Here’s how you know you’re in the midst of old people being grouchy about superheroes; a promo spot for RED 2, a movie based on a comic book, touts that it has no superheroes in it. Just, you know, Bruce Willis doing superhuman things.
It’s something I hear a lot, surprisingly: People tell me they’d like to get into comics but there are too many issues, they’re not really into reading about superheroes, and so on. OK, I can work with that: Here are five comics with not a superhero in sight that are absolutely worth reading.
High adventure titles don’t get more fun than this. Set in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, this epic story of terraforming and frontier exploration from Joe Harris and Martin Morazzo juggles a lot of threads, and juggles them lightheartedly and cleverly. It’s also not remotely preachy; Harris cleverly ensures even his protagonist is a bit more mercenary than hippie.
Garth Ennis is well-known for his book Preacher, but, if I’m being honest, I kind of ran out of gas on Ennis until this, only giving it a shot because it was a number one and I try to read as many number ones as possible.
I’m glad I did. This noir is Ennis at his least jokey and most serious, and it takes a theme that he normally uses for comedy, those entrusted with the law taking it into their own hands, and lingers on what would go horribly wrong if police officers actually did that. And it works. Craig Cermak’s art helps a lot by keeping it toned down, as well. The result is a tense, gripping thriller of a book.
Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips are a great team, with books such as Incognito, Criminal, and Sleeper. And this mixes their taste for noir with horror in a way we don’t often see. Especially for horror fans, it’s a can’t-miss book.
An ongoing that started as a webcomic, Jim Zub and Edwin Huang lovingly parody every stupid fantasy trope that could possibly exist. It’s like reading a buddy-cop comedy every month, except with a drunken dwarf and some bald guy with a gun he shouldn’t have. Also there are monkeys.
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Yes, The Crow normally fits the standard for a superhero. A gritty ’90s anti-hero, maybe, but still a superhero. But it’s in how the story is written; The Crow this time is not some pissed-off dude, or a Jew giving the Nazis the business… but a little girl. More to the point, the story centers around a former police officer who can’t let the case of this girl’s death go, even though it’s destroying his life.
The first two issues of this three-part series have been some of the best writing J. O’Barr has done, period. Fair warning that the series is a brutal gut-punch of book, dealing fairly directly with some ugly themes. But it’s also a heart-breaking and genuinely moving book about loss. O’Barr’s breakdowns are built by Antoine Dodé into something simultaneously gorgeous and sad. It’s not an “easy” book, but it’s a genuinely great one.
Any suggestions? Let us know in the comments!