The new year is barely a month old, and my reading journal is already teeming with more graphic novels than I can handle. So as a service to those with similar problems, I'm devoting this week's post to two new releases that shouldn't be missed and one last-minute favorite from 2009.
The Unwritten by Mike Carey and Peter Gross: Here is a simple way to rope readers into a new series: tell a great story. Carey poses the question of "What if the Harry Potter series were based on a real boy, and that boy grew up to be a convention circuit-hungry C-list celebrity?" Protagonist Tommy Taylor's father wrote a 13-book series-turned-beloved-cultural-phenomenon with his son as the inspiration, providing now-adult Tommy with enough residuals to shirk a day job, although not enough where he can avoid making "Tommy Con" appearances and answering hapless, obsessed fans's questions. But with his father missing and rabid speculation about his true identity on the Internet, Tommy finds himself wrapped up in a real-life mystery--and one with magical properties. This first volume sets the stage almost too well, leaving readers with many questions and just a hint of what's to come. It certainly kept me guessing and cursing at its cliffhanger ending. I loved all the literary references and not-so-gentle poking at YA fandom. This is one to watch from Vertigo, and it deserves all the support it can get to keep those cryptic answers coming. Fans of Neil Gaiman's Books of Magic should definitely take notice.
Irredeemableby Mark Waid and Peter Krause: I have an embarrassing confession to make. When I heard all the buzz about a comics title called Irredeemable, I thought readers were talking about Robert Kirkman's Irredeemable Ant-Man. While that series certainly has its fans, I finally came across Mark Waid's Irredeemable, which at first glance appears to be yet another superhero-gone-bad deconstruction. Not so. This one has real bite, tracking the "world's greatest hero," The Plutonian, as he decimates the superhero and supervillain population, along with the rest of the inhabitants of planet Earth. The answers come very slowly across the first two paperback collections, as Waid teases revelations just before delivering explosive plot twists. Vol. 1 begins mis en scene and introduces plenty of characters in the first chapter to keep even the speediest of readers from rushing through the pages. Peter Krause's art improves in the forthcoming Vol. 2, losing some of the early stiffness and opening up a wider palette of faces, particularly the female characters. Vol. 3 doesn't release until July, but Waid has another surprise planned for fans:Incorruptible, the flip-side to Irredeemable and centered around a supervillain-turned-hero, publishes in June.
In 2003, I remember reading Blood and Water by Judd Winick and Tomm Coker in single issues and being fairly impressed at its shocking look at vampirism. Today, of course, new takes on the vampire genre are as common as Hot Topic mall stores, but this under-read five-issue miniseries is still worthwhile, particularly the first three chapters. Protagonist Adam Heller is terminally ill, and--wouldn't you know it--his two best friends are vampires who have just the answer to his ailment. The early fun is in watching Adam and his cohorts basking in the newfound nightlife while Winick experiments with a time-honored mythos in a contemporary setting. Tomm Coker's artwork is full of emotion and shadows (much moreso than Brian Bolland's surprisingly goofy covers), and I wish I could find more work from him (Wikipedia claims he's moved on to film direction). Winick would later graduate to high-profile characters like Superman, the Titans, and Batman, which, while good for his career, meant that Blood and Water met an early grave. The soil is prime for a resurrection, however, should Winick ever want to give the capes and tights a rest. [Note: Vertigo Comics actually published Blood and Water in October 2009, but I re-read it this month.]
So far, my new year has been full of excellent reads. How about you: what graphic novels have you been recommending in 2010?