The JJ Report

Ten Comics You Should be Reading

Written By: JJ Simoes

So, here are ten ongoing comic books I believe you should all read (in no particular order as I am too lazy to decide which ones I like most).  These comics all have collected trade paperbacks that are currently available at your local comic shop (I don’t trust corporately owned book sellers).  Now there is some bias as these are all books from my pull list, but I would like to force them all upon you.  I hope you decide to pick up at least one of these books on your next trip to the comic shop, and as always you chose to be here.

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Wonder woman
(2016-present)
DC Comics
Writer Greg Rucka
Artist: Liam Sharp, Nicola Scott
Price: $2.99

This series is an excellent jumping on point for new readers as it brings much of Diana’s established past into question as well as providing a fresh new origin story.  Rucka’s scripts convey Wonder Woman as being a powerful fighting force, as well as a selfless and caring individual.  It also cleverly takes advantage of DC’s new twice a month shipping schedule to deliver two dueling stories that heavily inform on each other.  The art is impeccable, as Scott and Sharp alternate on the duel storylines, each bringing their own stylistic charms to the character.  Scott in particular perfectly visualizes the strength and innocence of a younger Wonder Woman.  She also renders Steve Trevor as being quite the beef cake (his shirt tends to get ripped quite often).

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All-Star Batman (2016-present)
DC Comics
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: John Romita Jr, Jock, Francesco Francivella and others
Price: $2.99

While the entire Batman line is firing on all cylinders, this would be the series I’d recommend.  As it serves as a vehicle for Snyder to tell his take on established Batman villains, the series largely stands on its own and has little to no interaction with the larger DC Universe.  Snyder also offers something new in his writing, as he takes a different approach to the character than he had in the New 52.  The artwork however is the biggest draw, as Snyder has assembled an all-star (pun intended) cast of artists for his series, and plays to each of the artists’ strengths.  Each issue also comes with a back-up story focused on Batman’s new partner Duke Thomas (he is not another Robin, thank god).  Thomas was introduced late in Snyder’s New 52 run and has proven to be a great addition to the Bat-Family (my personal favourite is still Bat-cow).

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Black Hammer
(2016-present)
Dark Horse Comics
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Dean Ormston
Price: 3.99

This series by Jeff Lemire, who is currently my favourite comic creator, is a wonderfully refreshing take on the superhero story.  In this series, Lemire isolates a group of heroes (representing different eras of superhero comics) in a small town after the end of an epic crisis event (a common trope in superhero crossovers).  It’s in this isolation that Lemire explores the superheroes’ respective psyches and how they deal with being stuck in a small town.  The characters all come from various comic book hero archetypes, but each one goes deeper and views the characters as real people.  While there is a deeper mystery being unravelled as to the nature of the town, the real draw is Lemire’s characterization.  The moody series is appropriately accompanied by Ormston’s low-key art work, soaked deep in shadows.  I would recommend buying copies with Lemire’s variant covers, as he is an incredibly talented artist in his own right.

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Black Monday murders
(2016-present)
Image comics
Writer: Jonathan Hickman
Artist: Tomm Coker
Price: $4.99

This is a not a series for readers new to the comics scene, but if you are a seasoned vet and a fan of Hickman’s work I would definitely recommend it.  This series examines various members of wall-street’s underhanded dealing with entities not of this world to obtain money and power.  As members of various rich family’s feud, as a lone detective investigates a murder connected to a complicated financial conspiracy.  This series experiments with the comics form, including charts, prose, family histories and transcripts that expand the series mythology and builds onto the main narrative seen in the comic’s portion of the work.  While the series, like most of Hickman’s work, is very high concept in nature, the series events are grounded in the human emotions exhibited by the characters.  While the issues are not on the cheap side as far as standard comic prices go, it’s worth it as you get 56 pages of excellent comic work on very high quality paper stock.

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The Wicked + The Divine
(2014-present)
Image comics
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Jamie Mckelvie
Price: $3.99

This comic is about a pantheon of Gods that are reincarnated in human individuals.  They then become celebrities to the population at large and develop loyal fan bases.  The series begins with Fan girl Laura meeting the Pantheon and the rest of the series flows from there as secrets are uncovered and lives are changed forever.  This series examines why people create art and where the sources of art comes from (granted it uses super-powered individuals as examples).  It also deals very honestly and deeply with mortality, and how that affects one’s perspective on life.  It really puts the relationship between fans and those they worship into perspective, as it challenges notions of blind devotion.  The series also has the most diverse cast of any comic book I’ve ever read (except Young Avengers but I’ll discuss that in a later article).  Mckelvie’s artwork fully realizes Gillen’s vision, be it with excellently rendered facial expressions or innovative costume design.  Mckelvie’s use of expression and Gillen’s writing allows the characters to come to life, and they will stick with you long after you put this comic down (though I doubt you will).

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Sex Criminals
(2013-present)
Image comics
Writer: Matt Fraction
Artist: Chip Zdarsky
Price: $3.50

This is a personal favourite of mine, and for a very good reason.  In a world, full of action oriented and dark comics, it’s series such as Sex Criminal that bring some comedy into your life.  The book comes with a very innovative premise (which is a joy to tell people).  A boy and a girl meet, hook up and find out that they share things in common.  One of these things is that they can stop time when they orgasm, and so they logically decide to go rob banks.  This comic is a sex comedy, pure and simple.  However, it also deals with sexual relationships in a very realistic manner, in so much as how people in relationships act.  It also explores characters of differing sexualities and sexual preferences.  Zdarsky’s artwork is simple, yet conveys the subtle emotions the characters feel throughout the book.  I do warn this book is not for prudes, as there is quite a bit of sex and nudity in the series (though with a title like that it’s a no brainer really).

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Saga
(2012-present)
Image comics
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Fiona Staples
Price: $2.99

Saga is about star crossed lovers (quite literally as they come from warring planets) who fall in love and have a baby.  They then have to go on the run and work to keep their family together. This series is about families and that may be its biggest draw.  Vaughan’s handling of character relationships makes them come alive on the page and gets the reader quickly invested in the series’ characters.  Staple’s art is just incredible.  She has an incredible sense of design as she renders some of Vaughan’s more “out there” ideas, and she can convey a lot of emotions in character’s facial expressions.  Her art style also makes the book stand out.  Her characters are given black outlines, while the backgrounds are fully painted and very much resemble video game concept art. This very unique art style really sets the books apart from everything else on the market.

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Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
(2014-present)
Archie Comics
Writer: Roberto-Aguirre-Sacasa
Artist: Robert Hack
Price: $3.99

So, this is a comic book about Sabrina the teenage witch…if she worshipped Satan.  This is a genuine horror take on Archie Comics’ beloved teenage witch and… it works.  It tells the tale of a young girl, just entering a new high-school where she struggles between her family lineage and the influence of her peers.  It’s a high-school story many can relate to, but with a terrifying horror story style twists and turns.  The series is also set in the 1960s, and it’s great to see all kinds of darkness creep underneath a picture-perfect façade.  Sacasa’s intriguing new take on Sabrina also blends elements of the larger Archie-verse and The Crucible (a play I would recommend reading), into his grotesque take on teenage angst.  Hack’s art is scratchy and eerie, capturing the period the series is set in while also bringing a new look to traditional Archie-verse settings.  This series however does not come out on a regular basis (like most Archie Horror books), so you may feel some pain if the first trade hooks you.  Though I will say the pain is worth it.

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Monstress
(2015-present)
Image Comics
Writer: Marjorie Liu
Artist: Sana Takeda
Price: $3.99

I am not a fan of high fantasy, which is what this series is, but I love it.  As a war erupts between the Arcanics (magical beings) and Cumea (those who eat Arcanics), a young woman named Maika Halfwolf seeks to learn more about her mother’s death.  This series explores the conflicts that exists between cultures and an individual’s darker impulses.  That is all I will say, because you must read this.  The world envisioned by Liu is an alternate Asia (a delightful break from western focused stories) which is matriarchal in nature, which is one of the main reasons I enjoy the comic.  The artwork is magical, a mixture of digitality painted artwork and beautiful line work.  The world created is fully realised and the compelling characters drive the plot (as you can tell I enjoy character driven stories).  Just read this, and if you decide not to, I would suggest a re-evaluation of your life.

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Black Panther
(2016-present)
Marvel Comics
Writer: Ta-Nehisi Coates
Artist: Brian Stelfleeze, Chris Sprouse
Price: $3.99

This is by far the best comic book Marvel is publishing at the moment.  It’s action packed, character driven and very relevant.  It is set primarily in Wakanda, which allows a greater focus on the panther and the society in which he operates.  The series also deals with the people of Wakanda rising up against the monarchy, and it makes for a very compelling series.  Coates also explores the Panther’s connections to other members of the Marvel Universe, and cleverly incorporates villains I wouldn’t normally attribute to the Panther.  Now the art in this series is fantastic.  Stelfleeze brings an excellent design sense to the world of Black Panther and his use of lighting is stylistic, and awesome.  When he’s not drawing the book Chris Sprouse takes over, and he just fires on all cylinders (I can’t believe I’ve used that phrase twice). Sprouse is one of my favourite comic book artists and his style is simple,

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Three friends talking about movies, video games, comic-books and anime. We do videos and articles. Be warned, you chose this. Site created by Nick Poulimenakos, Artur Galvao and Mathew 'JJ' Simoes.

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