I’ve been brainstorming my top comics of the year for a few weeks now, making notes when I thought of a book I really liked, and I’ve been slowly amassing a really decent list of titles. Then I sat down to figure out my top ten (which turned into a top eleven because there were too many good books!), going “Okay, I like this one the best, then this…” until I had a definite list. I did this entirely on gut feeling, based on how much I liked these books, with no agenda whatsoever. Here’s what I’ve ended up with: Seven of my top eleven books feature female writers and/artists, while my top eight books star female characters. I know I run women in comics stats and talk about increasing female representation in the industry all the time, but this gal-filled list was entirely unintentional. Ladies, real and fictional, have just been killing it this year.
So here are my top eleven comics for 2014. Now, I didn’t read everything, but I sure read a lot, and it was a great year for comics all around. Also, a quick note: I like to pick new books rather than just reiterate all of the things I liked last year. So Saga and Sex Criminals and everything else I talked about last year are still great, but this is an all new list of my favourite comics. Let’s get into it:
11) ODY-C by Matt Fraction and Christian Ward
Gender-swapped mythology is pretty much everything I could ever want in a comic book, and I’ve been really looking forward to this series, but I wasn’t prepared for how impactful it was to read a female Odysseus. I found it weirdly powerful to see her, and so many other women, at the center of such a legendary story. On top of that, it’s a really cool, crazy comic book. The first issue was a blast, and I can’t wait to see where it goes in 2015.
10) The Encyclopedia of Early Earth by Isabel Greenberg
This is the history of the world before our world, and it is big and bizarre and brilliant. I picked up this book on a lark at my local library, and I’m very glad I did. Technically it came out in late 2013, but the rules for this list aren’t terribly hard and fast. This book is hilarious, clever, fun, and most of all unique, and I highly recommend it.
9) East of West by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta
Okay, so this is a Western, but it’s also science fiction, set in an alternate version of the United States and starring the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. If you think that sounds awesome, you and I could probably be friends. And it IS awesome. It’s violent and bonkers and embraces all of its inspirations while doing completely new and fantastic things with them. It’s also absolutely gorgeous. I just grin from ear to ear when I read this book.
8) Thor by Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman
I fell out of the Thor loop a couple years ago after being a regular reader during Matt Fraction’s tenure, but I jumped back on board out of curiousity about the new female Thor and am loving it so far. The new Thor trying to figure out how to be Thor in the midst of battles with Frost Giants is all kinds of fun, and I’m enjoying the slow burn on the big mystery of who this new Thor actually is. Plus that costume is super cool. The writing and art are both solid, and it’s been a guaranteed good time each month.
7) Batgirl: Futures End #1 by Gail Simone and Javier Garron
I was not at all a fan of the “Futures End” event, and I didn’t really keep up with Gail Simone’s Batgirl, but this issue promised the return of both the Stephanie Brown AND Cass Cain Batgirl, so I was all over this issue. It did not disappoint. It was so much fun to have both characters back, along with a new Batgirl, however briefly. While it was just a one-shot set in a hypothetical future, this comic had loads of heart and humour along with some much-missed characters.
6) Bitch Planet by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro
There’s only been one issue of Bitch Planet thus far, but oh wow what a first issue it was. It was a total punch in the face, in the best way. The book is set in a not too distant future where non-compliant women are sent to a prison planet. It’s a feminist riff on exploitation films with sharp, cutting writing and gritty, beautiful art. It’s brutal but thought provoking, depressing but hilarious. If you haven’t read it yet, you absolutely should.
5) Edge of Spider-Verse #2 by Jason Latour and Robbi Rodriguez
This should have been awful. I generally hate Spider-Man, so an event with ALL of the Spider-People was the last thing I was interested in. And bringing back Gwen Stacey just seemed ridiculous. Then I saw the amazing costume, and that Gwen was in a band called the Mary Janes, and I was intrigued. I loved the book, loved the character, loved the writing and the art. Everything about it was fun and great and I’m so excited for the new ongoing series. No one was cooler this year than Spider-Gwen.
4) This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki
As someone who spent their summers at a family cottage, This One Summer was totally up my alley to begin with. The engaging story and lovely artwork perfectly capture everything that’s weird and wonderful about summers at the cottage, and on top of that it’s a beautifully told story of friendship and adolescence. It’s no wonder that it won a Governor General Award; it’s richly deserved.
3) Lumberjanes by Grace Ellis, Noelle Stevenson, and Brooke Allen
Friendship to the max! Lumberjanes is an absolute blast to read, every single month. You’d think that gals in a summer camp getting up to whacky hijinks might get a little bit stale after a while, but each issue is more fun than the last. The book is chockfull of hilarious adventures, but the core of the title is the friendships of all the girls and their commitment to each other. If this book doesn’t make you happy, then you just don’t have a heart.
2) Gotham Academy by Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher, and Karl Kerschl
The Bat-line has been mixing it up in fun ways this year, with a fantastic new team on Catwoman and a wonderful revamp of Batgirl, but Gotham Academy is my favourite thing to come out of DC this year. The book is basically Harry Potter set in Gotham City, but somewhat less magical. Not entirely un-magical, though; something is definitely afoot! Olive Silverlock is a great protagonist, but her optimistic, adventurer pal Maps Mizoguchi gets my vote for best new character of the year. The cast is great, the writing is awesome, and the art is spectacular. Gotham Academy is killing it on every single level.
1) Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona
I think it’s fantastic that Ms. Marvel exists. It’s a mainstream comic with a star who is a Muslim-American, non-white, female teenager; ALL of these demographics are massively underrepresented in superhero comics. Even if it sucked, I’d be happy they tried it. Luckily, it’s amazing. It was no contest for me to pick my favourite comic of the year. Ms. Marvel has been killing it from its very first issue, telling kick ass superhero stories in new and exciting ways. It’s ridiculously fun to read every month, and instantly goes to the top of my pile every time I get comics. It’s “important”, yeah, but more than that it’s just epicly good comic booking. If you aren’t reading this book, do yourself a personal favour and go check it out.
So there you have it, my top eleven comic books for 2014! Feel free to disagree and list your own favourite books in the comments. I’m always glad to hear about what cool stuff I may have missed over the year.