Ross Says… The Best of 2014

RatQueens_04-1Best Publisher – Image Comics
Another vote for Image from me. They’ve quite simply been knocking it out the park this last year, across multiple genres, writers and artists. There was East of West and Low being responsible for breaking our ratings system, The Mercenary Sea coming out of nowhere to satiate my craving for old-school adventure, Rat Queens proving that fantasy can be feminist, Alex + Ada being quietly, beautifully consistent, Shutter thankfully not making me eat my hat, and Five Ghosts blowing Shane’s socks to smithereens; and all that is only naming a mere handful of the incredible books the company is putting out. And looking at their docket going into 2015, they’ve got nowhere to go but up.

Best Writer – Kurtis J Wiebe
Difficult choice this – there’ve been so many great stories, told so very well this year; and my shortlist contained some major forces of nature, including Rick Remender, Jonathan Hickman, and Scott Snyder. But Wiebe snags it for his work on Rat Queens. A heady concoction of delightfully sweary, eminently quotable dialogue (“Shut the fuck up, Gary!”), a subversive, incredibly fresh take on the usual fantasy tropes and an intriguing, action-driven mystery at its heart, there’s also the fact that, as said above, it proved that the depiction of women in fantasy doesn’t have to be limited to chainmail bikinis on balloon-chested waifs. Powerful, relatable ladies who not only stand toe-to-toe with, but beat the arse off the men are the order of the day, and the fact that Wiebe achieved it all so effortlessly is an awe-inspiring feat.

Best Artist – Nick Dragota
Another toughy – there was a veritable cavalcade of t’rific art being paraded about for our pleasure this year. Honourary mentions must go to Frazer Irving for his criminally under-rated efforts on Annihilator, and Matteo Scalera for the astonishing breadth of his work on Black Science. We’re also discounting Frank Quitely, because quite frankly (see what I did there?), it’s unfair to include him. But no, Dragota has earned it for his work on East of West – immaculate detail, astonishing clarity of vision across a wide variety of scenery that expertly meshes sci-fi and western, and on top if it all, an incredible dynamism to every single panel, precisely half of the reason that issue #15 explodimacated our ratings system. Just jaw dropping. We’ll leave it there.

Top 5 Moments (in no particular order):

Batman vs The Riddler
(Batman #33 – Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo)
On of the best things to come out of DC’s company-wide reboot of their universe was Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s work on this title. And having produced the best Batman/Joker showdown in recent memory, what else was there to do but put out what will likely become the quintessential Batman/Riddler one. Lasers, riddles, high stakes, and a gorgeously blunt solution to the problem, culminating in a glorious one-page, one-punch splash that’ll stick in Batman fans’ collective memories for years to come.

The Freckles Under Your Belly Button
(The Amazing Spider-Man #1 – Dan Slott and Humberto Ramos)

Hah! Spidey’s naked! On top of being an excellently fun reinsertion of Peter Parker into the Spider-Man book, this issue saw something unprecedented in the Spider-Verse – an (ex-)love interest intuitively deducing Spidey’s identity. Didn’t see that one coming…

‘We have to destroy this awful, awful place…’
(East of West #15 – Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragota)

Speaking of explodimacated ratings systems, this here was the other half of it. Babylon’s escape from his prison was spectacular in-and-of itself, but in the final pages of the final book of the (thankfully confirmed as NOT final) third arc of what may well be the best series of the year, Hickman sees fit to blow literally everything we thought we knew about Death’s son out of the water, with a single lie sold to an absolute innocent by a sentient, and possibly sociopathic balloon. To say that the future bodes ill for the comic’s fascinating depiction of the apocalypse is something of an understatement.

‘You the fucking Rat Queens?’
(Rat Queens #4 – Kurtis J Wiebe and Roc Upchurch)

Who’d’ve thunk that one of my favourite pages of any comic ever would’ve cropped up right at the start of the year, with Wiebe and co. seeing it in with an absolutely spectacular issue that sees a slighted troll call out her plans for vengeance terrible. And it’s all Gary’s fault. Nice one, Gary.

Hellinger and Vin Share a MENTAL Dream
(And Then Emily Was Gone #3 – John Lees and Iain Laurie)

And just when we thought the horror couldn’t get any more disturbing, Laurie whips out his terror guns and unleashes a blazing barrage of surrealist imagery as Hellinger’s very sanity crumbles before him. Outrageously impactful, gloriously unsettling, and just wonderful. Or to sum it up in a single word and an associated action: GYAAAAAAAAAAARGH!!! *runs screaming from the room*

RSavThe Writer of this piece was: Ross Sweeney
Ross tweets from @Rostopher24

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