I’m reading a lot more comics/graphic novels now than I ever have. Sadly, that’s not saying much, since I only read individual unconnected issues at a time – I never really read a full storyline until a year or so ago, save for one or two “special occasions.”
Now, though, I’m borrowing stuff from a few friends’ collections, and I’m loving it. I’m reading a pretty wide variety of stuff (standard superhero fare, TV show spinoffs, Stephen King, and a couple of “difficult to categorize” books). There are some definite standouts, and that’s where I want to focus here.
When I think about the series’ that I’m reading, there are three that I plow through almost immediately, and for which I can’t wait for the next installment: 100 Bullets, Fables, and The Amazing Spider-Man.
Spider-Man is the most fun, because it’s a character I grew up with and love in all incarnations. The current story (Back in Black) is painting a darker Peter Parker, driven to revenge when his Aunt May takes a bullet meant for him. Spidey lets loose almost completely in this and there’s only one or two issues left, which I’m salivating to read. Good stuff. J. Michael Straczynski, of Babylon 5 fame, is writing this series, following on the heels of Marvel’s Civil War series (also excellent), and I think he’s doing a terrific job.
The other two series are just phenomenal, but in different ways. There are no ‘super-heroes’ per-se, in either series. Both are thoroughly ensemble pieces, though a couple characters stand out in each.
100 Bullets is a dark, complex, conspiracy and con-men driven story, ultimately about the formation and future of the United States and the small group of people who are really in charge (and they aren’t in the government). There are mysteries layered upon mysteries, incredibly smart writing, surprises at every corner, and (especially in the later issues) action rivaling some of the biggest Hollywood blockbusters. Others have said it before and I’ll echo the sentiment: this series elevates graphic novels to a new level, equal to some of the best crime fiction out there.
The other series in the upper echelons of my reading list, that is just as engrossing as 100 Bullets, is Fables. The premise is that the characters in the fables we all grew up with (Snow White, Cinderella, Old King Cole, The Big Bad Wolf, the Three Little Pigs, Goldilocks, etc.) were driven from their homelands by an unnamed ferocious enemy and many of them escaped to our world centuries ago and are living among us, primarily centered in New York City. It’s not nearly as dark as 100 Bullets, but it’s also very smart, and it has an overarching story that is just as compelling. The difference, to me, is that while I am spurred by the writing and mysteries of both stories, I care about the individual characters of Fables, while in 100 Bullets I just have to know what happens next. The story and writing alone keep me coming back for 100 Bullets, but the interweaving of the characters with the story, and its ability to make me really care what happens to individuals is what keeps me hooked on Fables. I just finished book 4, where the first attack of “the adversary” in the “mundy” world has just occurred, and I can’t wait to get to book 5. The opening issue of book 4, recalling the last stand of the escaping fables in the “homelands” surprised me with its emotional power. It really elevated the whole thing to a new level for me.
Neither of these last two series are for young audiences, but for mature readers, there’s not much better out there. Don’t get me wrong… there’s some great stuff out there, but these are at the top of my must-read list at the moment.
[tags]Fables, Fabletown, Bigby Wolf, Snow White, Agent Graves, 100 Bullets, The Minutemen, Spider-Man, JMS, graphic novels, comic books[/tags]