So your New Year’s resolution for 2014 is to start collecting some of the best ongoing comics in all the land. Great decision. Exercise and productivity are shamefully overrated.
Much like I did with 2013’s mid-year list, this collection of comics will meet some combination of accessibility (they aren’t 40 issues into a great run like Chew) and enjoyability (they have proven their awesomeness or potential). While many comic book stories can be consumed best via trade collections, this list details the non-major publisher books I think you’ll have the best experience with on a month-to-month basis. Kick off 2014 right by adding these comics to your pull list:
#0 – Jupiter’s Legacy – Image Comics
Before I get into the real list I want to address one unfortunate hold out from my 2013 mid-year list: Jupiter’s Legacy. The superhero deconstruction epic from Mark Millar and Frank Quitely is an interesting book that I completely, whole-heartedly, profoundly no longer recommend as an ongoing.
This has less to do with the content than the publishing schedule. Jupiter’s Legacy releases new issues every two months.
I guess when you’re the writer of Kick-Ass and Marvel’s Civil War, and you’re paired with the fantastic artist of All-Star Superman & New X-Men, you can set whatever schedule you darn well please. Fair enough. But as a reader who likes story-telling, a two month wait period is wildly unfulfilling. This book is only up to issue #4, but I’d advise you wait for the trade.
10) Saga – Image Comics
Here’s another comic I’ve been trumpeting for a long while now. As such, it’s a little harder to say this is an easy series to jump into for a new reader. Issue #18 will be released on January 22, 2014, meaning you have a couple trades and a handful of issues to grab before you can properly catch up.
The reason I include it is simple: When Saga ends, it’s going to go down as one of the finest comic books of this decade, and probably all time. It may be 60 issues, it may be 35 issues, but you’re going to want to say you were there when this story wraps up. As comics go, it’ll be like missing out on Breaking Bad as the fifth season came to its frenetic conclusion.
9) Mind Mgmt – Dark Horse Comics
Mind Mgmt from Matt Kindt falls under the same umbrella as Saga. Simply put, it’s going to go down as one of the best comics of this decade, and it’s still just early enough in the run that you can get on board.
The good news here is that this super spy mindquake is gearing up for a new story line in January, so it’s at least at a logical entry point.
8) The Wake – Vertigo
Although The Wake is 5 issues into a very full story, this comic series is particularly well suited for new readers. The first 5 issues of this underocean horror mystery composes Book One, with issue number six to begin a very clear dive into Book Two.
So far The Wake has carved out a place as one of the most enigmatic, surprising books of the past year. As I wrote when I recommended the ongoing last July:
Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy’s The Wake has long, building moments that lull you into a sense of security. I’ve read this story before. This doesn’t feel very interesting AT ALL.
Suddenly, you’re in the future. There’s a girl talking to a dolphin and I’m pretty sure they’re having a genuine conversation. What.
According to Vertigo, issue #6 is not released until February 26, 2014, so you have some time to catch up on the first part of the narrative before enjoying the final five issues.
Get Caught Up: The Wake Book One
7) Lazarus – Image Comics
Let me be very clear: I haven’t read Lazarus. Not a single page.
Nonetheless, 4 and a half stars on 17 amazon reviews? That’s real tough to beat, and that’s what you’ll find for the trade collection of Lazarus’s first 4 issues. Writer Greg Rucka certainly has a reputation for quality, and this is without a doubt the series I most regret missing out on during Image’s half off holidays sale.
Issue number 5 kicked off a new story arc on December 11, 2013, and issue #6 will be released January 15, 2014. Could well be worth getting on board now.
6) Unity – Valiant Comics
I’ve fallen hard for the Valiant universe lately. I love the sheer audacity of their 90’s comics, building an entire new superhero universe right in the face of Marvel and DC. Most importantly, I love the stories they tell within this universe, and their meticulous attention to continuity.
The return of the Valiant Universe two summers ago didn’t mean much to me at the time, but now that I’m caught up, I’m thrilled it happened. If I could collect every title from any comic book universe, it’s very likely that I’d choose Valiant, even over my beloved Marvel Comics.
If you’re new to Valiant, Unity is an interesting jumping on point. Think of it as Valiant’s Justice League or Avengers, and you have a general foundation. Watch this epic 8 bit prologue and you largely have the rest:
Get Caught Up: Issues #1 & #2
5) Pretty Deadly – Image Comics
Writer Kelly Sue Deconnick has done a pretty remarkable job turning Captain Marvel into one of Marvel’s finest monthly books (at least until the tie-ins derailed the story). Impressively, her best Marvel work actually came on the underrated Osborne mini-series that she wrote with artist Emma Rios.
Deconnick and Rios are back in action on Image’s Pretty Deadly and the results so far are fantastic. While the focus on death lends to an easy comparison to Jonathan Hickman’s equally fantastic East of West, Pretty Deadly has quickly carved its own territory. Only three issues in to a hopefully long and prosperous run.
Get Caught Up: Issues #1 – #3
4) Sandman: Overture – Vertigo
Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman is inarguably one of the greatest comic book runs of all time. In terms of length and sustained quality, it might be the greatest.
Naturally then, there’s a great deal of excitement surrounding the return of Sandman for a limited six issue prologue. Since it’s Neil himself returning to the pages of Sandman, there’s none of the corporate cash-grab stink that enveloped Before Watchmen. Instead, we can enjoy Sandman: Overture for what it is – a return to one of the finest comic book mythos of all time.
Fortunately for new readers, Sandman: Overture has been delayed and will release its second issue from Vertigo on February 26, 2014. That gives you plenty of time to catch up on issue #1, or the original Sandman journey if you so choose. Remember, though, Overture serves as a prelude to explain the situation we find in the first issue of the original Sandman, so no prior reading should be particularly necessary. I wouldn’t argue against it for a minute, though.
Get Caught Up: Sandman: Overture #1
3) Sex Criminals – Image Comics
While writer Matt Fraction gets a ton of credit for being on one heckuva a success streak (Hawkeye, Satellite Sam, Marvel’s Inhumanity), it’s hard not to chalk up much of Sex Criminals’ early praise to the humor and skill of artist Chip Zdarsky. After all, it’s not every comic book artist that finds themselves the subject of Buzzfeed articles titled “A Man has beeen having a hilariously close friendship with Applebee’s Facebook Page for months now.”
As you might expect, the details in the art of this book raise it to level of the funniest comic book in years.
Make no mistake, if you’re sensitive to debauched sexual buffoonery, Sex Criminals probably isn’t for you. That said, there’s a real sweet spot to Sex Criminals, in what is ultimately a love story. With sex. And a lot of porn shop scenes.
Get Caught Up: Issues #1 – #3
2) The Private Eye – Panel Syndicate
No series is easier to catch up with than Brian K. Vaughn and Marcos Martin’s The Private Eye.
This digital only series is getting the wonderful “pay-what-you-want” treatment, meaning you can download all 5 released issues for any amount you deem appropriate. Which, technically, could be no money at all.
For what could be a bit of a throwaway from the writer of Saga and immensely talented artist previously associated with Daredevil, The Private Eye is quietly one of the most interesting comics out there. Vaughn’s futuristic look at privacy in the exponentially intrusive cyber age is thought provoking and entertaining. As a bonus perk, this digital only release reads beautifully on a tablet, with panels clearly designed for landscape reading.
Get Caught Up: Every issue downloadable for the price you want
1) Miracleman – Marvel
Remember that high praise for Neil Gaiman’s Sandman earlier in the list? Well Alan Moore & Alan Davis’s Miracleman is on the short list of challengers to the thrown.
Impossibly complex copyright issues have helped keep this title strangely underrated, but Marvel has finally figured out how to re-release these classics for a new audience.
Now, if you’ve already read Miracleman (or maybe it was Marvelman for you), I don’t know that new recoloring is going to make these issues worth it. But if you’ve never experienced Miracleman for yourself, this is a fantastic opportunity to do so. Again, this is an all-time classic, and well worth the investment.
Get Caught Up: No need! Marvel’s re-releasing the first two issues in January
There you have it. Some great ways to get your comic book collection going in 2014.
There’s a good list of yet-to-be-released comics on Newsarama to get excited about as well.
Have any titles you’d add here? Do what feels right to you in the comments!