Outright Geekery’s series of posts highlighting the very best of the year that was 2014 continues with the comic books that pulled of a whole lot with very little. It’s easy to pull off epic stories in titles that span dozens of issues and years of building, but doing that in less than a dozen books takes some real talent, and the impact on the reader is as relatively great as the number of comic pages is relatively small. Here’s my top comic book limited series of 2014.
10. Forever Evil
Wait! What?! Yup! believe it or not, most issues of DC Comics’ Earth-3 invasion event series came out in 2014, and although this was due primarily to some equally as epic delays that bogged down the publisher’s entire line, it was a fun read. Heroes ended, mirror-universe versions running rampant, and the villains saving the day, had all of the makings for something great, and Forever Evil was great, if only it could have avoided the delays.
This book went under a lot of peoples’ radars, but Figment was a terrifically written, imaginatively drawn, trek into the best of what the Disney/Marvel merger can add to the comic book realm. We all know what that merger has meant to the films, but moving Disney properties in to Marvel’s comic stable is a great move. Writer Jim Zub and artist John Tyler Christopher reintroduce readers to Figment, the strange purple dragon who loves adventure and imagination. The mix of Disney and Marvel elements is done to perfection, with just the right amount of childish delight.
8. Death of Wolverine
This four-part mini from writer Charles Soule and artist Steve McNiven did the unthinkably impossible: It killed the unkillable man! I’ve seen Wolverine live through 24/7 machine-gun torture, being burned down to his skeleton, and even an atomic blast, so when Marvel announced his death was forthcoming I was apprehensive to say the least. There was a run-up to the death that lasted a year or more, but Soule did a great job wrapping everything up, and McNiven’s art alone may have gotten Death of Wolverine on my top limited series of the year.
7. Origin II
Another Wolverine mini-series this year was a lot better than the character’s death in both writing and delivery. Kieron Gillen and Adam Kubert took a character created in the ’70’s, with thousands of pages of comics and hundreds of hours of cartoons and films, and actually added to his origin story in a meaningful way. That is no small task by any means, but Gillen did it with the same entertaining flair he brings to all his stuff, and Kubert’s work was the legendary art it’s destined to become. Thank goodness Wolvie didn’t have more mini-series in 2014, right? I promise no more Marvel and no more DC on this entire list.
It’s difficult to describe Memetic without spoiling it, so, if you’ve ever been inclined to read it, skip this entry and just know it’s awesome. An Internet meme of a sloth makes it’s way rapidly through cyberspace due to it relaying a feeling of utter joy to anyone seeing it, only to turn those people into homicidal maniacs 12 hours later. James Tynion IV of Batman fame is telling a different sort of horror story, one that uses real-world social implications as the fuel for the fear fire. There’s also underlying questions about the impact of technology on our society that Memetic forces us to ask, but it’s delivered with such expert subtlety by Tynion that it takes nothing away from the main story. A great, timely spin on the zombie genre that I could not rightfully leave off this list.
5. Howtoons (RE)Ignition
If you haven’t heard of Howtoons I implore you to check it out. The brainchild of a comic book creator, an inventor, and a toy designer, Howtoons is a comic book series that teaches kids about science and engineering through hands-on projects in a hugely entertaining way. Howtoons (RE)Ignition was easily the best fun I had with my kids and comics this year (they’re manga fans; not that there’s anything wrong with that) as we read each story, actually discussed the material, and built the projects from each issue. I’m not sure if we had more fun building these projects (like safety glasses out of 2-liter bottles and flashlights out of cardboard toilet paper tubes) or finding the materials for building (which involved destroying a few things, including a flashlight we then used to make a flashlight), but it was a blast. Science, household engineering, a fun story, and family time. There’s no way this was missing my top mini-series.
This little 6-issue mini-series from Boom! Studios came out very early is 2014, but I’ve reread the thing at least 3 times, and I’m not wrong when I say it’s an amazing story. Revelations from writer Paul Jenkins and, one of my favorite artists of all time, Humberto Ramos, follows the story of a British detective who is drawn into a murder conspiracy at the Vatican. It’s The Da Vinci Code meets Constantine with a perfectly balanced real-world setting. Jenkins masterfully crafts a compelling story with rich characters, that is a true mystery up to the very end. How this hasn’t been optioned, I don’t know. (Note: Revelations is actually a reprint of a 2005 Dark Horse Comic, but I’m considering it new because it was re-serialized, not just reprinted. And it WAS that good.)
3. Death Vigil
Stjepan Sejic just blows me away! His art has an amazing style, an incredible beauty, and is singularly unique. But it’s his writing that has earned his work in Death Vigil such a high spot on my 2014 favorite mini-series. The story of a team of demon-hunters led by Death herself is really a story about change, family, and, above all, sacrifice. The action and adventure immediately pull readers into the book, while the characters and their relationships bring you coming back for more. There’s layers in Death Vigil that most books can’t establish in years of issues, and I wish it was going on forever and not just in a limited series. I guess that’s the test for being one of the best.
2. The Wake
Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy’s sci-fi, killer merman tale may have been the toast of 2013, but half of the issues in this amazing series dropped in 2014, and the second half of The Wake was easily the best part. The 2013 buildup was nothing more than a prelude for the awesome twist that was Leeward’s undersea adventures against corruption and secrets. The Wake was a genre-bending game-changer that I’m so thankful was as big a part of my 2014 as it was my 2013. Maybe a 2015 revisits isn’t out of the question…
I’m going by cover date with these, and since most of my absolute favorite limited series’ single issues have cover dates of 2014, I’m giving it even more of the attention it is due. I’m talking about Trillium from writer/artist Jeff Lemire. Lemire’s unique artistic style blended with a sci-fi/love story wonderfully, but the distinctive design choices; that were both innovative and integral to the overall plot; pushed the very boundaries of what comic book story-telling could be. Deep, complex sci-fi, a heartfelt love story, beautiful artwork, and a truly unique and innovative design puts Trillium as my favorite limited series of the year.