Last year I did a small roundup over at The Founding Fields with fellow reviewer Bane of Kings which contained a list of the best new comics to have come out in 2013. It was a rather small list with only 10 entries each from the two of us, reflecting our reading for the year and the consequent small pool to pick from. But in 2014, I greatly expanded my weekly reading, and so for the round-up of the best new comics to have come out in 2014, whether as mini-series or ongoings, I have decided to go much bigger.
There were a ton of new comics to come out last year and many of them started off well enough but unfortunately well by wayside since subsequent issues were nowhere near as good. That however, is a call to make on any new comic and you have to have a wait-and-see attitude for the most part. For this embiggened round-up, I have some mini-series here and some ongoing titles. Some have had multiple issues come out in 2014, while some have had less than three.
Irrespective of that, these are all the most promising new series of 2014, and I think that they are all well worth the read in 2015.
Let’s see what makes the cut and which comes close then!
A few days ago I did my best of 2014 list for the comics I read in the second half of 2014. And back in July of 2014, I did the first “best comics of 2014” post. The reason I mention that is because of the changes I’ve made for this list. While previously I used to do it so that I put up my top 6 comics, in July’14 I did a top 12 on account of the increased number of comics I was reading at the time. And that same holds true for this list as well since I’ve gone up on the number yet again, and this list has the top 20 and then 20 honourable mentions.
More comics, yay!
So, with the books of the second half of 2014 already having been covered, I now delve into my favourite monthly comics of the same period. The next post will be a list of the top graphic novels I read in all of 2014.
Let’s see what makes the cut and which comes close then!
No “Magic 40” this week since I wasn’t able to get around to a lot of the comics I wanted to get through this week, largely because I am traveling and in India for a cousin’s marriage. These things always take up a lot of time. I haven’t even had a chance to work on my NaNo novel these past two days!
Anyway, My top picks for the surprise hits of the week would be Batman ’66: The Lost Episode #1 and He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Volume 2 from DC Comics. The most disappointing comics of this week were Amazing Spider-Man #10 and Spider-Woman #1 from Marvel Comics. Other than that, the regularly great titles like Black Widow, Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 10 , Future’s End, Predator: Fire and Stone and Witchblade all proved to be immensely fun.
The graphic novels for this week were Aphrodite IX v2 Volume 2 by Matt Hawkins, Stjepan Sejic and Troy Peteri, and He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Volume 2 by Dan Abnett, Rafael Kayanan, Kathryn Layno, Deron Bennett, Yildiray Cinar, Randy Mayor, Michael S. O’Hare, Frazer Irving, Pop Mhan, Tom Derenick, Tony Avina, Ken Lashley and Ryan Sook.
Just about three weeks ago, we got to see something amazing happen in James Robinson and Leonard Kirk’s Fantastic Four, when we finally got to learn who was orchestrating the team’s grandiose downfall, chipping away them one by one. We still don’t have all the answers, but damn, it was a huge issue, a major turning point. With everything that was happening, things seemed to be moving towards a conclusion finally, and I reveled in that since it was something I’ve been wanting to see from the series for a couple months now. The wait is now over.
Fantastic Four #13 is yet another turning point for the series, and the cover is pretty much a dead-giveaway for what is going to happen here. Last time, we saw that Ben was planning a break-out with the Sandman, and we see that happen in glorious detail in this issue. After all the misery of the previous issues, there’s finally some hope for the team, even though they are all still caught in a dark circle that is going to take some time for them to break out of. The issue is a bit too fast-paced for my tastes, but the story and art are both as excellent as they could have been.
Things are really beginning to heat up in James Robinson’s run on Fantastic Four. We’ve seen Marvel’s first family broken apart as a schism forms between Ben and Johnny, the team loses its home in the Baxter Building, and the children of the Future Foundation are taken away by SHIELD, and more. It is some really rough stuff and James has certainly not skimped on the whole doom and gloom though he has thankfully restrained from making it out-and-out grimdark. Which is where Peter Parker comes in at the tail-end of Fantastic Four #11, providing a ray of hope for the team.
Fantastic Four #12 is a huge turning point in the series. Ever since the title’s debut a few months ago, we’ve seen Marvel’s first family only react to the events unfolding around them. They’ve never really been in charge of things. Sue attempted to take back control when she briefly fought against the Avengers a while back and when she went to Latveria to get Valeria back, but by and large, the team has only fallen into a sorrier state. But now things are different. Now the team’s allies, the real allies I’d say, are gathering, and for the first time there is some real hope here for everyone.
James Robinson’s deconstruction’s of Marvel’s First Family has seen the Fantastic Four go through some really troubled times of late. Old villains coming back. Interdimensional invasions. Getting thrown out of the Baxter Building by the Avengers and SHIELD. The children of the Future Foundation all being taken away from Sue and Richard. Sue taking on the Avengers by herself. The falling out between Ben and Johnny. And so much more. It has been a trying time for the family team of late, and with the Original Sin event these bad times certainly didn’t go away, especially not once James Robinson began to revisit the plot-threads he had introduced in the very first issue a few months back.
To be honest, this review is kind of me catching up to this massive backlog I built up for this series. As such, there are a ton of things to unpack here. But suffice to say that after laying down a lot of groundwork in the first seven issues, James Robinson finally moves forward with the “real” story progression as he touches on concepts that plots that were hinted at back when the series started and that we continue to see how the Fantastic Four are fracturing up, divided as they are because of various reasons like Johnny losing his powers, Ben arrested for murder and so on. Robinson’s writing gets ever more heart-breaking with each issue, even as the art teams switch in and out over the course of these four issues.
The wrap-up of James Robinson and Leonard Kirk’s first arc on the newly relaunched Fantastic Four back in the end of May was quite heart-breaking indeed. The two creators, along with artists Jay Leisten and Jesus Aburtov had done an absolutely magnificent job up until that point and the fifth issue was really something else, especially since it starred a whole bunch of other creators as the US government took the team to task for their past mistakes and really made them pay. And given that the Original Sin event is ongoing too, well, the future is distinctly dark for the team.
There’s a lot that has happened in the previous five issues, and in issues 6 and 7 things really take a turn for the worse because the events of Original Sin finally hit the team, in addition to everything else that has been going on with them. And their troubles are far from over because the US government is still not done with them, or their kids and allies like the Dragon Man. And in the midst of it all, what The Orb did in Original Sin #3 is coming back to bite Johnny as Ben learns a terrible secret and acts on it. Robinson’s writing in this series has been heart-breaking from the get go, but these two issues really step up the tension even as the art team continues to be utterly fantastic.
Marvel’s All-New Marvel NOW! initiative is known for double-shipping all new titles in their first month, for the most part at least. That has created a certain amount of tension and build-up in the excitement for each series, although not all of them have worked out for me. James Robinson and Leonard Kirk’s Fantastic Four is one of those very few that did, because the quality has been incredibly consistent from the start as these two creators delivered on a really awesome story matched with some great artwork. Fantastic Four has definitely been a highlight of All-New Marvel NOW! so far for me.
In the previous issue, we saw that Director Maria hill of SHIELD had served notice to the Fantastic Four, in which the team was asked to appear in a court of law to defend their many practices and answer for the consequences of their activities. We knew right from the start that something big was going to happen to all of them and now we see how the team is going to break up and we also see just why Sue was writing a letter to her son in the first issue in the first place. Definitely a great issue.
In the first three issues of his run on Fantastic Four, writer James Robinson has created the framework and structure for a really dark story that is going to break apart Marvel’s first family, the Fantastic Four, the original four. From the very first issue we know that the family struggles against betrayal and lack of trust and that the events as we are seeing them here are all flashbacks to what has already happened. It creates a certain feeling of “10 minutes to midnight” and you know that things are going to head downwards pretty damn soon. And that is exactly what happens in this new issue.
Fantastic Four #4 sees the team go up against the Frightful Four, a bunch of C-grade villains of the Marvel-verse who have a bone to pick with the heroes and who are pretty much out for blood. With Johnny depowered in the second issue, the team is down a man, but as you can see from the cover, the backup FF team enters the fray here and together they all win over the bad guys. But, turns out that things are much more dire than they seemed and the final twist in this issue really sent me reeling from the absurdity of it, as well as the impact that it is going to have on these characters.
Doing a new spin on old characters in comics is something that every creator does from time to time. Whether it is Snyder/Capullo’s Batman or Johns/Reis/Prado’s Aquaman or Edmondson/Noto’s Black Widow or Wilson/Alphona’s Ms. Marvel, this is all a staple of the industry. And when the characters involved are as high profile as Marvel’s First Family, then the stakes are even higher. Last month saw the debut of a new Fantastic Four series by James Robinson and Leonard Kirk, which was pretty good for its first two issues, serving a reader like me in providing a reintroduction to the characters and the settings.
In Fantastic Four #3, Robinson deals with the fallout of the events from last issue, which saw New York invaded by extra-dimensional monsters and Johnny Storm suffer a very personal loss. The doom and gloom that began in the very first issue continues here as the First Family begins to break apart, divided by differences of opinions and some general helplessness that recent events have brought to them. This was a good issue, but a bit too dense. Although Kirk & Co. continued to make this title one of the best looking on shelves right now.
Recently the Ultimate Universe was invaded by the 616-universe Galactus in a cataclysmic event that was first told in the pages of the mini-series Hunger and then in a big crossover event called Cataclysm that ran through several Ultimate Universe books. The end result is that the mainline alternate universe of Marvel’s comics underwent some serious changes and in the wake of that event we have had a relaunch of several books as the Ultimate Universe line-up gets simplified and renumbered in keeping with Marvel’s current All-New Marvel Now! phase.
Ultimate FF is among these new books and it presents a new vision for the Ultimate Universe version of the Future Foundation. I haven’t read any Fantastic Four/Future Foundations books in the Ultimate Universe, so I have zero idea what the teams have been like previously, but in this new book things seem very haphazard. It is nothing more than a “new” version of the Ultimates, which is the UU’s Avengers team. And the art is very disappointing as well. It lacks polish and appears half-finished. Ultimate FF is definitely not off to a good start with this issue.
Earlier this month Marvel relaunched the titular comic for its first family, the Fantastic Four. In the world’s greatest comic magazine, James Robinson has begun a rather dour and sad arc, where he starts off by showing a team divided by internal conflict and then showing through flashbacks how the team got to that point. That was the first issue, which introduced the setup. And at the end of the issue, he showed what really set off the division in motion, an unforeseen attack on the Baxter building by, well, extra-dimensional monsters.
In the second issue, he shows how the team deals with this threat, and how quickly it all escalates until the… incursion becomes something quite out of their control. And we begin to get an understanding of how the incursion took place and what, or who, might have caused it. Just as with the debut issue, the newly-released second issue is a fun and enjoyable read that mixes crazy science with superheroes and a family dynamic that is not present in, like, 99% of superhero comics. And the art, it continues to be straddling the line between good and decent, which is fine with me really.