One of things fueling my desire to try my hand at comics is how they annoy me. I don’t mean the medium itself, but rather how much harder it is, compared to other media, for me to find those works that really feel tailor-made for me. Tolkien or some other author said that he started writing because no one else was writing the kind of books he wanted to read, and I understand the sentiment. “Produce the content you want to see” is a motivator in and of itself.
But anyhow, these are some comics I’ve really enjoyed.
Battle Angel Alita (Yukito Kishiro)
It’s been roughly a decade since I read this one, and so the details are now a little hazy, but I remember it being the most emotionally involved I’ve ever been with a manga. It’s a sort of cyberpunk Mad Max with large doses of existentialism. Great characters, action, storytelling, etc. And, of course, robot angst.
Last Order, the sequel series, started off strong, but got very rambling lost my interest partway through. I unwisely sold my copies – the original series has been out of print for some time. But it looks like a fancy hardcover edition is on the way soon, so I’ll get another chance to revisit it.
Valerian (Jean-Claude Mezieres and Pierre Christin)
I made good on my idea to check the original comics out, and I’m glad I did. Although I’m only a few issues into its near half-century run, I know it’ll be a companion for some time. Christin knocks out pulpy Campbellian space opera stories and Mezieres renders them with some of the most breathtaking, colourful sci-fi art I’ve ever seen. That’s really all it has to offer, but it’s so up my alley that it’s not even funny.
Usagi Yojimbo (Stan Sakai)
Marrying a very western, funny animal art style with feudal Japan may be an unorthodox artistic choice, but it is one that I greatly adore. I mean it’s practically a jidai-geki with anthros! Throwing some detective fiction into the mix is the icing on the cake.
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (Hayao Miyazaki)
The only regrettable aspect of Miyazaki’s movie career is that it prevented him from having much of a manga career – Nausicaa proves that the man is just as great on the printed page. It’s a sprawling, ambitious soft sci-fi epic on par with Frank Herbert’s Dune. The movie only scratches the surface.
The Spirit (Will Eisner)
My one concession to the superhero genre, assuming that having a mask and a secret identity is enough to be a superhero. Eisner was simply a great storyteller and artist, and the Spirit is a testament to both that and his warm humanism.
Starseeds (Charles Glaubitz)
I can’t say I loved this graphic novel. Its highly surrealistic depiction of a war between the titular Starseed children and the Illuminati has aspirations towards the mythic and profound, but in execution it more often than not comes across as obscurantist nonsense. But what is worth a shout-out is how relentlessly experimental it is in form. Glaubitz is constantly doing great stuff with the panels and page layouts, breaking down and reconfiguring the traditional grammar of comics into new and interesting forms.