Here is my list for the top ten comics for 2014. No honorable mentions this year, but suffice it to say that there were TONS of honorable mentions, just like there are every year, as I read a whoooole lot of good comics.
Bryan Lee O'Malley provides a thorough and compelling examination into the life of a woman at a crossroads in her life, using fantasy elements in the way that they are used best, to get to truths about the human condition that are not so easily expressed without the use of fantastical elements. It is one thing to get that a person regrets the type of person that she has become, it is a whole other thing to be able to express those feelings visually through the use of magic.
9. This One Summer
This graphic novel perfectly captures that strange tipping point in life where you go from being a kid to being something else - certainly not yet an adult, but definitely not a kid. Mariko Tamaki creates such a vivid lead character that you really feel like you've stumbled upon someone's diary. Jillian Tamaki's artwork is so lush and emotive that it creates the ideal atmosphere for our tween hero to experience the new emotions she deals with when her yearly trip with her parents to a lakeside cottage doesn't feel the same way it did when she was younger.
8. Sex Criminals
The second year of Sex Criminals was even better than the strong first year, as Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky have now moved the story past the initial (extremely clever) conceit and are now forced to make the story work based on the strength of the characters they've developed and they have done such a strong job in their character development that that shift in the driving force of the comic is not a problem at all.
Now in its third year, Saga is paying off on the work that Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples put into the series in the first two years, with their wealth of characters providing them with a seemingly endless array of intriguing character interactions depending on wherever their mood takes them in this expansive, fascinating universe.
Raina Telgemeier is exceptional at using her characters and her tone to create a feeling that resonates as practically universal. You don’t need to have had a sister to instantly empathize with the situations that she presents to you in this tale of two sisters. There is that sense of “oh, I know exactly that feeling” that most writers WANT to evoke in their readers but few can – and Telgemeier does it seemingly effortlessly.
Grace Ellis, Noelle Stevenson and Brooke Allen combine to deliver one of the most absurdly fun comic books that you'll ever read. Their plots are tight, their five teen heroes are well defined and, of course, every issue features Ripley, the sensational character find of 2014 whose presence makes everyone's life 156% better (I believe that's a scientific fact).
Like a few other books on this list, Matt Fraction's series is now paying off on all the work that he has spent to this point developing Clint Barton and Kate Bishop and getting them to a fascinating point in their respective lives. Due to delays, this year featured the best Christmas story in May that you'll likely ever come across, as well as outstanding work from Annie Wu in Fraction's striking examination of superheroing in a 2014 Los Angeles by way of 1970s Robert Altman and David Aja in yet another experimental issue (this time a depiction of Clint's hearing loss).
3. Mind Mgmt
Matt Kindt's masterpiece just continues to get more and more complicated as we follow him down the rabbit hole of Mind Management, as the cast of characters continues to grow and the story keeps on building on itself. It is hard to believe there's only one more year left of this amazing series.
2. Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?
Roz Chast's memoir, Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, somehow manages to be delightful while telling a painful and often universal tale of dealing with the end of her parents' life. These are situations that we most of us will deal with if we haven't already, and Chast realizes that often the only way that it can be handled is to approach it with some morbid humor.
Doctors is a philosophical examination about the very nature of life and death through the lenses of a science fiction drama. Besides being a powerful and poignant story, Dash Shaw’s artwork is imaginative and willing to explore new ways of affecting the senses of the reader through the use of colors and iconic artistic tropes.