Enough of the tights and capes.
With the two major comic book publishers going through refreshes of their universes, now is the perfect time to examine some of the lesser-known, but eminently readable titles available today. In some cases, these book are from smaller publishers that don’t always have the marketing engines (or Hollywood connections) of mighty Marvel or DC Comics. But they are well written, tell interesting stories and often feature exquisite artwork.
Here are a five such worthy titles:
Chrononauts by comic auteur Mark Millar is a wickedly fun romp through the ages. The recently concluded mini-series features two less-than-ethical time travelers who use their knowledge of the past for conquest (on the battlefield and in the bedroom) and profit. Imagine if Bill and Ted were in it only for themselves. Millar treats the subject matter with a deft touch, and Sean Murphy draws some of the craziest, most entertaining panels imaginable. We’ll see how it translates to the big screen, now that Universal Pictures optioned a screenplay.
Now is the perfect time to examine some of the lesser-known, but eminently readable titles available today.
Descender is another sci-fi story, this time from the mind of Jeff Lemire, with artwork by Dustin Nguyen. It features a far-off future 10 years after a robot invasion where all forms of androids are outlawed. Robot Tim-21 awakens to find his human companions are long dead, and he is being hunted by scrappers. The book features a hilarious robot protector, Driller, which isn’t afraid to violate Isaac Asimov’s laws prohibiting robot violence against humans.
Alex + Ada keeps the robotic theme, but brings the drama closer to home. Much to his surprise, introvert Alex receives a top-of-the-line X5 android as a gift from his robot-oversexed grandmother. Grandma wants the robot Ada to loosen Alex up, but he has other ideas — like giving her free will. Like most good sci-fi, the series asks contemporary questions (like what does it mean to be human?) in a futuristic setting.
The Dying and the Dead is the latest from writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Ryan Bodenheim and deals with a hero not seen in modern comics — a member of the World War II generation. To save his dying wife, the Colonel gets roped into an adventure, and in the process encounter immortals, clones and elves. Think Clint Eastwood playing Indiana Jones. The series is scheduled to conclude in November.
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If you are looking for a mix of football, the supernatural and some Southern “hospitality,” then Southern Bastards is for you. Set in Alabama, the story revolves around Earl Tubb, who returns to his hometown and gets embroiled in fight after fight — with the help of a stick created after lighting shattered a tree over his father’s grave. The bad guy? Coach Boss, the local high school football coach who holds court over the town from his seat in his barbecue restaurant. This series may also make it to the small screen, as FX recently optioned it.
While these titles lack characters we’ve grown up with, they tell compelling stories that don’t suffer from series sprawl. Any one of them is worth your time.