For some people, it’s the smell. For others, it’s the way it feels in your hand. For a few, it’s the gentle breeze whizzing past your face as you flick it.
I am of course talking about books. Or, comic books, to be more precise. The revolution to Kindle, eReaders, and other tablet devices seemed so smooth for regular paperback novels – the kind that don’t have pretty illustrations – but graphic novels too made their way to the portable platform with relative ease. Perhaps the most handy method available for building your own digital library has been ComiXology. You may have even heard me talking about the cloud-based comics distributor on the pilot episode of our STT: Rewind podcast?
No, this is not an editorial, but it seems a shame to let one of the service’s latest sales slip without taking the opportunity to mention the 10 best comics you can pick up in its Image sale, running until 28 February. Starting in no particular order with…
Descender Vol. 1: Tin Stars (£2.49
Written by Jeff Lemire, Art by Dustin Nguyen
…so I might have said “no particular order”, but I am beginning with a title that you should definitely pick up before all else. Jeff Lemire writes stories about the human condition in a way few others capture. Even in such a fantastical story like Descender, following a robot boy who may or may not have brought about a robo-Armageddon of galactic proportions for all humanity by simply existing, there lies beneath a reflective story tugging away at the heart strings. Who deserves to live, and what is life anyway? I don’t propose this as an antidote to any existential crisis you may currently be experiencing, but bloody hell it’s a good read, complemented by Dustin Nguyen’s beautiful artwork.
’68 (Sixty-Eight) Vol. 1: Better Run Through the Jungle (£5.49
Written by Mark Kidwell, Art by Nat Jones, Tim Vigil, Coloured by Jay Fotos
If ever you need a ‘war is hell’ metaphor to knock you on the head, open your skull and reveal the delicious juicy brains therein, then ’68 should probably be your first port of call. I hesitate to call it “biting satire” because, well, you might just stop reading straight away due to an overwhelming urge to cringe, but you get the idea. Bunch of zombies, bunch of soldiers, some grim realities and even grimmer fantasies. Not bad for just over a fiver.
Revival Vol. 1: You’re Among Friends (£2.99
Written by Tim Seeley, Art by Mike Norton, Coloured by Mark Englert
Sticking with the undead theme, of a sort, Revival collects the first five issues (and free comic book day short story) of Seeley’s rural Wisconsin supernatural thriller. The deceased are returning, there’s a murder to be solved, and a family in crisis. It has an average rating of five stars (out of five) from 323 readers for good reason. Gripping, fun and original.
Wytches Vol. 1 (£2.49
Written by Scott Snyder, Art by Jock
If you’ve read any comics in the last decade, then the names Scott Snyder and Jock will be as common to you as the familiar caped crusader figure they have created stories for. But just occasionally, the pair produce something stunning out of left field, and their collaboration on Wytches is one of those moments. The 2015 short series is billed as a horror comic, and if the first half dozen pages haven’t convinced you why, then you are made of some very stern stuff. A dark supernatural tale of sacrifice – quite literally a human sacrifice, as you’ll note from those opening panels – and of family and place, and completely self-contained within this one volume, it is definitely worth your pocket money.
The Manhattan Projects Vol. 1 (£3.99
Written by Jonathan Hickman, Art by Nick Pitarra
So, here’s the thing. Jonathan Hickman is not the most… accessible author. Some of his work on Fantastic Four was more than a little impenetrable for new readers. The Manhattan Projects might not come with that baggage of decades old superheroes, but be prepared for a bit of a mindfuck with this one. The brief synopsis asks you to imagine if the original brainiacs brought together to create the atomic bomb had an ulterior motive. Intriguing, no? It’s worth your patience.
American Jesus Vol 1: Chosen (£4.99
Written by Mark Millar, Art by Peter Gross, Coloured by Jeanne McGee
Alas, they haven’t managed to turn the angry Bad Religion single into a series of coloured panels on a page, but next best thing, right? Mark Millar’s (Kick Ass, Wanted, Kingsman) comic follows a 12-year-old boy who realises he is the second coming, and must deal with that responsibility. Basically, a big ‘F’ you to Spider-Man’s issues with having great power. At one point American Jesus was slated to become a feature film, but given that was in 2008 and we are now no closer, I wouldn’t hold your breath.
Bedlam Vol. 1 (£2.49
Written by Nick Spencer, Art by Riley Rossmo
Former serial killer and criminal overlord decides to help protect the city of Bedlam after being cured. What could possibly go wrong? Gorgeous as the artwork is in a lot of these titles listed so far, Rossmo’s work here is simply stunning at times and the Frazer Irving covers almost make it worth the price alone. If you like your heroes slightly bent and twisted, then you’ll probably get a kick out of this weird as shit series.
Happy!: Collected Edition (£2.99
Written by Grant Morrison, Art by Darick Robertson, Coloured by Tony Avina
And as if “weird as shit” was some kind of magic spell to pop out an internet genie, here arrives Glaswegian Grant Morrison MBE, purveyor of
all most that is confusing, mind-boggling, and extraordinary in the land of comics. Happy! tells the story of a former cop turned hitman tracking a serial killer; so far, so normal. There’s also a tiny blue horse called Happy; and normal Morrison service is resumed. The series was recently adapted for TV by SyFy, but there’s no UK air date as yet.
Sex Criminals Vol 1 (£2.49
Written by Matt Fraction, Art by Chip Zdarsky
They’re just a couple of ordinary people, like you and me, regular Joe’s who have a certain special ability that allows them to freeze time when they have sex at which point they rob banks. Just normal everyday people! Well, ok, maybe not “normal” exactly. But then again, it is written by Matt Fraction, so what do you expect?
Saga Vol 1 (£2.49
Written by Brian K. Vaughan, Art by Fiona Staples
Hey, look, an Image comics list just wouldn’t be complete without space opera, and Saga fits that bill perfectly. TV-headed robot men, intergalactic soldiers on opposing sides falling in love, and some crazyness that I’m not sure would be done justice in a synopsis like this; the fantasy epic has been a smash hit with casual comic book readers and hardcore geeks alike.
The Walking Dead Vol 1: Days Gone Bye (£2.99
Written by Robert Kirkman, Art by Tony Moore, Charlie Adlard
I bet you thought it had slipped the list there, like the decaying carcass of a human corpse crumbling between the fingers on my one good hand? I know it, you know it, the whole world knows the Robert Kirkman story that’s reached #176 issues, 28 trade paperback volumes, and eight seasons of a TV show. The Walking Dead is a cultural phenomenon that has done for zombies what George A Romero did for, er, zombies 50 years ago. But look, the soap opera on death row that the series may be, there are few series’ as deserving of being on a ‘best of’ list as this. If you have somehow never read the tales of Rick Grimes and his companions as they trudge through the dreary black and white world inherited by the living dead, then you are cutting your nose off to spite your face (unless of course your nose is tainted meat that you are feeding to a group of cannibals). It’s probably worth pointing out at this point that the series is also exclusively available to ComiXology digitally.
And that’s that. Ten comic book volumes to investigate before the sale ends. There are plenty more available too if you don’t fancy any of our recommendations, including Chew, East of West, The Wicked + The Divine, I Kill Giants, Invincible, and so on. Seriously. ComiXology has 1040 items listed in the Image trades sale, so if there’s nothing on here to your liking, then there’s bound to be something on there for you to pick out instead.