Saturday, December 27, 2014

Once Upon A Longbox Top Books of 2014


It has been a great year to be a comic reader.  So Tony and I decided to highlight some of our favorite books of 2014.  However we decided to focus on the great books that aren’t getting as much attention.  So before you guys start telling us we are idiots for not putting books like Saga on here, we just feel they are already really well represented.  To keep it clear My thoughts will be in black and Tony’s thoughts will be blue.

Top Books of 2014

Written and Drawn By Walt Simonson
Released by IDW

This book came out of nowhere to me.  Written and drawn by Walt Simonson, this series brings the godfather of Thor back to the realm of Asgard and the relating universe.  Ragnarok tells the story of what happens to the nine realms after Ragnarok comes to Asgard.  But because the gods are all dead this book focus’ on a family of Dark Elves.  It’s only on the 3rd issue due to a lengthy release schedule so the story is still being built.  But Ragnarok really shows why Simonson is still relevant in the comic industry.

Flash Gordon
Written By Jeff Parker
Art By Evan Shaner
Released by Dynamite Entertainment

I added this book to my pull list after reading Kings Watch.  I always enjoyed the cheesy quality of the eighties Flash Gordon movie, but I had never read any of the Flash Gordon comics.  Jeff Parker makes the Flash an incredibly fun character in this series.  Flash is a rich kid with no goals in life except to find the next big rush in his life.  Flash often doesn’t think before he acts, which tends to get him into lots of trouble.  But the aspect to me that really makes it stand out is the interactions between Flash and his two companions Dr. Zarkov and Dale Arden.  Both have very little patience for his actions which makes for a nice level of humor, to offset the dark concepts like genetic testing, universal domination, and oppressive leadership.  This is a must read for anyone who likes the feel of the old pulp stories.

Red Sonja
Written By Gail Simone
Art By Walter Giovani

Gail Simone really embraced the whole package of what Red Sonja has become known for.  It is a delicate balance of babes, blades, beer, and interesting commentary.  Before reading this I would have never believed that Red Sonja could have poignant messages that actually make you think, but Simone has done just that.  Whether it is PTSD, Slavery, or even religion.  Gail Simone has taken the “She Devil With a Sword” and made her a very complex character.  This is a book that everyone should really checkout.  

Completely agree with this pick.  As much as I hate that Simone is everyone’s go-to whenever there’s a book with a female lead, you can’t argue with the results.  She portrays Sonja as a strong, confident, and capable woman with her own code of honor and her own lusts and desires to satisfy.  We used to describe art in a Dynamite book as “Dynamite-tastic”, which is to say it’s complete garbage.  Dynamite has been making great strides to remedy this and Walter Giovani has been leading that charge.  His lines are nice and clean and he does a good job at panel-to-panel storytelling.

The Wicked + The Divine
Written By Kieron Gillen
Art By Jamie McKelvie

With the creative team involved it was guaranteed to be a good book.  But The Wicked + The Divine is almost perfect.  It focus’ on a group of deities that return to Earth every ninety years in the form of teenagers.  They live for two years then die.  The generation the book highlights are all musicians of different kinds, and the story is told through the eyes of a teenager who is a big fan of the group.  Gillen and McKelvie really explore what can be done with the comic medium, as well as weave an amazing world these characters live in.

When this was announced, I had a feeling it was going to be the “can’t miss” title of the year.  McKelvie and Gillen have proven that they are a great team.  Gillen has a real talent at writing young adults and McKelvie renders them beautifully. My only knock on this series is that it makes me wish that they were still doing Young Avengers.  They were just hitting their stride on that title before it was over and they moved on to this title.  I really wanted to see more of Miss America!

Superior Foes Of Spider-Man
Written By Nick Spencer
Art By Steve Lieber
This book was just fun all around.  Superior Foes followed the new Sinister Six (But There Are Only Five???).  Lead by Boomerang the team is comprised of a group of C-List or lesser villains.  The team are planning a Ocean’s Eleven style job that will make them legends in  the villain game.  But first they need to get past a series of double crosses and infighting.  Every member in the team gets their fair share of focus within the length of the book, making it easy to root for the lovable losers.  Then you get the moments with Mach VII and his misadventures in trying to keep Boomerang out of trouble, which makes for some of the funniest moments in comics this year.

Without a doubt, one of my favorites of the year.  In the last couple of years, there’s been a wonderful trend of quirky, irreverent titles--titles like Hawkeye, Deadpool, Secret Avengers.  But this is the gold standard among these titles.  It took characters that nobody cares about and turned them into a dysfunctional team that you wanted to read about every month.  Spencer and Lieber really clicked on this one and it really shows in the consistent quality we got every month.  Lieber especially is an underrated talent.  I hope to see more from both of these guys soon.
Honorable Mentions

Harley Quinn
Written By Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner
Art By Chad Hardin and others
Released By DC

This series could’ve been a real flop or majorly one note.  But the creative team of Palmiotti and Conner have really made Harley Quinn jump out of the shadows of her Puddin’s shadow to become a really great character.  The first great decision they made was moving Harley out of Gotham and into Coney Island.  Harley is now a landlord for a building full of Carnival performers.  And between taking in stray animals and dodging multiple attempts on her life, Harley helps the performers and hangs out with her best friend Poison Ivy.

Another quirky title.  This one has been so much fun.  As we witnessed in their Power Girl run, Palmiotti and Conner are an excellent duo when it comes to creating fun stories.  I hate only one thing about this series: Conner isn’t doing the interior art (we get a cover from her every month) and that’s a damn shame!  The series artist, Chad Hardin, does a wonderful job and is certainly no slouch.

Written By Tim Seeley
Art By Mike Norton

The story of a small town rocked by the return of several residents from the dead, Revival is more than just a horror comic.  The world put together is genius.  All of the people inhabiting the small town have interestingly realistic quirks to them.  When all is said and done the horror aspects take back seat to a character study.

Thor: God of Thunder
Written Jason Aaron
Art By Esad Ribic and Russell Dauterman

This book has been really strong since it began, and 2014 was no exception.  Even with the change in wielders of Mjolnir Aaron has written some of the best stories in comics.  And his writing has only been bettered by the art of Ribic and Dauterman.  Every month I look forward to reading this series.  And in time I am sure that this book will go down as one of the best runs in the history of Thor.

This is a character that Ted has more passion for than I do, but Aaron’s run can’t be denied.  Almost from the beginning until now, it has been top-notch.  Ribic’s visual style will define this era’s Thor for years to come.  He joins Simonson and Coipel in a very exclusive club of definitive Thor artists.  It’s too early to tell, but Dauterman may join them eventually.  His work on this year’s Cyclops title was fantastic in its own right, but he seems to have ratcheted up to another level on this book.  And credit has to go to Aaron, solicits had me thinking lady-Thor was going to be stupid, but so far I’m intrigued!

Terminator Salvation: The Final Battle
Written By J. Michael Straczynski
Art By Pete Woods
Released By Dark Horse

The story picks up right where Terminator Salvation ended.  The battle between man and machine is raging with both sides gaining little ground.  But both sides are making preparations for their play at the endgame.  For man this means a full assault on Skynet to send Kyle Reese back in time, as well as try to make their push to end the machine army.  For machines it is making a deal with the devil to wipeout mankind for good.  But the devil in this scenario is a dangerous serial killer from the past that Skynet wants to give full control of its army.  In twelve issues this book takes everything you think you know about the battle in the future and turns it on its head.  At the same time all of the events you know need to happen occur, and you get to see how they were planned out and what was risked to make them happen.

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