Marquette, MI – September 25, 2014 – It’s National Comic Book Day! As SunnyFM’s resident Comic Book Nerd (it’s a real title that I just made up), it’s my sworn duty to introduce the world to the some really great books.
Comics can be difficult to get into. Trying to catch up on a book in the middle of a run can be like sitting down to watch a soap opera for the first time. You don’t know who the characters are, or what the story’s been so far, and you can get lost and confused in the shuffle. Don’t worry, I’ve got some gateway books to get you started:
Welcome to the world of X-Factor, written by Peter David. X-Factor has been a title in the Marvel line since the 1980s, but the one we’re going to talk about is Volume 3. Like detective stories? Then this is a book for you. X-Factor Investigations is a mutant detective agency run Jamie Madrox (Multiple Man), Guido Carosella (Strong Guy), Layla Miller (she knows stuff), Theresa Cassidy (Siryn), Rahne Sinclair (Wolfsbane), Monet St. Croix (M), and former-mutant Rictor (don’t call him Julio). The cast expands later to include Darwin, Longshot, Shatterstar, and a smart-mouthed troll named Pip.
The stories cover everything from interpersonal drama to the type of world-ending crises that Marvel’s unfortunate mutants tend to attract. The book has some weak points and story-lines, but over all it’s a great introduction to the X-Men universe.
The entire run is now over, so it’s easy to catch up on in convenient graphic novel form. You can start here: X-Factor Volume 1: The Longest Night.
Look, I’ll be honest, Chew is not for the faint of heart. It’s also NOT (I repeat: NOT) a book to give to small children. Or children in general.
Chew explores a world where cooking and eating chicken has been outlawed (yes, really) and the consumption of chicken and other bird meats is regulated by the all-powerful FDA (yep). Oh, and people have extraordinary food-related powers. Did you know there are people who can craft deadly weapons out of chocolate? Or how about the main character: detective Tony Chu? He’s a cibopath who gets psychic readings off of the things he eats.
Let’s not forget Poyo: the psychotic rooster, champion secret agent all around bad bird.
It’s as ridiculous as it sounds, but it also has a compelling plot and master characterization. You feel for the characters, what they go through, and get to know them.
Chew is written by John Layman with art by Rob Guillory. The series is still on going, but you can get started with Chew, Volume 1: Taster’s Choice.
This one is really a gimme. The Sandman Comics by Neil Gaiman were my introduction to comics in general and are some of the most popular comics in the industry. The main series follows the adventures of Dream and his dysfunctional family known as the Endless. It’s weird and wonderful, but it’s also disturbing, and dark – like dreams tend to be.
Stories play a huge part in the book and the Endless are characters the reader can connect with. They’re surrounded by a cast of fleshed out mortals (and other gods) as colorful and inspired as Dave McKean’s covers.
The Sandman comics inspired a generation of lonely goths in the 1990s and Neil Gaiman has recently brought back the King of Dreams for Sandman Overtures. It’s difficult to say where to start – the short Overtures run isn’t finished yet – but a good landing point would be The Sandman Vol. 1: Preludes & Nocturnes.
The Walking Dead
Another gimme. Everybody knows The Walking Dead is on TV these days. The TV show hasn’t caught up to the comic books yet (oh, you poor souls), so if you just gotta know what happens to Rick, pick up the book.
And then cry because the producers of the show have changed the plot. They’ll do that, so be careful.
The Walking Dead is the Game of Thrones of the comic book world. Nobody – NOBODY – is safe. Keep a box of tissues near by. Keep away from small children and adults with queasy stomachs.
Never heard of this book before? On the surface it looks like a zombie book. It’s pretty much what it says on the tin, but with added character development and twisting, turning plot lines. Oh, and some of the best worst villains I’ve ever read about.
The Walking Dead is written by Robert Kirkman, with artist Tony Moore. It’s an on-going series, so get started way back at the beginning: The Walking Dead, Vol. 1: Days Gone Bye.
Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan)
I really don’t have a whole lot to say about this one. It’s just barely gotten started and…
READ THIS BOOK.
…Right. I guess I should explain why. The new Ms. Marvel is Kamala Khan, a New Jersey teenager dealing with her brand new superpowers. This book deals with issues every teenage girl struggles with (except superpowers, that’s sort of …not an issue for most girls, alas): self-esteem, fitting in, dealing awkwardly with boys, and over bearing parents who only want the best for their children.
It tackles religion (Kamala’s family is Muslim), touches on race, and deals with these social issues in a matter-of-fact way – addressing them unflinching honesty without making them central to the story. They are an important part of Kamala, but they don’t singularly define her.
Kamala is a strong female lead. She’s easy to relate to no matter who the reader is.
Have you got a daughter that needs something new to read? Hand her this book. She’ll thank you later.
Ms. Marvel was created by editor Sana Amanat, writer G. Willow Wilson, and artist Adrian Alphona. It’s an on-going series (and may it continue). You can start reading about Kamala’s adventures here: Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal.
So that’s it for now. There’s a lot of winter reading up there, so grab a blanket, hunker down by the fire, and get started!
Anything I missed? Let me know in the comments.