Comics


The Best Deal on The Best Comics (or: Need a Break from DC and Marvel?)

This column will be updated regularly to help you find the best comics to read on Comixology Unlimited, an incredible subscription service available for $5.99 a month (with the first month free). If you want to start reading comics, this is a great way to begin, particularly if you are an adult who wants to locate all those comics that are hard to find because we are inundated with Superhero stories. (The First Clarification: Yes, I like DC, Marvel, and Superhero Stories, too)

Comics are expensive, and you can read hundreds and hundreds of dollars worth of comics very quickly, so $5.99 a month is an amazing deal. That’s less than a single collection of monthly comics, which sell for $10 to $40 each. (The Second Clarification: No, I have no connection with Comixology other than giving them all of my money.)

The best creative independent comics are not being put out by DC and Marvel. They are being put out by compan... Read More

The Mighty Zodiac Volume 1: Starfall by J. Torres

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The Mighty Zodiac Volume 1: Starfall written by J. Torres,  Corin Howell (illustrations), Maarta Laiho (color), Warren Wucinich (letters)

The Mighty Zodiac has a wonderfully cosmic and original premise — the death of a constellation leads to the fall of six stars from the skies and the freeing of the Rabbit Army from the moon. Or as it is put early on:
When the Blue Dragon died, he left the eastern skies vulnerable. Without another dragon to immediately take its place and ascend into the position of the Guardian of the East, six stars fell out of heaven . . . Darkness fell across the region like no one had seen before. The darkness drew out dark creatures with dark designs!
Soon it’s a race between the heroes (the anthropomorphized ani... Read More

Another Castle: Grimoire by Andrew Wheeler

 

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Another Castle: Grimoire Written by Andrew Wheeler, Illustrated by Paulina Ganucheau, Lettered by Jenny Vy Tran

Another Castle: Grimoire is a solid enough graphic story, better suited for younger readers than older ones due to its relatively simple story and characterization, though even aimed at that audience I would have liked to have seen a bit more depth and writing craft.

The story follows the adventures of Princess Misty, daughter to the king of Beldora and, like many a princess in the old stories, a reluctant prospective bride. Her impending marriage to Prince Pete is meant to unite two kingdoms and hopefully allow them to st... Read More

The Fuse: The Russia Shift (Giveaway!)

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The Fuse (Vol. 1): The Russia Shift by Antony Johnston & Justin Greenwood

(No spoilers, but this review is also a Giveaway. I met Justin Greenwood, who draws The Fuse and got a signed copy of this collection, which one random commenter with a USA mailing address will get.)

The Fuse: The Russia Shift is Volume One in the collection of this comics science fiction police procedural series, set on a space station orbiting earth. The Russia Shift introduces us to our two cops; Ralph Dietrich, just arrived from Earth, and his more experien... Read More

Smash written by Sara Latta and illustrated by Jeff Weigel

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Smash written by Sara Latta and illustrated by Jeff Weigel

Smash, written by Sara Latta and illustrated by Jeff Weigel, is a clear and concise explanation for young people of the standard model of physics (including the newly discovered Higgs Boson) and in particular of how the giant CERN supercollider contributes to furthering the model’s accuracy/completeness. Saying the book is aimed at the young, however, does it a bit of a disservice, as it works just as well for adults looking for that same clarity and concision.


In tried and true format, Latta has much of the explanation take the form of a dialogue between one knowledgeable person (Sophie, whose parents work at CERN) explaining a difficult concept to one struggling to understand it (her cousin Nick, visiting CERN in hope of finding inspiration for a superhero comic he’s drawing for a contest).... Read More

Wolverine: Old Man Logan by Mark Millar & Steve McNiven

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Wolverine: Old Man Logan by Mark Millar (writer) & Steve McNiven (illustrator)

Logan, a grizzled west coast farmer whose only joy is his wife and two children, knows that the rent is due. He doesn’t have the dough, and when the cannibalistic Hulk Gang arrives, he will suffer a beating – if he’s lucky.

What if… all of the villains teamed up to defeat the heroes and then took over the country? Written in 2009, Mark Millar’s Old Man Logan was not released as a “What If…?” adventure, but it might as well have been. The heroes were wiped out long ago, and Logan, who has sworn to never do violence again, takes his beating to protect his family.

Hawkeye, now equal parts blind samurai and archer, hopes there might still be a bit of Wolverine left in the old farmer. He offers to pay Logan to drive with him in the Spider-... Read More

Love, Volume 4 The Dinosaur by Frederic Brremaud & Frederico Bertolucci

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Love, Volume 4 The Dinosaur written by Frederic Brremaud and illustrated by Frederico Bertolucci

Love, Volume 4 The Dinosaur (2017) is the newest in a series of wordless graphic novels written by Frederic Brremaud and illustrated by Frederico Bertolucci, each of them following an animal type (a tiger, a lion) through their days. Dinosaurs, thanks to their massive popularity would seem an obvious choice in the series, and they get prime treatment in a gritty, vividly illustrated adventure tale.

Interestingly enough, the story starts small, focusing on an insect and a small shrew-like mammal. They’re quickly disturbed though by the massive foot of a sauropod crashing down as it wanders by while munching the foliage. Just a few panels later, a smaller dinosaur (a bambiraptor I believe, though I’m not sure) enters the picture, an... Read More

The Infinite Wait and Other Stories by Julia Wertz

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The Infinite Wait and Other Stories by Julia Wertz

The Infinite Wait and Other Stories by Julia Wertz is one of my favorite “slice of life” comics, and it is one I’ve taught several times in my course on comics. A memoir in three parts, The Infinite Wait and Other Stories is memorable for the reader because of Wertz’s strong voice as presented in two ways: through the drawn character we see — the “Julia” we watch living through the events recounted — and through the voice of the narrator, a future Wertz we “hear” but do not see, as she looks back and comments on the Julia in each panel as she lives ... Read More

The Sandman Mystery Theatre Book One by Matt Wagner

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The Sandman Mystery Theatre Book One by Matt Wagner

The Sandman Mystery Theatre is a near-perfect noir comic book series written in the 1990s by Matt Wagner, though the stories are set in the late 1930s. In some ways, Wagner is making a return to the older, original Sandman character created in 1939 (who also went by the name of Wesley Dodds), but the Sandman has had various incarnations since then, including Kirby’s in the 1970s. And of course, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman is the most famous of them all, but he simply took the name and completely reinvented the character as an immortal entity, also known as Morpheus and Dream. Wagner takes us back to the... Read More

The Time Museum by Matthew Loux

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The Time Museum, by Matthew Loux, is a graphic story with a nice premise, but neither the text nor the graphics fully exploited that premise, leaving me more than a little cold toward the final result.

The premise is relatively simple. Sometime in the far future, the Earth Time Museum was founded as “the most complete collection of the planet Earth’s geology, biology, art, culture, and history all under one big roof . . . To chronicle and preserve all the important things about this great planet.” That’s in the words of the museum’s founder and creator Lyndon Beckenbauer, “Uncle Lyndon” to the story’s main characte... Read More

Batman: The Man Who Laughs by Ed Brubaker

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Batman: The Man Who Laughs (2005) #1 by Ed Brubaker

Ed Brubaker is one of the best writers in comics overall, and he is unquestionably the best writer of noir comics. Batman: The Man Who Laughs is a re-imagining of what Batman’s first encounter with the Joker might have been like. In the story, the Joker makes his presence known and tells Gotham that he will kill one-by-one prominent Gothamites. He even names the specific day and time of each death. After the first wealthy target — surrounded by police and watched covertly by Batman — dies precisely on time, the story builds in intensity, particularly once Joker announces a few more targets, and the last one is Bruce Wayne. This one-shot story is a good represe... Read More

Huck by Mark Millar

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Huck by Mark Millar

Huck is the feel-good action movie you’ve been waiting for, except it is a comic. Of course, as with many Millar comics, there are already rumors that Huck is heading for Hollywood, so you could wait to see it in the theaters. But, why wait?

Huck is an endearing character who is based on the Clark Kent model of the good-hearted, simple-minded, small town farm boy with superpowers. However, unlike Clark, Huck isn’t putting on a simple man act. That’s who he is. He works in a gas station, and he tries to do at least one good act of kindness a day. Not all of them even require being a superhero: He might pay for ... Read More

Artemis by George O’Connor

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Artemis by George O’Connor

Artemis is another in the ongoing series of graphic stories about the Greek gods written and illustrated by George O'Connor. The short version of this review is pretty simple: these works are individually nearly all excellent, and the series as a whole, while absolutely great for young readers (and for teachers of young students), is just as fantastic a read/resource for anyone interested in Greek mythology, regardless of age. One reason is that O'Connor doesn't simply retell the well-known stories, those we can all recite by heart. Rather he delves into much ... Read More

Indispensable Issues: Digital Comics on a Budget

Indispensable Issues: Digital Comics on a Budget

In this regularly updated column, I will be giving very brief plugs for digital comics that can be purchased on Comixology for $1 to $10 (along with a few free ones, too!). Over time, I want to build up a good list of affordable comics for those new to the art form or for those comic book fans who want to find hidden gems on Comixology.

I hope to feature plenty of independent comics, both new and old, though I will not avoid DC and Marvel. I merely won’t give them preference. Also, though I might include superhero comics, this list will reflect a wide variety of genres from the autobiographical to the western to SFF.

Here are my guidelines for inclusion in this column:

Great One-shots (“one-offs”)
Great First Issues
Free Comics
Great stand-alone single issues or great stand-alone short story arcs in the middle of a series
... Read More

Look Straight Ahead by Elaine M. Will

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Look Straight Ahead by Elaine M. Will

Over the years, I’ve found that more and more I seek out unique black-and-white comics that, most often, are written and drawn by female creators. And I have a particular interest in any books dealing with mental illness. For example, one of my favorite graphic novels is Ellen Forney’s Marbles, a memoir focusing on her learning to live with bipolar. I was pleased to find recently another book that addresses the topic of bipolar — Elaine M. Will’s Look Straight Ahead Read More

Hidden Universe Travel Guides: The Complete Marvel Cosmos by Marc Sumerak

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Hidden Universe Travel Guides: The Complete Marvel Cosmos by Marc Sumerak

Imagine a mash-up of Lonely Planet and Fodors written by a group of snarky been-there-done-that travelers and you’ve pretty much got Hidden Universe Travel Guides: The Complete Marvel Cosmos. As the title says, it’s a travel guide to the many settings of the Marvel Universe (sometimes the settings are a universe), with a jaunty-voiced narrator whose more formal guidebook descriptions are constantly interrupted by the less-formal commentary of the Guardians of the Galaxy. It all makes for a fast-paced, mildly informative, and often funny trip through the many, many... Read More

Angel Catbird by Margaret Atwood

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Angel Catbird by Margaret Atwood, Johnnie Christmas & Tamra Bonvillain

For a literary giant who is approached with a seriousness that borders on reverence, Margaret Atwood is perfectly willing to have fun and write whatever she wants. Sometimes that is clearly genre-tinged; sometimes it is darkly humorous, and sometimes it’s a graphic novel for children about a superhero who is part human, part cat and part owl. And that’s the premise of Angel Catbird, Volume 1.

Atwood’s story and words are illustrated by Johnnie Christmas and colored by Tamra Bonvillain. (I do wonder whether at least one of those surnames is a pseudonym.) Christmas’s images have a simple, comic-strip look to them. With a few exceptions, they reminded me of Kid Beowulf by Alexis Farjado. They’re at least in that style. Bonvillain nicely mixes color palettes... Read More

The House of Secrets by Steven T. Seagle and by Teddy Kristiansen

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The House of Secrets written by Steven T. Seagle and illustrated by Teddy Kristiansen

The House of Secrets is a twenty-five issue series that started in 1996 and is written by Steven T. Seagle and illustrated by Teddy Kristiansen. It features a lying, unreliable runaway named Rain Harper; a young girl she takes under her wing named Traci; and a group of musicians, one of whom, Ben Volk, becomes the third central character in the series. Right after Rain and Traci meet, Traci tells Rain a valuable secret: She knows a place to squat where they will be safe. Rain, therefore, joins Traci and moves into the House of Secrets. And then all the fun starts.

This series brings with it a long history: House of Secrets, an old horror series that started in 1956, was mainly a platform for one-off stories in the tradition of all the old classic horr... Read More

Light by Rob Cham

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Light by Rob Cham

I had mixed feelings about Light, a wordless comic by Rob Cham. The artwork is simply beautiful throughout and so part of me wants to highly recommend it for the visual presentation. But issues with the story has part of me pumping the brakes more than a little on that presentation.

The story opens with a black and white image of a diminutive character (whom I’m going to refer to as “Lt” from now on) sitting in a room preparing apparently for an adventure. The clues? A sword, backpack, and map (marked with an X no less) lying on the floor. Lt sets out, enters a cave opening, falls even deeper when the ground gives way, and enters ... Read More

Scarlet (Volumes 1 & 2) by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev

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Scarlet (Volumes 1 & 2) by Brian Michael Bendis & Alex Maleev

Angry about innocent people being shot by police? Scarlet is the comic book series you will want to read, even if you think you don’t want to read a book on this subject because you are angry enough already (I know I am).

Before I continue with this review, let me be clear: This book is not a cop-hating book, even though there are cops depicted whom you will hate. The book does not suggest that all cops are this way; in fact, of the two main cops that initiate Scarlet’s story when she was younger, one is corrupt and the other is every way his opposite. I like that the author, Brian Michael Bendis, deals with these issues in a more complex way than you might think possible in twelve issues of a comic book series.

I’m very excited to be writing this review, because I’ve be... Read More

Twilight Zone: Shadow and Substance by Mark Rahner, Tom Peyer, and John Layman

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Twilight Zone: Shadow and Substance by Mark Rahner, Tom Peyer, and John Layman Illustrated by Edu Menna, Randy Valiente, Rod Rodolfo, Jose Malaga, and Colton Worley.

Twilight Zone: Shadow and Substance is a large (250 pages) collection of, well, new Twilight Zone stories in graphic form. Or maybe “newish” might be better, as several have deliberate (I’m assuming) echoes of classic Twilight Zone tale, and most have, at least in my mind, a bit of a retro feel to them. I’m not sure this element however is as intentional, leaving many of the stories feeling more than a little predictable and stale. I suppose, for those who don’t read often in the genre o... Read More

Batman: Hush by Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee

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Reposting to include Tim's new review.

Batman: Hush by Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee

Batman: Hush (2002-2003) is a story arc that appeared originally as Batman #608-619. I first saw it as a bound collection at Barnes & Noble when my daughter was shopping for Christmas presents. I knew nothing about internal chronology, but I picked it up and was just stunned by the glossy, dynamic, sensual and powerful artwork of Jim Lee. This guy is really something else, I can understand why he is so popular.

Before reading Batman: Hush I did m... Read More

Shazam! by Geoff Johns

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Shazam! by Geoff Johns (writer) and Gary Frank (artist)

Shazam! was told in short installments in the back pages of The Justice League, in issues 7-11, 0, 14-16, and 18-21. As his story progressed, he was eventually added to the primary Justice League story. In other words, by issue #21, Billy Batson, as Shazam, was a member of the Justice League and the short installments were no longer needed. However, DC has collected all these installments into this single trade collection, a wonderful stand-alone volume. Shazam! by Geoff Johns is THE Shazam book I’ve always wanted to read: It gives a great introduction ... Read More

Death, the Deluxe Edition: A treasure for SANDMAN fans

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Reposting to include Stuart's new review

Death: The Deluxe Edition by Neil Gaiman

Death: The Deluxe Edition, was published by Vertigo in 2012. It’s a handsome book, slightly outsized (7 ¼ by 11 inches), perfect bound with a hard cover, dust jacket and matte black endpapers. The cover has a collage look, filled with shades of black and shell-pink, with Death in profile. The spiral tattoo below her right eye is prominent, and her hair sweeps in a curve like a wing.

All the stories in Death: The Deluxe Edition were written by Neil Gaiman. This collection includes the following stories, most of which are reprints:

"The Sound of her Wings" -- artwork by Mike Dringerberg and Malcolm Jones III
"Façade" -- artwork by Colleen Doran, Malco... Read More

The Sandman: Overture by Neil Gaiman & J.H. Williams III

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Editor's note: Won the 2016 Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story

Reposting to include Stuart's new review:

The Sandman: Overture by Neil Gaiman & J.H. Williams III

Most monthly comics come out, well, monthly, but DC decided to drag out The Sandman: Overture and release it every other month, and that seemed reasonable given how long it takes for J. H. Williams III to create his exquisite artwork. However, the comic ended up taking a full year longer than announced — from October 2013 to October 2015. After the first three issues, I quit rea... Read More