Welcome back, friends. It’s holiday time again and that means gifts. But whether you’re spending the check you got, treating yourself a little, or hunting for something for the nerd in your life, it can be hard to know what pick up for the holidays. Especially if you’re buying for someone else, hunting for something original and smart can quickly become a maddening experience and that tends to be about where the whole ‘peace on Earth and goodwill towards man’ thing starts to break down.

Happy HolidaysWell, worry not! Below I’ve assembled ten of my favorite comics. This selection should be generally accessible at your Local Comic Shop or easily located online and attempts to appeal to most, if not all, readers without rehashing the same tired best-sellers list.

It’s worth mentioning that there are tons of excellent comics that I simply haven’t gotten around to reading, but I wanted to feel confident that you were getting the best I could recommend and, as such, only comics I have personal experience with are featured here. I’ve tried to give a pretty wide range of comics, but, if you feel like your interests or the interests of the intended recipient aren’t adequately represented here, feel free to let me know in comments and I’ll try to see if I can’t come up with something. You can also check out last year’s gift guide, which is totally still good.

I hope this is helpful to you and, as my friends at FOX News say: Happy Holidays.

 

What I’ve tried to do in this guide is present a quick understanding of what makes these comics great and what you should know before giving them to someone. Below each entry I’ll tell you how much the book will cost you and what you’re getting for that price, as well as some famous, similar works, to help you lock onto who will enjoy it, and a couple of ideas if you’re looking to supplement or follow up any of these suggestions.

Each book’s price is ranked from one to five ($-$$$$$). I trust that you all know your budget (not to mention math) better than I, so these rankings are meant to give a general sense of how comics are priced and are intended to be a little fluid. A massive omnibus priced the same as a small trade may wind up in a different price point and things will start to escalate quickly over the $30 mark.

Alright…

 

 

Name: Deadpool & Cable Omnibus

Deadpool & Cable OmnibusThe problem with giving oversized comics as gifts is that, while they offer a little more bang for your buck, if a comic is popular enough to have earned a deluxe edition, most fans interested in it have probably read it in some form already. Sometimes a fan will put off reading such classics or will enjoy the benefits of a nicer or more thorough collection, but, especially for those not deep into comics themselves, the uncertainty can make the higher price point seem daunting.

Well, while I can’t guarantee anything, here’s an impressive recent release that should certainly make you the favorite at the next family gathering. Deadpool’s madcap humor and appreciation for ultra-violence have made him a perennial favorite, as the reversed billing in this Omnibus’ title suggests, however he’s often kind of obnoxious and juvenile. Though Cable & Deadpool isn’t 100% immune to these problems, writer Fabian Nicieza really reached for the lovable soul at Deadpool’s core in this underrated series that paired him with the ultimate mutant straight-man.

Starting with a strange but hilarious plan to destroy racism and throwing teleporter hijinx, film noir parody, and Venom dinosaurs in alongside heartfelt musings on responsibility, justice, and friendship, Cable & Deadpool has plenty to catch and hold your interest. It’s a peculiar series that’s fallen out of the limelight, even as its star’s popularity has swelled enormously. Thankfully Marvel saw fit to release this mammoth omnibus and give us another chance to enjoy one of their best and funniest action comedies.

Collects: All 51 issuest of Cable & Deadpool.

Price Tag: $$$$$ ($125, though with such an impressive list price even I would consider taking advantage of Amazon’s significant discount.)

Grab it if you liked: Red vs. Blue, Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, The Adventures of Dr. McNinja

Looking For More: Those hungering for some superhero comedy would do well to snag a copy of Justice League International, while Deadpool fans who enjoy his rare moments of seriousness should investigate Uncanny X-Force. If you’re interested in getting a bigger gift for the comic fan in your life I recommend considering IDW’s beautiful Deluxe Edition of the Metal Gear Solid comics or the thankfully rereleased Runaways: The Complete Collection trades.

 

 

Name: The Complete Elf Quest Volume 1

Need a new Legendarium to for the fantasy fan in your life? May I suggest Elfquest? The child of Wendy and Richard Pini, Elfquest is one of the longest running indie comics in the world. The Original Quest follows a tribe of forest elves, wolf riders, whose home is beset by fearful, xenophobic humans. Before long the wolf riders are adrift and discovering the secrets of their race and their myths.

While, in some ways, it’s the ultimate generic fantasy, Elfquest distinguishes itself by the depth and joy that the Pinis bring to its world and the 1970s enthusiasm and lack of irony is absolutely infectious.

One thing to note is that, while Elfquest is fairly tame in terms of violence, it has a unique relationship with sex that also screams 1970s. The elves are something of a free love society and have a somewhat questionable trait called recognition that can cause two elves to become so attracted to each other that they’ll die if they don’t mate. Yeah…it’s not the most consensual and more than a little kinky. It wouldn’t be hard to accidentally hand this otherwise kid-friendly comic to a younger relative, but unless you want to spend New Year’s explaining what an orgy is, you might want to wait until you’re confident they can handle it.

There are all manner of Elfquest graphic novels from nearly every publisher under the sun, but Dark Horse has just released a lovely omnibus of the first stories in their original black and white. While some, myself included, might be a little sad to see the beautiful color work of the original trades removed, this is how they were originally meant to be seen, protecting the series from the decreased value of the Showcase series and allowing Dark Horse to publish these stories at an insanely low price.

I have heard rumors that there is a missing page in at least some printings, but, while that’s unfortunate, a (lesser, in my opinion) color version is available on the Pinis’ website for free.

Collects: The 720-page entirety of the “Original Quest”, composed of Elfquest #1-20.

Price Tag: The Complete Elfquest – $$$ ($25), Online Archives – $ (Inferior coloring to previous editions and a slightly awkward interface.)

Grab it if you liked: The Hobbit, Red Sonja, Dragon Ball, Avatar: The Last Airbender

Looking For More: There are a wealth of different series and printings in the Elfquest line, but, if you’re waiting for the next omnibus, you can also look into Saga for more great (and sex-positive) fantasy or The Hobbit: Illustrated Edition or Bone for a slightly younger crowd. I’d also strongly recommend grabbing the similarly thoughtful, if highly different in setting, Gargoyles on DVD, whose comic opens with a introduction from Wendy Pini herself.

 

 

Name: C.O.W.L.: Principles of Power

‘Superhero union period-piece’ is quite the elevator pitch, but somehow Kyle Higgins and Alec Siegel’s C.O.W.L. took that concept and ran with it well beyond my wildest expectations. A thoroughly cinematic reading experience, C.O.W.L. is a tense, gripping noir story set in 1960s Chicago. As the first superhero union declares victory over the last super villain, a looming conspiracy and the influence of the mob threaten to destroy everything they’ve worked for. Who can be trusted? How can C.O.W.L. survive? And what does it mean to be a hero without a villain? These questions and more made C.O.W.L. the first and, so far, only series to receive straight As from me on Weekly Comic Book Review. It also doesn’t hurt that Rod Reis’ artwork makes it one of the most beautiful comics in print today. Its serious tone makes it ill-suited, if not inappropriate for younger readers, but if you don’t mind a creeping pace C.O.W.L. is absolutely a comic you should pick up for yourself or someone you love.

Collects: C.O.W.L. #1-5

Price Tag: $ ($10)

Grab it if you liked: Watchmen, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Mad Men, The Maltese Falcon

Looking For More: Issue #6 should be available at your Local Comic Shop, with issue #7 due next week. If that’s not enough to sate your Super-politics appetite, try Ex Machina Book 1.

 

 

Name: Ms. Marvel: No Normal

What hasn’t been said about G. Willow Wilson’s Ms. Marvel? This nerdy, awkward, wonderful Muslim teenager has taken the comics world by storm, and not without reason. Ms. Marvel, in its own way, is the true inheritor of the Spider-Man legacy, perhaps the first. Once again, Kamala Khan encourages us to reconsider what a hero looks like, but, more than that, Wilson connects with the essential goodness and the relatable flaws within all of us.

Ms. Marvel is destined to be a classic not only because of the strength of the characters, not only because of its much needed representation, but because it really is a story for everyone. I’m happy to find exceptions but, if you can’t relate to Kamala, it might be time to rethink your life. This is a book that’s smart enough for the adult comic fan, but more than appropriate for someone looking for their first comic book.

Collects: Ms. Marvel vol. 3 #1-5

Price Tag: $$ ($16)

Grab it if you liked: The Spectacular Spider-Man, Bend it Like Beckham, The Guild, Young Avengers

Looking For More: The series only gets better from here and issues #6-9 are available individually at your Local Comic Shop, with issue #10 due this Wednesday. If you need more than that, try tracking down the trades of The Amazing Spider-Girl.

 

 

Name: Transformers: Windblade

Those of you who know or follow me know that I kind of love IDW’s Transformers universe. The Transformers (née Robots in Disguise) was a solid political drama starring Starscream and Bumblebee and More Than Meets The Eye is one of the strongest books on the stands month after month (and one of my gift suggestions from last year. It’s still good.) Transformers: Windblade combines the best of both and then adds in one of the most stunning new artists of the year.

Following a naive but clever immigrant to Cybertron, Windblade is one of the best possible introductions to Transformers. The character writing is sharp as Rachet’s scalpels and writer Mairghread Scott’s takes on fan favorites like Starscream, Ironhide, and Waspinator must be read to be believed.

If RiD is Iron Man and MTMTE is Secret Six, Transformers: Windblade is clearly the Ms. Marvel of the giant robot set.

Collects: The complete Transformers: Windblade miniseries (#1-4)

Price Tag: $$$ (18)

Grab it if you liked: Transformers: Prime, Game of Thrones, beautiful things, Ms. Marvel

Looking For More: Windblade won’t properly return until later this year but both of the aforementioned Transformers comics are great and both Sarah Stone and the cast of this series return for Transformers: Robots in Disguise #33.

 

 

Name: Ariol

Before I start talking about this comic, it’s worth mentioning that, at the time of writing, I am working for the company that produces it. In fact, I discovered Emmanuel Guibert and Marc Boutavant’s Ariol series when I was assigned to edit the most recent english volume. I came in with no knowledge or expectations, but something about this odd little donkey took hold of my heart.

Ariol is a little blue donkey who’s best friends with a pig, is in love with a cow, and wants desperately to be Thunder Horse, AVENGER OF THE STAAAAARS! In terms of plot, there’s not much more to it than that, but Ariol is not really selling itself on the complexity of its stories. Instead, the series is centered completely around Guibert’s brilliant renditions of childhood joy, love, and angst. The stories are cute and the art will entertain, but Ariol appeals to me, as a reader far out of its intended demographic, for the same reason I expect it will resonate with kids: the sheer honesty in the voice of our protagonist. Issues like emotional flexibility, racism, media representation, and even the fear of loss and mortality are scattered throughout, effortlessly treated as non-preachy stories that will enthrall and delight. If you’re looking for something for a younger reader, check Ariol out.

Collects: The 100+ pages of the original French volumes.

Price Tag: $$ (12.99 each)

Grab it if you liked: Peanuts, Richard Scary, Calvin and Hobbes

Looking For More: There are currently five volumes out, with a sixth on the way soon. You could also look into Toto Trouble (also from Papercutz) or explore other classics of Europe with Asterix or (my favorite) The Adventures of Tintin.

 

 

Name: The Harry Osborne Saga

Maybe the comic fan in your life already has a veritable library of trades and you don’t know what you could get them that they don’t already have. Well, despite the abundance of trades out there, some of the best comics have never been collected. Among these is J.M. DeMatteis’ Harry Osborn Saga. Part of his epic Spider-Man cycle, which really began with the critically lauded Kraven’s Last Hunt, The Harry Osborn Saga is one of the most powerful and affecting comics I’ve ever read.

Composed of three excellent stories – “The Child Within”, “The Osborn Legacy”, and “Best of Enemies” – these ten issues tell one of the most incredibly visceral stories in comics. DeMatteis gets Spider-Man and, even more importantly, he gets people. Despite his death, the true villain of this lesser known epic is Norman Osborn and it will forever define the entirety of the Osborn family for me.

It should be noted that DeMatteis, without necessarily writing a story about it, gives a truly disturbing look into the nature of abuse, trauma, and anger. It will either scar or open the eyes of a child and is more than enough to trigger or speak to a survivor, so I encourage you to know your audience before you gift it.

This will likely be the hardest gift to find on this list, but, with a little time and a couple of comic shops, I expect that you’ll be able to find most of the run. With good luck, a number of these comics could be found in dollar bins, and the anniversary issues can run from standard $3.00 purchases to $10+ behind the counter collectors items. It depends on your store and, for my part, I managed to grab them for cheap.

Just as Kraven’s Last Hunt is known far and wide as the ultimate Spider-Man story, to me this is the ultimate Peter Parker story, and a comic any fan will likely treasure.

Comprised Of: Spectacular Spider-Man vol. 1 #178-184, 189-190, & 200

Price Tag: $$-$$$$ ($17-50)

Grab it if you liked: Batman: The Animated Series, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, New Teen Titans

Looking For More: This is my favorite of his, but J.M. DeMatteis has done many other incredible Spider-Man stories, including Kraven’s Last Hunt and Amazing Spider-Man #400. You could pick up Spider-Man: Death of the Stacys for context or try to track down other uncollected gems like Tony Isabella’s Black Lightning or Legends of the Dark Knight arcs like “Faces”.

 

 

Name: Strong Female Protagonist: Book One

You’ll not find a more earnest examination of Superhero ethics and social justice than Strong Female Protagonist. I devoured the archives in a day upon discovering this little gem of an offbeat superhero adventure.

Perhaps I should say ex-superhero adventure, because, as we open our story, Alison Green has forsaken the caped life for one that she feels can better save the world, that of a liberal arts student. Full of beautifully developed characters and reveals that can take your breath away, Strong Female Protagonist is a great indie comic and I’m thrilled that Top Shelf agreed to bring it to comic and book stores.

Collects: Strong Female Protagonist Book 1 contains the first four chapters of the story.

Price Tag: Print Collection – $$ ($20), Webcomic – $ (a Google search and a love for other people)

Grab it if you liked: Supurbia, Claremont X-Men, The Newsroom, Questionable Content

Looking For More: There’s not much quite like SFP but there’s a whole website of great stories available. Those who have consumed all that might consider The Life and Times of Savior 28.

 

 

Name: The Wake HC

Scott Snyder made quite a name for himself very quickly. While essentially opening his comic career with a critically acclaimed horror series co-written by Stephen King couldn’t have hurt, to be writing DC’s namesake title less than a year later and to arguably be their biggest star less than a year after that is pretty impressive. He even managed to rock Detective Comics despite following Greg Rucka’s incredibly well-loved Batwoman run!

So what happens when the biggest star in comics starts to chafe under DC’s demands? The Wake.

Described as an attempt to break as many rules of comics as possible, Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy’s The Wake somehow managed to be one of the most structurally brilliant comics I read this year. It’s a brilliantly emotional horror/sci-fi (about mermaids, no less!) that’s nearly impossible to put down. In fact, the greatest strength of the series, in my mind, is its ability to completely paper over its few flaws through emotional honesty and beautiful plotting.

The Wake is an incredible testament to the power of the creator-driven project, reuniting two of the finest talents working in comics today for a bizarre and beautiful journey into unknown worlds, the creative process, and what makes us human. It’s best saved for adults or particularly mature teenagers, but it’s pretty amazing. The hardcover was just released by Vertigo and I highly recommend picking it up. Let’s put it this way, The Wake Part 1 trade was the first trade I picked up this year, part of my attempt to fill the gaps in my 2013. I didn’t regret it.

Collects: The complete series of The Wake (#1-10)

Price Tag: $$$ ($25)

Grab it if you liked: The Abyss, Batman: The Court of Owls, Alien, Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on a Serious Earth, The Walking Dead

Looking For More: Try American Vampire or In The Dark: A Horror Anthology

 

 

Name: Ōoku: The Inner Chambers

I picked up Ōoku on the recommendation of my friend, Juliet Kahn, who made it her recommendation for last year’s Comics Alliance holiday gift guide. I’m ever so grateful. I haven’t read a lot of manga lately, but that just made diving into this tale of an alternate history Tokugawa all the sweeter.

Based heavily on the actual history of Japan, Ōoku depicts a world in which a virulent disease, the Red-Face Pox, strikes Japan in the 17th century and decimates the male population, leaving the country skewed, 75: 25, in favor of women. As the situation worsens, the patriarchal society of feudal Japan struggles to survive, creating a new and fascinating culture where misogyny and female supremacy intermingle.

Full of courtly intrigue, political and romantic, and fascinating characters, Ōoku has taught me to dread the end of a volume. It’s also all the more interesting for its willingness to buck traditional story structures, letting the narrative surprise and occasionally flatten the reader. If gender roles, court dramas, or alternate history are their bag, Ōoku should be in their stocking.

Collects: The 200-270 pages of the original Japanese volumes.

Price Tag: $$ ($13 per volume)

Grab it if you liked: Outlander, Memoirs of a Geisha, The White Queen, Y the Last Man

Looking For More: There are ten of these wonderful little trades and they become increasingly easy to track down as you get further in.

 

 

One last thing. Though I’ve supplied links to the Amazon descriptions, I would urge you to support your local comic shop. Comicbookresources.com has a Find A Comic Shop tool right on their home page. Half the reason I know any of this is because of the wonderful people who have worked in the stores I’ve frequented. They’re usually lovely people who may be able to give you some more great ideas.

That’s it for now. Happy holidays and may this year and the next be filled with excellent stories.

happy hanukkah Flash

Advertisements