Sunday, January 04, 2015

Top 20 Comics of 2014

Without further ado…


Same as last year, the X-books failed to impress me, even with the whole “Death of Wolverine” event happening.  But I totally dig the No More Humans graphic novel.  It had an epic premise: every human mysteriously disappears, leaving the earth to mutants.  More than that, mutants from other realities started popping in as the humanless Earth-616 world is now a perfect place for mutant refuge.   The X-Men struggle whether to accept this new world or to bring back the status quo – and how?        


People are saying that Kamala Khan a.k.a. the new Ms. Marvel is this generation’s Spider-Man.  Though I wouldn’t go that far, I understand where that perception is coming from as Kamala, like early Peter Parker, also has to deal with the daily drama of being a teenager while fulfilling her superhero duty.  I’m not yet really jumping into the bandwagon, but I appreciate the uniqueness of the character as well as her massive potential.  But, seriously, the book’s first storyline isn’t that great.      


This is a new series, so there are only three issues so far.  Nonetheless, this series has already hooked me, since among the dramatic rebranding of the Avengers’ Big 3 (Cap, Iron Man, Thor), what was done on Iron Man was the only thing that really worked well.  As a result of the psyche inversion in “Axis”, Tony Stark is now more scheming, egotistic, and irrepressible – hence, more intriguing.        


The third volume of the title has been rebranded into something lighter and funnier – with good results.  It has the down-to-earth wit that Hawkeye and Superior Foes of Spider-Man have.  In fact, this title has been my substitute for Hawkeye, which didn’t even make this list because of its irregular release in 2014 (if I get it right, there had only been four issues of Hawkeye last year).  Moreover, the addition of M.O.D.O.K. as a regular has definitely worked magic for the series.       


The latter parts and conclusion of this great piece of sci-fi/horror doesn’t quite measure up to the fantastic build up that its early issues were able to accomplish.   Nonetheless, overall, Scott Snyder delivered a gripping, thought-provoking mini-series that was well worth my reading time. 


I have to admit that my lack of deep familiarity with the DC multiverse (compared to my Marvel knowledge) doesn’t make me fully appreciate and comprehend the sophistication of this epic project by Grant Morrison.  I find it confusing and even tedious at times.  But, of course, I definitely also found a couple of enjoyable and interesting parts – that’s why it’s on this list.  My most favorite is the Pax Americana one-shot, in which the characters acquired by DC from Charlton Comics were given a “Watchmen” treatment – it was awesome.              


I’ve never been a fan of the novels, hence, this was my first encounter with the character, premise, and setting, and I was completely blown away by the richness of its fantasy world.  Now, if I get the chance, I will definitely devour as much Elric books as I can (but I doubt that, given that I have at least 15 books in “The Pile” – my stack of unread/unfinished books).  However, I think Elric works best in comics format, so I hope there are more follow ups to this.      


It made quite a drop from its 2013 standing, but it’s just that the 2014 storylines – like their team-up with Power Girl and Huntress, and undergoing an “amnesia” arc – aren’t as great as 2013’s.  However, the last issue, which kicked-off the present storyline, has been intriguingly promising as a mysterious Joker-like villain is targeting Superman.  This is a tale to watch out for in 2015.     


I didn’t dig Moon Knight’s new look at first.  But realizing that this “new look” is merely an alternate look, and he still reverts to his old, iconic costume once in a while, it grew on me.  Besides, the new series is excellently well-written and totally gives justice to the gritty noir-charm of the character.  


This was the most hilarious comic book series in 2014 (and 2013, for that matter, the year it first came out, and which I had missed then).   The series succeeded in giving Spidey’s supervillains tons of personality at the cost of making them more pathetic and ridiculous.  Too bad it ended this year.   


This line-up has become my most favorite incarnation of the team that I’m sad to see this series end this year.  This unconventional team of bad-guy killers – who are as ready to kill each other as their criminal targets – managed to produce good-quality “black comedy” in a consistent basis.  Its final arc, “Punisher vs. Thunderbolts”, was pretty badass and funny, and the kind of imploding end we could expect from such team.   


I had already dropped this book from my readings after “Trinity of Sin” but the peculiar addition of Lex Luthor and Captain Cold to the team made me curious enough top pick up the book again.  I love how Lex Luthor maneuvered himself into the team, and his sparring of wits with Batman was so entertaining. 


It was a good story, but I wasn’t particularly crazy about the book’s “Zero Year” continuation wherein the Riddler was able to completely take Gotham City hostage and be its despot for a couple of months (as Bane did in The Dark Knight Rises).  However, after that, we get to see another “Batman is an extremely competent, meticulous planner” moment as he take on an entire Justice League which was drugged and controlled by the Joker.  It was truly the most thrilling Batman action sequence that I’ve seen for some time.     


My love-hate relationship with this book continued during the early part of the year, but, in its conclusion, since it resulted into the return of Peter Parker, I was able to comfortably accept the whole “Superior Spider-Man” storyline as an important part of the Spider-Man mythos.   After its issue 31 finale, there were also two extra issues that came out later in the year which served as whetting appetizers for Spider-Verse (more of this later on). 


It’s definitely one the greatest zombie stories ever.  Not only in comics, but of any medium.  I kind of held this mini-series off in 2013, for the premise seems pretty ludicrous.  But I read a lot of praise about it, that in 2014, I picked it up and learned that the hype is all true.  This is not at all your ludicrously wacky “Archie’s Weird Mysteries” plot, but a legitimate horror drama that could give “The Walking Dead” a run for its money.        

I will just put Avengers (my number one comics last year) and New Avengers together in one spot since the Jonathan Hickman’s narrative is running alternatively between the two books anyway, as if it’s a bi-weekly book.  Post-Infinity, both series felt kind of sluggish and weren’t as fun as they were in 2013.  Then it started became intriguingly awesome again when both books time-skipped eight months ahead of the rest of Marvel’s current ongoing comics.  In the two series’ pages, there is still no answer in stopping the impending destruction of the multiverse, but despite of this dire reality, the Avengers still managed to find the time to split into three factions and fight among themselves.  Fun!         


The gorgeous art itself is reason enough to make this graphic novel a winner, but the cloak-and-dagger plot is pretty special, too.  I’ve always thought that it would be fun if Spidey would follow his parents’ footsteps and go on some espionage adventures in his black costume (that’s why I loved “Secret War” – wherein Nick Fury secretly led a group of heroes to invade Larveria – years ago).  Hence, I love how this story forced Spidey into such situation, and proved once and for all that a “Spider-Man as a secret-agent” plot will have enjoyable results.   

Injustice is, hands down, the greatest “Elseworld”-style comic book series ever.  Seriously.  In this alternate reality, Superman has taken the world under his totalitarian rule, allied himself with Sinestro and his yellow lanterns, and brutally and callously crushes those that go against him.  Unfortunately, it’s revealed that most superheroes lack their own personal convictions as they remain firmly by Superman’s side, believing that Superman is always right.  Only Batman and his handful of allies chose to stand against the now tyrannical Superman.  The series details the ongoing war between the two sides in a narrative that is consistently intense, thought-provoking, and engaging – filled with exciting twists, strong character performances, epic battles and deaths, and absorbing drama.    


“Spider-Verse” (this slot is for the event itself and not just the two-issue limited series of the same title) is my most favorite mega-event this year.  Ever since its announcement, I had been excitedly waiting for this.  And now that it’s currently ongoing, it’s everything I was hoping for – a heavy-staked, no-holds-barred Spiderfest.  The event promises the team up of every Spider-Man ever, and though I doubt that it has truly done that, it has, nevertheless, entertainingly utilized every Spider character featured so far.  I really derive so much pleasure from seeing all these different Spider-Men together in one epic story.         

1.) SAGA

The best ongoing comic book series right now is Saga, and it was only this 2014 that I got into it.  I’m glad I finally did since it’s an awesome piece of science fiction fantasy property, packed with sharp humor, delightful insanity, and innate charisma.   It’s brilliantly well-written and beautifully drawn – the most perfect comics around right now.      

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