BEST MARVEL/DC CROSSOVER: Squadron Sinister by Marc Guggenheim and Carlos Pacheco (Marvel)
The parallels to DC are rampant in this book, but it also holds Marvel references—from the trophy room in the original Future Imperfect to the rebirth of the old New Universe characters…
BEST ED BRUBAKER AND SEAN PHILLIPS COLLABORATION: Velvet (Image).
Another mood book, but this one is about a female spy who is past her prime, but pulled back into the life by a final, life-threatening conspiracy. The tale has been winding along for over a year now, and it’s still a joy to read. Brubaker’s prose and Phillips’ noirish art compliment each other perfectly. I will read everything they do, and will never stop.
Runner Up: Criminal: Special Edition #1 (Image). Criminal has been a series of miniseries—this is the first time there was a one-shot, a tale told in one issue, and that’s really the main problem with it. It’s too short. Still, I love a good prison story, and it’s great to see more about recurring character Teeg Lawless.
BEST SATURDAY AFTERNOON DRIVE-IN MOVIE: MASTER OF KUNG FU by Haden Blackman and Dalibor Talajic (Marvel)
All your favorite Marvel martial artists reimagined in a kung fu universe. Lots of fun, and much better than Blackman and Talajic’s mediocre work on the Elektra solo book.
THE “IT WASN’T LIKE THIS WHEN I WAS A KID” BEST REBOOT AWARD: Archie Comics Group.
Archie Comics Group started their revisionary practice with “Afterlife with Archie,” which continues to be a solid comic…Archie crossovers and events generally suck. Archie versus Predator isn’t very good. Archie versus Punisher had kitsch, but, let’s face it, it wasn’t a very good story. And then there’s Afterlife with Archie, which breaks the mold into pieces and throws it into a food processor. What makes it great? It takes itself seriously, and it self-consciously (almost reverently) pays homage to the fact that Archie is a corny 1950s book where even the coolest people are squares. Oh, and it has zombies. So it’s definitely not the redheaded teen book from your younger days.
But then, this year they hired two of the hottest and most tried-and-true creators in the industry to reboot their flagship book. We got a new Archie #1, created by Mark Waid and Fiona Staples. There’s no way a title with that kind of pedigree wouldn’t be good, and it was, but it in his case it stayed true to most of the original concept and feeling. It was a true update. Now we’ll see if teen slice of life books can still sell.
RUNNER UP: Superman American Alien by Max Landis and various artists (DC)
Issue #1 was the best story of Superman as a child that I’ve read in over a decade. If you’re going to reboot an origin story everyone’s already read, make sure you add something. This story does: Heart.
BEST COMIC NOBODY HEARD OF: LORD by Leonie O’Moore (Misrule)
I found this on Comixology by accident and bought it based on the art. The story starts as a kind of lesbian version of Romeo and Juliet, but then takes a sharp turn when nuns enter the scene and start doing some seriously oppressive religious behavior. It’s a horror comic with a heart—and real characters. No, it’s not as polished as the other creations on this list but it’s a great example of a new creator trying new things with a fresh voice and a distinctive style.
AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST, THE “I MISSED THIS IN 2014” AWARD FOR OVERLOOKED COMIC: Just So Happens by Fumio Obata (Abrams ComicArts). I didn’t find it until this year and it’s so good, it has to be mentioned here. It’s a beautiful story about a Japanese girl who moved to England and returns to her home country for her father’s funeral. Obata seamlessly weaves traditional Japanese culture, such as Noh Theater and Shinto Buddhism, into her memory of her family and her need to love and let go. It’s a beautiful story—don’t be deceived by how slim the book is. You’ll be thinking about it for weeks. I loved it so much I bought extra copies for friends.