Monday, January 5, 2015

My 25 Fave Comic Books of 2014

Another year over and a new one just begun, which means it's time to take a look back at the best in the comic book world for 2014 - or at least my faves of the year.. As a comic book aficionado from waaay back, it's kind of surprising that I have not tried my hand at naming my favourite comic books of the year before now. But finally, here it is.  What did I learn from compiling this list? Nothing surprising. I already knew that Image was my favourite comic book company, and that is proven by the inclusion of nine Image books on this list. Image is followed by DC with five (although one is technically Vertigo, it still counts), and Marvel with four books. But enough of this, let's get on with the countdown. So, without further ado, here are my choices for the 25 best comic books of the year. Let's get this countdown going. Oh, hold on a sec! I should probably toss ya'll some runners-up here as well. There were more than 25 great comic books out this year, so here is a shout out to some that didn't quite make the list, and these runners-up are, in no particular order: Lazarus (Image), Astro City (Vertigo/DC), Revival (Image), Wytches (Image), Lumberjanes (Boom!), X-O Manowar (Valiant), Alex + Ada (Image), Wicked & the Divine (Image), Black Widow (Marvel), The Walking Dead (Image - yeah, it actually missed the cut), Rachel Rising (Abstract Studio), Rai (Valiant), The Fifth Beatle (M Press), This One Summer (First Second), Manifest Destiny (Image), and Life With Archie (Archie Comics - RIP Archie Andrews). And now, let's get on with things. Oh, wait another sec! I want to give out a special mention first, and then on with the countdown. Huzzah!

Special Mention: Bitch Planet (Image) - This Kelly Sue DeConnick/Valentine de Landro series has only had one issue released so far, so I don't think I can rightfully include it on the best of 2014. I mean, I guess I could, but I wouldn't feel right. But I can tell ya'll this, it is almost a sure bet for next year's list, and very possibly pretty high up on that list. For now though, you should really be reading this Grindhouse-esque new book. Issue two will be out later this month.

25. D4VE (Monkeybrain) - A webcomic by writer Ryan Ferrier and artist Valentin Ramon, this series is about a once brave and proud warrior robot, who after peace is brought about, becomes stuck in a hum-drum office job, schlubbing through his days, hoping for something to break him out of his soul-sucking workaday life. This cheeky, sardonic webcomic will actually see print in 2015, as IDW will be releasing it in the Springtime.

24. Green Arrow (DC) - Jeff Lemire is easily one of my favourite writers working in comics today. His run on DC's Animal Man could have easily made this list as well, but that series ended its run just after the new year, therefore I give you Green Arrow. Granted, Lemire, as well as artist extraordinaire Andrea Sorrentino, left the title this past Fall (I'm still up in air on the new creative team), but their run was one of my favourites in DC's New 52 era. But there's more Lemire coming up later in the countdown.

23. Rat Queens (Image) - This is a goddamn fun comic book! Seriously, that is, by far, the best way to describe Rat Queens. Goddamn fun! Goddamn fun, indeed! Created and written by Kurtis J. Wiebe, with art by Roc Upchurch, this book takes an irreverent look at a foursome of badass women warriors. Foul-mouthed, butt-kicking, and often sexually wild (especially the bisexual halfling, Betty), these Rat Queens are a hoot and a half. In fact they are goddamn fun, indeed!

22. Beautiful Darkness (Drawn & Quarterly) - Writer Fabien Vehlmann and artist Kerascoët (the latter being the combined nom de plume of creators Marie Pommapuy and Sabastien Cosset) is a fascinating creature of a book. A combination of cutesy, wide-eyed artwork and dark, downright creepy storytelling, Beautiful Darkness is a gorgeous yet unnerving melange. 

21. East of West (Image) - Created by writer Jonathan Hickman (you know, that Avengers guy) and artist Nick Dragotta, this sci-fi western series takes a look at a dystopian former United States, complete with the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Perhaps a bit strange and/or unusual for the average comic book reader, at least one who only reads the mainstream superhero books of the Big 2, but for the more discerning comic book reader, this one is a thrilling ride.

20. Pretty Deadly (Image) - Hey look, another Image title! Yup, this gorgeous esoteric mystical horror western (is that even a genre?) ran for five issues in 2014 before taking a rather long hiatus, hopefully returning for volume 2 sometime in 2015. But while it was around, it was a thing of beauty. Written by Kelly Sue DeConnick, with art by Spanish artist Emma Rios, this series is one I can't wait to come back. Come back Kelly Sue. Come back Emma. Come back.

19. Ant Colony (Drawn & Quarterly) - Michael DeForge has been drawing his Ant Comic online for years now, and finally, in 2014, we got to see a real live graphic novel collection of these bizarro webcomics. DeForge's unique artistic style, and esoteric storytelling (philosophical ants, nihilistic bees, what have you) is probably not for everyone, but I know I think it is pretty darn great.

18. She-Hulk (Marvel) - She-Hulk has always been a favourite of mine. Granted, Marvel has not always done a very good job of showcasing this great character, but occasionally they do get it right. They got it right when John Byrne took the intrepid lawyer-cum-gamma radiated superhero on, in his meta series of the 1980's, and they got it right again this past year, as Charles Soule and Javier Pulido take on the character. I only wish this series would have a longer life, as it will be ending with issue #12.

17. Prophet (Image) - Way back in the comic book excesses of the 1990's, Rob Liefeld created a character called the Prophet. Liefeld being Liefeld, this character was an over-the-top (both narratively and visually) creature of his time. Many years later, Image, the creator-owned company of which Liefeld was co-founder, brought the character back as one of several clones searching the planets ten thousand years from now. Written by Brandon Graham, the series has a 4-man rotating artist schedule, consisting of Simon Roy, Farel Dalrymple, Giannis Milonogiannis, and Graham himself. Sadly, Prophet came to an end this past year, but perhaps it will get resurrected again, in another twenty tears or so.

16. Teen Titans: Earth One (DC) - The best thing about DC's earth One series of hardback graphic novels (and there is a lot of great things things about this series) is that new writers and artists can take long established cahracters and recreate them any damn way they want to. And it is with this fresh approach that writer Jeff Lemire (yeah, him again) and artist Terry Dodson, create another great Earth One entry. But hey, we're not done with Jeff Lemire quite yet. He'll be coming up again in the countdown.

15. Wonder Woman (DC) - This sensational character has been around for more than 70 years now, but it was only recently, upon DC's New 52 reboot, that she was transformed into a demi-god. This is what brought the whole Greek mythology aspect into the title (I've always been a sucker for the Greek Gods) and with the writing of the great Brian Azzarello, and art of Cliff Chiang, this is what made the title the best regular series of that aforementioned New 52 reboot. The title has a new creative team now, but Azzarello and Chiang's run is one for the books.

14. Andre the Giant (First Second) - I've always been a fan of Box Brown. His simply drawn mini-comics are always great fun. Here he takes on the life of legendary French born wrestler and actor (yes, actor!) Andre Roussimoff. Through a series of interviews and memoirs, Brown gathers up the tragic tale of this (literally?) larger than life human being, and puts it all together in a wonderfully simple, yet surprisingly sleek new graphic novel.

13. Deadly Class (Image) - Image just keeps popping up in the countdown, eh? Here they are again with this Rick Remender created tale of 1980's teen runaways who also happen to be budding assassins. Think Hogwarts for the wayward psychopath. With art by Wes Craig, Remender weaves intricate tales of teen angst blended with murder and mayhem. Fun stuff indeed.

12. Black Science (Image) - And speaking of both Image Comics and Rick Remender, here they are again. This time, with artist Matteo Scalera, Remender puts together the beautifully convoluted story of a man's quest to traverse alternate realities with his family. Needless to say, things do not go well. The comic though, does quite well, and is a must read for any and all fans of sci-fi.

11. Trillium (DC/Vertigo) - I toldjya Jeff Lemire was going to pop up again. This 8-issue limited series had half its run in 2013 and half in 2014, but we are going to give this trippy space drama to 2014. Written and drawn by Lemire, while he was finishing up Animal Man and just starting to heat up over at Green Arrow, Trillium is an inter-dimensional, time-travelling space opera love story adventure comic, and yet another great work from DC's Vertigo imprint.

10. Hawkeye (Marvel) - Matt Fraction has been a fave of mine for many a year now. His take on Marvel's FF was one of the best comic series of the past few years. Now here he is with Hawkeye, and once again, it is one of the best. With wonderful art by David Aja, Hawkeye follows the Avenger into his so-called private life, and sees him taking on being a landlord and juggling all the women in his life. To give away some spoilers, he does not do the latter one very well at all. Fraction and Aja have ended their run on Hawkeye (and Jeff Lemire - yeah, that guy again - will be taking over in 2015) but what a run it has been.

9. All-New X-Men (Marvel) - It was the X-Men that first got me into reading comics. That was 1976. Now here we are nearly forty years later (wow, I'm getting old) and back at the beginning...sorta. You see, Hank McCoy, in trying to get a grasp on the whole Scott Summers thing, has brought the original teenage X-Men into the present day, and now they are stuck here. Written by Brian Michael Bendis, who has done wonders with the X-Men in the past, this series is what the other current X-books should be.

8. Manhattan Projects (Image) - Created by writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Nick Pitarra, this fun series takes a look behind the legendary Manhattan Project, only to find aliens, talking space dogs, robotic Nazis, other dimensions, a bad-ass Albert Einstein, and a psychotic bi-polar Oppenheimer. Fun fun fun. The series ended this past year, but will be restarted later this year. I for one, cannot wait.

7. Through the Woods (Margaret K. McElderry Books) - Emily Carroll has taken the fairy tale, the old time ghost story, the legends and lore of our haunted past, and weaved them together in a particularly beautiful looking hardback collection. From the artist-writer's complex, haunting tales of despair and wonderment, to her gorgeous use of colours, this is easily the best one shot comic book/graphic novel of the year.

6. Saga (Image) - Yeah, I know. This was seems to be on every list, and has been for several years now, but hey, when something is this good, it can not be denied. Sort of Romeo and Juliet in another galaxy, this award winning series is written by Brian K. Vaughan and illustrated by Fiona Staples, and is one of the best sci-fi comics ever put out on the market. The series has been running for several years now, without ever dipping in quality. You cannot say that about too many comic book series. And hey, it's yet another Image title. Howzabout that!?

5. Ms. Marvel (Marvel) - Sure, anyone can create a character to counteract the lack of diversity in comics, but it takes more than that to make it something as good as this book is. There has been a lot of talk recently, about that lack of diversity in comic books. The past couple of years have begun to take a fresh new turn in such things, as more and more talented women have been finally getting their due in the still mostly white male dominated comic book industry. Several of these women have already been talked about on this list. Now we get the story of a teenage Muslim girl who gains superpowers, and it too is written by a woman. G. Willow Wilson does a great job balancing the superhero aspect with the religious aspects, all the while keeping her star a realistic teenage girl. A wonderful wonderful book, and hopefully just the beginning of the change toward diversity in comics. 

4. Mind Mgmt. (Dark Horse) - Matt Kindt, one of my favourite comic book writers, is getting ready to finish up his run on this creator-owned spy series, which is kind of sad, but it has had one hell of a run. The mysterious tales of intrigue and espionage (and perhaps some rather otherworldly aspects as well), Kindt's series is a sharp witted, and sharply drawn, beaut of sequential art. With its mysteries abounding, and secret agent-esque thrills throughout, this series will surely be missed.

3. Multiversity (DC) - In my opinion, you can't go wrong with a Grant Morrison written comic book. Combine that with a rotating slew of some of the best artists working today, including Frank Quitely, and Cameron Stewart, and a series of alternate reality scenarios, all depicting different aspects of the DC Universe's vast vast vast array of multiple universes, and you easily have the best damn limited series event in many a year. Did I mention that the whole thing is written (and created) by Grant Morrison? Yeah. You can't beat that.

2. Afterlife With Archie (Archie Comics) - I picked up the first issue of this horror/zombie series because my LCS was on one of the variant covers. I never dreamed I would like the damn thing, let alone fall fast in love with it, and eventually place it in the penultimate spot on my year end list, but hey, here it is. Written by Robert Aguirre-Sacasa and drawn by Francesco Francavilla, this zombie apocalypse comes to Riverdale series was actually based on a variant cover Francavilla did for Life With Archie a few years back. I am really glad I picked up that first issue. 

1. Sex Criminals (Image) - Yup. No surprise here. At least no surprise if you know me. I have done nothing but loudly praise this book since it first appeared in September of 2013. Writer Matt Fraction (one of my faves, as you probably already know, as well as the only creative talent to make the top ten more than once) and artist Chip Zdarsky have concocted an often hilarious book on sex and love and the magical ability to stop time when you orgasm. Yeah, that's right. And hey, this book is so damn good that even the letters columns are worth reading the whole way through. Heck, even the covers alone are worth the price of admission. And yes, it is yet another Image book. Yup. My fave comic book of 2014.

That's it gang. See ya 'round the web.

5 comments:

  1. I wonder if Wonder Woman aged like us normal gals how she would look in her little outfit (the Horror, the Horror). Rat Girls sounds funny. I like that Andre the Giant is remembered in this way.

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  2. Well, you didn't sell me on all of them. But, you got me to add a bunch to a list that is getting upsettingly long considering my completionist tendencies. A few were already on my top list, and so far I've liked the ones I have tried from your list.

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  3. WW would always look good...at any age!

    Charlie - Glad to be of some help. I am curious as to which ones with which I was convincing and with which ones I was not.

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  4. You sold me on East of West, Prophet, Trillium, Black Science, and Wonder Woman. Wonder Woman was barely a sell. Unusual or weird plot or ideas are a big deal for me. For WW, it was pretty much one word that did it-mythology. I like a lot of characters that play with their "mythic nature". I'm kind of biased against traditional superheroes, though-too static.

    Like, I've been reading Saga for a while now. It's got so much weird stuff and great characters. But you wouldn't have sold me on it here.

    This kind of review of Multiversity probably would have sold me. Morrison is probably in my top 5 comic book writers, so a mention of his name is almost enough.

    I'm surprised to see Archie on the list. I don't see why it is from the description. I haven't heard much about it.

    I've been curious about She-Hulk. I'd heard good about the meta version. I don't see why this version is good from your description.

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  5. Yeah, these were just blurbs on the comics I like. Glad to see you were sold on some of 'em though. Funny though that I have already dropped two of the titles on this list. I have not enjoyed the new creative teams on WW and GA, so I no longer get them each month. But hey, Lemire may not be doing Green Arrow anymore, but he is taking up the Hawkeye mantle in March. Huzzah!

    Saga is brilliantly weird. Love it! and yes, Grant Morrison's name is the sell for me as well, but Multiversity goes even deeper than that. I would love to see some of the worlds that Morrison visits her to be expanded into their own series'. Morrison has said he would like that too.

    As for Afterlife w/ Archie, that title is on pretty much every best of list for the year. A huge (and rather surprising) smash.

    Keep on keepin' on, and thanx for stopping by. See ya 'round the web.

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