Reading is Fucking Awesome

14 Comics You Should Be Reading

I love comics. It’s one of the defining aspects of my personality. In fact, as a child when I had no real role models, it was comic books that taught me most of what I know about how to be a man. Yeah, it sounds strange. But when you think about it, most kids grow up emulating a drugged out athlete or rapper. I grew up emulating Captain America. So if I might quote Gil Harris, “Who’s the bitch now?”

Comic Books are kind of a funny subject these days. They are sort of being embraced by mass-media, yet simultaneously looked down upon. For instance, when interviewed about her role as Betty Ross in The Hulk, Jennifer Connelly initially had this to say:


It’s a comic book but I asked him (Lee) why he wanted to make “The Hulk.” He said, “It’s really a Greek Tragedy.” It’s actually a psychodrama. It talks about the rage inside all of us. It talks about fathers and sons, and Lee’s talking about using a kind of heightened format to get at something really profound that is otherwise more difficult to access. It’s really interesting and ambitious. He’s not talking about “I want to see a guy running around in green tights and I want to make a really glossy, fun-filled movie for kids.” He’s talking along these lines of tragedy and psychodrama. I find it really interesting. The green monster of rage and greed and jealousy and fear in all of us. (interview from about.com)

To be fair, Connelly has a point. Most successful comics are about more that just green skinned guys hitting orange rock faced guys. There is subtext and depth. Though I wouldn’t by any means define the Hulk as a Greek Tragedy. And if you read through what she says, it’s very much a back handed compliment anyway. She’s saying, “yeah, it’s based on a comic, but we’re not going to make it anything like a childish comic book.” That’s pretty much the way most comic adaptations are handled, which is why most of them suck. (NOTE: The Hulk is widely considered one of the worst comic films of the last ten years. That’s why Ang Lee switched to movies about saddles and anal sex) The movies that are successful, tend to be the ones that stay faithful to the source material. (X-Men 2, Spider-man, Batman Begins, 300, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm) But that’s the way the media handles comics; very hands off, ten dollar hooker, “we’ll take what we want from you and leave you unsatisfied and broke.”

Anyway, today, I thought I would share some of my favorite comics/ graphic novels from recent years. Some are funny. Some are intellectual. Some are straight sci-fi. One is about as over the top, guns and tits as you’re going to get. But ultimately, they are just another form of expression. No less adult than you perceive them to be. All of these should be available through Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

In no particular order:

1. Scalped: Vol 1 Indian Country

Native American Mafia. Check. Drugs and guns. Check. Double crossing FBI agents. Check. Sex and violence. Double check. One bad ass Injun with a black belt and something to prove. Check check check. What’s not to love about Scalped? It’s most often compared to the Sopranos. Fair comparison, except Tony Soprano never fought twenty guys in a bar with nothing but a pair of nunchucks. And that’s exactly what happens in the first issue.

2. The Ultimates II Vol 1 Gods And Monster, Vol 2 Grand Theft America

What if the Avengers were formed in a more realistic setting? That’s the premise that starts out the Ultimates, but that’s just the beginning. Fast paced action, betrayal, sex, dead terrorists and Captain America beating the holy hell out of Giant Man. That’s what the Ultimates is all about. I chose the Ultimates 2 as opposed to the first series because it’s the better of the two, but they’re both good. Ultimates 2 also holds the distinction of being the only comic with a political allegory expressing doubt about the choices America has been making, while not being anti-American. It’s ambiguous, letting us draw our own conclusions. And that’s what good writing should do.

3 . Fables Vol 3 Storybook Love; Vol 4 March of the Wooden Soldiers

Fables is like Shrek combined with Moonlighting and … Star Wars? But more adult. These are the rules. All fictional character from legend or folklore are real and exist on other world known only as The Homelands. The Homelands have been conquered by an evil Fable they call The Adversary, forcing the few lucky Fables able, to escape to our world, where they have set up shop in a part of Manhattan they named Fabletown. Fables is about the private lives and relationships of characters such as Snow White, the Big Bad Wolf, Little Boy Blue, Prince Charming, Cinderella (she’s a freaking SPY!) and Beauty and the Beast. But it’s also about their fight against the Adversary. Much has been made about the recently ended Y the Last Man (and it’s all true), but Fables is better.

4. Spider-man Vol 1 Coming Home; Vol 2 Revelations

Obviously I don’t have to sell you on Spider-man. But J. Michael Straczynski and John Romita, Jr helped revitalize this character, giving new life to the series. It’s funny, romantic and action filled. Also, Volume 2 features the September 11th issue. There are no words for how beautiful it is.

5. Preacher Vol 1 Gone to Texas, Vol 3 Proud Americans

This book is an abomination. An exercise in ridiculous sacreligious monstrosity that bypasses depravity and goes straight for hellfire and damnation. And I love it. It’s John Wayne hunting down God and killing assholes. HBO is making it into a series. I can only hope Matt Stone and Trey Parker are providing the theme. America, FUCK YEAH!

6. Ultimate Fantastic Four Vol 5 Crossover; Vol 6 Frightful

A revision of The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine. Mark Millar brings the fantastic, alongside painter Greg Land. Giant scientist whores, fish people, or zombie superheroes… take your pick. If you loved the FF movies… hell, even if you hated the movies, but still felt that they were sort of fun, this is the comic for you.

7. Planetary: Vol 1 All Over the World; Vol 2 The Fourth Man

Warren Ellis deconstructs the Superhero genre, while putting a fresh spin on it. I’m not sure how to describe it, but it’s awesome. John Cassaday’s art will blow your mind. Oh, and the Fantastic Four have conquered the Earth.

8. Nextwave: Vol 1 This Is What They Want; Vol 2 I Kick Your Face

The equal and opposite of Planetary. Ellis made Planetary straight intellectual scifi. For Nextwave, he decided to skip the smarty- pants routine and blow shit up. Nextwave is without a doubt one of the funniest comics of all time. It takes every cliche about comics and takes it up to 11 (yes, I really am one of those assholes who uses Spinal Tap jokes) Also, I’m getting Dirk Anger tattooed on my ass.

9. Starman: Vol 1 Sins of the Father

James Robinson created something of an anomaly in superhero comics. Starman is about Jack Knight, the son of one of the first superheroes, Ted Knight. Ted retires and needs Jack to take over. But Jack would rather sell cultural antiquities and listen to Sinatra albums in his store, Knight’s Past. Nevertheless, Jack gets taken in by the legacy of Starman. So will you. It’s about legacy, honor, and the relationship between fathers and sons.

10. Astonishing X-Men: Vol 1 Gifted; Vol 2 Dangerous

In the last two and a half years, Joss Whedon has created one of the most iconic takes on the X-Men ever. If you want to know what X-Men 3 was supposed be like, look no further. Volume 1 was the inspiration. And it only gets better from there. I’ll be crushed when the current arc “Unstoppable” is over and Whedon and Cassaday leave.

11. The Immortal Iron Fist: Vol 1 The Last Iron Fist Story

Matt Fraction, the writer, describes it as Kung Fu billionaire. FUCK. YEAH. Once you start reading, you won’t think you’re in a comic, you’ll think you’re watching a Jet Li film. It’s that good. And David Aja’s gritty noir-style art is fan-freaking-tastic.

12. Daredevil: Vol 1 Hell To Pay (2006)

Think Oz combined with a Jackie Chan movie and Tango and Cash. For this volume, Daredevil’s real identity has been outed to the press. He has to prove that he isn’t DD, while trying to stay alive in prison with hundreds of men that he put there, including the Kingpin and Bullseye. And just when you think it’s so awesome your head will explode, the Punisher shows up. You feel that? That’s your mind blowing, sugar-pants.

13. Invincible: Vol 1 Family Matters; Vol 3 Perfect Strangers

Mark Grayson was born the son of Omni Man, the greatest super hero this world has ever known, sent to protect Earth by his race the Viltrumites. When Mark turned 18 he developed powers of his own, and begins his journey to follow in his father’s foot steps… until he finds out that Omni Man is actually a murderous sociopath sent to conquer humanity. What’s a boy to do?
14. Identity Crisis

Author Brad Meltzer (The Book of Fate) combined his love of mysteries with his love of comics. What follows is part-human drama/ part-murder mystery starring the Justice League of America. It’s detective story, starring the greatest heroes on Earth. You may not know who half the characters are, but 20 pages in, you will care about each and every one of them. And just wait until you see what they do to Batman…

Those are just a few of my favorite comics. I hope you’ll give them a try. Believe me, each one is worth every penny.

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One response to this post.

  1. […] I could find a few graphic novels that would not only change your mind about the medium of comics ( CLICK HERE for a few suggestions), but perhaps even the way you see the world in […]

    Reply

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