Tomorrow is Free Comic Book Day, a great opportunity to grab some free titles whether you are new to comics or an old hand. As you’re going to be at the store anyway I thought I’d take the opportunity to recommend some titles to you –
The thing with Marvel and DC is that they are much of a muchness. Don’t get me wrong, there are some things I love about them, but they can often be a bit samey. Marvel is branching out a lot more now with espionage (Black Widow, Winter Soldier) and sci-fi/fantasy (Star Wars), but its mainstay, as with DC, is largely superheroes. And who can blame them, that’s where they have made their name and money – even the “detective” in Detective Comics is the superhero Batman.
Looking beyond the two biggies though, you might start to remember that comics haven’t always been about superheroes, though the two are often now synonymous. You will find smaller publishers and independent publishers that not only print a wider range of genres, but are also willing to take a lot more risks with their titles.
As a comic book fan you are very well acquainted with Image I am sure and you really don’t need to continue reading (but please do!). However, for those of you out there who have not delved, let me tell you why you should. If you have only ever stuck with Marvel and DC, or you’ve not read comics at all because you aren’t a huge fan of superhero stuff and that seems like all there is on offer then Image offers a refreshing change.
My first introduction to Image, and actually comics in general, was Witchblade and the subsequent crossover and spin-off, Lara Croft comics (as in the video games). In more recent years one of their biggest publications has been The Walking Dead (which I actually hated – as explained here). But if nothing else, just these titles go to demonstrate the breadth of genres from historical(ish) urban fantasy through to post-apocalyptic action-adventure.
Of their recent publications four have really become the mainstays of my comic haul, speaking to me on so many levels – as a fan of multiple genres, an appreciator of creative content, and most especially as a feminist. If you aren’t reading these then please, let me draw your attention to them now:
Eisner Award-nominated writer Kelly Sue DeConnick (Pretty Deadly, Captain Marvel) and Valentine De Landro (X-Factor) present their critically acclaimed and deliciously vicious sci-fi satire.
Described by Image as a “women-in-prison sci-fi exploitation riff. Think Margaret Atwood meets Inglourious Basterds”, this is a very compelling series, that had fans heading out to get “non-compliant” tattoos as soon as they had read the first issue (it’s certainly on my list of tattoos to get). The premise here is that women are sent to an off-planet prison for being non-compliant… which could be anything from how they look and how they behave to their husband’s having just decided they want a younger model. It is an extreme look at the world we live in – where women are punished much more visibly for the same things that women are penalised for in reality every day.
I HAD to grab a copy of the first issue as soon as it was out, having been a fan of Kelly Sue DeConnick and her run on Captain Marvel. The hype she put out on her social media was not at all unwarranted. In fact, I was so moved by the first issue (and I mean really moved and emotional) that I wrote a review for it as soon as I had put it down. If you ever want to know what it’s like to get goosebumps from reading a comic, then get yourself issue 1 and go from there.
Whether you read comics or not, this is a must for feminists – with each issue containing a feminist essay at the back – I can’t even tell you how much you need this in your life!
Who are the Rat Queens? A pack of booze-guzzling, death-dealing battle maidens-for-hire, and they’re in the business of killing all god’s creatures for profit. It’s also a darkly comedic sass-and-sorcery series starring Hannah the Rockabilly Elven Mage, Violet the Hipster Dwarven Fighter, Dee the Atheist Human Cleric and Betty the Hippy Smidgen Thief. This modern spin on an old school genre is a violent monster-killing epic that is like Buffy meets Tank Girl in a Lord of the Rings world on crack!
Sort of reminiscent of Dungeons and Dragons, or more especially The Guild, this is a must for fans of the fantasy genre. The story follows the adventures of a guild of mercenaries for hire, misfits all. In competition with other guilds for work, and with their own shit going on to boot, this is a delightful series described by the writer, Kurtis Wiebe as “Lord of the Rings meets Bridesmaids.”
The characters are utterly charming, all with their own backstory of drama and misfortune which they have overcome to become kickass and powerful women. The adventures are fun, but it is definitely the flashbacks to their previous lives that stood out to me – creating an intriguing world and fleshing out these fantastic characters who are strangely relatable.
Written by Eisner Award-winning “Best Writer” Brian K. Vaughan (Y: The Last Man, The Private Eye) and drawn by Harvey Award-winning “Best Artist” Fiona Staples (Mystery Society, North 40), SAGA is the story of Hazel, a child born to star-crossed parents from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war. Now, Hazel’s fugitive family must risk everything to find a peaceful future in a harsh universe that values destruction over creation. Fantasy and science fiction are wed like never before in a sexy, subversive drama for adults that Entertainment Weekly called, “The kind of comic you get when truly talented superstar creators are given the freedom to produce their dream book.”
Imagine if Romeo and Juliet hadn’t died at the end, and instead that was just the beginning. And that it was an epic set in space.
Saga, described correctly as an “epic space-opera”, is the story of the forbidden love between members of two warring races – starting with their escape together and the birth of their child. And from there it just gets even more bonkers and brilliant. There are bounty hunters, a royal family of robots, and a bat shit crazy television show.
Imagine Romeo and Juliet meets Star Wars with adult content and you might be close to this rather surprising title which really keeps you on your toes with each twist and turn. It’s easy to see how this has now outsold Image‘s biggest publication, The Walking Dead.
From the bestselling creators of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” comes this smash-hit spy thriller with a unique new twist! When the world’s greatest secret agent is killed, all evidence points to Velvet Templeton, the personal secretary to the Director of the Agency. But Velvet’s got a dark secret buried in her past…because she’s also the most dangerous woman alive.
Moving away from the science fiction and fantasy, another notable title is this fantastic espionage tale, starring an older woman as the protagonist.
Again, I enjoyed this one so much that I had to review the first issue! And that was the tip of the iceberg in terms of this title. This is definitely a must for fans of the espionage genre – it has intrigue and action, and the cliff hanger at the end of issue 5 had me shouting (on the bus, with lots of people staring at me). If you’re a Bond fan, and/or if you like the recent Marvel runs of Black Widow you will like this (possibly even more so as it comes without the baggage of the superhero context which sometimes bogs Black Widow down).
Velvet as a character is amazing – mysterious, intelligent, and completely deadly whilst being understated. She’s very much an aspirational role model for those of us starting to age (reluctantly).