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The Top 15 Comic Book Series of 2014 — Part One!

I love comic books, and 2014 was a fantastic year for comic books.  I read many more great comic books than I could fit on this Top 15 list.  Other books that I enjoyed, but that didn’t make this list, include: Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Avon Oeming’s Powers, Warren Ellis & Jason Howards’ Trees, The X-Files: Season 10, Mark Millar & Goran Pavlov’s Starlight, Mark Millar & Duncan Defredo’s MPH, Grant Morrison’s Multiversity (especially his collaboration with Frank Quitely on the crazy-good one-shot Pax Romana), Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo’s Batman, Geoff Johns & John Jomita Jr.’s Superman, Cullen Bunn & Gabriel Hernandez Walta’s Magneto, the Greg-Rucka scripted first few issues of Cyclops, Brian Michael Bendis’s Guardians of the Galaxy, Warren Ellis & Tula Lotay’s Supreme Blue Rose, and the final issues of Ed Brubaker & Sean Philips’ Fatale (which really should have made my list, but multiple other Ed Brubaker books did instead, so something had to give, but know that Fatale is magnificent).

I also have to give honorable mentions to three books that I am way behind on.  First is Brian Woods’ The Massive, which I fell behind on last year and decided to wait until it wrapped up to re-read from start-to-finish, which I look forward to doing soon.  Then are two of my very favorite comic book series: Kurt Busiek & Brent Anderson’s Astro City, and David Lapham’s Stray Bullets.  I decided over the summer that I really wanted to dip back into my long-boxes and re-read both series from the beginning before enjoying the latest issues.  Unfortunately I have been so busy that I haven’t yet had the time.  I look forward enormously to diving deeply back into both series this spring.  I know that if I was up-to-date that both of these series would have made this list, likely in the top five.

OK, enough caveats, let’s go.  Here are my Fifteen Favorite Comic Book Series of 2014:

15. Miracleman by The Original Writer (cough Alan Moore cough) & Garry Leach, Alan Davis, Chuck Austen, Rick Veitch, & John Totleben — The thing that we thought would never happen actually, miraculously, happened this year.  Miracleman, the hugely influential series written by Alan Moore, has finally been reprinted.  (And, if all goes well, the unfinished series will actually be completed in the coming years!)  Originally called Marvelman, the character began life in a kids comic from the fifties.  Alan Moore reinvented the silly character in a series that was initially published in short installment in the U.K., in Warrior Magazine.  The publication of Marvelman (which would eventually become Miracleman due to a not-surprising-in-hindsight legal situation with Marvel comics) was extremely sporadic, being published in bits and bursts throughout the eighties.  The comic’s epic story was famously unfinished, and for the past two decades the rights to the character have been tied up in a complex legal limbo.  But somehow, finally, everything has been straightened out and Marvel has been reprinting the series in an extraordinarily handsome series of reprints.  I have heard about Miracleman for decades, and it is an enormous thrill to be able to enjoy the series from the beginning.  Of course it’s not better than any of Alan Moore’s greatest works, but it is still quite an extraordinary spin on a super-hero epic.  The series’ absolutely gorgeous art (most particularly the early work of Garry Leach & Alan Davis) looks better than it ever has before.  Marvel has done a great job with these reprints, and I cannot wait to see where this series goes.  (These issues are collected in Miracleman vol. 1: A Dream of Flying, and Miracleman vol. 2: The Red King Syndrome.)

14.  Wonder Woman by Brian Azzarello & Cliff Chiang & Goran Sudzuka — The best thing about DC’s “New 52” relaunch has been Brian Azzarello’s wonderful reinvention of Wonder Woman.  I have never before bought a Wonder Woman comic on a monthly basis.  I was brought to the series by Brian Azzarello (author of the wonderfully complex, violent series 100 Bullets), but quickly hooked in by Mr. Azzarello’s extremely clever tweaks to the Wonder Woman character and her history, tying her story far more closely to Greek mythology than ever before.  With many characters from Greek myth suddenly hugely supporting players in the Wonder Woman saga, along with some great characters from Jack Kirby’s Fourth World, this was a Wonder Woman story unlike any other.  Cliff Chiang’s marvelous art was the icing on the cake.  I was very sad to see their run on the title end this year.  (You can start Mr. Azzarello & Mr. Chiang’s Wonder Woman story here: Wonder Woman vol. 1: Blood.)

13. East of West by Jonathan Hickman & Nick Dragotta — I loved their collaboration on Fantastic Four from a few years back, and I love this crazy, head-spinningly complex new creation even more.  I don’t even really know how to describe this series.  It’s a huge, globe-spanning epic, a wild-west meets sci-fi adventure.  I still don’t know quite what the heck is going on in this series, but I am sure enjoying the ride.  This is one of the most fearlessly original and inventive comics I have ever read.  The depth to the world-building is astounding.  (You can start reading this deliriously crazy tale here: East of West vol. 1: The Promise.)

12. Jupiter’s Legacy by Mark Millar & Frank Quitely — Mark Millar wrote a number of great comics in 2014, and on the one hand it feels weird putting Jupiter’s Legacy on this list (as opposed to, say, MPH or Starlight, both of which were also really great), considering that only two issues of this comic came out in 2014.  But dang were those two issues great, and this is the Mark Millar series from 2014 that I have found myself revisiting the most.  A group of powerful 1950’s superheroes have defeated all of the world’s criminals… only to find themselves undone by their spoiled, jealous super-powered children.  There have been some jaw-dropping scenes in this book, and Frank Quitely’s art just staggers me with its brilliance.  I’m excited to read the rest of this story.  I hope Mr. Millar & Mr. Quitely can get this book out more frequently in 2015.  (These issues are collected here: Jupiter’s Legacy vol. 1.)

11.  Moon Knight by Warren Ellis & Declan Shalvey — Another six-issue bit of Warren Ellis Marvel Comics brilliance.  Mr. Ellis seems to like to come in, totally reinvent a super-hero comic, and then leave.  (Exhibit A: His amazing six-issue Secret Avengers run from a few years ago.)  Anyways, Mr. Ellis took this never-that-great Marvel character and used him as a springboard for six incredible stories.  The issues fit together but each issue also stands on its own, completely distinct in style and tone from the issue before.  (Even Moon Knight’s costume seems to change from issue to issue.)  Each issue is its own little perfect gem of a super-hero story.  Declan Shalvey’s art is gorgeously simplistic and detailed, all at the same time.  I adore his style, and it works perfectly with Mr. Ellis’ stories.  Magnificent.  (These issues are collected here: Moon Knight vol. 1: From the Dead.)

I’ll be back tomorrow with numbers ten through five!

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