Friday, September 4, 2009

You've read Fables and Y: The Last what?

As a long time comic book reader and reviewer, I’m often asked for recommendations from non-comic book readers on where they should start. These are often folks who may enjoy superhero movies, but aren’t interested in reading continuity-heavy, inaccessible superhero comics. My first recommendations are always Vertigo Comics’s Y: The Last Man and Fables.

These comics are a great introduction to sequential storytelling, are easily available as trade paperbacks in most major book stores, and nearly universally loved by all who read them no matter what their other interests and genders are. The only problem is, once they’ve finished (and almost always loved) these stories, where do they go next?

While Fables and Y have found wide audiences, it’s hard to find any comic that is as universally accepted as they are. From this point, then, instead of trying to find something that nearly everyone will enjoy, it is much easier to ask what genres our new reader enjoys and go from there.


Do you dig zombies? Have you ever wished that George Romero's films kept their edge, but had better character development? If so, you’ll want to check out The Walking Dead. It’s a “post-zombie” story, so it is more concerned with the survivors of a zombie apocalypse trying to go on with their lives after society has collapsed. It’s extremely character-focused and incredibly well-written, making it all the more shocking when you realize that absolutely no one in the series is safe from being killed. The realistic art pulls no punches, though, so if you can’t handle much gore, you might want to look for something a bit lighter.

Thankfully, I’ve got just the right thing for your softer side.


There is nothing cuter than Owly, which is one of my wife’s favorite book series. It follows the world’s cutest owl (Owly) and his unlikely best friend (Wormy) through a series of gore-free adventures. It is so adorable that you may want to throw up from overexposure to cuteness. The best part is that the stories lack text dialogue, making them a great introduction for early readers to the joys of sequential storytelling.

Plus, the creator, Andy Runton, has lesson-plans available so that you can even us Owly in the classroom. Now, if that is a bit to saccharine for you, we can swing to the exact opposite end of the spectrum with one of the most influential and disturbing comics of all time.


Neil Gaiman has developed a very loyal fan base outside of comics with his films and novels, though his Sandman series is one of his most endearing and influential works. It is one of the original titles for DC’s Vertigo imprint, which prints Y: The Last Man and Fables.

This high-fantasy series follows Dream (the mythical Sandman) and his family of equally as ethereal beings (including his sister Death, who eventually became one of the most popular characters and spawned her own series of books). The art and style is a bit dated if you are used to more contemporary work.

The early volumes are all extremely dark and horror-based, but as the series progresses and it becomes focused on Sandman’s growth as a character, it delves more into mythological exploration than sheer shock value.


My wife’s absolute favorite graphic novels are all by Jeffery Brown, who writes a series of autobiographical graphic novels about failed relationships and general heartache. His style is really simple, but intensely relatable.

Brown’s work is almost all printed by Top Shelf, whose off-beat, “real world” comics are amongst the most creative and innovative books on the market. Brown’s work has a tendency to be melodramatic, but his open and honest approach is refreshing and emotionally resonant.

The best place to start would be with Clumsy, which tells of the rise and fall of a burgeoning relationship with all of the warm-fuzzies and cruel brutality you’d expect from the reality of a real romance.


It’s hard to recommend any superhero books to new readers (especially women) because they are so interconnected and rely too much on stories from the past. Still, superhero comics are the cornerstone of the comic book industry and so I am often asked where the best place to start for new readers is. I always fall back on Batman: The Long Halloween and Batman: The Killing Joke.

Long Halloween takes place during Batman’s early years so it doesn’t require previous knowledge and reads more like a good mystery book than a superhero comic, despite being filled to the brim with some of Batman’s most famous villains.

The Killing Joke is my all-time favorite superhero book and is clearly one of the key inspirations behind Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight. In the story, the Joker tries to push Comissioner Gordon as far as he can to prove that any sane man can snap just like he has, but in the end only Batman can truly be as crazy as the Joker. It’s pretty shocking, but incredibly captivating.

Of course, you can also always try Watchmen. I don’t recommend this right away because it is extremely dense and most of its effectiveness comes from its deconstruction of the superhero genre. However, there is a reason why it is considered the “Holy Grail” of comics and is arguably the best superhero story ever told. You’ve got some of the most engaging characters in the history of the medium being written by its all time greatest writer (Alan Moore) and being drawn by one of its most competent artists. It is required reading for all superhero readers, but isn’t something I’d recommend jumping into right away.


Crime comics are getting to be a pretty big genre these days and a lot of the books that are popping up are really good. My absolute favorite of these is Criminal, which is put out by Marvel’s Icon imprint (which is like DC’s Vertigo in a lot of ways). Each volume of Criminal is a stand-alone story, though they all take place in the same “universe” and feature a few cross over characters. Unlike most crime stories, this series follows the criminals rather than the folks trying to catch them. The lush, grizzled artwork by Sean Phillips is the perfect compliment to Ed Brubaker’s atmospheric writing, with the brilliant colors by Val Staples being the icing on the cake of creative awesomeness. Reading it feels a lot like watching an extremely good movie. There are four or five trades out now and all of them are simply fantastic.

I’d also recommend 100 Bullets, which is much longer series (13 volumes covering 100 issues). It combines the pulpy crime elements of something like Criminal with a massive conspiracy theory laden story. It has a huge cast that is all interconnected, so if you take breaks between reading volumes, it can be pretty easy to get lost. However, I think a lot of libraries actually stock the full set, so it might be pretty easy for you to snag them in succession with few delays.


Since we are working under the assumption that our new reader has read Fables, they will already have a handle on this concept already. Since they probably liked Fables, they should also love League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (don’t worry, even though the movie was horrible, the comic is amazing).

Instead of fairy tale characters, this is about the best literary characters from the 19th century including Mina Harker from Dracula, Allan Quartermain, Captain Nemo, Dr. Jekyll, and the Invisible Man joining forces to save Britain from the likes of Fu Manchu and Doctor Moriarty (the nemesis of Sherlock Holmes).

Plus, it is written by Alan Moore (who I referred to earlier as the single greatest writer in the history of comics), so you know that it is amazing. As with all of Moore’s work, this does not pull any punches, though, so don’t expect it to have the same fairly tame appeal of the stories the characters are pulled from—especially in the second volume.


One of my absolute favorite graphic novel series is Bryan Lee O'Malley's Scott Pilgrim series, which is a manga-inspired tale of a Canadian slacker musician who falls for an enigmatic American delivery girl and must fight her 7 evil exes before he can officially be her boyfriend.

The books cover a number of genres, including action, comedy, and romance, with a number of twists on each. There is a movie coming out next year starring Michael Cera and directed by Edgar “I directed Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, so I’m clearly awesome” Wright, so the volumes are showing up in big chain stores now.

The books are quirky, energetic, and feature some of the most memorable characters I’ve ever read. I get giddy just thinking about how awesome these books are and love them so much that I actually named my hamster after the lead character.


So, you've decided that your only goal is to make me ridiciulously happy with your next read? Well the best way to do that is to read and love Preacher. It’s amongst the single most controversial, offensive, and thought provoking comics that Vertigo ever published and they are pretty known for controversial, offensive, and thought provoking comics.

The story follows Jesse Custer, a preacher, who is granted incredible powers after a demon and an angel have sex and create an entirely unholy. Not crazy enough for you? Well, then you’ll be glad to know that he decides to use his powers to wage war on God after he realizes that the Almighty has abandoned us.

Still not crazy enough? Did I mention that he is joined by his alcoholic Irish vampire best friend and former assassin girlfriend, and that they are being pursued by a secret Christian military and the “Saint of Killers” (God’s personal hitman)? It’s a modern Western and simply amazing. I know it sounds crazy, but I can’t recommend it enough. If I was trapped on an island and could only take one complete comic book series, it would be Preacher.

Related Posts


Flip The Page said...

nice suggestions. I try to keep it simple by reccommending Peter Milligan's X-Force/X-Statix. Then I realise it's a bitch to track down, pussy out and just say Scott Pilgrim and leave it at that.

Ryan Schrodt said...

I actually have one volume of Milligan and Allred's X-Statix that I snagged in Wizard's clearance a few months ago sitting unread in my office. I'll definitely let you know what I think when I do check it out.

Bill said...

Good list, but it could use a little bit of Transmetropolitan.

Ryan Schrodt said...

I've never actually read Transmetropolitan. Heard great things about it, though.

Keep the suggestions coming y'all!

Jon said...

It is a bit hard to classify, but I find that Sleeper from Brubaker and Phillips tends to win people over.

Rucka's Queen and Country has almost always gotten a good reaction.

It isn't completely available yet, but Gotham Central is another book that gets good reactions.

For pure awesomeness, I see your Scott Pilgrim and raise you Barry Ween. The new Big Book of Barry is a great way to get your Ween fix.

And for a combination of Awesomeness and Superheroes, Atomic Robo gets people laughing while inwardly cheering for the hero.

about me! said...

I absolutely love Jeffery Brown. So glad to see his work on your list.

Ryan Schrodt said...

Brown is fantastic. The super cool folks at Graham Crackers in Chicago recommended it to her while I was fawning over Scalped with some other customers. She hasn't looked back and even got me addicted to his stuff. His non-autobiographical works are a ton of fun as well (Big Head, Change-Bots, etc). Plus he is one of the nicest people I've ever met in the industry.

Flip The Page said...

One I forgot (mainly cause i think the trade's only just come out) is Killer of Demons. It's a great series to recommend to others, especially of the non-marvel/dc crowd like newbies tend to be.

shane gerlach said...

Strangers in paradise (What an amazing story)

Transmetropolitan (Anti social parody wonderness)

SCUD (Outstanding)

The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Strikes Again

Loebs Color Books (Yellow, Blue, Grey all so beautiful)

Superman for All Seasons (Amazing art and beautiful story that captures the heart of Superman)

Bone (fantasy at it's absolute best)

Promethea (esp for female friends)

Tom Strong (little Pulp Noir)

Mage (WOW!)

Blankets (Biographical goodness)

Rising Stars (Espceially if they like the TV show Heroes)

Astro City (Super capes sotry without years of backstory)

Mouse Guard (May go down with Bone as one of the best sequential Fantasy stories of all time)

DMZ (Great political writing and a nice mix of action and relationships)

btownlegend said...

I second Rucka's Queen and Country and add his Whiteout.

Ryan K Lindsay said...

That's an awesome question. Your all-time number one desert island comic run to take with you. You can't take a character's whole run, just a creative run, like Miller's DD or Claremont's X-Men (though that could be broken up into artist as well).
There's a lot of good runs to choose from, but I would definitely go with Y: The Last Man. I'm rereading it right now and it's brilliant. I could do it again and again in my homemade hammock in the sun of some island with polar bears and 'others'.
Close picks:
The Walking Dead
Bendis and Maleev's Daredevil
Casanova (if only it was longer)
Can I link Criminal and Incognito together, and Sleeper basically fits in with them, even if it was a DC title, man I'd take Criminal/Incognito/Sleeper for sure, actually, were I able to convince myself that was all one 'run'...
Stan Lee's Strange Tales run with Nick Fury and Doctor Strange would be pretty pimp.

blake said...

the only stuff i've ever been able to get my wife to read (and enjoy) was bone, blanets, mouse guard, and strangely enough cerebuus...

Matt Ampersand said...

I was able to hook my wife with both Morrison's New X-Men and Whedon's Astonishing X-Men. She also reads Fables and Walking Dead, and I got her to read parts of Invincible (but she doesn't care much about it now) and Ultimate Spider-Man.

As for other assorted stuff, she really liked Paul Jenkin's and Jae Lee's Inhumans mini series from a while back and she read all of the Bendis/Maleev Daredevil issues.

But I can't get her to read NextWave :(

Matt Ampersand said...

Oh yeah, and I've tried to get her to read Sandman, because she really enjoyed the Coraline movie, but she's a bit put off by the older art style (as Ryan pointed out the post)

Riff said...

I'd agree with a lot of what's ehre. I would also give Ruka's Q&C a big up.

I'd say that missing from this list is Hellboy, Sin City and Bendis' & Oeming's "Powers" and why hasn't anyone suggested Maus? Surely that should be required reading for any student of comicbook literature

Ryan Schrodt said...

First of all, great suggestions everyone.

Everyone has pointed out a lot of great "must reads," including some of my personal favorites (though a lot of them I certainly wouldn't give to a first time reader). I wonder if everyone would have suggested different items if I said that this entire column stemmed from a request from a woman who wanted to know what she should read after Fables/Y. Would that change your picks?

Also, Riff, good call on Maus, though, having read it and appreciated it several times, I don't think I could ever read it for pleasure. It is most certainly an important peice of comic book literature--perhaps the most important after Eisner's Contract with God--but I don't know that I would recommend it to a new reader looking for a pleasure read.

Bill said...

"But I can't get her to read NextWave :("

Grounds for a divorce!

"I wonder if everyone would have suggested different items if I said that this entire column stemmed from a request from a woman who wanted to know what she should read after Fables/Y. Would that change your picks?"

Pop Candy ( had a "Comics Crash Course" with recommended reads (some a little too indie for my tastes, but there was still a lot to like in the list), with "you'll like this if..." followed by tv shows, movies, books, etc, along the same lines. Criminal was listed as "For fans of: Raymond Chandler, No Country for Old Men, whiskey on the rocks," and the Dark Knight Returns if you liked "Batman Begins, The Crow, Guns N' Roses."

But they redesigned the site recently, so links to the past now redirect to the main page for some reason. (You can still get to it through a combination of google cache and hitting "stop" (or the 'esc' key) as soon as the page loads, but before the redirect)

My point being, it depends too much on the person. Some people might order you up an exorcism if you recommended Preacher to them, some might finish it and want to read Chronicles of Wormwood or something else similarly offensive. YtLM and Fables, as far as "adult" comics go, have broad appeals, so I'd try to know a little bit more about the person before recommending something else.

Jon said...


Oddly enough, that was where I went with this. Each of the books I mentioned has successfully turned at least one woman into a comic reader.

I also forgot to mention Bendis and Maleev's Daredevil. I can't speak for the later part of their run, but I lent the first hardcover to a friend, and she devoured it.

Fenris said...

For a new reader I would suggest Alex Robinson's Box Office Poison, a warm, funny, engaging read with characters you can relate to.

Desert island comic? I love Watchmen, Walt Simonson's Thor, Daredevil: Born Again, Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol, Alan Moore's Saga Of The Swamp Thing... but in the end it would be Sandman, because no other series is as rewarding.

No offense Ryan, but IMO Preacher is the single most overrated comic ever created. But to each his own.

Kirk Warren said...

Some great recommendations from everyone. One big omission I saw was the lack of Bone. Definitely a gateway comic that is highly recommended to anyone, regardless of genre they are interested in. Just a great comic.

On Ryan's list, there's one comic I can't recommendt hough and that's the Batman: Long Halloween stuff. I know many consider it to be a great comic and rank in top 10 Batman comic lists all the time, but that book is just the epitome of what I see wrong with Jeph Loeb storeis.

Many say it's before he became a bad writer, but it has all the same hallmarks of his current work, from revolving door A-list villain door, high profile artists, generic mystery plot that everyone can guess teh answer to, so he chagnes the ending to the point it makes no sense and contradicts earlier red herrings and constant rip-offs of other, better works, like Godfather, Silence of teh Lambs, etc.

Simply copying and pasting scenes with modified dialogue adds the illusion of quality as it evokes feeligns related to those better works and props up his own. It works for a Year One story more than his Hindenburg disaster of a comic in Hulk (Oh the humanity!), but that doesn't make it good in my eyes.

CBR's Comics Should be Good did a re-read review taht highlights many of my own thoughts on the title so as I dont' completely steer this discussion off topic, but I just wanted to point out my own distaste in that book, despite recognizing how it works as a good gateway comic for people interested in Batman and not hung up on the faults.

skfl said...

please stop perpetuating the notion that (a) "preacher" is worth reading, and (b) garth ennis deserves praise and/or more work in comics (no opinion on his food service skills).

great list beyond that, though - it might be time to start snagging "scott pilgrim".

Ryan Schrodt said...

@skfl - What exactly about Preacher do you hate? I can understand not being a fan of some of Ennis's other work, but specifically what do you hate about Preacher?

Kevin T. said...

I try to recommend stuff like We3 or Pride of Baghdad to people. Talking animals! Social commentary!

But mostly talking animals. And, they're totally self-contained and don't require you to get other volumes. It takes a while after Fables volume 1 to really get a full sense of their story and their world.

Chad Warren said...

I think it totally depends on the individual and their tastes. Personally my list of redommendations in no particular order would include:

Ultimates (those interested in Avengers)
Ultimate Spider-Man (Introduction to Spider-man)
Powers (super-power-crime book)
Y the Last Man (no men/female run society)
Walking Dead (zombie book)
Preacher(I think it gets the priase it deserves)
Invincible (Spider-man with blood and guts)
Rising Stars (I will steal the Heroes analogy)
100 Bullets (mystery and temptation)
Absolute Sandman (dreams and the unknowing)
New X-Men (Grant Morrison) (for those interested in the X-Men)
All-Star Superman (Best Superman book period)
Daredevil(Bendis & Smith Run)
Kingdom Come (Grim DCU future)
Fables (our childhood stories invade reality)
Captain America (Brubaker)

I would not recomment Watchmen to a newbie until I had them hooked. There is so much to take in and let's face it whether people recognize it or not graphic novels and novels are completely different. I know educated people that have said getting into a graphic novel was not as easy as they thought because the pictures can say so much and you have to be aware of everything going on inluding the subtle clues. For that reason I would hold off on Watchmen until they grasp the true nature of the beast that graphic novels can be.

Chad Warren said...

Also I did forget.

Batman Year 1 (definitive Batman)
League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (I still cannot believe they bastardized this with the movie. People truly do not know what they are missing)

Ryan Schrodt said...

Kevin T - Great call on Pride of Baghdad and We3! I completely forgot about both of those, despite having recommended them in the past!

Joe said...

Right now, Blankets is definitely my top recommendation to show people what comic books can do (besides Fables). It's so easily relatable it's hard not to love it.

Daryll B. said...

In the same vein and not trying to rip off other people's suggestions I would go with:

Fantastic Four (The Waid / Wieringo run)

Runaways digests 1-6 (The anti-hero hero book)

JSA volumes 1-11 (Goyer, Johns rebirth a classic and make them BETTER than the JLA)

Villains United and Secret Six (Gail Simone makes thm into a refined Suicide Squad that's LIKEABLE)

Noble Causes Archives 1 & 2 and Dynamo 5 vol 1-3 (A lighter Astro City concept with adult themes)

Nova vol 1-4 (The DEFINITE superhero at Marvel right now)

oakleyses said...

replica watches, oakley sunglasses, nike air max, michael kors outlet online, jordan shoes, chanel handbags, nike air max, oakley sunglasses, burberry outlet, nike outlet, christian louboutin shoes, christian louboutin, oakley sunglasses wholesale, burberry handbags, prada handbags, michael kors outlet online, christian louboutin uk, coach purses, polo outlet, michael kors outlet, longchamp outlet, gucci handbags, michael kors outlet online, nike free, true religion outlet, tory burch outlet, coach outlet store online, christian louboutin outlet, tiffany and co, longchamp outlet, michael kors outlet, prada outlet, coach outlet, michael kors outlet store, coach outlet, ray ban sunglasses, ray ban sunglasses, polo ralph lauren outlet online, tiffany jewelry, kate spade outlet, longchamp outlet, kate spade

oakleyses said...

sac hermes, converse pas cher, timberland pas cher, jordan pas cher, mulberry uk, michael kors outlet, true religion outlet, north face uk, new balance, nike air force, michael kors pas cher, sac longchamp pas cher, vans pas cher, north face, ray ban uk, louboutin pas cher, hollister uk, guess pas cher, abercrombie and fitch uk, nike air max uk, air max, true religion jeans, nike free uk, ray ban pas cher, nike air max uk, nike free run, true religion outlet, polo lacoste, hogan outlet, michael kors, nike blazer pas cher, longchamp pas cher, nike air max, burberry pas cher, sac vanessa bruno, nike tn, oakley pas cher, polo ralph lauren, nike roshe, ralph lauren uk, hollister pas cher, lululemon canada

oakleyses said...

chi flat iron, hollister clothing, north face outlet, ferragamo shoes, mont blanc pens, nike roshe run, jimmy choo outlet, mac cosmetics, nfl jerseys, asics running shoes, baseball bats, hermes belt, new balance shoes, wedding dresses, nike trainers uk, mcm handbags, beats by dre, valentino shoes, babyliss, p90x workout, lululemon, bottega veneta, oakley, hollister, herve leger, nike roshe run uk, insanity workout, vans outlet, ghd hair, soccer jerseys, north face outlet, giuseppe zanotti outlet, timberland boots, abercrombie and fitch, longchamp uk, soccer shoes, nike air max, iphone 6 cases, nike huaraches, reebok outlet, instyler, celine handbags

oakleyses said...

swarovski, coach outlet, ugg uk, vans, replica watches, uggs outlet, uggs outlet, hollister, links of london, pandora uk, ralph lauren, ugg,uggs,uggs canada, ugg,ugg australia,ugg italia, marc jacobs, ray ban, toms shoes, uggs on sale, supra shoes, pandora jewelry, lancel, wedding dresses, thomas sabo, converse outlet, louboutin, hollister, ugg pas cher, pandora charms, ugg boots, montre pas cher, swarovski crystal, ugg, juicy couture outlet, juicy couture outlet, karen millen uk, nike air max, converse, gucci, ugg boots

Post a Comment

Thanks for checking out the Weekly Crisis - Comic Book Review Blog. Comments are always appreciated. You can sign in and comment with any Google, Wordpress, Live Journal, AIM, OpenID or TypePad account.