Markley’s Fevered Brain: A Few Last Minute Suggestions

Wayne Markley

Wayne Markley


by Wayne Markley

As Christmas is only a few days away from the time this blog is posted I thought I would make some last minute shopping suggestions if you are still looking for gifts. If you have all of your shopping done, then consider this a list of suggestions to spend the money you saved on or the money Grandma gave you on. All of these books are first rate and are great reading. All of them are parts of larger stories so there is a lot of reading you can do if you enjoy of these books. Also, all of these are appropriate for all ages, adults or children alike. All of them are highly recommended.

Nexus: Into the Past and Other Stories

Nexus: Into the Past and Other Stories


Nexus: Into the Past and Other Stories is the newest collection of Nexus stories from Mike Baron and Steve Rude and is published by Dark Horse Comics. This collection contains all of the Nexus stories from Dark Horse Presents and wraps up the long running series. Nexus was first published by Capital Comics back in 1981 (which was part of Capital City Distribution, my old employer) and then went to First Comics and has been on and off since then from Dark Horse Comics. Nexus is a mix of science fiction, politics, romance and humor, and all of it is great. I would argue that Nexus (along with Grendel) is one of the greatest long form stories ever told in comics. Over its 35 year history it has kept true to its original concepts while telling vast stories spanning time and space with a cast that is both sympathetic, courageous, and at times hilarious. I would recommend reading the Nexus Omnibus, of which there are six, and read the entire saga at your own pace, then pick up Into the Past which wraps up the story. Be sure to read the notes in the back by Steve Rude which are quite the history lesson of a creative team that worked together for so long. Baron and Rude have said in the press they are planning on continuing Nexus in the future as a comic strip, but to be honest I found this final volume to be a perfect ending to a perfect series.

Usagi Yojimbo Saga Vol. 1

Usagi Yojimbo Saga Vol. 1


Usagi Yojimbo is another comic that has been around for over 30 years and to this day still holds the charm and brilliance of his first appearance. All along Usagi has been written and drawn by his creator Stan Sakai, who to this day still writes, pencils and inks a monthly Usagi comic. While Nexus tells an overarching arc of a story, Usagi is told more like a biography. Each issue tells the tale of this Ronin warrior’s adventures in Feudal Japan as he wanders looking for adventure. The stories range from single issue to multi part stories that could span six or more issues. While Usagi is an anthropomorphic title, the characters are so well fleshed out you forget that they are not people and the stories just drag you along like a great film. The influences on Usagi are pretty obvious but none of it feels like it is ripped off from the films or books that inspired it. Also, like Carl Barks’ Ducks and Herge’s Tin Tin almost everything in the pages of Usagi is based in actual historical fact. A nice bonus is the supporting cast of characters that tend to come and go in Usagi’s world. He has a circle of friends, enemies and acquaintances that help flesh out the character of Usagi and make him seem all that much more real. There are, so far, 29 volumes in trade collection all of his adventures. Each trade stands alone as you are able to read a slice of Usagi’s life and not need to have read the earlier volumes to appreciate the story (unlike Nexus which reads better in sequence). There are also five Usagi Saga reprinting groups of three of the early trades in a larger format. A real bargain given the price. A great read for any age.

Popeye Classics Vol. 2

Popeye Classics Vol. 2


There are seven volumes so far of Bud Sagendof’s Popeye Classics comics. These are oversized hardcovers reprinting the classic Popeye comics that started in 1948. Each volume reprints between four to five issues of the comics, in a size that is at least 50% larger than the original comics. These are a mix of slapstick humor and adventure that truly captures the style and tone of the classic Popeye newspaper strip which was the inspiration for the comic. Sagendof’s, who was E.C. Segar’s (the creator of the comic strip, all of his work has been collected in seven beautiful hardcovers from Fantagraphics) assistant, style is both unique yet clearly is Popeye. The stories flow with such smoothness that you do not even realize you are reading until the story concludes. The stories are mix of long form adventure stories and one page humor gags. These books might be a challenge to find as they do not sell well, but they are well worth tracking down.

Star Wars Epic Collection: Empire Vol. 1

Star Wars Epic Collection: Empire Vol. 1


The Marvel Star Wars Epic Collections are unique in that they reprint all of Dark Horse’s Star Wars comics. The one major change is Marvel is reprinting all of the stories in sequential order. So you get to read the stories in a linear time line from the earliest stores up to the final film and beyond. I never read the Dark Horse series because there were too many and they were all over the map in terms of when the stories took place in the Star Wars timeline. Reading in the order that Marvel has chosen is a joy. I never realized how good some of these stories are. In fact, most of them are. There are far too many creators and titles reprinted here to list, but Marvel is breaking the reprints down into five different series. Briefly, the series breakdown like this: Legends of The Empire, these are stories that take place after episode three of Star Wars and the Clone Wars. The Old Republic volumes focus on the Knights of the Old Republic and these stories take place before or during episodes 1-3 and tell the tales of the beginnings of the Jedi Knights and how they came to be. The third series is called The New Republic. These are stories set in the time after the Empire fell at the conclusion of episode six. A lot of the characters in these volumes will be familiar, such as Boba Fett who has his own series reprinted here. Next is Rise of the Sith. These stories take place before episode three as they tell the tales of a younger Obi-Wan Kenobi and his assistants. Finally there is Infinities. This Epic Collection collects a series of miniseries that told alternative version of the Star Wars universe. These are a fascinating read as the basic story is there but the outcomes are not what you would expect from the traditional Star Wars mythos. Also included in the Infinities collection is the The Star Wars miniseries which was based on George Lucas’ first draft of Star Wars from 1974, and there are some major differences from the final film in 1977. For example, Han Solo was a giant green alien. There are multiple volumes of most of these collections,(except for Infinities which is a single volume) with at least two volumes in each series so far. Marvel has not said how many volumes there will be in these series, but personally I have thoroughly enjoyed each of these so far and I welcome many more to come.

I do hope you all have a wonderful Christmas this year and a safe New Year. I appreciate all of your comments and feedback for this blog over the last year and I look forward to 2016 with even more reviews and suggestions of what is worth your time and money. It goes without saying that everything I have written here is my opinion and in no way reflects the thoughts or opinions of Westfield Comics or their employees. As always,

Thank you.

 

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  1. Westfield Comics Blog » Markley’s Fevered Brain: Riding a Dark Horse Says:

    […] volumes. They recently released a collection of all of the Nexus stories from Dark Horse Presents that I reviewed a few months back (it is great). Nexus is comic storytelling the way it should be; complex stories […]