By JV Tanjuatco
I’m a huge comic book reader. I started out reading Marvel books then branched out to DC, Dark Horse, Image, and other indie publishers soon after. For me, it’s how the creative teams execute a story that keeps me riveted each issue. Here’s my list of recommended titles that do just that for me month in month out. Of course, you may have different preferences and sensibilities but if you ever try out any of my recommendations, I hope at the very least, you’ll appreciate the skill and talent that was put in each of these books.
Mr. and Mrs. X – In the 80s, the Uncanny X-Men title written by Chris Claremont was known to be a witty and action-packed melodrama that had readers tuning in on a monthly basis. I feel that Mr. and Mrs. X (by Kelly Thompson and Oscar Bazaldua) comes pretty close to that classic tone. From the far reaches of the galaxy to inter-dimensional hopping, this series showcases the adventures of newlyweds Rogue and Gambit. You’ll have your fill of high-flying, swashbuckling excitement with a dash of romantic charm.
The Immortal Hulk – Frankenstein’s Monster. Doctor Jekyl and Mister Hyde. The DNA of these monster classics can be seen in the Hulk. So it makes sense that this new take on the Green Goliath taps into horror. Scripter Al Ewing and artist Joe Bennet reveals that even if the Hulk’s alter ego, Bruce Banner is killed, he always comes back to life as the Hulk at night! It’s a disturbing and brilliant series designed to creep you out.
The Batman Who Laughs – It’s an offbeat yet gripping Batman tale where the Dark Knight faces off against two alternate reality versions of himself – one a Batman who has become the Joker and the other, an amoral Batman who uses guns to kill criminals. Comic scribe Scott Snyder and illustrator Jock have embroiled Bats in a psychodrama that pushes him to the very limits of his sanity as he tries to put an end to the twisted Batmen’s agenda. It’s a series that gets to the core of what make Batman distinct from other vigilantes.
Seven To Eternity – Set in a world where the majority of people have surrendered their will to a despot who has granted them their greatest desires, one group has done the impossible and captured him. Pursued by evil forces, they must go on a quest with the captured king in tow to magically break the hold he has over his subjects. You’ll come for Jerome Opena’s beautifully intricate art and stay for Rick Remender’s timely socio-political story.
Thor – Long-time series scribe Jason Aaron writes the Thunder God using Chris Hemsworth’s worth and illustrator Mike del Mundo brings a humorous and anarchic style to his pages, similar to that found in Thor: Ragnarok. It’s a tone that helps to balance out all the doom and gloom – Thor is unworthy, his hammer Mjlonir is gone, and Asgard is in ruins. Yet despite all that, Thor gets up and battles against the odds. He may be a god but you’ll find yourself connecting to his struggle.
Superman – Brian Bendis and Ivan Reis are determined to put Kal-El through his paces with Bendis’ fast-paced plotting and Reis; hyper detailed art. In their first story, planet Earth is transported to the Phantom Zone, the place where all Kryptonian criminals are exiled. With everyone (including the Justice League) getting sick, it’s a race against time for Superman to figure out how to restore Earth to its proper place while fending off deadly extraterrestrials. The creative team keeps ratcheting up the tension with each chapter.
Tony Stark: Iron Man – The latest volume for the armored Avenger is a trippy thrill ride that will leave you with whiplash in every issue! Tony Stark introduces cutting-edge virtual reality into the market and finds himself in battles on two fronts. Things get even stranger when it gets harder to discern which reality is which! It’s an incredibly busy book with subplots galore that Dan Slott’s script deftly manages to juggle while keeping Tony at the center of the maelstrom.
Criminal – This sprawling character study set in a fictional crime world continues to impress. Ed Brubaker’s prose is brutally frank and Sean Philips’ artwork oozes with gritty mood. Their characters may seem completely irredeemable yet you still root for them to literally get away with murder because the creative team’s uncanny ability to capture their humanity.
Jessica Jones – Creators Brian Bendis and Michael Gaydos have left their beloved former superhero/private eye in good hands. Creators Kelly Thompson and Mattia De Iulis maintain the noir-ish tone and insert more super heroic action sequences into Jessica’s stories. Jessica may now be in a better place but all that does is make her more paranoid about losing this good life she’s built for herself. Especially since there are many super psychos with grudges against her determined to do just that. Thompson and De Iulis make the character a slow train wreck that you can’t help but look at: horrific yet strangely hypnotic.
About the contributor
JV Tanjuatco, comic book writer/editor/publisher, founded Comic Book Lab that publishes the comic book titles Mythopolis and War of Whispers (co-created and co-written by him). Comic Book Lab’s most recent project was the graphic novel anthology Stay: 21 Comic Stories authored by Palanca Award-winner Angelo R. Lacuesta and illustrated by a stellar line-up of artists including Trese’s Kajo Baldisimo. He has also written articles/reviews for Spot.ph and Ain’t It Cool.