Clocking in at over one thousand pages, The Walking Dead Compendium One includes the first eight volumes of the Eisner Award-winning comic and a six-page Christmas special (which, when you remember this is a series about a zombie apocalypse, should give you a good indication of exactly how uplifting and Christmassy it is), and is about as heavy as a small bag of bricks. When comic books are collected into omnibus editions like this, they can be a bit daunting at first glance – but once you realize that eight volumes means 48 issues, you’ll remember that you are actually holding four years’ worth of stories in your hands.
The Walking Dead (and authors Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charlie Adlard) is deeply indebted to the zombie genre pioneered by George A. Romero in his original Dead Trilogy (Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, and Day of the Dead). Die-hard (pun intended) zombie fans may notice some subtle thematic nods to Romero and others’ films in the comic, but for the most part, it’s a story all on its own. There are touching moments, there are funny moments, and there are horrific moments – but that’s life, even without a zombie plague.
At the heart of all zombie stories is a reflection of ourselves, at our worst and at our best, the consumerism in us and the heroic in us, and in that, The Walking Dead is a successful addition to this genre.
At first glance, The Unwritten seems to be about a grown-up, real-life Harry Potter: a man desperately trying to escape the shadow of the fictional character based upon him. (In actuality, co-creator Mike Carey has said the character of Tom Taylor is based more upon the real-life Christopher Robin of the Winnie-the-Pooh stories than anything else.) But read a little more, and you’ll witness Tom Taylor get dragged further into a world that may or may not be fictional, where the collective of human consciousness can grant powers, and a shadowy, book-burning cabal wants him for their own purposes.
The Unwritten is an ongoing comic series published by Vertigo, currently collected in six volumes (the seventh was published in March 2013). It features diverse artwork by Peter Gross (The Books of Magic, Lucifer) and beautiful, lush cover art by Yuko Shimizu (Barbed Wire Baseball).
Fans of The Goon will go into Chinatown and the Mystery of Mr. Wicker not knowing what to expect. But the first page says it all: “this ain’t funny.”
The Goon is an Eisner Award-winning comic series about a zombie-killing gangster and his stab-happy partner in a 1930s/1940s pastiche of a town overrun by monsters, and known for its black (and at times, quite slapstick) humor. But Chinatown is a marked departure, instead focusing on the titular character Goon’s mysterious past and the reasons for his scarred face and heart. Writer and artist Eric Powell pulls it off beautifully, the almost purely black-and-white art evoking the clear noir influences that have always been present in the darker stories in The Goon.
After the publication of Chinatown, the regular series took a more dramatic shift, while still maintaining its black comedy elements. For this reason, it’s both essential for fans of the series and a good jumping off point for new readers.
Sons of Empire, the ninth volume of the Fables series, was perfectly balanced in terms of light-hearted and plot-heavy stories. Of particular note were the adorable 15 short comics based upon reader-submitted questions.
For more works by Bill Willingman check out these books.
A spin-off of the “Fables” series that follows Jack of the Tales (aka Jack Horner, Jack the Giant-Killer, Jack Frost, etc.) after his exile from Fabletown. More action-packed and quicker-paced than the original series, perhaps because the story revolves around the titular character rather than an ensemble cast.
I was a little reluctant to pick this title up because I found Jack irritating in the “Fables” stories, but in Jack of Fables, his annoying tendencies start to become endearing, mostly because of his over-the-top, egotistic narration.
Read The Nearly Great Escape by Bill Willingham to become endeared with Jack.
An excellent read for fans of classic Lovecraftian horror. Whereas Mignola and Golden’s last team-up, 2007’s Baltimore, or the Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire, was an homage to Gothic horror in the vein of Frankenstein, Joe Golem and the Drowning City hearkens back to the horror writers of the early 20th century such as Lovecraft and Poe.
Filled with old gods and occultist pseudoscience, fans of Mignola’s Hellboy series will also be charmed by the similarly gruff but deeply caring character of Joe. Though it’s got plenty of monsters and creepy stuff, at its core the story is about friendship and family – and how to move on for the sake of others when faced with an inevitable loss. Mignola’s skillfully haunting black and white artwork compliments Golden’s descriptive (but never longwinded!) prose.
The story of the Biblical figure Samson is told in a humanizing and darkly humorous way. Samson himself is a womanizing violent religious fanatic, but still manages to be a sympathetic character through his straightforward narration.
Check the catalog for The Book of Samson or for other books by David Maine.