This article was originally published at The Nerd Cave on December 21st, 2013.
Christmas is four days away, which means there are only three days left for last minute gifts. Luckily, new comics come out on December 24th, giving you a great opportunity to purchase last minute stocking stuffers from your local store.
Comics make for great presents. They’re not terribly expensive and provide a walloping amount of value. For less than $20, a collected volume contains hundreds of pages of art and some of the best stories told in the 20th and 21st century. Beyond that, picking out the right story can give two people a shared experience to discuss and bond over. Stories allow us to connect to one another, which allows them to be a very meaningful gift.
If you’re still hunting for a few last second presents, here are a few recommendations for the different folks who may help to warm your holiday season.
The Underwater Welder by Jeff Lemire (Top Shelf Productions) – $19.95
The Underwater Welder is an odd blend of science fiction and horror on its surface, similar to a lengthy episode of The Twilight Zone minus Rod Serling. That assessment misses what the comic truly is though: one of the most genuine stories of fathers and sons published this century.
The mechanics of flashback, time travel, and dislocation are only tools that allow Lemire to dig into the relationships that form the core of his comic. They’re also illustrated in such a way that they are perfectly clear, enhancing the story, rather than befuddling the reader. It’s this precision story telling and mastery of the form that allows him to play with genre while digging into twenty years of history between a grown man and his father, lost to him for most of that time.
It’s a comic about generations, about new beginnings, and about how much bravery is required to be a parent. It is certainly a comic that children can happily share with those brave enough to have raised them.
Back-Up Pick: The Hunter by Darwyn Cooke (IDW Publishing) – $24.99
For Friends & Co-Workers:
Nowhere Men by Eric Stephenson, Nate Bellegarde, and Jordie Bellaire (Image Comics) – $9.99
Nowhere Men is a very smart book that manages to leave all pretension behind. It combines elements of popular music with the wonders of modern science, blending the joy of a Neil Degrasse Tyson speech with the aesthetic sensibilities of the Rolling Stones.
It’s perfect for a generation consumed by both popular culture and an ever-expanding base of knowledge. It’s this fusion of ideas that will challenge readers of any age to examine the multitude of ideas underlying the comic after an initial read. The initial read will most likely be consumed by the adventures occurring between panels and the out-of-this-world art. Nowhere Men can be approached and enjoyed as both an examination of culture and ideology or as a new take on the superhero genre. There’s no wrong way to read it.
Much like Kirby’s Fantastic Four, it’s a comic stuffed with big ideas, that is still enjoyable as an adventure title. There’s something in these pages for almost anyone to enjoy.
Back-Up Pick: Hawkeye Vol. 1 by Matt Fraction and David Aja (Marvel Comics) – $16.99
For Significant Others:
Saga Vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (Image Comics) – $9.99
Saga is my default recommendation for most new comics readers. It’s also the one comic that everyone who claims to “not normally read comics” reads. For those of you looking to share a hobby with your girlfriend or boyfriend, look no further.
It’s that impossible blend of a story that weaves space opera, romance, family drama, war, and other components into a whole that exceeds its many pieces. It’s a comic about so much, but at its core, is really about the challenges of love in a world filled with strife. As vague and diverse as that may sound, it’s because Saga is a book that defies description. It’s just that good.
There’s no better comic to bring home and share with the people who help you face the world. This is the best $9.99 you may ever spend on a gift.
Back-Up Pick: Fables Vol. 1 by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham (DC Comics) – $12.99
For Little Ones:
Adventure Time Vol. 1 by Ryan North and many others (BOOM! Studios) – $14.99
Oftentimes when a comic is referred to as “fun”, that adjective is used to be dismissive. That does a disservice to both comics and fun. Adventure Time is, without a doubt, a fun comic and one worth reading.
Adventure Time is a comic that enjoys being a comic book. Every page is filled with bright pictures working together to tell big stories filled with imagination. There’s enough going on to capture the smiles of both young and old readers. It’s that possibility for shared enjoyment that makes it such a special series. Some issues, like #10, push the medium beyond its standard reading format, weaving panels together to create a choose-your-own-adventure that tears down the fourth wall.
Half of the fun in finding a comic or book for young readers is getting to share in the wonder of discovering art alongside a fresh pair of eyes. This is a comic that guarantees a positive experience for both the gift giver and receiver.
Back-Up Pick: Bone by Jeff Smith (Cartoon Books) – $39.99
I’ll be back in one week’s time for my last column of the year. Until then, enjoy the time away from work and close to those you cherish. It’s a great opportunity to catch up on your comic reading list.