Five or six years ago I read Watchmen, and it nearly ruined comics for me.  Blasphemy, I know.  While I certainly appreciate the clear thought, effort, and direction that went into such a genre-defining (and -defying) graphic novel, it just wasn't for me.  And, yes, I also realize (now) that serialized comics and graphic novels are entirely different things, but at the time, I was completely clueless.  It wasn't until I picked up the Fables series recently that I started considering myself a comic reader. Maybe it's the story, maybe it's the artwork.  Maybe it's the form (I find the shorter plot arcs that stretch two or three issues within a volume so much easier to digest than the sprawling storyline of your typical graphic novel.) For whatever reason, I'm a comic convert. I'm even considering giving Watchmen a reread.  Anyways, if you're at all like me, then you're probably looking for something different, offbeat, stimulating.  So here's a list of five comic series for anyone considering giving the medium a try.

 

Fables cover

(1) Fables by Bill Willingham - It's what I'm reading. It's what's on my mind when I'm not reading. This series shot to fame several years ago, although many readers think it's past its prime now.  (I couldn't say; I'm barely halfway through the series.)  But right now I'm loving it.  If you're into well-developed characters and clever riffs on old tropes, then Fables is perfect for you. Myself, I was skeptical even after Volumes 1 and 2, but Volume 3 (and everything I've read since) blew me away.  Definitely a great choice for comic novices.  And, like I said, this series alone has revitalized my interest in the entire genre, so there's always that!

 

(2) The Unwritten by Mike Carey - This series is next on my list.  The story follows a young man named Tom Taylor whose father wrote a series of Harry Potter-esque books using Tom as the inspiration for the novels' main character.  But now Tom's father is missing and Tom's life is starting to share some disturbing parallels with his doppelganger's magical antics from the books.  It's also worth mentioning that Tom himself is a dead ringer for Daniel Radcliffe (which can't be coincidental).  So, I guess what I'm saying is that reading The Unwritten will probably give you endless nostalgia shivers, and that's a pretty wonderful thing.

 

Sandman cover

(3) The Sandman by Neil Gaiman - This series was so buzzy that at one point it held a spot on The New York Times' Bestsellers list.  It's also been called "a comic strip for intellectuals." Here's what I know about the series: it's dark, thought-provoking, and takes its inspiration (in typical Gaiman fashion) from many different myths and legends.  Perhaps the best thing about The Sandman, though, is its many spin-offs that feature both central and obscure characters from throughout the Sandman universe.  While the original Sandman series itself is lengthy, with all this bonus reading material, you'll be at it for years and years.

 

Dial H cover

(4) Dial H by China Mieville - China and I are sort of in love, so forgive me if this description becomes overly sappy.  For those of you who don't know, China is a writer of science fiction and fantasy novels from the UK.  His work is often incredibly bizarre, and the effect here is pure genius.  Dial H is the closest thing on this list to a traditional superhero comic series, but here the superheroes are creepy, asocial, and oftentimes indistinguishable from the villains themselves.  Sadly, the series was cancelled far too soon, with only two volumes published.  That being said, Dial H's brevity makes it a great palate cleanser to break up your reading regimen between longer series like Fables and The Sandman.

 

Preacher cover

(5) Preacher by Garth Ennis - The original cowboy comic, Preacher tells the story of Jesse Custer, a small-town church leader from Texas whose life is upended when he's possessed by a supernatural creature named Genesis.  Now Jesse has virtually unlimited divine power at his disposal and a clear mission to find God, who recently "left" Heaven and hasn't been seen since.  The artwork (and the storyline) reminds me of several things: the Dark Tower novels by Stephen King, campy '80s pop culture, and those Wes Anderson movies about vampires murdering and, in turn, being murdered somewhere in the Texan desert.  To me, Preacher (midway in length between Dial H and The Sandman) screams summer beach read: fun, light, and fast-paced.

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So, what do you think?