By Jake Sexton
As a fan and advocate of graphics novels and comics, I always use the arrival of Comic-Con as an excuse to write about some of the more interesting titles of recent times. Here are some of the biggest hits and most acclaimed comics since last year.
Appropriate for this election season, we have DC Comics’ “Prez” by Mark Russell and Ben Caldwell. The series is a dark satire set in a dumbed-down, media-obsessed, click-happy near future, in which a teenage girl is elected president because she was the star of a video that went viral near Election Day (she was recorded accidentally catching her hair in a corndog fryer). The comic is a mix of darkly-humored takes on America, Washington D.C., war and consumerism, punctuated with clever ways in which our outsider heroine manages to outwit the establishment and make some in-roads into fixing the world.
Probably the biggest comic surprise this year has been “Archie Comics.” Archie has been a staple of safe and wholesome for decades, focusing on the antics and romances of a group of teens from the fictional town of Riverdale. In 2015, the publisher boldly decided to revamp their entire comic line to appeal to a modern teen audience. To achieve this, they reached out to some of the top comic creators of the day (Mark Waid, Fiona Staples, Chip Zdarsky), and have succeeded in making a character-driven, coming-of-age series that young adults would actually enjoy reading.
One of the more experimental mainstream series this year has been “The Vision” by Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta. Vision, the android superhero from the Avengers, decides he needs to know more about being human, so builds himself a robotic wife and children and moves into a house in the suburbs. The whole story is an interesting deconstruction of the family and social interaction, as readers grimly watch the Visions’ attempts to fit in with their human neighbors fail bit by bit and watch the misunderstandings that foreshadow an inevitable tragedy.
Another surprise hit this year has been “Paper Girls” by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang. Difficult to describe without spoilers, it is a tale of a group of newspaper deliverers in the 1980s, all girls in their early teens, who have their morning route utterly disrupted by mysterious sci-fi incursion (time travel is involved). The characters and their reactions to the chaos drive the story, while readers will want to solve the mystery of what exactly is going on. There is also an intriguing theme of intergenerational conflict. Every time you think you’re starting to get a handle on the story, the plot veers off at 90 degrees, with shocks and cliffhangers.
And finally, there is the dark and heavy fantasy “Monstress” by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda. The tale is set after a brutal war between humans and a race of magical hybrid creatures called Arcanics; the humans have won, and the new order is fearful and oppressive. It builds a haunting and bleak world, and keeps its heroine’s motives hidden. The artwork is a lush, intricate art deco style, and the pace is set more like a novel than a monthly comic story. The author has said that the story is based on the nightmarish tales that her Chinese grandparents told her about surviving World War II, and what they had to do to survive in the years after the war’s destruction.
There is still time to sign up for the library’s Summer Reading Challenge, where you can win prizes and raise money for charity just by reading books. Information at sdcl.org/src.
—Jake Sexton is librarian at the La Mesa branch of the San Diego County Library. Call the library at 619-469-2151; visit in person at 8064 Allison Ave.; or online at sdcl.org.