We talk a lot about movies adapted from comics and comics-adjacent properties like Star Wars. But let's go back to the source material for a minute.
This nigh-ended year has produced a bumper crop of books, and not all of the capes-and-tights variety. More female heroes were headlining their own series, there was more discussion about the role of not only minority characters but creators, too. Marvel destroyed its multiverse and then pieced it back together. DC dropped its "New 52" brand and expanded its line in new and interesting ways. Image remained the place where creators did their best work, Archie reinvented its flagship title and a new publisher, Aftershock, shot out of the gate at the end of the year with top-tier talent.
With that in mind, here are some of the new series I loved this year, about which I could not shut up on this and other parts of the Internet. Links to reviews are attached where applicable.
Archie: Fictional teenagers are one of America's finest exports, and writer Mark Waid and artist Fiona Staples have turned the teens of Riverdale from a sturdy old jalopy into a shiny new Lexus with one of those giant Christmas commercial bows around it. The Archie overhaul has worked so well that its spinoff book is further down this list.
Airboy: This four-issue miniseries told a fascinating meta tale linking writer James Robinson's lapsed career, drug use and feelings of inadequacy to a Golden Age World War II pilot who has no time or use for Robinson's self-pity. Robinson is now writing Scarlet Witch, a character who comes with plenty of her own baggage ("No More Mutants," anyone?) for Marvel.
Paper Girls: As a rule, Brian K. Vaughn couldn't write a bad comic if he tried. Y the Last Man, Ex Machina and Saga should be required reading in schools. His latest is a Spielberg-esque story about a gang of young newspaper delivery girls, aliens and Apple products set on Halloween night.
Doctor Strange: Just in time for next year's movie, Marvel seems to have finally nailed an ongoing Doctor Strange book after years of guest appearances, miniseries and false starts. Chris Bachalo keeps every page packed with extra eyeballs, fangs, tentacles and other weirdness, while Jason Aaron writes Strange as used to all of it but still capable of being surprised.
Jughead: If the main Archie title is the grounded teen soap, Jughead is the comedic spinoff. Writer Chip Zdarsky and artist Erica Henderson bring the humor they're known for on titles like Sex Criminals and The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, respectively, to Riverdale's laziest yet most resourceful teenager, leaving room for daydream sequences about time travel and Game of Thrones.
X-Men '92: This tie-in to Marvel's Secret Wars crossover didn't just lovingly homage the cartoon many of us grew up on, it skewered the show's logic and heavy-handed Broadcast Standards & Practices interference while finding a way to make a decidedly un-'90s villain like Cassandra Nova fit into that world. Look for an ongoing series by returning writers Chris Sims and Chad Bowers and new artist Alti Firmansyah (Marvel's Star-Lord and Kitty Pryde) in 2016.
Ms. Marvel: A new volume of Kamala Khan's adventures began after Secret Wars and shows why she remains one of the company's best new characters in decades. Marvel's tried to copy the Peter Parker formula before (teenager gets powers, becomes incredibly witty crime-fighter while still beset with teenager problems), but something feels fresher and rings truer about G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona's creation than those other attempts, most of whom just ended up in the New Warriors.
Deadpool: By law, I'm required to included Deadpool in this list, but the latest volume of the Merc with a Mouth's adventures is doing some interesting things. For whatever reason, after Secret Wars, Deadpool is universally beloved and rich and has begun farming out jobs to a crew of mercenaries forced to dress like him. But someone else is impersonating Deadpool and hurting people close to him, in a mystery that deepens with each issue.
Sam Wilson, Captain America: The last volume of Captain America, in which the hero formerly known as the Falcon took up the shield, felt more like a continuation of what had come before it, just with a different person in the costume. This new book, by writer Nick Spencer (Ant-Man, Superior Foes of Spider-Man), has a distinct voice and is telling an engaging story about what it's like to wear another hero's costume and have your every move picked apart on cable news and social media, while still having to punch guys who dress up like snakes.
Patsy Walker, aka Hellcat: A last-minute addition to the list, as it just came out last week. Fans of Netflix's Jessica Jones series will find no correlation here to the Trish Walker character from that show, but fans of another Netflix original - Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt - will find Patsy's infectious optimism in the face of adversity both familiar and comforting.
This is by no means a definitive or empirical list, just a sampling of books I've read and liked this past year. Feel free to tweet me your picks @danielpgrote on Twitter.
Books out this week:
Rocket Raccoon and Groot #1: Each has had their own solo series this past year. Now, two-fifths of the Guardians of the Galaxy are teaming up in this book by previous Rocket writer Skottie Young (Image's I Hate Fairyland) and artist Felipe Andrade.
Obi-Wan and Anakin #1 of 5: Long before they fought over a lava pit, they were just two Jedi lightsabering stuff together. Charles Soule (Marvel's Lando, She-Hulk) writes and Marco Checchetto (Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens - Shattered Empire) draws this miniseries set between The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones.
Cable and Deadpool: Split Second #1 of 3: Lotta dual-billing books this week, eh? This one reunites writer Fabian Nicieza (half of Marvel's '90s X-Men books) and artist Reilly Brown with the time-tossed mutant soldier Cable and soon-to-be cinema star Deadpool, who shared an ongoing series a decade ago.
Dreaming Eagles: Upstart publisher Aftershock Comics shows off its top-shelf talent with this book about the Tuskegee Airmen written by Garth Ennis (Vertigo's Preacher, Marvel's Punisher) and artist Simon Coleby.
That's it for this week and this year! As always, until next time you can find me @danielpgrote on Twitter. See you next Wednesday in 2016!