Comics. Where to start, right? There's always a cross-over multi-crisis on infinite shelves and, honestly, if you aren't up on the adventures of ultimate secret santa, there's no point in starting now anyway, you have to go back to the spin-off series that... etc. etc. And, hey, that just got cancelled. Oops.
Here to help are Stefan of Civilian Reader and Jenni of, well, many, many things (not the least of is her series of urban fantasy vignettes for Pandemonium). They're both people that capital-k-Know their comics so we've asked them to recommend five series that they're "following compulsively". How else would we know which bandwagon upon which to leap?
Stefan: Jared and Anne gave me the brief – “5 comics I’m following compulsively” – and… I completely blanked.
Not because there aren’t series I am addicted to, but I don’t actually follow many on an issue-by-issue basis. Instead, I’m mostly addicted to collected editions.
So, here are five series that I am either still following and collecting, or obsessively read while it was ongoing.
1. Fables (Vertigo) - Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham
I only tried Fables after I read the first couple of issues of Fairest, its latest spin-off series. Since then, and in very quick order, I read the first five Deluxe Editions, and I’m absolutely hooked. Willingham has drawn together some of literature’s and fairy tales’ best-loved characters, brought them into a contemporary setting, and made them wholly his own. He has created his own modern mythology for these characters – everyone from Big Bad Wolf, Cinderella, the Frog Prince and so many more. This is, without a doubt, one of the best comic series ever published. The wonderful thing? It’s still running, and has thus-far not lost any steam in the story-telling.
2. DMZ (Vertigo, 2005-11) - Brian Wood and Riccardo Burchielli
DMZ I picked up on a whim. As a politics junky, I read the premise of the first book and thought it sounded pretty intriguing. Not long afterwards, I’d read all twelve collected editions of the series (it is now complete). Following the trials and tribulations of Matty Roth, the only journalist in Manhattan during a Second Civil War in America, Wood has managed to transpose the language, events and politics of the War on Terror onto a domestic setting. It is realistic, gripping, and expertly composed (the majority of the artwork is done by Riccardo Burchielli, who has a very good, distinctive style). As is common for Wood, it is also a bit of a love-letter to New York and its distinct spirit.
Recommended to me by Myke Cole, I love this run on Captain America (it’s the Fifth Volume). It is, of course, complete – there has been another run, followed by the Marvel NOW re-boot – but I’ve been working my way through it slowly. Starting with the Winter Soldier story-arc, and leading up to the monumental Death of Captain America storyline, Brubaker’s work on the series did a lot to reinvent Cap’s story and world. The artwork’s superb (by Steve Epting, mostly), and I found the story-telling absolutely compelling and addictive. I’m currently waiting for the new Death of Captain America paperback collection, which should be out sometime in mid-to-late-February.
4. Irredeemable (Boom Studios, 2009-12) - Mark Waid and Peter Krause
I heard about Irredeemable before I started reading comics more widely again after DC launched the New 52 in late 2011. I was lucky enough to receive a review copy of the Definitive Edition, which collected the first 12 issues of the series. It poses the question: What happens if the world’s greatest superhero becomes the greatest super-villain? The first few volumes are some of the best comics writing I’ve ever had the pleasure to read (and a scene in the twelfth issue actually had me in tears – manly tears, of course, but tears nevertheless). True, it dragged on perhaps a little too long, but there is still so much to love in Irredeemable. Waid plays around with super-hero tropes, and turns many of them on their head to create something new and original. [I’d also recommend the companion series, Incorruptible, also by Waid.]
I absolutely love what Snyder’s done with the Batman mythology. The Court of the Owls in particular turned out to be a superb development, leading into the cross-Bat-family event, Night of the Owls. Most recently, Snyder brought the Joker back into Gotham – a more twisted, vindictive and plain evil version. Death of the Family, another cross-title event, will no doubt leave Batman and his allies changed for years to come. Great writing, great artwork, and a real breath of fresh air for my favourite DC character.
Three Honorable Mentions:
As a bonus, I thought I’d just quickly list a few other series that I think deserve everyone’s attention:
The Sixth Gun (Oni Press) – Writer: Cullen Bunn – I’ve only just started this series, which is basically a Weird West tale of supernatural firearms and mystical conspiracies.
Green Lantern (DC – 2005-11) – Writer: Geoff Johns – This is pre-New 52, but I’ve been working my way through it, in a completely illogical order (I, uh, started at the end…), but I love the way Johns writes these characters. I started reading Green Lantern from the New 52 series, and quickly decided to go back a little further to fill in some gaps and read more of Johns’s work.
Skullkickers (Image) – Writer: Jim Zub – Just because it’s a kick-ass, fun fantasy series that revels in tropes and lovingly plays around with them. And the two protagonists are great.
Jenni: Here are five comics you (yes, you!) should be reading in 2013:
Young Avengers (Marvel) – Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie
The collaborative duo behind indie favourite Phonogram, Gillen and McKelvie team up again to bring us a fresh new look into the word of junior super-team the Young Avengers. This is a diverse cast of (mostly) superpowered teens facing grown up problems but (as you can see from the splash panel) actually enjoying being superheroes, and that joy is simply infectious. The new team includes veteran Young Avengers members like Hulking and Wiccan (who are, incidentally, the cutest gay couple in comics and who fight and make up and kiss on-panel and it’s not a big deal) and the superpower-less Kate Bishop (Hawkeye). New members are Noh-Varr (gorgeous David Bowie-esque alien boy obsessed with human culture), Miss America Chavez and Kid Loki.
The first issue is called ‘Style > Substance’, and while McKelvie’s beloved-by-hipsters art is exceptionally stylish, Gillen brings a whole lot of storytelling substance and emotional gutpunches here too.
Leaving Megalopolis - Gail Simone and Jim Calafiore
One of the top ten funded comics on Kickstarter ever, Simone’s Leaving Megalopolis will be shipping early this year and I can’t wait to get my copy! Seriously, Mr. Postman, I’m waiting… You should be able to find this comic even if you didn’t kickstart it, with plenty of stores putting in their orders along with the fans. This single volume graphic novel tells the story of civilians trying desperately to escape a city where a mysterious force has made all the superheroes murderously insane…
Gail is the brains behind most of the best comics that came from DC in recent years (Birds of Prey, Batgirl, Secret Six) and it’s great to see her working with her Secret Six partner-in-crime again, Jim Calafiore. Secret Six was a title that had a lot to say about the essential … fucked-up-ness of most superheroes, so I can’t wait to see Metropolis, er, I mean Megalopolis overrun by Gail’s creations…
SNIKT! (Marvel) – Paul Cornell and Alan Davis
Cornell’s had some bad luck lately with DC Comics, with Demon Knights going to new writers and the fantastic Saucer Country being cancelled, but Marvel are giving him some much deserved love, pairing him with fellow Brit and classic Marvel artist Alan Davis on a brand new Wolverine title, SNIKT!
Wolverine stories can often tread the same tired ground (all my girlfriends are dead I want a cigar dodgy CIA past lost my memories gonna run around Japan pretending I’m a ninja now bye) and honestly, I’d lost interest. However, Cornell is one of the best writers working on superhero comics today, with an affection for the medium and a knowledge of Marvel shown in recent Captain Britain stories, so I’m genuinely looking forward to seeing what new life Alan and Paul can breathe into this character [insert ‘Wolverine’s healing factor’ joke here].
When Carol Danvers, the hero and long-time Avenger known as Ms Marvel, took up the mantle of Captain Marvel after the death of the character, she got her own book and a snazzy new costume to boot – with not a cleavage window or miniskirt in sight. Mr. Captain Marvel (RIP) has a long history and frankly, I barely know any of it, (alas I hardly knew ye) but thank goodness, this is written for new readers!
I bought this title because I wanted to support the steps Marvel were taking towards developing their female audience and giving a female character their own title (DC has long been ahead of them here). I didn’t regret having bought this title due to Kelly’s fantastic writing. The first volume addresses Carol’s difficult decision to take up the Captain Marvel mantle, and her fight to prove the record-breaking exploits of her late friend and mentor, the pilot Helen Cobb.
SAGA (Image) – Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
This is a what-happened-after Romeo and Juliet style story, set in space, in which a couple of star-crossed lovers try to find somewhere safe to raise their new baby in the middle of a galactic war. SAGA is proper galaxy-spanning space opera with a lot of human emotion and a touch of Grant Morrison-esque weirdness to boot.
There’s not a character in it that I don’t love or desperately want to know more about (or both,) from the couple themselves, to their ghostly babysitter, to the grumpy mercenary hunting them and his Lying Cat to the weird television-headed bad guy with family issues to oh, gosh, I’ve just got too much to say! I’m going to have to come back to Pornokitsch to review this one in more detail…
But honestly, why waste time waiting for my review when you could just be reading SAGA?
So, before you scamper down to your local comics shop, tell us - what are you reading?
[Editor's note: We've gone very superhero oriented here, but worry not - we've got a few indie suggestions on their way! Watch this space...]