Staff Picks: Top 10 Best Comic Books of 2014

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2014 has been a pivotal year for comics – we’ve seen a lot of new creators hit the scene, old characters refreshed, and some heavy hitters still going strong. Image continued its streak of bringing us incredible creator-owned series from the likes of Brian K. Vaughan, Robert Kirkman and Rick Remender, and Marvel and DC continued to pump out new storylines from our favorite franchises.  Spider-Man, Thor and Captain America all have new personas, and we were all charmed by a young lady who goes by Ms. Marvel. The indie scene continues to flourish, and digital comic book sales continue to rise with a new generation of digital-first readers. Yes, we have plenty to be proud of this year (including the launch of Shortboxed), which made it very difficult to choose our Top 10 Best Comic Books of 2014.

See which books made the the Top 10 Best Comic Books of 2014 after the jump!

Each of our editors (3 total, myself included) put together individual top 10 lists, then each selection was assigned a point total depending on rank – #1 received the most points, and #10 the least. If more than 1 person chose the same book, then those point totals would be added together, giving that book’s overall ranking more weight. Also, if one book received 10 total points from 1 editor, but another book received 9 total points from 2 editors, then the latter would rank higher because it was chosen by 2 editors instead of 1. Still with me?

So many great comic books came out this year and many of them were left off, but the list of 10 comic books below represent the staff as a collective whole. Some interesting things to note:

  • Rick Remender made it onto the list twice
  • 7 of the 10 books are from Image Comics
  • There are 4 ongoing series with less than 3 issues released
  • We have reviewed 5 of the books
  • 4 books were recommended in our 2014 Comic Book Holiday Gift Guide
  • We were surprised by what made #1, but the data doesn’t lie!

Enough with the stats – onto the Top 10 Best Comic Books of 2014!

10. Deadly Class

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We reviewed Deadly Class by Rick Remender this year and loved it! Get introduced to the most brutal high school on earth, where the world’s top crime families send the next generation of assassins to be trained. Murder is an art. Killing is a craft. At Kings Dominion School for the Deadly Arts, the dagger in your back isn’t always metaphorical. In his review, Ryan Crowe says,

[Deadly Class] is one of my favorite titles of the year and I hope I can count it amongst my favorite reads of all time. I read every issue three times as soon as I pick it up from my comic book shop. The first time I read it for the comprehensive experience, the second time I read it for the story, and the third time I read it for the art. This is the only comic I read this way.

Deadly Class volume 1 trade paperback is available on Amazon for $9 and collects issues 1-6.

9. Sex Criminals

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We included Sex Criminals volume 1 trade paperback in our 2014 Holiday Comic Book Gift Guide, and for good reason – it’s a great book!

The title pretty much describes what this comic book series is about, and it’s one of our favorites. Suzie’s just a regular gal with an irregular gift: when she has sex, she stops time. One day she meets Jon and it turns out he has the same ability. And sooner or later they get around to using their gifts to do what we’d ALL do: rob banks. Collects issues 1-5. Volume 2 comes out February 2015. Get it on Amazon for only $7!

8. Seconds

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We also included Bryan Lee O’Malley’s “Seconds” in our gift guide. Both Ryan and I enjoyed this book a lot!

Seconds is the latest graphic novel by Bryan Lee O’Malley, creator of Scott Pilgrim vs the World, which was made into a feature film in 2010. In Seconds, you won’t find superheroes or mutants, but you’ll fall in love with Katie – she’s a talented young chef, she runs a successful restaurant, and she has big plans to open an even better one. Then, all at once, progress on the new location bogs down, her charming ex-boyfriend pops up, her fling with another chef goes sour, and her best waitress gets badly hurt. And just like that, Katie’s life goes from pretty good to not so much. What she needs is a second chance. Everybody deserves one, after all—but they don’t come easy. Get it on Amazon for $18.

7. The Autumlands: Tooth & Claw

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Tooth & Claw was a surprise hit that none of us expected – we all picked up the first issue and fell in love with it immediately. Busiek has written a high fantasy epic around magic and the battle between good versus evil. In the premiere issue, a secret conclave of wizards brings a legendary champion back through time to save the world, with disastrous consequences. Ben Dewey brings the world to life and has drawn some of the most unique anthropomorphized characters you’ve ever seen. There are currently 2 issues to date, and you can pick them up at your local comic store (LCS) or buy them digitally from Image Comics.

6. Wytches

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It’s very rare for a comic book to actually be scary, but Scott Snyder and Jock have done just that. I can sum up this book in one word – creepy. Don’t read this book alone in the dark. You’ve been warned.

Across the globe, century after century, men and women were burned, drowned, hanged, tortured, imprisoned, persecuted, and murdered for witchcraft. None of them were witches. They died protecting a terrible and hidden truth: witches, real witches, are out there. They are ancient, elusive, and deadly creatures that are rarely seen and even more rarely survived. – Image Comics

There are 2 issues out, with #3 coming out on December 17, 2014. You can find them at your LCS or download the digital comic from Image Comics.

5. Birthright

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We reviewed Birthright by Joshua Williamson and Andrei Bressan, and found it to be a gripping series ready to explode. For the Rhodes family, losing their son was the most devastating thing that could’ve ever occurred… but it couldn’t prepare them for what happened when he returns as a grown man dressed as a warrior from a different world. It’s a mysterious and action-filled fantasy story that combines the real world with swords, monsters and magic. There are currently 3 issues in the series, which you can get at your LCS or online at Image Comics.

4. Low

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Another book by the talented Rick Remender on this list (the other is #10 Deadly Class). Low is an absolutely beautiful book to flip through, and what I believe to be the best artwork of the year by Greg Tocchini. It’s surreal, colorful, detailed and evokes retro 60’s stylings in a futuristic setting – simply gorgeous.

In the far distant future, the sun’s premature expansion has irradiated Earth, sending humanity to the lowest depths of the seas, hidden within radiation-shielded cities, while probes scour the universe for inhabitable worlds to relocate to. After tens of thousands of years, a single probe returns, crashing on Earth’s surface, a now-alien place no human has seen for many millennia. – Image Comics

There are currently 5 issues in the series, and the first trade paperback volume is due in February. However, you can pick up issues from your LCS or digitally from Image Comics.

3. Ms. Marvel

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The hype is very real. I (Gene – hello!) reviewed the first trade paperback volume and loved everything about it. It quickly and easily became one of our favorite books of the year.

Ms. Marvel volume 1 is titled, “No Normal,” and collects the first five issues of the monthly comic book series. This first story arc focuses on the origin of Kamala Khan as Ms. Marvel, and takes readers through the life of your typical teenage American dealing with typical teenage American things like self identity, fitting in, crushes, peer pressure, strict parents and how to control newfound superpowers. Luckily for new readers, you don’t need any prior knowledge of the Marvel Universe to understand the backstory – just know that there’s a mysterious green mist that unlocks superpowers in certain humans and Kamala Khan got caught in it.

Ms. Marvel volume 1 is moving a ton of copies, so you should be able to walk into your local comic store (LCS) and pick up a copy. You can also get it on Amazon for $11, or if you prefer reading your comics digitally, you can download the monthly issues on Marvel Digital. “No Normal” collects issues 1-5, and is currently an ongoing monthly series.

2. Saga

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The only thing surprising about seeing Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples on this list is that it isn’t #1. It’s pretty much sweeped all industry awards this year, and rightfully so. I reviewed Saga earlier this year, and it’s hands down one of the best series I’ve read – ever.

[Saga] is an epic space fantasy that follows a young family throughout the universe as they try to escape two warring planets that are also out to find and kill them. You see, Alana and Marko are from these two planets that are at war with each other, and the fact that they are in love and had a child with each other challenges the status quo and can throw the very foundation of the long-running war off balance, shifting the political landscape for generations to come. Alana and Marko are simply trying to live their lives and raise their newborn baby girl Hazel, all while escaping hired assassins sent to kill them and going through the trials of being first time parents.

The hardcover edition with lots of extras just came out, and it collects the first 18 issues. You can get it on Amazon for $30 or you can download the individual issues from Image Comics.

1. Thor

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That’s right – the Goddess of Thunder lands the top spot in our Top 10 Comics Books of 2014. What more can we say about this book that hasn’t been said before? In our review of Thor #1,

Thor – the god of thunder, member of the Avengers, son of Odin and prince of Asgard, is deemed unworthy of wielding the mighty hammer Mjolnir. Rising out of the downward spiral of his unworthiness, a new warrior emerges to become worthy of wielding the hammer – and she becomes the new Thor.

Thankfully, the book stands on its own as a great story with what will surely be one bad ass warrior. Writer Jason Aaron makes it very clear, that this is not some female version of Thor in an alternative universe, but the one and only:

“This is not She-Thor. This is not Lady Thor. This is not Thorita. This is THOR. This is the THOR of the Marvel Universe. But it’s unlike any Thor we’ve ever seen before.”

There are currently 2 issues in the all-new series, and you can pick up issues from your LCS or download them digitally from Marvel Comics.

And there you have it! We were all convinced that Saga would end up being #1, but all 3 of us ranked Thor high on our lists and it edged out Saga for the top spot. Surprisingly DC is missing, even though we all read DC, Marvel and Image books. Birthright, Tooth & Claw, Wytches and Thor each have less than 3 issues released, but their debuts all blew us away and left us drooling for more. 2014 is ending on a high note that will have us starting 2015 off with a bang!

What’s in your top 10? Please share your list in the comments – we love seeing what others read!

If this is your first time visiting Shortboxed, thanks for stopping by! We want to provide a place online where people new to comics can come and learn about the culture and be introduced to some amazing stories without feeling overwhelmed or intimidated. We’re always adding new content, so please come back soon! You can also follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr at @shortboxed.

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