For many the word, “comics” infers dorky, collector-types obsessed with caped men and women that are allergic to crime and which all happen to have special powers that make them virtually invincible. Good and evil, what the fuck is that about? We are all good and evil. The dichotomy is so boring and most of us older than 17 understand this. The quarter billion dollar Marvel/DC movies and TV shows are sometimes fun to watch but to read the stories behind them… most of us aren’t going to do that. So comics stay relegated to the realm of the Comic-Con knob and the Hollywood producer’s reading assistant.
But wait, what if I told you there are comics that don’t suck?
What if I told you there are comics that don’t involve good samaritans or other boring tired crap? The comics I have recommended here are all about action/adrenaline with a heavy subject matter and outlandish themes. Plus these ones are fully published: no waiting for the next issue to come out. Crush em.
Side note, you won’t have to wear a Star Wars t-shirt to enjoy these alternative indie comics.
The key to a good comic is the writing. Sure the pictures are nice to look at but the story is paramount. Most of the comics recommended here are not from Marvel or DC. Some of these writers may work for Marvel or DC after writing a hit indie comic, but it pays to play in the big leagues. Is it selling out if you love what you’re doing and get paid more to do it? I dunno. There might be good Superman or Batman issues out there because of these writers, but I could care less about any mainstream foray because the top 10 ten superhero crap is played the fuck out. OK, that’s enough information. Let’s get cracking.
Sleeper – Ed Brubaker
The main character has been warped so that whatever violence is inflicted on him, is stored in his body and then released on whoever touches him… A family man who can no longer touch his family, he becomes estranged and is forced to work with psychopaths as they are the only ones that can appreciate his “condition.” In this comic, we have tons of action but we also have a shitload of gray morality. The main character who used to be a normal decent man is now the opposite of what he once was but still the same. Confusing? He’s the ultimate anti-hero. He’s a meta anti-hero.
Preacher – Garth Ennis
There is a TV show with this title. It is somewhat similar to the comic but for whatever reason, the TV show is a much weaker and a plodding version of this publication. This comic is about a tough guy who befriends a vampire and goes on a quest to kill God. Sick right? It really is and it’s the gold standard of shredding comics. Must read.
The Sandman – Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman is most famous for his books, but this comic is a separate legend on its own. The comic is based around the Sandman, the lord of the dreaming, who has been alive since the beginning of time. He has just gotten out of prison after 70 years and he’s pissed at whoever put him there. This comic is very trippy/weird but is loaded with great storylines and characters. There’s not too many like this one.
V For Vendetta – Alan Moore
Most have heard this author’s name before but may not be aware of just how brilliant he is. He knows what you’re thinking before his pen touches the next sentence. It’s engrossing, action-packed with diamond-cut writing. I personally think the movie is great too but I digress – this really is a masterpiece of the genre. V for very, very good.
Y: The Last Man – Brian K Vaughan
A crazy virus kills all men at once except for one. Vaughan’s style elevates what could have been a simple excuse for a sex orgy. Instead, we get a story with lots of action and humor that makes the post-apocalyptic setting feel fun. Attempting to get his genes cloned so as to save the human race, the journey is fraught with many a twist and turn. This is a very original and entertaining story in which women are often the bad guy.
Scalped – Jason Aaron
If you are looking for harrowing, intense and exceedingly morbid, look no further. This comic takes place on an indigenous reservation in Dakota that is wracked with poverty, corrupt politicians/law enforcement, and domestic drug abuse — it’s context is rife with violent and wretchedly sad story opportunities. Whatever you’re imagining right now, it’s worse. An undercover indigenous FBI agent is attempting to get a collar on the infamous local Tribal Chief. This fed is fucked up in more ways than you’d expect from a crooked cop and has zero patience for his surroundings. The result is lots of people dying and/or getting their heads pulped. Enjoy!
Fables – Bill Willingham
Centered around a sub-world within NYC called Fabletown, classic fairy tale characters live as refugees having escaped their homeland that’s been taken over by a Voldemort-style bad guy. There isn’t always a ton of action but that doesn’t mean it’s a bore. The characters and the dialogue are unlike any other comic I’ve read. All the fairy tale characters are painstakingly crafted with their classic mannerisms and then extrapolated… Imagine Belle from Beauty and the Beast going psycho on the Beast when he doesn’t keep his beast in check… This comic is epic in scope and length having taken 13 years to complete. It’s a masterpiece of smart but not intellectual entertainment.
The Invisibles – Grant Morrison
Esoteric knowledge mixed with psychedelia and veiled new world order tropes: The Invisibles is a “trip” that goes beyond the typical kill-spree or weirdo characters of comic land. There is violence, but there is also Crowley-style chaos magic and mass amounts of 5d introspection. With poetry interspersed throughout and multiple acid trips described in meta terms, this comic goes way beyond entertainment and into a mind-changing territory. If you want to mentally grow while reading comics, this is the one.
For Queen and Country – Greg Rucka
A true indie gem. Only the covers are in color but the black and white pages are still full of energy. As close to a realistic spy story as it gets, this series is for the fan of action and intrigue. Lot’s of industry-specific jargon, you will most likely get swept up by the realism: the author did his homework. I wouldn’t say it’s action-packed but all the moments around the action are in no way superfluous; everything is interesting. A true gem.
Locke and Key – Joe Hill
This comic is scary. It’s also funny and down to earth while at the same time it’s full of magic keys and lots of blood. Two teens and a child lose their father to a homicidal seventeen-year-old. The tragedy obliges their mother to move them across the country to their family’s giant house called Keyhouse. The place is full of unique magical keys that each do a separate amazing thing. Sounds hokey (pun intended)? I’m probably just doing a crap job of explaining. There’s really nothing like this and it’s such a dope comic.
The author is the son of Stephen King. He intentionally avoided the association as he wanted to prove himself on his own merits so he is known as Joe Hill. You might not be a fan of his father’s writing and that’s OK because it seems that this is better than most of what Stephen has done.