As some of you might be aware of, I am a big fan of comic books. I got hooked as a child reading Thorgal (the only non-polish comic book available in communist Poland, probably because the artist was born in Poland), Kajko and Kokosz (a polish version of Asterix and Obelix) and Tytus, Romek i Atomek which I believe has no Western counterpart. All other comics were banned because they could have infected us with imperialist ideology 😉
After the demise of the Warsaw Pact Marvel and DC began publishing their most popular titles like X-Men, Batman or Punisher which got me hooked to the superhero genre for a while. When I grew older I got more into what is commonly labelled as comics for „mature readers“. Mature does not necessarily mean „adult“. It just means that the topics covered are not directed at children or teenagers and a lot of these comics are not part of the superhero genre. In the 1990s and early 2000s DC’s Vertigo imprint published a huge amount of really interesting comics, a lot of them dealing with the occult (sadly one of the longest lasting ongoing series, Hellblazer featuring the adventures of John Constantine, was recently cancelled after issue #300). Highly recommnded series from this era are Sandman by Neil Gaiman, The Invisibles by Grant Morrison, Promethea by Alan Moore or Transmetropolitan by Warren Ellis. Personally I think that comics nowadays do not reach this level regarding originality, depth etc. but still there are some ongoing series that are highly entertaining. Here are my current favourites:
The Manhattan Projects
writer: Jonathan Hickman
artist: Nick Pitarra
publisher: Image Comics
Jonathan Hickman is best known for his work on Fantastic Four. However, personally I prefer his weirder original stories like Pax Romana or Transhuman.
This is definitely the weirdest comics being published right now (at least that I know of) and might be the weirdest comics series since Peter Milligan’s infamous Shade, the Changing Man. The genre is „alternative history“ and it tells the story of the infamous Manhattan Project responsible for the atomic bomb. What makes it unique though are the characters: an Einstein from a parallel universe, a schizophrenic Robert Oppenheimer or Wernher von Braun with a robotic arm. From the ongoing comics series this is definitely the one I would most recommend to anyone, no matter whether they are interested in comics or not.
writer: Ed Brubaker
artist: Sean Phillips
Ed Brubaker is by far the best comics writer when it comes to the crime genre, often even crime noir. His best known works include a run on Catwoman and a series set in the Batman-verse called Gotham Central which focuses on the work of the police (co-created with Greg Rucka). He has been collaborating with Sean Phillips on a number of series before, like Scene of the Crime, Criminal, Incognito or Sleeper. What makes their current ongoing series special is the occult twist they included which makes it my favourite series I’ve ever read from Brubaker.
The main protagonist is a typical femme fatale which is always trouble for the men she meets. However, the crucial difference to other women is that for some reason she is immortal: Whenever she dies, she comes back to live soon after.
writer: Brian K. Vaughan
artist: Fiona Staples
Brian K. Vaughan is best known for his post-apocalyptic comics series, Y – the Last Man, which tells the story of the only male human survivor of an cataclysmic event. We follow his adventures as he tries to survive in a often hostile environment while attempting to find out what made him survive.
His new ongoing series, and the first one he’s writing for Image Comics, which is known for its policy of creator-owned work, meaning that the rights to characters etc. stay with the creator/author and not with the publisher, has been an instant bestseller. It is a mixture of science-fiction and fantasy (a bit more science-fiction) and tells the story of two fugitives and their recently born daughter: The woman is a soldier from a race which is at war with the man’s race who starts out as her prisoner and then becomes lover and husband. They are being hunted for personal (the guy’s ex-fiancée) as well as political reasons. What makes this series unique for me is the art of Fiona Staples especially when she comes up with great-looking weird monsters as well as the fact that again and again Vaughan takes time to develop also minor characters which is not often the case in other series. During the first couple of issues I really enjoyed the storyline but lately it got a bit boring. This might be due to the fact that at the beginning only 6 issues were planned because no one knew how the audience would react (similar story as with Fatale).
writer: Paul Cornell
artist: Ryan Kelly
publisher: Vertigo (DC)
One of the few ongoing Vertigo titles that I really enjoy reading. It’s a interesting take on the UFO/abductions phenomenon and presents the attempt of a Latin woman to become president of the United States (current issue #13 is election night) while trying to find out what exactly happened on that night when she and her ex-boyfriend apparantly got kidnapped by aliens. Sometimes it appears a bit as a parody on the whole alien hype, at other times it makes an attempt to present a lot of mutually exclusive theories on this phenomenon without revealing what is really going on. Not all issues are equally good but it has some nice twists to keep the reader interested.
Paul Cornell is a writer of both novels and comics. Most of his novels are about Doctor Who. His best known comics are a run on Action Comics (Superman) as well as a original series called Demon Knights. Recently he started writing the new ongoing Wolverine series.
more info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saucer_Country