Silver Chips Online

An eclectic comic book collection

Good jumping off points for comic book fans

By Bridget Egan, Online Art Editor
February 5, 2007
While comic book fans are typically regarded as having too much time on their hands and knowing every fact about the comic book industry, it doesn't take a diehard fan to enjoy a good graphic novel.

Since March, 2004, when Silver Chips Online featured an article on the best comic books, hundreds of new comic books have been published. Unfortunately not every published comic book is worth time and money. Here are a few examples of good starting points for anybody interesting in reading graphic novels.

Traveling through time, "1602"

Spiderman. Wolverine. Daredevil. Hulk. The Thing. Black Widow. Captain America. In the universe of Marvel comic books, these heroes co-exist in modern society where villains like Magneto and Doctor Doom offer competition. Author Neil Gaiman, however, places a unique spin on the "Marvel" universe and places all the heroes in 1602 England.

In the British society of 1602, mutants like Cyclops and Jean Grey are persecuted in a clear parallel to the Spanish Inquisition. The main conflict in the comic revolves around the politics of the time, complicated by the superheroes and their antics, with Doctor Doom as the main villain. All the mainstream "Marvel" heroes are featured in this comic, drawn by Andy Kubert, although the major focus is on Captain America and the X-Men.

A thorough review of Neil Gaimen's "1602" can be found here.

Marvel recently created and released "Marvel 1602: Fantastick Four," a division of the original "1602," that focuses on the Fantastic Four.

A whole new world, "Y: The Last Man"

"Y: The Last Man," by Brian K. Vaughn, takes a simple concept, the mass extinction of any human with a Y chromosome human race, and creates a unique and fantastic world. All men are dead as result of an unknown, merciless plague, with the exception of everyman Yorrick Brown and his monkey companion.

"Y" follows Yorrick and his obscure adventures with Agent 355 and geneticist Dr. Mann, who are in search for the cause of the plague. Everything is harder said than done in the comic book realm and Vaughn's fictional world is no different. When a rumor of the survival of a single man leaks out, Yorrick becomes the target of all the surviving world powers. He is plunged head-first into an extensive game of cat and mouse, where the mice are blind and the cats are deadly.

Vaughn's humorous writing style and Pia Guerra's art makes the comic an enjoyable read that reminds its audience that not all heros are clad in spandex with super powers that allow them to save the world but still get home for dinner.

Film noir throws the gauntlet down with Frank Miller, "Sin City"

Many people have seen the movie, the sinister adaptation from the even more sinister collection of graphic novels written and drawn by comic idol Frank Miller. The seven stories in "Sin City" collection all take place in the broken and decrepit world of Basin City, where everything appears more dead than alive.

Each collection follows a different hero or vigilante who decide to take the law into his own hand, to avenge the death of a prostitute or crack down an illegal organ harvesting circle.

While the plot and the writing are brilliant, it is the art and Miller's ground-breaking technique that makes this comic extraordinary. Miller's sparing use of color throughout "Sin City" emphasizes the importance of certain elements, allowing readers to easily find the meaning in his art.

Harry Potter in the Shire, "Meridian"

In a galaxy far, far away before the comic company Crossgen filed for bankruptcy and discontinued all of its comics, there was "Meridian." "Meridian," drawn by Steve McNiven and written by Barbara Kesel, is the story of a teenager who learns that she has powers beyond her imagination.

The series begins with the hero, Stephie, being forced into a position of power when her father is murdered by her brother, who is planning to overthrow the delicate and peaceful community of Meridian. What ensues is an elaborate game of "Risk" that takes place in a fantasy realm, the only difference being that at the end of the game real lives are lost.

Unfortunately, it is easy to see why Crossgen went bankrupt: the only marketable aspect of "Meridian" was the art NcNiven has gone on to successfully draw other comics, earning him fame in the comic book world.

A surprisingly good winner, "The Losers"

A team of special forces soldiers turn rogue when they learn that the CIA has betrayed them, so they use their unique skills in hopes of bringing a corrupt government of justice. Sound familiar? While the idea sounds like every other pitched for a movie, TV show or comicbook, "The Losers" comes out on top.

The series is initially painfully vague, leaving more up to the imagination of the reader than is preferable, but when the reader finally learns of the characters' motives, it is easy to understand why it was initially a secret. The crew of misfits truly have motives behind their actions, unlike some superheroes who save the world because they think it is "right."

Unlike in many other comics, the unique characters rather than the art in "The Losers" will capture readers' attention. While the characters may initially seem stereotypes, they turn out to be complex and genuinely interesting.

Other groundbreaking comic books are "Sandman" by Neil Gaiman and "V for Vendetta" by Alan Moore.