Our judges have adjudicated; our readers have voted. We’re proud to present to you the best teen comic of 2015 — and four great runners up.

  • Runner Up: Zodiac Starforce

    Zodiac Starforce might be the purest, most straightforward American take on the Magical Girl genre. Its tropes are recognizable to anyone who’s seen Sailor Moon; a group of teenage girls is given powers (as well as themed names and color-coded uniforms) by a cosmic being in order to fight a specific extra-dimensional foe. That’s not to say it isn’t also a teen superhero comic. There’s a lot of overlap between the two genres, and this book fits well within both.

    But regardless of which lens you use to view it, Zodiac Starforce is a comic about teenage girls. Writer Kevin Panetta and artist Paulina Ganucheau really breathe life into these girls too. The comic mostly focuses on action, but the characters are so well-defined that we quickly feel like we know them as people. The dynamics of their friendships are readily clear, as are their relationships outside the group. It’s a fantasy comic set in high school, but in fact it may also be about the high school experience. After all, the evil villain is a popular kid who has the superpower to turn your friends against you, which will feel eerily familiar to anyone who’s ever been a teenager. [Elle Collins]

  • Runner Up: Jem And The Holograms

    You know what I always wanted as a teenager? Characters who were like me but bigger. Better. Who dared to dye their hair. Because of that, I can’t imagine what Jem & The Holograms is doing to the current generation of comics readers, but it surely can only be doing the world some good. The series is about music and image and worth — how much do you value yourself? How much do you need other people to value you? — but actually tends to stick the musical interludes into easily-skippable splash page spreads, all the better for readers to jump forward and get back into the meaty character moments.

    This is a series that is very much about giving readers maybe fifteen characters to choose between, so they can pick whoever they associate with most and root for them each issue, and it’s a joy because of it. Sophie Campbell’s art dominates, but Kelly Thompson’s hard work with the various characters should never be overlooked. It’s wonderful stuff, doing all kinds of exciting things to the minds of youths across the world. [Steve Morris]

  • Runner Up: Gotham Academy

    In a strange world in which most Batman comics are written for middle-aged men, Gotham Academy has created a perfect little corner within the Batman mythology for readers of all ages and genders. Writers Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher, with Karl Kerschl and various other artists, started with the boarding school story, a time-tested English genre that has established a foothold in this century and the United States by way of Harry Potter. Then they placed their boarding school firmly within Batman’s corner of the DC Universe. And I don’t just mean that the school’s in Gotham. I mean that Bruce Wayne is a donor, classic Bat-villains occupy various roles within the school, and one of the students is secretly a manbat.

    If you read Gotham Academy without being a Batman fan, it works as a story about students attending a school full of mysteries. If you are a Batman fan, you’ll see a lot more familiar faces and names, but the mysteries remain mysterious. Either way, you get a fun, engaging ongoing story about young protagonists and their relationships and adventures at the creepiest high school in a creepy city. [Elle Collins]

  • Runner Up: Lumberjanes

    Lumberjanes is one of the most lauded new comic book series of the last few years, and for good reason. Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Shannon Watters and Brooke A. Allen’s book about life at Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp For Hardcore Lady Types has captured the interests of readers of all ages as it tells the adventures of a group of best friends solving mysteries at a summer camp. Already, the book has presented mysteries of gods and goddesses, possessions, shapeshifters, cryptozoology and far, far more, with no end to the imagination.

    In 2015, the book reached two more milestones. In July, the book won its first two Eisner Awards. More recently, it sensitively and enthusiastically revealed that one of its lead characters is a transgender girl. The compassion the series affords to Jo is typical of the compassion the series shows to its readers; Lumberjanes cares. Together with its humour and it’s energetic cartooning, it’s easily one of the best books of the year, for teens and adults alike. [James Leask]

  • Winner: Ms. Marvel

    Just about every teenager in history feels like an outsider with secrets to hide and something to prove; adding superpowers only makes the inherent metaphor explicit. In Kamala Khan, G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona have created the most relatable teenage superhero since the original Spider-Man.

    Kamala’s impossible not to relate to, a Pakistani-American everywoman who has fears and crushes and friends and a meddling family, all wrapped up in the understandable desire to do good in the world with the power she has. Wilson’s dialogue is true-to-life, with strong character work for Kamala’s supporting cast, and the titular heroine’s constant excitement at meeting other superheroes is contagious. Alphona’s expressive, packed panels, and soft lines convey more character details in individual panels than most comics can squeeze inside a full issue. Ms. Marvel is a joyful, incredible story of a young woman discovering her true potential, with a creative team that only gets better issue by issue. [Ziah Grace]


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