Wednesday, November 14, 2012
And as always, I've got tips how you can get two or even three books for under $25 and $30 with free shipping, so you can get the most collected comics bang for your buck.
(Check out our 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, and 2007 for more great ideas, too!)
* Saga Vol. 1
The first issue of Saga is free on the digital Comixology app, and I recommend anyone who’s on the fence about this book to read it. Brian K. Vaughan brought us Y: The Last Man and Ex Machina (and also some episodes of Lost), and Saga is the place to go when you’re done with those. Saga is part Star Wars-type alien sci-fi battles, part magic fantasy tale — definitely for mature audiences. Saga combines Vaughan’s trademark subversiveness with a surprising amount of heart; this one has my highest recommendation for the season. The first Saga collection is only ten bucks, and with Manhattan Projects and the first volume of Unwritten (both below), you can gift three collections for under $30 with free shipping.
* Building Stories
Just about every gift list you read is going to include Chris Ware’s Building Stories. More performance-art-in-the-privacy-of-your-own-home than “book,” the fourteen items within (book, pamphlet, magazine, comic strip, board game, etc.) tell the story of various residents of a Chicago apartment building. Read the pieces in any order, or find numerous discussions of the book online. For the comics fan who has everything, here’s one thing they’ll never have seen before. Building Stories is just under $30 with free shipping, so anything else on your list would ship free with it.
* A Tale of Sand
Archaia Entertainment publishes a number of Jim Henson books -- Muppets, Fraggle Rock, and such -- but this for-grownups graphic novel is based on one of Henson’s lost, unproduced screenplays, written before his Sesame Street work. As such, Tale of Sand gives great insight into Henson’s creative process and, as it’s mostly wordless, is also a surreal, interpretive visual feast. Archaia is known for their high-quality graphic novel printings. Add this to Unwritten and get two fantastical books for just over $25 with free shipping.
* Marvel Comics: The Untold Story
In my review, I called Sean Howe’s book a good but uncomfortable read. This will teach any fan -- whether of Marvel, DC, or other -- a lot about the comics industry, but the book is also filled with a lot of in-fighting, and a lot of bickering between some of the biggest names in comics. Everyone should read this (and then Howe should turn to DC Comics next), but prepare to be disillusioned. Pair with Saga and get two books and free shipping for just over $25, or with a book like Judas Coin for two books just under $30.
* The Judas Coin
This graphic novel emerged from DC Comics a little under the radar, maybe because no one was quite sure what to make of it. Walt Simonson’s Judas Coin is about a whole lot of things, from Batman to a future incarnation of Manhunter (with whom Simonson is often associated) to esoteric DC characters like Bat Lash and the Viking Prince. This is, essentially, a Walt Simonson vanity project, but Simonson is such a legendary talent that the fact might very well sell the book itself. For the fan who has everything but might’ve missed this, here’s a chance to spend some time with a comics master. Judas Coin plus Marvel Comics: The Untold Story (in which Simonson appears) will get you free shipping for under $30, or pair with Saga and one of the kids' books (see bottom) for free shipping at just over $25.
* Manhattan Projects Vol. 1: Science Bad
Jonathan Hickman has been Marvel’s popular “science guy” for a while now on Fantastic Four and other titles. His creator-owned work from Image emerged to mixed reviews; if you like wacky science like X-Files and Fringe, this might be the book for you, but if Grant Morrison’s strange, self-referential stories turn you off, then maybe not. Hickman reimagines the Manhattan Project as a front for other science experiments, and takes the scientists like Einstein and Oppenheimer and gives them weird super-traits. A book for some, if not for all. Consider Manhattan Projects, Unwritten, and Saga for three “new classics,” under $30 together with free shipping.
* Unwritten Vol. 1: Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity
For fans of Fables, Mike Carey and Peter Gross’s Vertigo series The Unwritten might be of interest. Protagonist Tommy Taylor’s father wrote a series of Harry Potter-type books, and fans for years have confused Tommy with his father’s hero -- except Tommy is learning he may actually be the boy wizard. Unwritten quickly becomes a Fables-type story in which Tommy encounters numerous literary figures, including the Golden Age of superheroes and, soon, the Fables characters themselves. Some wonder about Vertigo’s future, but here’s a place where Vertigo is still alive and strong. Get the first volume of Unwritten plus Manhattan Projects and Saga, three books for under $30 with free shipping.
* Avengers vs. X-Men
No 2012 gift list would be complete without including the Avengers vs. X-Men hardcover, a massive almost-600-page book featuring the whole blockbuster series plus some of Marvel’s Infinite digital comics now in print. Though the story has been controversial, Marvel certainly lead into their Marvel NOW! initiative in much better style than DC’s lackluster Flashpoint before the New 52. I can’t imagine any Marvel fan’s shelf would be complete without this one. Avengers vs. X-Men clocks in at almost $50, the most expensive book on the list, but everything else here would get free shipping right along with it.
One of my recent obsessions is webcomics (I read the whole of Cameron Stewart’s Sin Titulo in almost one sitting, but we’ll have to wait for next year’s gift guide to get to that), so I’m happy to pass on a reader recommendation for Mike Norton’s webcomic Battlepug, collected in print form by Dark Horse. This absurdist tale about a Conan-like warrior that rides a giant pug into battle will be something silly and different for fantasy fans, plus the book continues in the ongoing webcomic. Pair Battlepug with any two of Saga, Manhattan Projects, or Unwritten, and you can come in with three graphic novels at just about $30 with free shipping.
* Walking Dead Compendium Vol. 2
Back in 2010 we recommended the Walking Dead Compendium, a 1,000-plus-page book collecting eight Walking Dead trades in one volume. Well, two years and three television seasons later, Image has published a second Walking Dead Compendium, with another 1,000 pages, collecting volumes nine through sixteen. You want to gift zombie horror for a reasonable price, here’s an impressive present to leave under the tree. The Walking Dead Compendium comes in around $35; it’s a little pricey, but it qualifies for free shipping and so will anything else you include with it.
* Stumptown Vol. 1
Most of what’s suggested on this list are new 2012 releases, but another reader recommended Greg Rucka’s Stumptown, and I’m such a Rucka fan and so miss his work at DC that I had to include it. Rucka writes great mysteries and strong women, and Stumptown has both — Rucka’s detective Dex, good at her job but a compulsive gambler, tries to find a missing girl to clear her debts. From Oni Press, this is an oversized hardcover, sure to look good under your tree. Stumptown qualifies for free shipping all by itself, so anything else on this list can hitch a ride with it!
* Underwater Welder
If Scott Snyder’s was DC Comics’s breakout star at the end of last year with Batman: The Black Mirror, his collaborator Jeff Lemire is right on his coattails this year with Animal Man, Justice League Dark, and now Green Arrow. Lemire’s graphic novel from Top Shelf, Underwater Welder, has been described like a Twilight Zone episode, as a man who welds for oil rigs begins to time travel around events in his own life. Lemire has said that themes of fathers and sons in Underwater Welder may be reflected in his Green Arrow work, so fans of Lemire’s DC work may want to check this out. With Infinite Horizon or Battlepug, you’re almost right at $25 and free shipping if you add one of the super-hero kids' books, or choose Saga, Manhattan Projects, or Unwritten to get a three-book package at about $30 with free shipping.
* Infinite Horizon
Image won an Eisner for this re-telling of Homer’s Odyssey. Far from mythic fantasy, however, the book is set in post-apocalyptic America, and features a soldier trying to get back to New York after fighting in Syria. Art is by Phil Noto, which speaks well for the book in and of itself. Writer Gerry Duggan is less well-known, but he’s written for Attack of the Show for a while, and he’s writing Marvel NOW!’s Deadpool with his long-time collaborator, comedian Brian Posehn. Pair with Battlepug and a DC Super Friends or Marvel Super Hero Squad book for just over $25 and free shipping (if you can’t use the kid’s book, you can always donate it to Goodwill), or get Infinite Horizon plus any two of Saga, Manhattan Projects, or Unwritten, for three graphic novels with free shipping for just over $30.
* Superman: Earth One Vol. 2
* Batman: Earth One Vol. 1
The first Superman: Earth One graphic novel was the smash hit of 2010; the second one has received a slightly cooler reception, but fans of this more realistic back-to-basics approach to Clark Kent will surely want to check out the sequel (the Earth One books remain fairly accessible for new comics readers, too). Even better was Geoff Johns and Gary Frank’s Batman: Earth One Vol. 1, released earlier this year, which has a stronger story and might appeal to fans of the Dark Knight Returns movie. Together, these books come in at just over $25 and qualify for free shipping, the perfect package for a new comics fan in your life.
* DC Super Friends
* Marvel Super Hero Squad
I like these DC and Marvel kids' books both because they’re a lot of fun, but also because they tend to be pretty cheap when I’m looking to round out my shopping cart. If you’re right about at $25 and need something to push you over, consider one of these books for your favorite young comics fan -- or, buy one and donate it to Goodwill and get yourself one more check on the “nice” list.
Your turn! What did I miss? What else should be on this list?
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