Best Print Comics of 2014, Part 4 (#8-1)

Howdy! Welcome to my Top List featuring the best print comics of 2014. Before continuing on with my favorite eight print comics of 2014, please be sure to check out what led us here.

-Best Print Comics of 2014, Countdown- Honorable Mentions

-Best Print Comics of 2014, Countdown- #24 through #17

-Best Print Comics of 2014, Countdown- #16-9
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And in case you might have missed it, here are my favorite archival/collected/reprinted comics of 2014.

And also, my favorite webcomics of 2014.

 

Okay, onto the ELITE EIGHT! (aama and Saga were #10 and #9, respectively.)

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8. LOKI: AGENT OF ASGARD by Al Ewing, Lee Garbett, Jorge Coelho, & various artists (MARVEL)
agent of asgard
Spinning out of the pages of the Young Avengers came Agent of Asgard, rushing through the gate to wow us all with its superb art, undeniable charm, excellent delivery, and legit handle on character. I never thought teen Loki could hold a candle to Kieron Gillen’s amazing boy Loki, but boy was I wrong. (And we also got a bit of girl Loki in there too!) This is such a stunning book. One of its primary strengths is in how Ewing, Garbett, and Woodard took a character that already has a predestined end point set in stone (and a distasteful one at that), but made us care about Loki and fight for Loki anyway! We believe there is good inside of him! He’s a GENUINE protagonist of the highest literary degree. We know Loki has to eventually become an old, shriveled-up asshole wearing his spandex green 60s outfit and spouting cheesy super-villain-isms… but thanks to Ewing, Garbett, and Woodard, maybe he doesn’t? Agent of Asgard made me feel as though the Marvel Universe is assuredly willing to shake up the status quo. Even lame, pesky, interfering line-wide crossovers (Original Sin and Axis, I’m lookin’ at you), which can so often ruin a book’s momentum, weren’t enough to break Agent of Asgard‘s stride. Kudos to that as well. In hindsight, I actually think merging with Thor for the Original Sin arc was a benefit to this title.

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7. THOR: GOD OF THUNDER & THOR Vol. 4 by Jason Aaron & various artists (MARVEL)
thor lady
My favorite from last year, God of Thunder, ended on a high note in 2014 and then soared even higher when it returned with the latest volume of Thor proper. I said it last year, Jason Aaron and Jason Aaron alone converted me into a Thor fan. And he’s kept me on board. The revolving cast of artists have hurt the title, but when the art is on, it’s super on—(Esad Ribic RULES, we need more Esad Ribic and we need him now). Where do I even start with the rest of the incredible stuff? A ton of things were great in 2014 for the Norse warrior. Dario Agger and Roxxon, IMO, are the first decent villains created in superhero comics for the 21st century. What is CATEGORICAL EVIL today? It’s corporations like Roxxon. Agger represents a dangerous new threat that captures something truly realistic and terrifying, much more than we’ve ever seen from Simon Stagg, Norman Osborn, Justin Hammer, or even Lex Luthor. Ditch the minotaur magick and this guy is the ultimate evil in all of comics. And duh, news story of the year, FEMALE THOR! Mega bonus points for Aaron taking Thor in this new status quo-changing direction, but even more points for doing it so well, so thoughtfully, and so goddamn dramatically. This wasn’t just media-service, a headline grab, or getting Whoopie to talk comics on daytime TV. This is the new Thor and she’s even more badass than the old. I’m willing to bet she’ll be even more developed as well.

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6. MOON KNIGHT Vol. 6 #1-6 by Warren Ellis, Declan Shalvey, & Jordie Bellaire (MARVEL)
MK 1323312!!!MK 02
Warren Ellis! Let me repeat that. WARREN ELLIS. Moon Knight is the Art of the One-Shot perfected. Each of these six issues by Ellis, Shalvey, and Bellaire tells a single weird story in the most pure and visual way possible. No exposition, just good old fashioned comic book storytelling. These are stellar individual superhero stories that meet hard-boiled detective tales—and it works. Moon Knight is without-a-doubt the toughest SOB in superhero comics. Shalvey and Bellaire combine to spin Ellis’s scripts into an ethereal and gut-wrenching visual adventure with their unique artistic flair. And the issue #6 coda that tied it all back to the beginning was indubitably cool and done quite well. There was a lot of thought put into this book, a title which could have easily been bungled by a different creative team. In fact, the awful sex-abuser Brian Wood has done just that, taking what was arguably the best of the year and turning it into birdcage liner in one issue. But I won’t waste any more text on Wood other than to say that I’ve read his entire oeuvre and he’s easily the most overrated writer in the history of comics. Moon Knight is a type of book we normally don’t see coming out of the Big Two, and it was certainly a breath of fresh air. This will be a highlight on my bookshelf when it comes out in trade.

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5. JUDGE DREDD: MEGA-CITY TWO by Douglas Wolk, Ulises Farinas, & Ryan Hill (IDW)
WOLK ON DREDD
The master historian and super fan-boy (I mean that in the best way possible) writes Judge Dredd! And Douglas Wolk’s uncurbed passion shines through. Wolk hasn’t really written any comics before this (that I know of)—but he’s written more ABOUT comics than almost anyone. For the past decade, Wolk has been an inspiration and personal fave when it comes to his views on comicbookdom. Reading Comics was one of the first books I ever read that spoke to me as a superhero comic book consumer. It’s amazing to see such a tremendous mind and an exquisite FAN get to write such a valuable comic. Each issue is slammed full of controlled-chaos in the vein of the old 2000 AD issues. “KEEP CALM…THRILL FACTOR OVERLOAD” is definitely what I feel as I turn these pages. Wolk knows the scorched Earth of the Judges inside-and-out and he adeptly sculpts a scintillating, dynamic environment that bleeds historical richness. And the “Dredd’s Comportment” endings offer encyclopedic blurbs about the Judges and the Mega-Cities, written chronologically and continuity-obsessively (in the best way possible) as only Wolk can. The brilliance continues with Farinas’ prodigious Geoff Darrow-esque art as well. There are a thousand-and-one Easter Eggs on each page. Take all of the excesses of Hollywood and celebrity-worship, amp it up on speed, set it in a meticulously detailed post-apocalyptic future, and add one perfectly-characterized pissed-off Dredd and you have yourself a comic that is pretty much unrivaled in 2014. I’d pay top dollar to see Wolk and company’s take on Luna-1, Hondo City, Banana City, Texas City, East Meg-One, Brit City, and all the other colorful locales of Dredd’s planet.

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4. HIP HOP FAMILY TREE BOOK 2: 1981-1983 by Ed Piskor (FANTAGRAPHICS)
hip hop 1hip hop 2
What can I add that every other comic book critic in the universe hasn’t already said about the incredible Hip Hop Family Tree? If Piskor keeps pace, he’ll be in everyone’s Top Five for the next ten years or more. It doesn’t matter if you know about hip hop or if you like the music, Hip Hop Family Tree is incontrovertibly a national treasure. Piskor’s talent with handsome layouts, pencils, inks, and colors matches his uncanny knowledge of the history of rap. His work has become a sort of bible to me, the ultimate chronicle of one of the most significant cultural movements in American history. I can’t stress how IMPORTANT this book is. When Hip Hop Family Tree ends, it should end with an image of Piskor writing and drawing the first edition of Hip Hop Family Tree. Piskor himself has become just as crucial to the ongoing legacy of hip hop. And to top it all off, this book is crazy fun and DOPE AS HELL. Like the rap gods before him, Piskor definitely “rocks it like that.” Look for a cut-and-paste job for my synopsis on next year’s list when Book 3 comes out.

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3. SILVER SURFER Vol. 7 by Dan Slott, Mike Allred, & Laura Allred (MARVEL)
silvie
When sublime art is introduced to a wonderful story, you get the latest volume of Silver Surfer. Slott had an unbelievable year and the Allreds always deliver. It’s so exciting to see the Allreds move from last years awesome FF to Silver Surfer, allowing them the opportunity to draw some of the freakiest cosmic creatures and outer space beings that Marvel’s sandbox has to offer. They unquestionably nail it on every panel and spread. Slott and the Allreds make me want to visit Marvel’s galaxies far, far away more than any other creators have in the past. I talked about relationship writing being at it’s peak with Saga and All-Star Western, but this takes the cake. Silver Surfer, however, went in a more adorable and heartwarming direction than those titles—dare-I-say more cute or old-fashioned than those titles. But cute and old-fashioned functioned in a fiercely phenomenal way for Silver Surfer! Silver Surfer is one of Marvel’s most endearing characters. Pairing him up with an opinionated human gal that refuses to not dress like a ladybug and who calls the surf board “Toomie” might seem like a recipe for disaster, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t work. The TONE of this book is admirably spot-on and Slott, with great respect for continuity and history, has a real command for what he does with Norrin Radd. Much of this series thus far has reminded me of Gaiman’s old Sandman with Norrin Radd filling in for Morpheus. It’s comedic, character-driven, well-timed, and completely engaging. I won’t lie, this is the first superhero comic that has made me happily tear-up in a long time. As Norrin states, “A pentagonal cascade happens once in a millennium.” So does a comic like this. Make sure you stop to check it out.

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2. THE MULTIVERSITY by Grant Morrison & various artists (DC)
MULTIVERSITY RULES.
Like other titles on my Elite Eight, The Multiversity doesn’t require much more praise or recommendation than it’s already gotten. It’s all been said by now and unless you’ve been living under a rock on an alternate Earth where The Multiversity isn’t published, then you already now how magnificent this delightful mind-fuck of a comic has been. A project years in the making, it seems like a miracle that it’s finally being published. The occult-influenced “Multiversity Map” by Morrison and Rian Hughes alone might’ve ranked this high, but to add the incredible story and rotating roster of the world’s best artists along with it quickly moves The Multiversity into the stratosphere. Any comic that sparks the kind of internet dialogue and persnickety annotations that this series has accumulated is a worthwhile comic. And this comic has more value than diamonds or gold. Morrison’s fantastic ideas (regarding superheroes, the state of the comic industry, and the very fabric of reality) are flowing even more freely and unrestrained than his fans are used to in The Multiversity, which is welcoming and surprising, especially for a book so intrinsically tied to the usually tightly-leashed main line of the DCU. This is meta upon meta upon meta—the layers are astoundingly complex. And yet, despite the wildness of Morrison’s narrative, there is a distinct level of accessibility that saturates each issue, providing a chance for those less familiar with or actively hostile toward his work to get a foot in the door. This truly is the comic book for everyone: DC purists, fans of the superhero genre in general, and the conspiracy-theory-oddballs that can find hidden meanings in the tiniest of references or themes. The best two issues of the year came out of The MultiversityThe Society of Superheroes and Pax Americana—the latter of which, created with Frank Quitely and Nathan Fairbairn, did things with the medium that have never been done before (except maybe slightly in Morrison’s own precursor to Pax Americana, Superman Beyond). Morrison said Pax Americana is Watchmen DONE RIGHT. I have to agree, and done in an economical forty pages at that. We are talking some serious NEXT LEVEL SHIT. With The Multiversity, Morrison pushes superhero comics (and all comics for that matter) to previously unexplored heights just when most literary critics thought there was nowhere left to go except down. Morrison proves that, as fans and critics of superhero comics, we don’t have to sink into the doldrums or throw our hands up in defeat as we get older. The medium shouldn’t pass us by, it should grow and develop with us. Superhero comics are alive and thriving. They are the highest, purest form of art on our precious Earth-33 and superhero story architects can do insane things (if they are allowed free reign to do so) that you simply can’t do on TV, film, or other print media. The Multiversity is genius-level smart, boisterously fun, playful, inventive, cutting-edge, and absolutely deserving of all the accolades it has received thus far. There is puissant magick in the 2D world of the comic book. That’s not a metaphor either. The Multiversity is powerful proof the magick is real.

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1. MIND MGMT by Matt Kindt (DARK HORSE)
mindmgmt1mindmgmt2
Whew. We’ve finally reached numero uno and it doesn’t get any better than this. Not even close. This is my CLEAR CUT victor. Ever since last year, Mind MGMT has slowly been building toward a huge mega climax. With each release, my admiration and dedication to this title has grown. Matt Kindt has built a real winner with Mind MGMT, the kind of winner that goes undefeated. Seriously, each issue gets better than the one before. With its powerful female protagonist (and female Big Bad too), unique and lovable characters, strange art style, and thrilling “occult magick meets metaphysical science” story, Kindt’s untapped imagination is at hard at work within the sparkling pages of Mind MGMT. There are developments and concepts happening in Mind MGMT that are so on the cutting-edge of sci-fi and spy writing, they undoubtedly will be adapted (albeit cheaply) in some way, shape, or form into Marvel or DC in the future. Mind MGMT is what superhero comics should aspire to be, and I wouldn’t even necessarily classify Mind MGMT as a superhero comic! I can’t remember the last time a comic consistently made me stop reading and say “WHOA” out loud so many times. Kindt always delivers and he always takes his story to that next unexpected level. Even when I expect the unexpected, I’m still stunned time and time again. The way information is conveyed, both to the reader and to the characters within the story is so refreshing and awe-inspiring. There’s nothing quite like it elsewhere. The “Field Guide” text that runs vertically along the side of most pages offers a subtle and often creepy connection to the story panels attached to it (or that come later or before). There are times, due to the unorthodox construction of Kindt’s layouts, when Mind MGMT seems to be speaking directly to the reader, but not in the traditional breaking-the-fourth-wall kind of way. It’s hard to explain the method by which it speaks, and that is pretty damn scary! Kindt has turned Mind MGMT into a chilling exercise in opening up different layers of consciousness as one reads. When Meru meets the First Immortal and that “Field Guide” text about the “triconscious state” crawled off the side of the page from where it “belongs” to the middle of the image panel, I was so surprised that I nearly lost my shit and threw the comic down. With all the weird meta stuff going on in regard to reader interaction, you might assume that the focus on story might get lost in the shuffle. But you’d be dead wrong. The ongoing narrative is fucking clinquant edge-of-your-seat material that is second-to-none. Kindt’s pencil-work is admittedly an acquired taste, but its ostensible shaky inconsistency compliments the story so well once you get used to it. Mind MGMT‘s potboiler builds upon itself month by month in such a way that you can’t help but voraciously crave the next dangerous moment that will undoubtedly come. You live and die with the characters that Kindt has beautifully crafted and fostered. And Kindt has skillfully shaped and molded a vivid universe for his characters to move about in as well. Kindt is clearly at the top of his game here and Mind MGMT always fires on all pistons. I can’t wait to see where he takes Meru next.

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Thanks for reading. See you in 2015!

About Collin Colsher

Collin Colsher, the creator of The Real Batman Chronology Project and disCONTINUITY, is a writer, filmmaker, teacher, and comic book historian that currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. He has lectured at various universities, libraries, and book fairs. Collin has also served on the jury for the Lynd Ward Graphic Novel Prize, which is sponsored by the US Library of Congress.
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3 Responses to Best Print Comics of 2014, Part 4 (#8-1)

  1. Before anyone asks, I’ll get it out of the way. The Wicked + Divine, Sex Criminals, and The Wrenchies are not oversights. I read them. They just weren’t my cup of tea. Feel free to trash my list and disregard me as an legitimate critic based upon these omissions.

    There are also a bunch of things I wanted to read but never got around to reading, so they are not on my list. For example, I didn’t read the Little Nemo anthology that came out this year, but I’m sure it was as amazing as it is purported to be.

    <3

    • Jamison says:

      I agree with you about Sex Criminals. I didn’t find it all that charming. I haven’t read Wicked + Divine or the Wrenchies. I spent most if my comic hobby time this year either re-reading or reading for the first time old comic runs.

      The complete runs I re-read were:
      The Sandman
      Suicide Squad (1987)
      Gotham Central

      Read for the first time this year:
      Birds of Prey (Gail Simone 1st run)
      Green Lantern (Geoff Johns et al.)
      Wonder Woman (Gail Simone)
      Detective Comics (Ed Brubaker)

      The ongoing books I enjoyed this year were:
      Sandman Overture
      The Multiversity
      Sensation Comics
      Gotham Academy
      Teen Titans Go!

      I really wanted to like the new Batgirl but the getting black-out drunk to have sex with random people/trans-phobic Babs just wasn’t the character I wanted to read. Great art, though. The Multiversity is fantastic as I suspected it would be. Sandman’s great for the couple issues we got this year. Sensation Comics and Gotham Academy have been an absolute joy for me.
      As for the future, I’ll probably end up picking up a few of the convergence mini-series out of curiosity, but I fully expect to be disappointed. As far as old runs go, in 2015 I’m planning on reading JSA (Geoff Johns), Secret Six, and re-reading Hellblazer.

      I know, I read too much DC.

      • Can never read too much DC. It’s always nice to read the classics. At least you are guaranteed a good read. I’m liking Gotham Academy so far as well, but it was a little too soon for me to make full judgment on it. I suspect it will make my list in 2015. Speaking of 2015, maybe we we’ll see a new article by you, Jamison. Would be awesome.

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