I think it is fair to say that 2014 was quite a good year for comic books. Not only was it a good year in general, it was especially good for female characters, writers, and artists. In fact I had not even realize that 7 and a half (Hawkeye is the half) of my best books of the year all had female leads until well after I had compiled it. Get ‘em ladies!
While all these books have their high and low points, these are what I considered to be the best in terms of consistency in writing, artwork, and just overall enjoyment while reading them. So without further ado!
10. Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Rift
All of the Avatar comics that have come post television show have perfectly captured the characters we know and love. The artwork is great, being identical to the show’s makes it really easy to put yourself right back into the Avatar world. This third chapter in the adventures of Aang and the gang is easily the best so far. With more mature characters and the feeling of higher stakes than the first two. Show creators Bryan DiMartino and Michael Konietzko definitely do not let their fans down with this fantastic series.
9. Loki: Agent of Asgard
I think a writer deserves major credit when they are forced to tie their series into an event (especially when it is not a good event) and the story does not skip a beat because of it. Al Ewing did just that, when a lot of series were suffering through AXIS tie ins, Loki continued to shine. This testament to Ewing’s writing is seen through every issue so far, taking the reigns of a character that Kieron Gillen has been writing masterfully for years. This book has so much going for it, fun art by Lee Garbett, Loki as a secret agent, snappy one liners, black nail polish, and mischievous antics galore.
8. Thor: God of Thunder/Thor
With Thor: God of Thunder Jason Aaron took a character that, on his own, I cared very little about, and made his solo run one of the best things I read this year. With the incredible God Butcher story arc, the combination of Thors from three different time periods, and beautiful art, this was more than I ever expected. Things only got better when Thor became unworthy of Mjnolir and, a still yet to be identified, woman takes up the mantle. While only 3 issues in so far, the new Thor series is definitely one I am most excited to keep reading into 2015.
7. Gotham Academy
I was not sure what to expect from Gotham Academy. I tend to gravitate to the more fringe DC titles than their main ones, so I gave it a shot, and was completely blown away. This strange combination of Gotham meets Harry Potter meets Buffy somehow manages to land every single beat. It has mystery, dynamic characters, and some of the most stunning art around – aside from the weird plaid on the uniform skirts. It is not easy for a writer to get you invested in and care about character you know nothing about right off the bat, but Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher knock this one out of the park.
I love Hawkeye. I love every single issue of Hawkeye. But the problems come in when your series is never released on time and you only get 6 issues in an entire calendar year. That major break in continuity aside, the 6 issues we did got were pretty phenomenal. Kate’s continuing adventures in L.A., the Christmas dog special, the sign language issue, and more amazing art than you can shake a stick – or arrow – at.
5. Black Widow
The fact that I have four books ahead of Black Widow is a testament to what an amazing year this was for comics, because everything about this series makes me incredibly happy. Phil Noto’s art is truly something to behold, I firmly believe this is one of the best-drawn and colored books around. Nathan Edmonson’s internal dialogue is spot on, conveying so much about Natasha without her having to say much at all. Natasha’s team ups with Bucky, X-23, Hawkeye, ect are so fun. These and many others are just some of the things that make this series so spectacular.
4. The Wicked + The Divine
I admit it, I am a card carrying member of the Gillen / McKelvie fan club. I think together Gillen’s writing and McKelvie’s art do things that so few of other writer-artist combinations are capable of – I could look at the panels of Luci (aka Lucifer) for hours. Most of us can relate in some way to the protagonist Laura’s desire for something more, to be something more, which is one of the reasons this epic tale of reincarnated gods is so easy to get swept up in. Plus who doesn’t love a series with facinating mythologies, an array of interesting characters, sex, drugs, and rock and roll.
3. Ms. Marvel
Pure, unadulterated joy. That is the best way I can describe Ms. Marvel. Joy in looking at the amazing art by Adrian Alphona. Joy in reading the brilliant characterization and humor by G. Willow Wilson. Joy in just knowing that this book is about a young Pakistani-American Muslim girl in New Jersey. There are just not enough good things to say about Ms. Marvel, but a particular highlight is her team-up with Wolverine. Where she tells him that her fanfic of him and Storm in space was the most up voted last month, and that she had totally put him first in her superhero team-up bracket. Good. Just so, so good.
2. Captain Marvel
I know I am in the minority, but I did not love the Captain Marvel series back in 2013. The art put me off and I didn’t really love the story. With that in mind, I was hesitant to pick this new run up. But boy am I glad I did. To me, everything about this is an improvement. David Lopez’s art is on point and fits perfectly in with this much more lighthearted story. This made me laugh – Rocket and his persistence that Carol’s cat is a killer alien called a Flerken. It had me in awe – the issue where everyone speaks in rhymes. And it even made me a bit emotional – the 100th Captain Marvel issue. I am just so into this series, and am really thankful that Marvel is giving these amazing female characters the attention they deserve.
In 2014 we got the end of Gail Simone’s illustrious and incredibly important run on probably my favorite DC character – Batgirl. While her run and end of the series would probably be enough to get it on this list, it’s what happened after that vaulted it to my favorite comic of the year. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good brooding comic (even if this list is not indicative of that), but after all the trauma and hardship that poor Barbara Gordon has gone through, it is so refreshing to get to see her be young and fun again. The art by Babs Tarr and Cameron Stewart perfectly illustrate this and Babs’ the new found youth and exuberance. From her brilliantly redesigned costume, to the Gothom/Burnside version of Tinder (Hooq!), to the small things like Babs using her eidetic memory to solve crimes, I just love everything about this, and I can’t wait to continue reading it into 2015.