Trouble Thinking

August 18, 2010

Vertigo: Comics for Folks too Cool for Superheroes

Filed under: Comics — Tags: , , , — Chris @ 6:17 pm

Interested in reading comics, but worried that you might just be too hip for superheroes? Well, fear not, because your buddy Chris is here with some tips on how to get your comics reading right.

First off, try getting over yourself. If you’re reading comics, congratulations, you are no longer too cool for anything. If that still doesn’t work, hey, don’t worry about it. There are plenty of excellent series out there that have nothing to do with capes and crime fighting, and many of them can be found in DC’s creator-owned line, Vertigo.

That isn’t to say that there aren’t plenty of other great non-superhero comics to be found at other publishers, but Vertigo has what I would consider to be the most uniformly excellent line going today. In addition to many of DC’s darker, classic runs such as Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing, and Grant Morrison’s Animal Man and Doom Patrol (technically superhero comics, I know), currently being republished underneath the Vertigo banner, many of the currently ongoing titles are well deserving of your attention as well. Furthermore, in a marketing maneuver my cash strapped pockets thoroughly endorse, Vertigo has priced the first collected trade volume of all of their series at only $9.99, providing much appreciated incentive to give their books a try. With that in mind, let’s take a look at just a few of the Vertigo comics I’ve been enjoying recently.

Unknown Soldier by Joshua Dysart and Alberto Ponticelli

Unknown Soldier is a modern update of an old DC comic from the 60s and 70s, starring a mysterious, battle scarred soldier, whose face is hidden behind a mask of bandages. In Dysart’s and Ponticelli’s version, the titular soldier is a Ugandan doctor, who finds himself, against his better judgment, and sometimes even against his own will, fighting violently for the oppressed in a war torn region of Uganda. Unknown Soldier is a brutal, riveting look at a part of the world that many of us are not familiar with, as well as an intriguing examination of the usefulness (or lack thereof) of violence in the face of more violence, and its effect on normal people.

Unwritten by Mike Carey and Peter Gross

Years ago Wilson Taylor wrote a series of incredibly successful Harry Potter style fantasy novels, based upon his son, Tommy Taylor. Then one day he vanished. Now Tommy is all grown up, and finds himself idolized the world over as the fictional character with whom he shares a name. As Tommy rides the wave of his undeserved celebrity, unhappy with his inability to succeed at anything on his own terms, his life suddenly begins to unfold. Fiction intrudes upon reality as events described in his father’s books begin to play out in real life, and Tommy finds himself in the midst of a centuries-long conspiracy to use great works of literature to control the course of history.

Unwritten is a relatively new series, the second volume was only released last week, but what little I’ve read so far has managed to grab my attention. I love stories that focus on the relationship between fiction and reality, and I cannot wait to see what Carey decides to do with Tommy Taylor.

Scalped by Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera

I tend to buy comics in batches, and every time that batch happens to include Scalped, somehow it always ends up being the last book I read.  Simply put, I always manage to forget just how good Scalped is. To merely describe the book’s premise doesn’t do it justice: Scalped is a modern noir about Dashiell Bad Horse, a federal agent sent deep undercover on the crime-laden Native American Reservation he grew up on. Sounds pretty uninteresting, right? Just your stereotypical crime story plot, trying to mask its run-of-the-mill nature with a novel setting.

Well, you’d be wrong. Jason Aaron’s writing here is the tightest I’ve ever seen it, with sharp, believable characters, and a plot that seems to always stay one step ahead of the reader. On top of that, you’ve got detailed, moody as hell art from Guera. All in all, Scalped is one of the best comics out there today that too few people are reading, and if you were to try out only one ongoing from Vertigo, I’d recommend it be this.

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