Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Pages to Panels: New Comics to Jump Straight Into

One of the biggest hurdles I had to get past in comics was working out where to start. I think that's probably why I began with one off graphic novels like Maus (shhh, I got volume 1+2 in a single volume so it counts) and From Hell. But one of the things I love about comics is how sprawling the narratives are. They don't have to wrap everything up in 300 pages or limit themselves to a trilogy. They can expand for years, even decades, and restart when things are starting to get stale. While the impatient part of me loves reading comic series which have wrapped up already so I can just read straight through, I think my love of getting into a series early trumps the joy of spending an entire weekend reading through volumes 1-10 of Transmetropolitan. Following along on that unfolding adventure is one of the true joys of comics. Waiting for the next issue and then devouring it in a single sitting brings back memories of the Harry Potter releases when I was younger, and anything that reminds me of that kind of joy and excitement is obviously getting a huge thumbs up from me.

You can definitely still get this joy if you jump into an established (but still ongoing) story, but I thought I'd share some of my recent first issue finds that are shaping up to be pretty excellent arcs that'll be sure to captivate. 

Bitch Planet (Kelly-Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro) came out a week ago and damn, do I love it. It's essentially a 1970s exploitation film infused with a brand of feminism you'd be unlikely to find anywhere near one of those films. The titular Bitch Planet is where the disobedient (and outright criminal) women are sent. It's essentially an outer space Australia (minus the men), complete with people being sent for downright dog shit reasons except instead of it being poor people being villainised for stealing a loaf of bread it's women being villainised for getting in the way of their husband's affair. Well, they aren't all quite so innocent but the-whole-planet- for-disobedient-women is shady as hell. As DeConnick says of the 5 female protagonists:
there are five women, all ridiculous and real, and all very different. One shouldn’t be there. The other four are unrepentant and guilty as Hell.”
 I really enjoyed this first issue. It's about as subtle as a punch to the face and it's insanely campy but SO GOOD. But if you don't think a neon pink holographic depiction of the Madonna-whore complex used as a confession program in a women's prison is the dopest shit around then this is not the comic for you.

But don't just take my word for it: AV Club review

Black Market (Frank Barbiere and Victor Santos) is technically up to its fourth issue, but that's still pretty close to getting in at the ground floor. It's ground floor adjacent, it's basically the mezzanine floor. Black Market is what I'd describe as superhero adjacent. It's not really in the same genre as Batman or The Avengers but it is indelibly tied to it. The story comes down to a moral quandary. What if the key to curing every known disease on Earth lay in the DNA of superheroes? If superheroes are here to help, isn't this the ultimate sacrifice and way for them to help? Down on his luck with an ailing wife, Brainiac Ray Willis finds himself caught up in the mess of harvesting (or trying to at least) superhero blood with his scummy brother Denny. Black Market manages to traverse between the well known tropes of the superhero comic genre right side up and completely flipped on their head. It's the exact right mix of science and superhero, fantasy and grim reality. A brilliant little series so far.

But don't just take my word for it: Comic Vine review

Chances are, even if you've never touched a comic in your life, you've heard about ODY-C (Matt Fraction and Christian Ward). It's the ambitious and incredibly creative gender-swapped, futuristic sci-fi adaptation of Homer's The Odyssey. I don't even know what to write here because, come on, if gender-swapped outer space Odyssey doesn't sell it to you nothing will. No one could ever accuse Matt Fraction of coasting. Whether he's writing for Marvel or tackling epic poems, you know he's going to push the envelope. I don't think you need to have read The Odyssey to truly enjoy this comic, but like any adaptation a great deal of the enjoyment (for me anyway) is knowing how the new writer tackles the original story's themes, characters and style. The art is also something else. That cover above doesn't even begin to do justice to the epicness of the art within. It really plays with traditional comic panels and forms, so I'm not sure if that would make it harder or easier to read for a comic newbie. But read it regardless.

But don't just take my word for it: IGN review

Grant Morrison's Multiversity is an interesting addition to this post. Technically there is more than one issue out, but they're all technically first issues. Multiversity is, essentially, a series of one shots (single issues) that take place within the 52 alternative universes set up in the mid-2000s series 52. These may only be one-shots now, but it has been pretty heavily signposted that they may be expanded into full-run series. It's an interesting and eclectic mix of storytelling. Each issue, while interrelated, presents a world very different to the issue before it, told in a very different way. I'd imagine people will definitely gravitate towards particular one-shots and away from others - depending on the characters, genre and style. It's also one of the few comic series that doesn't include a single straight, white male protagonist. Full warning though, Grant Morrison is weird. I love his writing and his comics are some of my favourites, but I often feel like things are flying way over my head when I read him. But I personally kind of like that. I like that feeling that I could revisit a comic of his in 10 years and the Kayleigh then will respond to it very differently to the Kayleigh now. But it's also something that will turn some people off completely. So tread carefully with this one if you haven't read Morrison before, maybe keep an eye out for Comixology sales or borrow a copy from a friend.

But don't just take my word for it: Pop Matter's Pax Americana Multiversity review

Read my previous Pages to Panels posts: 


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