Comics are big business. From dominating the movie industry to taking over TV in 2014, comic books and graphic novels are everywhere. But with the immense amount of product out there, it can be hard to sift through and find what's good.
Luckily, we here at MTV News have read nearly every comic book that's come out in December, 2013 and are ready to count down the 10 best books released this month — as well as two bonus graphic novels. Happy reading:
10. "Young Avengers #14"
Writer Kieron Gillen and artist Jamie McKelvie have been crafting one of the most offbeat superhero books on the market for the past year with "Young Avengers." Banding together a group of teens including a tween Loki, a gay witch and his shape-shifting lover, and a super-strong, super pissed off dimension traveler named Miss America Chavez, they've been battling the evil forces of their parents for thirteen issues now. And they won! So naturally, it's time for the after-party.
If you're looking for punching and fighting, look elsewhere, but what this issue does so well is channel teen angst and the pain of joining adulthood with the over-the-top emotions of also being a superhero. Plus, this issue is joined by a roster of all-star artists. It reads like a really good soap opera, and looks like a great piece of art.
9. "Harley Quinn #1"
The Joker's gal pal has had a rough time of it the past few years, changing from a comedic villainess into an over-the-top sexpot. Writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner reconcile both of these depictions with a fun set-up that finds Quinn relocating to Coney Island after inheriting an apartment building/fun-house. Where most books would use this as a set-up for superhero adventures, Palmiotti and Conner instead make Quinn have to deal with the crushing reality of having to find a job to pay for an exorbitant amount of taxes on her inheritance. Oh, and fighting off assassins. It's a great set-up, and like any good first issue, makes you want to read more.
8. "Ghost #1"
A woman with ethereal powers, trapped between heaven and hell fights secret demons in Chicago... But also it's very funny. Writers Kelly Sue DeConnick and Chris Sebela construct the TV-perfect premise brilliantly, while artist Ryan Sook makes the demons cinematic, and the characters distinct. If you're a fan of supernatural detective shows, this is a must-buy.
7. "Alex + Ada #2"
A lonely guy's grandmother sends him a sex android, and now he has to deal with whether he wants to keep her. That's pretty much it, but the future tech in the book is great (even androids need to eat), and though we have yet to deal with the moral ramifications of Alex's decision, we're excited to see how the relationship between the title characters develops. If you liked "Her," check this out.
6. "Forever Evil #4"
The premise of this DC Comics event is that the Justice League (Superman, Wonder Woman, etc) is dead, killed by an evil Justice League from an alternate universe. With the Earth nearly destroyed, only one man can save everyone: Lex Luthor, who they forgot to ask to come along to the party.
Big events don't often deliver in comics, and we're only halfway through this one so it may still fizzle. But the focus on Luthor's twisted sense of justice, as well as his slowly developing team of all-star villains have made this, so far, the most satisfying event comic in recent history. Mainly that's because it doesn't forget the cardinal rule of events: they're supposed to be fun. Bonus points for a surprisingly touching scene between Luthor and Superman's evil clone Bizarro mid-way through the issue, which will bring a tear to the eye of any self respecting fan.
5. "B.P.R.D. Hell On Earth #114"
Hellboy is dead, his friends in the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense are scattered to the winds, and enormous demons have invaded the Earth, destroying most of the world's major cities. And it's been like that in the book for nearly three years, with things only getting worse and grimmer. So to read an issue where fan-favorite character Liz Sherman not only beats some monsters, but after years off the grid gets her mojo back and returns to the B.P.R.D. to help fight the apocalypse is a huge event. After years of anguish and sadness, it's nice to have the good guys win one.
4. "East of West #8"
It's hard to boil down the concept of writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Nick Dragotta's bizarre alternate reality, scifi/fantasy epic, but essentially the Four Horseman are ready to bring down the Apocalypse in a world where the west was never won. What makes this issue stand out is its focus on The President (of the world, maybe?) who is tasked with keeping the populace calm until the Four Horsemen can reap them. What follows is dark political satire at its best, something that feels current and ominously prophetic at the same time. Even if you haven't been keeping up with this series (and it's a steep climb for new readers) you'll be drawn in by Dragotta's unique, angular figures.
3. "Action Comics #26"
This is just a great Superman story. Writer Greg Pak, best known for his Marvel Comics work on Hulk completely nails everything that makes the Man of Steel an icon in his first official outing on the title... He's previously written the character in "Batman/Superman," and an issue of "Action" set in the past. Superman saves an ex-girlfriend while battling a giant monster that isn't all it seems, and the whole time Pak never manages to lose the humor or excitement of watching a man who can fly. Artist Aaron Kuder, as well, is a revelation, creating clear, iconic images worthy of the greatest hero of all time. A great jumping on point, and just a great all around Superman tale: here's hoping this team has a long run on the title.
2. "Parker: Slayground"
For years, writer/artist Darwyn Cooke has been adapting Richard Stark's (nee Donald Westlake) Parker novels into graphic novel form. And every single time, they're pretty much perfect. The latest, "Slayground" is no exception. It's a quick, nasty little tale about a botched robbery that leads anti-hero Parker into a locked amusement park in the winter. He's got a big bag of money. A bunch of other crooks want that money. It plays out like "Die Hard" in amusement park, and is as well plotted and brilliantly executed as you might want. Those looking for tortured heroes or psychological insight might want to look elsewhere, but those looking for an exciting, tense, action filled 100 pages of story? This is your book.
1. "Locke & Key: Alpha #2"
It's been over five years since writer Joe Hill and artist Gabriel Rodriguez released the first issue of IDW's "Locke & Key." Since then, there's been a (failed) FOX pilot and an in development movie trilogy. But with all that big media furor, Hill and Rodriguez have done what pretty much no other "hot" comics property has done: finished up their series with one of the most satisfying endings in any media.
We won't recap everything that happens in this issue, because it wouldn't do the relatively quiet tale justice. But for fans who have been reading since the beginning, the team calls back to multiple points of the series both visually and thematically, providing closure for the main characters that is both satisfying and heartfelt. After several issues of insane supernatural violence, it's a beautiful coda that's reminiscent of another great finale this year, the last episode of "Breaking Bad." And if you ask us, "Locke & Key" is well up to the comparison.
In the span of great comic book series that have ended on their own terms, you can probably list the greats on two hands. "The Sandman," "Watchmen," "Y The Last Man..." Now you can add "Locke & Key" to that list. If you've never read it, and have any interest in dark fantasy, horror, or just stories that are good, go back and pick up the first collection, "Welcome to Lovecraft." You'll be reading the other five collections before you know it.
Bonus Graphic Novels:
Ghosted Vol 1: "Ghosted" is "Ocean's 11," but set in a haunted house, as a bunch of crooks and other assorted team members are tasked with the ultimate heist: stealing a ghost. One of the most fun, exciting, original series of the past year is collected in this volume. Read it now, before it gets snapped up as a feature film.
Deadpool: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly: Marvel's usually goofy mercenary Deadpool is kidnapped and sent to Korea to battle knock-off versions of the X-Men with Wolverine and Captain America. Written by comedians Gerry Duggan and Brian Posehn, you'd expect this to be a laugh riot; but the duo are actually going for something deeper, and end up delivering what is probably the most gut-twisting revelation in the history of the character. Add in artist Declan Shalvey's beautiful, shadowed compositions, and you have a surprising, exciting story that ranks with Marvel's best.