Comics Alliance Best of 2015: Best First Issue of 2015
Our judges have adjudicated; our readers have voted. We're proud to present to you the best first issue of 2015 — and five great runners up.
Runner-Up: Jem and the Holograms #1
This first issue begins by answering your very first question about Jem and the Holograms, a question any adult who watches the original cartoon will ask: Why does Jerrica Benton, who is beautiful and talented, need to disguise herself to be a rock star? In the opening pages, we see Jerrica unable to record a music video with her sisters because of her crippling stage fright. We learn why her Jem identity is necessary, and how it’s possible (holographic AI inherited from her father; it’s a whole thing), and we see it happen. On the last page, Jem is born.
The Misfits, the rival band central to the cartoon, don’t appear, but their presence hangs over the issue as the Holograms prepare to enter a contest sponsored by them. And after seeing artist Sophie Campbell’s amazing redesigns of the Holograms, the prospect of seeing the Misfits is even more exciting. You could call Kelly Thompson’s writing decompressed, but this issue gives you the full story of Jem’s origin, and leaves you riveted to see what’s next. [Elle Collins]
Runner-Up: Monstress #1
2015 was blessed with a huge number of fantastic first issues, but if most of those books kicked in the door and hit the ground running, Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda's Monstress blew the door off its hinges and then surfed it down an erupting volcano. Part of that is sheer volume; Monstress #1 clocked in at a staggering 66 pages that kept a level of excitement and quality up for the whole ride — but the rest of it was how well the world-building came together and how strikingly beautiful Takeda's art is. It's a shockingly violent revenge story that earns every bit of its lavishly rendered brutality, a horror fantasy that lives up to both of those words in the way that very few comics can. So yes, while quantity might give it the edge, rest assured that the quality is there on every single page. [Chris Sims]
Runner-Up: Vision #1
In a roster of relaunches billed as 'all-new, all-different', The Vision #1 stood out by virtue of actually feeling both new and different. It takes a high-concept that could be played as wacky – the Vision builds himself a family and moves to suburbia – and finds the quiet horror in it.
In the eerily placid opening, Gabriel Hernandez Walta manages to make the silence of each panel visible, so that the house's floating mailbox sticks out all the more, like the insects seething under the surface of Blue Velvet's suburban streets. When we meet the family, Walta's designs place them right in the uncanny valley, playing up their unnatural uniformity and those cold pupil-less eyes, and Tom King matches that in the detached voices of each character. The sense of unease builds and builds over the issue, until it explodes out in the issue's horrifying conclusion.
Fair warning: it's a very wordy comic, full of narrative captions and philosophizing speech balloons. The reading experience is a little cold and overly cerebral – but when you're dealing with the Vision, that's only appropriate. [Alex Spencer]
Runner Up: Archie #1
Archie Comics’ transformation in the past decade has been an incredible example of a publisher rebuilding itself from the ground up without losing the original magic. There’s been a strong push for a modern-day Archie, one that engages with the issues of today like technology, multiple timelines, and zombies. That this year had an actual reboot of the main series only further demonstrates the publisher’s commitment to the future, and tapping two undeniable comic book superstars like artist Fiona Staples and writer Mark Waid to head up the reboot gave “America’s Favorite Teenager” the shot in the arm he needed.
Archie’s guilelessness and inherent likability has rarely been as well conveyed as with Waid’s writing in the issue, and Staples’ art and character design make the characters as recognizably modern as they are recognizably inspired by Dan DeCarlo’s enduring designs. It’s a first issue that could be taught in classes for how well it does exactly what it should: Archie #1 introduces ongoing plot elements, explores a Riverdale that’s rarely been drawn better, and most importantly, demonstrates just why it is that these characters have endured for almost a century. [Ziah Grace]
Runner Up: Paper Girls #1
Nostalgia is a weird thing; it can be something to treasure, but it can also gloss over the worse elements of a time in someone’s life. Paper Girls #1, from Brian K. Vaughan, Cliff Chiang and Matthew Wilson, presented both of those things: a glimpse of childhood in the '80s, both Spielbergian in its innocence, and also darker in its violence and prejudice. Glimpsed through the lens of a group of newspaper delivery girls facing the threat of older teens and also an extraterrestrial invasion, the first issue of the book starts slowly but increases the pressure and tension from the normal to something more sinister.
Of course, it’s also a showcase for Chiang and Wilson’s incredible art; Chiang captures the different personalities of the paper girls in their posture and their styles, while Wilson brings a moody, lush colour to the world. By the end of the first issue, you know you have to read the second to see how the story unfolds. [James Leask]
Winner: Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #1
So much happens in this comic that I double-checked that it’s not double-sized. And it’s not, it’s just chock full of story and humor. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, by Ryan North and Erica Henderson, has a tone and a storytelling style unlike any other superhero comic, and it’s all there in this first issue.
The book opens with Squirrel Girl effortlessly beating up some muggers while she sings her own theme song. And because it’s written to the tune of the classic Spider-Man TV theme from the 1960’s, just about any reader will be able to sing along. The sequence immediately makes two things clear: First, this is a book that’s not afraid to be silly in the pursuit of fun. Second, Squirrel Girl herself is never the butt of the joke; Squirrel girl is competent and awesome. After that perfect intro, Squirrel Girl moves to college, meets a cute boy and her roommate and soon-to-be BFF Nancy, and even defeats a formidable supervillain in the form of Kraven the Hunter. Her new status quo is established, as is the book’s tone. The issue even ends with a perfect cliffhanger — Galactus is coming. [Elle Collins]