16
Jan 15

The Freaky Trigger Comics Poll #10-#1

The Brown Wedge6 comments • 868 views

garp Breaker breaker, Trigger Digger buddies! You got the Big A, Ace Garp, the tucker trucker so tumshy they had to croak him twice, comin’ in atcha with the top ten of the Freaky Trigger comics poll, no bluberoni! You voked your votes and now you can eyeball the results, so crack your eggs and let’s bang in them goomballs and hammer down with the best comics of 2014! Ten-ten, good buddies!

Nice to have you with us, Ace, give our regards to Feek the Freak. And as you probably gathered, it’s the comics poll Top Ten.

10 Lumberjanes
10. LUMBERJANES (G.Ellis/Stevenson/Allen, Boom! Box)

A few years ago you heard the criticism a lot – with regard to the US market – that there just weren’t enough good all-ages titles, and there were very few attempts made to bring kids into the hobby. That has changed, for a bunch of reasons (tablets and digital comics, gradual improvement of comic shops, fans becoming parents, and fallout from a general trend towards a more diverse audience). Lumberjanes in particular has been a standard-bearer for the new all-ages comics – original material, female creators, female cast, and its surreal, joyful summer camp adventure is in the spirit of stuff like Gravity Falls and Adventure Time, from the current resurgence in kids TV.

09 Moon Knight
9. MOON KNIGHT (W.Ellis/Shalvey/Bellaire, Marvel Comics)

Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey’s run on Moon Knight is a series of six hugely stylish done-in-one short stories, each one a compact argument – odd though it is coming from a writer with a public ambivalence towards the genre – that ‘cape comics’ can still feel fresh and unfamiliar. The six stories do follow a pattern, though: Moon Knight encounters a situation, and the story involves him working out the rules of that situation and then playing and winning its game (he may occasionally cheat). It’s ‘detective’ work of a sort, but allowing a great flexibility of tone. Plus it has one of the most awesome costume designs in a year of good ones. The series continued after Ellis and Shalvey left, but I’ve not read those issues.

08 Silver Surfer
8. SILVER SURFER (Slott/Allred/Allred, Marvel Comics)

The agonised philosophisin’ of the sixties Silver Surfer has been something of a straitjacket for the character since – nobody wants to write the character like that any more, but few have come up with something better. Dan Slott’s take – give him a companion – is as good a solution as Marvel’s found. It takes the focus off Norrin Radd – who turns out to work better as a straight man, as frankly Dawn Greenwood is already a lot more fun to read about. The setup is unashamedly a Doctor Who one, but that’s a good set-up! And the Allreds’ guarantee any comic a minimum level of charm.

07 Sex Criminals
7. SEX CRIMINALS (Fraction/Zdarsky, Image Comics)

One of the notable things about the current generation of mainstream comics writers is how much fun they have in public with each other and with their fans, thanks to Twitter, Tumblr, etc. This kind of open, comradely approach to comics-making has been part of the patter since Stan Lee, but it feels a lot more authentic now. Sex Criminals is the book that epitomises this approach on the page – not just because of stuff like the ‘Brimpception’ cover and the Wicked And Divine porno, but also because it’s about sex, which is serious and funny and collaborative and occasionally disastrous, a bit like making comics, but also quite a lot not, so perhaps I’ll stop this line of enquiry now. Anyway, Sex Criminals is also an example of a comic with a premise that seems initially very limited and turns out to be capable of telling a lot of different stories.

06 Hawkeye
6. HAWKEYE (Fraction/Aja/Wu/Various, Marvel Comics)

I have completely fallen out of touch with Hawkeye, I admit – once it became obvious that a) it would end up as a finished story and b) it wouldn’t get finished in any kind of regular monthly way, the argument for just waiting till the end and getting the omnibus or trades became too strong. So I can’t tell you if Hawkeye has been good this year, or even which of its issues came out – the sign language one? The Pizza Dog one? (No, surely not.) I assume it’s still great, you thought it was great, it’s basically transformed Marvel’s approach to solo titles, etc. I just can’t say anything about the actual 2014 comics!

05 Adventure Time
5. ADVENTURE TIME (North/Various, Boom! Studios)

Like all-ages comics, licensed property comics were at one point very much a poor relation – shoddy cash-grabs scratching around in the margins of their properties. The tide has been turning on that for a few years, and this week a licensed comic (Marvel’s Star Wars #1) became the industry’s first million-seller for two decades. Adventure Time captures the difference between then and now – Ryan North writes a comic that gets the voice and spirit of its parent property brilliantly right, while taking the opportunity to tell longer-form stories within the show’s world. Doesn’t hurt that Adventure Time is something of a jewel in current pop culture anyhow, of course.

04 Saga
4. SAGA (Vaughan/Staples, Image Comics)

Like Hawkeye, Saga is a comic I’ve fallen behind on owing to trade-waiting – I’ve not even read Vol.3 yet, let alone Vol.4. By all accounts it’s as good as ever. I think I’ve only ever read one “Saga is rubbish” piece and even that read more like someone building an argument to see if they could. On the other hand, I’ve not actually read any brilliant positive commentary on it either – it’s a curiously enigmatic comic, giving nothing away from the title down: it just rolls along being very good and hard to summarise. Gorgeous design and art, memorable characters, Vaughan is still the best cliffhanger writer in America… it’s at once obviously a flagship comic of the current era and one of the least analysed.

03 Loki
3. LOKI: AGENT OF ASGARD (Ewing/Garbett/Woodard, Marvel Comics)

When Loki was announced, with those languid and lovely Jenny Frison covers, there was a general sense that this comic was going to be purest Tumblr-bait. And it is! And a good thing too: a comic about lies, mischief and stories is particularly suited to Tumblr fandom’s focus on small character moments and joke beats. It means Ewing (that guy again) can structure the comic around feints and tells, its cast playing games with each other across pages, issues, and arcs. The introduction of King Loki continues the modern conception of the character – Loki is often an antagonist, but he only really has one himself: himself.

02 Ms Marvel
2. MS.MARVEL (Wilson/Alphona/Herring, Marvel Comics)

One teeny point behind the poll winner, G.Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona’s Kamala Khan is the Big Two character find of 2014, and Ms Marvel is an important comic: the first Marvel or DC book to reach half its audience digitally would always be a milestone, and the fact it’s this comic, about a Muslim teenage superhero fangirl, is particularly telling. It’s become the poster book for the idea that the mainstream comics audience is changing and growing. And it’s really good. It earns the right to use a very whiskery story template – the teen superhero origin – because the detail (growing up Muslim in America) is fresh to such comics, and also because the comic is so tonally distinctive. Wilson is a very benign writer, which is refreshing in itself: her chief villain is hardly menacing, she presents even Kamala’s enemies with sympathy, and Alphona’s whimsical style makes Ms.Marvel stand out as an optimistic, light-hearted book. You have to go back a long way – maybe to people like William Messner-Loebs in the early 90s – to find a Big Two comic this gentle and humane.

01 Wicked And The Divine
1. THE WICKED AND THE DIVINE (Gillen/McKelvie/Wilson, Image Comics)

Surprise!! Well, maybe not really. Always the favourite, this gods-as-pop-stars saga was also the comic that got most individual people voting for it. I’ve written about Gillen and McKelvie comics a lot, this one included, and it’s about pop stars (of a sort) – so it feels like a natural match for this site. It’s a comic, for all its incident, that is playing a very patient game, and I suspect the strength of it will be more obvious in a couple of years time, as themes and plot points start to roll out. By the same token, it could completely fuck up. But that seems less likely. It’s a book currently riding high on style, a very moreish premise (more Gods, more pantheons, can’t wait), and a few instant favourite characters – it’s not that that’s all there is to WicDiv, but those are the cards it’s played so far (and in monthly comics, they are very strong cards). Back when I was writing about the team’s Young Avengers series, I had plans for a “History Of Teenage Superhero Comics”, and one of the points I wanted to make was that Vertigo in its 90s heyday was a superhero publisher for actual teenagers, in all their sulky, fiery, uncomfortably intense, voraciously curious glory. The Wicked And The Divine is openly, and excellently, in that tradition.

Comments

  1. 1
    Liam on 17 Jan 2015 #

    You know, I completely forgot about Ms. Marvel when I entered this. Probably should have been in my top ten. I remembered a couple of days after submitting and figured it wouldn’t matter.

    A good list. Maybe not many surprises, but the ones I’ve read are deserving and the ones I haven’t have got a good pedigree. I’m a little sad to see only one webcomic, but it’s not as if my own entry was overflowing with them, and John Allison does good stuff. Kind of expected Gunnerkrigg Court as well, though; it’s had an eventful year.

    I hope more people give Transformers versus GI Joe a go this year, now that it’s gotten a bit more coverage. Probably the most unapologetically, gleefully COMICS book I read all 2014.

  2. 2
    Kit on 17 Jan 2015 #

    “this week a licensed comic (Marvel’s Star Wars #1) became the industry’s first million-seller for two decades”

    well, no – retailers have ordered a million copies in order to acquire specific individual copies they hope to flog of OVER ONE HUNDRED VARIANT INCENTIVE COVERS. I’d guess it might sell [fumbles in arse] 180,000 actual copies to customers.

    The first non-Uderzo Asterix book, by comparison, sold two million copies in its first week, 14 months ago.

  3. 3
    IP on 19 Jan 2015 #

    Lumberjanes is the one comic I’ve never heard of – it looks excellent! Thanks for pointing the way.

    Although I loved the Kid Loki stuff I was unmoved by both Phonogram and WicDiv — although maybe unmoved is the wrong word. Maybe it’s “annoyed”. What am I missing? What’s the key? Lovely art mind.

  4. 4
    Tom on 19 Jan 2015 #

    I dunno if you’re missing anything – Gillen’s pop-inspired work has always brought a few readers out in hives, and I don’t think there would be any way of changing that without very fundamentally changing what he does. He has a particular vision of pop which plays out in the comics – I think it’s not so much whether you agree with it or not that creates the annoyance, more like how you feel about how well it translates into a story: the impression I get from people who don’t like it is that it seems didactic…? I dunno, I really like it, so I’m having to translate somewhat. I actually think it works better coming from characters than in criticism.

    It’s certainly true that I’ve been more straightforwardly moved by Young Avengers and JIM than I have by Phonogram or WicDiv (though the team’s pacing and storytelling is getting better all the time) – but someone my age who has spent their adult life thinking about pop music is probably not the target audience – I tend to have to deprogram myself from wanting to argue with the comic, and then work out how much of the argument might be legit anyway. It’s no coincidence my favourite character is Cassandra.

  5. 5
    Andrew Farrell on 19 Jan 2015 #

    I think some of it might just be “Have you ever been a Fan?” / “Have you ever been in a scene?”

  6. 6
    Tim on 28 Jan 2015 #

    Hey Tom, are you planning to publish the list of the single-vote comics at any point? I’ve no idea how tricky / long-winded / boring a task that would be, so feel free not to if you don’t fancy it.

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