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Looking Back: Best and Worst of Marvel (and Comixtribe) Comics in 2015

So, when I asked the PCU crew to tell me what were their memories of comics in 2015 it seemed like it was all about Marvel.  Good or bad, the consensus was that Marvel grabbed the headlines this year with what they were trying to do to push comics ahead.  I guess when it came to DC Comics, if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all so we shouldn’t talk about the flop that was Convergence, the disjointed universes in which Superman’s identity is known and not known and the schism over Jim Gordon becoming the Batman.  Big thanks to John, however for breaking us out of our revelries to remind us that indie books still play a large part in the landscape of comics.  This is what we remember about comics in 2015.

 

Armand – Ta-Nehisi Coates to write Black Panther in 2016

Having won the George Polk in 2014, the National Book Award for Nonfiction this year for his book “Between the World and Me”, and receiving a “Genius Grant” from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Mr. Coates decided for 2016 he’d like to write Black Panther. Teaming up with an amazing artist in Brian Stelfreeze he’ll bring a very different take to Black Panther,  a character created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby to be the fictional embodiment of the dream “what would Africa have achieved had colonialism never happened.” One of the most important writers of our generation is going to write a comic book about one of the most important characters of all time. I can’t wait for 2016.

Adam – Marvel’s Diversification

This has been going on for awhile, but 2015 really seems to be the year that Marvel has not only expanded its diversification efforts but also gotten mass-market attention for it. Prior years have seen non white-male led titles which, despite their quality, never got off the ground (Red She-Hulk, Fearless Defenders, Sif in Journey Into Mystery). 2015 has given us diversity in terms of gender (with loads of female-led titles) and race (minority heroes filling classic roles), along with less obvious categories like illness (Thor) and even pregnancy (Spider-Woman). What helps is that many of these changes feel organic–Sam Wilson and Amadeus Cho are natural replacements for Captain America and the Hulk and the classic heroes are still around as well–Iron Man, Doctor Strange, and Peter Parker are still doing what they do. Additionally, Marvel has diversified not just in terms of demographics, but also style–traditional superhero books still exist, but cheerier youth-oriented books like Squirrel Girl and Patsy Walker have an equal place on the shelf. The bottom line is that Marvel really is a company that offers something for almost everyone right now.

Aitch – A-Force

While I don’t disagree with my colleague’s take on Marvel trying to be more diverse this year, I still feel that Marvel Comics fell short in bringing quality in their comics.  While I liked what Marvel attempted to do with A-Force, the execution just felt so flat. I mean it’s great that Marvel had a comic about an all-woman led team, written by Marguerite Bennett and G. Willow Wilson, but it felt forced, starting with the name “A-Force” sounded so…B movie cheesy. Going forward, once volume 2 comes out, Bennett won’t be on the book.  While I am sure that Wilson is capable enough to do this book (I mean look at what she is doing with Ms. Marvel) it’s always worth noting if there is a creative shakeup within the first 6 issues of a comic. Then, of course with Marvel trying to end Secret Wars, the next book starts up sometime in 2016…so you are already losing an audience due to a creative shakeup and a delay.  I want this book to be good, I really do, I just ask for a solid foundation coming out of the gate and for the love of all that is good, please rename the team!

“Big events” that come out on time:

Even though, it’s been confirmed that Marvel is rehashing another event in 2016, this year’s Secret Wars didn’t win over a lot of fans because of continuous delays. While Convergence was its own hot mess which pretty much left DC Comics readers as a whole confused and exhausted, Secret Wars was doing fine until the books got pushed back so far. Now, while the regular Marvel Universe has restarted, we are going into 2016 awaiting the conclusion of an event with a few things already spoiled such as…Doom surviving this iteration of Secret Wars.

Strange Fruit, and its impeccable timing:

This book, regardless of the setting,  takes a hard look at relations between blacks and whites in this country.  It explores how some would rather deal with personal racial issues than a larger impending issue that affects us all.  And it was released right around the same time as the Charleston SC massacre…it wasn’t on purpose, it just happened that way.  And I think what caused the biggest stir was the last page of the first book.  With all of the talk about removing flags and people ignoring talk about gun control policies, that image stood out.  Luckily, we also had an opportunity to talk to the creators to get their insight so if you missed it, try to get your hands on it or wait for the trades.

John – ComixTribe

Sure, this list will be filled with names everyone knows but what about the little guys that are making a difference in the comics scene? I have followed the small press company ComixTribe for about 5 or 6 years now, and 2015 was a giant year for them. They celebrated releasing their biggest title yet, Oxymoron: The Loveliest Nightmare, as well as getting their prequel issue to last year’s horror masterpiece And Then Emily Was Gone out into shops around the country on Free Comic Book Day. The Red Ten, the superhero by way of Agatha Christie maxi series written by ComixTribe chief Tyler James saw more issues published, as did Exit Generation, a punk sci-fi story from across the pond, written by newcomer Sam Read. Meanwhile, writer/artist Joe Mulvey and James prereleased their upcoming supernatural action title, Counterterror at conventions through the summer.

While artists such as Alex Cormack and Cesar Feliciano are making names for themselves on these books, and have proven their skills worthy of drawing the big stories, the name to keep an eye out for of the group is Scottish writer John Lees, who wrote the latest Oxymoron mini as well as Emily. Lees’ storytelling sensibilities are reminiscent of some of the great fellow European comic writers known for dark and heavy material such as Garth Ennis, Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. Emily was a brain teasing descent into surreal madness, while his take on Oxymoron provided the most linecrossing and shocking moment I have read in comics in a few years. I would be wrong not to credit Lees’ Emily artist Iain Laurie, who truly has as unique a style as I have ever seen, and the art was as visually intense as the script required. I have yet to read a series by this company that I have not enjoyed, and that is mostly due to them being small, and having to really believe in a project to fund it and publish it. If you have not stopped reading this yet to see if your local comic shop carries their books, go do that, then finish this article when you get back.

Belle – Loki: Agent of Asgard and Marvel Comics’ Focus on Being Yourself

When Al Ewing took over writing the character of Loki after Kieron Gillen‘s groundbreaking, game changing run on Journey Into Mystery and Young Avengers, many people, myself included, hoped for the best but expected the worst.

Afterall Status Quo is God right? Especially in the world of comic books, where the good guys are always right, even when they’re completely wrong, and the bad guys are always wrong. There’s no room for ambiguity or neutrality.

Which is why it came as a pleasant, amazing surprise when Loki: Agent of Asgard not only honored the work that was done before but took Loki, in all zir’s various forms, to the next logical conclusion. No, that’s not a typo but a fact: Loki isn’t just Thor’s little brother. Loki isn’t just Verity’s best friend. Loki isn’t just a pawn/child of Odin and Freya. Loki isn’t just a man, a woman, a fox. Loki isn’t a bad guy. Loki isn’t a good guy. Loki just is.

In this day and age the ability to have a character, just be: be accepted, be loved, be who they are without trying to justify their existence to others and be content in their own skin is something that is truly beautiful and speaks to a theme that’s been running through Marvel Comics for some time now. Whether it’s Sam Wilson’s Captain America shutting down all the haters, Kamala Khan’s adorable Ms. Marvel trying to get through high school in one piece while saving the world and honoring her beliefs or Jane Foster’s Thor trying to reconcile her new powers with her driving need to heal, Marvel has done an excellent job of showing that there’s true power in knowing yourself, and more importantly accepting yourself, whether others do or not.

Have there been missteps? Sure. As Harry said, A-Force was a mess: lazy and unfocused at best, a waste or characters and momentum at worst but overall? When DC refuses to give Batwoman her due and has so many character destroying plot arcs in play?

Make Mine Marvel

About Armand (1264 Articles)
Armand is a husband, father, and life long comics fan. A devoted fan of Batman and the Valiant Universe he loves writing for PCU, when he's not running his mouth on the PCU podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @armandmhill

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