The holiday season is in full swing! If you’re looking for a good last-minute gift for the nerd in your life, or are looking for a good way to spend cash you received, I have some recommendations. These are some of my favourite comics of 2013 that you can pick up without prior reading.
FF by Matt Fraction, Lee Allred, and Mike Allred
Hawkeye is a wonderful series by Matt Fraction, and it gets a lot of justified buzz, but I secretly get more excited about this series. FF started in 2012 and will be ending in January with issue 16, so it’s not a huge undertaking. I picked it up without knowing anything about most of the characters, but I fell in love with it immediately.
The Fantastic Four are going on a trip to another dimension and should only be gone for four minutes, but in case something happens, each member of the F4 chooses another superhero to take their place: Scott Lang as Ant-Man, Medusa of the Inhumans, She-Hulk, and a new character called Darla Deering.
Naturally, the Fantastic Four does not come back in four minutes, so the new group is left in charge of the Future Foundation, a group of kids gathered from around the Marvel Universe. The comic is all-ages friendly, and harkens back to golden-age style storytelling, both in dialogue and art. The major theme of the series is family, especially finding and making a family. It’s one of the most fun and heartfelt and series Marvel has put out in a long time, and it’s the perfect series for anyone who’s bored with mainstream comics’ current emphasis on grim world-altering events.
The Superior Foes of Spider-Man by Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber
Another great series from Marvel for those who want something fun and silly rather than dark and gritty. Vol 1 isn’t out until March, but you can pre-order it or just start picking up single issues (there are only six so far). Like FF you can pick up this series even if you’ve never heard of these characters, since they’re mostly D-list villains anyway.
Boomerang provides the voice of the series as the head of the new five-member Sinister Six. He plans capers that fail more often than they succeed, largely because he has a tendency to throw his teammates under the bus. The series has an incredible sense of humour, I find myself laughing aloud every page. But unlike a modern Deadpool comic, Spencer won’t sacrifice characterization for a laugh – the gags are all worked seamlessly into the plot. The characters are endearing despite their awfulness, partially due to Lieber’s art – they’re all adorable. If you’d like villains whose most successful caper to date was stealing a puppy from a little girl, this is the series for you.
The Wake by Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy
This is my pick for most under-appreciated comic of the year. It’s entirely stand-alone, and the first trade paperback just came out, so now is a great time to jump in. It’s difficult to describe, because it blends genres, and we’re still not entirely sure where it’s headed.
This first arc follows Dr Lee Archer, a cetologist who is called to a deep-sea marine base to inspect a creature the scientists have trapped there. It looks like a mermaid, but it’s no siren, but a monster with black eyes and the hinged jaw of an angler fish. Dr Archer and experts in other fields (including a poacher and a folklorist) try to figure out what this thing is, and eventually to simply survive when it attacks.
The story sometimes flashes forward a few hundred years to a world overrun with water. The series mixes science fiction, mythology, and horror elements, which Snyder weaves seamlessly together into a unique story. Murphy is one of my absolute favourite artists, and he’s in full-form here, his heavy inks creating a relentless sense of claustrophobia. It’s atmospheric and mysterious, with interesting characters and dangling questions that keep you on edge between every issue. This series is the perfect gift for any genre fan in your life.
Hellboy: The Midnight Circus by Mike Mignola and Duncan Fegredo
2013 marks Hellboy’s 20th anniversary, and most comic fans have some awareness of the character, even if just through the films. Jumping into his world though can be intimidating, with decades of comics in the main storyline, to say nothing of spin-offs and flashbacks. This graphic novel, released in October, is a great way to dip your toes into the Hellboy universe.
It’s a standalone story featuring a young Hellboy, who is desperate to feel grown up. Sneaking out one night, he winds up at a circus that turns out to be run by demons. While it may be richer reading for long-time fans, anyone who is familiar with Hellboy’s relationship with his adoptive father Trevor Bruttenholm will have no trouble catching the themes of the story.
With so many writers in the world of B.P.R.D., it feels like a treat these days to read something penned by the series creator, and he knocks this one out of the park, exploring the question of Hellboy’s demonic nature in new ways. He combines a number of intertextual references, the most prominent of which is Pinocchio, and Fegredo illustrates different aspects of the story in a master-class on comics art. The Circus, the B.P.R.D. compound, and the Pinocchio story all receive different artistic treatments without feeling disparate or jarring. It’s a lovely story that should be a delight for Hellboy fans and novices alike.
Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
Just go and get Saga. It’ll make you laugh, it’ll make you cry. The characters are wonderful, the art is incredible and accessible. I don’t know how to make this any clearer. There are currently two trade paperbacks, and volume three should be on its way in a few months. Anyone and everyone who can handle the violence, sex, and foul language in your average show on HBO should love this series. I can’t sing its praises loud enough.
So there you have it, my subjective recent picks for this holiday season. Any of my Comics for Newbies are also worth checking out, but these recommendations have the benefit of being relatively short.
Happy holidays to those celebrating, and a safe and happy new year to everyone!