The last twelve months offered comic book readers a wide variety of work ranging from the most crowd-pleasing superhero epics to the most idiosyncratic of indies, and the return of old favorites to the emergence of exciting new talent. It was a busy and productive year for the industry, and one we’re pleased to celebrate with what we’re certain will be an uncontroversial, unenumerated list of awards that will prompt only resounding agreement and unbroken fellowship amongst our readers in the comments below. Welcome to part one of ComicsAlliance’s Best Comic Books of 2014.
Reviews - Page 5
Chris Sims: Hello everyone, and welcome back to our series of in-depth reviews of movies based on comics. This week, though, we're doing something a little different! With Christmas just around the corner, we wanted to hit something holiday-themed, and while we debated checking out the Star Wars Holiday Special or one of the three - three! - Christmas episodes of Lois and Clark, we eventually found something that interested us a little more.
Matt Wilson: Our choice came down to continuing our '90s trend with the Christmas episode of The Mask cartoon or the Christmas episode of the 1970s Wonder Woman TV show. Only one of these choices, Wonder Woman, had Frank Gorshin in a guest-starring role, so we went with that one.
Though the story itself is very much a product of its time, NECA's managed to bring both Bad Blood and the Enforcer to life with great detail. Right down to the decapitated heads.
The fourth issue of Multiversity, Thunderworld Adventures, with art by Cameron Stewart, colors by Nathan Fairbairn and letters by Steve Wands, was initially described by Morrison as taking the All Star Superman approach to Captain Marvel. Set on Earth-5 — previously Earth-S in the pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths DC Multiverse — it's far more evocative of the original Fawcett Comics incarnations of these characters than any versions that have been in the DC Universe since.
Lighthearted and fun, with gorgeous art by Stewart and Fairbairn and a lettering style from Wands evocative of the neo-C.C. Beck take Jeff Smith took in his recent Monster Society of Evil prestige miniseries, it's the anti-Pax Americana in tone, subject matter and symbolism, while maintaining a consistency of message and intent.
Outside of David Uzumeri, who spent a good portion of last week learning about Spiral Dynamics just so he could talk about Pax Americana in excruciating detail, I'm as big a fan of Grant Morrison as you're likely to find. For me, JLA, New X-Men, his seven year run on Batman and even the 11 issues of Aztek that he co-wrote with Mark Millar are easily on my list of the all-time greats. That said, if we're being completely honest with each other, I'm not that keen on his work outside of mainstream superheroes. I can take or leave The Invisibles and The Filth didn't do much for me, and while I like Joe the Barbarian a lot, that book basically has Snake-Eyes from G.I. Joe in it, so it barely even counts.
As a result, I wasn't really paying attention to Annihilator, the book Morrison and Frazer Irving are doing through Legendary, until the aforementioned Uzumeri was singing its praises. Curiosity got the better of me, so today I sat down with the first four issues to see if it was worth all the hubbub, and the result was that I liked it a lot. It's a bizarre and compelling sci-fi epic where Irving is doing some of the best work of his considerably impressive career -- and on top of that, it is quite possibly the most Grant Morrison comic of all time.
In Letter 44, new President Stephen Blades steps into office after America has suffered eight years of a substandard Presidency. Picking up a letter left by his predecessor, however, he learns that much of what went wrong in America – money being pumped into the military rather than in services at home, pointless wars which killed thousands of troops – were actually part of a longer-term plan to deal with a far bigger problem.
Specifically: aliens are out there, and they may or may not be planning to invade Earth in the near future.
Writer Charles Soule and artist Alberto Alburquerque handle the fallout of that letter across a bulky first trade, collecting the first six issues together. What becomes apparent pretty quickly, though, is that this is a series which isn’t particularly interested in telling contained arcs, or telling stories for a trade. Instead, this is a proper ongoing series, in which the last issue of this trade feels like just another step towards a bigger picture, rather than a wrap up of everything that’s come before.
Of all the comics that could indulge in one of my beloved Holiday Specials, Flash Gordon seems like a pretty unlikely candidate. I mean, now that I think of it, if comics can give us that story where Superboy gets caught up in the Christmas Spirit and decides to get the Legion of Super-Heroes to hunt down the star that the Magi followed to the manger and ends up rescuing a race of alien bird-people from a flood in what can only very charitably be called a miracle, I guess you can wring a little holiday cheer out of just about anything. Still, the adventures of three humans trapped in an alien empire full of tree monsters and beast-men doesn't quite seem like it would easily lend itself to the spirit of the season.
And yet, that's exactly what the folks at Dynamite have done with the new Flash Gordon Holiday Special one-shot, and while I could not possibly be more in the target audience for this thing -- my interest in space adventure is only outstripped by my love of Christmas -- it's well worth picking up.
Though 'Batman: The Animated Series' had its share of action figures back when it was on the air, the collectibles could hardly be considered more than children's toys. This year, to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Batman, DC Collectibles went back to the animated well for a new series of figures based on the now classic Bruce Timm designs.
Incorporating characters from the original 'Batman: The Animated Series' as well as the under-appreciated 'The New Batman Adventures', the figure line's aesthetic (more articulation and accessories, as well as a higher price point) is geared towards the adult collector. This series is aimed directly at those who spent their afternoons after school patiently waiting to see the latest episode, and who are now old enough to have disposable income.
Back when it first started up, I wrote a review of Archie's Mega Man comic where I called it "the smartest superhero comic on the stands," mostly because of the way that it took on some pretty serious ideas without detracting from the accessible, all-ages adventure that made it such a fun read. That bit in the first arc where Mega Man starts to withdraw from his family, becoming cold and, well, robotic because of the psychological toll of destroying other robots like himself is still one of my favorite scenes in comics from the past few years.
Forty issues later, I can still stand by that statement. Mega Man hasn't just continued building one of the most enjoyably action-packed stories around the bare-bones plot of "go right, shoot robots" that it got from the video games, it's also having conversations about ethics, forgiveness and what it means to love someone that nobody else in comics is coming close to. And it's great.
There are a lot of reasons to love what Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Francesco Francavilla are doing on Afterlife With Archie. There's the genuinely scary, atmospheric horror, the compelling character work that plays off the idea of horror movie archetypes, and the dark comedy that's inherent in taking America's favorite squeaky-clean teens and dropping them into an exceptionally violent and disturbing apocalypse. As for me, though, I'm mainly just in it for the deep-cut references to Archie's past.
The latest issue delivered on all four fronts, as the gang departs Riverdale in an efort to escape the massive zombie horde led by Jughead -- a phrase that is truly a delight to type -- but there's also something else about it: It has a strong late contender for the best line of dialogue of 2014.