CBR's Top 100 Comics of 2014: #75-51

Mon, December 29th, 2014 at 11:58am PST | Updated: January 6th, 2015 at 5:38pm

Comic Books
CBR News Team, Editor
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Each year, CBR takes stock of the comic book industry's multitude of offerings and poll the site's passionate and thoughtful staff -- including editors, reporters, reviewers, columnists and bloggers -- for their picks of the top comics of the year. Every publisher putting out new comics material, regardless of genre or format, is fair game; and each individual list is then factored in (thank you, spreadsheets!) to determine the overall Top 100 that's being unveiled on CBR this week.

2014 was another record year for the Top 100, with more than 50 contributors to the list, and more than 200 comics nominated. The end result is as diverse of a list as you'd expect, with superhero mainstays standing along creator-owned favorites; publishing giants sharing space with self-published digital works. While no list can be an exhaustive collection of every noteworthy piece of work released in a year, the end result of the CBR Top 100 is a wide smattering of eclectic choices worthy of attention.

Last Friday, we started unveiling the list with entries No. 100 to 76; things continue today with the next quarter chunk of our staff-selected ranking: 75 to 51. Keep in mind, there were quite a few high-quality comics that just barely missed the cutoff of the Top 100, but Team CBR is confident that the books ranked on the list represent some of the very best comics on the market today. Start perusing the list below, and feel free to take to Twitter and discuss your thoughts using the hashtag #cbrtop100.

Check back midday Tuesday for No. 50-26 of the CBR Top 100 Comics of 2014, and feel free to revisit our Top 100 lists from previous years:

CBR's Top 100 Comics of 2014: 100 -> 76 | 75 -> 51 | 50 -> 26 | 25 -> 11 | 10 -> 1

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75. Ragnarok
Written & Drawn by Walter Simonson
Published by IDW Publishing

"Walter Simonson returns to Norse mythology and puts his stamp on what happens after the Twilight of the Gods. Powerful graphic storytelling in service of an inspired story, starring a Thor like you've never seen before. This is pure comics from a master."

-- CBR Columnist Ron Marz

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74. All-New Ghost Rider
Written by Felipe Smith
Art by Tradd Moore, Damion Scott
Published by Marvel Comics

"Felipe Smith jumped on and immediately put together a book bursting with charm, charisma, and personality. Lead character Robbie Reyes (modeled on Zayn Malik from One Direction, swoon) proved himself to be a magnetic presence on the page, in part because of the heart invested in him by Smith and in part because of the astounding work done by artist Tradd Moore and colorist Val Staples. 'All-New Ghost Rider' looks unlike any other comic on the shelves, with a pure vibrancy that pulses out from every page. With Damion Scott now on the book for the second arc, the energy level hasn't dipped for a moment. Heartfelt, powerful, genuine and really entertaining, it's a dynamite series."

-- CBR Contributing Writer Steve Morris

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73. The Midas Flesh
Written by Ryan North
Art by Braden Lamb, Shelli Paroline
Published by BOOM! Studios

"Start with a crazy sci-fi take on a classic myth: weaponizing the flesh of King Midas to turn your enemies into gold. Add a stellar creative team: Ryan North, Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb. And to top it off, the entire story is neatly wrapped up in eight issues. With clean art and dialogue that rings true, 'The Midas Flesh' is a high-concept story that doesn't take itself too seriously."

-- CBR Contributor Cardner Clark

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72. Cosplayers
Written & Drawn by Dash Shaw
Published by Fantagraphics

"In only two issues, Dash Shaw delivered the most honest take on modern comics culture published all year. 2014 was rife with debates over fake geek girls and cosplayers detracting from artist alley profits. All those overblown recriminations pointed out how many longtime comics fans fail to understand the younger generation breathing new life, new diversity and new methods of expression into our shared world. But while there are a million Tumblr blogs out there extolling the idealized world of cosplayers, Shaw's perceptive stories of young women looking for a connection amid masquerade glory and aging Osamu Tezuka scholars contemplating their irrelevance provided an honest and endearing look at the people who make up modern fandom. For a culture obsessed with fantasy, the cartoonist's work took care to present an effecting -- and necessary -- version of reality. If every troll on the Internet read these comics, we'd all be in a much better place."

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-- CBR Staff Writer Kiel Phegley

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71. Kinski
Written & Drawn by Gabriel Hardman
Published by MonkeyBrain Comics (print version published by Image Comics)

"A black and white comic that Hardman had long wanted to do.The story of a man and a dog that is not his, plus so much more. Hardman avoided captions or inner monologues in this narrative, allowing his art to do much of the talking. As often with Hardman, the tinge of noir mixed with the patented style of grittiness to his work just makes 'Kinski' feel like an indie movie you want to lose yourself in."

-- Robot 6 Columnist Tim O'Shea

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70. Beautiful Darkness
Written by Fabien Vehlmann
Art by Kerascoët
Published by Drawn & Quarterly

"Every once in a while, a story comes along that haunts you. It's the one you go back to and pull down from your bookshelf over and over. You flip through it, staring at it questioningly. You can read it like any other story, sure, but the truth is, you've probably read it several times already. The fact remains, you're not sure how to start -- you just want to hold the book, because it has weight, it has a foreign context that you can't grasp, and you're hoping that maybe if you flip through it enough times, its secret will come to you."

-- CBR Contributing Writer Ryan Burton

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69. Deadly Class
Written by Rick Remender
Art by Wes Craig
Published by Image Comics

"There's plenty of pulpy fun in Remender and Craig's 'Deadly Class,' a 1980s-set series about the teenage students of a secret school for assassins. But the book also doesn't shy away from the physical and psychological consequences of a life of violence; following the series mentally scarred and fascinating characters as they try to find their way in a morally murky world is both poignant and powerful. 'Deadly Class' is an exhilarating and unflinching read about crime, violence and adolescence."

-- CBR Staff Writer Dave Richards

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68. Strong Female Protagonist
Written by Brennan Lee Mulligan
Art by Molly Ostertag
Webcomic (print version published by Top Shelf)

"I was just introduced to 'Strong Female Protagonist' this year, and I've become obsessed.  It takes a myriad of superhero concepts and turns them on its head. There's a Wolverine-like character that shows how he could truly benefit the world without ever having to pop a claw. It's a book about individuals looking to be heroes without feeling the need to be 'super.'"

-- CBR Staff Writer George A. Tramountanas

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67. The Fuse
Written by Antony Johnston
Art by Justin Greenwood
Published by Image Comics

"Antony Johnston is a masterful world builder, and nowhere is that more evident than his cops-in-space series, 'The Fuse.' Combining his storytelling prowess with the stylish and expressive artwork of Justin Greenwood, the pair delivers a feisty, unforgettable comic. The leading lady, Klem, is a force to be reckoned with and defies the casual tropes of 'strong female characters' with charming vulgarity."

-- CBR Staff Writer Casey Gilly

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66. Magneto
Written by Cullen Bunn
Art by Gabriel Hernandez Walta, Javi Fernandez, Roland Boschi
Published by Marvel Comics

"'Noir anti-hero' is not exactly what one would expect from a Magneto solo series, but somehow Cullen Bunn and Gabriel Hernandez Walta have made it work. Magneto's power has been reduced, he's got a shaved head, and the guy who used to have an asteroid base and his own country is now plotting revenge in dumpy hotel rooms. But despite the genre shift, the change of setting, and the lack of hair, it's still very much Magneto. The core of the character has survived the transition, which speaks to how strong that character really is, and the solo series is a fitting outing for probably the most vivid and amazing comics villain ever created."

-- CBR Contributing Writer Joe Streckert

"Magneto is one of those characters that many writers seem to have a hard time getting a handle on. Is he a villain? Misguided hero? Terrorist? Civil rights activist? Writer Cullen Bunn, much like Chris Claremont before him, has figured out that Magneto has all that and more inside of him and that's made for some pretty morally ambiguous stories about the mutant master of magnetism. Cullen consistently makes readers side with Magneto on an idealogical level, but cringe at his methods. And that's exactly as it should be."

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-- CBR Contributor Chris Brennaman

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65. The Late Child and Other Animals
Written by Marguerite Van Cook
Art by James Romberger
Published by Fantagraphics

"This is a memoir of an English childhood, but a peculiar one; it starts with Van Cook's mother watching the bombing of Portsmouth during the war and is told in a series of vignettes of her mother's life and her own girlhood. Each of these centers on an epiphany, a moment of realization or transformation, and there are common motifs that wind through the stories, both specific images -- crows, water, even the profile of Marguerite's mother -- and more general themes, such as the desire to embrace the world and the realization that it is a dangerous place."

-- CBR Contributing Writer Brigid Alverson

"Marguerite Van Cook and James Romberger have collaborated in the past, but this book about Van Cook and her mother is an incredibly powerful story. Bridging a span from World War II to 1968, the story reflects the social mores that were in flux, and the ways that culture was changing and would change more in the years to come. And while it is very political, all of that lays below the surface, resulting in a thoughtful and insightful look at these two women and their lives with the best artwork Romberger has delivered in his career to date."

-- CBR Staff Writer Alex Dueben

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64. Thanos: The Infinity Revelation
Written & Drawn by Jim Starlin
Published by Marvel Comics

"With Thanos quickly becoming a household name due to Marvel's movie efforts, The Mad Titan is popping up all over the place. But thanks to his creator returning from a decade away from the character, Thanos feels fully fleshed and nuanced for the first time in, well, a decade. Jim Starlin has always treated Thanos as a continually evolving, introspective (if murderous) being, and 'The Infinity Revelation' is no different. In fact, it even managed the to take that one step further by switching the traditional Thanos/Adam Warlock dynamic."

-- CBR Contributor Chris Brennaman

"Thanos Warlock Starlin Thanos Warlock Starlin Thanos Warlock Starlin Thanos Warlock Starlin Thanos Warlock Starlin Thanos Warlock Starlin Thanos Warlock Starlin Thanos Warlock Starlin Thanos Warlock Starlin Thanos Warlock Starlin Thanos Warlock Starlin Thanos Warlock Starlin... what else need be said?"

-- Comics Should Be Good Writer Chad Nevett

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63. Loki: Agent of Asgard
Written by Al Ewing
Art by Lee Garbett, Jorge Coelho
Published by Marvel Comics

"This very clever comic is so wickedly, irresistibly pleased with itself, you can't help smiling along. Marvel's solo series work best when the creative team can embrace what makes the character unique, and 'Agent of Asgard' does that perfectly with Loki. Al Ewing's script is all illusions, backtracks and elaborate setups, and Lee Garbett draws the wryest, most reaction GIF-ready facial expressions. Every issue is a delight."

-- CBR Reviewer Marykate Jasper

"Thanks to Ewing's sly twists and Garbett's slick style, 'Loki: Agent of Asgard' is befitting of the God of Mischief himself. Loki's first solo since Gillen's infamous work with him in 'Journey into Mystery' and 'Young Avengers,' they follow through with a similarly thought provoking plot that deals with the stuff stories are made of. Sharp and engaging, the book is just as clever as its protagonist, if not more so (but shhh -- don't tell Loki that). With scenes that swing from wildly funny to heartbreaking and everything in between, 'Loki' is next to godliness.

-- CBR Reviewer Meagan Damore

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62. The Manhattan Projects
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Nick Pitarra
Published by Image Comics

"The sheer amount of imagination in 'The Manhattan Projects' makes it worth a look, and artist Nick Pitarra's storytelling took Jonathan Hickman's insane plotting and brought it to the highest level. Eclectic and unpredictable, the characters continually throw the reader for a loop, establishing something strangely dignified with even the most ridiculous ideas. Dogs went into space and came back… changed, mental civil wars came to a bloody conclusion, Albert Einstein gave himself a totally bitchin' makeover -- 2014 saw 'The Manhattan Projects' throw everything at the reader, then duplicate it through a wormhole so it could throw everything back at them a second time, too."

-- CBR Contributing Writer Steve Morris

""Every time I think I have this book figured out, every time I think I know what they're doing and where it's all going, this takes a sharp left turn that throws me for a loop… and I love it. But it's the art, the beautiful and beautifully detailed art, that really draws me in."

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-- CBR Contributor Paul Semel

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61. Aquaman
Written by Jeff Parker
Art by Paul Pelletier, Carlos Rodriguez, Alvero Martinez, Netho Diaz
Published by DC Comics

"While Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis and Joe Prado helped put the Sea King back on the map of superheroic adventuring in 2011, this year saw Jeff Parker take the reins of the sea horse and plumb the depths of the oceans. With an inspired mix of adventure, superheroics, mythology, politics and character development, Parker has made 'Aquaman' my absolute, must-read comic every month. In addition to crafting a microbrew of story awesomeness, Parker has not been shy about bringing in classic DC characters, like Swamp Thing, Wonder Woman and Martian Manhunter, and showing that Arthur Curry deserves to be mentioned in the same breath and respected as a powerhouse. With artist Paul Pelletier on hand for most of the year, Parker has confidently investigated Atlantis and its legends, and also added more bodies to the lineup of foes for Aquaman in the form of Chimera and Karaqan. Pelletier's gorgeous art is another case of creator finding the character(s) they were supposed to work on."

-- CBR Reviewer Doug Zawisza

"For years, if not decades, Aquaman has been treated very self-consciously, as creative teams try to insulate the character from mockery. That's nowhere to be found in Parker and Pelletier's work. Instead, they're just telling solid undersea-superhero stories which mix high adventure and monarchical politics. That makes 'Aquaman' one of DC's most reliably entertaining series."

-- Robot 6 Columnist Tom Bondurant

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60. Death of Wolverine
Written by Charles Soule
Art by Steve McNiven
Published by Marvel Comics

"In many ways, 'Death of Wolverine' looked to be a no-win proposition -- the hardcore fans of the character wouldn't be happy to see Logan take even a temporary time out, and the skeptics would be sure to write the whole story off as a promotional stunt with no real long-term consequences. But the actual comic didn't seem concerned with any of that -- Charles Soule, in the unenviable position of taking on Wolvie's solo adventures for the first time just to kill him off, wrote a denouement that managed to pay tribute to just about every aspect of the character's complicated, multifaceted history in only four issues. Interior art from Steve McNiven, Jay Leisten and Justin Ponsor doesn't come along every month, and the high-profile team deftly executed both the action and the all-important introspective moments, which made this a distinct (and surprisingly humane) take on the superhero death story."

-- CBR Managing Editor Albert Ching

"Charles Soule turned readers' expectations on their head by giving Wolverine a somewhat understated send-off. While it would have been easy (and perfectly acceptable) to pen a crimson-soaked battle that had him clawing through one villain after the next, the story took a personal turn, bringing Weapon X back to his place of origin. Penciller Steve McNiven emerged as the most poignant storyteller in this series; his pitch-perfect facial expressions and body language convey more emotion than the dialogue ever could. While Logan's dirt nap is sure to be a temporary one, at least he was sent off in style."

-- CBR Contributor Blake Northcott

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59. The Auteur
Written by Rick Spears
Art by James Callahan
Published by Oni Press

"'The Auteur' is bizarre. The art looks like drugs, the titular character is a horrible sleazebag, and the story, while ostensibly taking place in the real world, is more over-the-top than most cape books. It's amazing. The story of a producer who attempts to make a horror/comedy about Presidents' Day is one of the most odd and memorable comics I've ever read. It will stay with you like a weird hallucinogen experience, and I mean that in a good way."

-- CBR Contributing Writer Joe Streckert

"Insane and graphic. Film fans will enjoy this sick, twisted take on a Hollywood producer, with some of the most incredible and unique art. "

-- CBR Editorial Assistant Pat O'Malley

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58. Alex + Ada
Written by Jonathan Luna & Sarah Vaughn
Art by Jonathan Luna
Published by Image Comics

"Working with writer Sarah Vaughn, Jonathan Luna's cool art examines human/A.I. inequality. What begins as a cute science fiction book which the potential to explore the weird reality of living with a compliant artificial human has become a scathing indictment of inequality in our society."

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-- Comics Should Be Good writer Sonia Harris

"Hushed, contemplative and fragile, 'Alex + Ada' is a subtle, moving exploration of freedom, solidarity and the treacherous spectrum of human emotion. It's one of the most delicate and deeply human series about artificial intelligence I've read."

-- CBR Reviewer Marykate Jasper

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57. The Life After
Written by Joshua Hale Fialkov
Art by Gabo
Published by Oni Press

"Following a few years as a regular fixture at Marvel and DC Comics, writer Joshua Hale Fialkov focused the bulk of his 2014 energy on his own creations. Among that output is "The Life After," an epic-in-the-making starring an average fellow named Jude, stuck in purgatory for suicide victims -- the jumping off point into an exploration of the various weird venues of the afterlife. That could be pretty depressing material, but an inviting story combined with Gabo's vibrant visuals make the whole thing surprisingly, well, alive. Plus, Jude's sidekick through the journey is Ernest Hemingway (yes, that Ernest Hemingway), who emerges as one of the more endearing comic book supporting characters of the year."

-- CBR Managing Editor Albert Ching

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56. The Shadow Hero
Written by Gene Luen Yang
Art by Sonny Liew
Published by First Second

"Inspiring, funny, engaging and heartbreaking, this is the kind of superhero that comic books were made for. The metaphor of the awkward teenage superhero wannabe provides us with insight into an entirely new world. Yang and Lieu have re-crafted a classic and elevated the original material beyond anything we could have imagined."

-- Comics Should Be Good writer Sonia Harris

"Another great graphic novel from Gene Luen Yang, with art by Sonny Liew, telling the story of the Green Turtle, the first Chinese-American superhero. It's part superhero origin, part pulp homage and part Chinese-American history lesson, and succeeds at all of those."

-- CBR Columnist Ron Marz

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55. Andre the Giant: Life and Legend
Written & Drawn by Box Brown
Published by First Second

"Box Brown did something this year that I would've never guessed possible: he made me care -- deeply, deeply care -- about Andre the Giant. What's most striking about this book is its pacing, its delicate character study. The empathy -- the fucking pathos -- is incredible."

-- CBR Contributing Writer Ryan Burton

"Much has been made of the inherent connections between comic books and pro wrestling, but the two hadn't merged in such an elegant way before Box Brown's 'Andre the Giant: Life and Legend.' Brown presents a biography that's equally compelling to wrestling fans and those who typically wouldn't give the squared circle a second thought. And the fact that Brown is a pro wrestling fan is vital to the book's success -- it's a subject that could be overly romanticized or ridiculed, but Brown does neither, resulting in a thoughtful and tender portrayal of one of pop culture's most unique (and ultimately tragic) figures."

-- CBR Managing Editor Albert Ching

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54. Starlight
Written by Mark Millar
Art by Goran Parlov
Published by Image Comics

"Mark Millar has made his reputation creating 'mirror crack'd' concepts that take long-established character archetypes, enduring concepts and persistent tropes inherent to graphic storytelling and give them a serious goose in the pants. The best of his work -- like this tweaked take on the Flash Gordon/Buck Rogers motif -- delivers equal doses of heart and snarky sendup, and rendered in artist Goran Parlov's capable hands -- improbably evoking both Frazetta and Moebius -- the tale becomes something equally touching and thrilling."

-- CBR Contributing Writer Scott Huver

"The clever love child of classic pulp and Moebius-inspired sci-fi, with insanely beautiful art by Goran Parlov. Great concept, beautiful marriage of story and art, but what I liked most about 'Starlight' was its heart."

-- CBR Columnist Ron Marz

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53. Trillium
Written & Drawn by Jeff Lemire
Published by Vertigo

"Modern master Jeff Lemire world-builds the past and the future on epic scales in 'Trillium,' dovetailing the two timelines so divinely that it made perfect sense to release the Vertigo series in flipbook format. Unlike the spit and polish future so oft presented, 'Trillium' is roughneck and raw, which makes it all the more exciting to explore -- front and back."

-- CBR Staff Writer Jeffrey Renaud

"Jeff Lemire sure does like to make comics about sad little people, and 'Trillium' was no exception to that rule. Wrapping up at the top of the year, Lemire's Vertigo miniseries was unflinching in the portrayal of two rather messed up people, separated by thousands of years but finding a remarkable bond to one another. It was a romance, of sorts? But filtered through Lemire's incredibly specific, honed-in style. He took a high concept, shook it constantly, and created something singularly his own."

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-- CBR Contributing Writer Steve Morris

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52. Rocket Raccoon
Written by Skottie Young
Art by Skottie Young, Jake Parker
Published by Marvel Comics

"There was no better time for a Rocket Raccoon comic than this year, and I don't think I could imagine a better fit for his solo title than Skottie Young. Fresh off Marvel's kid-friendly, award-winning 'Oz' titles, Young's fun and energetic art style meshes perfectly with the story of a sentient, armed-to-the-teeth raccoon from space."

-- Robot 6 writer JK Parkin

"With his endearing signature style of art, Young seamlessly blends cartoons with comics, and the result is the most purely fun title of the year. I can't picture anyone else illustrating the breakout mainstream star of 2014 with the same frenetic energy, though 'Rocket Raccoon' is not just about the eye candy: It's as much fun to read as it is to look at, but at this point, that's just an added bonus."

-- CBR Contributor Blake Northcott

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51. East of West
Written by Jonathan Hickman
Art by Nick Dragotta
Published by Image Comics

"Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta continued to impress and captivate with this awesome sci-fi Western saga about an alternate America."

-- CBR Staff Writer Karl Keily

"Every issue of this series gets better. And maybe its because I've got a soft spot for gritty westerns full of sand and spit, and an even softer spot for nihilistic science fiction parables. Truth of the matter is that this book has the type of story and has got the type of art that makes a person want to know everything that world has to offer. "

-- CBR Contributing Writer Ryan Burton

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