time in a few years now--I also have a Top Ten Worst Films of 2015 list as well, as sure a sign as any of how great and terrible this year has been for cinema.

Things to look forward to...

For today however, I have my Favorite Comics of 2015. 

What follows are the ten titles that I believe are not only smart, funny, creative and cool, well written and better drawn, but are also important to comics in one way or another. These are books that are helping to finally bring about some desperately needed change to an industry long swamped in tired out tropes, stagnant story repetitions, and the kind of plain old douchebaggery that is more often than not firmly rooted in racism and sexism, all while being really good stories. These are the books I like and admire, ones I would recommend you check out.

Simply put... they're good, in my opinion. 

I've done this type of list before; they're a bit of a yearly tradition for me. It's no big secret that I like both comics and lists, so here we are. Click here, here, here, and here, if you're interested in some context, or perhaps if you'd like to track the ever-shifting tides of my Comic Book Reading Taste, whatever's your pleasure, friendo.

Let's get to it, then...

Top Ten Comics of 2015

10. Sex Criminals

Suzie, a librarian, and Jon, an actor, meet at a party and, after sleeping together, they discover that they share the ability to freeze time when they orgasm. As their relationship develops and their sexual histories are explored, they decide to rob the bank where Jon works in order to save Suzie's endangered library.

I know, I know... Sounds stupid, doesn't it? And more than a little gross most likely, right? Hey, it's comics, I get the hesitation, it's not an unreasonable assumption. However, like the old saying goes: Judging a synopsis is not advised. I mean, is the book maybe a little too... hmmm... AA-ish, a little too "writing-as-therapy" sometimes? Is it maybe a little too autobiographical at times, if not literally, than in spirit? Sure, I think that's fair. However, more than that, Sex Criminals is about two lonely people looking for a connection, people with shitty pasts and average lives who have something secret and extraordinary inside them, something that blossoms when they find each other. It's about friends and lovers and being in love. It's about relationships, sex, and sexual relationships. It's an intelligent and touching, funny, crazy and imaginative sci-fi sex farce and romantic comedy, and this may shock you, but that kind of thing doesn't come along often in comics. It's unique and definitely worth checking out. And okay, sure... it's also a little gross, and has a whole bunch to do with dildos and sex games and semen... lots and lots of semen... and occasionally the hero poops in his boss' office plant. It's much more than you'd expect.

9. Thor

The God of Thunder has been found to be unworthy, and the hammer Mjolnir lies abandoned on the moon, no longer able to be lifted by his hand. Jane Foster is dying of cancer, but it is to her that falls the mantle of the mighty Thor! Now, her identity a secret to even Odin, she finds herself to be Earth's, and the whole of the Nine Realms, only hope against the combined evil of the Roxxon Corporation, Malekith the Accursed, and the icy threat of the Frost Giants.

Thor has been a hell of a book for awhile now. The God Killer/God Bomb story line is the type of tale that will define a character for years, but where do you go after such a high point? Simple, change everything. A slowly dying woman is now Thor, hammer and thunder and all, and the former Thor--still known as Thor, but more often as Odinson--has lost an arm and carries a magical axe. The two characters are on separate paths, and yet they are still closely tied together. Both are lost, and trying to discover their new destinies, both are feeling diminished, and have lost an important piece of themselves, and yet must carry on, all while the shadow of an unholy alliance threatens to consume the whole of reality in the never-ending fires of cosmic war. Now, I've never really been a fan of Thor, but I have to say, I love what's going on in this book. It's not the first time Thor has been a woman, nor is it the first time his story has centered on war threatening the Nine Realms, but there's a strangely fresh sense of swashbuckling fun here, of a super technological and deeply magical adventure story just now starting to unfold. This book walks a great balance between space epic and epic fantasy quest, and it feels at home in both genres. It's a good read, with a looming sense of danger running through it, both real and fictional, as cancer devours Jane's mortal form and vicious monsters and mythical enemies drawn near. Thor has always seemed a little removed from the Marvel Universe when he was on his own, so if the everyday superhero story doesn't really sound like your kind of thing, but you want a good female hero, then this might be the title for you.

8. Bitch Planet

In a future just a few years down the road in the wrong direction, a woman's failure to comply with her patriarchal overlords will result in exile to the meanest penal planet in the galaxy. When the newest crop of fresh femmes arrive, can they work together to stay alive or will hidden agendas, crooked guards, and the deadliest sport on (or off!) Earth take them to their maker?

A riff on women-in-prison exploitation films mashed together with the allegory heavy sci-fi movies of the '70s, Bitch Planet has a lot to say, and it does it so, so well. People expecting a preachy screed on the issues facing women in both fiction and the real world, will find a brutal tale of futuristic oppression and prison life, and those wanting a line of naked women, caged and beaten, wrestling, and wet from the shower will find a story with plenty of boobs and blood, but also one that never allows you to linger and objectify the characters. The book walks that line, and it makes it look so easy. It's Chained Heat meets Escape from New York with more than a little of The Longest Yard thrown in for good measure. I love that. For me, that would be basically be all anyone would have to say in order for me to check out this book. Add to that, Kamau Kogo is an instant iconic character with a great look. She is tough and fierce and standing tall, a hero despite herself, who takes you through a tale of survival in a harsh world of shifting loyalties and sudden violence, It's a super fun book, and it's catching on. You've probably seen the NC (Non Compliant) tattoos popping up here and there. There's no reason you shouldn't enjoy this story, it's tense and cool and imaginative and it looks awesome. And as an added bonus, if you buy the single issues, the back of each one contains a well-written and insightful essay on women and race and fiction and other related topics. It's a good book, and perhaps the best example going of a smart and fun comic.

7. Ms. Marvel

Kamala Khan is an ordinary girl from Jersey City until a strange fog gives her both amazing abilities, and a new responsibility. But who is the all-new Ms. Marvel? Teenager? Muslim? Inhuman? As Kamala discovers the dangers of her newfound powers, she also unlocks a dangerous secret behind them as well. Is Kamala ready to wield these immense new gifts? Or will the weight of the legacy before her be too much to handle?

Often times, when the dumbasses out there are getting all upset because Spider-man is now black, or Captain America is now black, or Thor is now a woman, or (most likely) when Captain Marvel became a black women, their fallback poopy pants big baby whine will be "Why change an existing character? Why not make a brand new character?" The answer, of course, is: "Shut up, asshole." This is because, these numbnuts, just like anybody who knows anything about comics, knows full well that 99.99% of new characters disappear into the Limbo of the Never Used Again usually within their first year. In fact, after the sudden explosion of new characters created in the early sixties, the next time a brand new character really caught on was Wolverine in November of 1974 (the same month and year I was born, by the way... coincidence? Probably not.). Since then...? Maybe Deadpool or Gambit in the early 90s? Maybe? Eh... Maybe not... Anyway, my point is, a new character usually soars, sputters, and then falls, disappearing into obscurity, pretty much forever, every single time... except this time. This time the dummies were actually right. Women, Muslims, and people of color wanted a hero they could easily see themselves in, so a new one was made. Kamala Khan is the Peter Parker of the 21st Century. She's a good person given a huge responsibility, and she doesn't shrink from it, she embraces it. It's not easy, so she's a hero trying to figure things out, a kid dealing with a new reality she may not be able to handle. She's basically the dream creation, she is classic character, and yet completely new at the same time. She is fantastic and yet, relatable. She is all of this, but also a part of cultures and POVs that a lot of America has absolutely no idea about. Hands down, this is a fun book, an important book, a good book. Kamala, and her supporting cast, is a blast, and her burgeoning adventures are a joy to read. More than any other title out there right now, Kamala Khan represents the future of superheroes in comics. This is the one you should start your kid out on.

6. Nimona

Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, they are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren't the good guys everyone thinks they are. But as small acts of mischief escalate into a vicious battle, Lord Blackheart realizes Nimona's powers are as mysterious as her past, and her unpredictable wild side might be more dangerous than he is willing to admit.

At first, Nimona seems like nothing more than fluff, fun and funny, it's a lot of gags about heroes and villains and sidekicks and a whole bag of fantasy tropes. It's smart, and well written, but it's light, y'know? You recognize what it's doing. The settings and designs are different, but you've seen this kind of thing before. But as the story continues, you start to notice the darker threads weaving their way through the gags and bits of deadpan humor, and soon enough Nimona is about so much more than you thought it was. Noelle Stevenson has been making a lot of noise in comics recently, and upon reading her stuff, it's easy to see why. Her writing is sharp, her characters are well-drawn, and her art is deceptively simple and yet wholly emotive at the same time. Her other series, Lumberjanes, the story of a group of girls at a summer camp beset by monsters and mysteries, won an Eisner (like an Oscar, but for comics) for Best New Series and Best Series for Teens, and Nimona was nominated for one too, deservedly. The book is easily available, having started out as a webcomic, but has been collected into one graphic novel, all in one place, so there's nothing you have to know before diving in. Nimona is a fun, surprisingly touching read, and really... it's super funny. I highly recommend it.

5. Descender

Massive robots called the Harvesters decimated the planets of the United Galactic Council, and then they vanished. In the wake of the attack, gripped by fear, the tattered remnants of the UGC outlawed all synthetic beings, destroying all of their robotic workers, aids, and companions. Ten years later, a small robotic boy named Tim-21 awakens, lost and confused on a distant, and strangely abandoned, mining colony. But when Tim-21 makes contact with the UGC, he inadvertently sets off a potentially deadly chain of events as the UGC navy, various factions of bounty hunters, and the Robot underground all race to get to him first, all of them wondering: What connection does this small robotic boy have to the Harvesters, and after ten long years, are the Harvesters finally returning?

Before this book came out, a lot of people were talking about it, I don't know why, because nothing about the ads was really catching my attention, but whatever... this is why I checked it out, and man, am I glad I did. Simply put, Descender is a great story. It builds slow and purposefully, and often in unexpected ways, introducing new characters, expanding the world, and taking sudden turns. It's a beautifully told story as well, its fantastic designs depicted in a pale watercolor style. Descender is a space opera in the vein of Star Wars, taking place in a universe that looks like it was built by real people, with machinery that looks like it was built by real people. It is a place with sharp edges, and real danger, populated with characters that, in the space of only eight issues, you quickly grow to care about. That's not a lot of pages to do that in, but Descender pulls it off, demanding human attachment from you for a cast of mostly non-human characters. It can do this because it's well-written, obviously, but more so, it's just fun, fun and exciting, and it looks good while doing it too, If you're looking for a comic, and you like genre stuff, but you don't like superheroes, then check this out. Bonus, it's still early enough in the series that if you hop on now, you won't be all that far behind.

4. Black Science

Grant McKay, leader of The Anarchistic Order of Scientists, has finally done the impossible: He has built The Pillar, a machine able to decipher the key to the multiverse and punch through the barriers of reality. But something goes wrong, the Pillar is damaged, and now Grant, his children, and his research team are lost among an endless array of alternate dimensions, living ghosts shipwrecked on an infinite ocean of alien worlds, barreling through dark, twisted, and unimaginable realms. Will they ever find their way home? And, who among them is responsible for sabotaging the Pillar?

I've talked about this book before now, and not just in some of my past Best of Comics Lists either, but over at the Scribblerati blog too. I've said it before, and I don't want to make it seem like it's more of a thing than it is, but I'm not a big fan of Rick Remender's stuff over at Marvel comics. His writing style over there just isn't for me, but as soon as I heard about this book, I was instantly interested. What can I say? I'm a sucker for alternate dimension stories. I still have a deep, deep love in my heart for the TV show Voyagers, and that show has been off the air for 30-some years. And while this book started out as something I was drawn to simply because of the subject matter, in the time since the story has become so worthy of that interest. Black Science is wildly imaginative. It's modern and fantastic, but there's a pulp sci-fi 50s feel to the book as well. But that's not to imply that it's nothing but worlds where the Nazi's won, or where the Wild West never ended, no, here there are cults of giant insects people dedicated to the idea of the multiverse. There are gorilla men possessed with evil ghosts, dangerous and silent invaders from different dimensions. There are vicious and high-tech Roman Legionaries with jet-packs patrolling a city ruined by a plague that was brought about by alternate versions of the book's heroes. It goes on and on and on. There's danger and twists at every turn. The characters are well drawn and believably flawed, and as they stumble through the dimensions, they sometimes actually die, And sure, sometimes alternate versions of the characters show up, but sometimes they die too. Bad things happen to all of them. This is a dark and fun adventure made better by its unpredictability and imagination. I'm super excited to read each new issue. The art... well, it grew on me... Seriously though, this book is worth checking out.

3. Multiversity

Prepare to meet the Vampire League of Earth-43, the Justice Riders of Earth-18, Superdemon, Doc Fate, the super-sons of Superman and Batman, the rampaging Retaliators of Earth-8, the Atomic Knights of Justice, Dino-Cop, Sister Miracle, Lady Quark, and the latest, greatest Super Hero of Earth-Prime: YOU! THE MULTIVERSITY is more than a multipart comic book series. It's a cosmos spanning, soul-shaking experience that puts YOU on the frontline in the battle for all creation against the demonic destroyers known as the Gentry!

I mean... not really, but close enough.

Grant Morrison often seems to have a few extra ideas on what his comics are about that I don't ever quite disagree with, but I don't really ever see either, y'know? I mean, I read the books, and I loved them, but I'm pretty sure I never fought the Gentry... or did I? Anyway, I've spoken about this book before too, in fact last year it was my number one favorite book. Why did it drop two spots this year? Well, like I said, Grant Morrison is a mad comic book genius, but he often seems to have different ideas of what his comics are about, then what seems to me to actually be on the page, and that usually means his endings get a little... hmmm... nebulous...? However, this shouldn't deter you from checking out this series. It's only six or seven issues long, and who cares if the ending is a little bit thin? Each issue is meant to be a sort of "Universe Starter", a kind of Story Cornerstone Book. Each one tells a somewhat connected piece of the larger continuing story, but each one is also a stand-alone first issue, and to a one, they are all brilliant, and an all too brief glimpse into a fantastic new world. From the pure iconography of the world of the wizard Shazam and the hero Captain Marvel, to the dark, war-torn 1940s pulp of Doc Fate, to the bored glitter of the media-obsessed world of the Super Sons, to the world where Superman was raised as a Nazi, and the one where the Charlton heroes make their final stand, I would have happily continued to read a series spun off of each one. Which brings us back to the initial question: Why is it Number Three this year? Well, like I said, the larger story doesn't quite work, but it was still really awesome getting there.

2. Saga

When two soldiers from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war fall in love, they risk everything to bring a fragile new life into a dangerous old universe.

Saga's story is simple and familiar, and yet, unlike anything else out there. It's a fantasy-tinged Space Opera where people fly wooden spaceships and have cats that can detect lies. It's a story where a planet of people born with horns are busy warring against a planet of people born with wings, and then two stupid teenage nobodies screw it all up by falling in love and having a baby who is born with both wings and horns. Now both sides want to kill them, and both sides want their daughter, so they're on the run, trying to raise their kid, live a semi-normal life, buy groceries, and keep their family together, all while dodging angry parents, arachnid bounty hunters, curious reporters, and vengeful Robots with TVs for heads and cannons for hands. And it's all narrated by the baby. Like the last couple of entries, I've written about Saga before now. It often makes my best of comics list, and one year I even filled out their Reader Survey, but I didn't send it in. Saga is a continually well done book, and its big secret is that it is able to be very alien and yet very human at the same time. It's funny and sad and dark, occasionally raunchy, and always cool. Sometimes it's bloody and mean. The characters are flawed and familiar, but definitely from a place far, far away. This is the book I would recommend to geeks that maybe aren't comic geeks, but still like adventure stories. It's a story that I don't think could ever be done outside of comics. It's something special, check it out. I choose some pictures below that I think represent the tone and story pretty well.

1. Secret Wars

If you know me, then it's probably no surprise to see that this book takes up the number one spot this year. It is the fourth and final book that I have written about before it appeared on this list. I've mentioned it in previous Best of Comics posts--even though it wasn't technically called Secret Wars at the time, not yet--and I even dedicated a blog post to it right here. In fact, if you're not familiar with the title, then I'd recommend clicking through and reading that link, as a lot of the heavy lifting as far as the book's context and summary are concerned was detailed over there, and I won't be attempting to replicate that stuff over here.

So anyway, Secret Wars is Marvel's huge line-wide crossover for 2015, every title they had was stopped, jumbled up, and used in a big story that was designed to basically end an era of Marvel comics, and usher in a new one. And for my money, it was about as good as you can get. Yes, it can be a little broad at times, but that's what the side books are for, and honestly, it's a tight enough story that you don't have to read those side books at all to get what's going on (although you should read some of those side books, because at least half of them were really great).

In a nutshell, after a long, hard fight, the Multiverse was destroyed. At the end, Dr. Doom, Stephen Strange, and the Molecule Man were able to wrest the power of reality away from The Beyonders, and patch together the fraying remnants of the various broken universes, forming what would be known as Battleworld (it's tradition), a place of strife and warring factions and multiple versions of the same people born under different circumstances, a world where a massive wall held back the armies of the Dead, the endless drones of Ultron, and the insectile hordes of the Annihilation Wave, the width and breadth of it all policed by the heavy hammer of the Thors of the Multiverse. Doom was God here, reigning over all, and holding this last bit of mish-mashed slammed together reality in one piece through sheer force of will. But before the last two Realities were destroyed, two life-rafts escaped. Both vessels were created by a version of Reed Richards, one carrying heroes, one carrying villains. After eight years adrift in nothing, their sudden arrivals triggered the end of Battleworld as heroes gathered, and armies moved one last time against each other, and their God and Emporer, Doom. 

Now, like always, late and missed shipping dates plagued this series, and as of this writing there is still one issue left because of those delays, which means the "All New, All Different" Marvel has already launched most of their new books, which end up as a spoiler of sorts, signaling not only the new reality moving forward out of this massive story (which is basically: some characters from the Ultimate Universe are now in the regular Marvel Universe), but that--surprise, surprise--everything turns out all right. C'est la vie, I guess. That's comics for you. It's the only industry where regular lateness and/or complete failure to deliver doesn't necessarily mean you won't be able to find work.

But like I said, that's comics. What're you gonna do, not read them? 

I loved this series. To me, this was the comic lover's mini-series. It's a "What if..." meets an "Elseworlds", it's a smart and wildly imaginative alternate universe tale where all bets are off and everything under the Marvel Logo sun is used. Huge fights. Iconic moments. Great characters. I'm a big fan. To me, lateness aside, the series really delivered. I included some images below as proof, and  also to show off the phenomenal art.

How awesome is that? I love that art. There will be a trade sooner or later, so you should definitely check out this series. It's both beautiful and fun, what other reason would you need?

So there you have it, the best of the year in comics according to me. But because it's been awhile, and I had an addendum or two in mind as I worked on this post, here's some extra titles of note that didn't quite make the list, but might still be something you could be interested in...

A Title I'm totally going to catch up on eventually...

Mind Mgmt

Reporting on a commercial flight where everyone aboard lost their memories, a young journalist stumbles onto a much bigger story, the top secret Mind Management program. Her ensuing journey involves weaponized psychics, hypnotic advertising, talking dolphins, and seemingly immortal pursuers, as she attempts to find the flight's missing passenger, the man who was MIND MGMT's greatest success--and its most devastating failure. But in a world where people can rewrite reality itself, can she trust anything she sees?

I read the first Volume of this series and it's really good. Really good. I highly recommend it. The art may seem too simplistic, but it's not. It's incredibly intricate and involved. You really have to pause on every page and examine it. It's a fantastic piece of work for a really cool story about conspiracies and hidden super powers. Like I said, I highly recommend it. And because I liked it, I bought the second Volume not that long ago. The problem is, I just haven't gotten around to it yet. I swear, I mean too, I just haven't yet. But I will, I promise.

A title I will read because I've heard nothing but good things...


Spinning out of GRAYSON comes a solo series starring the man who can predict your every move... but no one will be able to predict what he'll do next! A theft at the God Garden has unleashed a wave of dangerous biotech weapons on the world, and Midnighter intends to put that genie back in the bottle by any means necessary. But something else was stolen from the Garden as well...the secret history of Lucas Trent, the man Midnighter once was!

So, in a nutshell, Dick Grayson was the first Robin, but a thing happened over in DC comics and his secret identity was revealed to the world, so now he's a secret agent. The Midnighter is a fairly "comic book famous" character from the mid-90s, famous for being the poster child of a particularly brutal era of comics, and famous for being part of very well-liked pair of characters (a kind of Superman and Batman riff at a different publishing company) that were revealed to actually be in a loving homosexual relationship. So for awhile, he was a very popular gay Batman with a computer in his head that let him predict how any fight would unfold. He was kind of a big deal. But then companies were sold, titles were canceled, universes were merged, and the Midnighter struggled to find a place in a universe that already had several Batman knock-offs, not to mention Batman himself. His new title was canceled, and he kind of faded into the background until he eventually became a second-stringer in the new Dick Grayson Secret Agent book.

And apparently, the fans loved him again, so he got his own title... again.

Midnighter is an odd character, as he kind of represents the best and worst of a certain era of comics. On one hand, he was--and continues to be--probably the most well-known and normally portrayed (for comics) gay characters out there. He's  also a complete badass. But on the other hand, that same badassery is what also makes him one of those "extreme" characters, the ones where writers and fans end up more interested in seeing the gimmick and gore and juvenile humor than to read an actual character. As a result, he's not a character I usually read because he's rarely portrayed with any nuance or skill.

But here's the thing...

Over the past few months, everywhere I look, people are talking about his new book, and when I say "people", I'm not talking about the type of fan that wears giant bowling shirts screen-printed with the Joker, or the type that wears fedoras and sandals with socks, or the ones who think "chimichanga" is the funniest god damn thing they've ever heard. I'm talking about real people, discerning people, and they keep saying the new Midnighter title is funny and smart and cool, and that Midnighter is suddenly an awesome character. I mean, I'm not taking it as gospel or anything, I'm just saying: The trade comes out soon, and I'm gonna check it out.

Maybe you should too.

And finally...

Some titles to watch next year

These six titles are all already under way, each one of them having started at some point in the last month or two, and I have enjoyed all of them. I look forward to reading more, but I didn't think they had been around long enough to be able to make this year's list.

Maybe next year...

They are: Paper Girls, the story of a quartet of paper delivery girls in the 1980s versus an alien invasion. Doctor Strange, the Sorcerer Supreme as envisioned by Jason Aaron, the current writer of Thor, and so far it seems like it will be just as good. The Vision, the android Avenger and his new family. This book is so weird and creepy and awesome, I think it's my favorite new title of the year. The Ultimates, a new team under an old name dealing with big problems, problems like the World-eater Galactus. Also, four out of five of the characters are POC, that's awesome, and worthy of support. Plutona is about a group of suburban kids who find a dead superhero in the woods. It's like River's Edge for the superhero set. And finally, Karnak, the classic Inhuman character with the ability to see the flaw in anything, reimagined by Warren Ellis? Yes,  I'm gonna read that.

Keep reading comics,