It’s quite difficult for me to believe, but we’re already halfway through 2014, and it’s been an incredible six months of comic books. From the Big 3 publishers of Marvel, DC, and Image, to the lesser known independent publishers, the first half of 2014 has been chock full of comic book awesomeness. Since we’re such big comic fans here at Outright Geekery, we’d be negligent in our geekly duties if we didn’t put a spotlight on the best of these books from all of these great publishers, and we’re starting this 4 week series of Tops o’ the Lot with Marvel Comics. So, without further ado, Excelsior! Outright Geekery’s Top o’ the Lot: Marvel Comics of 2014 (so far).
Honorable Mention: Spider-Man
Taken as a single pieces of comic book literature, the various Spidey books were good in the first half of 2014, but not great. We saw Superior Spider-Man leave, Peter Parker come back to an Amazing Spider-Man title, and good old Mile Morales is still kicking ass in Mile Morales: Ultimate Spider, the finale to Ultimate Spider-Man in issue #200, and in the Ultimate Universe’s Cataclysm event and ensuing aftermath. I’m not even taking into account the under-the-radar hit The Superior Foes of Spider-Man, but collectively the Spidey books may be THE character to be reading in 2014, just because his books vary so much with their individually unique content, but it’s not a single book, and the Web-head is only getting an honorable mention. Still, great reading.
5. New Avengers
Jonathan Hickman’s current stint on New Avengers has been a wonderful example of the writer’s uncanny ability to take really big concepts and delivery them to readers in easily manageable bits while keeping the entire thing entertaining and interesting. The title began 2014 with a super-cool Doctor Strange story, and halfway through the year we’re seeing the Illuminati fighting an alternate version of DC’s Justice League. Too many great things going on in this book to leave it off this list.
4. Uncanny Avengers
Spinning out of the pages of Marvel’s Avengers vs. X-Men event from awhile back, and a continuation of seeds planted by writer Rick Remender way back in his X-Force run, Uncanny Avengers has felt like an X-Men book with a bit of Avengers flavor thrown in the mix, and the result has been an explosive, self-contained epic of a Marvel story that has everything. Amazing characters: Havok and his Unity Team of Avengers may be the most robust and diverse team in all of comics right now. Great villains: The Apocalypse Twins and their group of resurrected Horsemen are just plain fun, and the use of Kang the Conqueror and his very own team has been nothing short of perfection. Cool story: Duping Thor, a Celestial ass-kicking, Planet X, time and space travel, and more give the heroics found within the book a unique feel all its own. And with Marvel’s upcoming Axis event also being written by Remender, look for Uncanny X-Men to become an even more important aspect of the Marvel U overall.
3. Black Widow
There are some characters that just demand their own comic book. An integral member of the onscreen Avengers team, and one of the shiniest aspects of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Natasha was definitely one of those characters, and despite her resurgence being fueled by Hollywood, her return to comic book predominance has been genuine and a treat for comic readers. Nathan Edmonson has a good handle on exactly what makes for a good spy-thriller, and Ed Noto’s art is both beautiful and brilliant. It would have been easy for this title to slip into using stereotypes and resorting to cheap sales tactics, but Black Widow continues to be an awesome book for exactly what it is: A great title, featuring a strong female character.
2. Thor: God of Thunder
Jason Aaron’s Thor: God of Thunder is on this list for one very simple reason: It’s a great superhero comic book, starring one of comics most iconic characters, but takes a different approach to the storytelling which is both new and topical. Aaron’s subtlety in the way he deals with important current events is reminiscent of the comic book writers of the 60’s and 70’s that similarly dealt with social issues without being right in the readers’ faces, and his use of three distinctly different Thors from three very different time periods is an approach to the venerable Norse god that we just haven’t seen before. Esad Ribic’s wonderful work on art doesn’t hurt the title either, and if Thor: God of Thunder continues to be as good the rest of this year as it has the first half of 2014 this will be one of THE definitive Thor runs ever written.
1. All-New Ghost Rider
This pick for number 1 may not be the popular choice for Marvel’s best of 2014 so far, but it’s the ONLY choice as far as I’m concerned. In only 3 short issues, writer Felipe Smith and artist Tradd Moore, both relative newcomers, have taken a 40 year old character that has been reduced to C-List status, jokes, and bad movie references, and made him new, fresh, and interesting again, while Smith and Moore’s stock has increased tenfold in the process. Smith’s shakeup completely changed the character, and the story he’s telling continues to be an adrenaline filled and real story…well, real for a story about a guy with a flaming skull for a head. The book is dealing with real and important social issues set in front of a backdrop of street racing and gang banging, making for a truly entertaining read. Artist Tradd Moore, with his street art feel and ability to project both beauty and speed simultaneously, is doing work that is contemporary and completely different than any other artist working in the medium today. All-New Ghost Rider makes the Top spot in this Lot because it’s actually new, is amazingly well-done, and, with the book’s untested creative team, was a very nice surprise in the first half of this year.
See a mistake? Disagree with the choices? Tell us what you think about this installment of Top o’ Lot, join in the discussion and share your opinion.