What? You are reading these comics? Then you don't need to be here -- thanks A LOT! for just scrolling down and ignoring all those pesky words in between the picks! Anyway, below are some pretty amazing suggestions for comics you could read that you might not think would be good and/or something you might be into.
Starbrand and Nightmask (Marvel Comics)
I won’t go on and on about how I pretty much had this same idea for a comic book series years ago (I did, I promise, and it was so good), but I will say that Greg Weisman and Domo Stanton’s Starbrand and Nightmask is more or less what I had envisioned: two friends attending college and also being superheroes. The specifics of Adam and Kevin’s journey to enrollment might be different than what I had in mind (the next generation after heroes were outlawed in the 60s), but the emotional core is what makes the series so enjoyable. Yes, there are space baddies and cool fight scenes, but the awkwardness of real life often makes the cosmic stuff seem easy.
Hercules (Marvel Comics)
Dan Abnett and Luke Ross take a more-or-less defunct character, admit his recent flaws, and do a damn good job rebuilding him from a drunken ass into the hero he’s supposed to be. The current (and maybe only) storyline concerns the rise of new gods based on modern societal vices like social media technology and extreme narcissism. Herc must rise to the occasion against this new pantheon intent on culling all the old gods from existence. The plot is interesting, but it’s truly Abnett’s character work that sells this title.
The Spire (BOOM! Studios)
If you’re a fan of BOOM! Studios, Simon Spurrier, or Jeff Stokely, you probably already know how incredible The Spire has been, otherwise it might not be on your radar. As beautifully as Spurrier has spun this mysterious mythos around an enigmatic plot, Stokely’s intuitive artwork is simply magnificent, a fitting blend of comic nuances and minimalist techniques that highlight emotion and give the entire series a storybook feel without coming across as childish or unfinished. The Spire is only an eight issue mini-series, so catch up now then pick up the final two issues as they come out because they are going to be amazing.
Black Canary (DC Comics)
This is the black sheep (no pun intended) of even the most experimental of DC’s titles to come of last June’s DC You initiative, one that focused primarily on spreading outside the traditional superhero comic tropes a la Brenden Fletcher, Cameron Stewart, and Babs Tarr’s successful refresh of Batgirl. Even by Batgirl metrics, Fletcher and artist Annie Wu’s Black Canary seems like a stretch; Dinah Drake (nee Lance nee Drake) is the lead singer for a rock band called Black Canary, and when Dinah’s past catches up with her, it spells disaster and supernatural shenanigans for her bandmates and any innocent civilians who might happen to be attending a concert by a super-popular rock band. And to be fair, it was a very silly premise for a number of issues, but more recent events have elevated the once-flimsy story into something more substantial and interesting. Fletcher is playing a long game with short bursts of energy, so the pacing feels erratic when it’s actually quite purposeful. Definitely a sleeper hit.
Saints (Image Comics)
I don’t even remember there being much marketing for this series before it debuted, and I certainly haven’t seen much press for it since, and that’s a damn shame. Sean Lewis and Benjamin Mackey are unraveling a crazy fun narrative about saints suddenly reincarnated to fight in some upcoming war. The premise isn’t terribly innovative or fresh, but Mackey’s stylized artwork with Lewis’ humorously colloquial dialogue make for a fantastic tale about misfits that must band together even if they might hate one another.
Past the Last Mountain (Comics Experience)
After a war between men and magic, mythical beasts are subjugated in a number of ways, but mostly they’re confined to work camps to help make human lives easier. The series follows a motherly dragon, a warrior fawn, and an orphaned young goblin on the run from their human captors. Connected by an oath to the goblin’s murdered mother, the dragon and fawn pledge to keep their friend’s son safe and out of human hands. Writer and letterer Paul Allor brings a sense of emotional intuition with his narrative, one that helps the reader see the tragedy of the magical creatures but also the difficult position in which human find themselves. Louie Joyce and Gannon Beck provide incredible visuals that feels like a mosaic of styles, with each character given distinct features and detailing that others don’t and vice versa. The young goblin’s aesthetic is minimal, the fawn’s physical prowess makes her body the main focus, and the dragon’s emotions are directly connected to her bevy of facial expressions. It all works together fantastically.
Pencil Head (Image Comics)
Ted McKeever is bold. With this series, he is exposing the underbelly of the corporate comic book machine without outright calling out big publishers like DC and Marvel. The character depictions of sleezy corporate big-wigs is commentary enough on how McKeever perceives the powers-that-be. Pencil Head is paced crazy, but is incredibly easy to read, somehow. More than any other series on this list, I find it difficult to explain what makes Pencil Head so engaging – it’s part James Robinson’s Airboy, part Grant Morrison’s Animal Man #26, and part Christopher Burns’ Black Hole. If that’s not enough to confuse you to all hell, just go read the two available issues and see what I mean.