(from SFGate.com I’m a few months into reading graphic novels and I haven’t read any of these yet, but I’ll try. Actually, looking at the covers, I’m not so sure! This seems the realm of boys and men)
Friday, February 22, 2008
by Peter Hartlaub, San Francisco Chronicle
Comic book geeks aren’t a proselytizing lot. I spent most of my comic-reading years trying to hide the fact that I’d rather spend my time reading The Fantastic Four and Batman than books without pictures in them. When you’re getting stuffed in a locker, there just isn’t much opportunity to discuss the finer points of Chris Claremont and Frank Miller’s writing.But with Brian K. Vaughan’s Y: The Last Man publishing its 60th and final issue in January, the perfect introduction to the joy of reading comics is finally complete. Not only is Vaughan one of the best young comic book writers around, his story of an escape artist and a monkey trying to survive after a virus wipes out every other male primate on the planet is extremely accessible to the comic-averse masses. (It’s no mistake that J.J. Abrams recruited him to write for “Lost.”)So more than 20 years after picking up our first X-Men comic, we’re ready to craft the comic book equivalent of a mix tape.Like jazz, wine enthusiasm and “The Wire,” the hardest part about reading and enjoying comic books is knowing where to begin. The WonderCon comic book convention, beginning today and lasting through the weekend in San Francisco, is a pretty good place to start browsing.Here’s our ultimate comic book mix tape – title it Eight Comic Books You Need to Read Before You Die, or the only slightly less cumbersome Comics for People Who Think They Hate Comics. I would suggest reading them in the order listed below. All of these are available as trade paperbacks, which compile several comics into one book. In the case of Y: The Last Man, Bone and Sandman, which have multiple editions, we’ve chosen the first volume – read the rest of the saga only if you get hooked.Comic fans: Please make your own suggestions in the comments section of the online version of this story at www.sfgate.com:
Y: The Last Man: Unmanned (Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra): I’m an even bigger fan of Vaughan’s “Ex Machina,” which weaves an intriguing alternate reality around the Sept. 11 attacks. But the recently finished Y: The Last Man is his masterpiece, taking a B-movie premise – what if every man on the planet suddenly died – and turning it into an intriguing, realistic, funny and ultimately touching epic.
Daredevil: Born Again (Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli): Forget that bad Ben Affleck movie. This mid-1980s work from Sin City and 300 writer Frank Miller is a powerful and wrenching tale, throwing the attorney-by-day-crime fighter-by-night down a staircase of addiction and betrayal. It looks a lot like the old X-Men and Avengers comics that you used to enjoy but shows a maturity that will mark much of Miller’s later work.
Swamp Thing (Alan Moore): Another early work by a comic book legend, Alan Moore took over this DC Comics franchise in 1984 when it was all but dead. He completely re-wrote the character’s history, but what could have been a “Highlander 2: The Quickening”-style disaster works in all the right ways, with narrative depth and a love story that resonates.
Marvels (Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross): Told from the point of view of a photojournalist, Marvels gives a street-level view of the greatest moments in superhero history – covering half of the 20th century. Busiek’s story is interesting, but the selling point here is the hyper-realistic art from Alex Ross, who later drew the equally incredible-looking Kingdom Come.
Bone Volume 1: Out From Boneville (Jeff Smith): Imagine if someone took a handful of Looney Tunes characters and tossed them into a Ronnie James Dio song. This cartoonish independent comic, which ran for more than a decade in the 1990s and early 2000s, can be very funny but also has a “Lord of the Rings” vibe. And not just the happy parts in Hobbitland.
Watchmen (Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons): We’ll have to see if the version from “300″ director Zack Snyder, co-written by Lowell High graduate Alex Tse, can make what appears to be an impossible transition to the big screen. (”Watchmen” is coming in 2009.) The 1986-87 publication tells the gripping and incredibly dense story of costumed adventurers wrestling with their past and future during the Cold War. Arguably the greatest comic book in history.
The Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes (Neil Gaiman): Gaiman is known as a strong storyteller, but his biggest gift is with language. This introduction to his most famous character – Morpheus, the Lord of Dreams – passes through a reality and fantasy world, painting an often pessimistic portrait of mankind. Later volumes are better, but this is a necessary introduction to the series.
The Dark Knight Returns (Frank Miller): The tale of Batman’s rebirth as an aged crime fighter is packed with action, with a storyline that includes the Joker, Two-Face, a one-armed Green Arrow and an epic showdown between Batman and Superman. This 1986 series is Miller’s best work, filled with darkness and despair but also an underlying hope.