If you’re heading to the comic shop this Saturday, expand your horizons with these books!
As the host of Cape Crisis, I take all my responsibilities very seriously. I know I have to talk about Spider-Man incessantly, bash Man of Steel at least once per show, and impart my hard-earned comic wisdom through reading suggestions. And Saturday, May 2, is likely the biggest day of the year for your local comic shops. Yes, it’s the annual Free Comic Book Day! Every major (and minor) publisher is putting out special issues that showcase some of their best upcoming books. You can get all those details on the official site, and some better explanation in this a helpful video…
However, I have a public service message of my own: Don’t be a cheapskate! So many different folks are going to be heading to their local store to get free books, but those books aren’t free for the store. They pay for those to draw in customers in the hopes that they’ll, ya know, buy something. I’d definitely like you to support you local shop on a day like today, so I’m going to list 10 great, affordable first books to buy when you head into the shop.
Southern Bastards Vol. 1
This was, bar none, my favorite book of 2014. Jason Aaron is at the top of his game, exploring the dark side of his home state, Alabama. This story feels like a southern fried take on a Mafia film, with the Godfather role filled by the local high school football coach. It’s an incredible book that really touched the heart of this displaced southerner, but I think anyone will love this book, which goes for the very reasonable $9.99.
Ms. Marvel Volume 1: No Normal
Beyond any talks of inclusion, representation, and diversification that mainstream books sorely need, I think the Ms. Marvel series is seriously awesome. Taking the mantle once held by Carol Danvers, Kamala Khan takes up the name in the grand Marvel tradition of teenage superheroes. She’s learning her powers, struggling to balance her super life with her secret identity, and turning into a total fangirl when the shapeshifter meets famous Marvel heroes. All that while also giving some interesting insight into what it’s like to be a Muslim in America. Currently one of the publisher’s best.
Hawkeye, Vol. 1: My Life as a Weapon
If you think Hawkeye looked like a loser in the first Avengers film, you should see him at work in this book. This series has been revolutionary for mainstream books, as its stripped down art and unpredictable storytelling is inspiring other books left and right. Hawkeye’s life away from the Avengers is one of a downtrodden dope who’s really good at shooting arrows, but pretty crappy with everything else. If you haven’t yet, dive into the lives of Kate, bros, Pizza Dog, and Hawkguy– sorry, Hawkeye, right now.
Batman Vol. 3: Death of the Family
Yes, you could start from the very beginning of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s run on Batman, but newer readers, familiar with the eternal struggle of Bats and Mr. J might prefer the first ever Joker story by Snyder/Capullo. This sees the clown return from CUTTING OFF HIS OWN FACE and, unsurprisingly, he’s a lot more hardcore than he used to be (which is really saying something). The Joker is rounding up all of Batman’s friends, threatening that he knows all their secrets, and is ready to destroy them all for the sake of the game. Can he really mean it? Are the Dynamic Duo dust? Find out next… sorry, it’s easy to just fall into that without even meaning to.
Aquaman Vol. 1: The Trench
Folks, I know you all love to rip on Aquaman for being a dope in an dumb costume who talks to fish all day, but lemme tell ya, that joke is so played out, even Family Guy won’t make it anymore. Old orange scales has always been much better than his post-Superfriends reputation, and it only took an all-star creative team like Geoff Johns and Ivan Reiss to bring it out of him. Of all the New 52 reboots, this reexamination of Aquaman was my day one favorite, thanks to great art, good action, and a real sense of humor. Grab this one and give the King of Atlantis another shot.
Planetary Vol 1: All Over the World and Other Stories
I’m reaching back a little later with this one, but it’s one of my favorite books of all time. Warren Ellis and John Cassaday tell the tale of grouchy, angry heroes that operate on the fringes of the superhero world, like The X-Files, but with ice powers. The trio of investigators encounter characters that look a lot like famous Marvel and DC folks, though usually with a twisted sci-fi take. In fact, the more you read it, the more you see that it’s like a commentary on the whole of comics, and Ellis’ words are matched with Cassaday’s glorious artwork. Each issue tells a single story from beginning to end in some admirably compact storytelling that lends itself to multiple readings. This book is so damn good, people.
Sex Criminals, Vol. 1: One Weird Trick
Do you wish comics were funnier and had explicit, honest discussions about sexuality? That’s what Sex Criminals is all about. The concept will draw you in immediately – two people stop time when they have an orgasm, so they use that to rob banks – but you’ll stay for the great characters as you get to know them by exploring their sexual histories. It’s both touching and laugh-out-loud funny, mainly because Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky bring the best out of each other’s snarky, meta-fictional wit. Sex Criminals is the best kind of dirty book.
Superior Spider-Man Vol 1
This is, without a doubt, one of the best Spider-Man stories of all time, and it starts right here. Doctor Octopus has successfully killed Peter Parker and taken over Spidey’s body, deciding to continue the superheroics on his terms. It’s a bit like watching a toddler drive a car as you think “Oh god, what’s he doing with Spider-Man’s body? I can’t stop him!” It adds a level of danger and risk that the Wallcrawler’s books had never seen before. Such a great story from start to finish, and it begins right here.
Daredevil by Brian Michael Bendis & Alex Maleev Ultimate Collection – Book 1
Did you just binge-watch every episode of Daredevil and can’t wait for season 2? Well, this hefty collection should tide you over. Bendis and Maleev are a great team on any title, but they understand the character of Matt Murdock better than anyone. They put the blind lawyer through the ringer in some of his best stories ever, bestowing a tone and style on the character that clearly inspired much of the recent Netflix hit. Grab this one so you can finally begin the epic.
Criminal Volume 1: Coward
Ed Brubaker is one of the most consistently great writers in comics, and Sean Phillips is one of his best collaborators. Together they created Criminal, the best noir comic series since Sin City. Each collection tells the gritty, tragic tales of some complex career criminals as they navigate the difficult world of organized crime. The first book tells the story of the man who always runs, and how he deals with his cowardice, and it only gets better from there.
Gotham Central, Book 1: In the Line of Duty
If Gotham was an actual good TV show, Gotham Central is what it would be. Brought to life by Ed Brubaker, Greg Rucka, and Michael Lark, this looks at Batman’s city from the other side of the law, with cops doing their best to police a city full of freeze rays and flamethrowers. Gotham Central is a police procedural in a world of Batman, asking just how the detectives and beat cops deal with the being pawns in battles between vigilantes and madmen. You’ll never look at Gotham the same again after reading this.
Saga, Vol. 1
For someone that lives in the world of comic books, suggesting this feels as redundant as telling people about Game of Thrones or Serial. Seriously, Saga is the most buzzed about book in comics, and for good reason. Just read it already, ok?
Also, in case you missed them last week, Laser Time’s brand new commentaries for The Avengers and Iron Man 3 are now available on the Laser Time Bandcamp page, and you can buy them if you want to help while Henry is in-between jobs.