The Best Comics We Read in November 2014

Alex Baker

Staff Writer

Alex thinks it would be really rad if you checked out his turn-based strategy game, Derelict Zones.

We asked our contributors to share the best comic they read last month. We’ve got capes, science-fiction, slice of life, and much, much more. Some are old, some are new, and some are visitors from another dimension! Enjoy and tell us about the highlight of your reading month in the comments.

The Wrenchies by Farel Dalrymple

Farel Dalrymple never fails to amaze me, and he did it once again with The Wrenchies. Dalrymple is one of those artists who have such a beautiful, distinct style where you KNOW you’re looking at one of his works. Having 300 pages of his work in the same place with The Wrenchies is a huge treat. I wouldn’t mind plastering my walls with this art. His use of watercolors and insanely detailed panels made for a jawdropping read. I literally had to wipe off the drool on some of the pages.

The Wrenchies was a charming read. It twists three storylines into one, there’s a weirdo post-apocalyptic world populated by magic and teen gangs, a man who is haunted by the disappearance of his brother back when they were kids, and a lonely boy who loves comics. If that sounds confusing, that’s because it was. The panel to panel storytelling was on point, but the jumps between storylines felt a little too much like a manic fever dream than a cohesive story. It felt odd that this book was marketed as a being for “young adults”, it got fairly confusing at times and pretty violent. While that didn’t bother me at all, I could see a few parents not being too happy.

Overall, you can tell that Dalrymple really wore his heart on his sleeve with this one. The story felt personal and the art was clearly meticulously labored over. I definitely recommend checking out this beautiful book.

– Eric Margolis


cover1Strong Female Protagonist by Brennan Lee Mulligan and Molly Ostertag

How did I miss out on this book for so long? Somehow, no one ever told me about Strong Female Protagonist, a webcomic written by Brennan Lee Mulligan and drawn by Molly Ostertag that has run since 2012. A wildly successful Kickstarter (funded to about 750%) birthed Book One of the series, which contains the first four chapters. The stories in the book cover the life of Alison Green, a young woman who at 19 has already participated in and retired from superheroics. It’s a wonderfully grounded coming-of-age story that puts a unique spin on the well-trod plots of growing up, fighting with family, and moving off to college. And Ostertag’s sharp cartooning, which recalls Scott McCloud and Bryan Lee O’Malley, really makes the book sing.

– Josh Christie


STK649139Archie’s Favorite Christmas Comics by Various

Archie Comics has been on a bit of a renaissance over the last few years with titles like Life with Archie and Afterlife with Archie making headlines. Those are fine and all, but I tend to prefer Archie Classic myself, which this collection is chock-full of. This book contains 400 pages of Archie comics set at and around Christmas. These light yuletide tales are organized by theme and they’re pulled from all 70 years of Archie’s comic life. The only downside to this collection is that it’s digest size, which is great for the newer stories but earlier stories weren’t formated for smaller pages so some stories are squished. However, if the option was either include those early Christmas tales in a slightly inconvenient format or do without them, the correct choice was made. If you’re looking for uncomplicated holiday cheer that can be consumed as easily as roasted chestnuts, this is the collection for you.

– Jeff Reid


lumberjanes4Lumberjanes by Grace Ellis, Noelle Stevenson, Brooke Allen 

I’m not normally a fan of this kind of comic book, but I’m on the Lumberjanes bandwagon now. I marathoned through the first eight issues, laughing all the way. When I was finished, I just wanted more. I love my dark, adult comics, but Lumberjanes is like a breath of fresh air. It’s fun, it’s hilarious, it has a great group of eclectic characters with no need for backstory. It lives in the moment. Lumberjanes manages to blend campy and heartfelt with a giant dollop of imagination and never takes itself too seriously. MORE LUMBERJANES!

– Chris Arnone


BG_Cv36_1_25_var_545d3d75d30ad1.97618548Batgirl #36 by Cameron Stewart, Brendan Fletcher, Babs Tarr, Maris Wicks

I’m not the most at home with capes, but I am completely onboard with the new Batgirl! Beginning with issue 35, all of Barbara Gordon’s possessions have been destroyed by fire, and she sets out to reinvent herself. In issue #36, the high-tech hijinks continue with a tech-savvy but nameless foe on the prowl and two scary biker chicks on her tail. Batgirl as graduate student, brain but down-to-earth are the kind of capes I’m looking for. Issue #37 can’t come fast enough.

– Andi Miller


pax-americana---cover-113114The Multiversity: Pax Americana by Grant Morrison, Frank Quietly, Nathan Fairbairn

I’m not sure I can adequately express how much I loved this book in words. It’s written and drawn by my absolute favorite creative team, Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely. Rich colors and nearly three-dimensional textures are added by Nathan Fairbairn. It’s at once pastiche, refutation, update, and homage to Watchmen. Pax Americana also fulfills a long-time wish of mine to see the Charlton Comics characters (Blue Beetle, The Question, Nightshade, Peacemaker, etc.) cast into the Watchmen world – Alan Moore’s original intention for his magnum opus. However, outside of ticking boxes for me, this book delivered one of the best reads this year. I haven’t encountered an American superhero comic that has played with the comic form as often or as well as Pax Americana in a long time. From it’s non-linear, reverse-time narrative to page designs that will drop your jaw, Pax Americana will challenge readers to keep pace. I fell in love with a single page where the characters moved across the page left to right and down a set of stairs that reorient the reader to follow the next set of panels from right to left. It’s such a simple design choice, but one that I can’t recall having seen in similar books before. The Question’s two-page, atemporal crime scene investigation is the show stealer, though; a perfectly executed two-page spread comprised of 32 separate panels. It’s bold, it’s sweeping and it requires several rereads but damn is it is a rewarding read.

– Brian McNamara


f9644cb30466f30f8e28fd89c5feaf50_xlThe Multiversity: Pax Americana by Grant Morrison, Frank Quietly, Nathan Fairbairn 

It’s rare for a book to get an audible reaction out of me, but the Frank Quitely installment of Grant Morrison’s multiverse-spanning epic got at least two Bob’s Burger-esque “Oh My God”-s out of me. Holy dang those two page spreads. Fairbairn’s colors help emphasize the otherworldliness of the whole ordeal as we travel backwards and sideways through a tense political assassination carried out by a superhuman to usher in the future. It’s an updated take on Watchmen that’s been years in the making. Pax Americana is going to be one of those books that the comics community talks about for years and I can’t wait to see what everyone gets out of it.

– Chris Rohling


81IQpmRpRHLHellblazer: Original Sins by Jamie Delano, John Ridgeway, Alfredo Alcala, Rick Weitch, Tom Mandrake

Yes, I’m a huge Hellblazer fan, and yes this is a re-read (about 10 times over), but it’s been awhile since I read the first handful of (solo) adventures of John Constantine, and the lackluster NBC Constantine pilot sent me scurrying back into the infernal pits. And you know what? These stories hold up really, really well. Even the heavily political stories are still relevant today.

– Dave Accampo



4217292-dd2014010_dc11-0Daredevil #10 by Mark Waid, Chris Samnee, Matthew Wilson

In this issue, Matt Murdock fights a classic, creepy villain (the Purple Man) along with the next generation of bad guys. He battles his own inner demons on the way to finding a creative solution to the conflict. In over three years of Daredevil stories, Mark Waid’s writing has eschewed the decompressed, written-for-the-trade story arc in favor of compact 2-or-3 issue stories, along with some great one-shots. His artistic collaborators — most recently and consistently Chris Samnee, establishing his place as one of today’s great superhero artists — have pushed beyond ‘house style,’ and the book’s vivid color palette (rendered in this issue by Matthew Wilson) has helped lead a welcome trend away from murky nondescriptness.

I picked #10 because it’s a great issue with top work put in by the entire team (not to forget the lettering by VC’s Joe Caramagna, who gives a different kind of speech bubble to each of Purple Man’s kids). I also picked it because of a surprise final page turn. After blustering his way through a “No, really, I’m fine, nothing bothers me these days,” speech to partner/girlfriend Kirsten McDuffie, Matt goes inside and curls up by himself. Next comes a letter page, with several letters discussing readers’ personal experiences with depression and mood disorders, and how these relate to events occurring in the book. Then, in a final flip I almost missed, we find that Kirsten hasn’t left. She calls Matt and doesn’t demand to be let in, but lets him know that she’s there. In the final panels, Matt opens the door. This may look like the same old sad Matt we’ve seen before, the comic tells us, but there’s a ray of light.

– Carolne Pruett


7c25b4097de9da1b8fbec00b84aaef74Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck, “The Son of the Sun”: The Don Rosa Library Vol. 1 by, well, Don Rosa

Don Rosa is a living legend where the Disney Ducks are concerned, and Fantagraphics has begun collecting his complete works in chronological order. I have been waiting for this book for years, literally. I’ve been a fan of Rosa since reading his epic The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck, but I’ve had to scrounge to find his other stories. This collection has everything (well, the beginning of everything), even the short gag strips he drew but didn’t write – and since it’s Fantagraphics, it’s presented in a stunningly gorgeous hardcover and crammed with additional material, most of it written by Rosa himself. But the true joy of this collection remains the stories themselves. This early, Rosa hasn’t quite mastered the heartstring-tugging dives into the characters’ psyches that, to me, will always be his greatest strength – but he makes up for it with absolutely hilarious, over-the-top cartoon adventure. Every page of his epics brings a new, sublimely ridiculous sight, whether it’s a river of “frictionless” cash flooding Duckburg or the Ducks surfing a massive iceberg down the Yukon River. And all of Rosa’s Easter eggs make his work perfect for rereading, which means I’ll be going through this book quite a few times to come.

– Jessica Plummer


Trillium_TPBTrillium by Jeff Lemire

After reading the trade paperback of Trillium, which collects all eight issues of Lemire’s series with Vertigo, I’m officially convinced. Jeff Lemire likely sustains himself on the tears of his readers. Each drop makes him more powerful. The Underwater Welder? Tears. Essex County? So many tears. Trillium? My goodness. In this series, Lemire takes you on a space and time bending journey of emotion, bouncing from the perspectives of two protagonists, a man from the past and a woman from the future.

In the past, we meet a traumatized soldier, who travels with his explorer brother deep into the rainforests. In the future, we meet a brilliant scientist, fighting to save mankind from a sentient virus. Their lives collide upon discovering temples that, somehow, enable them to traverse time and space. And they’ll need each other to fix everything that’s wrong with the universe.

Beautifully drawn and written, Lemire definitely did it again. Pick it up, and feed him your tears.

– Eric Smith


Teen_Titans_Earth_OneTeen Titans: Earth One, vol. 1 by Jeff Lemire, Terry Dodson, Rachel Dodson 

It was really tough for me to not just pick another Hello Kitty comic this month, haha – such a win for me every time there’s a release. Anyway, this graphic novel was just released towards the end of the month, and I read it as a person who has only experienced the Teen Titans in the form of that one great cartoon show. I didn’t think they went super wild with exposition for a book that focuses a bunch on back story and setting up for what I think are going to be awesome adventures in future books. But my opinion on that particular thing might differ from a fan who is more familiar with these characters. Also, none of them are sidekicks – they’re all characters who stand on their own and aren’t in the shadow of other superheros, so that’s cool.

The characters have been tweaked in interesting ways, and the overall composition of the book is super fluid and rad: every aspect complements each other perfectly. Great YA story, fun reset (so far), and promising in terms of its direction.

– Kristina Pino