New to Comics? Start Here!

By Christian Nicholson

So… You are curious about comic books.  Congratulations and welcome to a larger world.  Maybe all your friends are into comics, and you've really dug the movies, or maybe you are trying to impress a significant other by investigating the medium of sequential art.

A lot of folks may be willing to give you advice about where to start, but like most things, many folks have their own agendas.  They may want you to share their interests, and chances are their interests are based either in nostalgia, or their reading choices have been informed and developed over the course of years.  Your friends or neighbors or significant other probably know you well enough to suggest things they know about that you might like, but chances are, they like what they like, and don't read a whole lot else.  (How do I know this?  Industry sales figures tell me.)  Frankly, most folks aren't retail professionals who absolutely love introducing people to their next favorite graphic novel.
We've read lot of comics, and have been exposed to a lot more.  We've also introduced a lot of comics to people who read a lot of comics and to people who have never read comics before.  You've come to the right place.
Chances are, you've been exposed to Watchmen (again, sales figures), and Sandman but we won't really be recommending them to the new reader.  There are people who swear by Sandman, and while we recognize its importance in the history of comics, realistically, it's not the best to place to start.
The titles won't be listed in any particular order.  Mostly, I'm throwing a bunch of stuff out there and hoping it sticks.  Any one of these titles are great places to begin for their own reasons, however, you must decide for yourself which of these titles intrigues you most.  Many of these titles are the first in a series, but don't let that stop you.  I am listing them due to their ability to tell an intriguing and complete story.  If there is more story to be had then, all the better for you.  Most of these graphic novels are not all ages stories.

Saga Vol 01 Trade Paperback

You might have heard about Saga before.  You might not have.  In either case, you owe it to your brains and eyeballs to get Saga in your life.  It is, at terns, delightful and heartrending.  It is surprising and charming and occasionally sexy.  Saga is the fun book for gown folks that comic book stores have been wishing we could recommend to everyone who walks through our doors

"Such effusive praise!  How can it live up to the hype?"  Trust me.  Brian K Vaughn and Fiona Staples deliver the goods every page and every chapter.  Weird and interesting sci-fi meets fantasy in an epic love story.  You will love these characters, you will want more.

Batman Long Halloween Trade Paperback

A new villain crashes the scene committing high profile murders every holiday.  The World's Greatest Detective turns Gotham upside down to track down this mysterious killer.  Geoph Loeb and Tim Sale bring gangster noir to Gotham in a gorgeous detective story.  If you need to get into comics by way of Batman, this is the one for you.

Hawkeye Vol 01 My Life as a Weapon Trade Paperback

What does an Avenger do on his days off?  Buy an apartment building, hang out with the locals and run afoul of the tracksuit mafia.  Hawkeye is a super series for people who don't like super heroes.  Clint isn't exactly the same guy from the movies, but the humanity is there, the applicability is there and the daring do is there.

You don't need to have a sense of the history of the character to enjoy the book, but if you do, there is added nuance.   Like all of the books on this list the art is superlative and unique.  David Aja and Matt Fraction push the boundaries of story telling in ways that are fun, challenging and masterful.

Ms Marvel Vol 01 Trade Paperback

Writer G Willow Wilson's excellent writing shows us what comics can be and what they can do. Ms Ms Marvel stands as one of the new breed of superhero comic.  Kamala Khan is a hero you can relate to even you aren't a young muslim girl who recently discovered you have super powers.  Her parents are weird, her friends are weird, her school is weird and her life is weird.  Just like ours, but the details are different.  The book helps to show that even though our skin colors may differ, and we may pray to different gods, the forces which shape our destines, and perhaps allow us to discover the hero in ourselves, are universal.

Identity Crisis Trade Paperback.
Easily the most intriguing thing DC has done in a very long time in this story by best-selling writer Brad Meltzer and super kick ass artist Rags Morales.  It features, pretty much, every one of note in the DC Universe, but don't let that keep you from getting into this book.  At its heart, it’s a murder mystery with actual heart and soul.  You will be seriously awed by this book if you let yourself.  It has Batman actually being the Greatest Detective in The World, Superman being, well, Superman, and Wonder Woman showing you exactly why she is a wonder for our people.

Global Frequency Trade Paperback
Some folks don't want to get all involved in a lengthy thing, which is why Warren Ellis gives us the Global Frequency.  There are a 1001 members on the Frequency, and they solve the problems the 20th century left for us.  Their goal is to save the world without the world ever knowing there was a problem.  Within each volume are several stand-alone tales of what you might call science-fiction if some of it didn't seem so likely.   If you dig shows like X-Files, Fringe, and Supernatural you might be broken if you don't enjoy this work.

Blacksad Hardcover
This is a title which gets much critical acclaim, but isn't nearly as well-known as it ought to be.  It features a storyline containing the elements of crime noir, (think film noir, but comics), but uses anthropomorphic characters, in the same way Maus does.  (Uhm, have I just taken a step too far?)  Characters are animals, or should I say, are represented by animals to convey powerful characterization without having to work overly hard at it.  When you see a bear looking fierce, you know business is meant.  Its  written by Juan Díaz Canales, with artwork by Juanjo Guarnido.  Blacksad offers an excellent entrance to the world of so called literary comics.  And the story is just damned good.

Superman Birthright Trade Paperback
Every so often someone comes along and reimagines the origin of the Man of Steel.  And then sometimes, they do it right, like writer Mark Waid and artist Leinil Francis Yu have done with Superman Birthright.  In this tale, Clark Kent has spent the years after high school wandering the Earth, learning from its inhabitants the meaning of villainy, and heroism.  How does Clark Kent actually become Superman?  Find out here.