There’s honestly never been a better time to be into comics. With the ubiquity of comic book films, TV/streaming shows, and conventions, comic culture has finally cemented its stake in mainstream culture. While publishing powerhouses like Marvel and DC still dominate the market in terms of saturation, smaller publishers and indie titles have managed to find a place in the sun as properties like Umbrella Academy and The Boys have become household names.
The sheer amount of volume and variety of titles available to readers can feel like a staggering title wave of choices, like some sort of wall has come down dividing comics and mainstream culture. So here’s a quick guide to titles recent newcomers and geek savvy readers might have missed in this past decade:
10 Henchgirl by Kristen Gudsnuk
At some point, most 20-somethings have to take entry-level exploitive jobs for evil corporations with questionable ethics, and that’s really no different for Mary Posa, except she’s literally a low-level hench girl.
This delightfully playful title explores the trappings of contemporary work-life relatable to many of the vocational struggles experienced by millennials.
9 Infamous Iron Man by Brian Michael Bendis & Alex Maleev
In the aftermath of Secret Wars , Reed and the rest of the Richards clan reset the multiverse after Doctor Doom saved it from complete annihilation. As a thank you of sorts, Mr. Fantastic restored Doctor Doom’s scarred face and effectively removed the psychological ones as well.
With Earth-616 restored, Doom finds himself unfulfilled by a selfish gain so he decides to take up the mantle of the recently deceased Tony Stark, becoming the infamous Iron Man.
8 American Gods by Neil Gaiman, P. Craig Russell, & Scott Hampton
An adaptation of one of the greatest contemporary fantasy novels of all time, American Gods is storytelling at its best. Dealing with concepts like thought-form and cultural identity, this story is about how old world gods came to American shores, carried and transformed by the immigrants that carried them here.
Russell’s script and Hampton’s illustration perfectly translates the complex and often surreal source material and main covers by David Mack really make this a delicious visual and intellectual treat.
7 Usagi Yojimbo by Stan Sakai
One of the longest-running indie titles began with a simple doodle: Rabbit ears coming out of a samurai’s topknot. From there, Usagi Yojimbo has blossomed rich world featuring compelling characters in anthropomorphic feudal Japan.
Relaunched again at IDW in 2019, every issue still feels like a short Kurosawa film with a kick-ass petting zoo cast, filled with humane depth and razor-sharp action. It was also one of the first properties to cross-over with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
6 Animosity by Marguerite Bennett & Rafael de Latorre
The premise seems innocent enough: what would happen if animals could suddenly talk? But the answer to that is surprisingly complicated when assessed realistically. Think about how we generally treat animals: All the places they can go and things they’ve seen, all because they couldn’t talk.
When was the last time you changed clothes in front of your cat? And that’s a moment when you’re on your best behavior…terrifying to think about? It should be.
5 DC Meets Looney Tunes
In yet another example of DC’s brillance with unlikely combinations, this unexpectedly brilliant title pairs together Bugs Bunny in a space adventure with the JSA, Martian Manhunter trying to find common ground with Marvin the Martian, as well as actual storyboards from the elusive “Snyder Cut” in the form of Batman versus Elmer Fudd, among others.
The best part is that each issue features two stories, one in DC’s comic style and the other in Looney Tunes’ cartoon style.
4 Batman: Superheavy by Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo
While Synder and Capullo had a metric ton of incredible Batman issues, this story has just the right amount of mad-cap action balanced with wildly interesting characters, but it can best be summarized as a love note to the beloved and often underrated Jim Gordon.
After Bruce Wayne fakes his death and Batman vanishes, GCPD decides to fill the vacuum with their own. They recruit Gotham’s top cop from retirement to take on the mantle of Batman, complete with an enhanced heavy armor mech suit and police oversight, of course.
3 Grindhouse: Doors Open at Midnight by Alex Di Campi & Chris Peterson
This comic feels like being a kid staying up past your bedtime to watch late-night trash tv and B-movie features on cable that were so terrible they’re awesome, but with several improvements. First, no commercials; second the story and dialogue are actually enjoyable and intentionally outlandish.
If you’re old enough to remember USA channel’s “Up all night,” then this a title for you. If you’re not old enough to remember, have a good Google on me.
2 Motorcrush by Brenden Fletcher, Cameron Stewart, & Babs Tarr
Brought to you from the same creative team that refreshed DC’s Batgirl, Motor Crush is equal parts Need for Speed and Blade Runner 2099. This high octane title features an intriguing dystopia populated with cybernetically augmented motorcycle gangs, race-circuit soap opera, and a color pallet that just won’t quit.
By day, Domino Swift is one of the leading competitors in motorcycle racing; by night, she hits the underground circuit in an effort to find a rare performance-enhancing drug called “crush.”
1 Power Man and Iron Fist by David Walker & Sanford Greene
Don’t call it a comeback; these heroes for hire have always been known for fun and weird street-level stories that usually involve gangsters dabbling in mysticism. This time, Walker and Greene offer a fresh take that gives Luke Cage and Danny Rand a kind multi-dimensionality that only comes from characters getting a little older and being allowed to move on and do some stuff outside of superhero life for a bit.
Greene’s hulking slightly dad-bod version of Power Man and goofy svelte Danny Rand are perfect representations tuned in to where these guys are in life, balanced with just the right amount of kick-ass to show they can still get the job done.
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