OK, this week I’m talking about comics, more specifically the comic book series that I love and that I think you should be reading, that anyone who likes comics should be reading. If this comes across as me rambling about the comics I love, well this is my blog and sometimes that is what I feel like doing. Anyway, for those of you unfamiliar with the world of comics it can be daunting finding a place to start and, as someone who loves the storytelling in this medium, I would like to make it clear that you definitely should start somewhere. And to help facilitate the journey into this world I offer some good places to begin.
So here is the list: Saga, Mind Mgmt, Astro City, Transformers: More than Meets the Eye and The Fade Out. At some point I’ll do a list of my all time favourite series but this is not that. This is five series that I absolutely love right now, some of which will be ending soon, and series that anyone who is even vaguely interested in comics should go out and find, buy and read. Notice that not one of these are published by the big Two comic companies, Marvel and DC. While they both publish very good series, and I may do a rundown of my favourites from these companies in a later post, for those looking to get into comics it is far easier to start with more easily accessible series that do not come with decades of back story.
OK, so let’s start with Saga. Written by Brian K. Vaughan of Ex Machina and Y: The Last Man fame and illustrated by Fiona Staples, Saga is easily one of the best comics of the last decade. It is a sci-fi romp that follows the story of two soldiers on opposing sides in a war that fall in love and have a child and then have to go on the run. Obviously hijinks ensue. Saga is brilliantly bonkers, and quite sexually explicit, so going in with an open mind is essential. It is, however, a wonderful comic and an easily accessible starting point for those who are new to comics. If you at all are interested this is an excellent series to start with.
Number two on my list is Mind Mgmt, written and illustrated by Matt Kindt. This seriously brilliant comic tells the story of an organisation that brainwashes and converts people into operatives a la Jason Bourne. And they can do all sorts of weird and interesting things. In the first trade we are introduced to our central character, Meru, who is an amnesiac trying to figure out her place in the world with the help of a large and interesting cast. Mind Mgmt runs to six trades and consistently builds on the world it has created. It is wonderful and I could not recommend it more highly. Buy it!
Third up is Astro City. Simply put, there is little need to read many superhero comics other than this incredible series written by Kurt Busiek and illustrated by Brent Anderson. Featuring recognisable analogues of well-known characters including Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman it is the character and heart with which the tales are told that make this series stand out from most published by the Big Two. Astro City has been infrequently published for several decades but was recently rebooted and the trades in the most recent run are easy to find. Start with ‘Victory’ and go from there and if you like it the first run begins with ‘Life in the Big City’. These are seriously brilliant superhero tales!
Now, the fourth in this list is the only one that is from a known property. Transformers has long been something of a passion of mine that has only recently faded. I’ve owned the toys, I’ve watched the shows and I’ve bought, and still buy, the comics. IDW Publishing took on the franchise quite a few years ago and have produced series of varying quality since but More than Meets the Eye, written by James Roberts and with art principally from Alex Milne, is outstanding. This is long-form, character-driven, science-fiction comics of the highest quality and James Roberts has an uncanny ability to make you care about giant, transforming robots, if you didn’t before. I love this comic, not because it’s Transformers, but because of everything that the creators do with their characters.
Surprisingly, I actually struggled to find a fifth series to talk about. I love the work of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips and these two have been changing the comics landscape for years with their output from Criminal to Fatale, or my favourite, Sleeper. Incognito is also excellent. And I do like The Fade Out, I just like their other works more. Regardless, anything you choose to read from these guys will be excellent and I recommend all that they have published. I could have also mentioned other series that I love including The Wicked and the Divine, American Vampire, Lazarus, Rat Queens, and Descender.
Now, I could go on and on about comics and this is unlikely to be the last time that I talk about them in my blog but for now my advice to anyone interested, but not yet invested in this world, is to please pick one, any, of these series up and give them a go. Most of the first volumes of these series are available very cheaply either from your local comic book store or most online book retailers. And if you do buy them and you like them then send me a message and let me know, I’d love to hear from you! And lend your trades to friends and talk about them and maybe we can shake the silly idea that comics are only about superheroes and nothing more. Comics is a medium in which stories of all types are told ranging from horror (Wytches) to sci-fi (Manhattan Projects) and fantasy (Fables) and everything else besides. The stigma surrounding comics need to be broken and I really hope it will be but, as ever, we shall see.
Check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on comics, politics, self-publishing and my novel, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’ which is out now at all electronic retailers! Also follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!