2118239-superman_batman_christmasHello again, friends. The holidays are upon us and it’s the giving season once more. Comics are a tricky business at this time of year. There’s always a deluge of books to chose from when buying for yourself and buying for someone else is always a difficult task, especially if you’re not quite as knowledgable as your intended recipient.

Happy HolidaysWell, worry not! Here are nine more excellent comics you may not have thought of. 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 either of my other gift guides for more suggestions.

 

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.

 

 

 

Name: Descender: Tin Stars

Pairing an emotionally honest, A-List writer like Jeff Lemire with an artist famous for the sheer beauty of his work like Dustin Nguyen is kind of a guarantee of something special and Descender doesn’t disappoint. Set in a future where humanity has colonized the stars, given birth to artificial intelligence, and joined the United Galactic Council, Descender follows a child’s companion robot, Tim-21, as he reactivates in a universe awash in anti-robot hysteria following a devastating attack by massive silent automatons called Harvesters. The series is innocent, but never shies away from the reality and horror of the situation and the art is phenomenal.

Collects: Descender #1-6

Price Tag: $ ($10)

Grab it if you liked: Star Wars, Mass Effect, Xenoblade Chronicles X

Looking for More: Issue #8 is out now, but, if that’s not enough to keep you sated, you could try fellow Image Sci-Fi hit Saga. There’s also Star Wars: Darth Vader or, if Sci-Fi’s not your thing, you can get your dose of world-building with The Autumnlands: Tooth & Claw.

 

 

Name: Mighty Avengers: No Single Hero

It’s not a new series and, in fact, it just ended, but I think Mighty Avengers is more essential than ever. Growing out of Luke Cage’s newest attempt at running Heroes for Hire, the Mighty Avengers are the people’s Avengers, on the ground dealing with the community and answering their concerns. Writer Al Ewing had a fantastic grasp of his characters and absolutely succeeded in shattering ideas of A-List and B-List (and C-List and D-List, if we’re being honest with ourselves). If you told me a year ago that the new Power Man and Blue Marvel would be some of my favorite Marvel heroes, I wouldn’t have even laughed at you, I would have just asked if those were real characters, but here we are. Mighty Avengers hits that sweet spot where it’s activist without being political and, in this climate, it’s so important to have a mainstream book that grasps that one man’s ‘politics’ are another’s daily life. Plus it’s just incredibly fun, classic heroics with relatable characters and big villains.

Collects: Mighty Avengers #1-3, 4.INH-5.INH

Price Tag: $$$ ($18)

Grab it if you liked: Jessica Jones, Strong Female Protagonist, Green Lantern/Green Arrow

Looking for More: Well, for starters, there’s two more volumes and the relaunch, Captain America and the Mighty Avengers. There’s also the underrated Iron Man: Fatal Frontier (in print or digital motion comic) and the truly magical Loki: Agent of Asgard, both also from Al Ewing. And if you’ve exhausted those, take a look at collections from Milestone Comics like Icon: A Hero’s Welcome and Static Shock: Rebirth of Cool.

 

 

Name: Gotham By Midnight: We Do Not Sleep

DC Comics has a long history of horror at the Vertigo Imprint, but people overlook solid offerings in the genre from DC’s mainline. No series in recent memory exemplifies this better than Gotham By Midnight. With Intersect and Justice League Dark scribe Ray Fawkes and legendary artist Ben Templesmith on the first arc, Gotham By Midnight is a smart and distinctive supernatural series with a fantastic BPRD-esque set up. And though it’s a brilliant reinvention of DC classic the Spectre, this is so much more than that. With stunning art, a memorable cast, and a razor sharp story, this is a fantastic DC offering for those who are unfamiliar or uninterested in the traditional Gotham City lore.

Collects: Gotham by Midnight #1-6

Price Tag: $$ ($15)

Grab it if you liked: Hellboy, Dresden Files, Gotham

Looking for More: If you’re interested in more DC horror, you should take a look at The Shade. There’s classics from Vertigo like Sandman. You could also grab a horror sampler from some of the industry’s best with In the Dark: A Horror Anthology.

 

 

Name: The Woods: The Arrow

The first creator owned series from rising superstar James Tynion IV, The Woods’ defining feature for me is how mature it is. Like actually mature, not in the buzzword sense. I’d be happy to hand this series to a teenager, but this series honestly respects itself and its readers. As a result, this series isn’t afraid to dance around genres, horror, science fiction, teen drama, alternate history, and more commingle here.

When Bay Point Prep is suddenly transported to an alien world, a group of students will have to brave an unfriendly wilderness if there’s any chance of keeping the school together. The characters are vivid and the mysteries of the world fascinating. Plus, while he may not be the most immediately striking artist on this list, Michael Dialynas is a match for any of them.

I also love that The Woods features an incredibly diverse cast and is utterly unafraid to give LGBTQ characters the time and respect that their straight counterparts receive. And it’s nice how matter of fact the series is about it. In this world, people are who they are and it’s not treated as a ‘very special episode’ when they discuss their lives. There’s something universal about The Woods, and that doesn’t mean rounding down to the most generic, socially acceptable experience.

Collects: The Woods #1-4

Price Tag: $ ($10)

Grab if you liked: Young Avengers, Lost, Between

Looking for More: The second and third trades are available now. You can also get more of James Tynion with Memetic or the under-appreciated Talon. Or, if you like the feel of The Woods and want to branch out, I’d recommend Runaways, the original or the Secret Wars revival.

 

 

Name: Wonder Woman by George Perez Omnibus

She hasn’t always received her due as one of DC’s Trinity of heroes, but in those rare moments when DC gives her a creative team worthy of her, Wonder Woman is one of their best. Ask around and you’ll find that George Perez’s 1987 relaunch of the Amazon princess is one of the best beloved and most deserving runs of Wonder Woman ever and DC has brought these stories back into print in a gorgeous omnibus collection. This massive tome collects the first two years of Wonder Woman’s new direction and, therefore, Perez’s entire run as both writer and artist on the series.

This is the sort of book that can make a Wonder Woman fan for life and having it all in one place is a pretty amazing.

Collecting: Wonder Woman vol. 2 #1-24 & Annual #1

Price Tag: $$$$$ ($75)

Grab it if you liked: Percy Jackson, Tamora Pierce, Gal Gadot

Looking for more: Wonder Woman fans looking for more should seek out Greg Rucka’s Wonder Woman: Down to Earth or Justice League: A League of One. If you’re looking to  give a child in your life some female role models, there’s the A-Force Presents series or any of the books it collects. Plus, if the Hellenic myths appeal to the nerdling in your life, the Olympians series is always popular.

 

 

Name: The Lunch Witch

The first original graphic novel from Papercutz Graphic Novels, The Lunch Witch is one of the finest all-ages graphic novels I’ve ever read. The economy is tough and people don’t believe in magic anymore, so Grunhilda the Black Heart is forced to take a position as a lunch lady. The Lunch Witch has a point of view all its own. Part of that is the distinctive artwork and part of that is the dazzling wit and honest joy inherent in the script. It’s an actual all-ages book and a fantastic beginning to a forthcoming series.

I should also mention that I actually worked on this book as Papercutz’s editorial assistant, but I assure you that I absolutely adore this book. I’m so lucky to have my name on this book and I don’t recommend it because of that fact, but rather I feel that way because I can honestly recommend it.

Collects: The 180 page original graphic novel

Price Tag: $$ ($15)

Grab it if you liked: A Series of Unfortunate Events, MatildaThe Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales

Looking for More: Gotham Academy is a mainline DC book that you can actually share with the younger nerds in your life and shares themes of being just a little different in school. There’s also a new series of Invader Zim comics from Oni that might scratch a similar comedic itch.

 

 

Name: New Teen Titans vol. 1

A seminal series that DC is still trying to match, Wolfman and Perez’s New Teen Titans allowed DC to go head to head with Uncanny X-Men and made permanent favorites out of minor leaguers like Beast Boy and Wally West as well as utterly new heroes like Cyborg and Starfire. And that’s just the heroes. This was the series that put villains like Brother Blood, Cheshire, Trigon, The H.I.V.E., and Deathstroke on the map.

New Teen Titans may show its age in places, but the strength of its art and the reality of its characters ensure that this series is evergreen. Fans watched Dick Grayson grow up out of the shadow of the bat, Cyborg grapple with his manhood and humanity, and Raven learn to connect with others, all while enjoying some of the finest traditional superhero comics of their day.

For a long time expensive hardcovers and omnibuses were really the only way to get a hold of these issues, but now this landmark run has been collected in a series of trade paperbacks that are eager to line your bookshelves.

Collects: New Teen Titans #1-8 & “Where Nightmares Begin” from DC Comics Presents #26

Price Tag: $$ ($20)

Grab it if you liked: Young Justice, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Flash

Looking for More: Feel free to load up on these, but, in case you’re looking for a little more variety in your reading, you could grab another 80s classic with DC’s Suicide Squad, which also was smiled upon by the collected editions department. There’s also New Mutants Classic and Generation X Classic from Marvel.

 

 

Name: X-Men: Fall of the Mutants vol. 2

“Fall of the Mutants” was an interesting event that ran through Marvel’s X-Men books in early 1988. It was interesting because, despite being marketed similarly to the traditional comic crossovers of the day, none of the titles actually crossed over with each other, instead each title told a separate story with the power to destroy its respective team.

The effects of the event loom large in Uncanny X-Men and New Mutants history, but I’m going to recommend X-Factor’s portion, which took the opportunity to tell the first big Apocalypse story. And it was a doozy. From the reveal of Apocalypse’s final horseman to a cataclysmic battle over New York to Beast’s fears that he’s losing himself to his mutation, this is what I think of when I think of classic superhero comics. Louis and Walt Simonson were at the top of their game and nearly every Apocalypse story that followed was trying to recreate the level of menace and power he had here. This trade also includes a series of tie-ins that help give a sense of scope to Apocalypse’s plans and delivers more classic Marvel adventure.

Collects: X-Factor #18-26, Incredible Hulk #336 & 337, Power Pack #35, Daredevil #252, Captain America #339, & Fantastic Four #312

Price Tag: $$$ ($35)

Grab it if you liked: Avengers: Age of Ultron, Justice League Unlimited, The X-Men: Apocalypse trailer

Looking for More: Those looking for more classic moments can look at the Marvel Masterworks series. If you’re specifically in this for the X-Men, you could get a similarly high stakes adventure with X-Men: Years of Future Past. And fans of Apocalypse could look at his epic mid-nineties crossover event “Age of Apocalypse”, which has been collected in varying levels of enormity.

 

 

Name: The Life and Times of Savior 28

Do superheroes need to be violent? That’s the core question of J.M. DeMatteis’ overlooked gem, The Life and Times of Savior 28.

There has been no shortage of series that ask ‘what if superheroes were real’ or ‘what would have happened if we had superheroes then’ since Watchmen, but Savior 28 distinguishes itself through its honest meditations on how we want to live and a great dynamic between its protagonist and his estranged sidekick. Writer J.M. DeMatteis mixes his considerable experience writing superheroes with the more philosophical side he usually reserves for books like Doctor Fate or Brooklyn Dreams to create an oddly quiet cape comic that’s even better in the collected format.

Admittedly DeMatteis can’t hide the degree to which this was a fairly personal project and to which Savior 28’s thoughts at least resemble his own, but the dual narratives, as well as the knowledge that Savior 28 is unrealistic and the honest questions of why and when we decided that this was common knowledge, make this more than sermon on non-violence.

Savior 28 is about deciding what our vision of heroism looks like, about choosing hope over fear, and (somewhat sadly) that’s very relevant again right now.

Collects: The Life and Times of Savior 28 #1-5

Price Tag: $$$ ($20)

Grab it if you liked: Captain America: The Winter Soldier, All-Star Superman, The Authority

Looking for More: Those who enjoyed Savior 28’s loving critique of the superhero formula might enjoy Flex Mentallo: International Man of Muscle Mystery, which I maintain is Grant Morrison’s finest work and one of a select few books by controversial writer I’d recommend without caveats. If you’re feeling a little more cynical, Fell remains one of my favorite comics and captures a similar dissatisfaction with the way things are. Finally, those who enjoyed this book’s musings on peace will likely enjoy a much more serious story of non-violence in the form of March: Book Two.

 

 

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.

Merry Christmas Hulk

 

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