Wow. I read a lot of comics this year. Not just the stuff I’ve been reading, continually from year to year (there’s less and less of that with ‘classic’ titles/characters as reboots continue to constantly re-boot, rejuvenate (?) and re-evaluate the ongoing properties of the big 2) but there was a literal flood of great, new comics that hit the shelves this year. And some old friends of course; not everyone is interesting in covering up old scars. And even with all that I did read it’s clear I didn’t get to them all – reading fellow Joupitter Tommy’s year end blow-out spectacular I was shocked to see his favorite was Spread. Shocked because, well, I don’t remember even hearing about this book! Couple with that quite a few other titles on my radar that I missed out on and you’ll see this isn’t a list compiled by someone who read everything there was to read in the 2014 world of comics, but by someone who tried really hard to read as much of it as he could. All that said, this list isn’t only for new books, simply the best comic series I read in 2014, continuing or new.
So we’ve reached the end of another year, and we’re all a little older, a little wiser, and starting to go a little gray…at least I am. Looking back, it seems like a whole lot of terrible shit went down this year, and it most certainly did. Ebola is wreaking havoc in Africa and rearing its ugly mug stateside, we keep losing airplanes, there are naked pictures of everyone everywhere, the Cold War is beginning anew, and race relations seem to be in the same state that they were 50 years ago. It’s all a mess. And it’s enough to make you want to turn in and just escape the world. And to a degree, that’s what we do, and that’s what we’re all about. So, horrible introductions aside, I still consumed a lot of pop culture this year, and as to whether it served as some sort of escape or not doesn’t really matter. I still listened to it. I still watched it. I still read it. These are the things I liked the most…
I’ve been reading comics for more of my life than not and since almost day 1 there have always been women’s names I associated as key creators within the medium. For me Ann Nocenti and Louise Simonson were first, Karen Berger was a little bit later. These are women who actively helped define my world by defining the books that I read, books that helped shape the interior landscape I then in turn used to define the world around me as I grew up in the 80s and 90s. Ms. Nocenti’s work on Daredevil and Spiderman and Mrs. Simonson’s work as both editor and later writer on the X-books were among the earliest comics I fell in love with preadolescence. Later, in high school, many of the key books and creators that Karen Berger brought to her Vertigo imprint at DC etched their way into my very soul, most especially Sandman. That may sound a bit overly dramatic but it’s not; in a very real way the person I am today has roots in those books. Comics have never been any different than prose to me, every bit as important as the fiction I love; every once in a while along comes a Louise Simonson, an Irvine Welsh, a Neil Gaimen or a Donna Tartt and an entire new wing is added to the ego-scaffolding that is, more or less, Me. To me, both comics and prose are literature and literature is food for the soul. So the idea that women may not have a level playing field in the world of comics when they are so revered everywhere else in writing is insane to me and perhaps a little bit of a clue that the comics industry isn’t quite as established or ‘grown up’ as the world of prose.
Holy cow. Now this my friends, this is John Constantine. I mean, if you can hold in your mind’s eye the *eck* movie version from 2005, add to it the current NBC version and then watch this short made with a super small budget and barely any effects at all, well, I think you’ll agree that this isn’t just John Constantine done right, this is John Constantine done probably as close to perfect as we’re ever going to get in our lifetime by a video production company.
I will admit that when I first heard about Scott Snyder and Jock’s Wytches my interest was tinged with a small swathe of trepidation. I don’t mean to sound like a dick, but after recently re-reading Snyder and Sean Murphy’s The Wake I wasn’t too hot on the idea of jumping on a new series by Snyder. This is because, in The Wake‘s case, I love the set-up, LOVE the art (Sean Murphy can do no wrong in my book) and love the characters, love the story and the way it’s two stories that tell one bigger story. What I didn’t necessarily love however was the ending. Honestly, it left me a bit flat. Of course it’s true that the journey is just as important as the destination, but I just don’t know if the ending to The Wake does the rest of the story – and oh what a story – any justice. That more than anything else may be what bothers me about the book and had me a little trepidatious about starting out on a new path with Mr. Snyder at the helm.
I dug Jason Aaron and Jason Latour‘s Southern Bastards from the first issue, but only in a very peripheral way. And for the record, I don’t mean that in a negative way at all. It was actually A Voice in the Dark‘s Larime Taylor, back when he guested on Drinking with Comics, that brought Southern Bastards to my attention, and after picking up and reading issue #1 I ear-marked it as a series to follow. A lot of that was based on how striking and original Mr. Latour’s art and colors were, coupled with the fact that I had previously loved Mr. Aaron’s Scalped, a series I unfortunately still have not completed to this day (it’s in the works…). However, as you may have noticed if you read this column there are a lot of series I follow, and in the tide of my weekly stacks – stacks that seem to grow exponentially month by month – Southern Bastards was a book that I bought but didn’t read for the next few months. When I bought issue #4 I finally caught up, and by the end of it I was a little shocked at the direction some things had taken, not even realizing the… um, how to do this without spoilers… severity of what had happened to one of the characters in the book. Until I picked up issue #5 the other day. After reading the first few pages of that one, well, let’s just say my jaw hit the freakin’ ground.