People often say to me, “Kevin,” and I respond, “Yeah, Collin.” And then they ask me, “I don’t like superheroes, but I like the comic medium, so what should I be reading?” Well, lucky for you, people are pretty sick of me writing about Marvel and DC, so I’m going to share some of my choices for non-superhero comics. Most of these are currently on-going series which you can quickly get caught up on with trade paperbacks or digital copies. Most of these are mature comics, so if you are still fretting over how “vulgar” the Seinfeld TV show was, then these aren’t for you, and you should probably get off the internet too. Just kidding. I’ll throw in a few recommendations at the end if you want something for your kids to read. And don’t worry, this sentence will be the only mention of Image Comics’ The Walking Dead.
My first recommendation and one I’ve made quite a bit to friends is Revival by Tim Seeley and Mike Norton. This series revolves around a small town in Middle America which becomes the center of worldwide attention when the recently deceased come back to life. No, this isn’t a zombie book, but a horror/mystery revolving psychological and social impacts of coming back to life on an individual and then those around them. The story is driven by a strong female lead who works on the police force with her father (whose approval she’s desperate to gain), and she is trying to protect the secret that her sister is a reviver. It is well written and has sophisticated artwork which makes it highly assessable even to those who regularly do not read comics.
Are you looking for a little raunchy humor in your comics? Well then Sex Criminals by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky isn’t for you because there is nothing little about the raunchy humor in this book. This series revolves around two individuals who when they sexually climax stop time, and so they decide to use their time stopping sex powers to rob banks.
To say this book is mature is an understatement, but the creative team is able to walk a delicate and thin line of sexually-explicit comedy/drama without resorting to simple titillation or pornography. The first two issues, for example, broach subjects that if others were to scrutinize could’ve easily crossed into feeling pedophiliac, but instead turned it into a heartfelt and often humorous examination of how a female and male teenagers’ sexual maturity differ (personally and socially). While this book is definitely not for everyone, I still highly recommend checking out the first arc before completely dismissing this series. Also, issue 3 is a high note for myself as after reading comics for 30 years, that issue has my first letter’s page publish, so another reason you should buy this book.
If you are looking for a realistic crime drama, Southern Bastards by Jason Aaron and Jason Latour maybe the best bet for you. Set in a fictional county in Alabama, this story follows an elderly but tough-as-shit son who comes back to his hometown to find police corruption and the high school football team acting more like the mafia than an after school program. It is a gritty and violent tale that’s part Coen brothers, part Walking Tall, and part Varsity Blues. While I’ve only had a chance to read the first two issues so far, the hooks are in me and I can’t wait to read more from this series. I highly recommend if you are looking for a more down-to-earth series than most comics offer.
If you enjoy intelligent and high-concept science fiction then Trees by Warren Ellis and Jason Howard is perfect. The idea of this comic is a “what if” scenario where aliens have come to Earth in the form of vast pillars (the Trees) and have no concern to communicate with humans. They see humans as insects. What happens to the world when aliens land and don’t ask to be taken to our leaders because they see us as irrelevant? Anyone who knows me knows that Warren Ellis can do no wrong in my eyes, and this series is another testament to his brilliance. He does a wonderful job of not treating the reader as children, which creates at points a difficult and confusing read, but eventually very fulfilling. Stop reading this now and go buy Trees, then come back and finish my article.
If you like surreal crime/horror/drama stories then Nailbiter by Joshua Williamson and Mike Henderson is one you should read. A small town in Oregon turns out to be responsible for sixteen of the worst serial killers in the world. A NSA agent has come to that town to investigate the disappearance of a top FBI profiler. It’s like Hannibal the movie meets Silence of the Lambs meets Hannibal the TV show. This is a fun page-turner that continually builds its own mythology as it slowly reveals all the past serial killers that came from this one town while at the same time the main characters are slowly discovering the secrets of a town that mass produces serial killers. This is a wonderfully written series that I recommend to any fictional crime readers.
If you are a fan of classic Science Fiction and horror movies, you should check out the multiple series that Dark Horse Comics has based on the Alien, Predator, and Prometheus properties. With fan favorite creators such as Christopher Sebela, Ariel Olivertti, Chris Robertson, Paul Tobin, Joshua Williamson, and Kelly Sue DeConnick those popular franchises are being spun in a violent and action filled continuity that is perfect for anyone who appreciates any of the films in those series. With Dark Horse’s recent loss of the Star Wars rights (more on that in a second) they are doing their best to build the mythology and stories inside of these franchise beyond what brilliant foundations on these universes they have already laid in their tenure as a publisher.
If you don’t like the violent Science Fiction, and want the classic fantasy/action Star Wars, you are in luck as Marvel having just gained the rights back to that franchise from Dark Horse have just (as in yesterday when writing this) released their first issue in an new on-going Star Wars series by Jason Aaron and John Cassaday set between Episodes IV & V and starring all of your favorite characters. There are also solo Darth Vader and Princess Leia series planned as of right now. This is a great all-ages book, and I do mean it is something an adult can enjoy and is appropriate still for a child.
In keeping with all-ages appropriate IDW Publishing is another great publisher with rights to great franchises such as Doctor Who, G.I. Joe, Godzilla, Ghost Busters, Transformers, Star Trek, and My Little Pony. While I can’t say I’ve read something from each of those properties, the continued new comics being made and the high level of quality should say enough if you are a fan of any of those.
And finally, if you are a fan of superhero comics, but feel the continuity of the two main publishers a bit too daunting to attempt to jump aboard one of their series you should check out what is happening over at Valiant Comics. They have Bloodshot by Duane Swierczynski and Manuel Garcia about a brainwashed one-man-army who awakens from his false memories and leaves a trail of bodies in his wake. Another great is Eternal Warrior by Greg Pak and Clayton Crain about… well… and eternal warrior somewhat in the genre of Conan the Barbarian. And my personal favorite that they publish is X-O Manowar by Robert Venditti and Cary Nord about a man-out-of-time who takes the alien technology of a powerful suit of advanced armor and delves so pretty heavy vengeance to those aliens in the process. If you look hard and long enough at all Valiant Comics has to offer you will most likely find something that suits your taste.
So, hopefully today after reading this you have found something that interests you. If not, know this was just a superficial scratching of the surface and every month hundreds of titles are released and there is bound to be something in that mix you would passionately enjoy. If you don’t have a friend who can help you, I recommend going to your LCS (local comic store) and building a relationship with them and letting them help you find series which interest you. If you don’t live somewhere with a LCS and you have no friends, feel free to contact me on Facebook at Kevin McVicker is an Awful Writer or kevinmcvicker.tumblr.com and I will be happy to help you find a comic you would enjoy!
Columnist: Nerd Nation Magazine