It’s been another strong year for digital comics in 2015 as we have seen new publishers and platforms debut, as well as continued strong offerings from the Big Two, as well as an amazing selection of self-published stories released online and via platforms like ComiXology Submit. So sit back and enjoy our list of the 10 most exciting and innovative digital comics from the past 12 months.
1. Aces Weekly (Aces Weekly)
David Lloyd’s digital art comic continues to merge the world of comics and art with another year of eclectic offerings. This year’s stand out has been Last Thursday from Emma Chinnery, with it’s time shifting narrative and sublime black and white artwork on sepia paper that feels incredibly tactile in this digital world (and bears an uncanny similarity to Lloyd’s own work). We’ve also seen indie superstar Rachael Smith join the team with her dream like Clara’s Shadow (which is as good as her more other work like Rabbit or House Party) as well as Aces’ global pedigree confirmed with gritty crime series Sicarios from Roberto Corroto and Ertito Montana. There was also final artwork from comic legend Herb Trimpe whose Firehawks series worked as a fitting tribute for the great man, while regulars like Dungeons and Burglars or The First Gentleman of the Apocalypse helped to give a sense of continuity from one year to the next.
Subscribe to Aces Weekly for £6.99 per month via their website
2. Adventures in Pulp
Another great example of the ‘can-do’ mentality of digital publishing. Rather than wait for a publisher, writer Brett Harris and artist Matthew Childers opted to release their stunning pulp anthology tales as weekly webcomics, with production values that are second to none. The stories mix classic pulp themes with slick contemporary visuals, and with 5 series currently available via their website they are also also getting a release via ComiXology as well. They range from sci-fi private eye Dick Ruby to Golden Age super villain prison adventure Hawk and A Handsaw, as well as time travel fantasy The Four Horsemen, intergalactic sci-fi Ashes of the Immortals and reluctant heroes and sentient dinosaurs in Jigsaw World. Each series takes traditional tropes from classic pulp but injects a contemporary edge to make them stand out from the crowd, with Childers’ visuals and colours making them feel both classic and modern in equal measure.
Read Adventures in Pulp via their website or purchase volumes 1-3 on ComiXology
3. Batman ’66 (DC Comics)
While it may have lost the Guided View transitions of the early issues, this retro-focused caped crusader tale is one of the most under-rated books on the DC roster. Taking the campy excess of the 60s TV shows, but giving it enough of a contemporary edge to make it plausible, it has run through the roster of classic villains and is now taking on some of Batman’s current foes and giving them a 60s makeover. It’s a superb antidote to the grimness of the current Snyder written main series with highlights this year including an incredibly faithful reimagining of Bane and the Knightfall story where he is portrayed as despicable Generale/Luchadore who breaks Batman’s back in the wrestling ring! We’ve also seen the Caped Crusader take on the Man from U.N.C.L.E. to complete the ultimate 60s team-up.
Purchase Batman ’66 from ComiXology
4. Modern polaxis (SUTU)
Web comic trailblazer Sutueatsflies (Neomad, NAWLZ) continues to push the boundaries of digital story-telling as he takes on the world of augmented reality. Although we’ve seen attempts at using AR in the past (Marvel’s AR app or Brian Haberlin’s Anomaly) none have woven the technology into the story quite like this. Polaris is a paranoid time traveller who writes down his experiences in a journal, yet hides key clues and messages in the pages which can only be accessed via the Polaxis iOS app. Viewing the pages through an iPhone or iPad you unlock secret story notes, as well as mind-blowing animation and interactive elements. Although it can be a difficult read due to the dense nature of the diary, it looks incredible and has a level of interaction and sophistication that is truly like reading a comic from the future!
Purchase the Modern Polaxis comic here (and watch a video demonstration)
5. Big Nemo (Electricomics)
One of four launch titles for the new digital comics platform from Alan and Leah Moore and friends. Big Nemo sees Moore and artist Colleen Dorran bring Windsor McKay’s classic character Little Nemo to the new platform to create a truly mind-blowing adventure. Mixing the classic look and feel of the Nemo character with a Guided View-esque series of transitions courtesy of the app, Nemo sees panels appear on screen to reveal the story and move the character through the story, with the tour de force being a superb scene aboard a roller coaster. A half way house between ComiXology’s Guided View and Madefire Motion Book engine, the juxtaposition of the classic artwork with this new technology makes for truly stunning read that perfectly captures the dreamlike world of Nemo.
Download the Electricomics iOS app here or read it via their desktop reader
6. The Kill Screen (Mike garley comics)
It seems ironic to include a story about a world where the internet has destroyed society and infected the population in the best digital comics of the year, but Mike Garley, Joshua Sherwell and Mike Stock’s dystopian indie series is no ordinary book. Mixing familiar tropes from series like post-apocalyptic series like the Walking Dead or Hunger Games, with video games, internet culture and good old fashioned action, The Kill Screen is a tour-de-force of indie publishing. In a world where the internet has infected all those who were online when ‘the kill screen’ struck, packs of ‘followers’ do battle in 8bit deathmatches and chase down those who aren’t on their teams. Garley’s script is slick and sharp and packed full of inventive concepts, while Sherwell’s visuals give the book a brooding menace, mixing classic line art with slick digital pixels for key scenes. Meanwhile letterer Mike Stock adds an extra layer of polish with ‘in-game graphics’ that pay homage to classic games and give the whole series a sublime mix of analogue and digital story-telling.
Purchase The Kill Screen on ComiXology
7. Smart Bomb!!
In a previous life, Will Overton worked on ’90s video games magazine like Superplay, which means he is perfectly placed to channel his years of expertise into this stunning new comics anthology. With more energy than a dozen Sonic the Hedgehogs caught in an Infinte loop, SmartBomb!! is the perfect comic for any retro gamer as the collection of comic stories from Overton and his pals all feel heavily influenced by classic games from the past. However the standout elements of this first issue are the beautiful editorial pages which break up the stories. These include a rundown of made up must play games and a guide to developing your own game and add a level of depth that other anthologies just don’t manage. Wil’s eye for detail and stunning use of fonts and colours make this an incredible package that sets a new high water mark for what can be achieved with a spark of creativity and a desire to make something cool!
Purchase SmartBomb!! for £1.49 from Gumroad
8. Universe (Panel Syndicate)
Trying to pick which of the 3 Panel Syndicate books (Universe, Barrier and The Private Eye) to include on our list was a bit like trying to choose your favourite child. Each have their own outstanding qualities and offer something unique, but there had to be a winner and for this list we have gone for Albert Montey’s stunning sci-fi series Universe – the book which Panel Syndicate’s own Marcos Martin ranks above his very own. We’ve seen three issues of the series so far which have each told their own unique story and the topics vary from love-sick homicidal robots to explorers at the end of the galaxy. Mixing vintage pulp characters with stunning sci-fi visuals, a quirky European sense of humour and some truly eye-catching designs and colouring, Universe is like Futurama reimagined by a subversive Euro comics creator and is one of those books that rewards repeat reading as it truly makes the most of every pixel on screen.
Purchase Universe from Panel Syndicate for a price of your choosing
9. War of the Woods: Season 3 (Monster Island Media)
A regular on this list, Matthew Petz’s tale of animals taking on alien invaders is not only one of the most imaginative and original books we have read in years, but also features our favourite protagonists in all of comics – Phin the Otter and his buddy Isaac the turtle, who he wears as a protective helmet! With Season 3 of this epic tale, we leap forward three months and the story is told in flashback by an old raccoon around the campfire which introduces a retrospective sense of genuine peril for our hero as we do not know what has happened to him in the interim. It’s a credit to Petz that he can makes this scenario so emotive, that by the end of the first issue you are genuinely concerned about out hero’s fate. Petz also pushes out the boat visually in this new series, by creating the whole issue as a long single scrolling page. Clocking in at an epic 20 screens, it is another moment of innovation from this fantastic series.
Purchase War of the Woods: Season 3 from ComiXology
10. X-Men 92 Infinite (Marvel Comics)
Resurrecting the ’90s animated series in Infinite Comic form, X-Men ’92 was one of the stand out titles from this year’s under-whelming Secret Wars summer crossover and one of the few Marvel Infinite titles released in 2015 that could hold a torch to previous offerings like Daredevil Road Warrior. Bringing back the characters from the classic animated series for a one-off adventure in the Battleworld, the line-up of Jubilee, Rogue, Gambit, Cyclops, Jean Grey and Beast take down a Sentinel in the mall in issue #1 before taking on Baron Kelly and the Clear Mountain Project. With plenty of references to the animated series, as well as some classic 90s easter eggs (Xtreme Laser tag anyone?!), and an infectious sense of fun it was both a glorious trip down memory lane as well as one of the more enjoyable X-Men stories of the year as it wasn’t bogged down with the main roster’s angst and baggage.
Purchase X-Men ’92 Infinite from ComiXology
Barrier (Panel Syndicate)
Being the second best Panel Syndicate book is no mean feat as Barrier manages to keep the Eisner Award winning The Private Eye from our list. Brian K Vaughan and Marcos Martin’s tale of immigration and illegal aliens on the south Texas border is told as only they can, with some dazzling visuals and a story that keeps you second guessing until the final page.
Purchase Barrier from Panel Syndicate
Captain Stone Is Missing and Mono (Madefire)
2015 has seen the conclusion of arcs from two of Madefire’s original characters as Captain Stone Is Missing and Mono: The Old Curiosity Shop have both reached their epic conclusions. Both continue to push the boundaries between comics and animation and we hope 2016 will see more original motion book content from Liam Sharp and Ben Wolstenholme as their output so far has been truly exceptional. Download the Madefire app for iPad and read Captain Stone Is Missing and Mono
Strangers in Paradise (Thrillbent)
It may seem odd to be recommending a 20 year old print comic in ‘Best Digital Comic of 2015’ but Terry Moore’s seminal series was reinvigorated this year thanks to a weekly release on Mark Waid’s Thrillbent, reminding the world of what a truly ground-breaking series it was and introducing a whole new generation to the world of Katchoo, Francine, David and co.
Read Strangers in Paradise via Thrillbent.