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Essential Comics Reading List

7 Aug

The Hoboken Library now has a pretty substantial collection of comics, Manga and graphic novels. If you have never really read comics or maybe just a few titles, our collection is a great place to explore titles and authors that likely hold a little something for everyone’s varied interests. Before taking over the comics collection at the library several years ago, I wasn’t the biggest of comics readers. I was interested in the stories and worlds created by comics, but never really got far into reading comics. Instead, when growing up I watched a lot of cartoons based on comics – especially the X-Men, Batman and even Superman cartoons of the 1990s. I didn’t really start reading comics until I became a librarian, and moreso, took over the comics section of the Hoboken Library. So it’s really never too late to start exploring comics and discovering the depth and variety that the format has to offer. Now with many of the biggest blockbuster movies being based off of comic book stories, now is a great time to start exploring comics!

With all that in mind, I thought I would put together a list of some of my personal favorite comic series that might serve as starting points for new readers or those looking to explore further. This list is not in any particular order and is simply a sampling of some of my favorite series. One thing I will note: I tend to read comics that are meant for an adult audience, so most of the titles you will see below are really suited for older teens to adults. So this list might be perfect for adult readers looking to explore the world of comics 🙂

fables

 

 

 

Fables – Bill Willingham’s Fables is a wholly unique series that has been compelling and engaging since it began in 2002. Willingham creates a world where characters from fables and folklore are real and living in NYC – but there is so much more to it than that. Over the last 12 years, the series has explored many genres in its storytelling – soaring epic, murder mystery, love story, fantasy realism, etc. One of my favorite titles from the last decade.

 

 

 

 

preacher

 

 

 

 

Preacher – a classic series from the 1990’s, written by Garth Ennis. The reader is pulled into the world of Jesse Custer, a faith-waivered preacher who is suddenly gifted with the power of the Word of God – the ability to command others essentially. Guided by a sense of right and wrong, Jesse goes on a quest to literally find God, who Jesse feels has abandoned humanity. The writing is intelligent and provoking, but be aware this is a very adult title, as Garth Ennis is known for. A classic series and a must read for adult comic fans.

 

 

 

The-Boys_Volume_One

 

 

 

 

The Boys – Another more recent series by Garth Ennis, the Boys explores a world where superheroes exist, but have little moral code and essentially run wild throughout the world, albeit aided by a government/business conspiracy. The Boys are a black ops type group tasked with overseeing super powered humans. A very unique twist to the traditional superhero comic. For readers 18+ only.

 

 

 

 

dmz

 

 

 

 

DMZ – Brian Wood writes this fascinating and politically charged series. The comic takes place in a near future where an American Civil War has turned Manhattan into a demilitarized zone. Very unique, lots of politics and charged with a post 9/11 world critique, this is another great adult comic series.

 

 

 

 

 

ythelastman1

 

 

 

 

Y the Last Man – Brian K. Vaughan (you’ll see more of him on this list) wrote this now concluded series about a world where all the men have died – except for one. One part apocalyptic story, one part comedy, one part mystery – it’s a great story, good fun, and great writing.

 

 

 

 

 

Prophet_21

 

 

 

Prophet – one of the most totally unique comics out there right now, Prophet is actually a re-boot of a series of the same name from the 1990’s. However, while the older series feels more like a super hero comic, this one is definitely a bizarro-science fiction series. Prophet takes place many, many years in the future, where thousands of “John Prophet” clones wake up from a long sleep with the task of re-starting the Earth Empire. The artwork is weird and fantastic and the world universe that’s created is totally interesting and unexpected. A sleeper pick for a recent series.

 

 

 

 

 

sagatc800w

 

 

 

 

Saga – Brian K. Vaughan writes this fantastic epic, love story, space saga, coming of age story in a very unique science fiction setting. The writing is superb, bringing forth deep, rich characters with lots of humor to boot. The winner of several recent Eisner Awards, this title is on everyone’s list of recent great comics.

 

 

 

 

locke

 

 

 

Locke and Key – this one is hard to describe. It has many different genre parts – mystery, fantasy, ghost story, family drama, etc. Even if those descriptions don’t sound like your kind of genre, the writing is superb and the plot twisting, complicated and compelling. Give this ongoing series a shot for sure.

 

 

 

 

 

Killingjoke

 

 

 

The Killing Joke – the classic one-off Batman story written by comic legend Alan Moore (Watchmen, V for Vendetta, etc.). If you want to know where the inspiration came from for the really dark Joker character and depictions you see in the recent Dark Knight movie series, Arkham Asylum video games, and more, check this one out. I might even like it as much as the Frank Miller Batman runs!

 

 

 

 

 

   

Batman: Year One AND The Dark Knight Returns– speaking of Frank Miller Batman titles, these two are some of the best comic books ever written in the superhero genre. Frank Miller and Alan Moore brought a darkness, depth and realism to comics that was not seen much in mainstream comics in the 1980s.

planetary

 

 

Planetary – Warren Ellis wrote this limited series from 1999-2009. Planetary’s plot revolves around an organization intent on discovering the world’s greatest secrets (superhero Indiana Jones?). This series offers a really intriguing setting that often overlaps or references other comic series along with some other fun references too. Warren Ellis writes a great story with cool characters. Definitely one to check out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

hawkeye

 

 

 

Hawkeye – this is wonderfully written series, and perhaps the funniest out there right now. Matt Fraction writes the current incantation of Hawkeye (the dude who uses a bow and arrow in The Avengers), which is a very unexpected style of super hero comic. Basically, this follows the day-to-day life of Clint Barton (otherwise known as Hawkeye), who, while really good with a bow and arrow, has no actual super powers and is in general a screw-up. This series has some wonderful comedy and artwork fits it all perfect. Make sure to look for issues featuring Pizza Dog, where the whole single issue is written from the point of view of a dog. It’s awesome.

 

 

 

 

Some other great titles

  • Irredeemable
  • Ex Machina
  • Astonishing X-Men
  • The Dark Phoenix Saga
  • Superman: Red Son
  • Batman Arkham Asylum
  • Kingdom Come
  • All Star Superman

Final note: If you can’t find any of these titles on the shelf at our library, you can always request a copy through our online catalog. Many times, each collected issue of the comics will be in separate records, and you simply will select the PLACE REQUEST button next to the item to reserve it. However, sometimes you will find a whole series under one record. In that case, to request a specific issue click on the AVAILABILITY button, then click on the little book icon next to the specific issue you want. You will then request that specific item.

– Written by Matt Latham
Reference Librarian/Program Coordinator/Makerspace Manager

X-Men Reading List – Days of Future Past Primer

21 May

On May 22nd, Marvel’s latest X-Men movie will come out: X-Men Days of Future Past. This latest film in the X-Men franchise comes as a partial reboot of the series, following up on the new cast and setting from X-Men First Class. Perhaps more so than previous X-Men film adaptations Days of Future Past will perhaps closely follow a specific story line from the comics of the same name. I don’t want to have any spoilers, so I won’t go into plot descriptions. However, it IS a classic “run” or story arc from X-Men, and I highly recommend you read it before OR after you watch the new movie.

With the new film coming out, this is a great time to catch up on some of the best story arcs from the X-Men canon. Best of all, your very own Hoboken Library (along with an assist from the BCCLS inter-library loan network) can provide you with plenty of great X-Men reading 🙂

Days-of-Future-Past

X-Men: Days of Future Past – 1981

Written by Chris Claremont

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

astonishing

Astonishing X-Men Omnibus  – 2005-2008

By Joss Whedon
Joss Whedon – creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV), Firefly, Angel / writer of the very unique Planetary comics / director of The Avengers

Whedon brings a different and energetic perspective to the X-Men on his run of Astonishing X-Men.  Whedon’s incantation of the team includes Cyclops, Emma Frost, Beast, Kitty Pryde, Colossus, Lockheed and Wolverine. Whedon brings his brand of wit and humanity to the characters, offering up some good laughs along with the action throughout the run. The depth and humanity that Whedon brings to the characters breaths new life into the characters and the comic itself. The plot is engaging with pacing that blends character development and story intrigue. This is a series that is immensely entertaining throughout with Whedon showcasing himself once again as an excellent story teller. This is a great series to check out, and you can read it all in one fantastic Omnibus Collection.

 

 

 

 

dark phoenix

Dark Phoenix Saga -1980

Chris Claremont

This is a classic storyline from one of the great X-Men writers – Chris Claremont. This is the story that changed Jean Grey’s character forever and spawned numerous depictions in other media – the 1990s animated cartoon along with references to Jean Grey and The Phoenix in some of the X-Men movies. The story’s implications are massive and it’s simply one of the most intriguing and interesting storylines. The plot reaches beyond Earth and the X-Men to encompass the galaxy and involves the Shi’ar Empire, the Imperial Guard and the cool character Gladiator. It’s superbly entertaining and a must read for those interested in getting the full character understanding for X-Men.

 

 

 

 

 

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Age of Apocalypse – 1995-1996

Various authors

Perhaps I hold a special place for this run because I remember watching the X-Men animated cartoon that prominently depicted story lines with Apocalypse. This story features an alternative timeline where Xavier has died and Apocalypse has taken over North America. That sounds like a pretty good storyline starting point for X-Men fans! Definitely one to check out if you haven’t read it. We have the omnibus version that collects the whole run.

 

 

 

 

 

god loves man kills

God Loves, Man Kills – 1982

Chris Claremont

This story heavily influenced the plot of the X2 movie. While this influenced the story of the movie, the two have some big differences once you read the comic. The X-Men series has often had a theme exploring racism, prejudice and fear/hatred of people different from ourselves. This story, along with the character William Stryker, really brings this theme into focus for this series.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

newx-men_gncover

New X-Men – 2001

Grant Morrison

Grant Morrison’s New X-Men made a lot of changes to the series in style and focus. Some of the changes he made included:

  • changing the costumes from the various spandex to black leather with the yellow X logo
  • changing the look of Beast
  • showing Xavier’s school as a legitimate school with dozens of students, not just a training center for the X-Men (similar to how its depicted in the movies

Morrison also put a lot more time of the series into things that were not just battling super powered villains – exploring character relationships, having the X-Men work on public relations with the population, etc. At times controversial to X-Men readers and with some illustration inconsistencies, this is still a very influential series and a good read. We have the omnibus version collecting Grant Morrison’s run.

 

 

apocalypse

Apocalypse Solution – 2011 beginning

Rick Remender

Rick Remender brings together a compelling new storyline of the X-Force title in the most recent story line on this list. In this storyline,  Wolverine and Archangel are co-captains of a secret band of mutant assassins, unbeknownst to the rest of the X-Men. Their first battle pits the new X-Force against a resurrected Apocalypse and his new horsemen. This title includes some great artwork from Jerome Opena along Remender’s deep understanding of the X-force characters. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

testament

Magneto: Testament – 2008

Greg Pak

This unique short series gives you the childhood story line of Erik Lehnsherr, aka Magneto. The plot provides Magneto’s childhood and experiences as a Jewish boy living at the dawn of Nazi Germany and living inside a concentration camp.  The pain and suffering young Magneto experiences at the hands of the Nazis would forever shape his character and fuel his ethos. A harrowing story that depicts the real potential cruelty of humanity, this is great read to either explore the Magneto character more in depth or read an X-Men title that is not based on big battles between super powered humans.

 

 

 

 

 

onslaught

Onslaught – 1996

Scott Lobdell and Mark Waid

Onslaught is a sentient psionic entity created consciousness of two minds: Charles Xavier and Magneto. So, yunno, that’s a pretty cool place to start with a comic story! There are flaws in this series to be sure, but it’s a fun story and worth a read. This one is divided into four volumes. When requesting this item in the library’s catalog, go to the record and click on the little book icon next to each volume listed. See below

 

 

 

 

 

 

screen shot

 

massacre

Mutant Massacre – 1986

Chris Claremont, Louise Simonson, Walter Simonson

This series was a big comic Crossover event, where the plot of this series crossed over into other Marvel comic series, including Thor and Daredevil. In this story, the X-Men travel underneath Manhattan into the sewers to save the Morlocks from being massacred. For reference, the Morlocks are a community of mutants who feel they are outcasts, and live in underground tunnels in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. A fun crossover with a good amount of battling, this is a classic super-powered-human-battling-each-other story to read.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Messiah Complex and House of M –  2005-2008

Brian Bendis – House of M

Messiah Complex – multiple writers

This is the recent pair of cross-over series that changed the direction of X-Men. In House of M most of the world’s mutants get depowered as a result of the Scarlet Witch having a mental breakdown and changing the fabric of reality. Messiah Complex picks up after the big events of House of M and follows the story of the first mutant child born AFTER the events of House of M. In addition to having a compelling plot, these are important series to read to understand the current continuity of the X-Men titles and universe.

There are certainly more excellent X-Men titles out there to check out, but this should give you a good start! If you ever have any suggestions for our comics and Manga collections, want to ask a questions, or just want to talk comics,  feel free to contact me. My name is Matt Latham and I manage the comics and Manga collections here at the Hoboken Library. You can reach me at hobkref@bccls.org.

Enjoy!

Matt Latham
Reference Librarian

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