2014 may have been the most diverse year of comics in recent memory. More than any year I can recall, there seems to be popular series all over the place that seem to attract their own unique audiences. Of sure, there are the pockets of Batman, X-Men and Avengers loyalists and plenty of comics for that crew to love. But now more than ever it seems books like Outcast, Sex Criminals, East of West, Ms Marvel, Pretty Deadly, Saga, Superior Foes of Spider-Man and so many other comics have strong and loyal followings that don’t necessarily overlap. It’s great to see so many books getting their own audience.
This also means that lists like this will leave off a lot of people’s favorites. I can’t help it and it doesn’t mean a) I don’t like the book or b) I won’t one day pick up and question how I could have missed it all these years.
The guidelines are that I try not to include arcs or series that haven’t completed by the end of the calendar year. My cutoff is books that shipped by 12/24/2014. For a series to be considered “new” I need to have read more than two issues. Otherwise it will fall into the next year. Mini-series need to have wrapped up in 2014 but not necessarily started in 2014. These “rules” are as vague as time travel and parallel timelines.
Favorite Mini-Series: King Conan: The Conqueror
Six issues that are as good as it gets when it comes to Conan the king, as opposed to the barbarian, pirate, etc. The series highlights much of what makes this character so great. Hacktivist is another excellent mini-series that simply came out of nowhere. The Wake and Atomic Robo: The Knights of the Golden Circle are two other great series to check out. I also recommend, the now out of print Star Wars Dark Times and Dawn of the Jedi books. The Death of Wolverine is a beautiful book with a spotty story but worth checking out.
2013: Punk Rock Jesus
2012: Star Wars Darth Vader Ghost Prison
2011: Star Wars Legacy War
2010: Punisher Versus The Marvel Universe
2009: Back To Brooklyn
2008: Final Crisis Rogues’ Revenge
2007: World War Hulk
Most Disappointing Mini-Series: Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir
This series was supposed to wrap things up for the character where the Clone Wars TV show was unable to due to the series abruptly ending when Disney took over. However, this series was very disjointed and really didn’t “resolve” anything. By allowing the character to survive it only creates continuity confusion. This was a badly executed, bad idea. Running a close second was Damian: Son of Batman. This was written and drawn by Andy Kubert and falls squarely into the “What was DC thinking?” bucket. To not have Grant Morrison or Peter Tomasi write this was a complete mistake. They understand the character and would have added something to the character’s legacy. This mini-series did nothing for the character and appeared to be a badly edited misfire.
2013: Before Watchmen: Nite Owl
2012: Avengers: X-Sanction
2011: X-Men: Prelude to Schism
2010: Captain America Reborn
2009: Tales of Blackest Night
2008: World War Hulk Aftersmash: Warbound
Favorite Collected Mini-Series or Original Graphic Novel: Punk Rock Jesus Hardcover
Not only is this a great story, but this hardcover edition comes with over 100 extra pages, all for $40 retail. Well worth it.
2013: Fear Agent Library Volume 1
2012: Fairy Quest
2011: We3 Deluxe Edition
2010: Richard Stark’s Parker: The Outfit
2009: X-Men Magneto’s Testament
Favorite Crossover: Transformers: Dark Cybertron
Not a perfect storyline, but one that covers a lot of staples of the Transformers. The problem with this crossover was that the uniqueness of the titles was absent. Generally a good read in a weak year for crossovers.
2010: Blackest Night
2009: What Ever Happened to the Caped Crusader?
2008: Messiah Complex
2007: Green Lantern Sinestro Corps War
Most Disappointing Crossover: Avengers & X-Men: Axis
This was a bad year for crossovers, particularly from Marvel. Axis happened to be the one that seemed to go nowhere with nothing to say, but it also was an artistic mess. The finale had nine pencil artists and inkers with many of the pencils getting self-inked. This is an unacceptable editorial mess. Death of Wolverine and Original Sin were in the running in a bad way as well, but did contain some bright spots. Death of Wolverine was only four issues and contained excellent art from McNiven. Original Sin at least had some funny one-liners and stayed focused on Fury for much of the story.
2013: Age of Ultron
2012: Avengers versus X-Men
2010: World War Hulks
2009: Messiah War
2008: She-Hulk/X-Factor Secret Invasion
2007: Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul
Favorite One-Shot: The Multiversity: The Just
Grant Morrison’s epic of DC’s Multiverse has had a couple of excellent books. This one stands out because it takes many of the characters prior to the reboot and shows they still have some life left in them. Pax Americana and Society of Super-Heroes were also excellent reads from Morrison. Chew had two outstanding one-shots. One was a crossover with Revival called Chew/Revival and the other was Chew: Warrior Chicken Poyo. Also, the 100th Anniversary Avengers comic featured a so-so story but with the amazing pencils of James Stokoe. Green Arrow Future’s End was also an excellent read. This is always a loaded category.
2013: American Vampire Anthology
2012: Chew Special Agent Poyo
2011: Hellboy: Being Human
2010: Sea Bear and Grizzly Shark #1
2009: Elephantmen: Yvette War Toys
2008: Final Crisis Rage of the Red Lanterns
2007: What If: Planet Hulk
Most Disappointing One-Shot: 100th Anniversary Spider-Man
For a story set in 2061 this comic simply had no imagination to it at all. When you compare it to the other 100th anniversary books it stands out even more so as a complete miss. The 100th anniversary X-Men was also one to avoid.
2013: Before Watchmen: Dollar Bill
2012: Thanos Quest One Shot
2011: Marvel Point One
2010: Wolverine Road to Hell #1
2009: Transformers Spotlight: Cliffhanger
2008: What If: Wolverine versus Spider-Man
2007: Captain America Fallen Son: Spider-Man
Favorite Ongoing: Ms Marvel
A brilliant book. Sure, it’s a lot like the beginning of Spider-Man with the troubled teen bit with an awkwardness but a few close friends. However, this book is making strides in its ability to introduce new characters to the big two. A must read each month. Batman, Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye, Fatale (which has ended), Swamp Thing, Amazing Spider-Man, Superior Foes of Spider-Man, Moon Knight are a few of the ones that never disappoint.
2012: Uncanny X-Force
2011: Uncanny X-Force
2009: Walking Dead
2008: Walking Dead
2007: GI Joe America’s Elite
Most Disappointing Ongoing: Batwoman
Catwoman was terrible for much of the year, but it didn’t really have much of an expectation. Batwoman did and has failed to deliver. Andreyko did such amazing work in Manhunter a few years ago. I expected more.
2013: Fantastic Four
2011: Action Comics
The favorite franchise or character that spreads across many books.
Favorite Overall: Archie
That’s right. Archie. Afterlife With Archie, Life With Archie, Archie proper are all hitting on all cylinders. If you scoff at this idea just pick up an issue and give it a try. It’s better than much of the X-Men or Batman line and all of the Superman line. This may seem ridiculous but I haven’t been disappointed by any single Archie issue all year and I’ve read quite a few. This is where it’s at.
2011: X-Men universe
2009: Green Lantern
Most Disappointing Overall: Superman
Again. Amazing really. Geoff Johns has taken over Superman proper and even that book has little life. Sure, the storytelling is good but the character is totally lifeless. Superman can be found in six DC books and each one is more lifeless than the next. I really miss the old boy scout. He had personality and was distinct. Superman’s dialogue can be swapped with just about any other angry character and you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.
2012: Justice League
2011: Justice League
2010: GI Joe
2009: GI Joe
Old Reliable: Batman
Each and every month this is the best read in the DC catalogue of titles and one of the best books out there. Period. Excellent art, excellent storytelling. Snyder and Capullo’s run is a modern classic.
2013: Thor: God of Thunder
2012: Walking Dead
2011: Planet of the Apes
2010: Walking Dead
2009: Green Lantern Corps
2008: Green Lantern Corps
Missing In Action: Hellboy in Hell
Sandman qualifies for this as well but only a single issue of Hellboy in Hell shipped in 2014. I love Mignola on art, but I prefer to have comics come out. Perhaps he should consider someone else on art. Also of note that American Vampire rarely ships.
2013: American Vampire
2012: Infinite Vacation
2011: Ultimate X Comics
Favorite New Series: Moon Knight
Yes, technically Ms Marvel counts as a New Series but I wanted to pick something else for this category and Moon Knight deserves a special nod because it switched creative teams after issue six and is still a compelling and excellent read each month. She-Hulk, Deadly Class, Southern Bastards and The Spread are all excellent books out of the gate. This category is always a fun one.
2013: Batman 66
2010: American Vampire
Least Favorite New Series: Kirkman’s Outcast
Robert Kirkman, writing a horror book, soon to be a TV show, sounds like a win-win situation. However, these issues are very, very slow. Six issues and I can only recall details from the first issue. The rest just seem like a lot of the priest and the main character talking about doing something and then they do something for a scene and they end up talking about doing the next thing.
2013: Trinity of Sin: Pandora
2012: Avengers Assemble
2011: Justice League
2010: Green Lantern Emerald Warriors
2009: Superman (War)
Favorite Arc: Life of Archie (in Life With Archie – ending with issue #36)
Heartfelt and genuine. Comics don’t get much better than this. I won’t spoil it if for some reason you haven’t read this or haven’t heard what happens but it is worth checking out. It will definitely suck you in.
2013: God Bomb
2012: PunisherMax: Homeless
2011: Walking Dead: No Way Out
2010: PunisherMax: Kingpin
2009: Walking Dead: The Hunters
2008: GI Joe: World War 3
Arc to Avoid: Wolverine and the X-Men (re-launch opening arc)
Crushed by artist-by-committee and a complicated and contrived story. This series got off on such a bad foot and never recovered.
2013: Green Lantern: Rise of The Third Army
2012: Amazing Spider-Man Danger Zone
2011: Action Comics: Reign of Doomsday
2010: Amazing Spider-Man: OMIT
2009: Amazing Spider-Man: Redheaded Stranger
2008: Wolverine Origins: Deadpool
Favorite Anniversary Issue: Detective Comics #27
This one felt like a true celebration of the character. It’s an anniversary issue because Batman made his debut in Detective Comics #27 (Volume 1). The book is padded with a strong lead-in, in continuity story and backed up with several other shorter ones. It’s a good read despite the inflated price tag of eight bucks. Thor #25 was also an excellent read and at a cheaper, five dollar price point.
2013: Green Lantern #20
2012: Walking Dead #100
2011: Fantastic Four #600
2010: Batman #700
2009: Amazing Spider-Man #600
Least Favorite Anniversary Issue: GI Joe A Real American Hero #200
Thirty pages for six bucks with some back matter. It’s missing a lot though. There aren’t any interviews or then/now perspectives from Hama or character profiles or pin-ups. It feels slapped together. The problem now with these anniversary issues is they are way over-priced. Savage Dragon #200, Detective Comics #27 and Deadpool #27 are all in that eight-nine dollar range and really don’t give you a huge amount to work with in terms of continuity-based stories. Some entertain well enough and are obviously better than others. Many of the stories read like fan-fiction and that’s not right at those price points.
2013: Invincible #100
2012: Amazing Spider-Man #700
2011: Spawn #200
2010: Superman #700
2009: Hulk #600
Annual Worth Reading: New Avengers #1
Dr Strange one-shot. It’s outstanding whether you like the character or not. Batman and Robin Annual #3 was also pretty darn good.
2013: Batman & Robin #1
2012: Green Lantern Annual #1
2011: New Avengers Annual #1
2008: Action Comics #11
2007: Action Comics #10
Annual Better Off Not Reading: Future’s End Batwoman
I’m counting the 3D issues (Future’s End) as Annuals or one-shots. This is the low point of this once-great title. I can’t recommend this to anyone.
2013: Batman: Joker #23.1
2012: Batman Annual #1
2011: Amazing Spider-Man Annual #38
2008: Action Comics #11
2007: Batman Annual #18
Recommended reading from comics in 2014:
Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye
The Fade Out
East of West
Conan The Barbarian (ended)
Superior Foes of Spider-Man (ended)
All-Star Western (ended)
There are plenty of other great books out there. I need to find them and you need to find them. This list will get you started hopefully.
Bring on 2015.