The weather outside is frightful. Good thing criminals are a cowardly and superstitious lot. Maybe they won't be skulking around in the cold. Unless they're Captain Cold. Or Mr. Freeze. Or Icicle. But I digress.
It's that time of year again, where oversensitive Christians get rankled because "Happy Holidays" is more inclusive than "Merry Christmas" and they apparently don't like that. Seriously, say "Merry Christmas" all you want if you know the person you're saying it to is in your religious wheelhouse. Otherwise, use the other one. It's that simple, people. Wait, I'm digressing again. One more try.
Hey, kids! Are you out there doing some gift shopping for your loved ones and don't know what might be cool to get for your friend, sibling, offspring, grand-offspring, colleague, what-have-you, but you know he or she is a sequential art enthusiast? Well, you're in luck, because here's a list of neat things that person might dig.
1. BATMAN VOLUME 1
The best Bat-book going is the one which simply bears his name and nothing else, boasting red-hot writer Scott Snyder and stellar artist Greg Capullo. This is the first volume of the New 52 version of Batman, which finds the Caped Crusader being humbled and beaten by a threat in his own city he didn't think existed – the underground cabal of crime known as The Court of Owls. The strongest new villains in quite some time, this arc brings us a stunning new revelation that will forever change the life of Bruce Wayne.
2. ALIEN: THE ILLUSTRATED STORY
This one's a classic. Titan Books has reprinted this 1979 graphic novel version of the original film Alien by comic industry stalwarts Archie Goodwin and Walt Simonson, the latter of whom recently talked to us about the whole project. It's been out of print for over 30 years, but it's a classic piece of art that will work for longtime comic enthusiasts as well as Ridley Scott fans.
3. THE ANNOTATED SANDMAN VOLUME 1 & 2
MSRP: $49.99 ea.
One of the most beloved, critically acclaimed and enduring works of literature in the sequential art medium is undoubtedly Neil Gaiman's metaphysical drama Sandman, and these two big, beautiful volumes give us an in-depth analysis and annotation of every literary and historical reference contained in the series, thanks to Leslie Klinger, who has given Sherlock Holmes and Dracula the same treatment. It's what to get for the fan who has everything.
4. BEASTS OF BURDEN: ANIMAL RITES
Dark Horse's lovely hardcover edition of this wonderfuly creepy yet undeniably adorable series about a gang of paranormal investigators who also happen to be dogs and cats is a perfect gift for just about anybody who likes books. It's got all of the fun but none of the sanitized saccharine you'd expect from a pack of animal sleuths – as cute as the stars are, they're dealing with truly macabre subject matter, like savage rat hordes and undead cannibal roadkill. Jill Thompson's beautifully painted artwork makes this feel like the underbelly of the Norman Rockwell world, and Evan Dorkin strikes the perfect balance between light-hearted comedy and unnerving chills.
5. WOMANTHOLOGY: HEROIC
One of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns for comics ever resulted in 168 female creators coming together to contribute to this massive 321-page anthology book showcasing their abilities. Well-known talents like Gail Simone, Nicola Scott and June Brigman have their work tucked in right alongside that of widely varied up-and-coming artists from all over the world, making a strong statement for community and recognition to an industry that's been historically male-centric. Not only will you see plenty of interesting work at varying stages of completion, but this will support the cause of making more women's voices heard by raising their profiles.
6. ARCHER & ARMSTRONG VOLUME 1: THE MICHELANGELO CODE
Valiant Comics was big in the '90s, but had lain dormant for some time, but this year saw their revival in a big way. X-O Manowar, Bloodshot, Shadowman, and the particularly fun Archer & Armstrong book have been entertaining reads about superheroes outside of the Big Two. A big boisterous immortal who lives high on the hog has to team up with a holy-rolling cultist warrior to stop the machinations of The One Percent. The banter is breezy and it's just a good time – and these new Valiant trades won't hurt your wallet at just ten bucks a pop.
7. TRANSFORMERS: MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE VOLUME 1 & 2
MSRP: $19.99 ea.
The greatest Transformers comic book series ever written cannot be denied. James Roberts has brought a life, energy, fun and depth to the big shape-changing robots from Cybertron that was mostly just potential until now. The war between the Autobots and Decepticons is over, and now Rodimus Prime is leading a motley crew of 'bots on a quest across the galaxy in their starship, the Lost Light, trying to locate truths about their history and hopefully the keys to managing a peaceful future for their kind… but nothing goes right at all. There are Sparkeater zombies, plagues, PTSD flare-ups and all kinds of troubling shenanigans here – and the stories are so dense, they'll be well worth reading and re-reading.
8. AMAZING SPIDER-MAN: ENDS OF THE EARTH
Dr. Octopus is dying, but he's gotten the whole Sinister Six band back together for one last master plan. It seems he's developed the technology to completely eliminate the problem of climate change, and he's going to desperate lengths to get it done before he dies… or is he? Spider-Man's the only one convinced he's up to something more… well, sinister. Dan Slott's Spider-Man is always highly entertaining, and the art from Stefano Caselli and Humberto Ramos is energetic and lively. This is fate of the world stuff! The Sinister Six take on the Avengers… and they WIN! Who doesn't wanna read that?
9. DANGER CLUB VOLUME ONE: DEATH
What happens when all the heroes of the world are killed by a cosmic menace, leaving no one but their teen sidekicks to pick up the slack and try to ready the Earth to fight off the threat? Probably not what you think. This new series from Landry Q. Walker and Eric Jones is all about disaster and desperation in the face of crazy odds, because the world these kids are trying to defend is already firmly in hell and stuffed in that handbasket. There are classic comic influences, with a Kid Nick Fury/Cable combo, and an obvious Nightwing riff, but there are also completely bitchin' robot fights interspersed with particularly angry drama. It's fast, it assumes you'll get yourself up to speed as it moves along without any kind of break for exposition, and you absolutely never know what's going to happen next.
10. AXE COP: PRESIDENT OF THE WORLD
The pure, unadulterated joy that comics can bring cannot be more perfectly encapsulated than it is with Axe Cop, a series created by a 5-year-old boy named Malachai and illustrated by his 29-year-old brother Ethan. With the fourth volume of their frenetic childhood fever dream, Malachai (now 8) gives us his unstoppable Axe Cop leading the entire world, and they have to fight bad guys from a bad guy planet that want to invade our good guy Earth! Axe Cop has friends like Sockarang and Dinosaur Soldier and they'll also have to deal with the threat of Normal Guy. Wait, Normal Guy? Why is he a threat? Because he's been injected with the DNA of everything that exists on the planet, and he's become Every Man, a man with the power of everything! This book is nothing but crazy delight, and it will soon be an animated series to boot!
11. ULTIMATE COMICS: DEATH OF SPIDER-MAN OMNIBUS
One of the biggest events of last year happened over in Ultimate Comics, where anything can happen – including the death of Peter Parker. Brian Michael Bendis started the story of Ultimate Spider-Man many years ago, and he's also the one who brought it to its conclusion. This hardcover collects Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #15, #150-#160, Ultimate Comics Avengers vs. New Ultimates #1-6 and Ultimate Comics Fallout #1-6. This is huge, and it gives you the whole story of Spidey's last stand… which eventually gave rise to the new kid on the block, Miles Morales.
12. WRITE OR WRONG: A WRITER'S GUIDE TO CREATING COMICS
Perhaps the person on your shopping list is not only a comic enthusiast, but an aspiring creator who's having trouble figuring out how to get his career off the ground. Well, Dirk Manning, writer of Image Comics' great Nightmare World books, has collected his instructional series of columns from Newsarama into a handy field guide to actually getting collaborations started. It's less about the how-to of writing scripts and more about the process of finding artists and establishing working relationships and connections to get your stuff noticed. No guarantees, of course, but it's nice to have a kind of bible to refer to for this sort of thing.
13. FATALE VOLUME 1: DEATH CHASES ME
Most everybody will tell you that it's hard to find a better writer in comics today than Ed Brubaker, and fortunately for us, he loves to spin interesting noir yarns like this, and artist Sean Phillips is a great man for the job of bringing those yarns to life. The mysterious Josephine is indeed a classic femme fatale, the kind of woman your eyes won't leave and your heart will obsess over, but is that just because of who she is… or what she is? There's definitely a Lovecraftian supernatural vibe in this series, which is strong enough to have changed from a miniseries to an ongoing one for Image Comics.
14. STUMPTOWN VOLUME 1
We can't mention Ed Brubaker's talents without also proffering some praise for Greg Rucka's prowess with the hard-boiled. A new Stumptown miniseries just started up this year, but you can get caught up on the life and troubled times of Portland private investigator Dexedrine Parios, whose name admittedly sounds lime some kind of pharmaceutical. She is not that, but rather a rough-and-tumble woman who's not afraid to take a beating or two in the line of getting her job done. That's good, because she'll have to when on the case of a missing girl whose grandmother owns the casino wherein Dex has run up quite a tab with her gambling problem. It's certainly a grimy kind of detective book, but it's not as dour as some of them can be. Dex is somebody you like and somebody you root for, despite her issues.
15. BATMAN: NOEL
Sure, this came out last year, but with unbelievable art from Lee Bermejo, you can't turn down a Dark Knight Christmas Carol in Gotham City. Batman is Scrooge in his hardass dedication to crimefighting, bordering on ruthlessness, until Catwoman, Superman and finally the Joker serve as the three spirits who convince him to turn away from bitter darkness. It's the perfect book for the comic fan this holiday season.
That should be enough to get you started – but hey, chances are, once you actually head into a comic book store to check these out, a lot more interesting things will catch your eye. Try some! Your target gift receptacle will probably like 'em and, who knows? Maybe you will, too.