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Top 10 Favorite Creator-Owned Comics of 2014

Now that we’ve discussed some of the better comics owned outright by companies, it’s time to put on our “Screw the System!” pants and take a look at some of the favorites from the creator-owned comics scene.

 

NOTE: This is all opinion based. Put your favorites in the comments below!

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Deadly Class #1 Cover
Deadly Class #1 Cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10. Deadly Class

Writer: Rick Remender

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Artists: Wes Craig & Lee Loughridge

Publisher: Image Comics

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I’ll admit: I wasn’t expecting to have this book on my Top 10 list. I was honestly anticipating Rick Remender’s other Image book, Black Science, more. But after reading the first trade collection for both series, I had to put Deadly Class on the list. Remender, Craig and Loughridge take a concept that, admittedly has been done before (when this book was first announced, I did make some jokes about how it had the same premise as another Image book out at the time, Five Weapons) and turns it on its side as we follow Marcus Lopez attending a High School for Assassins. The first arc took us through an insane trip to Las Vegas and it has not let up. I have had problems with some of Remender’s Marvel work lately, but his relationship with the late eighties period that Deadly Class takes place in is shown in every bit of dialogue and there is a great deal of authenticity in these broken characters.

 

Seconds Cover
Seconds Cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Seconds

Writer/Artist: Bryan Lee O’Malley

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Colors: Nathan Fairbairn

Publisher: Ballantine Books

 

Here’s something that will probably blow you away: I don’t like Scott Pilgrim. However, I felt Seconds was a mature step up from that with its story of a late 20s woman trying to work through all of her fears. Add in a touch of spiritualism and the supernatural with the concept of house spirits, O’Malley’s fantastic pencil work and Nathan Fairbairn’s soft colors, you have a recipe for a very interesting and heartfelt graphic novel.

 

Lazarus #8 Cover
Lazarus #8 Cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Lazarus

Writer: Greg Rucka

Artist: Michael Lark

Publisher: Image Comics

 

Rucka and Lark have created a terrifying world.

 

Not the kind of world with zombies or supernatural terrors and stuff. No, this is the kind of terror that is very real because it feels like we in the real world are marching step-by-step towards this world that Greg Rucka and Michel Lark have created. This world where the masses (or waste) have been stripped of any illusions of power they had and only the wealthy and the privileged will survive. We see all this horror through the eyes of Forever Carlyle as she not only sees these horrors, but the horrors within the family she is pledged to serve.

 

The Wicked + The Divine #1
The Wicked + The Divine #1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. The Wicked + The Divine

Writer: Kieron Gillen

Artists: Jamie McKelvie & Matthew Wilson

 

I won’t lie: I still have some reservations for the cast of this book; however, on artistic merits and for the exploration of the relationships between creator and fan, this book had to go on the list. Even if you’re not a music aficionado, this story can be applied to any form of art, not unlike its spiritual predecessor, Phonogram. Now let’s talk about McKelvie and Wilson’s sexy art. WicDiv has some of the most creative character designs in the industry today. Wilson’s bold colors (especially in issue #5’s God Fight) bring to life these larger-than-life characters.

 

Saga #18 Cover
Saga #18 Cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Saga

Writer: Brian K. Vaughn

Artist: Fiona Staples

Publisher: Image Comics

 

Sometimes things are popular because they’re actually good. Saga is very much one of those, as it has proven these last two and a half years. I wasn’t on the Saga wagon right away, and I think the massive amount of hype stopped me from diving in right away. But the hype turned out to be true. Vaughn and Staples have created an amazing world of characters and places, from a narrative and artistic perspective.

 

Zero #9 Cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

      1. Zero

Writer: Ales Kot

Artists: Vanessa del Rey, Matt Taylor, Jorge Coelho, Tonci Zonjic, Michael Gaydos & Jordie Bellaire

Publisher: Image Comics

 

Kot is not afraid to go to some dark places.

 

The story of Edward Zero has been an examination of identity, violence, the hypermasculinity that infects our society, and love all disguised as a secret agent/war comic. The idea to have a different penciler to an issue (all held together by Jordie Bellaire’s wonderful colors) really allows Kot to explore different avenues of storytelling and let pencilers (especially Tonci Zonjic in issue #9) to bring the reader to some fascinating, weird, and painful worlds.

 

The Fade Out #1 Cover
The Fade Out #1 Cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. The Fade Out

Writer: Ed Brubaker

Artists: Sean Phillips & Elizabeth Breitweiser

Publisher: Image Comics

 

It’s a 1940s Hollywood Noir by Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips and Elizabeth Breitweiser called “The Fade Out”. Yes, this was going to be on the list. Brubaker and Phillips have been partners in crime for years and they are able to play off each other like true masters. They and Breitweiser bring the seedy, dark, majestic, beautiful and tragic world of Hollywood to life in vivid detail. Even more: backmatter! I love backmatter! Script excerpts, art breakdowns, and even, as Fade Out does, essays on the time the main story takes place in. It adds just another layer of immersion to the world.

 

The Woods #8 Cover
The Woods #8 Cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. The Woods

Writer: James Tynion IV

Artists: Michael Dialynas & Jason Gonzalez

Publisher: Boom! Studios

 

Kind of like Deadly Class, Tynion, Dialynas and Gonzalez take a premise that has been done before and makes it fresh and unique. However, for me at least, I connect more with this series of high school students stuck in a terrifying position more perhaps because of the age bracket. Tynion is not much older than myself, so I see a lot of the challenges of the high school student in the 2000s more so than the high school student of the late 80s. It makes relating to characters, especially Isaac, easier for me. And Dialynas and Gonzalez are having a ball in monster creation and building this strange world. Especially Doctor Robot, who in my head has a voice similar to Momo from Avatar: The Last Airbender except… you know… more snarly.

 

P.S. If I can dive back to company-owned books for a moment: Can we please have Tynion write a Tim Drake book? Or even a Tim/Stephanie Brown/Harper Row book? He’s like the only writer I trust at DC with these characters.

 

Southern Bastards #4 Cover
Southern Bastards #4 Cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Southern Bastards

Writer: Jason Aaron

Artist: Jason Latour

Publisher: Image Comics

 

Take it from this Yankee who’s only time south of D.C. was for Disneyworld: this book is Brutal with a capital ‘B’. Jason Aaron is not pulling any punches in the scripting of this book, as evidenced by the end of the first arc. Jasour Latour’s artwork, especially the colors he chooses, creates a drab, murky, and vicious environment that is Craw County. The book also did a fantastic job of characterization for Earl Tubb in a short (*chuckles darkly*) time as well as introduce one of the more interesting villains of the year: Coach Boss. I cannot wait to dig even deeper into the psychology behind this character.

 

East of West #15 Cover
East of West #15 Cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. East of West

Writer: Jonathan Hickman

Artists: Nick Dragotta & Frank Martin

Publisher: Image Comics

 

This is it. My Book of 2014.

 

East of West astonishes me. The previous nine books I’ve talked about aspects that have intrigued me; world building, character development, book and costume design, tone, themes, and even extra material. For me, Jonathan Hickman, Nick Dragotta, Frank Martin and letterer Rus Wooton’s tale about the End Time does it the best. It is many things at once: a political drama, a sci-fi epic, a lore-rich fable about the Apocalypse, and a story about parents trying to rescue their child. It is one of those stories where there is no character that I hate. Whether it’s Death Himself, his companions, the lovely little murder children that are the remaining Horsemen, or any of the Chosen.

 

Then we get to Nick Dragotta and Frank Martin’s art work. It would be easy to say how they created an adorable/awesome robotic dog that transforms into a high-powered sniper rifle and just leave it at that. But no! They went and designed some of the most unique styles for multiple fictional nations that I have seen in quite a while. Finally, when the script really goes into the spiritual and the weird (especially when Cheveyo is on panel), Dragotta and Martin really show off as reality falls apart and the pure awesome of the otherworldly takes over.

 

This is the purest essence of Jonathan Hickman’s work in comics these last few years. More so than Fantastic Four, S.H.I.E.L.D. and New Avengers, great as they all were. I own this book in singles, trade paperbacks, and I will no doubt purchase the inevitable oversized hardcover books. I am an unashamed mark for this series.

 

Are You an Agent of the End Times?

 

 

And with that, our look at some of best comics on the shelf for 2014 comes to a close. Now we look towards the future. Tune in next week for the Top 10 Most-Anticipated Comics of 2015!

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About Kenneth

When he is not working at a library or on his Master's Degree, Ken Godberson III is usually writing comics, prose and screenplays. He tends to be an expert on absolutely nothing except on why Impulse is the greatest superhero ever. He can be found on Twitter @kengodbersoniii or on Tumblr at kengodbersoniii.tumblr.com

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