I know what you're thinking, Jammers. You're thinking, "Hey, since when did Brett decide to call us Jammers?" and also, "Who cares about lists anymore? It's January 7th!" The answers to those questions are "pretty much right now" and "me." I am pretty rigid with rules, so when I'm asked to name my favorite anythings of 2014, I find it really hard to do so before December 31st. After all, something could come out of nowhere and surprise us all, secret "Beyonce" album-style, thus wrecking all your predetermined "Best Of" lists. Yeah, I held off on submitting my top ten comics list for the CBR Best of 2014 list until the very last minute. That's because I take lists seriously -- and, as was the case with a few issues this year, greatness can slide in right at the buzzer.
Before I get into my top ten single issues and top ten series of the year, I want to highlight some of the other books that I've raved about in this very column: "Flash Gordon," "Storm," "Superior Foes of Spider-Man," "Southern Bastards," and "Action Comics." No matter how the lists below shake out, know that those books had stellar years and are well worth your shelf space.
TOP 10 SINGLE ISSUES OF 2014
10. Bitch Planet #1 (Image Comics)Written by Kelly Sue DeConnick; art by Valentine De Landro; colored by Cris Peter; lettered by Clayton Cowles; edited by Lauren SankovitchAttending any comic convention panel with Kelly Sue DeConnick on stage feels like going to comic book church -- in the best way possible. DeConnick has always practiced the feminist ass-kicking values she preaches on panels in her series, but "Bitch Planet" feels like the writer's most passionate sermon to date. It's uncompromising, unflinching, unyielding, non-compliant -- the purest and most riveting mission statement in the writer's career brought to life with career redefining art from Valentine De Landro. My butt is in the front pew for the rest of this run.
9. Black Widow (v5) #13 (Marvel Comics)Written by Nathan Edmondson; art by Phil Noto; lettered by Clayton Cowles; edited by Ellie PyleEdmondson and Noto turned in a lot of great issues this year. The team-up with X-23, her run-in with Hawkeye, her battle against a religious zealot with a Gatling gun arm -- this was a dynamite book all year long. But I tend to dig season finales a lot, and "Black Widow" #13 upped the emotional stakes in a big way. So far we've seen Natasha trying to better herself and take the high road; after the attack on her lawyer -- and the only consistent ally she has in her personal life -- things get dark. The interrogation room reveal, Phil Noto's use of focus, a hit list with the first name scratched off -- as much as I loved this series' first year, this issue has me expecting great things from year two.
8. Daredevil (v4) #11 (Marvel Comics)Written by Mark Waid; art by Chris Samnee; colored by Matt Wilson; lettered by Joe Caramagna; edited by Ellie PyleSince it was released on one of the last Wednesdays of 2014, I can safely say that the page turn leading into the wordless reveal of the death of Matt Murdock's new client and his heroic decision to spring into action is one of the best bits of comic book storytelling I experienced in all of 2014. Waid and Samnee know what they're doing, so really every issue these two do together could be on this list, but few installments of "DD" this year had me as entertained as Foggy fact-checking Daredevil's autobiography and as stunned as the last page reveal. "The sound of the pins in George Smith's bones."
7. Moon Knight (v7) #5 (Marvel Comics)Written by Warren Ellis; art by Declan Shalvey; colored by Jordie Bellaire; lettered by Chris Eliopoulos; edited by Nick Lowe and Ellie PyleComic storytelling lacks the benefit of movement, so fight scenes are actually quite hard to pull off well despite the superhero genre's reliance on them. This all-fight issue breaks all the medium's limitations with a white billy club and a lot of brute force. As Moon Knight tears his way up the floors of an abandoned building to rescue a hostage, Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire cement themselves as the best artistic tag team in comics. Seriously -- this is the issue that gave us a no-name henchman that's equal parts Morris Day and Tim Burton's "Batman."
6. Superior Foes of Spider-Man #13 (Marvel Comics)Written by Nick Spencer; art by Steve Lieber; colored by Rachelle Rosenberg; lettered by Clayton Cowles; edited by Jon Moisan and Lauren SankovitchComedy is hard. Physical comedy is hard. Mastering physical comedy in a motion-free medium like comics? Who does that? Steve Lieber, that's who. With one page of Mach-VII inadvertently laying waste to a furniture store, Lieber made me laugh harder than I have all year and immediately made "Superior Foes" one of my all-time favorite books. Nick Spencer also gave Beetle an incredibly 2014 lament -- "My life is failing the Bechdel Test" -- and stuffed the head of Silvermane in a bowling ball bag, two gags that had me grinning from ear to ear like a delighted idiot.
5. Storm (v3) #1 (Marvel Comics)Written by Greg Pak; art by Victor Ibanez; colored by Ruth Redmond; lettered by Cory Petit; edited by Mike Marts and Daniel KetchumStorm's had an ongoing series coming for a long time, so the pressure to deliver in the very first issue was high. Greg Pak met that challenge with a very Storm-esque level of confidence and gave us a twenty-page mission statement. This is a Storm that goes where heroes don't go and does what heroes don't do; this is a hero that's not afraid to use her powers to stop tsunamis and use her fists to fight corrupt militia men. Victor Ibanez matched Pak's confident script and gave it the swagger and fierce heart it needed to come alive; Ibanez's body language and facial expressions convey everything Storm is -- a goddess, an inspiration, a fighter, a queen and a hero.
4. Southern Bastards #4 (Image Comics)Written by Jason Aaron; art by Jason Latour; lettered by Jared K. Fletcher; edited by Sebastian GirnerKnowing from firsthand experience the people and places "Southern Bastards" draws inspiration from, I kinda fear this book. I love it, but I fear it. That was okay, because the Jasons in charge gave us Earl Tubbs, a man that's made mistakes you can relate to and a man that has morals you can root for. They gave us a rough and rugged leading man that we wanted to spend twenty-ish pages with a month -- and then they took him away. Brutally. But, in a move that kicked this comic a few rungs up on the greatness ladder, they introduced a new potential protagonist in a literal post-credits scene -- Earl Tubbs' daughter, a Marine that I can't wait to learn more about this year.
3. Ms. Marvel (v3) #1 (Marvel Comics)Written by G. Willow Wilson; art by Adrian Alphona; colored by Ian Herring; lettered by Joe Caramagna; edited by Sana Amanat, Devin Lewis and Stephen WackerAs far as I'm concerned, "Ms. Marvel" #1 is a debut worth reprinting as many times as "Amazing Fantasy" #15. First issues are tough stuff, especially first issues tasked with introducing an entirely new character, setting and supporting cast. "Ms. Marvel" has one of the first -- if not the first -- Muslim characters in a leading role at a big comics publisher, meaning that the series also had to introduce a religion to a readership largely unfamiliar with it without sounding like a Wikipedia article. G. Willow Wilson ran across this tightrope of an issue with expertise, making pretty much everyone in comics fall in love with a teenage Pakistani-American girl from Jersey City. This issue packs in so much: Kamala's friends and family, her relationship with her friends and family, her relationship with her religion and her relationship with fanfic all before throwing in the mysterious Terrigen Mist that gives her her powers. Adrian Alphona and Ian Herring's art brings this issue to larger-than-life, making every one of Kamala's emotions highly visible and innately relatable.
2. She-Hulk (v3) #8 (Marvel Comics)Written by Charles Soule; art by Javier Pulido; colored by Muntsa Vicente; lettered by Clayton Cowles; edited by Jeanine SchaeferNot to knock the hands-down fantastic issues of "She-Hulk" that preceded this one, but this is the one where everything about this series -- both the superhero and lawyer stuff -- click into place with humorous and compelling charm. With an elderly Captain America as her latest client, Jennifer Walters has to fret over preventing Steve Rogers' legacy from being tarnished by a wrongful death charge. This issue features standout work from Javier Pulido, who illustrates everything from a Stark jet to Matt Murdock's suit with an impeccable precision. When Jen, Angie and Patsy teamed up with a suntanned Madrox dupe, I knew I was in love with this issue.
1. Thor: God of Thunder #18 (Marvel Comics)Written by Jason Aaron; art by Das Pastoras; lettered by Joe Sabino; edited by Lauren Sankovitch and Jon MoisanThere is enough innovation and imagination in this one issue of "God of Thunder" to fill an entire year of comics. This tale of young Viking Thor finds the axe-wielding hero staging an intervention for a self-destructive dragon Thor and Skabgagg's friendship is depicted in painstakingly detailed art from Das Pastoras, who reinvented the way dragons in the Marvel Universe look. Every page of this is affecting and every emotional beat resonant. In an era defined by constant crossovers and events, it's refreshing to get a solid done-in-one story with as much heart and purpose as this one -- and that makes it my favorite issue from 2014.
TOP 10 SERIES OF 2014
10. Storm v3 #1-6 (Marvel Comics)Written by Greg Pak; art by Victor Ibanez, David Baldeon, Scott Hepburn, Al Barrionuevo; inked by Jordi Tarragona, Roland Paris, Craig Yeung, Tom Palmer; colored by Ruth Redmond, Rachelle Rosenberg; lettered by Cory Petit, Joe Sabino; edited by Mike Marts, Daniel Ketchum, Xander JaroweyEvery superhero comic should take some tips from this excellent solo series starring Marvel's most prominent currently living mutant. Greg Pak isn't just writing another superhero series; he's writing a series that seeks to define what being a superhero means. Despite the noblest of intentions, Storm doesn't always make the best decisions. She's learned that swooping in to save the day does nothing to improve the futures of those she saves. She's still powerful and inspirational, but Pak's made Storm more aware than ever before.
9. Lazarus #6-13 (Image Comics)Written by Greg Rucka; illustrated and lettered by Michael Lark, Brian Level, Tyler Boss; lettered by Jodi Wynne; colored by Santi Arcas; edited by David BrothersThe best serialized sci-fi story right now is not a cable drama nor is it a feature film franchise; it's "Lazarus," Greg Rucka and Michael Lark's comic series about Forever Carlyle, a genetically-engineered warrior charged with protecting her elite family of one-percenters. This book pulls no punches, and neither does Lazarus now that she's had to call into question her entire existence. Rucka and Lark took us on a tour of the world they've put together in a series of story arcs that built upon the fascinating foundation they began work on in 2013.
8. Black Widow v5 #1-13 (Marvel Comics)Written by Nathan Edmondson; art by Phil Noto; lettered by Clayton Cowles; edited by Ellie PyleMy love for Black Widow specifically comes from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, where Scarlett Johansson has been able to develop a character that's equal parts enigma, wisecracks and bad-assery. This year, the original iteration of Natasha Romanoff got a chance to take the lead -- and she ran with it. In thriller after thriller, Nathan Edmondson put Black Widow in high-octane scenarios for Phil Noto to execute with unflinching style. You want missile launchers and alligator attacks and espionage and a begrudgingly accepted pet cat? This is the book for you!
7. Wytches #1-3 (Image Comics)Written by Scott Snyder; art by Jock; colored by Matt Hollingsworth; lettered by Clem Robins; edited by David BrothersI mean, I'd be scared to write anything negative about "Wytches" for fear that my iPad -- where my wytches reside -- would try to harm me. Thankfully Snyder, Jock and Hollingsworth have crafted a truly terrifying horror comic of such a high quality that I have no problem coming up with nice things to say about it. It's every bit as unsettling as "Severd," a previous Snyder/horror jam, and the art increases the tension and gulp-inducing uncertainty with every page. Hollingsworth's colors, which mash digital filters up against hand-splattered paint, bring a mixed media approach to every page that makes "Wytches" look like either a book you'd find in a creepy antique store or another dimension.
6. Daredevil v3 #35-36, v4 #1-11 (Marvel Comics)Written by Mark Waid; illustrated by Chris Samnee; illustrated and colored by Javier Rodriguez; colored by Matt Wilson; inked by Alvaro Lopez; lettered by Joe Caramagna; edited by Ellie Pyle, Stephen Wacker, Nick LoweNever count out "Daredevil." The hot book of 2011 has kept up its fearless streak far longer than any of its peers, and it shows no sign of fatigue. Mark Waid and Chris Samnee uprooted Matt Murdock and put him back in San Francisco where new dangers -- and new amazing stories -- awaited him. From the heart-warming story of Foggy Nelson's death to the intensely disturbing Purple Children arc, this has been another banner year for "Daredevil," and I eagerly await the upcoming grand finale to this refreshing take on the Man Without Fear.
5. Moon Knight v7 #1-6 (Marvel Comics)Written by Warren Ellis; art by Declan Shalvey; colored by Jordie Bellaire; lettered by Chris Eliopoulos; edited by Nick Lowe, Ellie Pyle, Stephen WackerI never cared about Moon Knight before this year. A number of creative teams have tried to reinvent him since I started reading comics twenty years ago, but it took a creative team comprised of some of my favorite creators to make me take notice. This Moon Knight had more stark white gadgets than lines of dialogue and his split personalities manifested themselves in the form of different genre-defined costumes. The story of "Moon Knight's" success, though, can't be told without heaping praise upon Bellaire's colors. Her palette traveled from the gritty noir streets of Manhattan to the trippiest of dayglo mindscapes and gave us a henchman I like to call Purple McGoldknives, all while keeping the protagonist in crisp white. This book was gorgeous.
4. The Fade Out #1-3 (Image Comics)Writen by Ed Brubaker; art by Sean Phillips; colored by Bettie Breitweiser; edited by David BrothersEd Brubaker, Sean Phillips and Elizabeth Breitweiser just keep on turning out impeccable work that is immediately rich with detail and engrossing. There is no questioning the quality of a book with this trio's name on it, and this tale of early Hollywood corruption and cover-ups is no different. The attention put into every page, as Brubaker and Phillips lean even further into their noir inclinations and Bettie Breitweiser reaps the rewards of her reinventing her coloring style, has made me look forward to this book every month.
3.Â Ms. MarvelÂ v3 #1-10 (Marvel Comics)Written by G. Willow Wilson; art by Adrian Alphona, Jake Wyatt; colored by Ian Herring; lettered by Joe Caramagna; edited by Sana Amanat, Devin Lewis, Nick Lowe, Stephen WackerThere's a totally new generation of comic book readers, ones that buy their comics digitally and celebrate them online, and "Ms. Marvel" tapped into that market and encouraged, emboldened and embiggened them into becoming a true force of nature. A million printings of her number one issue later -- seriously, this book had so many printings Marvel had to bust out a turquoise variant -- and Kamala Khan has become the unlikely new face of Marvel Comics in 2014. It's easy to understand why. G. Willow Wilson's scripts are smart and crackle with a youthful energy that fits Adrian Alphona's linework. The book benefits from being set just across the Hudson from the main Marvel Universe; "Ms. Marvel" gets to comment on superheroes from a real world point of view just as much as it gets to participate. That mix makes this one of the most fulfilling and delightful reads every month.
2. Southern Bastards #1-6 (Image Comics)Written by Jason Aaron; art by Jason Latour; lettered by Jared K. Fletcher; edited by Sebastian GirnerMore so than any comic book series I have ever read, "Southern Bastards" reminds me of home. Not the good parts of my home state Tennessee; no, it reminds me of the places my parents moved from, the parts of my college town we didn't go to, and the places just off the interstate that we vacate just as soon as we fill up our gas tanks. This is everything dirty about the south transformed into compelling art via two creators that know what they're talking about. I developed a deep connection with this book over the year; yeah, there are a lot of crime comics out there, but this one feels like mine. The recent recounting of Coach Boss' origin story hasn't disappointed either; these guys have actually turned the low life that murdered our presumed series lead into a sympathetic character. This is the book that defies and satisfies my expectations.
1.Â She-HulkÂ v3 #1-11 (Marvel Comics)Written by Charles Soule; art by Javier Pulido, Ron Wimberly; colored by Muntsa Vicente, Rico Renzi; lettered by Clayton Cowles, Gus Pillsbury; edited by Jeanine Schaefer, Tom Brennan, Frankie Johnson, Sana AmanatLooking at the covers of "She-Hulk" all in a row feels like looking at The Beatles' discography. Lofty praise, sure, but every one of "She-Hulk's" eleven issues was a winner this year. Whether it was Javier Pulido or guest artist Ron Wimberly, this book took joyous artistic risks few other books dared to. Charles Soule excelled with a character known for inspiring A+ work and ruined the curve for previous geniuses Dan Slott and John Byrne; his Jennifer Walters was funny, strong, exasperated, feisty and smart. In the hands of a practicing lawyer, She-Hulk finally came alive with a level of detail previously unseen. And the action -- oh, the action! She-Hulk's brawl with Titania proved that there is no storytelling technique Pulido won't employ to tell a tale. Kevin Wada's stunningly innovative covers ensured that no other book looked as good sitting on the shelves either. This was the 2014 bar for superhero excellence.
Brett White is a comedian living in New York City. He co-hosts Matt & Brett Love Comics, writes for the sketch comedy podcast Left Handed Radio, and makes videos for the Upright Citizens Brigade as a member of UCB1. His opinions can be consumed in bite-sized morsels on Twitter (@brettwhite).