†Recommended Trade Paperbacks

A friend of mine and I were talking the other day and I mentioned Fanboy Planet. He seemed really interested in the stuff I was trying to cover on the website until we moved to comics.

Like a lot of people I know, he was once a rabid comic book fan but had given it up cold turkey years ago. Now he wanted to get back in to comics, but wasnít sure where to start. There were so many comics he had never seen and authors heíd never heard of. He also didnít want to just go pick up an X-Men title and start reading for fear of being hooked into a yearlong storyline that would drain his money away. ďWhat are some good trade paper backs that I could read to help satisfy my craving?Ē he asked. Figuring there were other former comic junkies itching to get back into it out there I whipped up a short list of great trade paperbacks that are available at any comic book store.

Just a quick note about my background with comics: I didnít start reading comics until about 5 years ago. Iíd never really cared about the paper adventures of Batman and Superman. Movies were good enough for me. Then I met Fanboy Planet Editor and comic book fanatic Derek McCaw. At first I asked some questions that Iíd had in my head for a while, like ďhow does Green Lanternís ring work?Ē and ďwhy did Spider-man wear a black costume for a while?Ē Derek is an encyclopedia of useless knowledge and was more than happy to explain. Fast forward to today where I spend an average of 20 bucks a week at my local store.

The reason I tell you all this is because you should know that my experience with comics only goes back a few years. This gives me a very clear and unbiased opinion of whatís been good and what has sucked recently. Iím not bitter over the Clone Saga. I donít begrudge Kyle Rayner. I donít remember when John Byrne was a good writer. If I recommend it, you can count on the fact that youíll be reading a great story thatís well worth your money. Period.

Last, you can click on any of the pictures and it will take you straight to Amazon.com where you can buy them and help support Fanboyplanet.com.

Ok, enough warm up. Letís get to the good stuff.

Astro City: Life in the Big City by Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson

Kurt Busiekís work on Astro City changed the way I thought about comics. Busiek manages to show us what it would be like to be a superhero. How does it feel to fly? Whatís it like having a superhero legacy to uphold? Busiek is busy writing the JLA/Avenger team up so itís unlikely that there will be any more issues of Astro City out in the near future. This volume reprints the first six issues. Also recommended: Astro City: Family Album, Astro City: Confession and Astro City: Tarnished Angel.

Powers by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming

Powers is the NYPD Blue of comics. Detective Christian Walker and Detective Deena Pilgrim are normal homicide investigators that deal in superhero related murders. Bendis is a red hot writer right now, creating dialogue like David Mamet. Iím going to go all dreamy fanboy on yíall and just say that if it says Brain Michael Bendis on it, itís got to be good. Coming soon: Powers: Role Play

The Authority: Relentless by Warren Ellis, Bryan Hitch, and Paul Neary

Do you like the JLA, but wish there were more blood, guts, explosions and sex? The Authority is the superhero team book for a new millennium. It kicks ass. Warren Ellis has a reputation of blowing readers minds and he does it with an action packed style. Also recommended: The Authority: Under New Management and Jenny Sparks: The Secret History of the Authority.

Marvel's Finest : Daredevil Visionaries by Kevin Smith and Joe Quesada

When I started reading comics in 1997 one thing was clear: Marvel sucked. There were a few good stories here and there, but no one could string together a storyline for very long before someone else followed it up with a steamy pile of crap. Thatís all changed now as Marvel is the hottest publishing company around. They owe it all to writer/director Kevin Smith and his work on Daredevil. It gave them the sure fire hit they needed. Forget about Smithís hit and miss record with movies. His modern take on Daredevil is just as good as Frank Millerís. Buy it and buy it now. Also recommended: Dogma, the DVD.

Superman for All Seasons by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale

Jeph Loeb tells four stories of Superman's early years in Metropolis. It's like Superman: Year One for dummies. Superman comics try to keep things fresh by throwing new things at Supes without really focusing on the character and emotion behind the icon. Loeb captures that feeling perfectly. The same writer and artist team also created Batman: The Long Halloween and Batman: Dark Victory.

Ultimate Spider-Man by Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley

Marvel relaunched several of their popular titles with the ďUltimateĒ line last year. Spider-Man and X-Men were both restarted from the beginning to give new comic book fans a chance to jump on board without 40 years of continuity to sort through. Ultimate Spider-Man was restarted and updated by my favorite author, the aforementioned Brian Michael Bendis. When Stan Lee first created him, Peter Parker was meant to be like a modern teenager of the time. Kids could identify with Peter and his problems. Bendis does a great job updating Peter to year 2000 standards. If you have ever liked Spider-Man, this is well worth reading. Also recommended: Ultimate X-Men by Mark Millar and Andy Kubert.

Rising Stars: Born In Fire by J. Michael Straczynski and various artists

If I can get anyone reading this to read just one trade paperback, itís Rising Stars. Itís so good, my wife reads it. J. Michael Straczynski (Yes, the guy that wrote Babylon 5) tells the story of a group of kids born with superpowers and how they cope, use and deal with them in todayís modern world. Straczynski plans to end the story at 24 issues, so pick this up now and be there for the thrilling climax.

Fortune and Glory by Brian Michael Bendis

It doesnít have to be all superheros and spandex in the comic book world. With Fortune and Glory, Brian Michael Bendis (swoon) tells the true story of his adventures trying to sell his script in Hollywood. Itís a funny story and it proves that Hollywood people are really weird. Bendis also has a series of crime graphic novels out. They include: Fire, Jinx, Goldfish and Torso.

The Punisher by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon

Garth Ennis does the unthinkable and makes The Punisher cool. Forget about anything that has happened in The Punisher over the last decade. Ennis refocuses Frank Castle on a single goal: eliminate criminals. Itís blood flowing, head cracking action with a twisted sense of humor along for the ride.

 

Planetary: All Over The World by Warren Ellis and John Cassaday

Imagine a world in which every so-called "fictional" adventure actually happened. World governments and shadowy corporations both do their best to cover up and exploit these incidents, and only one group has the stones to find out what really happened. Financed by a mysterious "Fourth Man," Planetary scours the Earth to discover that the truth is already here, even as they struggle against a seriously warped version of a certain famous foursome. Available only in hardback: Planetary: Who Is The Fourth Man?

Awesome Older Trade Paperbacks

But why stop there? Here are a few other older trade paperbacks that are well worth your time and money.

Bone: Out From Boneville by Jeff Smith

The good news is that this is an epic fairy tale that both adults and kids love. I don't even mind that it's not in color. The bad news is that the overall story should fill nine paperbacks. Itís taken ten years for Jeff Smith to write and draw the first seven. Smith just canít work fast enough to satisfy my reading needs.

 

Marvels by Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross

Hereís another look at the human side of superheros, but this time it takes place in the Marvel Universe. The most incredible thing about this book is the stunning artwork by Ross. If youíve never experienced his work, then you are in for a shock. Itís all hand painted. Seriously, I want to be the curator of the Alex Ross art museum.

Preacher by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon

If you like epic story arcs that come to an explosive end, then Preacher is the best of them. Garth Ennis is a master of twisted stories that leave you wanting more. Like Pulp Fiction, youíll find yourself laughing out loud at the most disturbing and offensive things yet you just canít stop reading. After you read the first trade, I dare you to not buy the second.

Batman: Year One by Frank Miller and David Mazzuchelli

Frank Miller tells the tale of Bruce Wayneís first year as Batman. Itís fun to see the caped crusader making mistakes, refining his costume and all the other nuances of being a new superhero.

 

 

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. by Frank Miller and Klaus Janson

The sequel to Frank Millerís classic Batman story is coming out soon. Itís going to rock the comic book world, so you really should read this one to be prepared.

 

So, there you have it. Feel free to let me know if you think my selections suck or if there is something you think I should be reading. Enjoy!

Michael Goodson

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