Six Comics You May Not Be Reading, But Should

I realized that I haven’t really written about current comics that I actually read, and since we all love lists, I thought I’d mention a couple I’m currently enjoying. The only rule that I provided myself is that I wouldn’t choose any Marvel or DC comic (though I read a fair amount of both). Those two tend to get more than enough love. I also won’t bother with mentioning The Walking Dead as you’d need to be living under a rock to both not know it exists and not have checked it out as of yet.

Otherwise, everything else is fair game.

 

Saga (Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples) – Image Comics

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This is probably a cheat to the above “rules” as I’m thinking quite a few people who read comics know about this book. It was Y the Last Man that hooked me onto Vaughn’s writing, but it was Runaways that made me a fan of his for life. As soon as I heard word he was doing a comic for Image, I added it to my pull list without even worrying about what it was about or whether I would like it or not. Not that I needed to worry, since the Romeo and Juliet story set against a space conflict where the entire thing is narrated by their child at some point in the distant future had me at… well, it had me as soon as I read that first issue.

The kicker is how much Staples art is both beautiful and bizarre all at the same time. Each new alien that we meet, whether it is the Prince’s with TV’s for heads or the spider-like Stalk or Lying Cat, the characters are so vivid, even the most crazy of the crazy works.

They just completed their 18th issue, but the first two trades are out and well worth picking up.

 

Manhattan Projects (Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra) – Image Comics

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It’s Einstein holding a frickin’ chainsaw!
What more could you want?

What if you wrote a comic about the fabled Manhattan Projects, but then twisted it so that everything and everyone made such little sense that somehow it just worked? Hickman takes a story about scientists pushing the envelope and turns it all the way up to 11. Oppenheimer is an insane person. Einstein is a dick. And even Laika, the Soviet Space Dog. Pitarra’s artwork does a good job matching the frenetic pace of the book with his cartoony style, lots of little bits and pieces on each page and in each panel.

It’s a crazy comic where there is literally no way that a reader could ever figure out where the next issue is going. And it is one of those comics I need to sit down with and do a full reread of the first 15 issues or so because I’m sure I’ve missed so much that has been included within the story, between the panels, and in the chapter breaks.

 

Archer and Armstrong (Fred Van Lente, Clayton Henry, & Matt Milla) – Valiant Comics

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Since Valiant relaunched a couple of years ago, my refrain when referring to their comics has been that I think Harbinger is the best book they put out… but Archer and Armstrong is my favorite. A book that takes the absurd idea of a kid who grew up in a cult and an immortal (who might just drink a little too much) he was programmed to kill… and then turn that into a buddy comedy is something that shouldn’t really work. And yet, somehow, Van Lente gets it to work.

It’s the one Valiant comic (prior to the relaunch of Quantum and Woody at least) where I’ve laughed out loud on more than one occasion. And even when their enemies might not inspire the greatest “fear” from our heroes, the story doesn’t ever suffer. And I love the way that they have almost pop-up video style remarks within the panels which explain what a particular move or moment might have been. It is a technique that echoes back to the old days when an editor would put comments into the panel (“For more information on why Archer just crane kicked the bad guy see…”).

All of the Valiant books have been well worth the ride over these first 2 years, but this is the stand-out star.

 

Knights of the Dinner Table (Jolly Blackburn) – Kenzer & Company

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I used to roleplay. For many years I was very happy in spending an evening or a Saturday rolling the dice and weaving my character’s story through whatever world the Game Master supplied. But like many things, I just don’t have the time for it any more. And that makes me a little sad because no matter how cool video games are, there is something about spending time in another world with some good friends and drinking waaay too much soda.

Knights of the Dinner Table is my conduit back to those times. It is a black and white comic with the back half of the comic devoted to various roleplaying articles and whatnot, but the thing that brings me back month after month are the strips in the front of each issue. Most stories deal with things that might have occured during my own roleplaying sessions. Those funny, crazy moments, where you just about spit Coke out of your nose because of someone doing the “dumbest thing ever” (TM). That is the bread and butter of this comic.

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It just passed issue 200 last year, but it is the type of comic that you could pick up and pretty much be in on the joke for the word go. And there are many, many trades to be had (though if they ever start doing Omnibuses that will be bought the day it comes out).

 

Alex + Ada (Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn) – Image Comics

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During South By Southwest Comixology ran a promo where you could download the first issue for free. I’ve been a fan of the Luna Brothers since I read Ultra and Girls (I haven’t read The Sword yet, but it is on my bookshelf waiting), so I figured I’d give it a shot.

And then I bought the 2nd issue. And the 3rd. And the 4th. And if there had been a 5th I would have bought it as well. That’s called transforming “free” to “paying” customers.

Alex + Ada is about a man and his robot, just that in this case the robot looks like a fairly good-looking girl. And is willing to do whatever Alex would like. The only problem is that robots can’t have true AI due to an event prior to the beginning of the series. So Alex is in a weird place where he’s not sure what he’s supposed to be with this robot girl.

And then a potential solution presents itself.

That’s all I’ll say about it so that I don’t give anything big away, but I read these over the weekend and am now waiting for the next issue to arrive (I think in a couple of weeks it’ll be live).

 

The Last Days of American Crime (Rick Remender & Greg Tocchini) – Radical

The Last Days of American Crime Movie

There is only 1 week before the US government uses a signal which will make it so no one will want to commit a crime… and word has leaked out to a few. So now, with the clock literally counting down, they have to pull off the last heist anyone might ever pull off.

A mix of noir, cyberpunk, and good old fashioned heist story all rolled into one, Last Days is one of those stories where you end up pulling for the criminals, the “villains”. Will they get that big score and retire to the beach somewhere? Again, I don’t want to give too much away, but it is one of those I probably need to go back and read again.

This one has been out for a couple of years, but the good thing is that it is done and collected as a trade. I remember seeing a brief synopsis on this and earmarking it to buy if I ever saw it at a con. Lucky for me I did, and now it is sitting on my bookshelf.

 

Not an exhaustive list by any means, but definitely worth checking out if you have run out of things to read.

John McGuire

John McGuire is the author of the supernatural thriller The Dark That Follows and the steampunk comic The Gilded Age.

About John McGuire

Writer of comics and novels. In 2006 his first short story "The God That Failed" was published by Terminus Media in their debut comic Evolution Book 1. Since that time he has had stories published in Terminus Media's Evolution Book 2 and Evolution Special, Kenzer and Company's The Knights of the Dinner Table, and Four J Publishing's The Burner #3. Currently he is eagerly awaiting the digital publishing of his first creator-owned comic The Gilded Age #1 to be published online as well as his first novel The Dark That Follows later this year.
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