As I write this I began to wonder how I could ever ask these questions of people. I can barely answer them because to put certain books and creators over others is almost unfair. But I do believe these are my genuine answers and I hope you enjoy reading them.
A. The Essential Questions
1. Who has been the publisher of the year?
This is quite the difficult question really and I think we can certainly say Image is no longer an underdog. Clearly they have a fantastic ethos, even if they seem to allow books to remain incomplete, but I am sure there is more to that than we will ever know. I really wish I spent more time with the smaller publishers because I know they have some great books that I only sporadically read. DC continues to frustrate me with their monotony and poor support for original ideas. Marvel continues to pander to their movie media department and have cancelled/chopped books and creators. However I do love a number of their books even if their titles are about to end. I only feel able to answer this book by the numbers of comics I love from a publisher, and in that case it is Image.
2. Who have been your top 3 writers throughout all companies?
1. Jason Aaron – I cannot get over Southern Bastards. I just find it fascinating and the characters so amazingly crafted, believable and well…hideous. His work on Thor was also admirable and changing the character was not based on a directorial whim but historical character continuity. His writing is just fantastic and I was genuinely shocked with the weakness of Original Sin.
2. Jonathan Hickman – My most popular posts are always JH based, perhaps it is because I devote time to explaining his books and that, in itself, highlights his problem. However his stories are meticulously planned and always come to fantastic conclusions with many shocks along the way.
3. Ales Kot – There are no limits to this man’s imagination and when you meet him it is very apparent. Secret Avengers is so phenomenal that who would believe you could write a love story about M.O.D.O.K. and Maria Hill? Hawkeye, Coulson and Spider-Woman are so well written that they interact so realistically given their internal struggles.
3. Who have been your top 3 artists throughout all companies?
This question is exceptionally difficult because there are so many artists making breakthroughs and multiple continuing from strength to strength. I chose them based on those books that make me take a minute to pause and appreciate the view. That is why these three are the top of my list. I only wish there was more room for Craig, Luna, Rossmo, Jock, Scalera, Anka, Moore, Alphona and Latour.
1. Declan Shalvey – Moon Knight was Declan’s Sistine chapel and his storytelling was beyond any brief Ellis could have given him. There will be more on his work later but it is panels like these that bring so much joy to my life.
2. Phil Noto – As much as Black Widow can frustrate a little with regards to the story, I will never tire of looking at Noto’s work. It is so beautiful and warm to the eye but bears that look of remorse all to easily.
3. Michael Walsh – Walsh has really made Secret Avengers his own and the characters all have their crosses to bear. He manages to bring out their anxieties and worries as well as having a lot of enjoyment along the way. But with panels like this, who can argue with his quality?
4. Which colourist has made their art pop out from the crowd this year?
Matt Wilson has performed out of his skin this year, and not just on The Wicked + The Divine. He has been exemplary on Secret Avengers, Thor & Swamp Thing.
5. Which writer/artist combination have been your favourite of 2014?
The Jasons on Southern Bastards. There are a number of superb combinations but this one really shines above all else. This is because they sing from the same hymn sheet, even if that song is ever so painful. The immense impact of the story is probably why I struggle to stop thinking about this book.
6. What have been your top three comic books throughout all companies?
1. Southern Bastards – As above!
2. New Avengers/Avengers – The eight months later arc makes it progress, it makes for compelling reading. But it was the buildup that really blew me away. It was the moment Cap realized the Illuminati existed, the conversation Banner has with Tony giving himself tranquillizers to stop him from becoming angry and then this moment:
3. Deadly Class – Ben will rejoice in this answer because he will realize that I have finally put Black Science underneath Deadly Class. This book has really shown itself to be potentially the best book in the creator owned environment. The emotional maturation of these crazed & confused teens is a joy to read and one that gives most readers something to resonate with. Wes Craig art is innovative with wonderfully flowing panels.
7. Which single comic issues have been your standouts of the year? Top three issues, throughout all companies and may incorporate your favourite pages/panels.
1. Pax Americana #1 – Not only was this a lovely homage to Watchmen but the story was so impressively told. It is almost as if the plot was written and chopped into pieces and randomly given to Quitely to draw as he pleases. Which he does so empathically and with incredible depth. I have never read a comic like it. This was my review of it: http://wp.me/p2DUQc-1w1
2. Southern Bastards #4 – With all the comments written above, I can only add that this was the issue that made me despair before realizing where this book was really heading. Jason Aaron himself said people just didn’t believe that Earl was dead until the following issue.
3. Moon Knight #5 – The story was done through the eyes of Shalvey as he took Spector on a journey up several floors of a building. It is the use of paneling and sequential flow that makes this issue astounding and Jordie’s colouring really brings that emphasis to MK and his weapons. http://wp.me/p2DUQc-1jt
8. What has been your favourite story arc this year?
Southern Bastards – Here was a man. Who would have ever thought this comic was not about Earl Tubb? Not only were we rooting for Earl against Boss but, even those of us not ignorant of the deep south, we thought he would win. But this book was the beginning of a story about Craw County and what an incredibly tough and devastating opening chapter it was.
9. What has been your favourite Original Graphic Novel or Collected Edition this year?
The Fantastic Four Omnibus – Hickman’s beginning in world building. This is a giant of a book and one I thoroughly enjoyed reading because it was almost the foundation for the Avengers book. It is so interesting to see how he builds relationships, introduced characters and then creates an intricately woven web. I have just purchased volume two and am so excited to see how it ends.
10. Which has been your favourite crossover this year? (Examples include Original Sin, Axis, Spider-verse, Forever Evil, Godhead)
I have none. I disliked them all and was disappointed throughout. I will make a mention that Spider-verse is making headway and being quite interesting. I am reading the main title because I am not a Spidey fan and will not invest that heavily into this book. But it seems to be doing justice.
11. Which comic has taken you by surprise this year? One that you jumped onto or started that you never expected would impress?
There are two, and ones that have become a highlight every time they are released: The Punisher & Grayson. Punisher has become a lovely book to read because Edmondson has created a long running story about a man and his city. He actually devoted time to develop a cast and have his main character take a fall and have to make a revival. Gerad’s art has an amazing intricacy and his landscapes are quite impressive, especially the colouring. Grayson has surprised me immensely because Seeley and King have taken a beloved character and put him into a completely alien environment. I don’t believe I have ever seen a Bat character maintain the Batman ethos but in new adventures, especially one so adored as Dick. Excellent artistic efforts from both Janin and Mooney.
12. Which comic have you just stopped caring about this year? (Be it a change of creators, delays in publishing or it just stopped working for you. A top three is optional)
I actually knew the answer to this question before I even wrote it. Saga has upset me because the love and warmth seems to have rapidly disappeared. Not just because the family is coming apart but because I don’t care about the break up. I would be more impressed if it was handled more delicately and more believably. There is more to the story than shock tactics that Saga has always employed. The Prince Robot story seems to take up a lot of time too, and it isn’t bad but once again I just don’t have any feelings towards it. I do not mean to be so harsh but remember I once wrote a love letter to this book.
B. The fun stuff
What has upset you most about comics / the industry this year?
Amazingly there are many things that upset me in comics but I tried to be specific for this year. There is little doubt that the big companies are now becoming obsessed with television and movies because of their immense success. This filters back into the comic forum and dictates what we are reading. When solid solo books are being cancelled e.g. Elektra and She-Hulk and we are making way for new movie comics such as Star Wars, it upsets me. Let alone the transformation of books into more television relatable comics. Artistic integrity seems to be a non-consideration and I feel for the writers and artists trying to tell their stories. What I dislike more than anything is that the new Star Wars books have an impressive set of creators and, as a lover of their work, Ill probably be picking them up. At some point I shall be dropping all mainstream books and I wonder what the straw will be that breaks the camel’s back.
The usual complaints are still ever present: crossovers, misogyny, instant fan reactions, exclusionist attitudes and I would love to ban cheesecake (I know that last one requires discussion!).
1. Which is your favourite Batman book (including Bat family) and why? (I am sure many will answer Batman by Snyder/Capullo, if so then a second answer would be greatly appreciated)
Batman & Robin is actually my favourite Bat book of all. I like Batman but it has nowhere near the emotional connection and carefully crafted story that this book does. The Two-face story was so phenomenal and the rapport between Bruce, Harvey and the McKillen sisters is told through history. This comic actually touches upon Harvey contemplating suicide in sorrow over his lost wife. I was so moved by it that I couldn’t believe more people weren’t reading it. Tomasi and Gleason haven’t just come together on this book, they have been together for many a year and continue to produce astounding work.
2. Who is your favourite member of Wonder Woman’s newfound family?
Without a doubt it is Strife! The Goddess of Discord is such a bitch, but a glamorous one. She is the anti-Diana and I enjoy her nonchalance and selfishness in choosing only the side that benefits her most. She also looks amazingly cool throughout, even with a shaven head.
3. Are you convinced by Lex Luthor as a leader of the Justice League? (i.e. Has Johns’ writing been convincing of his intentions honest and quality as a leader?)
I am not. I tire of Geoff Johns because his work appears to be more phoned in that it used to be. The idea of Lex as leader of the JLA is such a compelling one but it doesn’t seem to bear fruit because he is so mistrusted throughout. This is such an obvious impression of Lex but there could be so much more. I am reminded of Lex in Smallville who was so convinced he was a good guy and never saw his faults. The good side of Lex is reflected by his relationship with his sister, which is a nice but cliché character exposition. Sinestro was so phenomenal that we all love him now, but he is still a “villain”. Lex is a villain, without the quotation marks.
4. What are your thoughts on the rejuvenation of DC? Namely Fletcher, Stewart, Cloonan and Tarr who are bringing a new vibe to DC with Batgirl and Gotham Academy
I like it but. There are many issues with Batgirl that I struggle to truly enjoy it. If you read my post on this year’s Thought Bubble then you will understand how hard it actually was for these guys to even produce these books. It is such a shame that it is poorly written and sloppily drawn in places because on the whole it is a decent book. Gotham Academy on the other hand is a lovely book and is beautifully drawn. It is not a book aimed for my demographic but I still enjoy it immensely. Unfortunately this project is always under threat from DC and I wonder how long it will last, but these changes were needed a very long time ago. It is probably too little too late and I worry it will fail.
1. What is the best Marvel Now solo title? (e.g. Magneto, Cyclops, Star-Lord, Rocket Raccoon, The Punisher, Black Widow, Elektra, Silver Surfer, Winter Soldier, Storm, All New Doop, Immortal Iron Fist, Moon Knight, Loki)
Moon Knight without a doubt for all the reasons above! The Wood/Smallwood issues are pretty decent too but suffer as they are trying to fill a giant space. However as the creators chop and change again I am sure this book will fade into obscurity come next years questions.
2. Who is your favourite spidey character in the Spider-verse so far?
Given that I missed the Edge of Spiderverse book, I never read about Spider-Gwen’s story so my answer is certainly Spidey-Ock! I was pleased to see him and the arrogance he displays against Peter was just so well written. As you can tell I have not enjoyed Amazing Spider-Man anywhere near as much as Superior.
3. Excluding Avengers/New Avengers – which has been your favourite Avengers title? (E.g. Secret, Undercover, Mighty, World, Uncanny)
Secret Avengers of course! The explanations are above but I adore the cast and their relationships with one another. The shock that came from M.O.D.O.K. professing his love for Maria took a few days to resolve.
4. Okay fine…Ill ask a question about Wolverine. Was his death befitting his legacy?
There is something poetic about Wolverine being encased by adamantium but that is the only positive thing I can say. Soule is not a bad writer but this was absolutely shocking narrative. I was aggrieved that Cornell was not able to complete his story, even though his previous arcs falters somewhat. In fact the Death of Wolverine is one of the worst books I have ever read and a teenage version of myself would have been quite upset, but adult me just doesn’t care.
1. Which is your favourite creator owned Rick Remender book and why? (This is essentially a question I once asked on Twitter, which saw much heated discussion!)
I love Black Science, I really do but the story has not really melded over the past few issues. The art is just some of the greatest you will ever see and each issue has a gorgeous new world to explore. The children of the family are quite cool but there is little gelling of characters or any overriding story outside of betrayal. Low is also a very impressive book but took a long while to get going. This was because Tocchini’s art is difficult to follow at times and also because the mother and son were so disconnected to start with. Given how well Deadly Class has progressed, as I discussed above, I have to say that it is my favourite.
2. Who is the coolest cat from The Wicked + The Divine?
This is really a choice between Kate Bush, Kanye West, David Bowie, Tommy Lee Prince or a devoted fan. So my answer is actually Inanna because he looks so amazing and seems to be quite lovely. I also wanted to mention how beautiful McKelvie’s artwork is and how much dedication he brings to his characters. He is a minimalist artist who uses every stroke of the pencil to bring meaning to the story.
3. Which power would you have if you were an Mind MGMT agent?
Duncan’s ability to predict the future/people’s reactions. I could not even begin to imagine how useful this would be in the real world!
4. What have been your top three new creator-owned books this year?
1. Southern Bastards – As explained above multiple times!
2. Alex + Ada – I really wanted to include this higher up in this poll but I couldn’t escalate it enough. Luna is similar to McKelvie with regards to his minimalism artwork. He brings such emotional tension and angst with the use of letterbox panels that Alex and Ada’s relationship brings so much pain. But there is a warmth throughout and it is almost as if his slow moving panels allow us time to reflect and think about his lead characters. Let alone the fact that his take on artificial intelligence is a novel perspective on the subject.
3. Deadly Class – As explained above!
Phew! Not an easy set of questions, I am even more thankful for you guys participating!