The Comic Reading List (Fall, 2017)

What to do during Reading Week, but read. (OK, get a bunch of work done, too. But everyone needs a break.) Every so often, I like to share my reading list. It's been a while since my last one. Not only has it been a while, but I noticed that I haven't included any comics on the lists. I'm not a snob who looks down on comics; I love comics. And not just in the I-love-the-comics-that-I-read-as-a-kid way, but in the I-still-love-reading-comics way. I just forget to include them in my reading lists. Since I profess to being a geek, here's the evidence--some of my favourite comics from recent years.

I have to start with Saga. I can't bear the time between individual issues, so I wait to get the trade paperbacks (oh, fine: "graphic novels") every six months. It's the story of a couple from two warring worlds (the science-based planet Landfall and its only moon, the magic-infused Wreath), written by Brian K. Vaughan. It's moving, and thrilling, and heartbreaking. The art, by Calgary's Fiona Staples, is amazing: she can make you empathize with anthropomorphic meerkats. Or aristocratic humanoids with TVs for heads. Yes, it is deliciously weird and different. And good: It's won a dozen Eisner awards, and will win many more.

Matt Fraction (writer) and David Aja's (artist) widely acclaimed run on Hawkeye ended a couple of years ago, but I still come back to it. Yes, it's that Hawkeye from the Avengers (and also another Hawkeye from another Avengers). But if you think it's just some dumb, loud punch-up comic book, you are oh-so-wrong. It's a smart superhero book. Care for a wordless story about a dog who loves pizza? Yes, please. It defies expectation in every issue. Aja's spare lines meld perfectly with Fraction's show-don't-tell scripts. It won five Eisners, but deserved more. Be warned: you will have to read and re-read these stories, or you will miss much of the nuance.

If you've seen the movie, you might be interested in the original manga of The Ghost in the Shell. I recommend the deluxe edition, which is read right-to-left as it was originally published. It will bend your mind, but only just a little bit. And author Shirow Masamune's behind-the-scenes notes are totally worth it. Yes, it's (mostly) in English. Influenced by (and influencing) cyberpunk, this work has had an effect on movies (notably The Matrix, Avatar, and Ex Machina), and video games (Deus Ex, among many others). It was ahead of its time in the late 1980s, and--amazingly--much of it still is.

I'm way, way too young to have seen the original run of Batman in the 1960s, but I caught reruns after school. A goofy, silly Batman is better than no Batman at all. Right? Jeff Parker and Jonathan Case perfectly capture the zany and ridiculous aspects of the smash hit TV show--right down to Cesar Romero's Joker wearing makeup over his mustache. A grim, brooding Dark Knight this ain't. Anyway, nostalgia! Highlights include crossovers with The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Green Hornet, and even the 1970s Wonder Woman. (My favourite? When they encountered the Legion of Super-Heroes. Woot!)
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