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Stephanie Cooke’s Top 10 Comics of 2014

I think that I’m suppose to do a countdown from 10 to 1 of my favourite comics of last year, but as I’m writing this, I’m still undecided as to how this is all going to be presented to you. I like to keep everyone on their toes! I suppose if you’ve listened to the Talking Comics Best Of deliberations and the episode of The Missfits featuring my Top 5 Comics, you’ll have an idea of what’s to come, but still… some of you may not listen to those things and it all could be a shock to you.

I don’t even know what I’m rambling about but this is the worst intro to a Best Of list ever. Let’s actually divvy up some praise…

I read a LOT of comics every year… a lot of really good ones, a lot of really bad ones and a little of ones that I barely even remember because well, they weren’t very memorable. This list is obviously in existence to celebrate the former of those three things and to give praise to the comics that were exceptional to me in 2014.

Each comic will have a little write-up to accompany it and should you wish to look into each book more, clicking on the thumbnail image beside each write-up will take you to the Amazon page where you read about the description, take a look at the inside of the book and even buy it, if you should choose to, which I obviously recommend that you do because they’re all amazing.

Without further rambling, let’s get this party started with #10 on my list and we’ll countdown to my #1:

ZBC0210. Black Canary/Zatanna: Bloodspell by Paul Dini and Joe Quinones
I rarely get around to writing reviews these days but when I got an advanced copy of this from NetGalley, I read it and immediately felt compared to share my opinion with the world (as is the prerogative of people on the internet). This book is ass-kicking ladies being given a great story, a great artist and is pulled off with a lot of style and fun. I laughed and just enjoyed the heck out of this book from start to finish along with my compadre in arms, Bob Reyer. If you haven’t had a chance to check out Bloodspell yet, do yourself a favour and look for it. No prior knowledge of the characters is needed for you to jump in feet first and have a blast with this book.

978-0-307-91173-519. Shoplifter by Michael Cho
Due to my schedule and missing episodes of Talking Comics, I never did get a chance to mention Shoplifter on the podcast. When Brenden Fletcher did a guest spot on The Missfits, he mentioned this book to us as one of his recommendations and I picked it up based on his word. Shoplifter is a short story about a woman that is miserable in her day to day life because she’s not doing what she set out to do in the world. She lives a life that she is complacent in and gets by for the sake of it. To feel a little thrill, every now and again, she tests herself to see if she can get away with shoplifting from her local convenience store. It’s a really great tale that just about anyone can relate to since so few of us have ever not experienced what the main character, Corrina is going through. Michael Cho wrote and illustrated the graphic novel and it’s available pretty much everywhere for you to pick up.

awa68. Afterlife with Archie #6 by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla
This is the only single issue comic that’s on my list and if you listened to the Talking Comics podcast right after this came out, you’ll remember us gushing about this book for like, half an hour.

It. Was. Perfect.

I don’t remember the last comic that I was this enamoured with. I grew up with Sabrina the Teenage Witch as a comic and as a TV series and she is forever a beloved character to me. This book was Lovecraft meets Sabrina, something that I didn’t even know I needed in my life, but all I want now is MORE. Francavilla expertly brings this story to life with his pictures and if there were no words to accompany Afterlife with Archie #6, it would pretty much still be perfect. However, the story is equally excellent and it makes this issue that much better. I was admittedly a little disappointed when the following issue of AwA wasn’t another Sabrina issue and even more disappointed when I found out that the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina wasn’t a spin-off telling this tale, but that’s not to say that I don’t still love them. I’m getting carried away (which is SO unlike me) but the moral of this story is this: Afterlife with Archie #6 is not an issue to be missed. I don’t think it’s 100% necessary to have read the rest of the series before jumping into it, but it wouldn’t hurt to know what’s happened in Riverdale.

boombox_lumberjanes_001_a7. Lumberjanes by Brooke Allen, Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis
Boom Studios did a LOT right this year and one of those things was publishing this book. Lumberjanes is a comic that the women of our community have been screaming for. It’s a fun and adventurous tale about a group of girls off at summer camp and what kinds of shenanigans that they get into while there. The art is wonderful with each character having a distinct look and style. The story is great wherein each of said girls also have distinct personalities and traits and have I mentioned how much fun this book is? BECAUSE IT IS SO MUCH FUN.

It’s everything we could’ve possibly wanted and more. The women of this industry couldn’t have brainstormed a better comic to commonly unite all of us in saying “READ THIS!”

184655666. This One Summer by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki
I think Mara Wood said it best on The Missfits when she described This One Summer in that it’s a perfect slice of life comic about two young girls who spend the summers at the same place in cottage country. They’ve known each other for years and they only get to see each other at this time of year so they’re unburdened by the complications of friendship year-round. There lives as friends exist in this little bubble when their families are at the cottage.

Mariko and Jillian tell a brilliant story that’s interlaced with all kinds of family problems that come up in so many lives and how those problems bleed into the people around us. It’s not a particularly funny or warming but it tells a story that feels real and to me, that’s the appeal of this book.

High_Crimes_03-15. High Crimes by Christopher Sebela and Ibrahim Moustafa
Remember a couple of years ago when I touted Rachel Rising as the best comic that you probably aren’t reading? Well High Crimes is that book for 2014.

I. Love. This. Comic.

Flawed characters that still feel real? Check.
Exciting story that’s both original and rewarding to readers? Check.
Exceptional art and colours that perfectly accompany the narration and dialogue? Check.
A story that provides answers while continuously adding layers and more fascinating stuff that draws you in? Check.

High Crimes is currently only available through ComiXology from Monkeybrain Comics but this year, it’ll be released by Dark Horse Comics in volumes (starting with Vol. 1 in July). It’s definitely worth checking out way before then though, so make sure you do that, but just in case you need a little bit more coxing, the synopsis is this: A woman who has been stripped of her Olympic snowboarding medals for drug use flees the country to hide from her problems. She takes her baggage off to Everest where she starts working as someone who climbs the legendary mountain to recover bodies and charge the families a fee for it. When they find a body that was meant to stay hidden, it sets off a series of events that no one could’ve predicted and Everest is no longer the deadliest thing in our leading ladies’ life. DUN DUN DUN!

Can I just list the rest of the things without descriptions? God, writing lists is HARD, guys…

ku-xlarge4. In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang
Gosh, where do I begin with this book? I honestly think that this is one of the most important comics to have come out in 2014. It has an amazing message and really encapsulates what girls on the internet go through, especially gamers. Well, to a degree. This book specifically covers the fact that a lot of women game with male avatars to avoid harassment and shines light on what that can be like. It also touches on bullying and what the world can be like for people around the world, which sounds a bit strange but you’ll see what I mean.

Cory Doctorow tells a great story and even greater than the story is the art by Jen Wang that is everything that I could’ve possibly wanted it to be for this book.

original3. Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley
THIS BOOK. THIS F*CKING BOOK. Ok, I realize that that probably isn’t as poignant since it’s not describing Sex Criminals but WHATEVER. Seconds is amazing and was easily one of the best graphic novels of the year. Which explains why it has made it onto my list.

Seconds has it all: humour, excellent art, beautiful colours, a wonderful story, solid message and more. If you recognize the name Bryan Lee O’Malley but can’t place it right away, he’s the author of the Scott Pilgrim comics. While Seconds has a very cartooney style to it, it somehow still manages to feel like it’s very sophisticated and the unique page layouts that O’Malley presents to us make the book feel incredibly more grown-up than Scott Pilgrim. They’re entirely different things, so it’s not fair to compare like that, but Seconds definitely has the feel of Scott Pilgrim’s older and more mature sister comic. It still embodies O’Malley’s style and flavour while being its own thing.

If you haven’t had a chance to pick this book up yet, do yourself a favour and make sure to get the hardcover because it is gorgeous and Nathan Fairbairn just rocks the colours for Seconds.

the-rise-of-aurora-west2. The Rise of Aurora West by Paul Pope, JT Petty and David Rubin
We’re getting awfully close to my #1, but that shouldn’t take away from the rest of these comics didn’t quite make it there because everything else I’ve talked about (including this book) is awesome.

The Rise of Aurora West is a presequel to Battling Boy. In that graphic novel, we met the title character and saw a character called Haggard West fall from his place as the hero of the world. We briefly meet his daughter who loses everything in a single day and don’t really get much more of her story. The second volume of Battling Boy steps away from that character and focuses on the very interesting story of Aurora West (thus why the book is titled as it is).

We go back in time to before Haggard dies and before Battling Boy comes to their world. We see Aurora’s life as she trains to be a vigilante alongside her father and attends her studies which include her regular schooling as well as other things outside the norm like combat and weapons training. Meanwhile, Aurora has other things going on like trying to solve the mystery of what really happened to her mother. Inevitably, it’s also a little sad knowing that Aurora is going to lose her father shortly but it’s a great story and much more compelling than Battling Boy’s. I guess maybe it’s because of Aurora’s motives and maybe that she was just equipped with a better personality but it’s definitely worth reading, so make sure you do so.

91bldT8CbtL._SL1500_1. Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
This past October, I spent the month trying to educate myself in the horror genre for movies, books and comics. Obviously only the latter is relevant but I was beyond surprised by how much I loved Emily Carroll’s series of short horror stories collected in Through the Woods. Her art style and the way she tells the stories genuinely leaves you feeling haunted. There were SO many great books that came out this year, but I think this one is at the top of my list because of how much it surprised me. Through the Woods is something that everyone should read and I just wish that there was somehow even more of this.


Seriously, this book just stuck with me and I want to read it over and over and over again. With the lights on and when I know the neighbours are home.


That’s going to do it for my Top 10 Comics of 2014. Writing lists is hard, especially when you can’t shake that horrible feeling that you’re forgetting something…or LOTS of things. Narrowing it down to just 10 things is crazy difficult but I think I did a pretty good job of finding the things that made the biggest impact on my this year.

I hope you enjoyed this list and please feel free to share what comics you loved from this year in the section below and share you thoughts on what’s on my list if you’ve read it already.

2015 promises to make my list just as hard next year, but I’m looking forward to the challenge.


Stephanie is [obviously] a comic book fan, but she also considers herself an avid gamer, movie watcher, lover of music, board games fan (although she doesn’t find nearly enough time for them…) and being snarky. Oh, and Twitter. Twitter’s a hobby, right?…

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