Sunday, December 28, 2014


The highlight of my year, comics-wise, was getting to bring my "1987 And All That" project over to Comics Should Be Good, a blog that has offered me a much wider, more knowledgable audience of comicbook fans than ever before, and of which I was already a regular reader for several years by the time the generous Brian Cronin invited me to be a part of it. A pretty sweet bonus of my being a CSBG writer this year is that I also got to contribute to the annual Top 100 Comics list for Comic Book Resources, the mother site that CSBG is part of. Everyone involved sent in a top 10 list, with a brief explanation as to why each title was chosen, and then the folks at CBR tallied everything up and turned it into a top 100 list for the year. Normally, I don't like to do a formal "best of" list on Comics Matter for various reasons, but because I already put one together this year for CBR, and I was excited and honored to be able to do so, I thought I'd paste my submission for that site's list here in full, copied directly from the email I sent in. Not sure yet where any of these ended up on the final list (or if they made it on there at all), but we'll see as the week unfolds.

10. The Names
Even only four issues in, The Names has already made itself stand out as one of the weirdest and most intriguing series around. Peter Milligan is writing a great conspiracy adventure, one where we get to see all the sides without fully understanding any of them. I'm also crazy about both of the heroes, a dysfunctional duo who each bring their own darkness and comedy to the story. Leandro Fernandez's elastic art is the comic's true driving force, though. It's haunting and emotive, and it perfectly heightens the book's noir sensibilities.

9. Mighty Avengers
Really, Mighty Avengers gets my vote just because of the cast. They are an unusually and admirably diverse team, and they're all fantastic individual characters who Al Ewing writes the hell out of. Mighty Avengers has an idealistic heart, a quick wit, and a serious appreciation for the superhero genre. Plus the current Power Man's superpowers are awesome. He uses the chi of New York City? What does that even mean? I'm not sure I fully get it, or if Power Man himself even does, but Ewing makes it click and I love it. Which could also be said of the whole series.

8. The Wrenchies
The Wrencies is a heavy fantasy tale, overwhelmingly imaginative. Farel Dalrymple is a singular artistic talent, drawing in a sort of warped and muted psychedelic style. It's grittily trippy, and as magical as the novel's story. Themes of childhood insecurity and loneliness are mixed with fun-loving dystopian future demon violence for an uplifting tale of near-hopeless despair. The Wrenchies is, you can tell the first time, a book that requires multiple reads, and will likely never be grasped entirely.

7. Afterlife with Archie
Generally speaking, I am neither a fan of Archie nor zombies, but Afterlife with Archie sold me on both. No doubt, much of that has to do with Francesco Francavilla. The man is a tremendous artist, and for this kind of creeping horror story in particular, his style is the perfect match. The two-page splash of Sabrina the Teenage Witch meeting Cthulu for the first time might be the most memorable single image of any comic all year, and definitely holds a special place in my heart. Robert Aguirre-Sacasa's writing deserves plenty of credit, too. He's telling a pretty straightforward survivors-on-the-run story, but using the classic Archie character dynamics to add tension and complication at every turn.

6. She-Hulk
The biggest comicbook loss of 2014 was when Marvel announced the cancellation of She-Hulk (even though the series itself won't wrap up until January of next year). Charles Soule and Javier Pulido told great superhero stories and great legal dramas in the same space, tying the two genres together seamlessly to produce something that, if not entirely new, was at the very least fresh. It had a strong sense of humor, an impressive cast, and some of the best pop comics art on the shelves. I'm going to miss the hell out of She-Hulk, and I only hope it can continue to find fans even after it concludes, because it deserves much love for many reasons.

5. Harbinger and Harbinger: Omegas
Since it started in 2012, Harbinger has been one of the most interesting, compelling titles around. Joshua Dysart's character work is phenomenal, his villain at once classic and contemporary, and his hero probably the best-written teenage character I've ever encountered. This year, Harbinger reached its conclusion with the three-issue Harbinger: Omegas, and while it's not exactly the end of the line, at least for one character, it was nonetheless a fantastic finale. Indeed, all of the arcs this year—beginning with the introduction of the @x character and leading up to the final confrontation with Harada—were excellent, a mighty fine way for a solid series to make its exit.

4. Moon Knight
Warren Ellis, Declan Shalvey, and Jordie Bellaire put together six of the hardest-hitting, best-looking superhero action comics of the year, bar none. Moon Knight isn't a character who is easy to do well, but Ellis found an angle that worked immediately, and Shalvey & Bellaire made it sing. An issue-long fight scene, an extended dream sequence, and deeply ambiguous endings are three things that would normally turn me off, but in the hands of this team they made for immensely satisfying reading. Some bemoaned the short lifespan of this run, but I think its brevity is part of why it belongs on this list. "Leave 'em wanting more" is advice taken not nearly often enough in comics, but Moon Knight is a prime example of how effective that approach can be.

3. Ms. Marvel
To create a new superhero in the either Marvel or DC Universe and have it not only succeed but truly break out is no easy feat. Those companies have such dense histories and so many well-established characters, most newcomers are quickly dismissed or forgotten. Kamala Khan isn't just new, she's in her own book, in her own city, and comes from a culture that is hugely underrepresented in the mainstream comic world. So her success, and the success of Ms. Marvelas a series, is significant for several reasons, not the least of which is that it breaks the mold of what's expected to sell. Also, it is a reliably awesome, entertaining, hilarious, heartwarming, great-looking superhero comic, so even without all other the things that set it apart from the herd, it's a standout series. It may not be my personal #1 pick, but I'd still say it's the one title that most deserves to be on this top 100 list for the year.

2. Revival
Revival is a comfort blanket. Or maybe it's more accurate to call it a pillar. My point is, you can count on it to always, always deliver. While other titles, even the great ones, have an off month here and there, Revival maintains its impeccable quality throughout. With Tim Seeley writing and Mike Norton drawing every issue, it's also one of the most cohesive and consistent books being published today. The story burns slowly but is still white-hot, a horror tale but also a small-town soap opera of the highest caliber. There isn't a single character in the expansive cast who comes across as shallow or underdeveloped; they are all full, complex, flawed, engaging people, meaning no matter who we're watching or what the situation is, our full attention is always demanded. I look forward to each new issue of Revival more than any other title I follow, and that has been consistently true since it debuted more than two years back.

1. Flash Gordon
Jeff Parker and Evan Shaner's Flash Gordon has so, so many things going for it, but above all else it's fun. And it has fun being fun, the characters and creators all enjoying themselves unabashedly. There's not nearly enough of that in comics, and what's so wonderful about this series is that it manages to have its fun without in any way detracting from the stakes of the stories it's telling. We care deeply about all three of our heroes, even as we laugh at their antics. Flash Gordon is an old-school character, and both Parker and Shaner respect that, giving the book a retro feel, yet simultaneously making it undeniably modern. It's the kind of series that makes you remember why you fell in love with comics in the first place, and at the same time gives you hope for the future of the medium. Hands down, I get more pure, unfiltered enjoyment and pleasure from reading Flash Gordon than anything else coming out right now.

No comments:

Post a Comment