Best of 2014

2014

 

2014 was an amazing year for comics from small press self published works all the way up to Marvel and DC going at each other trying to put the most eye catching and unique products on the market. The winners were the readers who had a more diverse group of books to choose from across the board than ever before.

Here now are some of GrayHaven’s favorite books, creators and moments from 2014…..

 

RAY GOLDFIELD- (writer/editor)

10. Afterlife With Archie – What could have been a one-joke premise has turned into the best book to come out of Archie Comics in ages. Combining real zombie horror with classic characters that are recognizable but twisted in a dark direction, this has been a massive departure from Archie’s MO – to great effect. And then there’s the incredibly twisted Sabrina issue, which has launched a spinoff that looks just as good as Afterlife.

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9. Swamp Thing – Charles Soule, soon to be departing for Marvel, has built on the foundation left by Scott Snyder and created a Vertigo-esque horror saga that remains the most original book in the DCU. As it heads towards its conclusion, the world has expanded and introduced some of the creepiest villains in comics.

8. Spider-Verse – In contrast to the oversized events that Marvel has put out through the year, Spider-Verse is more limited in scope but manages to be easily the best event comic of the year. While the action is great, the real thrill is in the strange, unique interactions between Spider-men from different universes. And it gave us the breakout character of 2014 in Spider-Gwen.

7. The Image work of Josh Williamson – It’s impossible to pick between haunted heist thriller Ghosted, twisty serial killer drama Nailbiter, and the newly launched dark fantasy Birthright, so I’ll just say that no one in comics right now is better at genre fiction than Josh Williamson.

6. Alex + Ada – A concept that could easily have gone in all sorts of bizarre directions – a lonely young guy is gifted an ultra-realistic android for companionship – has turned into the year’s most powerful comic about the nature of love and what makes someone human.

5. Princess Ugg, Lumberjanes, Ms. Marvel, Penny Dora and the Wishing Box, and Gotham Academy – Comics have been making a major attempt to bring in new female readers. With lots of entires, these are the ones that stood out from five different companies. Where they all excel is in combining fresh, likable characters with high-stakes adventure. From modern superhero action to period piece fantasy and everything in between, these five books represent the best in all-ages storytelling currently in comics.

4. Magneto – This was the year that both Marvel and DC diversified their line in tone, and one of the best examples was Magneto. The X-men’s most popular anti-hero is well overdue for his own title, and Cullen Bunn’s writing perfectly weaves together Magneto’s tragic past with his brutal campaign of vengeance.

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3. Batman: Eternal – Weeklies are a dicey matter for any comic book company, but there’s never been one as tightly plotted as this Bat-epic. Pulling together all the main writers from the line under the guidance of Scott Snyder and James Tynion, this weekly has weaved dozens of plots and villains together into the best example of the weekly comic since 52.

2. Southern Bastards – A pitch-black southern noir with the most shocking twist ending in any comic this year, this book by the a-list creative team of Jason Aaron and Jason Latour was the absolute peak of a fantastic year for Image.

1. The Unwritten: Apocalypse – the final act of a six-year fantasy saga hasn’t lost a single step in its closing days. What started out as a clever satire of Harry Potter and the media frenzy surrounding it has evolved into one of the greatest fantasy epics of all time. With only one issue to go, this is one of the greatest Vertigo books ever published.

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ANDREW GOLETZ (publisher)

We’ll get to the comics in just a bit. In addition to it being a year filled with amazing comics across the board from all publishers big and small it was also a great year for the geek in general.

5. Walking Dead- The TV show continues to steamroll through the ratings breaking records and bringing the comic to the attention to mainstream audiences in a way not seen since Batman 89. And it’s a damn good show.

4. Guardians of the Galaxy- It’s the most surprising hit of 2014 and proved Marvel Studios could do just about anything. It’s still the biggest grossing film of the year with two weeks left to go and along with introducing people to wonderful new characters its soundtrack allowed younger viewers to hear what good music sounds like.

3. The Flash- A superhero television show that embraces costumes, special effects, and code names while also paying homage to what came before? It’s a hit for the CW but has also shown through it’s connection to Arrow that DC may not have proven it’s long term movie plan yet but it owns the television wars.

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2. Twin Peaks- That gum we like is coming back in style. Rumored for years David Lynch and Mark Frost finally confirmed that Twin Peaks will return on Showtime next year picking the series up where it left off 25 years ago.

1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer- Yeah…sure the trailer would be released online on Black Friday but it doesn’t compare to seeing it on the big screen so we made the three hour round trip to see 88 seconds of footage and instantly I was 7 years old again. Best of all, it was a moment shared with my own kids.

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Now onto the comics. Oh how easy would it be to simply go Image exclusive with a top ten (or even fifteen) list this year. Over the past several years they’ve continued to add new independent voices as well as draw popular mainstream creators away from Marvel and DC to tell their best creator owned work.

Beginning with their first Image Expo of the year where they laid down the gauntlet to the industry and throughout the next twelve months their focus has been on telling great stories. Mission accomplished.

10. Nailbiter (Image)

9. The Bunker (Oni)

8. Mind MGMT (Dark Horse)

7. Southern Bastards (Image)

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6. Afterlife with Archie (Archie)

5. Saga (Image)

4. Rachel Rising (Abstract Studios)

3. Lazarus (Image)

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2. Alex + Ada (Image)

1. God Hates Astronauts (Image)

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MATT KROTZER (/letterer/graphic designer/occasional writer if forced)

Batman Eternal

The weekly title, led by writers Scott Snyder and James Tynion IV, (along with co-writers John Layman, Tim Seeley and Ray Fawkes) has been a top-selling comic week in and week out. A huge success for DC, the title has added depth and a spotlight to Gotham and Batman’s supporting cast. As an added bonus, it brought back my favorite character, Stephanie Brown. Make yourself some waffles and enjoy the Spoiler-y goodness!

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DC TV

DC is dominating the airwaves with hours of quality programming every week. The Flash, Arrow, Gotham & Constantine are all very enjoyable, and there’s more on the way, with iZombie, Supergirl, Krypton, Titans and Preacher all expected on the small screen in the very near future.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

In my opinion, the best Marvel movie to date. It elevated beyond simple superheroics into a deep, suspenseful spy thriller, with ramifications that will resonate through the future Marvel movies, as well as providing the context necessary to turn Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD into the show it was meant to be all along, giving it the direction needed to forge its path into its second season.

 DC & Marvel Movie Schedules

Has there ever been a better, more exciting time to be a comics fan? I can’t imagine. An aggressive schedule from both studios, featuring both the iconic and obscure (to the general public) characters of each universe. The next few years will be quite a spectacle. I can’t wait.

Gotham Academy

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An absolute dream of a book, breathtakingly illustrated by Karl Kerschl. It’s Batman, Scooby-Doo and Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry all brought together in the best possible ways. If you’re not reading this book, what’s wrong with you? Buy it for yourself. Buy it for your kids. Buy it for a kid you know. Buy it for an adult you know! Books like this are how we bring new readers into comics and keep them here.

Rise of the Independents

With increased high-profile creator-driven projects, and new and diverse ideas coming from publishers like Archaia, Archie, Boom Studios, Dynamite, Image, Oni Press, Valiant & Zenescope (among numerous others),  comics flush with fresh new ideas are coming out in force this year! No matter what style of stories you like, there’s something out there that’s right up your alley!

Guardians of the Galaxy

The year’s biggest movie, GotG put on display Marvel’s knack for introducing characters that are less than familiar to most moviegoers, and making them into fan favorites. Supported by a pitch-perfect soundtrack and the witty character banter we’ve come to expect, Marvel Studios found movie gold far across the reaches of space.

Charles Soule

Throughout the year, Charles Soule was responsible for no less than 8 monthly comics, the majority of which were split between Marvel and DC, solidifying him as one of the hottest talents in the industry, and putting him in prime position to be signed to a Marvel-exclusive contract, where he helmed the headline-making Death of Wolverine story, as well as breathing new life and fan interest into the Inhumans, which looks to be a Marvel tentpole in years to come.

Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo Flex Their Muscle

With one of the consistently top-selling titles of the past three years, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo are without a doubt powerhouses within the industry, and great guys to boot. They showed both of these aspects in late 2014, pushing DC to reconsider a price hike on the Batman title during the Endgame arc, where each issue would contain more pages than normal. Hearing the fan outcry at the unexpected price hike, Snyder & Capullo stepped up on behalf of their readership, successfully pushing for the book to remain at its normal $3.99 price point, despite the increased page count. Bravo, gentlemen. Bravo.

Ms. Marvel

The book that few thought would even make a ripple, sent thundering shockwaves through the industry with its unprecedented digital sales. The book, featuring a brand new, female, minority character (traditionally three strikes against it) broke through with surprising success and critical acclaim, selling a respectable numbers of print copies, but absolutely shattering the usual model by reportedly selling greater numbers of digital comics than print. (Most digital sales estimates are roughly 10-30% of print sales, for comparison.) Marvel has clearly taken notice of this, and Ms. Marvel writer G. Willow Wilson, who recently became the only female writer at Marvel with an exclusive contract, bringing her into the fold to help plot the course of the Marvel Universe of tomorrow.

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MARC LOMBARDI (editor/writer/publicity)

10 – Chew (Image Comics)

9 – The Wake (Vertigo Comics)

8 – The Bunker (Oni Press)

7 – Afterlife With Archie (Archie Comics)

6 – Invincible (Image Comics)

5 – The Walking Dead (Image Comics)

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4 – Revival (Image Comics)

3 – Rat Queens (Shadowline/Image Comics)

2 – Saga (Image Comics)

1 – Rachel Rising (Abstract Studios)

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Top Ten Comics I Wish I Had The Time To Be Caught Up On Reading

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1 – Alex + Ada (Image Comics)
2 – Black Widow (Marvel Comics)
3 – Daredevil (Marvel Comics)
4 – Fables (Vertigo Comics/DC)
5 – Ghosted (Image Comics)
6 – Lazarus (Image Comics)
7 – Nailbiter (Image Comics)
8 – Shutter (Image Comics)
9 – Southern Bastards (Image Comics)
10 – Velvet (Image Comics)

Top Ten Things To Count On For 2015

1 – Fables will end with a bang but leave the door open for more stories.

2 – Marvel and DC will continue to lose market share to Image.

3 – Erica J. Heflin’s star will continue to rise.

4 – Stjepan Sejic will have tremendous success on Rat Queens.

5 – Star Wars VII will make more money than Avengers 2 but both will be awesome.

6 – DC’s move to Burbank will create a massive shift in creators moving around to other companies.

7 – The announcements coming out of Image Expo will be even more surprising than they have in the past.

8 – San Diego Comic Con will be even less about comic books than it has been in recent years.

9 – Archie’s reboot and new direction will get a lot of press and bring in new readers…

10 – …but not nearly as much press as the reboots & relaunches that will follow Secret Wars and Convergence in Marvel & DC (respectively)

GLENN MATCHETT (writer)

10. Harley Quinn goes to San Diego Comic Con-I love Harley Quinn as a character, a lot of people would say that I’m sure but I really, really do.  Ever since she appeared on the classic ‘Batman: The Animated Series’ I’ve just loved her to bits.  I saw her redesign following DC’s ‘new 52’ reboot and found myself…disappointed.  I heard from friends who read a lot more DC than I do how she was being portrayed and found myself being…more disappointed.  Then someone decided to give her a book and even though this is a market that is usually unfavorable to books with female leads (sadly) it sold really well.  Just a fluke right?  Well no…it continued to sell well month after month.  I think it’s safe to say ‘Harley Quinn’ is the sleeper hit of the year.  I missed the boat on the series (which I intend to remedy) but picked up this one shot on a whim and thoroughly enjoyed it.  Although this isn’t exactly ‘my’ Harley Quinn I found a comic that was funny, nice to look at and had something a lot of comics don’t these days…it had fun.  It was refreshing to read a book that didn’t take itself too seriously and hope for more of the same when I catch up with the main title, next year.

9. Five Weapons-This is an Image book that went before its time.  Basically I tried to sell the concept of this book to people as ‘imagine Hogwarts but for assassins’ and that’s what this book was.  It had a great hook but for some reason never found its footing.  It’s a shame because there was a lot of questions left unanswered and a rather slapped together ending that while at least we got an ending it felt like there was so much more the book had to give.  It was like a great TV show being cancelled after one season but like some shows that have found new life, I still hope that someday the school of Five Weapons will reopen for another term.

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8. Justice League-To me this is my ‘easy reading’ but that’s not a bad thing.  This is the big screen action movie that is very well written with some great characters written by one of DC’s top talents.  I actually really enjoyed the conclusion of ‘Forever Evil’ and find that Lex Luthor joining the team is a really brilliant and inspired move by the author.  It’s a book I don’t have to concentrate a great deal on but one that still holds my interest a great deal.

7. Ghosted-I only learned about this book after reading Nailbiter (read on for that one!) and I loved the idea of it.  It sounds somewhat goofy on paper but also somehow, rather sinister.  This is an addictive read that I really took to and look forward to see how it can continue on a long term basis.  I finish each issue wanting more, which is what the book is meant to do.

6. Amazing/Superior Spider-Man-I’ve always been a Spider-Man fan.  I always will be.  I’ve been reading Spider-Man, longer than anything else on this list and will likely be reading it till the day I die.  I’ve seen some great runs and some poor runs.  It took a while for Superior Spider-Man to grow on me (I did love the idea behind it) but when it founds it footing it was rather brilliant and I felt it ended on a high.  With the return of Peter Parker proper (say it ten times fast!), I feel the title went through a rough patch the same way Superior did out of the starting gate.  I am glad to see things picking up so far in ‘Spider-Verse but its been an up and down year.  I love Dan Slott’s work but I kind of feel that some new blood might be needed but I’m more than willing for him to prove me wrong.

5. Peter Panzerfaust-I’m a big fan of ‘take this classic concept and see how it work in a different environment.  I’ve seen it done in Sherlock, in a few Shakespeare plays and even Batman but no one has done it with Peter Pan.  This Shadowline book places the fantasy tale of Peter Pan during World War II in a much more brutal, less fairy tale setting.  It’s amazing how well the classic tale adapts itself to this setting and how the various characters come out the other end.  This is one I hope goes on for a while.

4. Daredevil-Basically this is a masterclass by a modern master in Mark Waid on how to do a great superhero comic.  It has received countless critical praise and awards so there’s not much to say except that it is worthy of all of that…and more.  I am sad to see this creative team start to wind down and I don’t think anyone will envy whoever has to follow this run.

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3. Walking Dead & Invincible-The two Image books hat Robert Kirkman’s been running for years haven’t missed a beat.  They both feature engrossing stories and great characters.  Every time I read either I turn into a page turning machine and I become so engrossed in the characters and the stories like very few other comics, it is easy to see why (arguably) Walking Dead is the most consistently successful comic in the market today and why the TV show audience number in the millions.  I’m likely in the minority to prefer Invincible and I hope it finds some of the audience as its brother title because I want to read that book as long as Kirkman wants to keep putting it out.

2. Batman-Every month the superstar bestselling team of Snyder and Capullo make me feel that as a creator, I’m simply not trying hard enough.  Although they concluded the weakest of their Batman arcs to date with ‘Zero Year’ the storyline in itself was a very enjoyable read and Capullo’s panel composition at times really takes my breath away.  I think this will be regarded in years to come as an all time great and it seems that the return of the Joker is going to take the book to the next level.

1. Nailbiter-I’ll admit that with the title and the first images I saw, I didn’t really take much notice of this series at first.  I was fortunate enough to have a copy sent to me by Andrew and within like 4 or 5 pages I was hooked.  The concept is brilliant, the entire cast of characters are fascinating and the mystery is involving.  That first issue for me is the best first issue I’ve read of a new comic since the Walking Dead back in the day.  This is a book that I love to read every month and wait on the edge of my seat for the next issue each time.  I hear that big things are planned for the series, I just can’t wait to be along for the ride.

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