I Should Be Reading…What?

Top-Comic-Books-Covers

Hopefully Lee will forgive me for paraphrasing the title of his column in order to put out this call to action, but I need you all (readers and writers, both) to suggest some “must-read” comic titles.

Using my Unreality cred, I applied for a press pass to this year’s NYCC. Guess what, the silly bastards actually approved it! I am way pumped to be the first on-the-ground reporter for Unreality, and am even more pumped for all the stuff I will inevitably buy. I’m no stranger to cons: my day job lets me work the American Library Association’s annual conference every year, which is kind of an even nerdier version of a comic-con (oxymoron?). The ALA Comic/Graphic Novel Pavilion just gets larger and larger, and Gail Simone even stopped by this year’s meeting. Librarians dig comics!

I know both SDCC and NYCC seem to be getting further and further away from comics, and I’m sure I’ll find plenty of fodder for Unreality posts by focusing on film, tv, and gaming. The thing is, I used to be pretty into comic books during my teenage years, and I miss it. I probably won’t pass a Fake Geek Girl test or anything, so if you’re the type to administer one of those you can stop reading here and go back to your regularly scheduled life of being an exclusionary jerk.

So what should I read, everyone? To give you an idea of my tastes, I’ve included a selection of comics and graphic novels I’ve read and loved, but don’t be afraid to suggest stuff that’s just plain great.

The Uncanny X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga

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This was my introduction to comic books. Before this, I thought comics were what I read while eating my cereal every Sunday morning. I had no idea who these all people were and I definitely struggled to understand every intricacy of the plot (I was pretty young when I read it), but still I devoured it.

I often fantasized about having telekinetic powers and the like, so all the psychic projections and battling was right up my alley. Plus, Jean Grey was made of thought. That’s like being made of dreams. Crazysauce.

Elfquest: The Original Quest

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Elfquest is often regarded as a “girl comic,” but I’d recommend it for anyone who enjoys fantasy, violence, and sexy stuff. These elves are pretty sexy, you guys. Even if you aren’t much for fantasy, you’ll be hooked by the deep character development.

At the time, I was very into the fact that it was co-written by Wendy and Richard Pini, with artwork by Wendy. Big ups to ladies in comics!

My local library had the beautiful, full-color graphic novel versions of the issues that made up “The Original Quest,” and I remember checking out a new volume every week. I just pulled Book One (published in 1988!) off my shelf and I see the aforementioned American Library Association calls it “one of the most important works in American fantasy of the last few years.” That’s pretty high praise. The ALA is my brah.

Here’s hoping the Pinis come to NYCC so they can sign it.

The Sandman

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Most nerds have at least a passing familiarity with Neil Gaiman, and I’m certainly no exception. I even waited in line for three hours (at ALA—eff yeah, you’re detecting a theme) to get him to sign a book to my husband and me. My husband’s name is also Neil, and I’m sure my half-exhausted, awkwardly mumbled request to “just put Sara and Neil, like you, your spelling of ‘Neil,’ he’s just like you” was not as embarrassing as it seemed at the time, and was, in fact, charming.

Right? Right?!

The Sandman is a series I read over and over again, and was a defining part of my most angsty of teenage phases. I still love it. My best friend and I dressed up as Death and Desire for Halloween 2012. Don’t tell us to slow our roll.

V for Vendetta

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I read V for Vendetta shortly after finishing The Sandman, and decided from then on out I’d pretty much read anything written by Alan Moore. I also loved Watchmen and From Hell, for the record. I’m no philistine. I even liked the movie version of From Hell. Okay, I might be a philistine. I liked it for different reasons, okay? Johnny Depp reasons.

Anyway, I fell in love with V and used to fantasize that he’d end up being a badass woman in disguise—one who looked uncannily like me, obviously. I was only slightly disappointed when it didn’t happen, much like when I heard James Purefoy was set to play V in the film adaptation. Purefoy’s a good actor, but the casting didn’t get my blood pumping. Then he dropped out and Hugo Weaving, the great love of my fantasy life and current king of The List, stepped in to take his place.

I was actually worried I’d died and gone to heaven.

Other Titles I’ve Enjoyed, and Glaring Omissions from my Oeuvre

Saga

The Dark Knight Returns: Obviously fantastic, but I haven’t read any other Batman titles. Not even The Killing Joke!

The Death of Superman: This was my first experience with word-of-mouth advertising, as every single one of my friends was reading this. There was no escape, and I’m glad of it. It was cool to be part of the zeitgeist.

Preacher: I <3 Proinsias Cassidy.

Saga: This is a new title, and I’ve only read the first issue (which I picked up from the Image booth at—wait for it—ALA), but I’m digging it so far. Anyone else reading it?

Gail Simone: Nothing. I’ve read nothing from Gail Simone. This is especially tragic because she follows me on twitter (#humblebrag). Please rectify immediately, Unreality peeps.


  • David R

    Anything and everything by Grant Morrison, but especially his run on Animal Man. Some of the best writing I’ve ever seen in the medium. His All-Star Superman is a personal favorite, too. Morrison has his own shelf in my house, so I could go on but I’ll stop there for now.

    There’s also a fun little thing that Image produces called Chew, about a guy who is cursed with the ability to see the history of anything he eats (except beets). He discovers this ability has help in murder cases, so long as he’s willing to take a bite of the victims…

    Oh, speaking of Morrison, his history/memoir/analysis piece called Supergods is worth point out, too. It contains, among other things, the best review of Watchmen I’ve ever read.

  • Lucas

    Sara – great little read!
    If I had to recommend any comics/graphic novels to dive into … let me suggest these:

    Superior Spiderman – This is a new series started after the death of Peter Parker and to be honest, I was skeptical going in. If you don’t know – Doc Oc took over Peter’s body at the end of the Amazing Spiderman series and became the new Spiderman/Peter and what has transpired since then has been quite the interesting turn of events. I think a lot of critics like it, but there are those damning it because of the lack of Peter being in it etc … but I’d say give it a chance through the first 10 issues!

    the All New X-Men – This is just awesome! To see how far we’ve come with the X-Men and where they are now … not only that but to have the “original” X-Men show up and see what has happened has been a treat. You need to do yourself a favor and check it out.

    Saga – you made mention of it, and I would suggest keep going with it! It’s a pretty awesome series for one major reason – originality!

    Runaways – I didn’t know if I wanted to jump into yet another comic with so many others I’ve been reading but I went ahead and bought the first 2 sets of Runaways and have been pleasantly surprised. If you’d like to see what happens when kids of more or less villains in comics do with their lives – it’s actually quite entertaining.

  • Cube

    Fables is a great read especially if you liked Sandman.

    The first graphic novel is good but because it is introducing the concept and characters comes off a little clunky. Get through it because there is stuff set up that pays off later. .

    You will believe that Little Boy Blue can be a complete badass.

  • Lantaar

    I a big Marvel guy, but there are only a few titles I can fully recommend. Not because they’re all so bad, but to fully understand the current state of the Marvel universe, you would either have to read every major story since about 2004, or spending days on wiki pages reading summaries. I don’t care what marvel says with the numerous ‘new reader friendly jumping points’, to fully understand, you’d have to go deeper. But other than that there are still a couple of good titles. If you like sci-fi, then I can fully recommend Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning’s work in the marvel cosmic universe, namely Annihilation, Annihilation: Conquest, Nova, and Their Run of the Guardians of the Galaxy. I can also recommend Greg Pak’s run on the Incredible Hulk and it’s follow up with Hercules. Pretty much anything that Jonathan Hickman wrote which are a great run on Fantastic Four and FF, Secret Warriors and his current run on Avengers and New Avengers. I loved Fabian Nicieza’s Cable & Deadpool (I think I can safely say the best Deadpool book ever). Rick Remender’s Uncanny X-force, Ed Brubaker’s run on Captain America, which is currently the basis for the new Cap movie. Joss Whedon’s run on Astonishing X-Men. From the current ones, I can recommend Hawkeye, Thor: God of Thunder, Wolverine & the X-Men and Young Avengers.
    Lucas also recommended some great ones, but I have to admit, I’m one of the people, who don’t like Superior Spider-Man. I’m pretty sure I could go a whole article about it, but that’s for another time. Long story short: I like the basic idea, but Octavius acts as one would imagine: a giant, arrogant bag of dicks on a rampage in Parker’s life.

  • Great list, Sara! I consider “Sandman” to be the greatest thing I have ever read, comic or no.

    My recommendation for something new would be “The Wake”. It’s only two issues in, but it’s already shaping up to be something special. I don’t want to spoil anything, but think “The Thing” meets “Alien”, with a heathly dosage of “The Abyss”

    Also, as your attorney, I advise you to keep reading SAGA. It is easily one of the best comics to come out in quite some time. Every issue has something fresh, exciting, and intruiging.

    And THEN, you can listen to an awesome podcast called “The Chronicle of SAGA”, where all things SAGA are discussed! Issue #13 finally comes out next month!! Click my name to check it out, people. Cheap plugs for the win!

  • HatguyMark

    For comicbook beginners, I usually recommend I Kill Giants (from Image), Spider-Man Love Mary Jane and Marvels (both from Marvel), and Superman for All Seasons (from DC). If you’d like a proper origin story before you jump onto a new title, you can pretty much checkout any DC book that has “Year One” on it, but I definitely recommend JLA: Year One, Batman: Year One, and Green Arrow: Year One.

    I’m not reading many ongoing books myself these days (I pretty much trade wait for everything), but I highly recommend Mark Waid’s current run on Daredevil, Wolverine and the X-Men, Wonder Woman, and Scott Snyder’s Batman.

    You might also enjoy Gotham Central (basically NYPD Blue in Batman’s town), Matt Fraction’s Iron Man, Fables, Transmetropolitan, and We3.

  • elnino

    (_For the X-men Fan_)
    Traditional X-men series:
    New X-men by Grant Morrison – Modernized X-men for a new generation
    Astonishing X-men by Joss Whedon – Read Morrison’s run first, you’ll get a lot more out of this.
    Street Level X-men:
    Madrox miniseries, X-factor by Peter David
    School Level X-men:
    Wolverine and the X-men by Jason Aaron – more recent run
    Black Ops X-men:
    Uncanny X-Force by Rick Remender – more recent run

    For the Batman Fan:
    Killing Joke, Year One
    Batman by Snyder

    Other Superheroes:
    Street Level:
    Daredevil by Frank Miller (best: Born Again) and Brian Michael Bendis (starting with Underboss) immediately followed by Ed Brubaker (continuation of Bendis), followed by Mark Waid (most modern)
    Kung Fu:
    Iron Fist by Matt Fraction and Ed Brubaker

    Movie Icons:
    Captain America by Ed Brubaker
    Thor by J. Michael Stracyznski
    Iron Man by Matt Fraction
    Fantastic Four by Johnathon Hickman

    Marvels by Kurt Busiek

    So you like….
    Saga by Brian K. Vaughan:
    Y: The Last Man – Brian K. Vaughan magnum opus. My favorite series of all time.
    Ex Machina
    Runaways

    Alan Moore:
    Swamp Thing by Alan Moore

    Sandman:
    Lucifer by Mike Carey
    Fables by Bill Willingham
    The Unwritten by Mike Carey
    Sweet Tooth by Jeff Lemire

  • I did a review of the first issue of Simone’s latest, The Movement, on Unreality a while back and since you enjoyed V for Vendetta, I’d highly recommend getting on board that one.

    http://unrealitymag.com/index.php/2013/05/23/you-should-be-reading-the-movement/

    It’s only a few issues in, though so no TPB’s for it yet. Birds of Prey is an absolute Simone must. Joss Whedon’s run on Astonishing X-Men is something you shouldn’t even consider not reading if you’ve ever loved you some Marvel mutants. I’m going to second the Fables recommendation too. Great fantasy comic and the subject of an upcoming Telltale game. Also with you being interested in feminist issues, I suspect you’ll really enjoy Y: The Last Man. It’s about all of the men in the world (except one) suddenly dropping dead and leaving the ladies in charge and it’s kind of one of the the best things ever.

  • You all are the best! I knew you wouldn’t let me down. I’ve already delved into Fables and Lucifer, so well-done to everyone who thought I’d like them. You are correct.

    Between these comments and those on other social media, I’ve had several recs for Y: The Last Man, so that’s a definite.

    I earmarked The Movement because of your review, Nick, and I figure I should pick up Red Sonja #1 while I’m at it, since it’s just starting.

    Thumbs up to Joss Whedon, obvs. While we’re at it, thumbs up to the rest of these extremely thoughtful suggestions.

    It’s fantastic to be so spoiled for choice. Keep ’em coming!

  • mrpier

    Check out Girl Genius, it’s an online comic (but you can get TPB’s), with awesome art. Start here: http://www.girlgeniusonline.com/comic.php?date=20021104

  • E. Lee Zimmerman

    Oh, yes, comic cons are all too happy to approve your press credentials. They LOVE social media (truth be told); comic companies are a harder sell, but it’s possible. I know I’ve been approached by a few companies (and I’ve approached a few), so I know of what I speak.

    Sorry, Grant Morrison? Seriously? Why would you suggest that to anyone? I kid, I kid — you wanna fry someone’s brain, go on and recommend Grant Morrison.

    But, in all seriousness, I find it very difficult to recommend comics to folks to read. It isn’t b/c I don’t read enough — I think I do, but I read smatteringly here and there when the mood strikes — it’s just that I’ve been reading for so, so, so long that so, so, so much of what’s out there seems vastly derivative of what’s been done before. All that feels different to this old dog is ‘scope’; today, companies and writers go big, big, bigger when they’re trying to make the best use of page and ink, and I kinda/sorta miss splendid little character moments that push the book (or arc) story instead of shock and awe.

    For example, I love the whole BLACKEST NIGHT story on GREEN LANTERN, but I hated BRIGHTEST DAY (b/c I felt the overall idea was too derivative of BLACKEST NIGHT). Also, fans salivate over THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, but I really only enjoyed about half of it (the beginning and the end — the stuff in the middle was lukewarm); Miller’s BATMAN: YEAR ONE was a vastly better read. And (I get flamed whenever I say this, so get ready, kids) Sam Hamm’s BLIND JUSTICE story in the Batman comics is — here it comes — the best Batman film you’ve never seen b/c no studio would ever make it. KNIGHTFALL — another much revered Bat-story — has moments of brilliance, but, overall, it’s KRAVEN’S LAST HUNT (in Spider-man) told with bigger scope.

    That’s why if I recommend something here on Unreality’s pages it’ll pretty much be something current that I feel has a pretty good vibe. Otherwise, what I like? Most folks don’t. Such is life.

  • Banko

    Don’t know if these have been mentioned yet but

    1) watchmen
    2) bone
    3) fell
    4) Scott pilgrim

  • lazybasterd

    I second The Runaways, group of teenagers find out their parents are supervillians and rebel. Hilarity Ensues.

    American Vampire
    Locke & Key
    Hack/Slash

  • Javier

    Do yourself a favor and read Locke & Key from Joe Hill (Stephen King’s son) and Gabriel Rodriguez. It’s got everything: horror, comedy, drama, suspense, fantasy. It’s one of the best comics I’ve read in many years and one I always recomend, especially to non readers. I feel I couldn’t describe it properly with words, you just have to read it. It’s amazing.

  • bigpartymaker

    I credit comics for being pivotal to my development as a kid. I read a bunch of different titles but Uncanny X-Men was my favorite. I haven’t read comics in several years but I saw that a new X-Men title was launching from Brian Wood with an all female team.
    I just had a baby girl last year so I thought, this is perfect: I’ll collect this comic until she is old enough to read it, and hopefully it will be as influential as the old X-Men books were for me (bonus: all women heroes for my baby girl!).
    I found it weird that the book isn’t accessible to someone who has never read X-Men before. There is no introduction to the characters; the reader is supposed to know who everyone is and what their abilities are. Shouldn’t some type of quick introduction be in order for a number 1 issue? Are veteran readers that put off by having to read something they already know? Or is today’s comics reader expected to look everything up online?
    I was just curious about that; don’t mean to hijack.

    As for suggestions: Beasts Of Burden, drawn by Jill Thompson (who worked on Sandman). A group of dogs investigating paranormal activity in their town!

  • HatguyMark

    If you’re looking for something from Gail Simone, she’s currently writing Batgirl (which is good, but not great), wrote Wonder Woman for awhile before DC’s most recent reboot (the current Wonder Woman, from the author Y: The Last Man, is quite good), and had an incredibly long and fairly beloved run on Birds of Prey.

    She also co-wrote the direct to dvd Wonder Woman movie that came out a few years ago. The animated films have been hit or miss but that was definitely one of the better ones.

  • MetFanMac

    DC:
    Blue Beetle, volume 7, ’06-’09 (first 4 TPBs a must-have!)

    Marvel:
    Power Pack, several miniseries, ’05-’10

    Other:
    Atomic Robo (Red 5 Comics), ’07-present

  • Aether McLoud

    Y: The Last Man – was one of the best comics I’ve ever read. No superheroes, pretty grounded in reality, great story, awesome character development.

    Berserk (manga): IMHO the Lord of the Rings in Mangas, just as epic (if not even more so), one of the best in realistic character development, fantastic art though very brutal and definitely not for the feint of heart.

    Old Man Logan was a short but really awesome depiction of Wolverine in a future where evil actually won and killed all of the superheroes and he’s pretty much a Cowboy in an endzeit america.

  • Aether McLoud

    Also, if you want a more fun, lighthearted read, Deadpool vs Cable was really awesome, as is pretty much anything involving Deadpool.

  • Doncal

    Wait no one has mentioned the best comic of the year so far? Hawkeye written by Matt Fraction and David Aja the artist, seriously the most original superhero comic i have ever read, and the funniest to. Go read it now! This is what Hawkeye does when he is not being an Avenger, and it’s fantastic

  • Nathan Lambert

    Those are some really good ones, i would recommend The Killing Joke if you still have not read it. I also would pick up Maus, which is a story about the Holocaust, but with the main characters as animals such as cats and mice.