03rd Oct2019

Great Introductory Comics & Graphic Novels for New Readers

by Chris Cummings

So, you might think comic books and graphic novels are all about superheroes and have such a vast background and back-catalogue that it’s almost impossible to jump in and read them. I thought this at one point, many moons ago, unsure of how I’d be able to delve into the world of comics without being completely confused and overwhelmed with these long-existing worlds that had been established and built over decades. Believe me when I say… there’s much more to comics, and I wanted to highlight a number of graphic novels and comic books for those who might be considering getting into the scene but aren’t sure where to begin. Basically… some recommendations for new readers and those who want to check out some stuff without feeling lost, bewildered and agitated by it all.

Pumpkinheads
by Rainbow Rowell & Faith Erin Hicks

pumpkinheads-cover

You can see a full review of Pumpkinheads here. It’s a lovely graphic novel that takes a look at friendship during a period of time when two teens are about to move into another journey of their lives. Set during Fall at a pumpkin patch, it’s packed with gorgeous illustration work from Hicks and humorous and warm writing from Rowell. It’s a new book, but one I’ve read twice already in the past fortnight. It’s the perfect young-adult graphic novel (but anyone can enjoy this, seriously) for autumn time, and one I think many people will get a lot out of. Lovely.

Nimona
by Noelle Stephenson

What a fantastic graphic novel this is. Combining fantasy and sci-fi tropes with a barrage of hilarity, we meet Nimona, a young shapeshifter who is the sidekick to an “evil super villain” names Lord Blackheart. The story takes a look at how their views differ, with Nimona less into thinking and planning, her finger on the trigger and her mind racing at 100mph constantly. It’s a fresh and thoroughly entertaining take on a well-trodden genre, and Stephenson nailed it. I laugh out loud every time I read this, and it looks lovely too. Read it. You won’t regret it.

Colder
by Paul Tobin & Juan Ferreyra

Now for something a little darker. Colder is released in the form of an omnibus, which collects the whole story, and boy is it fantastic. Much more on the “horror” side of things, it’s gory, it’s violent, it’s creepy and it’s written beautifully. Visually this blew my socks right off, too. It tells the tale of a man who’s body temperature gets colder and colder, and involves him trying to save others from a dark universe. There are some fascinating characters here too, especially Nimble Jack, the villain of the piece, who is one of the creepiest and best villains in comics that no-one seems to know about. If you like surreal and dark stories with great art and writing, this one comes highly recommended.

Blankets
by Craig Thompson

Blankets-cover

This is one of those graphic novels that stays with you. An autobiographical tale of Thompson himself and his childhood in a Christian family, his travels into early adulthood and his dealings with love. Its black and white visuals are gorgeous and it’s relatable to anyone who’s fallen in love. I go back to this every year and it never fails to move me. A fascinating and exceptionally done bio-comic, it’s a cult classic for good reason. Check it out. The whole story is in one nicely sized book, and it’s fantastic.

Maus
by Art Spiegelman

Most people will have heard of Maus. The complete collection is available and it’s one of the most interesting, sad, moving, tragic and brilliant books ever made. Telling the story of Spiegelman’s father, his life and experiences of the holocaust, is harrowing yet offers hope and joy in between the darkest of cracks. Using mice, cats and pigs in the place of Jews, Germans, and Poles, it manages to take something somewhat absurd in concept and makes it work so exceptionally well. Maus became the first graphic novel to win a Pulitzer Prize, and there’s a reason for that. Read it, experience it, and learn. It’s amazing.

Archie Vol 1 onwards
by Mark Waid & Fiona Staples

archie-v1-cover

The new Archie series is a good option for those who haven’t been able to get into comic books. Released from 2015 onwards, the new Archie is easily accessible and acts as a relaunch, making it simple to pick up and get into. It introduces you to these characters as if you’ve never heard of them before, and it’s a fun high-school drama in the form of a comic book. It looks lovely and it written really well, and if you get into it, there are spin-offs you can enjoy too, featuring characters like Jughead, Josie & The Pussycats, Betty & Veronica and more. Well worth your time.

Chew
by John Layman & Rob Guillory

Chew is a comic series released through Image Comics and has been going since 2009. This is a big ole series and features so much content, yet you can just grab the first volume and dig in, with no worry of needing to experience anything prior. The basic premise follows Tony Chu, an agent who solves crimes by receiving psychic impressions from food, including people. Basically, if Tony eats something, he gets the psychic reading from it, and this helps him look into crimes. It’s a story that spins into a gross and hilarious one, and with the awesome artwork and great writing from Layman and Guillory, it never fails to hit. Check it out.

Emitown
by Emi Lenox

Emitown is released through Image Comics and is a dairy-comic series from Emi Lenox who went on to work with Jeff Lemire on Plutona. Emitown is a lot like reading through an illustrated journal, as Emi talks about her life, her loves, her frustrations, her career, her obsession with breakfast food. It’s funny, it’s heart-warming and it’s so easy to just pick up and read for a few minutes at a time. I love this, and would love to see Emi release more volumes. The volumes are pretty hefty too, so there’s plenty of bang for your buck. If you want something that’s relatable, fun and easy to jump in and out of, then I highly recommend Emitown. It’s the good stuff.

Saga
by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples

SAGA-v1-cover

Finally, this epic space opera series written by Brian K. Vaughan and illustrated by Fiona Staples is a huge deal in the comic scene, yet it stands alone, from its first volume, easy to pick up and jump into, and a good way to experience a deep and complex world from the start. It follows Alana and Marko, a husband and wife from warring alien races, who are on the run from space-police folk while they care for their young daughter, Hazel. It’s an exceptional series with remarkable storytelling, wonderful artwork and a world built beautifully. If you want a big ole series to dive into, then Saga is a good option, for sure.
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So, there you have it, my first in a “recommendations for new readers” article. I may come out with more of these in the future, too. There are many comics and graphic novels for new fans to get their teeth into, and there’s no need to be intimidated by the comic world. It’s a big huge place with something for everyone, so pick one up and get going, you won’t regret it.

Thanks for reading!

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