The new year is here but I hope you didn’t think we’d go into 2014 without that sacred of all year end traditions; the “Top 10” list! As always I force myself to only choose 10 titles that blew me away because let’s be honest here, picking the top twenty or fifty would just be too easy! And since “easy” is for suckers I decided to take on the challenge once again. Now, to even be considered for the list the title had to be an ongoing series with quite a few issues under it’s belt. This helped cut down my choices as a lot of my favorites this year were either a mini series or only on their second or third issue. So, without further adieu here’s what months of back and forth and forcing myself to stick to my guidelines have brought me to so enjoy!
Masters of the Universe (DC Comics) – Yeah, that look right there was the same one on my face too!This title was more of a surprise than any on the list and made me wish this was the version of Masters of the Universe that I got as a kid! When it was announced that DC Comics would be releasing this series there was much skepticism on my part mainly due to the memories of boring cartoon storylines that didn’t respect the intelligence of it’s audience. A lot of camp along with really bad and recycled character designs. What we have in place of that is a more exciting story that doesn’t insult the reader while at the same time giving the characters much needed substance and personality. For all of you who were put off by certain costumes, their visual designs have been updated and greatly improved upon as well. Keith Giffen has made Masters of the Universe one hell of a sci-fi/fantasy read that has not only exceeded expectations (despite some questionable art at times) but has been fun issue after issue. The Prince Adam/He-Man connection is a lot more believable, Hordak and Skeletor are intimidating villians and he even worked Adora into the story in a way that was just a natural progression of the series. Sure there’s been a questionable issue here and there but the overall story has been a step in the right direction and hopefully DC can keep us wanting more Masters of the Universe in the months to come!
All New X-Men (Marvel) –The comics industry probably needs another X-Men title like it needs…well…another X-Men title. Especially one that features the time displaced original X-Men which holds three of my least favorite characters. So how is it that this title even makes the list? Well, it’s due to Bendis being able to craft a story that makes you take a side from the start of the series. Beast shows no moral ambiguity about his difficult decision to snatch his younger self and the others from the past in an attempt to get present day Cyclops to see the error of his ways. Everything that is wrong about that decision is pointed out from the the various cast and it’s been exciting to see who is on which side of the debate. The inner conflicts that have taken place are reminiscent of the older Claremont stories where the characters drove the story instead of heavy action scenes. And if there’s one thing Bendis is excellent at doing it’s making sure the characters drive the story regardless of how you feel about them. I’d also like to add that Stuart Immonen and David Marquez made this one of the best looking books of 2013 so you just can’t go wrong there!
The Victories (Dark Horse Comics) – When The Victories mini series wrapped up I was left very impressed and wanting to know more about these characters that I had been introduced to. So let’s just say that when the announcement came that Oeming would continue The Victories in an ongoing series I was more than happy to pick it up without hesitation! He crafts one emotionally charged story that may not be for everyone and that’s what makes this one great superhero title. In a genre overrun with men and women in tights it’s nice to see a writer doing something different and on a deeper level than “who can beat up who”. His characters aren’t flashy as they reflect more the fractured world around them they are trying to protect. Also, don’t try to anticipate where his story is going because just when you think you’ve got it he throws you in another direction. There’s actually two deaths in the story that made my jaw drop because they came out of nowhere! There’s another aspect of this series that hits me personally due to the fact that I work with children who have been affected by some of the issues his characters face. So, anytime I can use a comic to help teach or open the door for communication about the subject then I’m all for it and Oeming should get serious props for choosing to make the reader feel uncomfortable at times. Being that he’s also the artist of the title neither area has suffered with him carrying the heavy workload. This world he’s created is worth a look, especially if you want a different perspective on the superhero genre.
Batman (DC Comics) – There is no denying that Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo have been on point since their first issue of Batman. They continued that tradition by kicking 2013 off with the return of Joker in “Death In The Family”! Snyder brings everything we love about Batman’s longtime foe front and center and then adds just the right amount of macabre to the mind games he plays on the entire Bat Family. It’s also been a relief to get a decent “new” origin for Batman that has actually been worth reading issue after issue in “Zero Year”. It’s no small feat taking on an origin story that’s as well known as Batman’s but Snyder and Capullo have put their mark on it in the New 52! Capullo has been a favorite artist of mine for some time and the reason I even started this title. So if you haven’t seen what he’s been doing in the pages of Batman, your eyes should jump out of your head and beat you for the disservice you are doing them!
Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man (Marvel) – 2013 was no cake walk for Miles as Bendis continued to put this kid through some of the most intense situations of his young superhero career. However, none were more life shattering than the results of the “Venom War” arc as Miles watched his mother die in his arms during Venom’s rampage at a local hospital. So what does Bendis have him do as a result of all this? He quits being Spider-Man! Some of the best storytelling in this series comes out of this as once again, Bendis delivers quality character moments throughout. The father/son talk at the diner is still one of the standout sequences in the series. I’d even go as so far as to say that this series has some of the best supporting characters as well. Another reason for the success of this title are the visuals by Sara Pichelli, David Marquez, & Justin Ponsor. They have time and again made sure to give the reader some of the best visual storytelling seen in comics. This creative team has also shown that despite all of the controversy that surrounded this title during it’s debut it’s the quality of the series that has proved there’s more to this Spider-Man than the color of his skin!
Superior Spider-Man (Marvel) – After causing quite the stir with killing the Ultimate version of Peter Parker in a rare and pretty ballsy move Marvel kills him in the regular Marvel Universe as well! Under the guiding hand of Dan Slott we’ve seen Doctor Octopus pull off what all the other villains have been trying to do for decades! Now with Doc Ock residing in the body of Peter Parker he’s been living the life of Marvel’s favorite hero and taking all of the good and the bad that has come with the role. Now, of course Slott was on the receiving end of a lot of criticism regarding this story change but he’s received a lot of well deserved praise also. As one of the fans who ask for something “new” and “different” this has been a welcome and unexpectedly great direction Slott has taken the story. As Doc Ock attempts to maintain and balance both Peter’s personal and superhero life in a more “superior” fashion we’ve been privy to some really good stories in 2013! Let’s also add the fact Slott has been working with a fantastic team of artists like Humberto Ramos, Guiseppe Camuncoli, and Ryan Stegman along the way. Slott is constantly bringing his “A” game to this title and hopefully 2014 is just as big for Superior Spider-Man!
Archer & Armstrong (Valiant) –I’ve never had more fun reading about two guys fighting evil (and sometimes each other) as I’ve had reading Archer & Armstrong! This is one of those titles to look forward to as Van Lente has made each one a must read. From the introduction of a new Geomancer to Armstrong’s conflict with his brother, the Eternal Warrior, there’s plenty action to balance out the humor. Which, I’m glad to say, doesn’t get in the way of the story since it’s not over the top and annoying as it can be in some “buddy” books. Van Lente has also given these two a great collection of villains to go up against that help make each issue as unpredictable as he next. Religious zealots, blind nun warriors, and little grey aliens to name a few! Archer & Armstrong also boasts some great artistic talent from Clayton Henry to Pere Perez that have done nothing short of awesome from day one! So yeah, there’s no excuse for you not to be reading this series!
Think Tank (Top Cow) – How good can a comic set in the real world about a military think tank genius that grows a conscience be? THAT DAMN GOOD! It’s really not hard to see why Think Tank has been impressing readers since the first issue from the intense story to the eye melting artwork! Matt Hawkins has taken David from “the guy you love to hate” and made him a much better character than he started out as. He’s not taking things as lightly anymore since he’s been betrayed, bullied, and witnessed a cold blooded murder. Now he’s trying to stop WWIII from happening, he’s contracted a DNA specific virus that he’s created while still trying to save the life of the woman who broke his heart in the first first arc! He’s also doing it with a wit and intelligence that is clearly displayed and made more believeable because you can tell that Hawkins has done his research. As made evident by the “Science Class” section in each issue which I highly suggest you take a look at. Alongside this incredible narrative is some great artwork by Rahsan Ekedal that just impresses issue after issue. Since he’s this good with black and white I really can’t wait to see what happens when the series goes to color! Now, if only we can get Ekedal to draw that puppy flying a jet things would be perfect!
Saga (Image) – Let’s be honest here, what can we really say about Saga that hasn’t already been said? It’s won countless awards, had a “controversial” issue, and was even retired from the Tales From The Water Cooler show because it was picked for ten consecutive issues since it came out! What Vaughan and Staples have done with this series has been nothing short of pure comic greatness since day one. It’s been one unexpected turn after another and not just for Alana and Marko but for the entire cast of characters introduced. Vaughan doesn’t seem to want to leave anyone out and it seems as if anything can happen to anyone at anytime! He even made audiences care about the ghost babysitter and a bounty hunter that as only around for a couple of issues! The visuals of Saga have been mindblowing as Staples has a style all her own! She has come up with some of the most shocking moments and just when you think she’s topped herself she comes back and does it all over again! When you hear the word “Saga” it brings to mind something “epic”, “bold”, and “far reaching”! Well, this series is all of that and then some!
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (IDW) – As much as 2013 offered in great comics this is the series that always kept me anticipating the next issue after every read! How could a franchise that’s been around for this long and had MANY interpretations even offer up something new for a longtime fan such as myself? I’ll even admit that my expectations weren’t all that high and there was plenty of doubt about all of it. Well, forget the preconceptions you may have about this franchise and past incarnations of the characters. IDW has gone above and beyond with the reboot of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and though the original will always be great, this run is the best to come around in a long time. What Kevin Eastman & Tom Waltz have done in 2013 in this series has been nothing but phenomenal to say the least. From the character specific micro issues to the Foot origin story, The Secret History of the Foot Clan, it’s all been part of the bigger picture that makes the main TMNT title so grand. 2013’s “City Fall” also saw some of the best story telling this series has offered up as Shredder converts Leo to the Foot Clan, guts Casey Jones, and takes over the criminal underworld. Through all of this the character development for everyone has been excellent. There’s also the core theme of what the Turtles have been about since the beginning and that’s “family”. Which has made this more than just a bunch of random ninja fights from issue to issue.
There’s been some good artists on this series but Ross Campbell and Mateus Santolouco would be the two that stand out to me. Their styles are vastly different which sets a unique tone when they tell their stories. However, both are able to pull so much emotion out of these non human characters that the narrative is that much more exciting. Another thing I’ve noticed is that both are quiet adept at pulling off some of the best martial arts fight scenes when the story calls for it. Which is not an easy feat being that the Turtles don’t have the body type that lends itself for a traditional martial arts look when it comes to fight choreography.
When it’s all said and done this title had more to prove to the fans than any of the above titles and because of the dedication from the artists, writers, and IDW this is the pinnacle of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise!
So that’s the list for this year which I hope gets someone to read something new, spark a debate, or just question my sanity! Also, thanks to Decapitated Dan for the great looking banner and here’s hoping 2014 offers up some more great titles for the next list and that the ones on this list keep up their level of quality! You can also check out my previous lists here and here!