Even in these modern times, getting into comics (or getting
others into comics) can be a daunting task. Where do you start? What’s even good? What won’t make you screech like a dying animal and cry over the sexism often inherent to the comics industry? All important questions – and even more important with the winter holidays coming up, when you have the perfect opportunity to pass on your nerdy passions to your friends and family. It’s Christmas/Hannukah/Kwanzaa/Winter Solstice/Yule/etc.; if they complain about a gift and it’s not a fruit cake, they’re jerks who have rained on the spirit of the holiday. Those are the rules.
So, in interest of helping you get the perfect holiday gifts for friends/family (and
obviously yourself, once you cash grandma’s check), this Ultimate List of 2014 Easy-To-Be-Addicted-To Comic Amazingness has been compiled. Every comic on this list fits certain criteria. The comics:
are feminist/POC-positive/LGBTQ-friendly/tackle disability/generally do well in any or all of those areas
came out in (roughly) the past year
are good solo books or starting points for a given series
You’d think, with criteria like that, there’d only be, like,
Ms. Marvel. But we’ve managed to compile over 50 comics!!!! It’s bananas the number of good comics that are out there once you do a little digging. Earlier today, we gave you all the best comics for the kidlets in your life (and for those of us awesome enough to never grow up). Now, we’ve got a more adult-oriented version for you to enjoy!
Adult (AKA Big Kid) Comics
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Aya: Love in Yop City
Aya: Love in Yop City Technically the conclusion to the Aya series, this volume works as a fun standalone story about Aya, a girl on the Ivory Coast in the 1970s studying to become a doctor. A professor attempts to take advantage of Aya, but Aya, and her community, won’t take this lying down. The book also includes recipes, explanations of slang and more to provide further context to the lush setting.
Fatale: Volume 1 Deluxe Edition
Fatale: Volume 1 Deluxe Edition In Fatale, noir meets Lovecraft as it tells the story of Josephine, a girl with dangerous power. This series completed this year, so all issues are available in trade paperbacks, which number up to Volume 5.
The Wicked And the Divine: The Faust Act
The Wicked And the Divine: The Faust Act The pop-art brainchild of Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie, this first volume of
The Wicked and the Divine is about a world where twelve random-assortment gods come to earth every 90 years as young people--and always die within two more years. In the modern day, they’ve come to us as archetypal pop stars: Baal as a Kanye West-type, Amaterasu the Florence and the Machine/Kate Bush rock diva, and most importantly, Lucifer as a female David Bowie, complete with white suit and cocaine addiction. Lucifer sweeps up fangirl Laura into the hyper-violent world of the gods, and they both discover the consequences of fighting the set narrative. This is one of those comics, to be upfront, that can and will break your heart; it’s completely worth reading anyway.
The Undertaking of Lily Chen
The Undertaking of Lily Chen This is a novel about homicide and corpse brides! Yay. See, in China there is a (completely real) tradition that if an unmarried man dies, he ought to be buried with an unmarried woman, so he isn’t alone in death. Deshi’s older brother dies, so Deshi has a week to find a dead girl to dead-marry his brother. Of course, it’s hard to find a good dead, single woman around, so when he meets Lily Chen, he thinks murder might solve all his problems. But obviously, things just aren’t that simple, and Deshi and Lily’s story unfolds across 430+ pages of gorgeous watercolors.
Trillium Time travel! True love! Reality ending as we know it!
Trillium has all these things, with a side of botany and also space, because Trillium loves us and wants us to be happy.
Tomboy Tomboy deftly expresses the struggle many girls go through in childhood, having to choose between being completely girly, or completely rejecting the hallmarks of girlhood. Liz Prince’s memoir talks about her rejection of femininity, the damage gender roles do to woman, and the importance of the punk community in deconstructing what matters when choosing what type of person to be.
Through the Woods
Through the Woods You may remember back when Emily Carroll’s webcomic “His Face All Red” creeped out most of Tumblr. In this book, His Face All Red is just one of a number of completely terrifying, delightfully moody comics. You might need to include a night to read it only at high noon.
This One Summer
This One Summer Rose heads out to the seaside like she does every year, and reconnects with her summer-vacation friend Windy, like she does every year. Unlike every year, Rose is old enough to notice her parents’ problems--and boys. And that’s enough to end up in all sorts of trouble.
Shutter: Wanderlost Shutter is Harry Potter and Lara Croft’s divine lovechild, with a heavy dose of self-awareness for flavor. Kate Kristopher, a famous adventurer, tries to live a normal life--but there’s no such thing as retiring from saving the world.
Shoplifter Corinna Parks graduates with an English degree and the expectation that she’ll become a famous author in no time flat. Five years later, she’s writing copy for ads, and shoplifting magazines in an attempt to feel alive. This book promises a meditation on the nature of urban living, and trying to overcome the apathy of being able to get by without fulfilling all your greatest dreams.
She-Hulk: Law and Disorder
She-Hulk: Law and Disorder She-Hulk is getting cancelled, and I’m pretty mad about it, so I want everyone to know what they’re missing. Everything about She-Hulk is a silly sitcom waiting to happen, and the comic is a good study on how a superhero might balance their heroic and mundane careers.
The Shadow Hero
The Shadow Hero There was a lot of superheroes in the 1940s, and among the mostly-forgotten ones is The Green Turtle. The Green Turtle is thought to be the first Asian-American superhero--it’s believed his face was purposefully obscured in the original comics by creator Chu Hing so he could be seen as Asian--and in
The Shadow Hero, Gene Luen Yang makes this a fact. The Shadow Hero is a fun origin story for the Green Turtle centered around Chinese society and pre-World War II San Francisco.
Sex Criminals: One Weird Trick
Sex Criminals: One Weird Trick Sex Criminals is a comic about childhood, the importance of libraries, and two people using their magical sex-powers to rob banks together. Also, there’s a Queen musical number. Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky, the...special...minds behind the comic, are also releasing a normal-ish book called
Just the Tips, which includes all their awful Cosmo-style sex tips from the comic. The first printer they tried to send it off to refused on the grounds that it is unspeakably filthy, so, you know, use discretion when giving either comic or book out as a gift.
Seconds A restaurant owner gets given a bunch of magic mushrooms with the power to fix her mistakes. She’s not supposed to use them too much, but I think we all know what we’d do in her place.
Sally Heathcote: Suffragette
Sally Heathcote: Suffragette This stunning, sparing graphic novel follows the suffragette movement in the UK, and one maid’s particular part in it. Suffragetting wasn’t all fun and games like Mary Poppins would have you believe; prison was typical and death a not-so-ridiculous prospect for women who demanded the vote, and this novel tells the horrific story with the bravery to face it head-on.
Pretty Deadly Volume 1
Pretty Deadly Volume 1 Kelly Sue DeConnick, when she’s not writing about Carol Danvers, writes smash hit Western comics about Death’s daughter, the Emma Rios-drawn spirit of vengeance. It’s Deadwood, but in a comic, but about a badass chick with a skull on her face. There’s no losing out in this scenario.
Over Easy is a semi-autobiographical story about realizing that your cool friends are as human as you are. I can certainly relate to this one.
Miles Morales, Ultimate Spider-Man: Revival
Miles Morales, Ultimate Spider-Man: Revival Miles Morales, the Spiderman in Marvel’s Ultimate universe (AKA the one where Samuel L. Jackson was Nick Fury before they ever made the movies), is a Hispanic black kid just trying his best to make a difference!
Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel
Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel This one’s a novel about online dating, which normally, you know, *snore*, but among Lena Finkle’s paramours is “Disaster Man” and “Diamond Psychiatrist,” which sounds like she went on dates with Hawkeye and Emma Frost, but since this is an independent comic, I’m going to guess that’s not the case.
Kill My Mother
Kill My Mother
Kill My Mother actually follows five different women, one of them who wants to kill her mother, and another who is the mother in question. This black and white noir graphic novel moves from the Depression into WWII, chronicling diverse mysteries and murders.
Killer Queen: The Comic Anthology
Killer Queen: The Comic Anthology Get a bisexual icon for your loved one this Christmas and pick up this anthology inspired by Queen’s song library! Your loved one likes bisexual icons, right? I mean, they seem pretty cool, so I just assumed.
I Remember Beirut
I Remember Beirut Zeina Abirached’s memoir about growing up in Lebanon’s civil war invites a lot of comparison to the quintessential
Persepolis, and that’s fair. But the novel has its own style and flavor, and honestly, will you ever tire of vaguely depressing, vaguely uplifting memoirs about war-torn childhoods? I won’t.
Hawkeye: My Life As A Weapon
Hawkeye: My Life As A Weapon I don’t consider anything, in any literature format, to be required reading; what you find important doesn’t have to align with what anyone else finds important, and that’s fine. But Hawkeye is required comics reading, if only because it perfectly exemplifies how you can write a decades-old white male superhero and still have the comic pass a social justice checklist. Also, Pizza Dog. Matt Fraction and David Aja’s time with the comic is ending come January, so if you hop on board now, you’ll be just in time to be the appropriate amount of upset about this.
Harley Quinn: Hot in the City and Power Outage
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Power Outage These are Volumes 1 and 2 of Harley Quinn’s new comic, where she’s
finally left the Joker, and also joined a lady’s roller derby.
The Harlem Hellfighters
The Harlem Hellfighters Max Brooks of
World War Z fame chronicles the true story of the 369th infantry regiment of WWI, a black regiment that saw more combat than any other unit in one of the most inhuman wars in history.
Captain Marvel: Higher, Further, Faster, More
Captain Marvel: Higher, Further, Faster, More Carol Danvers is my FAVORITE hero, and in this, Carol goes to space. It’s complicated but this is the start of a sort of reboot for the comic, so if you’re looking to get into the comics that are coming out right now, this is your ticket. If you’re looking for Carol’s previous outings as Captain Marvel, they’re collected in
In Pursuit of Flight, Down, and Avengers: The Enemy Within, in that order.
The Boxer This is the true story of Harry Haft, a man forced to fight other inmates in Auschwitz for the amusement of officers, who escapes and builds a career as a prizefighter in America. Listen, we all end up reading at least one Holocaust story a year; be kind to yourself and your friends, and make sure it’s this one, rather than
Boy in the Striped Pajamas. It’s the lesser of two sobs.
Beautiful Darkness This novel capitalizes on the natural creepiness of both forests and fairy tales. So,
Over the Garden Wall, but for grownups.
Batman Beyond: Batgirl Beyond
Batman Beyond: Batgirl Beyond This self-contained Bat-venture walks in the footsteps of the basic Batman Beyond premise of old favorites acting as the mentors to futuristic heroes--except in this one, Commissioner Barbara Gordon is the mentee to the latest woman to take on the Batgirl mantle. The only terrible thing about this is that, as far as I’m aware, DC has no plans to do anything more permanent with this fantastic idea.
An Age of License
An Age of License Lucy Knisley loves food, and also travel. Thanks to her career as an author, Lucy got an all-expenses-paid book tour of Europe, and this memoir chronicles her new experiences, the cats she meets, and most importantly, the food she meets. A great story for anyone who’s daydreamed about taking a solo trip through Europe.
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Did we miss any comics that are too good to miss? Tell us in the comments below.
Cindy Harre is contributing to the Mary Sue for the first time. When she’s not crying over comics, which is most of the time, she runs Drift Compatible Reviews, a Pacific Rim themed review blog.
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