Are you looking for great books to get you or your friends into comics? Here are some of our favorite “Gateway comics” that would be great for anyone not in the know. And they’re totally legal! These books also have collections available, so grab the first volume and spread the love!
For the TV junkie who loved shows like Lost:
Like non-linear story telling? Like a mystery wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a high school? This series is for you! We tapped Nick Spencer as the Next Big Thing in our Best of 2011 blog post, and this is Nick’s signature independent series. A group of kids get sent to Morning Glory Academy, where the teachers are killing them… no, seriously. Not with homework or tests, actually attempting homicide. Why are they doing this, and what’s going on in the school really? Grab volume 1, and get hooked!
This one is kind of obvious. It’s currently the hottest show on television, and it’s been a darling of the comic industry for years now. Robert Kirkman’s Never-Ending Zombie Story is one of the more compelling pieces of fiction out there. Period. The hook isn’t how gruesome the zombies are and how brutally people die, although those things are cool. The hook is what living in the end times would be like. What it does to people. Morality gets warped, if not chucked out the window. A great read, and an interesting dichotomy between the book and the show.
Are you or someone you know a fan of procedural cop drama? Check out Powers. Mentioned in the 12 for 2012 post, Powers follows Deena Pilgrim and Christian Walker as they work on super powered cases. Anybody who’s ever watched CSI, Law and Order (whichever one) or NTSF:SD:SUV would really enjoy this series!
For the recovering Harry Potter fanatic:
Fables is one of the longest running series from Vertigo comics, and a huge favorite amongst most comic fans. The story centers around characters from the fairy tales we all know and love: Snow White, The Big Bad Wolf, Pinocchio and so many more. All of these beloved characters are hiding out in New York City, and trying to get their homelands back from the dreaded Adversary. Sometimes you get a story with a bunch of Fables, sometimes a singular one. Sometimes there’s a sweeping epic story, others are about a day in the life. It’s one of the best books out there and rumor had it that it was getting optioned as a TV show or movie, but until then, enjoy them in comic book form!
This one may speak more closely to the Harry Potter set. The protagonist is Thomas Taylor, whose father Wilson wrote a series of books involving a character called… Tommy Taylor?!? The book takes you into Thomas’ Z-List celebrity life, just as things are about to get a little more surreal. Fiction and reality blend, and it’s hard to say what’s real anymore as you go on. While I love Fables, Unwritten is a book I salivate for every month.
Bone is a classic in the world of comics. Written and illustrated by Jeff Smith, Bone follows the adventures of three characters: Phoney Bone, Smiley Bone and Fone Bone. The three are run out of Bonesville and explore the greater world, which is full of different surprises and wonders. The series is also the kid friendliest of the ones we’ve listed, and if you’ve got a child or nephew/niece who wants something to read after Harry Potter, Bone is a great choice.
For the friend who’s a little… dark and macabre:
This is a series we enjoy immensely. It’s definitely got the gross out thing going for it, what with protagonist Tony Chu’s ability to experience the memories of anything he tastes (called cibopathy). In his world, the FDA has become powerful thanks to instituting a chicken ban due to bird flu. Tony solves crimes, but there’s a deeper conspiracy. And aliens. It’s definitely not your typical comic, and for your not so typical friend, it might be up their alley!
Hellboy is arguably the best known occult comic in the world. While the movies are quite enjoyable, the comics are even better. Published mostly in mini-series, Hellboy is a demon that was summoned by the Nazis, only to be rescued by the Allies during World War II. Hellboy fights all sort of occult and paranormal menaces alongside the BPRD and in several solo adventures. The stories all wrap up by the end of a given mini-series, which makes each volume conveniently self-contained.
This is another series that takes Hellboy’s “series of mini-series” approach. The story revolves around the Locke family, who have suffered the loss of their patriarch and have moved back into his childhood home in Lovecraft, Mass. The house seems nice, but there are these mysterious keys the kids find, and a weird young girl who follows them around. What happens in this town is strange and creepy, and arguably one of the best comics in recent memory. There are currently 4 volumes available in collections, and the series is wrapping up soon, so pick it up while you can!
For the friend who’s only ever seen the movies:
Here’s our writer of the year for DC, Scott Snyder! And here’s the story that got Scott on that list! There’s two plot threads going in this one: one involves a group auctioning off various Batman Rogues’ weapons to Gotham’s elite. The second plot involves the return of James Gordon Jr., the commissioner’s son! He may or may not be a psychopathic killer, and the ending will be plenty shocking! No matter how you enjoy your Batman, READ THIS BOOK!
Written by friend of the blog Matt Fraction, Iron Man has never been as entertaining as he is in this book. He’s gone from billionaire industrialist to broke, from the most powerful man in the Marvel U. to it’s Most Wanted. He had Extremis armor that was bleeding edge, then completely went off the edge with nanotech armor… the amount of ridiculous sci-fi cool that Fraction and Salvadore Larocca put in this book is amazing. Check it out, especially if you like the flippant Iron Man that Robert Downey Jr. plays on the screen.
Brian Michael Bendis’ original Ultimate Spider-Man run was probably the best revitalizing of an origin story in ages. He really got the trials and tribulations of adolescence, on top of the fact that spider powers are also a handful. With the new movie coming out, it might be nice to give this book to someone you know, or maybe they’ve heard about the NEW Spider-Man in town, Miles Morales. In that case, start them off with Miles’ beginnings. You couldn’t really go wrong with either one.
If you have a book you like to recommend to the uninitiated, tell us in the comments.
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