not exactly complete - plenty of other books will certainly
be welcome under the tree this year - this is a gathering
of some books we've read and enjoyed over the past few months
that would be great for the geek in your life. Or the person
you're trying to mold into being a geek. We're including
both ends of the spectrum -- high end ("if you love
me...") and low end ('just to get you hooked.")
creators: Alex Ross and Jim Krueger
paintings have the rare ability to render the fantastic
somewhat realistic. Even though the muscles may ripple beyond
what humans can achieve, the faces are recognizable as somebody's
dad, friend, or - let's face it - arch-enemy. With writer
Jim Krueger, Ross has been just as good at stretching superhero
concepts into new shapes, even if they have old faces. And
like a lot of us, he's a little rooted in the things that
got him going when he was a child.
Justice, originally a 12-issue mini-series that slowly
unfolds as Ross' revision of the old ABC series Super
Friends, a Justice League variation in which our heroes
are almost impossibly good and pure - which is kind of comforting
- and of course the villains simply can't handle that, coming
up with a scheme to put themselves on top. It's lush, beautiful
and occasionally taps into ideas about certain heroes that
just don't get brought up enough. Because it's Ross, it
absolutely deserves the Absolute, over-sized treatment so
you can really enjoy his artwork.
Astonishing X-Men Omnibus
creators: Joss Whedon and John Cassaday
no further than the motion comics available on Hulu.com
and iTunes. This series will convince casual or non-readers
that there's a reason for the X-Men's popularity. Don't
show them any other book. For now, this is the most high-end
treatment of this seminal work. I think it made that Whedon
guy into some sort of superstar after he'd toiled in television
doing forgotten work like Buffy the Vampire Slayer
proves himself one of the most cinematic artists working
today, which is one reason the motion comic looks as good
as it does. He studied film intensively, and thanks to Whedon,
is taking a step up into directing. Like Frank Miller, he
has an amazing visual sense, but his sensibility isn't nearly
as dark. This is a book about hope and heroism, and it is
nothing less than astonishing.
Chew Volume 1: Taster's Choice
creators: John Layman and Rob Guillory
now, this is one of the hottest books in comic-dom. That's
not just critical hype; Image had to reprint the first two
or three issues several times. So now is the perfect time
to pick it up for people who aren't on the Chew bandwagon
- and extremely reasonably priced. Retailing for $10, this
collects the first arc of five issues. Detective John Chu
has a disgusting but useful ability - he can tell the psychic
history of anything he eats. That's terrible when all you
want to do is enjoy a good steak, but helpful when you need
to find out who murdered someone.
it's got cannibalism, cleverness and interesting art from
newcomer Guillory that keeps it all from getting too gruesome.
Writer Layman has also thrown in a good dash of government
conspiracy, so go ahead and take a bite. Or give it to someone
else for a comics nibble…
The Good Neighbors
creators: Holly Black and Ted Naifeh
Black has carved out a nice niche as a chronicler of the
world of faerie. But this isn't some cutesy world like the
brief rage in the seventies and eighties; even when Black
writes for children as in The Spiderwick Chronicles,
she can't quite cover up how dangerous and nasty that world
can be. Yet it's alluring, and she has to acknowledge that,
too. Here she teams with Ted Naifeh for a series for that
elusive Young Adult market.
1, Kin, Black and Naifeh cover the ramifications
of a teen girl discovering that her dead mother isn't
dead; she was a faerie ultimately betrayed by her human
husband. Thus an already difficult time in a young girl's
life gets worse when she discovers her grandfather has designs
on her and her reality.
2 Kith, released this past fall, spreads the consequences
to her peer group as the "Good Neighbors" of the title turn
out to be a lot more dangerous than anyone wants to believe.
If anyone wants to believe in them at all.
has done some terrific work for younger children, too, in
the Courtney Crumrin series as well as Polly and the
Pirates, but his work adapts well to a more realistic
style here. Of course it's all emotionally overwrought,
but understandably so - being a teen is hard enough before
discovering you might be one forever…
book won't actually be out until February, but what's wrong
with a little I.O.U.? Celebrating one of Marvel's masters,
you need to just dive in to art from some of Marvel's most
critically acclaimed books, like Howard the Duck
and Tomb of Dracula. Okay, there's two nowhere
characters like Iron Man and Daredevil, but whoever heard
of them? You can either order the regular Marvel
version, or go to Aardwolf
Publishing and purchase a limited signed deluxe edition,
which admittedly, Colan gets a bigger chunk of the profits
from -- and that's a good deed in itself.
Knights of the Lunch Table
creator: Frank Cammuso
Arthurian legend in a far more dangerous setting than the
savage heaths of England - it's Middle School! Artie King
has to suffer through being the new kid in an already hostile
environment. You're supposed to keep your head down, not
get labeled a savior. Guided by a mysterious but friendly
science teacher, Artie gets a magic locker and good friends.
In the first two volumes, he also gets the chance to right
wrongs, fight bullies (though not always winning) and occasionally
crusade for justice.
has a rubbery cartoony style - honed as a political cartoonist
and creator of Max Hamm, Fairy Tale Detective - and a voice
that distinctly captures the difficulties of being both
good and aged eleven. This series proved that after reprinting
Bone, Scholastic Press is committed to promoting
quality graphic fiction.
writer: Jim Wooding
horror tale for young adult readers purports to be a combination
of novel and graphic novel. It's the story of an evil British
indie comic book called Malice, drawn by a mysterious
artist named Grendel; his visions pour onto the page in
a random fashion, never quite beginning or ending a story
properly, but certainly doing what he's doing luridly. Only
one shop in London sells the book, and you have to ask for
it by name.
of a dadaesque version of Tales From The Crypt, Malice
has its host Tall Jack, and the rumor is that if you perform
the right ritual, Tall Jack will actually come for you and
take you to his land of horrors, which means that you might
be the feature story next issue.
that is one killer idea, as well as Wooding's vision of
the land of Malice - clockwork monkeys that steal your years,
horrible creatures straight out of Lovecraft, and of course
Tall Jack, a thing able to stride between reality and fantasy.
While the "graphic novel" section doesn't quite
work -- it's as random as promised -- the teen-aged heroes
are believable and varied in personality, and the story
moves at a great pace with a surprising third-act twist.
The story will be concluded next year in Havoc, which
makes it a perfect Holiday gift. You know what to get that
person next year.
From The Crypt
creators: various, published by PaperCutz
why not get them the real thing while you're at it? PaperCutz
relaunched this title a couple of years ago, using a variety
of indie artists and writers to dig back into the E.C. feeling.
It works well, with stories that are a little scary, only
a little gross and often quite funny. The latest edition,
Volume 8, borrows from Crypt's original sister comic
Tales Calculated To Drive You MAD by featuring parodies
of Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Twilight. Definitely
aimed at a younger crowd, the stories feature punny humor
and a few pop culture references that will sail over heads
- but then, that was part of the joy of MAD in the
first place, dipping a toe - or so you thought - in a slightly
more sophisticated adult world while remaining safely a
kid. Each book retails at about $7.95, but you may note
that Amazon is running a great deal on four volume collections
below. Fun stuff, especially for a niece or nephew so you
don't have to deal with their nightmares.
Unknown Soldier: Haunted House
creators: Joshua Dysart and Alberto Ponticelli
The guide wouldn't be complete without
the graphic novel we've recommended most often on our podcast.
Priced at a wallet-pleasing $9.95, this collects the first
arc of one of the most important titles DC/Vertigo publishes.
On one level, Joshua Dysart simply creates the next incarnation
of one of DC's war "superheroes", subtly tying the two characters
together if you know what clues have been seeded. But the
series is also set a few years ago in Uganda, taking on
issues of ethnic cleansing, race hatred, child soldiers
and the devastation of war. It's not a pleasant book, but
despite the fantastic overlay of a (possibly) super-soldier,
it's one that might wake you up. Dysart is a great writer
with a great sense of pacing, and it works both ways as
adventure and polemic. Few mainstream comics wear their
consciences on their sleeve like this one, and fewer still
manage to do it without seeming preachy. Unknown Soldier
isn't preachy; it's simply good.