As I discovered with my crazy schedule last year, comics can be the way that I can get some quick reading in. Roughly a quarter of the books I read this year were graphic novels, and that’s not entirely counting single issues of comics. Here we go, in no particular order:
1. Batman: The Court of Owls by Scott Snyder
This is probably one of my top 5 Batman stories of all time, along with Scott Snyder’s City of Owls sequel storyline:
“After a series of brutal murders rocks Gotham City, Batman begins to realize that perhaps these crimes go far deeper than appearances suggest. As the Caped Crusader begins to unravel this deadly mystery, he discovers a conspiracy going back to his youth and beyond to the origins of the city he’s sworn to protect. Could the Court of Owls, once thought to be nothing more than an urban legend, be behind the crime and corruption? Or is Bruce Wayne losing his grip on sanity and falling prey to the pressures of his war on crime?” [via Goodreads]
2. Batman: Black Mirror by Scott Snyder
This was possibly the best standalone Batman graphic novel I’ve read. It’s at least on par with Grant Morrison’s run on Batman, but it is absolutely fantastic and suspenseful. It’s more of a mystery, rather than a journey through time and space that’s over the top. [via my Goodreads review]
“In ‘The Black Mirror,’ a series of brutal murders pushes Batman’s detective skills to the limit and forces him to confront one of Gotham City’s oldest evils. Helpless and trapped in the deadly Mirror House, Batman must fight for his life against one of Gotham City’s oldest and most powerful evils!
Then, in a second story called ‘Hungry City,’ the corpse of a killer whale shows up on the floor of one of Gotham City’s foremost banks. The event begins a strange and deadly mystery that will bring Batman face-to-face with the new, terrifying faces of organized crime in Gotham.” [via Goodreads]
This is a delightful portrait of a girl coming to terms with blending into American culture. She does her best to rid herself of the fetters which bind her to her Russian roots and the “fat girl” who came to the United States when she was five. She struggles with self-esteem and being cool, lying about her last name, deciding to stop going to church, avoiding other “fobby” Russians, and trying desperately to fit in. Each of these things forces her to push her academics on the back burner, which is why Emily seems to be so helpful in the beginning: her grades improve, as does her confidence with a boy. She learns what it means to be confident in who she is, as well as to do the right thing–even if it isn’t the cool or popular thing. As far the art, it’s simple yet endearing. There are some poignant subtleties as well. Despite being in black and white, it feels warm and clean. It reminds me, in many ways, of Persepolis–though with a lot less persecution and depression.
Gene Luen Yang’s Level Up is a good depiction of the effect that video games can have on our lives, but not in the typical “it’ll rot your brain” way, but in a way that highlights the good that it might do when properly balanced. The moment I saw Thiem Pham’s cover, designed to look just like the Game Boy I grew up on, I knew I needed to read this. While you don’t need to love video games to enjoy this book, it probably helps. There’s a small amount of cussing, but it’s also about a college student, though I would still give it to teens as a depiction of what might happen.
“With three little words, “No more mutants,” Wanda Maximoff reduced the mutant population from several million to a few hundred. In the blink of an eye, the entire mutant race became an endangered species. A year after this holocaust comes the first mutant birth, a birth that can mean either hope or annihilation.
Ed Brubaker (Captain America, Daredevil) kicks off Messiah CompleX with a grisly start. Cooperstown, Alaska, has come under assault by warring factions of mutants and antimutant extremists, both hunting for the newborn. The entire city is on fire, and every child has been murdered, except one. When the X-Men arrive, they quickly learn of the child’s abduction and the race is on to save what could potentially be the most important mutant on Earth.
Some believe the new mutant to be a messiah; others believe this birth is the harbinger of doom. Multiple factions are competing with one another for control of the child, for control of the future. It is a hunt that spans both time and space, with the search carrying from Alaska to Canada, from Texas to Scotland. A team is dispatched to two possible futures in the hope that the identity of the abductor and the location of the child can be found, and why this baby is so important.” [via Graphic Novel Reporter]
“As a part of the monumental DC Comics—The New 52 event, comics superstars Geoff Johns and Jim Lee bring you an all-new origin story for the Justice League!In a world where inexperienced superheroes operate under a cloud of suspicion from the public, loner vigilante Batman has stumbled upon a dark evil that threatens to destroy the earth as we know it. Now, faced with a threat far beyond anything he can handle on his own, the Dark Knight must trust an alien, a scarlet speedster, an accidental teenage hero, a space cop, an Amazon Princess and an undersea monarch. Will this combination of Superman, The Flash, Cyborg, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman and Aquaman be able to put aside their differences and come together to save the world? Or will they destroy each other first?In one of the most game-changing titles in comic industry history, Geoff Johns and Jim Lee re-imagine the classic heroes of the DC Universe for the 21st century.” [via Goodreads]
7. Aquaman, Vol. 1: The Trench by Geoff Johns
I really, really enjoyed this reintroduction of Aquaman into the current run of the DC pantheon. Geoff Johns does just what he did for The Flash. Before Johns got ahold of the title, Aquaman was an essentially absurd, laughable protagonist; it’s nice that Johns acknowledges it and seamlessly moves past it. Between all the jokes about Aquaman talking to fish while he eats fish and chips, and the slow unfolding of his untold origin story, Aquaman rocketed up to become one of my favorite superheroes with a compelling storyline that kept me coming.
This isn’t really a retelling, but it’s an artistic reimagining. Skottie Young’s artwork here is completely delightful and whimsical. More than the text, it brought me in and captivated me.
The premiere American fantasy adventure gets the Merry Marvel treatment! Eisner Award-winning writer/artist Eric Shanower (Age of Bronze) teams up with fan-favorite artist Skottie Young (New X-Men) to bring L. Frank Baum’s beloved classic to life! When Kansas farm girl Dorothy flies away to the magical Land of Oz, she fatally flattens a Wicked Witch, liberates a living Scarecrow and is hailed by the Munchkin people as a great sorceress… but all she really wants to know is: how does she get home? [Via Goodreads]
I absolutely love Stephanie Brown as Batgirl. She’s funny, not too serious, yet quite effective as well. Her quips while fighting do an excellent job of offsetting the dark tone of some stories. She seems real, often reminiscent of Buffy. I loved the main story in this volume, with digital zombies taking over Gotham, and her relationship with Barbara Gordon’s Oracle is memorable, though it always leaves me pining for Babs’ Batgirl.
10. Batman: Gates of Gotham by Scott Snyder
This is pretty much amazing. This story calls back to the origins of Gotham with a conspiracy set to destroy the city itself. This is only a Scott Snyder co-production, but that’s not a bad thing. I read this as a primordial version of his absolutely brilliant Court of Owls run on Batman. There is more to Gotham than meets the eye, and it’s going to try to kill Batman. This begins Scott Snyder’s saga of trying to explore Batman’s relationship with the one thing that has captivated him for his entire career: Gotham City. It’s a tumultuous relationship; he knows it better than any one person, and it’s dangerous to scratch beneath the surface.