When it comes to entertainment, August is a tacit line in the sand: When September comes rolling in, so will the “important” content — the Oscar-bait movies, the shiny new TV season, the honking big reads. But before we get there, we want to look back on the goods that the first eight months of the year brought us, and they were plentiful. To wit, here’s the best of 2015 (so far) in Comic Books.
10. BATGIRL, BY CAMERON STEWART, BRENDEN FLETCHER AND BABS TARR
The recent reinvention of Batgirl as a selfie-snapping, Doc Martens-rocking crimefighter/social-network butterfly with done-in-one adventures was an experiment that worked out beautifully — a lot of DC Comics’ newest series seem to be modeled on its spirit of playful hyper-modernity. It’s light, fun, and a lot more elegantly crafted than it even needs to be.
9. NO MERCY, BY ALEX DE CAMPI AND CARLA SPEED MCNEIL
A horror story that’s about human catastrophe rather than the supernatural, No Mercy starts with a bunch of American teenagers on a trip to build schools in Central America before they start college. Then things go really, really, really wrong, and keep going wronger. There is an ongoing contest to summarize each issue’s plot in emoji, which seems formally appropriate.
8. “JUDGE DREDD: ENCELADUS,” BY ROB WILLIAMS AND HENRY FLINT
For the last few years, one major subtext of the “Judge Dredd” stories in the weekly British sci-fi anthology 2000 AD has been the repercussions of a fascist state’s violence rebounding on it, and Williams and Flint’s chaotic, fragmented serial about terrible happenings on a moon of Saturn has driven that theme home with the force of a million razor-sharp icicles.
7. SHUTTER, BY JOE KEATINGE AND LEILA DEL DUCA
Kate Kristopher is a former adventurer who’s tried to get out of the “traveling the world and encountering phenomenal weirdness” business, but it’s sucked her back in. Keatinge’s story turns the clichés of fantastic lands, helpful talking creatures and bloodless battles inside out, and Del Duca’s artwork makes the series’ quotidian and impossible elements look like they’ve always belonged together.
6. STROPPY, BY MARC BELL
A daffy, doodly Canadian cartoonist with a taste for wordplay, Bell has been making comics for ages, but this is his first book-length project, a stream-of-really-weird-consciousness yarn involving a factory owner named Monsieur Moustache, one of his hapless employees, and a song contest. The words “schnauzer” and “cash prizes” appear on nearly every page.
5. INCIDENTS IN THE NIGHT, BOOK 2, BY DAVID B.
The French cartoonist David B. has created extraordinary graphic novels about his early life (Epileptic) and world history (Best of Enemies), but Incidents in the Night is something much stranger and more Borgesian: a conspiracy thriller that loops in on itself with dream logic, then dives into the pulpy bodies of the forgotten books and newspapers that are stacked up everywhere in its own pages.
4. SUPERMUTANT MAGIC ACADEMY, BY JILLIAN TAMAKI
Tamaki’s twist on the “school for super-powered magical kids” formula is to make it mostly about the total awfulness of adolescence. This expanded collection of her webcomic is a delight, with keenly observed moments of social anxiety (played mostly for laughs and sometimes for horrified laughs) piling up alongside smart formal gestures and bonkers non-sequiturs.
3. THE UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL, BY RYAN NORTH AND ERICA HENDERSON
Doreen Green is a teenage comp-sci student who’s got a cheerful can-do attitude and the proportional speed and strength of a squirrel, and is therefore the most awesome superhero of all. North and Henderson’s series doesn’t look or read like anything else in its genre; it’s steeped in Marvel continuity but doesn’t take any of it especially seriously, and it’s often howlingly hilarious.
2. THE WICKED + THE DIVINE, BY KIERON GILLEN AND JAMIE MCKELVIE
Gillen and McKelvie’s series about gods incarnating as doomed pop stars is as perfectly conceived as any serial comic book in recent memory, and the devastating twist in its second volume made the premise even stronger. (As of this writing, the first volume’s pay-what-you-wish in a Humble Bundle.) Even the guest artists in the current storyline seem like a special treat.
1. SECRET WARS, BY JONATHAN HICKMAN & ESAD RIBIC
Gigantic superhero crossover events have a deservedly shaky reputation, but Hickman and Ribic’s Secret Wars — named after the 1984 miniseries that was the original “event comic” — has been every bit as epic and thrilling as promised. Almost every Marvel series Hickman’s written over the past five years has been building up to this (especially his simultanous, intertwined Avengers and New Avengers serials), and Ribic makes the starless, patchwork world on which it’s set look both convincing and terrifying.