Recommendations for the New Comic Reader is exactly what it sounds like — the posts where I recommend current ongoing comics to new readers, mostly based on the current or most recent arc. I focus heavily on the series being new reader friendly, so if the latest masterpiece of Grant Morrison’s isn’t here, you know why. I’m mainly concerned with what I myself am reading, but will occasionally recommend something people have told me or I’ve heard is good, if I feel it bits (these recommendations will be clearly labeled).
So as a whole, I have to say I’ve been pretty disappointed in Marvel’s output this year. There are some good ongoings, but they’re few and far between, as everything seemed to be caught up in the abysmal Civil War II–or rather, dragged kicking and screaming, since every tie-in seems to have at least one rant on how the event is dumb. But there are some gems, and if you’ve seen my “Top Ten Comics of 2016” list, you probably know some of what’s going to be here. Anyway, join my after the break for my comic recommendations for new readers based on Q1 of 2017.
Written by Jeff Loveness and Ramon Perez
Latest release: Issue 3 (current arc begins at issue 1)
Length: 3 regular issues
Nova has never been the most A-list franchise. Even with the popularity of the Cosmic Marvel line, Richard Rider never became a big star. Even with the sales of All-New, All-Different Avengers and Champions, Sam Alexander never really got a big fanbase. The Novas are and have always been cult classic characters, and the fandom hasn’t helped itself with its huge divide: there’s the Richard fans and the Sam fans. It’s basically the Hal Jordan/Kyle Rayner rivalry of Marvel, and of course it creates an unwelcoming atmosphere. And how did Marvel fix this? Get the characters’ respective fans to like the other group’s character, with a well-written series that acknowledges and even celebrates the differences between the two characters and gives them a touching relationship.
Jeff Loveness and Ramon Perez’s Nova is a relatively low-key series, featuring the return of the presumed-dead Richard Rider from the Cancerverse and his adjustments to regular life, and Sam’s stumbling through puberty and high school life. This really works, as Richard fans get more of his more mature stories, as he struggles to come to terms with all he’s missed, while Sam fans get more of the typical high school stories he’s known for, though written with much more self-awareness than what I’ve previously read. This not only provides a balanced tone, but also highlights the difference between the two, as well as reasons for them to form a connection — Richard needs something human to ground him and Sam needs someone to help him through high school superhero life. Their relationship is written in a rather subtle way and is just touching to see. It might get complicated soon with something that followed Richard back from the Cancerverse, and while I was afraid at first that this would be a mistake, with how amazing this series has been, I have full confidence in Loveness and Perez. And yet, despite all I’ve just said, the series isn’t afraid to be funny, with jokes that almost always land, without ever feeling out of place; in fact, the jokes serve to further highlight the differences between the Novas! With art (by Ian Herrinh, who will be departing after this arc) that is as versatile as the writers, Nova is consistently one of the highlights of my month.
If you want to read a comic that manages to tell great stories regarding loss, love and family and celebrates the difference between two very different styles of writing superheroes, Nova is for you. Approaching the characters with respect but also comedy, Jeff Loveness and Ramon Perez’s Nova hits it out of the park.
Written by Mariko Tamaki
Latest release: Issue 4 (current arc begins at issue 1)
Length: 4 regular issues
Mariko Tamaki’s a writer who’s been really impressing me lately. She seems to excel at humanising her characters, and it really works with incredibly powerful ones. Her Hulk run, featuring Jennifer Walters (She-Hulk) and not Bruce Banner, is one of the most surprising things to have come out of Civil War II.
Hulk features Jennifer Walters adjusting to the world after Civil War II, which included her savage beat down at the hands of Thanos and the murder of her cousin Bruce Banner at the hands of Clint Barton. Tamaki approaches this with maturity, as Jennifer uses anxiety management techniques and struggles to go about everyday life. At the same time, Jen finds that there are other people suffering like she is, and needs to help them and work through her problems, which isn’t easy when the world is still fixated on the Hulk’s murder.
Tamaki misses the mark at times due to some pieces of out of place narration and some disconnect between the writing and art (which is very good, by the way), and in the most recent issue, just overdone narration in general. But these problems, last one aside, aren’t that frequent, and are only as noticeable as they are because the rest of the comic is so good! It’s why I hate that the problems are even there, in fact!
If you want a (mostly) nuanced look at issues like PTSD and anxiety through the lens of the superhero genre, Hulk is the comic for you. Just be ready to deal with some imperfections.
Written by Ed Brisson
Latest release: Issue 1 (current arc began at issue 1)
Length: 1 regular issue
With his Netflix series now having launched, Iron Fist has a bigger profile than ever before. The character has never been an A-lister, but he was very popular under writers Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction, when they wrote their amazing Immortal Iron Fist run. Embracing martial arts, mysticism and all aspects of the character’s rich history, Brubaker and Fraction crafted a grand story that reshaped Iron Fist’s world. Ed Brisson’s Iron Fist is, based on the first issue, a darker take on Immortal Iron Fist, albeit one that doesn’t exactly embrace his history.
I reviewed it while writing this, but to sum up: it’s a good issue with strong dialogue, good art and is obviously setting up something cool. Brisson seems to “get” Danny Rand, if not his history, although right now he’s focused on Danny being wayward and angry after the destruction of K’un-Lun and beginning to lose his connection to Shou-Lao the Undying’s chi. He sets up some martial arts adventures involving a tournament and a hidden city, all good stuff. But the execution feels more than a bit generic, as Danny is wayward and angry, beating up strangers in underground fighting rings until a stranger shows up telling him about a martial arts tournament. If you’ve not read that many stories about broken heroes stepping up, it won’t irk you as much as it did me, but it does feel very cookie cutter. It’s just how the series starts so it’s not that big a deal.
Read Iron Fist if you want a series that is seemingly setting up some cool martial arts stories with a fittingly dark tone. Don’t go into the first issue expecting anything innovative, and you’ll have a good time.
Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Latest release: Issue 6 (current arc begins at issue 1)
Length: 6 regular issues
Brian Michael Bendis isn’t my favourite writer, but something he really does well is noir stories focusing on a single protagonist. Alias still mostly holds up, and with Jessica Jones’ bigger profile from her Netflix series, it made sense to bring Bendis back to do what he used to do best (and keep him away from superhero team books), with a character he created and defined. Jessica Jones isn’t nearly as good as Alias, but it’s also an interesting look at the current landscape of the Marvel universe… it’s also incredibly frustrating to read, but at the same time incredibly compelling. Bendis has always been a good ideas man, so the beginning of everything he writes tends to be good, before things inevitably peter out or outright go to hell.
With Jessica Jones, the basic premise is that Jess is tackling various wide-reaching conspiracies in the Marvel universe, and the scope of some of these things will really surprise you. The idea for the first arc was incredibly strong, and even showed a new layer to the abysmal Civil War II event. And it just doesn’t pay off, thanks to an incredibly lazy ending. And that’s just the first arc! Usually Bendis stuff takes at least a few arcs to peter out! But here, the disappointment hits early on, and without spoiling, it could’ve been such a good story if Bendis was more willing — or perhaps allowed — to write certain characters in a certain light. However, it seems Bendis changed his mind halfway before finishing the previous arc (well, right before the last issue), and is instead putting larger focus on the fallout from Jonathan Hickman’s Secret Wars event — which he’d been teasing throughout the first arc — in a way that hopefully leads to bigger things in the Marvel universe (particularly because he’s writing the Maker over in Infamous Iron Man). It’s, again, an interesting idea that adds layers to another story, and I hope its setup, if followed up on, is used by another writer. Because Bendis would probably screw it up.
In terms of characters, Jessica is inexplicably separated from Luke Cage, and if you’re invested in their relationship, it’s incredibly frustrating to see. The reason for it is also iffy at best. However, Bendis captures the appeal of Jess in her inquisitive mind and rough-and-tumble detective work, along with her self-destructive nature. While it feels like a step back for her character, if you enjoyed her character in her Netflix series, you’ll probably enjoy her here as well. She’s undoubtedly heroic, so she hasn’t completely regressed, and her feelings for Luke and their child Danielle are conveyed well by Bendis. Even if the story is frustrating, Jess’ character is as compelling as it used to be (before New Avengers overexposed the crap out of her), and it will no doubt be interesting to see how, or even if she can put the pieces back together.
Jessica Jones is a frustrating read, but if you can get through that, you’ll find that the character herself is as compelling as ever, with some great mysteries and conspiracies thrown in. Just be aware that a lot of that stuff probably won’t pay off well, if at all, and you’ll have a good time.
Written by Dan Slott
Latest release: Issue 9 (current arc began at issue 9)
Length: 9 regular issues
Dan Slott and Mike Allred’s spectacular Silver Surfer run is coming to a close, and while I think it hasn’t had any real drop in quality, I just don’t think it’s wise to recommend a series that seems to be coming to an end to new readers (don’t worry, I don’t think it’s worse than the mixed bag of Jessica Jones or the extremely early days Iron Fist). The core of this run has always been the relationship between Norrin and Dawn, and I think the current stories play on your attachment to that relationship a little too much for new readers to be that invested. If you think you can manage, give it a go, but I’d recommend you just wait for the run to end and read it in trade.
While the previous series told the adventures of Norrin and Dawn through a strange cosmos and set up and developed their relationship, this series is more about adding complications to it, like the return of Norrin’s ex. It’s still done with self-awareness and charm, however, no doubt assisted by Mike and Laura Allred’s beautiful art. The series doesn’t really do story arcs, but issue 9 says it’s the beginning of an arc, so start there if you feel like you’d enjoy this series.
If you like the idea of an adorably written couple exploring space while their relationship gets more complicated, read this series. Just be aware that it’s coming to an end and that you should probably read the previous series as well.