The last day of the year is finally here, and with that the last of our reviews of the best content of 2014.
We’ve previewed comic books each month thanks to publishers like Dynamite Comics, Dark Horse Comics, IDW Publishing, BOOM! Studios, and Image. We sample the best of all that Marvel and DC Comics has to offer, too, and although we don’t have enough time to review everything we review those titles we think our readers might like to check out, especially those with a sci-fi, fantasy, or retro angle. And we read plenty of books–sci-fi and fantasy, pulp and spy novels, movie and TV tie-ins, even Westerns and steampunk, as well as non-fiction books about movies, TV, and other genre topics. This past month we have looked again at these titles, as we narrowed our selections to what we think are the very best. So here are our picks for Best in Print for 2014.
Best Comic Book Series — Black Widow, Marvel Comics. We were wondering early on what would take the place of Fraction and Hollingsworth’s Hawkeye series for the most satisfying superhero fix. It didn’t take long to see this other Marvel series looking at another superhero in a similarly personal–but very different–way. It was a standout in a great year of comics. Phil Noto’s art and colors were incredible and Nathan Edmondson’s story didn’t let up once. Full of action, espionage, and intrigue. A great series to catch-up on in a trade edition. See our reviews of the series here and here.
Best Comic Book Mini-Series — Afterlife with Archie, Archie Comics. Who would have guessed someone could make Archie and friends so accessible to any demographic in the 2010s? And whose brilliant idea was doing it via a horror genre story of zombies taking over Riverdale? Smart writing by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and spooky atmospheric illustrations by Francesco Francavilla made for a sumptuous series like no other. Not technically a mini-series, it feels like one because of its staggered release. See our earlier raves about the series here.
Best Comic Book Writing – Dan Abnett, Wild’s End, BOOM! Studios. Abnett’s Wild’s End really caught us by surprise. An incredible fantasy read that is truly unique from BOOM! Studios. Anthropomorphic characters with incredible archaic dialogue that’s witty and smart. A crazy mash-up of War of the Worlds, Christopher Robin’s neighborhood, and the dark edge and high stakes of Revival. We can’t wait to see what’s in store for the rest of this series. Check out our earlier review here.
Best Comic Book Art – J.K. Woodward, Star Trek: Harlan Ellison’s The City on the Edge of Forever, IDW Publishing. J.K. Woodward seems to be able to do anything with a paint brush. Movie tech has not yet perfected a way to create new films interspersing actors from the past digitally, but Woodward is able to take a cast from a 40-year-old TV series and make them come alive. We thought his Star Trek/Doctor Who crossover series was awesome, and he’s not letting up with each new project. Check out our review here.
Best Single Comic Book Issue — Guardians of the Galaxy Annual #1, Marvel Comics. It’s not easy to find a single issue that stands by itself in a year of good reads. Then in December Brian Michael Bendis and Frank Cho’s Guardians of the Galaxy Annual #1 one-shot arrived and we had our winner. Fun, unexpected, quirky and nice visuals. What more could you ask for? Here’s our review from a few weeks ago.
Best Borg in Comics — The Six Thousand Dollar Man, Legenderry, Dynamite Comics. Bill Willingham’s seven-issue Legenderry series was a welcome surprise with a brand new pantheon of great steampunk characters. Pulling from Dynamite Comics’ handy pile of licenses, Willingham came up with the most fun we had with steampunk in comics. And his Six Thousand Dollar Man was just a brilliant idea, a Bionic Man of a different era, as rendered in a very cool way by artist Sergio Fernandez Davila and character costume designer Johnny Desjardins. Check out our review of Legenderry here.
Best Comic Book Event — Ant Lucia Bombshell covers, DC Comics. We can’t get enough of all things retro and this year DC Comics smartly latched onto Ant Lucia’s 1940s pin-up-inspired characters. They gave him an entire month where he took over the covers to the monthly DC Comics titles–a great way to obtain his poster art, in miniature form, and try out a new series. Check out how he took over DC Comics in June here.
Best Comic Book Cover Artist — Adam Hughes. Adam Hughes’ run on one of the last Star Wars series for Dark Horse Comics tipped the scales for us this year. His beautiful cover art of Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Chewbacca and Star Wars-themed backgrounds were the stuff of great wall posters. And his Life with Archie cover to issue #36 was a good send-off for the death of the character. Hughes created noteworthy cover art for Axis #9 variant, Big Trouble in Little China #1 variant, Life with Archie #36, Star Wars Rebel Heist #1-4, and Sirens #1 NYCC variant covers.
Best Comic Book Cover — Avengers & X-Men: Axis #1 Variant – Mike Mayhew. If we had to pick one cover that was the most fun for the year it was Mike Mayhew’s Avengers & X-Men: Axis #1 variant cover for Midtown Comics. It featured the best design–the queens of good and evil with a flip cover–Polaris on one side and Scarlet Witch on the other. There’s a 52-card deck out there begging to be made.
Best Sci-Fi Fix — Copperhead, Image Comics. Fans of sci-fi Westerns like Firefly should take note. There’s a great sci-fi series released by Image Comics–Copperhead. It features one of the best new women characters of 2014, the tough new Sheriff Bronson, large and in-charge in an off-world, sparsely populated town. Writer Jae Faerber and artist Scott Godlewski created an instant hit complete with plenty of alien crime. Check out our review of the series here.
Best TV/Movie Tie-In — The X-Files: Year Zero, IDW Publishing. Of all the books, fiction, comic books series, etc. we read this year, including great reads in the worlds of Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Planet of the Apes to Firefly and Alien, we found the voice that was the truest to the original series was The X-Files: Year Zero by IDW Publishing. Not only did it include Mulder and Scully working together better than we last saw them in the movies complete with perfect dialogue, the series was expanded with two new characters from the past history of the actual X-Files, giving an entirely new potential area for expansion of the franchise’s stories. Writer Karl Kesel and artists Greg Scott and Vic Malhotra nailed it with this series. We raved about it earlier here.
Best Graphic Novel — Toshiro, Dark Horse Comics. A steampunk robot samurai. And Civil War era zombies. Jai Nitz and Janusz Pawlak wove a story that was a mash-up of so many things we lost track. Pawlak’s rich Quentin Tarantino-esque artwork and Nitz’s spaghetti Western plot about a Japanese robot in England made for a truly unique work like no other graphic novel we read in 2014. Check out our review here.
Best Marketing — Vandroid, website and faked vintage extras, Dark Horse Comics. Vandroid should be made into a movie to air on the El Rey network. A “grindhouse flick that never was” was the hook for this fun retro fix from Tommy Lee Edwards, Noah Smith, and Dan McDaid. Outside of the comic book mini-series were mock-ups of ads and ephemera to help reel readers in to the mystique of the story and play along. Vandroid was a great ride. Check out what we had to say about it earlier here.
Best Comics Collected Edition: The Star Wars, Dark Horse Comics. An easy pick for best hardcover and trade edition is the variety of compilations of last year’s The Star Wars from Dark Horse Comics. Released as a trade paperback and in two high quality hardcover editions, this bestselling work is a must for Star Wars fans. J.W. Rinzler’s adaptation of George Lucas’s original treatment for his vision of the galaxy far away and Mike Mayhew’s great artwork make this a book you’ll want to share with friends. A superb deluxe hardcover edition includes nice extras. Check out more about the series here.
Best Genre Non-Fiction — The Hobbit Chronicles: the Desolation of Smaug Cloaks & Daggers, Weta Workshop. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Chronicles: Cloaks and Daggers provides an unprecedented look at Peter Jackson’s Hobbit series even better than the stellar prior volumes in the Chronicles series. No better book of high-quality photographs of props and costumes from a film or series is in print. If you want to learn the details of what goes on behind the scenes of a huge production, this is the book for you. Check out our review here.
Best Genre Fiction (New Release) — Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Firestorm, Greg Keyes. We read and reviewed more fiction here in 2014 than ever before. Greg Keyes’ memorable bridge novel between the latest Planet of the Apes movies provided a character study of the apes like we hadn’t seen before, especially in its rich development of Koba the chimpanzee. Great insight and interesting characters put this at the top of the year’s tie-ins and a great read. Check out our review here.
Best Genre Fiction (Re-Release) — All You Need is Kill, Hiroshi Sakurazaka. The re-release of Sakurazaka’s hit alien invasion story was timed to the release of its big screen adaptation, Edge of Tomorrow–our pick for best film of the year. Sakurazaka’s heroine Rita Vrataski is exactly the kind of female lead readers can’t wait to find. Even more exciting than the movie, this sci-fi and war novel is the stuff of sci-fi classics you’d read from the likes of Clarke, Heinlein, or Asimov. See our review here.
Best Reviewed Genre Retro Read — From Russia With Love, Ian Fleming. In our ongoing review of all of Ian Fleming’s original James Bond novels, there have been plenty of hits and misses. So coming across the best of Fleming’s spy novels was a welcome treat. From Russia With Love gave us a great Bond girl with Tatiana Romanova and an unusual but great Bond villain with the vile Colonel Klebb. Full of intrigue and spymastery, it’s no wonder this was one of JFK’s favorite novels. See our review here.
And have a happy new year!