5 Kick-Ass Graphic Novels You Missed In 2014

From superheroes to weirdos to geniuses and hip hop royalty, publishers and indie creators have put out great work this year and several have flown under most people’s radars.

1. Legend of the Mantamaji: Book One & Two

Legend of the Mantamaji.com / Via amazon.com

Created by long-time television director Eric Dean Seaton [Ground Floor, Undateable, Austin & Ally], the Legend of the Mantamaji trilogy is the story of an unlikely hero who learns he is only part human and the last of an ancient race of knights with magical abilities who are responsible for the safety and well-being of all mankind. Instead of going from geek to chic, the hero - an assistant district attorney - is already handsome, smart and a bit of an ass. Humility and ancient evil reborn prove to be his greatest foes in this fun, fast-paced and smart series. Seaton manages to keep readers guessing with well-placed plot twists that make the story feel like both a book and a miniseries.

Standouts include female characters who are smart, strong warriors equal to the male characters in the book with no “ass-to-the-camera” poses, great pen work by Brandon Palas, coloring by Andrew Dalhouse of Boom!, D.C. and Marvel, and lettering by Eisner-nominated artist Deron Bennett.

2. The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil

The title to Stephen Collins’ first graphic novel sounds like the start of a girlfriend’s lament at the beginning of Movember, but in reality this very dark, quirky bit of fiction is a well done ode to being…different. In a sea of sameness and order, Dave’s clean shaven face is taken over by an unruly beard. A beautifully drawn and decidedly off-beat story comes together to make true magic jump off the page.

Standouts include the smooth pacing of the fable and the way texture is used in the physical book to enhance the story. Digital may be your favorite medium, but go old school on this one and buy the actual, physical book.

3. Genius

Teddy Kristiansen / Via us.macmillan.com

Haunting and beautifully drawn, Genius follows the story of Ted Marx, a physicist who has been told all of his life that he’s a genius. Accelerated in school, Marx is recruited right out of college to a high profile gig - and that’s when he realizes his genius peaked as a child. Throughout his life Ted has always carried out imaginary conversations with another gifted human - Albert Einstein. Out of ideas and worried about losing his job and the ability to care for his family, Ted turns to the one man who may be able to help - his cantankerous father-in-law who once worked as security for Einstein and claims Einstein trusted him with one last idea.

Written by Eisner Award-winning author Steven T. Seagle and illustrated by Eisner-Award winner Teddy Kristiansen.

4. Hip Hop Family Tree Book 2: 1981-1983 (Vol. 2)

Ed Piskor / Via fantagraphics.com

Even if you’re not into hip hop, Hip Hop Family Tree Volume 2 will suck you in and have you feeling like you were in line outside of the clubs when hip hop started moving from the corners to the stage. In a historically accurate and engaging account of hip hop history, author Ed Piskor manages to pack in a ton of information while skillfully bringing the artists to life. Piskor is able to transcribe a mostly oral history of early hip hop into entertaining comics which is pretty awesome.

5. Low Riders in Space

Cathy Camper/Raul the Third / Via amazon.com

Though it is aimed at kids, Low Riders in Space is also fun for adult graphic novel fans. When three friends, Lupe Impala, El Chavo Flapjack, and Elirio Malaria get word that the top prize in a best car contest is a trunkful of money and a solid gold steering wheel, the low-rider loving threesome gets to work on making the best low rider ever. What happens next is an out-of-this-world adventure. Coupled with interesting, original illustrations, the storyline is a fun and interesting insight and perspective on low-rider culture that isn’t overdone or stereotype laden. The story just works.

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