Five Comics you Should Read

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Yes, it is true that I am more than a little bit of a fan girl when it comes to some things. Comics being one of them. While my first introductions were the original comics of R Crumb and an old favorite called "Beautiful Tales for Ugly Children" ( which, let's be honest, remains the best title of anything, ever), I developed a  taste for the genre.

Aside from the three others of you who may read comics,...and combined with the fact that I am never asked by nearly any other adult to tell them about my favorite comics, I beg your indulgence as I wax poetic and perseverate about one of  my myriad obsessions.

1. The Runaways

Brian Vaughn is one of those writers who tells an incredible Story.  Runaways is the story of a group of kids who find out that their parents are super villains.  So, they run. They also find out that they aren't quite as "normal" as they thought.

This is the first comic series I have given, in earnest, to Emily. She LOVES them. There is great writing, strong female characters and some real grappling with the identity separation of child from parent.  Who are we, as teens? Who are our parents? Is our destiny tied in with our parents decisions and actions? Who gets to decide what is evil?

The beauty (and drawback) of being a teen was the absolute certainty I felt about issues. I read it in my old journals, sometimes, and smile at my own definitive-ness. I knew Everything and no one could tell me any different. Vaughn is able to bring that to these characters, but also add their loyalty and love for their parents - and confusion as to what is the right thing to do.

Vaughn also wrote "Y: The Last Man" - in which an biological agent destroys all the men in the world...except one, as well as "Ex Machina".  I loved Y, and had to go at Ex Machina a couple of times before finding my groove. He's also written "Pride of Baghdad" about a group of Lions who escape the zoo after the bombing of the Iraq, but I haven't read it to date.

2. Walking Dead

If you have been living under a rock and been unaware of the AMC show adaptation, or my continual fits of adulation regarding the graphic novel series on this very blog, then I beg You. Read this. Start with issue one and move on to Issue 85. You will be shocked. You will numb to it, then you will be shocked again.  You will ponder the issues that Kirkman kicks to the forefront which is - it isn't the event, it is what we do afterwards. Who are we? What do we become?  I just read Issue 84 and 85 and had to catch my breath afterwards.  I lent out my issues ( 1-13) to the friend who runs our local coffee shop and he was mesmerized.

3. FreakAngels

I don't adore Warren Ellis' every move like some fans. There have been things he has done which have not sung to me.  FreakAngels is one I liked from the first issue. An entirely web based comic, with a fairly regular schedule it is now starting to wind down at issue 142.  Part Dystopian, Part Steam Punk, Part Kids with Special Powers, it blends several story threads nicely to make a little niche for itself within the genre. I liked it enough to even buy myself a FreakAngels Shirt, which Emily predictably hates. You should see her roll her eyes. Gah. Her mother likes Comics. Comics named FreakAngels. The Horror.

4.  Sandman

I am not sure how exactly to describe Gaiman's Sandman. Others have done far more adequate jobs than I could dream of doing, so suffice it to say...I loved it. I loved the imagery and world he helped to re-populate. I loved the way he would manipulate a myriad of myth traditions, each popping up and out with ease. His later writing would continue this tradition - American Gods, particularly. I reference some of Gaiman's language and imagery in my own writing, which some of you may have noticed...when I talk about delight becoming delirium for instance.  It was a seminal work and moved comics from a fringe lit position into something more "respected" and serious.

5.  Crossed

First, a Caveat. This comic is NOT for everyone. It is exceptionally violent in every way. There is extreme physical and sexual violence depicted in a particularly explicit manner.  If you can get past that ( and you might not be able to) the story is fascinating. 

Now, I like Garth Ennis. Not everyone does. I liked Preacher, I really liked Chronicles of Wormwood, and Loved The Pro. The Boys has kept my attention for it's entire run, and that doesn't always happen.

I think it is because I had read his other works that I was willing to stick with Crossed and see where it went. Which was a world in which an infection is being passed from person to person through body fluids, any fluid. The part of the brain which inhibits behavior is destroyed nearly immediately, and the red cross appears on the face. The infected then act upon every impulse, with exaggerated violence. It isn't a zombie story, although it has survivalist overtones. What I really like, though, is Ennis' exploration of what happened if we all did the darkest things in our psyches, the stuff we discount, or dismiss, or deny. 

6.  Girls
 Ok, yes, I said FIVE, but here is a 6th.  The Luna Brothers has their big "break" with Ultra.  To the amazement of the person who suggested it to me, I didn't care for Ultra.  Meh.

But Girls? I really liked Girls. And the next series The Sword.   I know it is trite to say that this would be a type of "feminist" comic, but there are some things about the series that have stayed with me post reading.

First off, the sexual and gender politics and power depicted are fascinating. It is a gang of alien women, all cloned from one, who are looking for men to inseminate them. In fact, they will kill the human women they find in order to preserve their potential sperm donors.  

and the art. Such beautiful illustrations.

Some people hated this comic. Ok. Fair enough. I can accept that.

7. Welcome to Hoxford

Dammit, I Know I said 5, but Ben Templesmith is one of my personal favorite illustrators...and this was one he did both the story AND the art. 

You may better know his art from 30 Days of Night, which got made into that shit-tacular movie. As always,  do yourself a favor and  find the graphic novel. The vampires in there should scare the living shit out of you. 

But this was Ben's Story too and I loved it. Just odd and quirky enough ( Werewolves, who we see not nearly enough serious story lines being given over to) and a privatized prison, a crazy prisoner and his trapped psychologist. I've always thought this would make a seriously kick ass horror film, if they just stuck to Templesmiths' ambiance and didn't try to be too ridiculous with gore and special effects.

The other comic he writes is Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse, which I ( not shockingly) love.  I mean LOOK at that. Frakking Gorgeous. And strangely funny. 

He also teamed with Warren Ellis to do a series called Fell which has disappeared over time. I assume they both got busy and the project just dissolved, but the issues are wonderful. Its one of those that I wished would have continued, because there was great storytelling to be done.

Finally, I feel I should plug an artist, Megan of Studio MME, that I have been patronizing for a long time now. A BUNCH of her originals hang in my bedroom (The Cat, The Octopus and The Rooster) , and her prints are scattered around my house.  As in All over the house. I keep buying them and popping them into frames and setting them hither and yon. 
Fears Uncloaking 1, Studio MME

She is an amazing talent and has a real sense of whimsy to her work, so visit her at Etsy store. You don't need to tell her that I sent you, but DO buy original art from artists, even prints. It is good for your soul. 

3 Baleful Regards:

roo said...

Sandman is the only one on your list I'm familiar with-- a testament to its crossover prowess, I guess, since I'm at best an infrequent reader of graphic novels.

You know what I loved? His "Mr. Punch" with illustrations by Dave McKean. Dave McKean is a genius.

MOCK! said...

Already shared my Vaughn/Runaways love on Facebook.

However, RIGHT under your post in my Google Reader was the following:

MOCK! said...

...and Pride of Baghdad is a good read...

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