«Hey, Which Comic Should I Read?» #1

Pretty much at every Raid I get asked by people what comic books I recommend. Some of these people have never read a comic book before and they’re hoping to get into the hobby. To all those people: You’re awesome. And for you girls and guys, I have written this short guide.

Of course, if you’ve been a long time comic book reader, feel free to pick up the books I mention in this guide that is primarily aimed at people who want to read comics for the first time. Because I know you, too. You’re always looking for the latest and hottest books, aren’t you? I know I am. Because I’ve been doing this for over two decades and I’m not going to stop any time soon.

Here’s how this guide works:

  • You need very little to no knowledge of comic books to enjoy these books to their fullest.
  • If you need knowledge, I will supply it here.
  • This guide serves to give you a good overview of what comics are and what they can be while still delivering a good and entertaining story.
  • There aren’t too many issues out yet. Don’t worry, ten issues or two trade paperbacks are not that much to read.
  • Graphic Novel is just a fancy word for comic books so that it sounds less silly to the ears of marketing people. So don’t get confused.
  • In the big two superhero publishers – DC and Marvel – a character can have existed for decades, but there’s still a good jumping on point at an issue with a high number. You don’t have to read all 700+ issues of Batman to understand where he’s currently at.
  • This is a guide that describes good getting into comics comics that are current.
  • This isn’t an all-time list or a list of the classics
  • This list will be outdated in a while after November 2014
  • I might make a sequel to this list in a while.

Some background knowledge that might clear things up:

  • There are two big publishers. They’re called DC and Marvel. When fans talk about them, they occasionally refer to them as The Big Two. Their most popular comic books are the superhero comic books. Each publisher has their own flagship characters.
    • DC: Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, The Justice League, The Flash, Green Arrow (of Arrow on TV fame)
    • Marvel: Iron Man, The Hulk, Wolverine, The X-Men, The Avengers, The Guardians of the Galaxy, Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four, Ghost Rider
  • There are a number of smaller publishers, usually collectively called Independent Publishers or Indies.
    • The most well known Indies: Image, IDW, Oni Press, Avatar…
  • When an author and an artist start writing a book, that’s called a run. Runs can be read pretty much independently of each other.
  • A crossover is when Spider-Man meets Wolverine, for example. Two heroes from different comic books meet.
  • An event crossover is usually something that happens once a year and promises that everything will change forever. This rarely lasts. The Big Two have them regularly.
  • A Trade Paperback (also known as Trade) usually collects six issues of a comic book. Six issues are usually one storyline.

So here we go. On with the recommendations. They’re in no particular order other than the one that I thought of them in that order.

Ms. Marvel – A New Kind of Hero

Miss Marvel by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona

Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona

Publisher: Marvel
Issues as of November 2014: 10
Writer: G. Willow Wilson
Artist: Adrian Alphona
Most amazing feature: The characterization of the lead character

Why you should read it: Ms. Marvel tells the story of Kamala Khan. She’s a teenager living in New Jersey and after getting into contact with a mysterious cloud, she develops super powers. She can shrink and grow and occasionally transform. Being a huge fan of superheroes, her choice is obvious: She will use these newfound powers for good.

But her struggle is not with supervillains, even though those appear, too. Her struggle is the fact that she’s a teenager. She tries to balance living with her strict and conservative parents, her faith, her school life, her friends and – last but not least – her new life as a superhero.

What you need to know before reading:

Moon Knight – When Comic Book Writers Push the Medium

Moon Knight by Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey

Moon Knight by Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey

Publisher: Marvel
Issues until November 2014: 9
Writer: Warren Ellis (until issue #6), Brian Wood (#7 until current)
Artist: Declan Shalvey (until issue #6), Greg Smallwood (#7 until current)
Most amazing feature: The narrative

Why you should read it: Moon Knight is a character dressed in outfit that has no colour who protects all those who travel at night. Author Warren Ellis has established the book as a series of single issue stories. So you can pick up #3 and you get an entire story.

The stories themselves are very densely told and often end abruptly but in a satisfying way. The stories are also way out there, as Moon Knight investigates where others sleep. Literally (and yes, I do know how to use that word). Moon Knight doesn’t save the world. He just protects those who travel by night. Barflies, policemen, people who walk their dogs and those who dream.

What you need to know before reading: Nothing.

Death Vigil – The Story He Wants to Tell

Death Vigil by Stjepan Sejic

Death Vigil by Stjepan Sejic

Publisher: Topcow
Issues as of November 2014: 5
Writer: Stjepan Šejić
Artist: Stjepan Šejić
Most amazing feature: The art and the story

Why you should read it: Death Vigil is about a group of undead people fighting to keep monsters away from our world. They are equipped with special weapons called Veilrippers and they are led by Bernadette, the Angel of Death. Our lead group is more of a family than a team. They’re having fun, witty banter and some people like each other. They’re very intimate and trust each other without necessarily harbouring romantic interest. They’re charming, they’re competent and funny.

What makes Death Vigil so amazing is that the issue is made entirely by Stjepan Šejić. He came up with the story and draws it. So this is exactly what the story he wants to tell in the way he wants to tell it.

What you need to know before reading: Nothing.

Rocket Raccoon – Movie Star Gone Insane

Rocket Raccoon by Skottie Young

Rocket Raccoon by Skottie Young

Publisher: Marvel
Issues as of November 2014: 5
Writer: Skottie Young
Artist: Skottie Young
Most amazing feature: The fun while reading

Why you should read it: Rocket Raccoon is an inherently funny character. He’s a raccoon that was taken apart and put back together by insane people on a planet called Halfworld that was an asylum. He joined the Guardians of the Galaxy and has a lot of adventures without them as well. This books sees Rocket and Groot travel the galaxy, looking for the next quick buck to make.

What makes this book extraordinary is that it plays to the medium of comic book’s strengths. Skottie Young has a very cartoonish and wild style and great amounts of creativity. So the comic book is full of things that would look completely silly anywhere else.

What you need to know before reading:

  • Nothing, but it might help if you’ve seen the Guardians of the Galaxy movie.

And that’s it for this time. If you have any suggestions to add to this list or questions, feel free to ask in a comment.

Update: Thanks go out to Judedeath for pointing out that she spells her name Ms. Marvel and not Miss Marvel. Thanks!

About Dom

Possessing nigh-encyclopaedic knowledge when it comes to comic books and movies, Dom is one of the co-founders of the Uncanny Book-Club. He also enjoys movies, and going to the cinema.

2 Comments

  1. So I just have to comment to say, while I like this list and think it’s helpful, Miss Marvel is not the book or characters name it’s Ms. Marvel.

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