Monday, 2 February 2015

20 most anticipated comics and graphic novels for 2015

I'm one of those people who like putting lists together; I did one last year looking forward to some of the most anticipated comics for the upcoming 12 months, and had a fun time collating it, and getting excited about stuff whilst doing it, so I thought I'd attempt to repeat the experience. As always with comics, release dates are subject to change so I've only put the projected publication month in brackets next to each title, and similarly, cover art may not be finalised either. Having said that, I think most books here are pretty much done, with the exception of Natalie Andrewson's comics for Peow! and Sophie Franz's with Retrofit, so I've used some of their art to illustrate instead. No doubt, too, there will be fantastic work releasing in 2015 that I'm not even aware of yet and hasn't been announced. This, then, is a pretty subjective list of 20 titles I find interesting and am very much looking forward to, and hope get you geared up about the year ahead in comics.

Last Man: The Stranger by Bastein Vives, Balak, and Michael Sanalaville, First Second (March): I've had my eye on this series for a long while and an thrilled publishers First Second will be releasing the initial three volumes of it in English this year, with three more to follow in 2016. Fresh off winning an award at comics most prestigious festival, Angouleme, this weekend, Last Man is an homage to shounen manga, and a huge hit in its native France. It centers around a martial arts school, a games tournament to determine who is the best fighter and the appearance of a mysterious stranger who quickly establishes himself as a serious contender. Expect lovely, kinetic illustration and an entertaining and gripping story. 

Seraphim by Satoshi Kon and Mamoru Oshii, Dark Horse (March): Dark Horse released Satoshi Kon's Opus in January, and though Kon illustrated this, it is written by Ghost in the Shell director, Mamoru Oshii. Seraphim: 266613336 Wings is the story of a future earth plagued by "tenshi-byō" (angel disease), a pandemic that induces apocalyptic visions in the afflicted, even as it ossifies their bodies into dead, seraphic forms. A young girl named Sera, and three men embark on a journey to solve the mystery of the strange fatal illness which is decimating the population. 

Untitled by Natalie Andrewson, Peow! Studio (March): I'm expecting excellent things from Swedish publishers, Peow! Studio once more this year, as they have a slate that includes the third installment of Patrick Crotty's Internal Affairs, a comics from Matt Sheehan, as well as new works from Elliot Alfredius and Olle Forsloff. However, I'm most excited to see a new comic from the excellent Natalie Andrewson (whose illustration work I first came across via Nobrow, and I'm a huge fan of) this March, one that promises to be 'a fantasy / fighting / heist story with lots of magical fruits and also punching and violence!' 

Master Keaton by Naoki Urasawa, Viz (April/October): I'll take any new Naoki Urasawa I can get my hands on, and although this is a slightly older work, it's the first time it's being given an English release. It's a post cold-war suspense thriller, featuring the adventures of an ex-army, insurance investigator and archaeology graduate who uses his numerous skills to probe and solve mysteries. The first volume, published in January, sees said protagonist, Taichi Hiraga Keaton, the son of a Japanese zoologist and an English noblewoman travel to the Dodecanese islands of Greece to investigate a life insurance policy worth one million pounds amidst scuffles with bloodthirsty thieves and assassins. Volumes 2 and 3 are due in April and October.

    The Oven by Sophie Goldstein, AdHouse (April): The superb Sophie Goldstein is one of my favourite authors, so I'm pleased to see this both as her longest print work to date, and as a book that will hopefully make more people aware of her work. The Oven is a sci-fi tale in which ozone depletion and dwindling resources have driven the human race into domed cities where population controls are strictly enforced. In that environment, a young couple go looking for a rumoured anti-government paradise in the desert, and find more than they bargained for. You can view a 12-page preview here.

    Vacancy by Jen Lee, Nobrow (April): Jen Lee's Vacancy is one of of a quadrant of Nobrow's shorter comic books that I'm really looking forward to, with titles from Wren MacDonald, Joe Sparrow, and William Exley. Lee is probably best-known for her brillaint animated web-comic, ThunderPaw, and this will mark her first published book, showcasing her wonderful style and storytelling abilities. In it, Simon, a recently abandoned dog partners with a raccoon and a deer who take him into the woods to live. But as strange things begin to occur in other abandoned areas of the town, Simon realises he's not quite ready to live in the wild. 

      SuperMutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki, Drawn & Quarterly (May):  SuperMutant Magic Academy, a comic which Tamaki has been publishing online over the past four years, is a prep-school for mutants and witches in which the students actually behave like teenagers, with their problems and concerns a more pressing concern than magical or paranormal shenanigans. Tamaki paints a teenaged world filled with just as much ennui and uncertainty, but also with a sharp dose of humor and irreverence, playing superhero and high school Hollywood tropes against what adolescence is really like. This volume collects the most popular strips from the webcomic along with a selection of all-new, never-before-seen material.

      Black River by Josh Simmons, Fantagraphics (May): Josh Simmons returns with his first full-length graphic novel since 2007’s acclaimed House. Black River follows a group of women, one man, and two dogs as they make their way through 'a post-apocalyptic world in search of a city that supposedly still has electricity and some sort of civilization. Along the way, they go to a comedy club, take a drug called Gumdrop, and encounter gangs of men who are either fools, lunatics, or murderous sadists. In other words, all manner of terrors.' Stripping people to their real, bare vestiges is one of the core themes in Simmons' work, and there are few things that facilitate that than a post-apocalyptic, each-man-for-himself survival situation.

        Confetti by Ginette Lapalme, Koyama Press (May): Ginette Lapalme is one of those talented artists who works in a variety of mediums and is that good that she excels at all of them. Her aesthetic is to use  cartoons and junk culture as raw material, to make 'cute' subversive and 'pretty' punk. Confetti is a collection that documents that work: her comics, paintings, prints, sculpture, and jewelry. It's the book most likely to make you want to immediately go buy what she makes as soon as you've seen pictures of it. You can view a selection of preview pages here.

        Fragments of Horror by Junji Ito, Viz (June): After a period of 8 years, Fragments of Horror is the brand-new collection from the master of horror, Junji Ito (Uzumaki, Museum of Terror). An old wooden mansion that turns on its inhabitants. A dissection class with a most unusual subject. A funeral where the dead are definitely not laid to rest. Ranging from the terrifying to the comedic, from the erotic to the loathsome, this collection of 12 bizarre and disturbing short stories marks Ito's long anticipated return to comics.

          The Hero/ Beowulf by David Rubin, published by Dark Horse, and Image respectively (June): David Rubin's name may be familiar to readers as the illustrator on Paul pope's Aurora west book, but he's an amazing artist in his own right, 2015 will see  two of his works translated into English for the first time. In June, Dark Horse will be releasing volume 1 of The Hero, a mythological tale that revisits the story of Hercules from birth onwards, examining each of the twelve tasks that he carried out from a new perspective, offering a more human, more vulnerable figure and story. Image will also publish his collaboration with Santiago Garcia, an adaptation of Beowulf, the epic, oldest surviving English poem. Rubin's gorgeous art is the major selling point here.

          Dragons Beware by Rafael Rosado and Jorge Aguirre, First Second (June): The precursor to Dragons Beware!, the wonderful Giants Beware! was one of my best books of 2012, so I'm very much hoping this can harness the spirit and quality of that story. Featuring a rag-tag trio of the rascally, red-haired Claudette, her younger brother, Gaston, a prodigious patissere chef, and her best friend, Marie, an alternative-thinking princess, this new adventure sees them take on a new foe,as they journey to retrieve the world's most powerful sword, lost many years ago by Claudette's father... to a dragon... who ate it. The spunky trio must quest to the dragon’s lair, and then find a way to get the sword back from the belly of the beast. Rosado's cartooning is an absolute delight: funny, lively, warm, and expressive.

            Island by Brandon Graham, Emma Rios, Marian Churchland,  and others, Image (June):  Island is a new 72-page, oversized format monthly comics magazine that will see an array of international artists and writers play within the sandbox it provides. The first edition, due out this June, will see a multi-page illustration spread by Marian Churchland, ID, a story by Emma Rios - a 7 page preview of which you can read here-, the return of Brandon Graham's Multiple Warheads, Dagger Proof Mummy by  Ludroe, along with additional material. Amongst other things, it promises concepts for imagined mech designs, fictional fashion ranges, articles that blend prose and comics, and of course, actual comics. 

            Apocalyptic Girl by Andrew Maclean, Dark Horse (June): I like Andrew MaClean's art style; it's at once clean and simple, yet with a utilitarian detail so I'm keen to see what this book with Dark Horse, the first stand alone comic which he's both written and drawn, and which looks very nice indeed, turns out. Another entry in the sci-fi genre, Aria finds herself alone at the end of the world with a cat named Jelly Beans. As she traipses through an overgrown city to search for an ancient relic with immeasurable power, it transpires that she may not be as alone as she thought after all. 

              Mox Nox by Joan Cornella, Fantagraphics (July): Published in Spanish in 2013, Cornella's comics are largely wordless, so translation isn't really the issue, as much as getting his work into the sphere of a wider audience and into book stores. His graphic six-panel strips usually follow a certain routine: something awful occurs, somebody attempts to rectify it, a solution is settled upon, one which all seem to be happy with, but one that leaves things worse than when they started. It's gross and utterly nonsensical, the story-telling so tight, so visually smart. i tend to assume people are as aware of things as I am, with regards to popular online artists, but I've talked to a number of people who don't haven't come across Cornella's work, so this should definitely help.

              The Divine by Tomer and Asaf Hanuka and Boaz Lavie, First Second (July): The Divine  follows the story of former military man Mike, whose humdrum civilian life is interrupted by his army friend Jason, who persuades him to take on a job which he assures him is easy money:  a covert, lucrative contract in an obscure, cicil-war ridden, South-Asian country called Quanlom. The job turns out be far from simple, however, as it turns oyut the civil war is being led by two 10-year old twins with supernatural powers. A 'fast-paced, brutal, and breathlessly beautiful portrait of a world where ancient powers vie with modern warfare and nobody escapes unscathed.' The Hanuka's can draw the living hell out of anything, and I doubt this will be anything less than stunning.

                Dunegon Monsters 5 My Son The Killer by Lewis Trondheim, Joan Sfar, Blutch, and Frederic Bezian, NBM (July): I enjoy Dungeon a lot, but the reason this is on here is because it's the volume that's illustrated by Blutch and Frederic Bezian (the English editions collect 2 French albums into one book)- 2 outstanding artists whose work I don't see enough of due a lack of French (here's a look at some Bezian pages). This volume gives the origins of Marvin the Dragon, and Gork and Krag, brothers and soldiers of hell. 

                Dalston Monstaz by Dilraj Mann, Nobrow (August): Originally slated for publication last year, I have it on very good authority, we will be seeing the first feature-length graphic novel from the immensely talented Dilraj Mann later in 2015, and here's the a little blurb to prove it: 'Dalston, East London… sometime in the future. Below the city’s creaking pavements, where the slabs sag from the weight of soulless new glass fronted apartment blocks, chain coffee shops and hoards of real estate agencies, the earth is beginning to crack. And from these fissures, like woodlice crawling from under ancient stone, the Monstazz emerge…' Mann's shorter comics have been very good and appropriate appetisers, but this sounds like something different from him, and I'm interested to see the direction it takes.

                Untitled by Sophie Franz, Retrofit Comics: Retrofit can always be counted upon to produce quality comics, and I'm particularly looking forward to books from Laura Knetzger, who just seems to get better and better, and Yumi Sakugawa, but most of all, I'm incredibly excited to read Sophie Franz's longest comic to date. If you read this blog, you'll know I'm pretty much gaga over Franz's work, so the possibility of this has me agog. The story revolves around a couple of little kids making adventures for themselves on a summer afternoon in Portland, trying to scare one another, building golems, and being followed by strange, scary shadow men. I'm not sure whether it'll be in colour or not, but keep an eye out for when Retrofit announce their subscription- this year is not one you want to miss.

                Step Aside, Pops! by Kate Beaton, Drawn & Quarterly (September):  A no-brainer entry for the final slot: Drawn & Quarterly will be publishing a new comics collection from the excellent Kate Beaton this September. Step Aside, Pops will collate a selection of Beaton's Hark! A Vagrant strips from her site and 2011 book of the same name, in addition to the inclusion of newer material. If you're wondering about the title, it's named after Beaton’s cartoon featuring a feisty velocipedestrienne, which you can read hereAnother collection of Beaton's smart, witty, unique-spin-on-history/literature comics is surely something everyone can get on board with.