Epics in Ink
As I’ve aged and my free time feels shorter and shorter, I’ve found I read comic books way more often than I did when I was younger, and spent all summer holed up with a stack from the library.
Comic books are no longer written primarily for children - gosh no. In fact there is a thriving subgenre of horror/adult graphic novels and series that are most definitely not P, G, or anywhere near 13.
I’ve seen many lists of what constitute “the” comics that all nerds should read, and honestly I hate most of the list. Not much difference between the lists I was told to read in English class, really; I suppose the mainstream has different tastes than I do.
If I had to draft my own picks, this would be the list - and for the record, your local library may carry these too, or at least you can find several titles using a Hoopla or a Libby app (also courtesy of your local library):
Rating: R for Really Fucked up at Times (graphic/disturbing nudity, profanity, etc.)
Why: It’s essentially Romeo and Juliet meets Star Wars - Day Care Edition, only lightyears away in a war between planets and told from the perspective of the poor child spawned by two horribly flawed people who somehow chose love over hate. Its alienscape provides the most human characters I’ve ever read. Plus there are ghost babysitters, magic mother-in-law’s, baby seals, and robots whose heads are literally televisions.
2) Batman: White Knight
Rating: PG-13 (typical gritty/dark Batman)
Why: This Batman tale asks, “What if Joker took his meds and actually got sane?” If you loved The Animated Series, this storyline takes that universe and then upends it like a Joker-flipped table, pitting Gotham’s new “White Knight” against a revenge-fueled, dangerous vigilante and the dark money that props up a cycle of suffering.
3) Red Sonja Vol. 2: The Art of Blood & Fire
Rating: R (nudity, profanity, violence, all the good stuff)
Why: Red Sonja is the original chainmail bikini warrior; she’s suffered a lot of flack for being both sexist and yet also kick-ass. Then Gail Simone - the founder of the “Women in Refrigerators” comic blog - reforged her into hands down one of the best comic book characters of all time. After her run Dynamite’s largely male readership complained about women taking over their fantasy fodder and the series devolved back to mediocrity - seriously, they coulda just kept the chainmail bikini covers, I can read Playboy for the articles yo LOL. This volume is my favorite and can be read standalone from Vol. 1 if you run out of time (both are still good though).
4) The Old Guard
Rating: R (violence, equal full frontal nudity but poor graphic renderings)
Why: If you’ve seen the Netflix movie this graphic novel series (3 volumes, 2 out so far) follows it pretty closely, since author Greg Rucka was involved in both efforts. A team of immortal warriors who fight silently over the centuries for justice welcome a new recruit, while being hunted by someone who’s caught on to their secret. It’s a great story, with a beautiful cast of characters including Joe & Nicky, two lovers who met on opposite sides of the Crusades.
Rating: R (just...yeah, everything possible and then food-related ick)
Why: This hilarious series set in an alternate universe where chicken is outlawed, and the FDA is militarized to hunt down underground poultry traders follows Detective Tony Chu, a cibopath (someone who gains psychic impressions from food) trying to investigate a mysterious string of murders following some wacky, unexplained alien activity. The entire series introduces a carnival ride of food-powered characters/villains, as well as the immortal POYO - a superpowered bionic chicken. ’Nuff said.
6) Paper Girls
Rating: Pure 80's snuff (high grade shit - not that fake crap now that kills ya)
Why: If you felt miserably disappointed by Wonder Woman 80's - because let's face it, we wanted Amazon power and we got crappy fanny packs and bad 80's trends - then THIS is the comic you SHOULD root for. It has the GOOD SHIT from the 80's -- the no nonsense, take-no-prisoners kinda stuff mixed with crazy Lisa Frank coloring that's mind blowing and the beautiful blend of scifi, time travel, and social commentary you may not totally get if you're a real 80's kid, but if you're one of those 90's kids who "fake" worshipped the 80's to get those older kids to like you? Yeah. You'll love this.