1. Princess Leia (No. 2, May 2015, Marvel) – Mark Waid, Terry Dodson, Rachel Dodson & Jordie Bellaire
If you’re going to read only one Star Wars title this year, writer Mark Waid’s Princess Leia is your best bet. Hands down the most surprising and well-written of any of the newest Marvel iterations, Waid picks up where George Lucas left off in 1983 with Episode VI as Leia mourns the genocide of her people while simultaneously searching for the last remaining citizens of Alderaan. Artists Terry Dodson and Rachel Dodson do a brilliant job of adding vulnerability and complexity to a character we all think we’re familiar with from the original trilogy. Unlike the creative teams behind the slew of other Star Wars titles, the Dodsons have quite consciously attempted not to be too beholden to the likeness of actress Carrie Fisher in their representation of Leia. The choice adds to the subconscious credibility of the world that Waid has reimagined as we get to learn, as if for the first time, in depth the aesthetic and cultural contributions of the terrestrial planet that was once Alderaan. An excerpt of the dialogue between Leia and her father:
FATHER: You’re supposed to be in language study. Take off those gauntlets and put this on right now.
LEIA: I’m sick of languages. What’s the point? So I can listen to dull ambassadors all day, like mother does?
FATHER: Like a queen does.
LEIA: I don’t want to spend my life that way. Humoring people and frowning at problems and “arriving carefully at measured decisions” . . . ugh. I want to be in on the action.
FATHER: Soldiers are a thing of Alderaan’s past, Leia. As heiress to the throne, you’re of its future.
LEIA: Other people get to do what they love! Doesn’t a princess get to think of herself?
FATHER: Sometimes. Of others? Always. / Remember when we talked about Ruica? Trading for seeds, growing them here? Once you really understand that, you understand everything. We work for peace with other planets and harmony with our own. / The galaxy knows Alderaan as “The Planet of Beauty.” Nature, poetry, philosophy, art, couture, cuisine — We freely share all, with all. But the temptation to belligerence can never be erased. You — must struggle to keep the culture focused on creativity, love and life. Whatever happens, Leia . . . / . . . You must keep Alderaan alive.
2. Spider-Gwen (No. 2, May 2015, Marvel) – Jason Latour, Robbi Rodiriguez & Rico Renzi
Less convoluted than Spider-verse and a step above all of the other Spider Woman titles, issue #2 of Jason Latour’s Spider-Gwen will win over fans who have never gotten a taste of Rodriguez and Renzi’s color palette. Those who primarily know the Gwen Stacy character from Director Marc Webb’s Amazing Spider-Man movies will get a particular kick out of seeing the progression of Gwen’s conflicted relationship with her dad Captain Stacy. Long time Spidey fans will most likely be cheered up by the introduction of Spider-Ham as Gwen’s imaginary porky sidekick/conscience.
3. Abigail and the Snowman (No. 4, Mar 2015, KaBOOM!) – Roger Langridge & Fred Stresing
Ideal for parents who are looking for child-friendly starters, Abigail and the Snowman is quite easily the best child-centric title in KaBOOM’s ever-expanding 2015 catalog. What makes writer and illustrator Roger Langridge’s labor of love especially readable for both kids and adults alike is the authentic British sensibility and particular English sense of humor that Langridge relies on to present the details of Abigail’s single parent home. As our young heroine acclimates to a new school, Abigail struggles to shield her new friend, an invisible abominable snowman, from the prying, malevolent gaze of the government. Will she succeed? All in all, a lovely little four part story with a genuine moral message about friendship and growing up.
4. Rat Queens (No. 9, Mar 2015, Image) – Kurtis J. Wiebe & Stjepan Sejic
Now that the long-awaited post-Roc Upchurch issue of Rat Queens is finally out, fans who were worried last year about the new art can finally have their fears alleviated. New Rat Queens artist Stjepan Sejic has done a remarkable job of capturing both the vulnerability and strength of our favorite sword and sorcery adventurers. Delving further into the troubled psychogeography of elven mage Hannah, 2015’s first real issue of Rat Queens doesn’t skip a beat in terms of upping the ante of last year’s second story arc that opened with the summoning of a Loftcraftian tentacled god. Ardent readers will find Sejic’s nuanced handling of the D&D quartet’s loyalty to one another particularly endearing.
5. Ant-Man (No. 3, May 2015, Marvel) – Nick Spencer, Ramon Rosanas & Jordan Boyd
Quite possibly the funniest title in Marvel’s 2015 catalog, issue #3 of writer Nick Spencer’s labor of love made me laugh out loud as our favorite ant-sized superhero and single dad Scott Lang attempts yet again to start his life over by setting up his own security firm with the help of Grizzly (i.e., a disgruntled guy in a bear suit). Things go pear shaped as Ant-Man’s “arch-enemy” Taskmaster decides to crash the party. TASKMASTER: “You seriously think you’re my arch-enemy?” / ANT-MAN: “What are you talking about? We’ve practically got a blood feud going! We’ve fought lots of times!” / TASKMASTER: “We have?” / ANT-MAN: “Yeah! There was that time with Wasp and Yellowjacket, that time with Spider-Man, and that other time with Hawkeye — that one was intense –” / TASKMASTER: Brother, I — I don’t know how to tell ya this, but — I was there to fight those guys — you know, real super heroes?”