CBR's Top 100 Comics of 2015: #10 - #1

Thu, December 31st, 2015 at 12:02pm PST

Comic Books
CBR News Team, Editor
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We've reached the end -- both of this year, and of CBR's Top 100 Comics of 2015!

Each year, CBR takes a good, long look at the comic book industry's multitude of offerings and polls our passionate, thoughtful and always-opinionated staff -- including editors, reporters, reviewers, columnists and bloggers -- for their picks of the top comics of the year. Every publisher putting out new comics material, regardless of genre or format, is fair game; each individual list is then factored in (all thanks to the magic of spreadsheets) to determine the overall Top 100 unveiled on CBR this week.

2015 was another banner year for the Top 100, with more than 40 contributors to the list and more than 200 comics nominated. That's resulted in a typically diverse field: superhero franchises sharing space with creator-owned works; major publishers alongside indie favorites. Of course, no list can be an exhaustive collection of every noteworthy piece of work in a year, but the end result of the CBR Top 100 is a wide selection of eclectic comics and graphic novels worthy of attention.

On Monday, we started unveiling the list with entries No. 100 to 76 and continued on Tuesday with No. 75 to 51. Wednesday saw the next quarter chunk of No. 50 to 26, and this morning brought No. 25 to 11. So it's come to this: The Top 10! As always, it's a top-notch Top 10, and there was very, very close competition throughout the countdown -- and only a razor's edge separating No. 1 and No. 2, two comics that received by far the most votes of any comics this year.

Start perusing the final section of the list below, and feel free to take to Twitter and discuss your thoughts using the hashtag #CBRTop100. Friday morning, we'll take one last look at the list, and for comparison's sake, here's our Top 100 lists from previous years:

CBR's Top 100 Comics of 2015: 100 -> 76 | 75 -> 51 | 50 -> 26 | 25 -> 11 | 10 -> 1

10 TheFadeOut

10. The Fade Out
Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Sean Phillips
Published by Image Comics

"After making a stylish debut last year, Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips' 'The Fade Out' continued its slow burn throughout 2015 as the mystery behind the death of starlet Valeria Sommers plagued screenwriter Charlie Parish. The mystery deepened as Charlie's friendship with blacklisted writer Gil Mason's was tested and big time Hollywood players became suspects. But the real star of the series has to be colorist Elizabeth Breitweiser, whose vibrant hues simultaneously evoke 1940s glamour and a more modern and colorfully captivating sensibility. "

-- CBR Assistant Editor Brett White

"Given the freedom to tell any kind of story they want, Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips have synthesized the noir tone of their 'Criminal' series with the grand scope and historical detail of 'Fatale,' along with a deep love for the seedy side of classic Hollywood. 'The Fade Out' is a top-notch murder mystery, a fascinating history lesson and an insightful character study about an industry full of compromised characters."

-- CBR Contributing Writer Josh Bell

"Over the last year, the murder mystery at the center of Brubaker & Phillips' Hollywood noir 'The Fade Out' unraveled bit-by-bit, leaving me anxiously awaiting the next issue. And with the inclusion of stellar essays in the back of each issue depicting the all-too-real darker side of Hollywood, the wait became that much more difficult to bare."

-- CBR Contributing Writer Mike Pallotta

"Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips routinely deliver one of the smartest mystery comics around."

-- Comics Should Be Good Editor Brian Cronin

09 BitchPlanet

9. Bitch Planet
Written by Kelly Sue DeConnick
Art by Valentine De Landro
Published by Image Comics

"In some stories, familiar licensed characters who are purported to represent justice and civil ideals punch other characters purported to represent villainy. It's cute. 'Bitch Planet' makes the struggle against oppression and supremacy manifest through a story that highlights the kinds of real-world injustices that go denied and overlooked all too often. The story of Non-Compliant women pitted against a world that makes their value known by the way it treats them isn't preachy because it doesn’t need to be, instead satisfied to simply make society's structural power discrepancies obvious through its biting satire. Powerful and entertaining, 'Bitch Planet's' most important feature is the way it illustrates how patriarchy makes victims out of all genders, even those who believe otherwise."

-- CBR Assistant Editor Brendan McGuirk

"Feminist reimaginings of sexist works often run the risk of imitating the worst parts of what they meant to skewer, but 'Bitch Planet' has no such problem. Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro offer up a furious, hyper-aware testament to woman’s humanity in the face of man's inhumanity. Scathing and always skating just shy of too-obvious with its satire, 'Bitch Planet' is a critique with teeth. And speaking of critique -- 'Bitch Planet' makes hands-down the best use of the back matter essay in 2015."

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-- CBR Reviewer Marykate Jasper

"Dystopias are the scariest when they seem at least a little plausible. In a world where women are frequently told to sit down and shut the hell up,'Bitch Planet' is terrifying. It is righteous, in the purest sense of the word."

-- CBR Contributing Writer Allison Shoemaker

"The inhabitants of 'Bitch Planet' have every reason to be pissed-off and violent. They live in a world that's technologically advanced but socially regressive, and where sexism and patriarchy isn't just the norm but the law. A lot of genre fiction makes antagonists out of nebulously evil empires or generally repressive governments, but 'Bitch Planet's' gross patriarchy is specifically repressive, and that's what makes the book work. When the heroes resist oppression, they're resisting something that feels all too real, and 'Bitch Planet' is science fiction in the tradition of 'Star Trek': The conflicts and characters are exaggerated and stylized versions of real-world issues."

-- CBR Contributing Writer Joe Streckert

08 omega men 06

8. The Omega Men
Written by Tom King
Art by Barnaby Bagenda, Toby Cypress
Published by DC Comics

"If you told me a year ago that a cosmic DC Universe book would be one of my favorite series in 2015, I would have laughed -- but I'm not laughing now. Tom King & Barnaby Bagenda have crafted one of the most thought provoking, haunting books I've encountered in the medium. With only six issues under its belt to date, it has tackled the gray morality of war, terrorism, religion and many more weighty topics with poise. Its more serious elements are balanced out by its fascinating characterization, fun interpersonal relationships and a hefty dose of intrigue. While this immersive approach may turn some off, King & Bagenda have created a dangerous, fully realized world that even the Green Lantern Corps are afraid to enter, and it couldn't be any more captivating."

-- CBR Assistant Editor Meagan Damore

"Writer Tom King garnered wide acclaim for his work on 'Grayson,' blending terse spycraft with insightful character moments.  Similarly, the relaunched 'Omega Men' has been another winning combination of political maneuvers fueled by enigmatic personalities. Indeed, a big part of the book’s appeal is its no-nonsense inscrutability. King, artist Barnaby Bagenda and colorist Romulo Fajardo Jr., have produced a multi-layered sci-fi epic, wrapped in striking propaganda-style covers by Trevor Hutchison. Its mysteries will encourage many re-readings."

-- CBR Contributing Writer Tom Bondurant

"Easily one of the most original and intriguing monthly titles on the market, Tom King & Barnaby Bagenda's 'The Omega Men' mixes elements of superhero, science-fiction, political, and crime/caper stories into a cohesive and inviting whole. Scripts are so packed full of information they almost demand a re-read as soon as you're done, as to best digest what's happened and to think through the motivations of all of the characters involved. Add in beautiful art that uses a 9-panel grid to near-perfection (as well as knowing when to break the self-imposed rules) and there's a reason why this book's original early cancellation was so loudly protested and quickly reversed."

-- CBR Reviewer Greg McElhatton

"A smart space opera making expert use of a 9-panel grid. From issue #1, King & Bagenda waste no time introducing the titular gang of terrorists (or are they freedom fighters?) and establishing a complex galactic conflict intimately tied to religion -- and then, in no short order, complicating everything we think we know. Also intriguing is that they've made the series' most well-known character, former Green Lantern Kyle Rayner, a prisoner and observer, with little agency (at this stage in the series) to affect any change in the unfolding events. 'Omega Men' comes through as a very deliberate, entirely thrilling series."

-- CBR Contributing Writer Shaun Manning

07 StepAsidePops

7. Step Aside, Pops
Written & Illustrated by Kate Beaton
Published by Drawn & Quarterly

"'Step Aside, Pops' is full of cartoons with exquisite timing and hilarious facial expressions. It takes real knowledge of something to be able to mock it successfully, and Beaton knows her stuff. Her second collection features, in no particular order: a chain-smoking Wonder Woman, a devastatingly funny parody of the first half of 'Wuthering Heights,' a spot-on send-up of the Fenian Raids and an owl named Craig."

-- CBR Reviewer Jennifer Cheng

"Kate Beaton can deliver, in one strip, more astutely humorous commentary than others can do in a whole book. So imagine a collection of Beaton's strips? Well, you have yourself quite a good time there."

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-- Comics Should Be Good Editor Brian Cronin

"What can I say about Kate Beaton that hasn’t already been said about God Almighty? She’s clever, she’s weird, and she has all the best takes on anecdotes from history. 'Step Aside, Pops' is a worthy successor to 'Hark! A Vagrant,' with riffs on everything from the United States’ Founding Fathers to Gibson Girls. "

-- CBR Reviewer Marykate Jasper

"Kate Beaton remains a treasure, a talented cartoonist with a gift for dialogue, a far-ranging mind whose work ranges from dark and probing looks at history to wacky takes on comic conventions and the book cover of Nancy Drew books. She remains as sharp as ever."

-- CBR Staff Writer Alex Dueben

06 PaperGirls

6. Paper Girls
Written by Brian K. Vaughan
Art by Cliff Chiang
Published by Image Comics

"Brian K. Vaughan & Cliff Chiang are serving some stylish, super-weird '80s nostalgia in this series, and I am thrilled to be along for the ride. 'Paper Girls' is a perfectly balanced world of sci-fi, pre-teen angst and shocking plot twists that make each issue an instant re-read. You can practically smell the wet streets, the Halloween candy and the bike grease coming off the pages as his fierce protagonists explore the mysteries encroaching on their small town."

-- CBR Staff Writer Casey Gilly

"Adolescents, pretty much by definition, live in kind of a liminal space. They're not kids. They're not adults. They can have jobs, but not really big ones. They want to be grown-ups but still need adult supervision. 'Paper Girls' takes the metaphorical liminal of adolescence and makes it literal. The titular protagonists fling newspapers at houses during a time that is neither light nor dark and deal with threats that are both elusive and impossible to miss. The book takes place in the otherworld of empty streets just before sunrise, and to amazing effect."

-- CBR Contributing Writer Joe Streckert

"I'm not convinced that anyone needed more nostalgic 1980s tales, but Brian K. Vaughan & Cliff Chiang are clearly on to something much bigger with this enigmatic series. Per his usual form, Vaughan delivers plenty of intrigue and the same sort of head-scratching set-ups with which he kicked off 'Y: The Last Man.' He and Chiang also create mind-bogglingly sincere characters."

-- CBR Contributing Writer Jason Strykowski

"Brian K. Vaughan launched a number of fascinating new series in 2015, but none felt so fully realized and downright fun as the 1980s-set 'Paper Girls.' The series follows a group of teenage newspaper delivery girls as they're witness to invaders that seem both extraterrestrial and other dimensional; the series mixes in 'what the?'-worthy reveals right in with nuanced character dynamics. But as interesting as the story is, Cliff Chiang's artwork makes this an essential read. Chiang has reimagined iconic '80s imagery (like 'Purple Rain's' cover and the 'Breakfast Club' poster) for his superhero work in the past, but this series allows him to cut loose and earnestly weave these Reagan-era details into the narrative."

-- CBR Assistant Editor Brett White

05 SQGIRL2015B001 Cover

5. Unbeatable Squirrel Girl
Written by Ryan North
Art by Erica Henderson
Published by Marvel

"For years, Marvel fans (surely some of them, at least) have been united under one very specific wish: 'Will Squirrel Girl ever get her ongoing series?' She did in 2015, and thanks to the expert work of Ryan North & Erica Henderson, it was even more glorious than the most demanding Squirrel Girl fanatic could have expected. It's a series so full of humor, the jokes spill out of the panels and onto the bottom of every page. It's a big ol' high five to just how fun and funny superhero comics can be."

-- CBR Managing Editor Albert Ching

"Squirrel Girl has been Marvel Comics' longest-running joke for a good long while now. And while the new series by the perfectly matched pair of Ryan North & Erica Henderson has certainly been screamingly funny, I think its safe to say that the days of not taking Squirrel Girl seriously as a flagship character in the Marvel U are truly over. Every issue of this series has been a sheer delight, filled with good-natured laughs, meta-humor, potshots at Marvel's own dour disposition, friendship, and fuzzy tails. It's the rare book that is truly all-ages. Make sure you don't skip the footnotes!"

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-- CBR Staff Writer Casey Gilly

"It takes quite a bit of skill to execute the mixture of character development and next level wackadooness present in every issue. Writer Ryan North and artist Erica Henderson continue to knock it out of the park in this glorious superhero sitcom of a comic."

-- CBR Contributing Writer Tamara Brooks

"'What, you think I won't fight a dinosaur? Are you crazy? All I want to do is fight dinosuars.' That quotes perfectly sums up the magnificence of Ryan Noth & Erica Henderson's 'Squirrel Girl.' If only we all could want to fight dinosaurs as much as she does."

-- Comics Should Be Good Editor Brian Cronin

04 Star Wars Marvel 2015 Alex Ross

4. Star Wars
Written by Jason Aaron
Art by John Cassaday, Simone Bianchi, Stuart Immonen, Mike Deodato
Published by Marvel

"Han doesn’t say, 'Chewie -- we’re home,' in this series, but it’s absolutely how Star Wars fans feel reading it. This series strikes a great balance of plucking on nostalgic strings by revisiting the golden era between Episodes IV and V and pitting familiar characters in long-imagined, unseen conflicts, while also unveiling new faces with new adventures that fit the tone just as well. Sana Solo and Grakkus the Hutt might technically be new 'Expanded Universe' characters, but they fit so seamlessly with Luke, Leia, Han and the gang you’ll swear you saw their action figures a long time ago, in a Darth Vader carrying case far, far away."

-- CBR Assistant Editor Brendan McGuirk

"Marvel's relaunched 'Star Wars' series did not mess around. With a string of A-list artists and newsworthy reveals, this flagship series delivered 13 issues packed with character moments and action that were intrinsically 'Star Wars.' Jason Aaron dumped all the Star Wars toys out of the Lucasfilm toy chest and slammed them together in brilliantly thrilling ways, with John Cassaday and Stuart Immonen proving they're two of the best artists in the galaxy. This is the year that gave us Sana Solo, Leia and Han wielding lightsabers, Luke fighting Boba Fett -- and it all happened in the comics, not on film."

-- CBR Assistant Editor Brett White

"'This is the comic book you're looking for.' That was the lede for my story about 'Star Wars' when it launched back in January and mega-talented writer Jason Aaron and all-star artists John Cassaday, Simone Bianchi and Stuart Immonen have yet to disturb the force by delivering an epic adventure for Luke, Han and Leia in each and every issue of this best-selling series. "

-- CBR Staff Writer Jeff Renaud

"2015 will go down as the year of Star Wars, and Marvel's flagship title starring the most iconic Star Wars characters has been a huge part of this year long celebration of the galaxy far, far away. Every panel is packed with the adventure, humor and intensity that Star Wars fans expect. A perfect love letter to all things Star Wars.

-- CBR Contributing Writer Marc Buxton

03 March Book Two Cover 8aafd

3. March: Book Two
Written by Rep. John Lewis & Andrew Aydin
Art by Nate Powell
Published by Top Shelf Productions

"Fifty years after it happened, the success of the Civil Rights movement looks like it was inevitable, and the characters have become plaster saints. Rep. John Lewis's memoir, 'March,' is a bracing reminder of what it was really like. The first volume ended with the desegregation of the lunch counters in Nashville. This second volume begins with Lewis sitting down at a lunch counter and the manager not only refusing to serve him and his colleague but locking them in and turning on a fumigator, nearly killing them. That sets the tone, as Lewis and his colleagues struggle to actually exercise the rights granted to them by law. This second volume focuses on the Freedom Rides and the March on Washington, showing not just on the events themselves but the preparation and planning that went into them, and often, the bickering and disagreements that went on behind the scenes. Carefully told and stunningly drawn, 'March' is important not only as a document of the real history of the era but also as a guidebook and inspiration for the activists of today."

-- CBR Contributing Writer Brigid Alverson

"Scripted by his aide Andrew Aydin and drawn by Nate Powell, Congressman John Lewis continues to tell the story of his non-violent crusade for civil rights in the wake of his historical march in Selma, Alabama. Like they were in real life, the events within this second volume are even more brutal and disturbing than the first. The script is powerful in its own right, and even more so with the understanding that these events actually happened. Lewis wields his power not only as an historical icon, but also with the clout of a government official whose words carry a disproportionate amount of power, especially as one who lived, and survived, this horrific chapter of American history."

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-- CBR Reviewer Jim Johnson

"Better than the first volume, the second book is also a much more difficult read. This is the heart of the Civil Rights Movement and the cruelty and barbarism that Lewis and others fighting for freedom had to face. A monument to how much this country has changed and a terrifying reminder of how Americans terrorized their fellow citizens with one brutal act of terrorism after another."

-- CBR Staff Writer Alex Dueben

"The second in a trilogy, 'March: Book Two' portrays Rep. John Lewis's involvement in key moments of the Civil Rights movement while jumping forward to President Obama's historic inauguration. Nate Powell's depiction of the race-inspired violence during the era of Jim Crow laws is kinetic, and painfully relevant amidst this past year's horrific events. Undoubtably, 'March: Book Two' is the most significant graphic novel of 2015. "

-- CBR Contributing Writer Mike Pallotta

"Timeliness counts, and right now is exactly the right time to remind ourselves how much work it takes to achieve progress, and how much work we have to do."

-- CBR Contributing Writer Allison Shoemaker

02 MsMarvel

2. Ms. Marvel
Written by G. Willow Wilson
Art by Adrian Alphona, Takeshi Miyazawa, Elmo Bondoc
Published by Marvel

"Kamala Khan tore through her second arc as Marvel's preeminent young superhero without losing an ounce of the fun, humor and relatability that made her such a star out the gate. G. Willow Wilson kept the tensions between Kamala's Western upbringing and Islamic family just as engaging and potent as those between her civilian life and her crime-fighting alter ego. Artists Adrian Alphona and Takeshi Miyazawa handed art chores back and forth with ease, each bringing a unique style to the book and neither sacrificing a lick of the fun or energy. Where "Ms. Marvel" really shone though was in the 'Last Days' arc, easily one of the best 'Secret Wars' tie-ins. As Kamala's universe was literally torn apart, rather than fighting the big cosmic threats she was trying to keep her community safe in Jersey City. Issues #18 and #19 featured almost no action at all, but rather gave Kamala a chance to spend one last day with her friends and family, and receive a beautiful and wrenching revelation from her mother. It was a sequence that proved that the even the best superhero fisticuffs mean little if they're not bolstered by a believable and lovable personality behind the mask."

-- CBR Staff Writer Casey Gilly

"This year G. Willow Wilson and her collaborators on 'Ms. Marvel' made me laugh, cry, and cheer often all in the same issue and multiple times. The 'Last Days' tie-in arc to 'Secret Wars' was particularly standout. It was an end of the world tale packed with all the heart, humor, and emotion you'd come to expect from the book, while also delivering plenty of payout and fun twists to long time readers "

-- CBR Staff Writer Dave Richards

"'Ms. Marvel' continues to be one of the most fun and exciting superhero comics out there. Kamala is funny and relatable, and brings a sense of wonder to her adventures that is too rare in the genre. Alphona and Miyazawa do wonders with their facial expressions and small physical bits, grounding all of these characters in everyday experience and emotion. This is just a really grand comic."

-- CBR Contributing Writer Shaun Manning

"G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona and Takeshi Miyazawa just keep hitting beat after beat. After a strong showing in 2014, 'Ms. Marvel' continues to bring the quality and the fun. Despite events and other crossovers, the series maintains its distinct voice, unique style and charm, furthering Kamala's personal arcs even while participating the larger Marvel sandbox. 'Ms. Marvel' is consistently fun, wonderfully relatable and always heartwarming."

-- CBR Assistant Editor Meagan Damore

"'Ms Marvel' continues to be fun and full of artistic humor and energy, and crucially, it's one of the only comics on the stands where love and family are central instead of peripheral. Wilson mixes ordinary teenager worries and the demands and delights of being a superhero with a light hand."

-- CBR Reviewer Jennifer Cheng

01 Saga028

1. Saga
Written by Brian K. Vaughan
Art by Fiona Staples
Published by Image Comics

"Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples are so damn good at their craft that sometimes readers almost take "Saga" for granted. Almost. This Eisner Award-winning space opera continues to be a huge commercial success for the superstar creative team and the adventures of Alana and Marko, the series' star-crossed lovers, are just as entertaining, if not more so, in Year 4 as they were when 'Saga' launched in 2012. "

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-- CBR Staff Writer Jeff Renaud

"'Saga' is so many things, but one of the most fascinating is that it's an adult comic with a child as its central character -- and we get to see that baby girl grow up. It's something simple, something to which everyone can relate, whether as a parent or just from having come of age in the recent or not-so-recent past, and yet is quite rare in comics and other serial media. Though her parents have most of the agency at this point in the story, Hazel's narration hints at a broader destiny as she grows, and I am continually fascinated."

-- CBR Contributing Writer Shaun Manning

"Writer Brian K. Vaughan continues to find surprising new directions for his intimate and epic space opera, introducing new characters and new settings that immediately become essential to the ever-changing story. And artist Fiona Staples depicts them all with boundless creativity and stunning expressiveness."

-- CBR Contributing Writer Josh Bell

"Little needs saying about the hottest book on the block, only reaffirming. Brian Vaughn & Fiona Staples are an amazing team. Every character, every panel, every shocking death, every transporting moment… it all leaves me wanting more."

-- Guest Contributor Heather Johanssen

"Another year of 'Saga' brings yet another uncomfortable splash page that will be hard to forget. (Thanks a lot, self-pleasuring dragon.) This year in 'Saga' also brought a couple of heartbreaking deaths, more space-drugs, shocking violence, and an imaginative, war-torn, sci-fi universe that continues to be populated with alien weirdos that feel all too human."

-- CBR Contributing Writer Ryan Ingram

"Every word, every panel, every page of Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples 'Saga' is an exercise in some of the greatest world-building ever seen on a comic book page. Staples is currently setting the standard for modern sequential storytelling in this book and Vaughan continues to pull on the heartstrings while he juxtaposes intense sex and violence with a truly heartwarming tale of family loyalty. Seriously, they're going to name awards after this book someday."

-- CBR Contributing Writer Marc Buxton

"All 'Saga' does is tell the best, most heartfelt stories in comics by constantly darting and swerving throughout the galaxy, introducing original concepts and characters on every page along the way. I don’t know what the big deal is."

-- CBR Assistant Editor Brendan McGuirk

CBR's Top 100 Comics of 2015: 100 -> 76 | 75 -> 51 | 50 -> 26 | 25 -> 11 | 10 -> 1

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