Since it’s both the last day of the year and I’m not picking up any comics this week, I might as well talk about my favourite comics of the year. First though, let’s briefly talk about my blogging and writing plans for 2015.
Marvel’s first ever weekly ongoing series starts next week, Wolverines. On the one hand, I’m kind of excited about this. It’s a team made up of a bunch of people who hate each other, yet they’re forced to work together. That alone makes this ripe with possibilities. While my favourite X-Men character, X-23, is on the team, there are other characters I don’t care much for. Also, Logan Legacy 1 and 7 were … not that good, which makes me nervous that Charles Soule and Raye Fawks won’t pull it off. I plan to read and review the first 4 issues, and if I stick with it after that, I’ll probably review the series by the month instead of every week.
In terms of writing, I’m finally doing another draft for the first book I ever wrote for my current series, Blood Rage, which is now the 5th book in continuity. I haven’t touched this book since March of 2013, and both the series mythos and my writing style has changed plenty since, so it will basically be a complete rewrite. At some point this year, I hope to take a break from Blood Rage and work on one of my other ideas – whichever is most complete in my head at the time. Meanwhile I’ll be searching for literary agents, and maybe send out a few short stories.
That’s enough about other stuff; it’s time to talk about my favourite comics of the year.
Favourite new series
2014 saw a number of new comics and titles releasing, many of them good. Thankfully some of them are sticking around. The barrage of female-led solo books shows how much Marvel is trying to appeal to new audiences and each of them have a different feel, from the espionage world of Black Widow, to the comedic legal thriller in She Hulk and the space-travelling Captain Marvel series. Four of these titles are good enough to deserve a win, but there’s no question about which of them deserves this award them most.
Ms. Marvel – G. Willow Wilson
Everything about this series is delightful. It introduces quite possibly the most relatable superhero Marvel has ever created, despite that Kamala Khan belongs to a Pakistan Immigrant family of Muslims. Her faith is obviously important to her yet the book is never preachy about it. She has a lot of similarities to the early days of Spider-Man as a teenager who is trying to balance being a superhero, her school life and her family life. She’s a nerd, much like pretty much anyone who reads superhero comics, and much of Ms. Marvel’s humour comes from her nerdy way of seeing the world. The art by Adrian Alphona is simply delightful, and so is the art in issue 6 and 7 when Jamie Mckelvie briefly took over.
She Hulk, Captain Marvel vol. 2, Black Widow, Death Vigil
For the sake of this category, I’m including issues from mini-series where each issue is a one-off story of a different character. I don’t have much to say about this particular category, so let’s just dive in.
Edge of the Spider-Verse 2 (Gwen Stacey as Spider-Woman) – Jason Latour and Robbi Rodriguez
In one issue, Spider Gwen was fully introduced with a backstory, a main story with genuine emotional value, a lesson and a musical feel to the whole thing. Most writers need at least 4 issues to accomplish all that. It’s no wonder that Gwen Stacey is getting her own ongoing next year, and I hope I can find room for it on my pull list.
Uncanny X-Men/All New X-Men Annual
Logan Legacy 6 (Mystique’s issue)
Favourite Story Arc
The rule is that the arc had to finish this year, although if it started last year it still counts.
There were a lot of great story arcs this year. Batman’s Year Zero spent the full year showing Bruce Wayne’s evolution into Batman. I didn’t enjoy every issue of Year Zero, but ending is simply epic. While flawed in dialogue, All New X-Men finally brought X-23 back to the X-Men franchise this year and simultaneously introduced a new and interesting leader for the Purifiers. On that note, I find it amusing that X-23 found herself in a comic that was outselling every title that Wolverine appeared in at the time, except for Death of Wolverine of course. I’m actually not sure what to list as the best overall story arc though, so I’ll pick three.
Between Trial of Jean Grey (All New X-Men and Guardians of the Galaxy), X-Men vs. Shield (Uncanny X-Men) and Pretty Deadly.
The Trial of Jean Grey was the highlight of the year for the All New X-Men, not only giving Jean even more to deal with emotionally, but giving us a fun team up with the time displaced X-Men and the Guardians of the Galaxy. X-Men vs. SHIELD shows Bendis at his best in terms of paying off the build-up he’s worked on for over a year now. The tensions between the two sides of the X-men and SHIELD exploded in an epic confrontation that brought us good action and several answers. It showed that, while Beast hates Cyclops, he’s still able to work alongside his former teammate when the situation is dire enough. And of course Pretty Deadly is a masterpiece that somehow combines mythology, fairy tales, a western and poetry. There really wasn’t anything else like it in comics this year.
Favourite single issue from ongoing title
The name of this award is self-explanatory, but I have a little something to say about each and every one of these issues. I’m actually not sure which one to pick though, so I’ll just list all of my choices and say they’re all utterly fantastic.
Rocket Raccoon 5 (I Am Groot) – Scottie Young
Everything about this issue is delightful. It’s an adventure with Rocket Raccoon and his tree-like friend, as narrated by Groot. Besides the first few pages and the last, the story is told visually with only the words “I am Groot” spoken – even in the backgrounds.
Batman 37 – Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo
This month’s Batman is seriously the creepiest Batman comic I’ve read. The plot is intense, with a new virus epidemic that’s causing everyone to laugh and become violent. The mystery behind the joker is more twisted than ever. Seriously, even if you don’t read comics, you should be reading this series if you like Batman.
Black Widow 11 – Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto
This issue isn’t the best in the series in terms of quality, and I admit it’s my favourite issue because of a certain character appearing in it. Black Widow teams up with X-23 and providing my favourite character with the best writing she’s had in years. It also advances Black Widow’s main plot, has a lot of fun action, and a really nice ending that ties into Wolverine’s death in a way that shows how he’s affected both characters. The Logan Legacy mini-series was fantastic between issues 2 and 6, but this is probably the better aftermath issue for X-23.
Amazing X-Men 7 – Kathryn Immonen and Paco Medina
Favourite Writer of the year
Even though I’ve only been reading comics for a few years, I find myself more and more willing to follow creators just as much as I do characters and franchises. If I enjoy a writer enough, I’ll give almost anything they write a shot so long as I have the room on my budget. So far, there’s only one writer I’ll be sure to fit in there somewhere no matter what.
Kelly Sue DeConnick
I have yet to read a single Kelly Sue DeConnick comic that I didn’t at least enjoy. She’s a master of writing dialogue; perhaps the best in the business. She’s also skilled with balancing smart storytelling, character development and fun. Her Captain Marvel run is utterly fantastic (both volumes), and her creator-owned work is nothing short of ground-breaking. Even her 3-issue run on Supergirl before the new 52 started felt special, with a final page that almost speaks directly to the reader “don’t forget me”, reminding us that even if the old universe is no longer published, its stories will always exist no matter how hard DC may try to bury them. And while not everyone will enjoy her style (there exists personal taste after all), you’d be mistaken to not give her a chance at some point. If she doesn’t become some sort of superstar writer in the future, there is something wrong with this world.
Scott Snyder (Batman) It’s clear to me now that Scott Snyder was born to write Batman. I may not have enjoyed all of Batman: Year Zero, but most regular Batman readers did. Unfortunately, the mediocre and chronically delayed Superman Unchained held him back this year.
Brian Michael Bendis (All New X-Men, Uncanny X-Men) His X-Men stuff is great so far, with his character-focused writing and some fantastic storytelling with adult Cyclops. Sure in hindsight, the All New X-Men series has felt a bit directionless since The Trial of Jean Grey, but the character work is still great. Uncanny X-Men on the other hand is moving much faster than his normal writing. Bendis loses points for an uneven Guardians of the Galaxy run however.
Charles Soule (She Hulk, Red Lanterns, and Death of Wolverine) Charles Soule may just be the busiest man in the comic industry, writing 6 ongoing titles at once while also being a full-time lawyer and a father. I may write fast during Nanowrimo, but this guy is an inspiration in that sense. His She Hulk run is wonderful, with almost every issue being my favourite comic for their given week of release, and what I’ve seen of his Red Lanterns run has also been fantastic. Death of Wolverine was also well-written, focusing on the loner aspect of Logan’s personality and giving him a fitting quiet death, rather than going for the epic sacrifice that’s become so cliché in major character deaths. Like Snyder and Bendis though, he loses points for less impressive work; this time being Logan Legacy 1 and 7.
This is the toughest one to figure out, partly because unlike my favourite single issues from ongoing comics, I’m forcing myself to pick just one. Ms. Marvel is a possibility, All New X-Men and Uncanny X-Mena re both possibilities. Batgirl and Red Sonja, both by Gail Simone, are up there. What about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? Which one do I pick? Decisions …
Wolverine and the X-men
Just kidding; I didn’t even read that crap.
Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose
Umm … no.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz and Bobby Curnow
With almost every other series I considered, there’s something ever so minor I can pick out that I didn’t like about it. All New X-Men, while a great character-focused series, feels like it could use a clearer direction soon. Uncanny X-Men is marvelous, but I’m not a fan of Chris Bachalo’s art and he’s on this book a lot. Ms. Marvel is almost flawless, but parts of Ms. Marvel’s character are still being established. That’s not anything bad to say about Kamala Khan, and it’s not like the title is moving slowly, it just means that Ms. Marvel will likely be a stronger candidate for next year. I almost picked Red Sonja as my favourite series of the year. It’s a very entertaining series about a barbarian woman that still manages to find room for touching moments. Why I picked TMNT over Red Sonja though, was that the story arcs in Red Sonja are completely self-contained, while TMNT is building an epic story while still telling compelling smaller ones.
I wasn’t a huge fan of the Ninja Turtles growing up. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy them; I liked the first movie when I saw it many years ago, and I enjoyed Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 on the NES. This series combines some masterful story arcs, deep character exploration and fantastic art all the way through. Despite the larger story, every issue so far is easy to understand for first time readers because of how it’s written, yet it’s never clunky. This comic has a bit of everything; well-choreographed action, mystery, romance, family troubles, gangsters, science fiction, humour, dark storytelling and great villains. This series has turned me into a Ninja Turtles fan, and besides Red Sonja, no other series has turned me into a fan of the kind of thing I haven’t been a fan of before. Batman may be worth recommending to non-comic readers, but the current Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is so good it’s pretty much a must read for anyone who has ever been a fan of the franchise.
Runner ups: Red Sonja, Ms. Marvel, She Hulk, All New X-Men, Uncanny X-Men, and Batgirl
Most Anticipated comics for next year
I’m going for a loose definition for this particular category. It doesn’t have to be a new series to be nominated, nor does it have to be switching writers. It’s simply the book I’m most looking forward to in the near future. I’m looking forward to the rest of Bitch Planet. I’m looking forward to seeing where Supergirl’s new direction will take her. I’m looking forward to the Death Vigil finale. Wolverines is another title I’m looking forward to. There’s also the building epic in TMNT, like the upcoming Krang war and the ongoing conflict between Shredder’s Foot Clan and the turtles. But none of those are my most anticipated title, even if TMNT is my favourite ongoing of the year.
I love the first year of G. Willow Wilson’s Ms. Marvel run and I look forward to seeing how she’ll grow further in the New Year. Her appearance in Amazing Spider-Man is but a hint of how her role will expand, and multiple interviews have stated how she’ll be a bigger part of the Marvel Universe in the near future. That’s not to mention that Wilson has become a Marvel exclusive writer and recently showed up at a writer’s retreat – the first woman writer to do so that I know of.
Runner ups: Wolverines, Bitch Planet, The Death Vigil finale, G. Willow Wilson’s X-Men run, Supergirl, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
That’s it for my favourite comics of 2014. Click here to read about my favourite music, or here to read about my other favourite things of 2014. Happy New Year everyone, and I’ll see you in 2015.