It’s National Comic Book Day today, and Batman Day tomorrow, so there will be a lot of comics chatter. And if you don’t like superhero books, you may feel a bit left in the cold. Although there are a few superhero books I’d recommend to anybody, it’s just not to everybody’s taste. Fortunately, there are plenty of comics that are. Here are five great ones on the stands right now.
Yes, the title is off-putting, but it’s technically accurate to describe Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky’s raunchy-yet-thoughtful series. Suzie, our heroine, discovers early on that when she has an orgasm, she enters The Quiet; a place where time stops. She thinks she’s alone until she discovers Jon, who can also enter The Quiet, and handily has a glowing penis that tells them how long they have until time starts again. Together, they rob banks, get in dildo fights with the Sex Police, and run away from demons made of intimate bodily fluids. The draw, beyond the raunch, is that Fraction and Zdarsky have some genuinely thoughtful things to say about how we approach sex and how it can mess even the most stable of us up, and it can be just as funny dealing with emotional struggles and inadequacies as it is dealing with sex.
Ryan K. Lindsay and Owen Gieni essentially smash together a self-help book and an alien invasion story, and it’s by turns touching and hilarious, even just two issues in. A nice touch: the book knows how annoying perpetually cheery people can be and spins that to its advantage. Our depressed, confused hero isn’t sure if he’s happy or annoyed at these people and their overly literal creepy alien buddy.
Romantic comedy is pretty hard to pull off in comics. It needs subtle, dynamic art and clever writing to make it work. That’s what makes Giant Days, from John Allison and Lissa Treiman, such a great book. Focusing on three college freshman in England, Allison’s dialogue perfectly captures what a trio of over-educated smartasses would say to each other, while being surprisingly tender toward them as they suffer some small, but nonetheless cruel, emotional slights.
Cullen Bunn is well known for his supervillain comics, but his best work right now is actually this literary horror story following Ellie, a young girl who discovers she might be a witch… and that everybody has plans for her. You wouldn’t think H.P. Lovecraft and William Faulkner would mesh so well, but Bunn makes them feel like peanut butter and chocolate. It’s helped immensely by the art of Tyler Crook, who can pull off both disturbing creature design and delicate facial expressions in the same panel.
The Omega Men
OK, OK, very technically this is a superhero comic. Or, at least, there is a superhero in it, Kyle Rayner. But he doesn’t have any superpowers. Instead, Tom King, Baraby Bagenda, and Jose Marzan Jr. are using the freedom of being set in a galaxy far, far away from the rest of the DC to explore the thorny question of just where the line between “freedom fighter” and “terrorist” truly lies. The Omega Men of the title aren’t heroes; depending on what you think about their actions, they aren’t even anti-heroes. It’s a book that makes you think about what you’ve read each time you read it.
Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting have an answer to the question of what James Bond would be as a woman, and their answer is Velvet Templeton. Brubaker is particularly adept at taking the “dry martini” style of spy story and adding a lot of “stale beer” to the equation; Velvet does a lot of fighting, stealing, and seducing, but the world she inhabits is morally gray at the best of time. It’s complemented by Epting’s lush artwork, which takes cues from European comics while giving the book a style and mood that feels like a great ’70s spy movie.
Jem and the Holograms
It’s rare that an “all-ages” book is genuinely for everybody. That’s what makes Kelly Thompson and Sophie Campbell’s book such a surprise; Thompson finds a lot of depth in a bad cartoon from the ’80s, and Campbell’s clean, vivid art makes the book engaging while simultaneously often capturing the small details that tell you what they’re thinking.
Weigh in with any favorites I missed in the comments; suffice to say there are plenty of books out there for every taste, both in trade paperbacks and being published right now. So if you’re leery of superheroes, try some different genres of comics; there’s something for everyone.