In these financially difficult times I seem to be bucking the trend by buying more comics per month than at any other time in my life, silly amounts of comics. The reason for this is simple, I genuinely believe that a larger quantity of good comics are being produced than at any other time in the medium’s history.
Sure, we may never see standout classics such as Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns again, but I don’t think this is due to a lack of quality but rather more comics of a higher standard being available, so no single title really stands out as much, but there is most certainly at least a few things to suit anyone’s tastes somewhere on the racks.
I enjoy every single one of the titles that make up my monthly standing order, but if I had to pick a selection of my favourite ongoing titles to recommend to folk it would boil down to these:
The Mignola-vers is deceptive, firstly because what seems to be a collection of character orientated mini-series actually fit together, jigsaw style, to form an ongoing storyline of epic proportions. Secondly the stories comes off as fun horror-adventures derived solely from a fertile imagination but in actual fact are both that and painstaking researched variations of folklore and genre fiction from the world over. All you really need to know though is that these titles are totally contrary to Marvel and DC’s current schemes of trying get ALL your money. The B.P.R.D. series can be read and enjoyed as stand alone stories but if you read the full run you will be rewarded with a story that is the most epic you’ll find out there, and one of LASTING consequences that is drawn out as little as possible. Half of England is destroyed in one of Hellboy’s battles and huge sections of the planet are overrun with Lovecraftian monstrosities, need I say more?
Crossed is bar none the most shocking title on the stands. I have no doubts that if it got into the wrong hands a huge controversy would surround it, but fortunately it’s from an independent label (Avatar Press) so generally people don’t care too much about it. It started life as a mini-series in which a plague that robs people of all civility, turning them into violent, sex obsessed slaves to base impulses, has left only a few normal human survivors who stay alive as best they can via whatever means they can. In the sick mind of Garth Ennis (Preacher, Punisher Max) many book dropping moments of outrageousness were supplied, then writer David Lapham (Stray Bullets, Deadpool Max) took the book to even sicker depths which have to be seen to be believed. The book recently went ongoing, with rotating creative teams telling stories of different groups of survivors, and back with Ennis it’s already off to a horrific start.
Jonathan Hickman is as fresh a voice in the comics medium as there has ever been, who on his introduction on to the Fantastic Four title, following Mark Millar’s respected run, picked up several lingering plot threads and then weaved a slowly building mythologhy of cosmic scale that along the way created a league of Reed Richards and a ‘Future Foundation’ (FF) of earths smartest kids, banished Johnny Storm to the Negative Zone, made Sue Storm a majesty of Atlantis, brought back the Inhumans along with their alien counterparts, had Galactus throw down in fisty-cuffs in the defence of earth and much, much more. The run has felt truly original yet smacks of good old-fashioned sci-fi grandness in a style that comicbooks were always the best at doing.
Vertigo’s (and now DC’s) longest running title, that features the conman, mage and trouble magnet, John Constantine, is as good now as it has ever been, under the cynically watchful eye of Pete Milligan, who has seen fit to keep the stories as much fun as they can be dark and altered the status-quo without messing with what makes Constantine such a compelling character. The added bonus of this run though is when artist, Simon Bisley, comes in for a story arc, gifting us with artwork as exciting as the stuff he did in his early 2000AD days, like he’s somehow re-found his love for the medium through the book.
So, Marvel killed off Loki, Thor’s primary villain, and replaced him with a mischievous and wilful child that’s trying to do good against his nature; stupid idea, right? Wrong! The young Loki is one of a number of child characters that the writers at Marvel have recently created (along with Amadeus Chow and the children of The Future Foundation), whose adventures are amongst the most compelling, original and fun of any released from any comics company. Journey Into Mystery is Loki’s book and is not only brimming with ripping yarns but approaches the conflicts the character faces with an original slant, especially for a ‘superhero’ book. Loki is a child and physically unitimidating so takes care of very large problems with nothing but his smarts and talent for manipulation (much like a wee John Constantine in a silly outfit). It’s refreshing to see a Marvel book that doesn’t resort to a punch-up to resolve every storyline.
Continued next week…