The 25 Best Comics of 2014

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Looking over the various year-end picks from Paste’s editors and contributors for comics, one very important question had to be asked: are we getting lazy? Many of last year’s best comics happen to be this year’s best comics as well, and preaching to the choir is a cardinal sin for any online publication. But ultimately, complaining about sustained excellence (I’m sure most of you can already think of the titles we’re referring to) is a fool’s game. We’re witnessing masterpieces unfold across years now, not just months, and rewarding anything less would be the bigger crime. With that said, the new graphic novels and comics that hit our bookshelves in 2014 more than held their own. Much like 2013, the last twelve months witnessed an influx of salient ideas and gifted storytellers, spurred by an industry learning how to both steward long-standing properties and create new ones. May we face the same “problem” in 2015.

25. Deadly Class
Writer:   Rick Remender  
Artist: Wesley Craig
Publisher: Image


Guns and vampires are both totally awesome, but nobody in the real world appreciates either actually existing in his or her general vicinity. Evidentially, writer Rick Remender — the man who convinced me to stop hating Deadpool with his run on Uncanny X-Force — encountered his share of non-fantasy bloodshed during a youthful stint in late ‘80s Phoenix, Arizona. “Violence was just something you got used to being around,” he writes in the afterward to Deadly Class, Volume 1: Reagan Youth. We can only speculate on how much of Remender’s personal history has been channeled into Deadly’s protagonist misanthrope, Marcus Lopez. While it’s improbable he attended an arcane high school that specializes in grooming top-shelf international assassins, Remender’s accounts of homelessness and LSD overload resonate with authenticity. Barry Thompson

24. Gast
Writer/Artist: Carol Swain
Publisher: Fantagraphics 


Everything about Carol Swain’s work whispers minimalism: her brief titles, her preference for shorter formats (she hasn’t produced a book-length narrative in a decade), her spare dialogue and, most of all, her quiet, repetitive panel composition. Swain was born in Wales, the setting of her latest book, Gast; the country remains isolated and rural, intent on maintaining a separate identity from the rest of the United Kingdom. That identity includes its own language, which supplies the title of the book (“gast” translates as “female dog”) and colors a good deal of its atmosphere. Hillary Brown

23. Through the Woods
Writer/Artist: Emily Carroll
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books


Emily Carroll’s Through the Woods has done a pretty good job of getting under my skin in recent months. Though many of the stories told here have an archetypal, folk tale-like sensibility, Carroll’s also unafraid to delve into Junji Ito-style body horror, and that sense of unpredictability ratchets up the unease and horror considerably. Tobias Carroll

22. Pretty Deadly
Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnick
Artist: Emma Rios
Publisher: Image


Kelly Sue DeConnick’s script, heavy on myth and metaphor, is ably realized by Emma Rios’ expressionist art, with its thickets of rough lines. Her flat, slightly abstracted figures give a sense of heightened reality that fits the script. That tone is also reinforced by Jordie Bellaire’s dark and ruddy palette, which often has a supernatural glint. Art and story alike refute our expectations, making Pretty Deadly feel less like a western than a new myth. Garrett Martin

21. New Avengers
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Various
Publisher: Marvel


Jonathan Hickman’s New Avengers will give you the same adolescent sensation as learning that your parents aren’t perfect, grinding the modern myths of the Marvel Universe down to troubled, struggling men. Each issue presents a new shade of grey as characters like Iron Man, Captain America, Mr. Fantastic, Black Panther and Namor attempt to define the greater good with marginal consensus. The threat? A new cataclysm that’s sent universes hurtling into one another; either two worlds collide and destroy each other, or one is prematurely sacrificed for the sake of the other. If a hero destroys a parallel universe, is he still a hero? Welcome to the most complex, intellectual comic from a major publisher. Sean Edgar

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