It’s the end of January 2015! So you know what that means, it’s time to look back at 2014.
Yes this would have made more sense in December… just try roll with it.
Firstly, something that has to be said: Comics are a very personal medium and my opinions will doubtlessly differ from yours. When I say “X is the best comic of 2014” what I’m really saying is “I enjoyed X more than any other comic in 2014 as far as I can recall right now, you proabably liked something more. That’s cool, what did you like? Oh yeah, I’ve heard that’s good. Let’s be friends.”
So please don’t take this list too seriously if you disagree.
Disclosure: I’ve popped in some Amazon links and a Comixology link for each winner, where applicable. The Amazon link will toss me a few pennies if you buy it via that link, which will help me buy more things to review. I absolutely understand if that makes you uncomfortable and you don’t want to follow the link even if you are off to buy it, no hard feelings. Meanwhile I have no affiliation with Comixology so following that link won’t do anything for me, but I wanted to put it in for you folk who prefer digital comics. I figure it saves you the time of looking it up since Comixology’s search function can be a little wonky.
Right, let’s begin with a straightforward category:
Best Superhero Comic
For this category I picked from anything that is a straightforward super hero book, and anything that’s clearly set in a super hero world. That let stuff like Gotham Academy qualify which would usually be in limbo between categories, which wouldn’t be fair as it’s a great book.
When Ms. Marvel was announced, we all knew it had potential. Reimagining Captain Marvel’s old identity as a modern Muslim teenager was a smart and surprising move on Marvel’s part.
The final result absolutely lived up to expectations.
G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona created a comic that feels like Spider-Man for a new generation. Funny and entertaining, Ms. Marvel is a great comic book that feels simultaneously full of fresh new ideas while playing with the super hero origin trope.
Best Debut Issue from Image, BOOM! Studios, Archaia etc.
This category refers to companies who are often referred to as indies, but are realistically competing with Marvel and DC for your money. There’s a separate category coming up for the “real“ indie companies that are much more DIY than the big guns like Dark Horse and their ilk.
Specifically this award is for the best new non-superhero series that started in 2014, in the interest of fairness it’s specifically for the first issue. By doing it this way anything that started back in Q1 doesn’t have an advantage over anything just a couple of months old.
Winner: Bitch Planet
I was casually looking forward to Bitch Planet but the final result we got far exceeded my expectations. With Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro first issue I was expecting a fun 70s movie throwback which is exactly what we got… except it also had wickedly clever satire and painfully relevant commentary on today’s world.
I said it in my review but Bitch Planet is a comic everybody should read, it’s important. Underneath the story is a message that everyone should be thinking about.
Buy Bitch Planet on Comixology.com
Best Indie Comic
I use indie here to describe comics which are either self-published or put out by tiny distributors. Image, BOOM! Studios and the like are just too big to qualify for this category.
Tons of indie comics come out every year but they’re often eclipsed by the bigger releases, which is a shame because they’re just as worthy of attention. Now before I go on I have to admit I had a very busy year and I didn’t read as many indie books as I would have liked, the runners up list would likely be a little more bulky had I pulled together more free time.
Winner: How i Made the World
How i Made the World is a comic I have not stopped thinking about this year. Written by Liz Plourde and drawn by Randy Michaels, it’s a semi-autobiographical comic about a young woman’s time at college, it absolutely got its hooks in me. I can barely explain why it’s so good beyond saying that it’s just so touchingly human. There’s a raw honesty to it backed up by fantastic black and white art. The simple story is laced with emotion and I could have happily kept reading a whole volume, instead of the single issue.
I was blown away that such a simple premise could be easily one of the most engaging comics I have read all year long. It’s absolutely worth tracking down.
Buy issue 1 on Comixology.com
Most Surprisingly Awesome Comic
This year there were quite a few comics that blew us all away with little warning. Narrowing down the list to just a few was pretty tough, but here they are:
Afterlife With Archie
Winner: Moon Knight
I have never been a Moon Knight fan. I’ve read three separate Moon Knight series’ and none have ever really done anything for me. They’ve been perfectly okay but never anything spectacular.
The other comics on the list I conceivably thought may be at least enjoyable, but Moon Knight wasn’t remotely on my radar. I figure I’d get to it eventually but I wasn’t expecting much.
Somehow Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey wrote a straightforward take on the character that ended up being one of the best series’ of the year. Each issue is a single story about Moon Knight solving a case. There’s no complicated subplots or extravagant twists, it’s just really, really good storytelling and fantastic art. Those first few issues are something I’ll happily return to again and again.
Most Groan Worthy Comic Book Moment Of 2014
Before we reach the final award, I want to take a moment for something completely different. Here’s a dubious award for the most groan worthy moment of the year in comics. I’m talking about something that happened in or around a comic book that just caused audible groans of pain among readers.
Dagger Type In Batgirl
Blatant and Bizarre Sexist Merchandise
Nobody “wins” with this type of stuff. There was some nasty stuff in 2014 that I think we’d all like to forget. But it’s important to acknowledge it as this stuff shouldn’t be repeated. 2014 was a good year for certain comics but it was also pretty rocky for others.
Not everyone will agree with me, but I believe fans were right to cause a fuss about every one of these. The only way we’re going to create a better comic community where everybody feels safe and accepted is if we stop to discuss and listen when problematic stuff like the above is published.
As we move further into 2015 I hope we can have a year with less nonsense.
Anyway! Now that that’s out of the way…
Best Overall Comic
The Walking Dead
Afterlife With Archie
How i Made the World
Winner: Alex + Ada
To even my surprise, I didn’t pick Saga. Nope, Alex + Ada was definitively my favourite comic of 2014.
Criminally underrated, Alex + Ada is Sarah Vaughn and Jonathan Luna’s story of a man and a robot. Why is it so good? For starters it’s an incredibly grounded and human story with characters that feel tangibly real. Little touches, such as its strikingly modern outlook on life (I’m looking at you frisky grandma and transgender robots) and eerily plausible prediction of the future, make it something I’m always clamouring to read.
It’s a phenomenal comic that shows how you don’t need endless action or extravagant premises to tell a story. You just need two incredibly talented creators who know how to perfectly pace and illustrate a story about a couple of insanely likeable protagonists in a really well thought out setting. Easy! Or not, because nobody in 2014 put out a comic I enjoyed more than Alex + Ada.
Major congratulations to the team.
Most Emotionally Harrowing Comic
Winner: Afterlife with Archie
Implied Spoilers Follow!
Nothing came close this year to the anguish I felt when reading Afterlife With Archie #4.
Not since Superman #712 have I read an issue that made me cry real tears over the emotions of a fictional dog. If you’ve read the issue you know exactly what part I’m talking about.
Deviously set up with heart achingly beautiful flashbacks, Archie’s beloved dog is shown as a loyal lifelong companion. Using thought balloons to show us exactly what poor Vegas is thinking(!) Francesco Francavilla and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa created a sequence that metaphorically pulled out my heart and squeezed the emotions out of it until there was nothing left.
I’m going to have to end the list here, I need to crawl into bed and cry all over again.
Thanks for reading everyone!