Best Comics of 2014

by ryankl

I like to read comics, I like to share what I’ve read. I like to, where and when possible, expose people to new books. I hope this post does this in spades because 2014 was a bloody ripper of a year for comics.

Disclaimer: I have not read all books from the past 12 months. In fact, my reading has been sparse, though I’ve been hitting at least one floppy per day, just because I like to show the kids how you can set a goal that’s achievable, thank you New Year’s Resolution. Anyway, as I was typing, I haven’t read them all. I need to catch up on plenty, and I surely will. One day. So there is no EAST OF WEST because I have to get back in, etc.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS
The following books are ace. Get into them. I am safely vouching for them.

HIGH CRIMES – Mt Everest action in 99c chunks from Moustafa/Sebela
BATMAN – just flat out fun cape comics, top shelf high concepts from Snyder, superb Capullo art, lots to love
ELEKTRA – really dig the vibe/tone of this book, and the art is pretty top notch most of the time, plus those covers
STRANGE NATION – quirky and smart conspiracies from Romera/Allor
DAREDEVIL – always good, has shied away from great for me, lately, but is always so close, or gets there on occasion (I sound like I’m complaining, it’s a good book, ‘kay, Ryan, jeeeeez)
BLACK SCIENCE – very good, just missing out, I’m always enjoying the structure and pacing from Scalera/Remender
COPPERHEAD – came out of nowhere, has made me intrigued instantly
SOUTHERN BASTARDS – very good low level crime stuff from the Jasons (Latour/Aaron) – EDIT: on NYE I caught up on issue #4 and am now wondering if this should have been in the Top 10, it probably should/would/could have, but I’m lazy with my edit fu
THE FUSE – digging this low key high space procedural from Greenwood/Johnston
NAILBITER – enjoying the smooth flow of this serial killer jam from Henderson/Williamson
DEAD LETTERS – really intricate and insane stuff from Visions/Sebela
THE PRIVATE EYE – digital-only book from Martin/Vaughan is consistently well crafted, paced, structured, and fun
LAST BORN – weird and frenetic jam by Zawadzki/Meaney
AMBIENT YEAST – dysfunctional apocalyptic funtimes from Pat Grant
ORIGINAL SIN – I really dug the first two-thirds of this Marvel event from Deodato Jr/Aaron – the structure of the end was different – nature of the beast – but there’s a lot of fun stuff to dig on here, I think I was mostly just impressed that the Orb got to headline an event, man, what a world in which we currently reside
THE WICKED + THE DIVINE – a book I’d not have said would be in my wheelhouse but this McKelvie/Gillen jam is just bloody well told
BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA – this was way more fun than I’d expected, thoroughly digging delving into the Churilla/Powell pages every issue
SOLAR: MAN OF THE ATOM – a really slick take on an old propety from Bennett/Barbiere
PRIME 8s – I wish there’d been more of this Latino/Moreci insanity

DIY SPOTLIGHTS
I love great creator owned DIY comics. Below are some books that have been made because their owners screamed at the world and demanded to be heard. They’ll be hard to find, but they’re ace.

DUNGEON FUN – Slorence/Bell really pack in the fun and cool in this all ages fantasy romp
EXIT GENERATION – great interstellar hijinks and 80s action from Oliveira/Read
FROM ABOVE – an intriguing Aussie superhero dystopia from Craig Bryun that I think shows us a great creator on the scene down here
THE BROTHERS JAMES – the best grindhouse fast car revenge comic you’ll find anywhere in the world, Level/Ferrier are suh-laying it on this one
PROPELLOR – a superhero concept played low key and for the character beats, the pacing from Mo is on fire, and the art from Muriel is captivating

Aaaaaaaaand, now for the big show.

The Top 10 Comics of 2014

10 – SHELTERED
by Johnnie Christmas + Ed Brisson

Yes, I write essays in the back of this book, no, it’s not bias showing through. SHELTERED is just damn good comics. The pacing is great, the voices are clear, and Christmas with Shari Chankhamma colours is just all sorts of beautiful. This story of a prepping community gone wrong is pretty spectacular and wild, and with the recent events as we wind into the final reel, I truly cannot wait to see what happens next. And that’s the perfect sign of a damn good book.

9 – FIVE GHOSTS
by Chris Mooneyham + Frank J Barbiere

I come away from every issue of this book wanting to go back, read it again, and take my time. Because Mooneyham and Barbiere make each issue look easy, they make it seem simple. But the structure is key. The way stories are broken, the way pages are assigned, this book is a process nightmare for me because it does all the things well that I believe I can’t do. The dialogue is sparse. The iconic visual moments are plenty. And yet the story still hangs. I always worry I cannot do these things but FIVE GHOSTS gives me hope.

8 – SAGA
by Fiona Staples + Brian K Vaughan

I know this isn’t the best book on the stands. I know this, and so sometimes I worry I steer away from it just to prove this to myself every month. It gets adored like everyone knows it’s made with magic pixie dust and I don’t see it that way so I almost tell myself maybe it’s not that good. Like some sort of four colour hipster. And I do this because I am a BKV a acolyte and I want to make sure the book is this good.

And it is. It is this good. Because when this book is on fire, nothing can stop it. It succeeds, and this’ll come up a lot for me, because it’s a genre dirty bomb, taking in lots of things, heating them, and throwing them in your face. And the fact, at its core, this book is about parenting just double makes me smile.

7 – RAT QUEENS
by Roc Upchurch + Kurtis J Wiebe

I never would have said I needed some sword and sorcery comic in my world. I never played D&D as a youth, though did dig the cartoon and played my fair share of GAUNTLET. But this isn’t a genre itch I ever needed scratched and yet Wiebe lured me in and then I realised what this book is. It’s about the characters, these women, and their relationships, and their connection to their world, and their ability to kick ass and be funny.

I never thought I needed this book but now I’m so incredibly happy the whole world gets to enjoy it.

6 – THE MASSIVE
by Garry Brown + Brian Wood

This book has that density of world building I loved in DMZ, and it has strong characters like all his work, and it has Garry Brown on art with Jordie Bellaire colours and that’s always a treat for the peepers.

The idea of a post-post-apocalyptic book was intriguing, that it also then became something more is pretty damn cool. This is a character deconstruction of what we can become with a clean slate ahead of us but only the same old skills available at our hands. And from there the book goes to places I did not see coming. It is nice to be surprised.

5 – SEX CRIMINALS
by Chip Zdarsky + Matt Fraction

Another book I was pretty certain I didn’t need. And then it landed and completely defied my expectations. A time stopping sex comedy sounds like fun but instead what was delivered was this beautiful and haunting deconstruction of the minutiae that makes up our relationships, our sex lives, and the ways in which we see and categorise ourselves. Instead of some His Girl Friday with time stopping spunk we got a love story. A real love story. With problems. And laughs. And all the inappropriate stuff you shouldn’t mention. And it’s funny.

It probably goes without saying for all my top books but this book has some seriously fun and inventive craft on display. The way Zdarsky and Fraction use a page, or where words come from, or how to frame a joke is something worthy of being studied. You will be a better wholistic person for having read SEX CRIMINALS.

4 – FATALE
by Sean Phillips + Ed Brubaker

This weird fiction horror noir came to a close this year and I’m sad to see it go, though I’m also happy to see a series run a decent course without needing or go to 60 issues. The messed up story of Josephine though the years was a true noir pulp classic and it will be sorely missed, though THE FADE OUT is already filling that Phillips/Brubaker sized hole I keep in my heart.

3 – D4VE
by Valentin Ramon + Ryan Ferrier

At least now you’ll know why I hate Ryan Ferrier. He is this good. D4VE is another book skirting between a score of genres, and in the end defining itself as its own island in the seas of narrative conventions.

This is easily one of the funniest comics I read this year, while also having some kick ass action moments, and it was all strung together by dense, fun, and well acted art from Ramon. The story of D4VE’s midlife crisis amidst an alien invasion is so perfectly done. For $4 all up on ComiXology, I defy you to find better value.

Also, this book has been picked up by IDW for issue distribution before a trade collection in 2015. Get on that.

2 – DEADLY CLASS
by Wes Craig + Rick Remender

This book came out of nowhere and sledgehammered me in the face. But that’s not fair, it didn’t come out of nowhere, I saw it coming the whole time. BLACK SCIENCE was the Remender jam I was looking for – I’m a child of EC comics and I super dug his FEAR AGENT. And I am enjoying that sci fi romp over there but here, in the tumultuous school for assassins where Remender dumps all his youthful truths, I am at play with the synapse fireworks of a god.

And if the delightfully truthful teen yarns cranked up to eleven in the stakes don’t do it for you, then bloody well sit down and let me introduce you to Wes Craig. His art in this book is another process cache where we see scenes play out in different ways, pages used in the most experimental ways. I love everything about this book. That’s the gods honest truth.

1 – HAWKEYE
by David Aja, Annie Wu, + Matt Fraction

A weird yet sublime crime comic mashing up other genres…yeah, ‘You rannngggggggg?’ — this is exactly where my wheelhouse lays its foundations.

But seriously, this book is a process wonderland. And it’s funny. And it handles action perfectly. And it made me care about two leads I could not have cared less about for all the last three decades of my life. HAWKEYE is the book here I’m most looking forward to dusting off my old floppies of and revisiting in a few years’ time. This is a four colour storm in a teacup and we all need to be glad it’s been captured, and then learn the subtle lessons on display.

And so, these are my choices for books I dug this year. I hope you have a tidy list of 10 at hand. Tell a friend, they’ll thank you for it.

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