by Wayne Markley
Last time I reviewed a number of monthly series that I am currently enjoying. This time I am going to review series of books or collections. To buy the complete run of any of these would be quite expensive, but I would suggest you try the first volume of any of these suggestions and see if they are for you. I have tried to pick out the series that have been completed and all the issues are available in collections. There are a few though where the final volume or two has yet to come out. When possible I have recommended the trades due to cost reasons but a few of these books offer hardcover collections are worth your while if you really enjoy the title and plan on re-reading it in the future.
First off is a book I mentioned briefly last time, DMZ. All 70 issues of this series are collected into 12 very nice trade paperbacks. All issues were written by Brian Wood and the art, for the most part, was by Riccardo Burchielli as well as a number of guest artists. DMZ is a grim tale of an America that is torn apart by politics and war and Manhattan ends up as a separate nation from the rest of the United States. It is a very complex story that reads better in trade than it did in single comics. I found the overall story to be very moving and extremely well thought out and as good as any prose novel I have read in a long time.
Next is another title from Vertigo called Scalped. Scalped is a crime drama set on an Indian reservation and is as gritty and brutal as any movie or book you will ever watch or read. This series is so well done that after reading each volume I feel dirty, partially because the story is so believable. You feel for the characters (who are not necessarily a nice group) who are so fleshed out they seem real. The story is so realistically told you feel as if you are there on the reservation. It is written by Jason Aaron (who also writes one of my favorite superhero books, Wolverine and the X-Men) and most of the issues are drawn by R.M. Guéra and Jock. This is crime fiction at its best. There are two more trades of Scalped to come out later this year to wrap up this series at 10 volumes.
The Unwritten is the third Vertigo collection I would recommend. It is written by Mike Carey and drawn by Peter Gross. When this book first started I thought it was a knock off of Harry Potter, but it has grown to be so much more than that. It is a fantasy story deeply steeped in the mythology and rich history of literature. It is also an adventure that twists and turns from story arc to story arc like a spring breeze while always maintaining the highest level of excellence. There are five collections so far and there is a sixth one due later this year. This book is still ongoing so I expect you will see more volumes down the road as long as this title is published.
A series that is completely different from the above recommendations (which are all for mature readers, by the way), is Jeff Smith’s classic Bone. Bone has been around for over 20 years now but it is as fresh as the day it was first published. Schoolastic has collected the whole series of comics into 9 beautiful trades (or hardcovers), all in full color. It tells the story of a young boy named Bone and his two cousins and all of their adventures and misadventures. It is both compelling storytelling and whimsical at the same time. It is very popular with younger readers and is every bit as good as any other form of children’s literature, or literature in general for that matter. There are also follow up books to their initial adventures (Rose, Tall Tales) and a series of illustrated prose novels called Bone: Quest for the Spark.
Usagi Yojimbo by Stan Sakai has been around over twenty years and I must say over all that time the book has held up as must reading. There are over 26 volumes so far and at least two more collections to come down the road. The story is of a samurai who is masterless and wanders around feudal Japan helping people and meeting all sorts interesting people and creatures, from demons to common criminals to emperors. The storytelling is flawless and smooth and flows like a gentle brook. It is a perfect book for all ages and even after twenty years it is still one of my favorite reads. (Note: At the moment Usagi is currently on hiatus while Sakai works on 47 Ronin, but it will return at a later date).
Y: The Last Man by Brian K Vaughn and Pia Guerra is a ten volume series collecting the entire run of the comic. It tells the story of Yorick Brown, who is the only male to survive a plague which whipped out all of the males on Earth. Why he is the “last man on Earth” is slowly explained over the entire series and there are numerous fascinating stories about the nature of men and women’s relationships and interactions. There are moments when the story is riveting and you cannot wait to turn the page and there are moments when the story is a slow boil. The art is perfect for the series and it is a strange mix of cartoony realism. My only complaint is the conclusion, quite literally the last panel, but I have found I am in the minority in this thought. It is a great science fiction story with a strong moral backbone.
Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing, at the time it was coming out, was a groundbreaking book that took almost everyone by surprise. This was long before Watchmen and but it is every bit as good. Alan took Swamp Thing from being a book looking for a direction to a must read book every month. He did this by creating a lush backstory and fascinating supporting characters, including John Constantine. It went from a monster a month book to a sweeping critique of America and the world in general. The art, by artists including Steve Bissette, John Totleben, and Rick Veitch, is top-notch and is so rich and lush you feel like you are in the swamps of New Orleans or the streets of Gotham. Alan Moore’s complete run is collected into six beautiful hardcover collections. My only complaint is the hardcovers do not have much in terms of extras such as commentary or sketches.
Hulk Visionaries is a collection of Peter David’s run on the Hulk. I consider this one of the greatest runs ever on a superhero comic. Peter David wrote the Hulk for over ten years and Marvel has been slowly collecting his run in sequence in nice paperbacks. David was able to take the Hulk from being a mindless green monster to a gray (colored) mob enforcer to a warlord in the future to a member of the Pantheon. To me, these are some of the best stories ever written about the Hulk and I cannot wait until the next volume comes out. So far they have been once a year or so, and I would not mind if they came out every month. On the art side you have everyone from Todd McFarlane to Dale Keown to Gary Frank to many more in between. I would compare Peter David’s run on the Hulk to what Mark Waid is currently is doing on Daredevil. It is obvious reading these issues that David had a long love affair with the Hulk. I am just glad he let us share it with him.
A recent book that I really enjoyed, and only one issue is out so far and it sold out, is Revival by Tim Seeley and Mike Norton from Image. It is set in Wisconsin and is a must for fans of The Walking Dead. There is a big reveal towards the end of the story, which truthfully you could see coming a mile away, but still the story and art really caught my attention and I really liked this book. As always, these are my recommendations and do not reflect the thoughts or opinions of the Westfield Company or their employees. Any thoughts or disagreements or review copies are welcomed at MFBWAY@AOL.COM.