With so many comic titles being published today, it’s easy to pass over the good stuff. Here’s my list of the best underrated comics being published today by the major comic publishers.
Month after month this continues to be the best comic being published. A brutal examination of Cold War America through the eyes of the politician/war hero Nick Fury. This is not your Samuel Jackson Fury, but a war-torn, grizzled, realistic depiction of a man who with every violent act becomes more numb to the world. Garth Ennis traces Fury over four decades from French Indochina in the 50’s, to the Bay of Pigs, to Vietnam where he meets a young Frank Castle, and finally to Nicaragua in the 80’s. The closest thing I can compare this to is James Ellroy’s masterful American Tabloid, which examines the underbelly of America leading up to Kennedy’s assassination. Goran Parlov’s art perfectly depicts the brutality of war. A moral swamp of a comic, which, unfortunately, is ending this week—far too soon.
Next month will see the conclusion of Grant Morrison’s Batman, which started way back in 2006. Although Scott Snyder’s take on the Dark Knight seems to get all the praise, Morrison seems to understand the mythology of the character better than anyone else. His initial idea was brilliant, to present Batman’s history, incorporating all the eras from the 40’s detective, to the sixties camp, to the seventies hairy chested Batman, as if it happened in a fifteen year span. He also introduced and later killed off Damien, Bruce Wayne’s super intelligent ten year old son. The run has its ups (the sixteen issues of Batman and Robin) and its downs (Batman R.I.P.), but what Morrison accomplished, better than perhaps any other writer, was to show the power of mythology. By the time of Batman Incorporated, Batman is really no longer Bruce Wayne, he has become a myth, a legend. Yes, father I shall become a bat. If you’re new to this series it’s best to start at the beginning, Batman 656, and work your way up from there.
Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye reads like an independent television show where each issue evokes a different genre and artistic style. Fraction shows Clint Barton warts and all as he stumbles through his life with Kate Bishop, his protégé, who is sometimes there to help him get back on his feet. There’s lots of action but this series is really about what a superhero does in his spare time. An early story line had him protecting his neighbors in his apartment building from Russian Mafioso. As good as the writing has been, the art has been stellar, especially David Aja’s art, which is reminiscent of Mazzuccehlli’s wonderful work on Batman Year One. Hawkeye is compelling and moving, but also quirky and funny. Just don’t expect to see too many bows and arrows.
Mark Waid’s Daredevil has really found its legs in the last few issues. Although the majority of the run has been somewhat light hearted, the latest series has Daredevil being beaten within an inch of his life. In the most memorable moment, Daredevil is being tracked down by the new villain Ikari, and the audience realizes that Daredevil has wrongly assumed that Kimono can’t see. He’s been playing with Daredevil the way a cat plays with a mouse. You really get the sense, which is hard to do in superhero comics, that Daredevil is in deep shit and might not make it out alive. Chris Samnee’s artwork has been incredible, maybe the best of his career. The chemistry between Waid and Samnee right now is comic magic. This latest story line has the making of a classic.
Image is really on fire right now! It’s nearly impossible for me to narrow it down to one title. If you’ve always wanted to read Moebius but couldn’t afford back issues, you should check out the scifi epic Prophet, which is more concerned with world building than plot. Brandon Graham’s narration is a strange form of poetry. It’s as if you’re reading Heavy Metal issues from the early eighties. Five Ghosts of Fabian Gray is a blend of literary characters such as Dracula with pulp adventure tales. Sex, by Joe Casey, follows Simon Cooke, a Bruce Wayne-like billionaire retired superhero, who returns to get a little action. It’s been a slow burn but things are started to pick up. Fatale mixes the femme fatale of film noir with Lovecraftian horror. The results are magnificent. No matter what kind of comics you like to read, Image has something for everybody. Also you can’t go wrong with Hickman’s Manhattan Projects and his post-apocalyptic western, East of West. A large portion of my comic budget every month goes to Image titles.
So there you have it. Let me know you agree with my list or left off one of your favorite comics.