Well, the year is almost over, and 2014 has been a big year for comics. Previously obscure characters like Harley Quinn and Rocket Raccoon enjoyed a resurgence in popularity, Image Comics series SAGA topped not only comics charts but the New York Times Best Selling list as well, Spider-Woman’s butt was controversial, Thor became a woman… and so many other crazy and awesome and crazy awesome things happened. Here at 4LN, we decided to run down our list of favorite comics from this year so check it out and let us know what you liked!
Bill – Avenger/New Avengers
This was honestly a tough decision. There wasn’t a single Marvel book that I didn’t consider dropping at one point or another this year. I wanted to say Hawkeye was my favorite comic this year, but I’m not sure if any issues came out in 2014? (For a monthly comic, it came out yearly) SO I’m going to go with the two main Avengers books. Now, I’m lumping these two books together because I feel you must read them together to understand the grandness of the events occurring. After all, these titles are what is ending the Marvel Universe, I think. Specificly the issue that comes to mind is New Avengers #23, when The Illuminati members each struggle with their decision to destroy a world. Vividly I can still remember Tony Stark with a line of shots in front of him, facing his demons one last time.
Cameron – Thor: God of Thunder
Admittedly, my favorite arcs in this series were prior to the year two thousand and fourteen. The arc featuring Gorr the God Butcher was one of the better runs in current comics, and is the reason I dove deeper into the world of comics. That being said — God of Thunder featured some really solid arcs in 2014. There was a cross-realm battle with Malekith the Accursed that was pretty epic, but the epicness dimmed in comparison to the battle of old King Thor and Galactus for a barren Earth. That arc was juxtaposed with Avenger’s era Thor squaring off against industrial tyrant (and part time mythical beast) Dario Agger. Jason Aaron’s storytelling alongside Esad Ribic’s art, especially in the Galactus battle, was terrific and ultimately made Thor one of my all time favorite superheroes.
Stephen – The Punisher
Much like Bill, there aren’t too many Marvel titles I didn’t consider dropping this year. And like Cam, most of the Marvel series that I’ve been reading for awhile already ran through my favorite story arcs before 2014 rolled around. But the one series that hits the sweet-spot… is The Punisher, written by Nathan Edmondson. Now, I’m predisposed to preferring this series over other Marvel series because I prefer The Punisher to pretty much everything else in comics, period. But to be honest, the first half-dozen issues of this series weren’t my favorite. They were good, but I wasn’t really into Frank going toe-to-toe with Electro. It felt… silly. The next half-dozen issues though, have been absolutely phenomenal. Around issue 7 we started getting to see more of the militarized-Punisher that we deserve. I’ve always felt that the brilliant-military-strategist Frank Castle is something that we’ve not gotten to see much of. He’s always portrayed as a ruthless brute with an arsenal just looking to kill something. I’ve never felt that the Punisher was motivated by pure hatred, but more by a genuine belief that there are some criminals who simply cannot be rehabilitated or reasoned with. Edmondson gets this, and this is the Frank castle he’s been writing. Mitch Gerads has been with him from the very beginning on art and he’s never failed to put his absolute best work forward. After what this creative team has achieved with damn-near reinventing The Punisher, I’m legitimately skeptical that anyone will be able to follow their brilliant work.
Bill – Red Lanterns
Charles Soule turned Red Lanterns from one of the worse books that DC was publishing into the best. I would dare say this book is right up there with Batman, I just don’t think people have been giving it to attention that Batman and Superman get. I am a HUGE Lantern fan, and somehow Soule made me shift my favorite lantern title from Green to Red. I love seeing Guy Gardner as pretty much a space outlaw biker and he’s spending most of the issues trying to figure out what the hell he’s doing. It’s also great that he’s been under cover the whole time for Hal Jordan. The most memorable issue #32 when Guy struggles to decide if Supergirl was ready for combat or not. I just wish she stuck around longer.
Cameron – Batman
The New 52 was… maybe not the best thing to happen in comics? But Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo are on point with this book (and one of the few creative teams to remain in place after the New 52 reboot). Like God of Thunder, Batman’s greatest arcs (Court of Owls and Death of the Family) were prior to 2014, but the Zero Year arc was terrific. A young Batman facing off against a Riddler who’s taken complete control of Gotham is just fun, and the current Endgame arc is shaping up nicely as well. Besides Superman, which didn’t make the list and is paling in comparison to Batman, this is the only DC book on my pull currently and it looks to be on their for a long while (assuming Snyder and Capullo stick around). Side note: if you read the Death of the Family arc in the dark before you go to sleep I will warn you that Capullo’s Joker is absolutely terrifying. I made that mistake and had to watch some Sanford and Son as a palate cleanser.
Stephen – Harley Quinn
I’m not really a DC guy. I love the character of the Green Lantern (Hal Jordan 4 Lyfe!) and I like Batman and Superman as much as the next guy, but Marvel has really always been my comfort zone. With that being said, I always try to keep at least 1 DC title on my pull-list at all times. It used to be Earth 2 but I bailed on that when James Robinson left. The next DC I picked up was Harley Quinn, and it was purely by accident. My comic shop guy put the #1 in my pull because he thought I’d like it and he was right. Technically it debuted one year ago in December of 2013, but that’s only one issue so for all intents and purposes this is a 2014 series. The most memorable issue to me was actually not apart of the main continuity but the “HARLEY QUINN INVADES COMIC-CON INTERNATIONAL: SAN DIEGO #1” issue. It was just so funny and enjoyable. The way husband and wife team Amanda Palmer and Jimmy Palmiotti write Harley and her motley crew of misfits is perfect. And Chad Hardin’s art partners so well with the tone and feel of the series. Very colorful and sometimes silly, but still always just a tad bit salacious. Harley has always been quite the little firecracker, but in this series she can be a nuclear warhead.
Bill – Wytches (but Wicked + Divine is an honorable mention)
Scott Snyder and Jock have teamed up to bring us one of the most eerie and just weird books in recent history to life with their title Wytches. Now, it may seem like a cop out that this is on my list, since there are only 2 issues so far (#3 comes out tomorrow 12/17/14), but you need to jump on this title. This is a great horror story, and I do not do anything scary. Scott Snyder and Jock have always been one of my favorite creative teams (just look at Batman: The Black Mirror), and now they are working on an Image book with no holds. It’s already messed with me more than a few times, and that was just with a “click” sound the Wytches make while hiding in trees. If you enjoy horror & suspense, you need to check this out. It’s going to be a huge series when it gains more traction. Jocks art makes the story even more terrifying with his nightmare like watercolor art, and Snyder knows how to scare you with just a few words.
Cameron – C.O.W.L.
C.O.W.L. is probably one of the most surprising comics I’ve been reading. I picked up the first issue on a whim (and by an offhand recommendation by my favorite comic shop owner) and have been eagerly awaiting each issue ever since. Everything in this book is intriguing. Rod Reis is killing it on the art. The character designs and the set pieces are terrific and work to draw in the reader, while the story, co-created/written by Kyle Higgins and Alec Siegel, is fascinating. C.O.W.L. follows the exploits of a unionized team of superheroes in 1960’s Chicago, along with all the corruption and baggage that entails. The first few issues contained dossiers on the main players in C.O.W.L., and the sixth issue is an awesome origin story that is done in the style of Silver Age comics. Overall, this is a unique series that I have been enjoying every month.
Stephen – Outcast
This was by far the hardest one to decide on for me. I picked up SO MANY new Image series’ this year, in addition to finally starting books like SAGA and East of West. After much lamenting and turmoil over which title to say was my FAVORITE of the WHOLE YEAR… just barely edging out Low, Dark Engine, Southern Bastards, The Fade Out, as well as many other incredible Image series’, is… Outcast, from Robert Kirkman. I really dig it. I love the slow crawling story that takes its time to set everything up just right and develop the characters without rushing things. It’s not even cause I’m a huge Kirkman fan or anything either. I’ve actually never even read The Walking Dead (mostly because I hate reading black & white comics). I just… I just really love Outcast. I grew up in hyper-religious Western Kentucky and the concept of demonic possession is something I’ve always been fascinated by. Plus, the artwork, by Paul Azaceta & Elizabeth Breitweiser, adds a ton to the creepy nature of the book. Especially the color-work. They use the entire spectrum of colors, but it’s the way they use them that gets you. They’ll splash some bright red blood across a panel with mostly blue-ish tint and it just gives you goosebumps. If I’m being honest, every week this comes out it’s the first book I read and I’m always really excited about it. I don’t foresee that changing anytime soon.
Other Independent Publishers –
Bill – Bob’s Burgers (Dynamite Comics)
This has seriously been one of my favorite comics all year. I would always read this book first when I picked up my books and saw this in the stacks. Each issue reminded me of watching the show. It had that same feeling and pure awkwardness (mostly due to Tina’s Erotic Fan Fiction). I really enjoyed all of the Louise segments of this book, it captured her mischief perfectly and we always got to see her get into some type of trouble. Bob’s Burger Special was also always a goldmine for humor, specifically in issue #5 when he does a literary theme. If you like Bob’s Burgers, you really need to check out this great mini series, and if you don’t like Bob’s Burgers… well, go f— yourself.
Cameron – Ragnarok (IDW Publishing)
This one kind of feels like cheating. First of all, I already have a Thor on the list. Secondly, there are only two issues so far because this book comes out once every two months. That being said, Walt Simonson’s glorious return to Norse mythology is absolutely incredible. The story has been epic so far, and that superb story makes this one of the few books I can read over and over again. The version of Thor we see in this book is seemingly more in line with traditional Norse mythology and you’ll notice on the cover above that Mjolnir is also more akin to the traditional Norse look. Oh, and Thor has been dead and entombed for a while (and he doesn’t have a face currently because, you know, being dead and all). Luckily, the lack of face doesn’t seem to impact his ability to beat the living crap out of his enemies after they mistakenly awake the God of Thunder. There are also some touching elements to the story that bring some depth to each issue. Since the book comes out less frequently and only two issues have been released so far it would be an easy book to get caught up on. Be warned though, two months at a time feels like forever when you are waiting for a good book such as this one.
Stephen – Men of Wrath (Icon)
I know that Icon is *technically* distributed by Marvel, but they are also *technically* a completely different publisher so f— you, stop judging me. Sorry. That was uncalled for. However, it was an excellent example of wrath, so let’s say that it was my plan all along to introduce this book that way and never bring it up again.
Men of Wrath is exactly that. Men, who are full of wrath. One man specifically, Ira Rath. He’s an assassin-for-hire in the deep south and he will kill anybody. I mean that. ANYBODY. In the very first issue… (god help me, turn back now because you cannot unknow this) …he throws a baby, that is strapped into a car seat, into a lake to drown, after he murders its parents. There’s a panel where you can see the bubbles coming up from under the water. It’s so messed up but I can’t turn away! I’m a big fan of Jason Aaron, who’s writing this, and I knew it was gonna be brutal, but I was definitely not prepared for just how brutal it really is. Art-wise, the series is very solid. Ron Garney does a great job of creating a clean looking comic with just the slightest bit of realism so that you really get invested with the characters and settings.
I don’t want to say too much more about it because if you like dark, violent, bleak, gritty, depressing comics that leave you with a feeling of hopelessness that you can’t help but indulge in every month while you wallow in the futility of existence, then Men of Wrath is the book for you!