Jim Zub and Steve Cummings’ Wayward from Image has been one of the best new titles I’ve read in the last year or so. The series hit the ground running back in August, and seemed to kick all sorts of ass as it progressed through to the conclusion of its first arc. And that final arc was certainly quite explosive too, in more ways than one, and it was also an unexpected one. Jim Zub took some pretty big chances with that finale, and I think it served the series well, and of course the art by Steve & Co has been up to showing off those chances in as great a light as possible.
Issues 6 & 7 of Wayward start off a new storyline with a new central character. This time we get to spend some time with Rori’s classmate Ohara Emi who develops some powers of her own and ends up hooking up with Ayane and Nikaido, who have become… freelancers of sorts. Following the end of Wayward #5 they have been taking the fight to the demons as best as they can, and Emi’s journey as part of their team really helps shine a light on the new direction that the series is taking, and that’s pretty darn great too!
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!
I was hoping for a second Magic 40 week in a row, but turns out that it was just wishful thinking. Still, I managed to get up to 30 comics this week, though no graphic novels sadly.
There was only one surprise hit this week, Eternal #1 from Boom Studios, as pretty much all the other comics I read this past week were ongoing series I’ve been following for a while. The disappointments of the week were Spider-Woman #2 from Marvel and Future’s End #33 from DC. And the ones that continued a great trend were the likes of Black Widow #13, Justice League #37, Catwoman #37, Supergirl #37, Wayward #5 and others.
The eighth book cover I pick for the 2014 edition of “12 Days of Best Covers of…” is actually not for a novel, but an audio drama. Written by Nick Kyme, Horus Heresy: Censure is the continuation of the tale of Sergeant Aeonid Thiel of the Ultramarines, who was awaiting censure by the Primarch Guilliman for his many insubordinations when the traitor Word Bearers launched their sneak attack on Calth and the rest of the Veridian System. Though it was released last year, I didn’t get a chance to listen to the audio until this year, and it proved to be a very good one too. Nick picked up the story from Dan Abnett’s Know No Fear novel from 2012 really well, and showed how things are at Calth now, in the present, presenting an interesting look at one of the Astartes who would go on to change the way the Ultramarines thought about almost everything when it came to making war.
The eighth set of comic covers I pick this year are for Ms. Marvel #7 by G. Willow Wilson, Jacob Wyatt, Ian Herring, and VC’s Joe Caramagna with the cover by Jamie McKelvie and Matthew Wilson, with the second one being Wayward #1 by Jim Zub, Steve Cummings, John Rauch and Marshall Dillon with the cover by Steve and Ross A. Campbell, and the third of the set is for Life With Archie #37 by Paul Kupperberg, Fernando Ruiz, Pat & Tim Kennedy, Bob Smith, Gary Martin, Jack Morelli and Glenn Whitmore. The first of these is of course from one of my absolute favourite new series of the year, through which writer G. Willow Wilson pretty much revolutionized young superhero comics. Kamala Khan has to be the most awesome new character to debut in superhero comics this year, and I love reading her adventures month after month. Wayward is one of Jim Zub’s latest new projects and he has been rocking it out on all levels, especially with the fantastic art provided by Steve, John and Marshall. And Life With Archie #37 is, of course, the issue that followed on from the landmark Life With Archie #36, in which the titular hero died. These series has kind of been an alternate-verse storyline that has also been quite progressive in many ways, and though Life With Archie #37 might not be THE issue where Archie died, it is set a year later and is a nostalgia trip of epic proportions as many of the most iconic characters of the Archie-verse talk about him and celebrate his life.
So without further ado, hit the break to see all the covers in their full glory! The full list of all these covers is available here.
The first three issues of Wayward by Jim Zub and Steve Cummings have done much to create the setting for the story that can found inside these pages, that of a half-Japanese, half-Irish young girl Rori who comes to Japan to stay with her mother and ends up finding out that she has some really freaky powers and that there are others like her, in Tokyo at least, one of them at her school even! And of course, there’s also a larger story here of villains with nefarious plans, leaving it to Rori and her new friends to do something about all of it and save the people close to her, if she can.
After the introductory three issues, issue four and five of Wayward are all about closing out the first arc, for the fifth issue does feel like a temporary conclusion to the story. They are also highly action-packed issues that blitz you through a number of twists that will leave you stunned, scrambling to make sure that what you just read actually happened. Another thing that becomes clear is that after the almost light-hearted tone of the first three issues, the creators are going full-out for some serious stuff, an interesting juxtaposition that really ends up working well in this case, making Wayward a must-read for all comics readers.
I’ve said before that this is a really busy year for Jim Zub, and that couldn’t have been truer last week when he rolled out Dungeons & Dragons: Legends of Baldur’s Gate #1 from IDW Publishing. Given all the other tie-in work he does for Pathfinder and Samurai Jack, he’s also a busy man with some original work, the latest of which has really impressed me. Pairing up with Steve Cummings, Wayward has rocketed up to the list of my favourite monthlies, and it is easily one of the best new comics of the year as well. Japanese urban fantasy with spirits and ghosts and what not? Definitely aces.
Wayward #1 introduced us to the characters of Rori Lane and Ayane, and Wayward #2 introduced us to Shirai, while also moving the overall plot forward a little bit. Now, Wayward #3 introduces us to yet another character, Nikaido, even as the heroes all team-up to fight against a spirit-monster in a really cool action scene. And as I expected and wanted to see, the issue also introduced some of the villains of the series. Jim’s writing and Steve’s art top out once again and I have to say that this was an issue even better than the previous two, which just boggles the mind. The entire team of Wayward seems intent on pulling out all stops!
As has become the norm these days, I’ve started learning more and more about new books via social media and creator blogs. That’s how I learned about Jim Zub’s Wayward from Image. Jim is currently one of my favourite writers in comics, and Wayward #1 was a solid series opener when it debuted last month. Japanese urban fantasy with a great female protagonist? Hell, I’m all over that. The series opener had great writing, and the art by Steve Cummings, John Rauch and Jim himself was similarly enticing, really pulling you into the whole feel of the story and the world.
Wayward #1 introduced Rori Lane, an Irish-Japanese high school girl who moves to Japan to be with her mother after her parents’ divorce and then ends up getting embroiled in some really weird and supernatural things involving cats. Jim paced the first issue like a pro, developing the characters and the world in a sedate manner and that is exactly what he does in the second issue as well, out this week. A new character is introduced, Rori’s faces up to more challenges in the new city and every step of the Steve, John and Jim present some of the best art in comics right now.
I don’t know if it is just me but since Fall last year it looks like Jim Zub is quickly becoming one of the hottest writers in the industry. After the success of his Image series Skullkickers, he seems to be getting projects green-lit left and right, whether that be the awesome Samurai Jack tie-in for IDW or the Pathfinder: City of Secrets tie-in for Dynamite (he wrote more Pathfinder before as well, I think), or even a few one-shots here and there. For the most part, all that I’ve read from him has ranged from the good to the really great. Skullkickers is something that I’ve been meaning to read for a while and it looks like I really need to jump on with this, because I just need to read more Jim Zub every month.
The latest project from Jim is Wayward, the first issue of which came out yesterday. Working alongside artists Steve Cummings, John Rauch and Marshall Dillon, Jim has crafted a really suspenseful and mysterious tale about a Japanese-Irish girl coming to Japan to live with her mother and getting caught up in some kind of supernatural antics, such as when she starts to get followed by cats and can find her way to new places purely by instinct or… more. The writing is excellent of course, but it is really the art that shines through so much, with all the colourful magic quality of Japan and a bit of mysticism thrown in.
Though this title may be ending soon, the recent issues have made it clear that J. M. DeMatteis intends to go out with a bang. He took over the title a few months before the Trinity War event last year and he has shepherded it through that and the Forever Evil event as well, turning this series into one of DC’s best books, as far as I’m concerned. And the bet part of it has been all the religious stuff that he’s injected the series with, which is far cry from how I felt when I read the zero issue by Dan DiDio when the series launched almost two years ago.
Recently DeMatteis wrapped up a major arc in which the Stranger was pit against his enemy, the Sin Eater, and it proved to be one hell of a read, a true good vs evil story featuring some of the best supernatural elements of the DC universe, and all the creepy that goes along with that. In the new issue, we see that DeMatteis is beginning to wrap up a few things and part of that is how the Stranger now relates to the Sin Eater, and the issue also deals with the end of Forever Evil: Blight in terms of what happened with the boy Christopher Esperanza.
Recently it was announced that The Phantom Stranger was coming to an end in a few months, along with its sister title Pandora. The former title debuted as part of DC’s second launch wave for New 52, if I remember correctly, and the latter debuted last year as a prelude to the Trinity War crossover. They’ve been entertaining at the least, and I’ll be sad to see them go, especially The Phantom Stranger since though it had a rough start, once J. M. DeMatteis came on board last year the title really redefined itself and became one of my favourite monthly reads from DC.
For the last couple of issues J. M. DeMatteis has been building up to a great showdown between the Phantom Stranger and the Sin Eater, two men who’ve been at odds for quite a while now, and who serve entirely different masters, both in opposition to each other. First with the supernatural cracks in reality and then with the happenings in San Francisco as related to Cassandra Craft, a woman Stranger has some kind of a connection with. DeMatteis’ writing has been strongly consistent and so has the artwork, all of which really comes to a head in the new issue.
With the end of Forever Evil: Blight in March, last month the creative team of J. M. DeMatteis, Fernando Blanco and Norm Breyfogle began a new arc in The Phantom Stranger as the titular character dealt with some of the fallout of that event, and also began to adjust to the new world that had resulted. In a supernatural team-up with Superman that was quite fun to read, The Phantom Stranger #18 proved to be decent read that promised an exciting new arc in the series as the creative team continued to dabble in more and more supernatural mysteries of the DC universe, and the villains as well.
This week’s The Phantom Stranger #19 continues that as we see the larger plan behind the event that Superman and the Stranger went through last month, and also see the titular character team-up with yet another DC bigwig, albeit a supernatural one: Madam Xanadu, one of the original founding members of the Justice League Dark, although she hasn’t rejoined the team following the end of the Forever Evil: Blight event. DeMatteis’ script here is pretty damn exciting, although he overdoes the exposition a bit, and the artwork is consistent with the previous issues, although there were negatives here and there.