ComicsVerse: Best Comics News 2014 by Comicsverse

Hello everyone in the ComicsVerse! 2014 is over and done, but this was an insane year for comics! From the announcements of DC and Marvel’s upcoming slate of films to various revelations in the TV universes, audiences were wowed beyond belief. However, some of the biggest news came from the pages of the comics themselves. So, without further ado, the ComicsVerse Writing Staff brings you the best comics news 2014!

Honorable Mention: Best Comics News 2014: Grayson
– Fabio Castelblanco

They say that every dark cloud has a silver lining. Forever Evil was certainly a dark cloud and Grayson is its silver lining!

Upon hearing that there was going to be a comic featuring Dick Grayson as a James Bond-like secret agent, I was skeptical at first. I loved Nightwing, it was one of the few comics of the New 52 that I actually enjoyed. But I’ll take anything to satisfy my Dick Grayson addiction, so I gave Grayson a shot and I was pleasantly surprised!

The story goes that Batman uses the fact that Dick Grayson is now pronounced dead to his advantage. Dick reluctantly joins the organization Spyral, where the former Batwoman (Kathy Kane) used to work, to uncover the secrets that it’s hiding. The head of Spyral, Mister Minos, is sending his agents all over the world to uncover several super organs under the guise of stopping terrorists. Dick has to battle terrorist attacks and several new villains all while keeping his true purpose at Spyral a secret from his new co-workers, such as his partner Helena. So, Dick is acting as a double agent for Batman while getting accustomed to his new role in the DC universe. Even though Dick is working for Spyral, he’s having difficulty doing just that. His old superhero habits no longer apply now that he is a spy. So while Dick is adjusting to his new role, the comic book readers are adjusting as well. The changes happening to Dick’s life is made less awkward because he’s going through it with his fans.

The writers perfectly captured the essence that is Dick Grayson. We see him dealing with the fact that he’s no longer a superhero and he misses it. It’s very similar to how fans of Nightwing miss seeing Dick Grayson in the role. It’s always entertaining seeing Dick interact with the other agents in Spyral because both sides don’t know everything about the other. The mystery behind Mister Minos’ plan and how it will affect the rest of the DC universe is one of the many driving forces of this comic. Another driving force is watching Dick Grayson change his role from superhero to secret agent. An aspect of Dick Grayson that I’ve always appreciated was the fact that he was able to evolve from his original role as Robin. This comic is another evolution for the character, changing his role yet still remaining the same in personality.

The Grayson comic is vibrant in color and filled with action in each issue! At least something good was able to come out of Forever Evil. If there are any fans of Nightwing who are refusing to read a Dick Grayson comic because he isn’t Nightwing, you are missing out! He’s wearing a black and blue outfit like he did before the new 52 if that makes you feel better about this comic (a lot fans disliked the red and black outfit). So if you haven’t already, check out Grayson and trust me, as a Dick Grayson fan, you will not be disappointed.

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#5: Best Comics News 2014: Batgirl Revamped

– Steve DiMaria

Batgirl #35, everything changes. After generating tons of fan-pleasing reactions by releasing images of Babs’ brilliant new costume design and relocation to Burnside, Gotham’s equivalent of Williamsburg, the new creative team of Cameron Stewart, Brenden Fletcher, and Babs Tarr delivered plenty to satisfy the excited masses. The book begins after Batgirl’s life went up in flames, a fitting end to the dramatic and deadly prior run penned by Gail Simone. Looking to start over, Batgirl picks up and moves on.

The first issue of this drastic revamp splits attention between wonderfully humanizing context of Babs settling into her new situation and her absolutely brilliant abilities in deduction and technology in fighting crime. Batgirl #35 starts with a move and an introduction to a whole new, and genuinely cool, setting and cast of characters. Babs gets to be a human for a little while, partying, making friends, and dealing with human problems in completing her education.

This start fulfills part one of super-heroes acting as effective fantasy – Babs lives a cool life in her cool apartment with her cool friends. Before any heroics even start, this revamp gives Babs, a character historically representative of girl-power in comics, agency and power to live her life in an appealing way. Of course, Babs’ ideal living situation is only enhanced by her first run-in with crime.

Choosing cyber-crime and violations of privacy as the initial conflict was a masterstroke for this comic. Secret identities always provide a baseline of character relevancy for violations of privacy, but in a modernized version of one of the quintessentially girl-powered heroes, doxxing becomes a perfect target to engage. Batgirl begins her new life on the hunt for a megalomaniacal anthropomorphism of everything exploitative about the internet. With doxxing becoming the primary weapon used against women who dare speak their minds online (see Gamergate), having Batgirl combat release of private information and revenge-porn cements this revamp’s place as a relevant and meaningful look at superheroes in a modern context, with modern purpose.

Along with the setting design in Batgirl’s new life and enemies, the art design pushes this book into best-of-the-year territory. While there is already endless, well-placed love for Batgirl’s new outfit and neighborhood, the art itself keeps pace. In an era of an overwhelming “DC house style” rending many of DC’s books similar in dark, shady denseness, Batgirl provides a much-needed unique sensibility to its art, along with its story. Using bright colors and comparatively soft textures, Batgirl plainly looks more fun. The characters are more vibrant, and thus more expressive, and the settings are positively brimming with life and energy.

There is a lot of credit to be given for books that manage to stand out among numerous titles from giant publishers, and Batgirl has managed to be the DC book with the most uniquely identifiable style and feel. It’s tough to keep it fresh after decades of similar characters and plots, but, with powerful style and clever premise, Batgirl managed to spend 2014 developing its own sensibilities, appealing to differing kinds of readers.

#4: Best Comics News 2014: Special Edition Comic Con

-Travis Czap

This year also saw the first year of a new and wildly successful Comic Con event: Special Edition Comic Con. With a greater focus on comic authors and artists, and less on the TV shows and movies that have recently been drawing in crowds, many hardcore comic fans enjoyed a more intimate atmosphere with some of their favorite creators.

ComicsVerse had a great time at Special Edition, getting up close and personal with many artists, authors, and creators in general. The fans showed up in high numbers, the creators spoke widely with them, and comic art, collectibles, and books were available everywhere.

Without the typical crowd that NYCC draws in, Special Edition returned the focus to the comic books, which have been overshadowed in the light of the recent popularity of their multimedia adaptations. For serious fans, this was heaven. Autographs have never been easier to get, and to get to truly converse with your favorite writers and illustrators is a dream come true.

Fortunately, Special Edition went off without a hitch. Thanks to 2014’s event, it seems to be something that comic fans can look forward to in 2015 and for years following.

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#3: Best Comics News 2014: Marvel Recasts Thor and Captain America

– Travis Czap

This year, the internet broke a number of times, and for comic fans, one of those times was the announcement of the recasting of Thor as an all-new female character, as well as the re-assignment of the Captain America title to Sam Wilson, a.k.a. Falcon. These announcements enraged many comic fans early on, with people claiming a female couldn’t be Thor, or angry that an African-American was the new Captain America.

However, these recastings added a whole new and fresh flavor to some of the oldest characters in Marvel history. Kept relatively the same for their entire publishing history, these characters were in need of a change, and various deaths, rebirths, disappearances, and reimaginings had done little to truly affect or alter either Cap or Thor. The challenge was selling this to the audience who wanted the heroes they knew and loved.

The transition went off famously, adding a new female presence to the Marvel universe. Casting a female to carry the name of one of the most powerful heroes in their line-up, Marvel gained a lot of new fans from a previously under-represented audience. Even better, their new character has been fantastic, and the event as a whole has been thoroughly entertaining to read.

Captain America, on the other hand, stronger represents the African-American audience than lesser-known characters like Black Panther (who will have an upcoming movie) and Luke Cage (who has an upcoming show). This is a Cap who retains his flight abilities and is a little rougher around the edges, adding entirely new dimensions to Marvel’s traditional boyscout character.

Another thing to consider is what these announcements could mean for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s been suggested (and pretty much guaranteed) that the Captain America helm will eventually pass to at least Bucky Barnes… why not Sam Wilson? Likewise, with Ragnarok being the next big Thor title, and Ragnarok being a replacement for Thor in the comics, could we be seeing an eventual recasting of the Norse god of thunder? Only time will tell, but one thing’s for sure… 2014 showed us that Marvel is willing to try new things!

#2: Best Comics News 2014: Spider-Gwen

– Steve DiMaria

At first, Edge of Spider-Verse seemed like your usual dimension-hopping, larger-than-life Spider-Man crossover event. A really big baddie shows up, and all the different Spider-powered heroes across all worlds have to team up to stop him. Spider-Verse presented a fun premise and a great way to preserve Miles Morales with the dismantling of the Ultimate Universe, but became so much more with the teasers for Jason Latour, Robbi Rodriguez, and Rico Renzi’s Edge of Spider-Verse #2, flipping the script and placing Gwen Stacy center stage a Spider-Woman in an alternate universe.

As they do, fans reacted with immediate fervor for “Spider-Gwen.” The brilliance of the idea itself probably would’ve pulled this reaction on its own, but Spider-Gwen’s new costume increased the response further, probably the greatest triumph of design in comics of the year. By the time the book came out the hype reached a fever pitch, fans adoring the opening scene in which Gwen joins Mary Jane Watson and others in The Mary Janes, a punk band with a song based on MJ’s classic line, “Face it, Tiger, you just hit the jackpot.” If the entire book was just about Spider-Gwen fighting crime while on tour with The Mary Janes, Spider-Gwen probably still would’ve made this list. Somehow, Edge of Spider-Verse #2 is so much more.

Gracefully summarizing the back-story, Latour provides a quick page explaining that a radioactive spider bit Gwen instead of Peter Parker, causing him to become this universe’s version of The Lizard, fight Spider-Gwen, and die after the battle. Blamed for Peter’s death, Gwen is openly pursued by the police and her father, and haunted by her inability to save Peter. Sound familiar?

Part of the draw of Spider-Gwen is that her story flips the script on the contemptible “women in refrigerators” trope, in which a woman dies in order to further the male hero’s story arc. Gwen Stacy had become a prime example of this exploitative tactic, Peter’s power failing his responsibility to save her, thus giving him another thing to be sad about. Here, Gwen is still bothered by Peter’s death, but seems to focus more practically on the police pursuing her for murder. This book is loaded with heart, and a quick, yet deep, explanation of the core of the great power/great responsibility aspect necessary to all Spider-books. This is a solid start, and one well worth being enthusiastic about, despite its brevity and lack of development.

The dialogue is excellent, the art is vibrant and hugely energetic in color and motion, and the character and design are supremely innovative. Spider-Gwen succeeds on several fronts, and easily earns a spot as one of the best things to happen to comics in 2014. To top it all off, the best part is Marvel’s announcement of a Spider-Gwen ongoing starting up next year, allowing for the development and sharpening of her character in a way that will hopefully catch up to the book’s flawless concept and design. And yes, they were smart enough to just call the book Spider-Gwen and keep the same creative team.

#1: Best Comics News 2014: Ms. Marvel

– Steve DiMaria

After loads of anticipation and press, Kamala Khan finally entered the world of comics in Ms. Marvel this year, almost effortlessly surpassing all expectation. For anyone who may have been ignoring the entire internet and all media for an extended period of time, the central character of this new series by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona is a Muslim-American teen from Jersey City, discovering her new shape-shifting powers. In both premise and execution, Ms. Marvel is original yet familiar, and cannot be ignored as a pick for one of the best things to happen to comics in 2014.

By way of summary, Ms. Marvel begins by framing the life of Kamala Khan, simply a relatable teenager. Kamala struggles with faith, school, parents, and her perceptions of herself, and spends a ton of time on the internet. Sneaking out of her house, Kamala is caught up in the effects of Marvel’s Inhumanity event, which awakens her latent shape-shifting powers. Over the rest of the brilliantly executed run this year, Kamala comes to terms with her strange new physiology, and, of course, begins fighting crime, inspired by her heroes in the Marvel Universe.

On a deeper level, this simple story provides both a much-needed humanization of a few of the most misunderstood demographics today, and a unique and insightful take on superheroes as our modern myths. Firstly, Kamala Khan is a relatable teenager in a way that hasn’t been accomplished since Peter Parker. Put that side-by-side with the fact that she is a Muslim woman in a time in which anti-Islamic sentiment and intermingled sexism issues run rampant, and you have a recipe for a work of brilliant.
While the book contains excellent crime-fighting scenes, a good chunk of the book is context, delving into Kamala’s entirely human forays into sneaking out of her house, maintaining relationships with her family and friends, and comics up with an exciting superhero name and costume. It’s been said that Peter Parker goes out and fights super-villains, then returns home to face his real problems. If that is the case, then Ms. Marvel has recreated that story in a way that is not only more touching to modern audiences, but more inclusive of them as well. However, unlike Spider-Man, this narrative is actually enhanced by the crime-fighting itself, Kamala also taking on local street crime, but being driven by the acts of super-heroes already familiar to her. While Peter Parker may have decided to don a spider costume without much familiarity with the territory, Kamala, like basically the entire population today that has been to a comic book film, already has a structure of costumed heroism to guide her.

This realistic look at what a teenager today might actually do with powers and a knowledge of super-heroes fits neatly with the backdrop of Kamala’s faith, such a central piece of this work. The book juxtaposes Kamala attending her local mosque with scenes of meeting with, writing fan-fiction about, or hallucinating established superheroes of the Marvel universe. Like anyone, Kamala has difficulty fitting into any of these molds, but holds out faith in ideals, whether that takes the shape of her religion or her mythical super-heroes. At the end of the day, Ms. Marvel succeeds as a well-written work of fiction, but, wins a best-of-the-year spot primarily because it includes deep and unique forays into diversity, faith, and what your average comic fan today would do with shape-shifting powers and visions of brightly-colored tights.

So there you have it, folks! What do you think? Do you agree with our list? Is there anything we missed? Sound off in the comments!

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