Adrienne Fox

WatchPlayRead’s Top Comics of 2014

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I asked our comic reviewers to submit their top, or favorite, comics they read in 2014 whether a new title, a specific issue, or new arc of existing title. The result is an interesting mix. No surprise given the varied interests of our review team. Check out the WatchPlayRead top comics of 2014:

Alex and Ada (Kara’s Pick)

Writer: Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn
Artist: Jonathan Luna
Publisher: Image Comics

Alex + Ada #5 cover via Image Comics

Alex + Ada #5 cover via Image Comics

As far as loving a sentient AI goes, I have never fully reconciled myself with that idea after seeing Cherry 2000. I realize the title android in that film isn’t a sentient, rather more of a step-ford wife. Yet, I still have a hard time getting the image out of my head when picturing robot-on-human love—men building female bots to have their lustful way with them. Yuck. That being said, I was a bit hesitant to read Alex and Ada. I do love Jonathan Luna’s previous work (The Sword, Girls) and thought perhaps having Vaughn on board might give it a more humanistic and feminist feel. The result is exactly that: a humanized love story that explores culture and society and how we learn to accept that which is unfamiliar. Beautifully drawn and touchingly written, Alex and Ada is an epic tale that I hope continues indefinitely.

Bitch Planet #1 (Adrienne’s Pick)

Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnick
Artist: Valentine De Landro
Publisher: Image Comics

Cover of Bitch Planet #1 from Kelly Sue Deconnick and Valentine De Landro via Image Comics

Cover of Bitch Planet #1 from Kelly Sue Deconnick and Valentine De Landro via Image Comics

So Bitch Planet…what a ride. The first issue is like an exploitation film from the 1970s. But what DeConnick has done is take those B-Movie ideas and updated them to put the source of power in the hands of two very interesting female prisoners as your protagonists. Issue #1 was a great debut. I’m looking forward to more in 2015.

Bodies (Stefani’s Pick)

Writer: Si Spencer
Artist: Meghan Hetrick, Dean Ormston, Tula Lotay, Phil Winslade
Colors: Lee Loughridge
Publisher: DC/Vertigo

Bodies Issue 1 cover

Bodies is ridiculously well-crafted, written, and drawn. Each issue leaves me curious, confused, and craving the next issue. Spencer has created an intriguing series that is beautifully drawn by four different but connected artists. Each time period’s artist perfectly matches the era as well as Spencer’s writing. Colorist Loughridge expertly matches the artwork of each of the four artists. His colors evoke exactly the right emotions. A very cool comic.

Conan Volume 16: The Song of Bêlit (Ryan’s Pick)

Writer: Brian Wood
Artist: Paul Azaceta, Riccardo Burchielli, Leandro Fernandez
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

Conan_Belit

Being the conclusion to one of my favorite Conan runs ever, Conan the Barbarian shows a side of Conan that the world isn’t used to. This is a Conan that is madly in love, and is willing to do everything he can to protect her from harm. Even if she happens to be the Queen of the Black Coast, the moth ruthless and feared pirate ever. In this conclusion written masterfully by Brian Wood, Conan is hanging by a thread, and a threat from age long lost to the world emerges to put Bêlit, Conan and their entire crew at risk for a treasure trove of treasure troves. The book closes on the story of what happened to the first (of two) women that Conan truly loved, how it affects him and how it structures his future. It’s simply a wonderful read, pick up the entire run if you can, but this is an essential Conan book in itself.

Conan: The Avenger (Ryan’s Pick)

Writer: Fred Van Lente
Artist: Brian Ching
Colors: Michael Atiyeh
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

Conan Avenger #2

If my other Conan selection was all about Conan losing his first true love, this new series picks up right after. Fred Van Lente does an amazing job of adapting an unfinished Robert E Howard story and turns it into something that adds tremendously to the Conan Universe. Conan is just drinking himself into an early death bed after the death of Bêlit. So, when some people wait for him to pass out, strip him of everything he has left, dump his body as a setup for murder, THEN he gets tracked by a Witch Hunter. Things get interesting really quick. What I absolutely love about this series is the artwork by Brian Ching. His art on Conan is my favorite out of everything I’ve ever read, and I’ve read almost everything Dark Horse has to offer.

Deadly Class (Adrienne’s Pick)

Writer: Rick Remender
Artist: Wes Craig
Colors: Lee Loughridge
Publisher: Image Comics

Deadly Class #1 from imagecomics.com

Deadly Class #1 from imagecomics.com

It is no surprise that Deadly Class is on my list of best comics of 2014 since I have raved about it in my reviews all year. Marcus Lopez is an engaging character and, along with his group of friends at assassin school, he creates a lot of entertaining drama. Craig’s art is fantastic and the movement in his panels just sucks you into certain panels. Layered with the dramatic colors of Loughridge, I just cannot get enough of this book.

Fiction Squad (Stefani’s Pick)

Writer: Paul Jenkins
Artist: Ramon Bachs
Publisher: BOOM! Studios

Fiction Squad #1
Oh goodness, I just love this comic. Chock full of hilarious jokes about fairy tales and nursery rhymes, Fiction Squad is a truly, truly enjoyable comic. Let me just give you my favorite joke from the first issue: A dog is waiting to speak to a police officer and is told he has to wait. When he asks what he’ll do with himself for six hours, the secretary yells to someone, “Yo! Knick-Knack Paddywhack! Can you give the dog a bone?” Do you really need anything else?

Lumberjanes (Kara’s Pick)

Writer: Grace Ellis and Noelle Stevenson
Artist: Brooke Allen
Publisher: BOOM! Studios

DIG019151_3

I was late to the Lumberjanes party, and I’ll admit I really had little interest till I saw numerous cosplayers at every single convention I attended. Once I did dive in to the adventure, I was sure glad I took the plunge. The story of five best friends who attended the Lumberjanes scout camp together, reads like any Judy Blume book or Babysitter Club novel you ingested in your youth. Just to add to the shear blissfulness of the young explorers, each issue is peppered with music and pop cultural references that make you giddy with delight when you spot them.

The Maxx: Maxximized (Jasen’s Pick)

Writer: Sam Keith
Artist: Sam Keith
Publisher: IDW

the maxx

My first choice for my favorite comic book of 2014 isn’t even from 2014 really. The Maxx ran from 1993 to 1998 and had 35 issues. It was originally published by Image but this year IDW has been re-mastering and re-releasing the comic one issue at a time. The Maxx was honestly what got me into comics in the first place. When I was young tween I had severe insomnia and would stay up late watching bad TV. I came across the TV show one night and became hooked on the comics. The colors are much better and the story is just as punch you gut mind blowing as it was for me as a kid. The psychology behind the story is thought provoking, and plot points will certainly make you cringe.

Nailbiter (Jasen’s Pick)

Writer: Joshua Williamson
Artist: Mike Henderson
Publisher: Image Comics

Nailbiter #1 cover via imagecomics.com

Nailbiter #1 cover via imagecomics.com

Nailbiter on paper sounds like a failed Fox television show. Something that someone tells me I love and when I watch it immediately loose respect for those that recommended it. When our comic reviewer, Kara O’Connor, suggested Nailbiter to me, I was skeptical. I put off reading it for a few months. When I finally picked up the title, I binged on it and read through all the available issues. This comic is grim. It’s dark in a way you won’t see on TV or even in most rated R movies. The story line has me anxiously awaiting the next month’s issue. The art work is just where I like it. Not cartoony and not overly realistic. And those colors! The vivid reds set against grays and earth tones. It feels like an Argento film.

Rat Queens (Adrienne’s Pick)

Writer: Kurtis J. Wiebe
Artist: Roc Upchurch
Publisher: Image Comics

RatQueens_04-1

Both Sarah and I gave Rat Queens a bunch of favorable reviews in 2014–and what a year it has been with this title. The main characters are four young women living in a Dungeons & Dragons world, who raid hard and party hard too. Their trials and tribulations bring them together and pull them apart, but their support and friendship always shines through. If you are looking for character-driven stories worthy of a Dungeon Master, this book is for you. In 2015, this title will see an artist change with Stjepan Sejic taking over the art. I’m confident the series won’t miss a beat and these likable ladies will be tearing up the splash pages again next year.

Saga: Vol. 4 TP (Ryan’s Pick)

Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Fiona Staples
Publisher: Image Comics

saga_tp_04

This collects issues #19 – #24, which leads with the family settling down some kind of roots—as much as roots can be settled for this family. Hazel is a toddler and doing all kinds of, you know, toddler stuff. Alana and Marko are struggling, in their marriage, in their parenting, in their overall just trying to keep their shit together. Somehow as a space epic of sorts, it’s incredibly relate-able to me. Prince Robot IV is going through a tough time as well, trying to find his memory, and then when it comes back to him, it’s too late. Who does he end up teaming up with to get things sorted out? The answer will surprise you. Me? I raised a fist in the air and shouted, “HELL YES!”

Serenity: Leaves on the Wind #1-6 (Ryan’s Pick)

Writer: Zack Whedon
Penciler: Georges Jeanty
Artist: Fábio Moon
Inker: Karl Story
Colorist: Laura Martin
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

serenity cover

This is a continuation of the Firefly TV Show and Serenity movie that followed. There will never, ever be another movie or show in this universe, so the fact that this is the ONLY direct continuation of the ‘verse so series is very significant. A lot is revealed in this run, yes, you will probably tear up when you think about Wash not being a part of this. If you are any kind of fan of this series, this is essential.

She-Hulk (Kara’s Pick)

Writer: Charles Soule
Artist: Javier Pulido, Ron Wimberly
Publisher: Marvel Comics

She-Hulk

Countless super heroes (especially the female ones) have been modeled and remodeled, often for the worse. However, Charles Soule’s version of Jennifer Walters (aka She-Hulk) manages to take the thirty-four year old comic and endow it with new life. THIS She-Hulk isn’t scampering about in thongs, crushing cars above her head. No. The current take on Jennifer Walters focuses on her career as a high-powered lawyer and small business owner who enjoys drinking cocktails with her BFF, Patsy Walker. Sure, there’s plenty of crime fighting and uncanny displays of superhuman strength, but Soule’s She-Hulk isn’t a one dimensional monster. This Jen is all woman. Too bad She-Hulk ends in January with issue #12, she’ll be sorely missed.

Sex Criminals (Jasen’s Pick)

Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: Chip Zdarsky
Publisher: Image Comics

Sex Criminals # 6

Sex Criminals is about a couple that can stop time simply by achieving an orgasm. Despite making me feel horribly inadequate, Sex Criminals was the series that got me reading comics regularly again. Matt Fraction is quite simply a funny and talented writer and Chip Zdarsky couldn’t have illustrated this story any better. This book is well written, well drawn, and most importantly entertaining–the most entertaining series I’ve read this year.

Thor #1 (Stefani’s Pick)

Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: Russell Dauterman
Publisher: Marvel

Thor #1
Obviously an iconic issue for not only the character Thor but for the Marvel Universe, this is an issue not to be missed. Dauterman’s artwork and Wilson’s coloring perfectly suit Aaron’s intriguing and creative story. I was totally not expecting that ending and how Aaron created a female “Thor.”

Trees (Adrienne’s Pick)

Writer: Warren Ellis
Artist: Jason Howard
Publisher: Image Comics

Trees #1 cover via imagecomics.com

Trees #1 cover via imagecomics.com

I’ve seen a few folks comment on the internet that they gave up on this book. True, there is a bit of a slow build that takes patience and some re-reading in single a issue format. In my opinion, the set up and the investment in this story pays dividends. Don’t give up on it! There are these alien structures, called trees, at various places over the globe. How the “trees” affect the populations that grow-up around them and how the folks react to the invasion are fascinating, at least to me. If you don’t think the set-up sounds like something you wouldn’t keep up with, then wait for the trade paperback. No matter which format, just read it.

Wild’s End (Stefani’s Pick)

Writer: Dan Abnett
Artist: I.N.J. Culbard
Publisher: BOOM! Studios

Wilds End

I’m completely unashamed to admit that I am an Anglophile. I love British people, customs, accents – all of which I experienced first-hand while living in Scotland for a year. So a comic that oozes its British-ness all over you? Then add onto that War of the Worlds creatures and scenes á la Simon Pegg’s Cornetto Trilogy? Yeah, give it to me.

Wraith (Kara’s Pick)

Writer: Joe Hill
Artist Charles P. Wilson III
Publisher: IDW

Wraith #7 variant cover

Wraith #7 variant cover

One of my very favorite writers continues to excite me with his potent stories that seesaw between disturbing and heartbreaking. His previous works include The Cape, Horns and the pivotal Locke and Key. Here, Hill sends us to Christmasland, a twisted theme park where children dispose of evil adults through murderous means. Although the story lays on the disturbing element pretty thick, the tenderness manages to shine through and remind us that children are easily affected by our idiotic adult actions.

 

There you have it! There’s a little something for almost every reader on this list. We look forward to more great comics in 2015–and reviewing them for the WPR faithful.

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