This weekend was my five-year anniversary writing She Has No Head! – incredible, right? I cannot believe how time
has flown by.
Anyway, thinking about just getting started on things and being new to something reminded me of discovering comics when I was a teenager. The joy an frustration of fumbling through the dark with no idea what I should be reading (I’m old, the Internet was barely a glimmer in the most advanced readers eyes!).
My eventual comic book shop was helpful, but it took me a while to find the right shop…and even then I felt enough like a stranger in a strange land for a time that it took some time to start having actual conversations about comics with anyone other than my younger brother who was as in the dark as I was (though he remains my favorite person to talk about comics with). What I would have given for a road map!
However, as mentioned above, I’m old, so comics were a lot cheaper and it wasn’t the end of the world to waste a buck or so on a crappy comic. Today, with a few indie exceptions, even the cheapest comics will cost you $2.99…and that’s a lot to risk on a comic.
Thanks to my gig here (and my reviewing on CBR) I get asked for comic recommendations (usually for female friendly titles) by readers and "want to be readers" all the time. So I thought I’d pull those two ideas - being new and needing recommendations - together and do a post about what I’d read if I was a new reader with a minimal amount to invest in comics each month: $50.
Obvious revelation: MAN does $50 go fast. This was a PAINFUL list to make.
Here are the guidelines I used:
- Ongoing books only
- Female friendly (you know where you are, right?)
- Available digitally as well as print.
Let's get started, these are not in any particular order, except perhaps for this first one.
1. LAZARUS (Image) - $3.50
Greg Rucka (writer). Michael Lark (art). Santi Arcas (colors). Jodi Wynne (letters).
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy Thriller
One Line Description: In a future where several crime families rule the world and each have a physically advanced brutally trained warrior, or Lazarus, representing them, Forever Carlyle is the Carlyle Lazarus and nothing is quite what she thinks it is.
Why It’s Great: When my boyfriend asked me recently what the best book I’m reading is, I thought for about twelve seconds and then said Lazarus with a nod of my head. And it was the right answer even after thinking about it for more than 12 seconds. Month after month Lazaurs delivers a smart, insightful, and emotional narrative that feels devastatingly real. It’s some of the best character development and world building I’ve ever seen in a comic and the slow build is paying off in an emotionally resonant arc as well as incredibly satisfying month to month reads. Lark and Arcas's visuals are devastatingly beautiful and sometimes just devastating. It also happens to be some of Greg Rucka’s best comics work to date, which is impressive to say the least.
2. GOTHAM ACADEMY (DC) - $2.99
Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher (writers). Karl Kerschl (art). Geyser, Dave McCaig, John Rauch (colors). Steve Wands (letters).
Genre: YA Mystery
One Line Description: In Gotham City there’s an exclusive boarding school called Gotham Academy where mysteries unfold and hijinks ensue for our lead Olive, who carries a heavy secret and her plucky pseudo sidekick, Maps.
Why It’s Great: Gotham Academy is just what DC Comics needs right now, something that is both light and joyous, while still carrying the quintessential darkness of a book set in Gotham – it’s a delicate line but Gotham Academy is perfectly pitched. Cloonan and Fletcher effortlessly capture the tone of a Gotham Hogwarts of sorts-- and Kerschl’s art is wonderfully expressive and stunningly beautiful. Bonus points for being easy to jump onto (they’re only on issue #2) and perfect for new comics readers while also being filled with details that will delight longtime Bat-readers.
3. WYTCHES (IMAGE) - $2.99
Scott Snyder (writer). Jock (art). Matt Hollingsworth (colors). Clem Robbins (letters).
One Line Description: After the disappearance and presumed death of a girl that was bullying her, Sailor and her family have moved to New Hampshire where they find themselves caught even deeper into supernatural mysteries and horrors.
Why It’s Great: Only two issues in, now is the time to jump on board Snyder and Jock’s horror tale, all the more disturbing for its reality laced with supernatural terrors. Snyder and Jock pull no punches, and the first issue alone was devastating in its delivery (including gut wrenching cliffhanger). There’s a lot going on in just these two issues, but you can feel all the threads already pulling together and aligning into a brilliantly frightening master plan. Bonus points to get on board now as Wytches has already been optioned by Hollywood and will surely make for a terrifying film…but see it here first!
4. BLACK WIDOW (MARVEL) - $3.99
Nathan Edmondson (writer). Phil Noto (art). Phil Noto (colors). Clayton Cowles (letters).
One Line Description: Natasha Romanov is the most dangerous woman in the world and when she’s not fighting alongside her superhero teammates the Avengers she’s working to set right wrongs and clear her conscience, often by doing impressive violence and being all around badass.
Why It’s Great: Natasha has always been both an incredibly complicated and layered woman – one with a not particularly stellar past – and Edmondson and Noto double down on the grey areas of Natasha’s life as she attempts to atone for a lifetime of…interesting choices. Natasha is, in addition to being a “squeaky clean” Avenger, also a killer of killers. The book pulls no punches about the grey areas of Natasha’s life and as a result it feels honest and real. Noto’s realistic, loose, kinetic style helps keep the book grounded and gives it an edge and emotionally nuance lacking in so many books today while Edmondson's embracing of Natasha's laconic nature helps effortless capture Natasha's voice.
5. LUMBERJANES (BOOM!) - $3.99
Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis (writers). Brooke Allen (art). Maarta Laiho (colors). Aubrey Aiese (letters).
Genre: YA Action Adventure/Comedy
One Line Description: At “Lumberjanes Camp,” a hilariously rambunctious group of friends go on adventures and solve mysteries, usually of the supernatural kind with boundless enthusiasm and a whole lotta girl power.
Why It’s Great: What the junk!? What a great book! Full of ridiculous unbridled energy and clear enthusiasm for just about everything, Lumberjanes is the answer to everything dour and dark and painfully unfun about so many comics. Like a breath of crazy fresh air, Lumberjanes is unlike almost anything else out there. With a slightly Adventure Time sensibility a heavy dose of supernatural and girl power it’s sort of impossible to deny the charm and infectiousness of this book. It also does a great job of being all-ages friendly but still enjoyable for adults, and we have far too few of those books these days, especially ongoings!
6. CAPTAIN MARVEL (Marvel) - $3.99
Kelly Sue DeConnick (writer). David Lopez (art). Lee Loughridge (colors). Joe Caramagna (letters).
One Line Description: Carol Danvers is a pilot, superhero, and woman looking for her place in the world (or off it) as she deals with the fallout of recent traumatic injuries.
Why It’s Great: If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again, especially if a company will let you! I supported Kelly Sue DeConnick’s first Captain Marvel series from 2012 and there was a lot to like there, the wobbly opening issues (an artist that didn’t quite work for the book’s tone and an overly complicated opening arc) made it easy for some to give up on the book even as it searched for (and found) its legs (and voice). So it was a huge relief when Marvel opted to give Captain Marvel another shot this time with a clearer vision and consistent art team. The result has been pretty magical and after years of inconsistency it feels like Carol is really finding a clear definitive voice (as well as a powerful advocate in DeConnick and hardcore fanbase in the Carol Corps). Bonus points if you have any interest in the Marvel Films…I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of DeConnick’s take on Carol is what ends up on the screen – it’s got too much humanity, heart, and humor to be ignored.
7. BATMAN (DC) - $3.99
Scott Snyder (writer). Greg Capullo (pencils). Danny Miki (inks). Fco Plascencia (colors). Steve Wands (letters).
One Line Description: He’s the goddamn Batman...what else is there to know?
Why It’s Great: What can you say about Batman, DC comics does their level best to make sure he’s got the best and most interesting writers and artists and he’s got both right now with Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo at the helm. Snyder’s Batman book is dense and layered and full of smart choices and classically cool superhero stuff laced with a fair dose of horror and Capullo has overcome all potential naysayers (myself included) to deliver a consistently beautiful book with finely executed world building worthy of Synder’s sprawling tales.
Go to the next page for the next six comics on the list!