Top 10 Graphic Novels I Read in 2014

A list of collected comics or graphic novels that Jake picked up in 2014.  Requirements: purchased in volume form or in bulk in 2014.  Either taken as part of a sale or trade-waited.  Actual publishing dates vary.  1 volume per book, other volumes read will be mentioned.

#10: Red Robin: Collision
DC Comics

Writer: Chris Yost

Artists: Marcus To

Inkers: Ray McCarthy, Dexter Vines

Also Read: The Grail, The Hit List, 7 Days of Death

Contrary to my DBAH-dian persona, Tim Drake has always been one of my favorite characters, despite the fact that I dont really have much experience reading him.  I liked the idea of a techsavy, generally brilliant protege of Batman, and in his own book Tim really gets to shine.  The series actually kicks off in the prior volume, The Grail, but Collision is where things come to a head, as the title suggests.  Occurring during the year when Batman was dead,Tim is the only one that believes hes alive.  His quest for proof results in him butting heads with one of Batmans greatest foes, Ras al Ghul and the League of Assassins.  The challenge, orchestrated by perennial favorite Chris Yost and wonderfully executed mainly by Marcus To, shows exactly what makes Tim worthy of his own place in the Bat family.


#9: Avengers: Red Zone
Marvel Comics

Writer: Geoff Johns

Artist: Oliver Coipel

What seems like a biological terror attack centered at Mount Rushmore calls the Avengers to investigate.  The conspiracy they uncover, however, runs far deeper than simple terrorism.  A classic Avengers tale from Johns and Coipel expertly shows many of the Avengers at their best.  Any fans interested in how Black Panther operates/is so much of a badass should definitely pick this up. 

#8: Stumptown Vol. 1
Oni Press

Writer: Greg Rucka

Illustrator: Matthew Southworth

Colorist: Lee Loughridge

This pulp crime tale from Greg Rucka follows the misadventures of P.I. Dex Parios as she attempts to track down a casino owners missing daughter.  Southworth and Loughridge paint a wonderfully moody picture of Portland as Dex hurtles further and further down the rabbit hole of conspiracy and corruption.  A page-turner from start to finish, Stumptown is one of the best of the genre.

#7: The Manhattan Projects 
Vol. 1: Science. Bad.

Image Comics

Writer: Jonathan Hickman

Artist: Nick Pitarra

Colorist: Jordie Bellaire

Also Read: Volume 2

What would you get if I told you that the atomic bomb testing was just a cover-up for something wholly more intricate and awful?  Youd get Batshit Insane, The Comic, is what youd get.  Youd get a comic where Robert Oppenheimer is actually Joseph Oppenheimer, his psychotic twin brother who has consumed the formers corpse and taken his place.  Youd get a comic where Enrico Fermis an alien, FDRs dead brain becomes the first supercomputer, and theres something funny going on with Albert Einstein.  This madcap tale from the somehow functioning mind of Jonathan Hickman is stunningly captured in Pitarras complex line-work and Bellaires striking hues of red and blue.  What the shitwas a constant utterance at the turn of every page.  Science. Bad.indeed

#6: Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. Vol. 1: 
This Is What They Want

Marvel Comics

Writer: Warren Ellis

Artist: Stuart Immonen

Also Read: Vol. 2: I Kick Your Face

Remember how I told you the last series was insane?  Welcome to the progenitor of insane mainstream comics.  The grandaddy of them all, Nextwave is madcap fun from start to finish.  Operating under Dirk Anger, Director of Highest Anti-Terrorism Effort, Monica Rambeau (aka Captain Marvel aka Spectrum), Boom-boom, Elsa Bloodstone, Machine Man, and The Captain (formerly Captain *******, an epitaph so vulgar it was censored from the comic) fight the zaniest shit imaginable (Elvis M.O.D.O.K.s, babies in Iron Man suits, Cyclops Apatasaurs, etc).  And thats it.  Its the best purest parody of superhero comics: all fighting, all posing, all one-liners, no plot.  And its great.  Ellis and Immonens Holy Grail only lasts twelve issues, but its twelve issues of purest crack.  

#5: Transformers: Robots In Disguise Vol. 1

IDW Publishing

Writer: John Barber

Artist: Andrew Griffith

Also Read: Vol. 2-5; Dark Cybertron Vol. 1-2

Look at that.  Look at that Also Read.  Seven fucking volumes of a fucking Transformers comic.  And its not even the cool Transformers (Beast Wars 4 Lyf!!).  And I spent enough money to cover seven fucking volumes because the story was that engrossing.  The Autobots have finally beaten the Decepticons and reclaimed Cybertron.  So now what?  Ruling the ravaged planet and its natural inhabitants along with the subdued Decepticons is a very complicated affair, as Bumblees Autobot government is bound to find out.  Its like House of Cards, but with political figures that can turn into fighter jets.  That sentence should explain exactly why I spent so much money on a series about fucking truck-robots.

#4: Saga Vol. 1

Image Comics

Writer: Brian K. Vaughn

Artist: Fiona Staples

Lettering: Fonografiks

Also Read: Vol. 2

This series is everything its cracked up to be.  Vaughn has crafted yet another amazingly rich tale: Not-dumb Romeo and Juliet in the middle of the Cold War that happens to take place in fantasy space.  Despite the incredibly diverse cast of species and characters, Vaughns voice and characterization are perfect, making each character we come across wonderfully life-like.  Hes aided in this endeavor by the supremely talented Staples.  Working both pencils and colors, Staples is a force all her own, essentially making a Hollywood adaptation of the book redundant, so vivacious is her art.  Fonografiks also deserves a nod as well, expertly lacing the narrators script throughout the story with a delicate touch.  Saga is one of the freshest things to come out of the market in a long while and definitely deserving of a pick-up.

#3: We3

Vertigo Comics

Writer: Grant Morrison

Artist: Frank Quietly

My emotions, you guys.  My heart aches just reminiscing about this juggernaut.  This three-issue series from a decade ago puts on a clinic of storytelling and characterization.  Three science experimentsa doggie, a kitty, and a bunnyescape from the lab and go on the run from their human captors.  Also, the animals have mech suits with incredible destructive power.  Legends Morrison and Quietly are on their A-game, making these three issues some of the most complete and satisfying Ive ever read.

#2: Thor: God of Thunder Vol. 1: 
The God Butcher
Marvel Comics

Writer: Jason Aaron

Artist: Esad Ribic

Colorist: Dean White

Also Read: Vol. 2: Godbomb

Epic.  Thats what this tale of Thor feels like.  Aaron crafts a tale that sounds insane: three Thors from different times (young/Viking, modern/hero, old/King) combatting the seemingly unbeatable Gorr, the God Butcher, at their respective points in time.  But it works incredibly well.  Ribic and Whites work is jaw-dropping.  Every page feels like an echo of a Frazetta painting with Ribics kinetic pencils and Whites moody muted hues.  This book feels like something that could never be captured in any other medium with the same effect.  Its rare to find a comic thats a perfect example of all of its creators, subjects and source materials, but I think God of Thunder is that comic.  

#1: Fables Vol. 2: 
Animal Farm
Vertigo Comics

Writer: Bill Willingham

Artist: Mark Buckingham

Inker: Steve Leialoha

Also Read: Vol. 1: Legends in Exile, Vol. 3: Storybook Love

At a cursory glance, Fables seems like just another adaptation or uplift of classic fairytales that are so common these days.  But Fables is so much more.  Rather than simply placing these classic characters in the modern or real world and saying go,  Fables takes the time to think everything through.  How would this work?  Where would they go?  Whos in charge?  How does that work?  The result is a complex and shockingly fresh tale that stands all on its own.  The second volume takes place on the Farm, where all the non-human Fables who cant afford to pass as such are forced to go.  As the Bard once cried, something is rotten in the state of Denmark and assistant mayor Snow White has arrived to investigate. Machinations and danger abound in another exemplary entry in the Fables series. 


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