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Thursday, January 1, 2015

Top Ten Best Comic Covers of 2014

You've seen the By the Numbers breakdown of our picks for best comic covers of the year by publisher, series, and artist...but what we all really love is a top ten countdown, right?

10. Silver Surfer #1

by Francesco Francavilla

There were a lot of great covers by this master this year, so it was tough to pick just one, but I couldn't resist including his most minimal work yet. The sheer simplicity and lack of color really make it stand out from the get go, but it's the size of its main character that makes it a classic. It emphasizes the space, the massive world that the Silver Surfer exists in, and gives us an idea of the explorative nature of this series.
9. Magneto #1

by Paolo Rivera

In many cases, good covers start with good ideas; with that logic, great covers start with great concepts. Rivera starts with a stellar idea, one that is able to give us great facial acting, remind us of who this character is with the outline of his classic helmet, and clue us in with the barbed wire that this new series is going to deal with his dark and tragic past. Then, more subtly, the shading that looks like the real helmet is there emphasizes what we usually can't see underneath it, hinting that we're going to learn more about Magneto than we have in the past. It's simple and elegant and frighteningly powerful.

 8. Thor #18

 by Esad Ribic

Oh, Esad Ribic. I'm loving Russell Dauterman on the new series, but it was difficult to pick just one of Ribic's terrifically epic Thor: God of Thunder covers. This one stands out in that it gives us a sense of scale without involving space in anyway; it's just one monster and Thor. The creature's design is fantastic as well, not your typical dragon, and the way his entire body isn't seen, curving upwards out of frame, gives us an even scarier sense of just how big this thing is. The shading and color are unique as well, giving everything an ethereal feel while leaving Thor standing out in the foreground, giving the cover a ton of depth.

7. Batman/Superman #17

by Darwyn Cooke

I can't deny: I'm a huge Darwyn Cooke fan. He's got a great sense of character and tone, and among all his recent covers for DC, this one shows off his skills best. At first glance, it's a simple idea–the characters' body language and facial expressions begin to tell the story of a bomb defused just in time. But the level of detail that Cooke infuses within his cartooning style is astounding–the guards lying unconscious on the staircase, the rushed pile of C4 under the bomb, the bullet holes of close misses just behind our heroes. The coloring, too, from the green glow of the bomb to the red of the unseen alarm give us a sense of the intensity of the situation that just resolved. All of this makes it a great piece, but it's Superman's utter relief while Batman smiles as if he was never concerned that makes it an instant classic.
6. Mind MGMT #22

by Matt Kindt

Based on the painting "The Treachery of Images" by surrealist René Magritte, Kindt's simplest cover is possibly his best. The concept, to start, fits this series perfectly–in a complex story about agents that can bend and shape perception and reality at will, what can be considered truth? Just as Magritte's original painting does, it forces us to question what we are looking at...we must take into account that the physical comic we are reading is just a representation of the story Kindt is telling, and we cannot know what is real or not. Being able to shift the pipe perfectly into an agent in defensive posture is nothing short of stunning, and it's admirable that the background isn't just a matte–indeed, there may even be the silhouette of a face hidden, which urges us even further to pay close attention.

5. Wonder Woman #33

by Joshua Middleton

I love Chiang's covers for Wonder Woman, but it was this variant for Batman's 75th Anniversary that eventually won the day. This thing is oozing with gothic art deco style that is rarely seen on covers. The contrast of the dark and grainy Gotham and the bright sun of Paradise Island puts our characters right in the center. Their design, too, is phenomenal, with Batman full of straight lines and sharp corners while Wonder Woman has a powerful sense of flow. I love how the rectangular rays of light that radiate from her sword (or the sun) cross paths with the spotlight (or Bat-Signal) from Gotham, and how those three rays fall both in front and behind the characters, giving the cover a surprising amount of depth given its more portrait-style depiction. I hope this cover caught the attention of more than just me with its breathtaking look and we'll see Middleton more and more!

4. Supreme Blue Rose #2

by Tula Lotay

Lotay is a relative newcomer to comics, but her work on Supreme Blue Rose and Bodies this year really took the comics art world by storm. Of all her covers this year, this is definitely my favorite. Just on the surface, it oozes with Sean Phillips style, giving us a classical femme fatale, but Lotay gives her a relaxed posture that contrasts with her subtly concerned facial expression. There are a lot of added elements that up the mysterious tone: the foggy green wisps, the braille dots that menacingly surround her neck, the scribbles design on her dress, and of course the molecule-like diagrams that connect all the covers. The impressionistic background makes her stand out even more, but it's the phenomenal color choices of a sort of pastel green and the fiery primary red that make the entire cover jump out at you. The whole thing is elegant, sexy, and wholly enigmatic–it makes you desperately want to understand while at the same time her face seems to be trying to send you a secret message to stay away.
3. She Hulk #2

 by Kevin Wada

Wada's She Hulk covers are all among the best of this year, and it was extremely hard to narrow it down, but I opted for the panelled storytelling of #2 over the simple and iconic cover of the first issue. The panels each tell their own story, but together describe the series and the character perfectly. The facial detail in the center panel is fun and beautiful, the action in the last two panels is a blast, and the circular nature of it all, leading from the fight in the street to an early morning with a bandaged hand, is just wonderful. This series as a whole really gave a strong feminine character that deserves to be celebrated, and this cover in particular expertly captures that.

2. Winter Soldier: The Bitter March #2

by Andrew Robinson

As Kyle said on the podcast, "All great spy stories take place on a train." The 1960's mod-spy story was drawn wonderfully by Roland Boschi, but it was Robinson's insanely cool covers that drew my attention first. While the first issue similarly utilizes the title and is stylish in its own right, this one ups the ante significantly. The title's integration into the image and the color choices on it work almost like a movie's opening titles, leading your eye downward to see the action scene in medias res. This one image captures the intense spy action of this issue with absolute perfection, from the scientist and Ran Shen sharing a cocktail to two forces looking to steal her secrets coming from the right and above. Add to it the silhouetted train's slightly cartoonish tilt which gives it a sense of dangerous speed and you've got a cover that is both gorgeous and tells a thrilling story in itself!

1. Amazing Spider-Man #1

by Marcos Martin

Marcos Martin's work in the past few years on Daredevil and The Private Eye has earned him even more fans, and clearly the guy is deserving of all the praise. I give you what I deem the best comic cover of 2014 with his variant of The Amazing Spider-Man #1. The concept in general is a very good one: look at the world from the perspective of Spider-Man, the acrobat, by inverting the image. Much more interesting than the crazy swinging through the streets Spider-Man that we've seen a million times, this cover also recreates the feeling of being a superhero through a thrilling sense of height that is impressive given the upside-down perspective. Adding to this is the curvature of the world that seems as if he's almost launched himself into orbit and the fantastic contrast between the highly detailed, almost photo-realistic NYC and the very simple bottom half, with just the figure and the gradient background. The typography is bombastic and modern, emphasizing that favorite adjective of your friendly neighborhood web slinger as being so big, such an event, that it can't even fit on the page without being split onto two lines. This is a cover that makes me excited about a character, that takes an extremely simple concept and makes it beautiful through careful design and detail. Hell, it's a cover that works just as well if you look at it upside-down! It is nothing short of...well, Amazing.


It was a really wonderful year for comic book cover art, and narrowing this list down was incredibly difficult. Following are some of the runners up. If your favorite cover didn't make the list, let us know! We'd love to hear what you have to think on Twitter or Facebook!  

Runners Up

Deadly Class #1

by Wesley Craig
Ms. Marvel #5

by Jamie McKelvie
Robocop #1

by Goni Montes
Roche Limit #1

by Vic Malhotra
Wonder Woman #34

by Cliff Chiang

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