Welcome to The Dan Cave! Have you made your New Year’s Resolutions yet? That’s okay — you’re already perfect in my book.
Happy New Year’s Eve, everyone! As we bid farewell to 2014, it’s only fitting that I spend the final episode of the year looking back at one of the things that made my year so special: comic books. While nowadays your search engine is more likely to autofill the word “movie” or “adaptation” after you start typing “comic book”, the medium is alive and well. 2014 offered up a bumper crop of truly excellent titles, but before I count down the top 5 in the video above take a moment and feast your eyes on number 10 through 6 on our annual year-end round up. These are the best comics of 2014:
10. Hip-Hop Family Tree Book 2: 1981-83
Writer: Ed Piskor
Artist: Ed Piskor
Originally serialized on BoingBoing, Ed Piskor’s Hip Hop Family Tree is a pristine piece of ethnographic musicology presented as a 1980s-era Marvel comic. With a Jack Kirby-esque art style, Piskor dives headlong into a detailed history of the emergent art form of hip hop as it transitions from city parks and block parties to night clubs and hit records. The outsized personalities of the artists and producers are expertly matched by the comic book aesthetic as we see characters like RUN-DMC, Grandmaster Flash, and Afrika Bambaataa come alive like real life superheroes in Piskor’s epic yarn. Much like the title of Jeff Chang’s seminal hip hop history, Ed Piskor’s Hip Hop Family Tree can’t stop and won’t stop anytime soon.
9. The Wicked + The Divine
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Jamie McKelvie
Publisher: Image Comics
Acerbic, astute, and alarming in how close it hits close to home in places, The Wicked + The Divine is a blistering new creator-owned title from Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie that imagines a world in which gods live on Earth for two years before dying and returning 90 years later. Yet, what is a god to do in the modern world? Engage in the only profession befitting a cult of personality: become a pop star. A scintillating look at celebrity culture, the nature of obsession, and modern mythologies, The Wicked + The Divine offers one of the sleekest murder mysteries we’ve seen in a while, one best served by cranking up the bass and tuning in to what they’re putting down.
8. The Multiversity
Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, Frank Quitely, and many more
Publisher: DC Comics
Grant Morrison has never been one to back down from a challenge and his 2014 DC Comics mega-event Multiversity is one of his most challenging works to date. In Multiversity, we take a fantastic voyage through the DC multiverse, exploring everything from Superman in a Nazi-controlled Earth to a reimagined version of the Watchmen. In Multiversity, comic books themselves are the tools that effect change on the worlds they inhabit, providing a bridge to fantastical parallel universes where bold new visions of all-too-familiar characters and tropes play out through the lens of his signature acid-washed philosophy.
7. Ms. Marvel
Writer: G. Willow Wilson
Artist: Adrian Alphona
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Much has been made of G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona’s run on Ms. Marvel this year, and for good reason: Kamala Khan isn’t just Marvel’s first prominent Muslim superhero; she’s one of the most likable, charismatic, and well-rounded characters in the entire Marvel NOW! lineup. A sixteen year-old Pakistani-American Muslim girl living in Jersey City suddenly finds herself “blessed” with mysterious shapeshifting abilities. Young Kamala must balance the pressures of navigating teenage life with her traditional family and taking to the streets at night as a masked vigilante fighting the good fight. Yet, all the while she is her own wonderful, ceaselessly optimistic person dealing with larger-than-life circumstances. It is to Wilson and Alphona’s credit that important thematic elements like religion, gender, and race influence Kamala Khan’s story without overpowering it.
In a year marked by so much toxicity in the real world, having a comic feel instantly accessible, even while offering a portal into a world many of us know nothing about, and offer such an enthusiastic heroine and a tremendous sense of adventure is exactly what the doctor ordered.
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Fiona Staples
Publisher: Image Comics
I can already predict that the comment section will be replete with “Why is Saga only at number five?!” That isn’t to say that Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staple’s sprawling space opera wasn’t one of the best comics of the year (it is); rather, it is testament to the fact that it is so consistently excellent that its position as “best comic of the year” feels like a foregone conclusion.
2014 felt like a turning point for Saga. After spending the past few years watching Alana, Marko, and Hazel manage to keep their fractured little family together in spite of intergalactic civil war, vicious bounty hunters, and adversity at every turn, this year we saw how sometimes the forces that tear families apart are internal, not external. Whipsmart, often laugh-out-loud funny, and endlessly inventive, Saga continues to cement itself as one of the most important and one of the single best books on store shelves. And I have no doubt it’ll be back on this list in 2015 too.
What were your favorite comics of 2014? Share them with me in the comments below or tell me on Twitter (@Osteoferocious) using the hashtag #TheDanCave!
Want even more The Dan Cave? Last week, I covered the best binge-worthy TV of 2014, so watch that and every other episode in a single sitting (it’s only fitting).