By Matt Hume, September 15 2017 —
Textbooks are expensive, boring and have too many words. Reading them is for nerds. But do you know what’s cheap, cool as hell, filled with pictures and can hide conveniently between textbook pages? Comic books!
Your brain deserves a break from the monotony of studying. Comic books allow that without falling down a YouTube rabbit hole or breaking the bank. And since new comic books arrive every Wednesday at your local comic shop, there’s always something to read.
Since confusing histories of A-list heroes make getting into comic books difficult, here are some current ongoings that don’t require 60 years of comic knowledge or fandom to pick up and read.
Head Lopper (Image Comics: volume 1 available now, issue #7 available Sept. 27)
Written and drawn by Andrew MacLean, this fantasy-adventure comic is an instant classic. It follows the adventures of viking warrior Norgal and his burdensome sidekick, the severed head of Agatha Blue Witch. Norgal’s over-serious deadpan and Agatha’s unpredictable comic relief make for a great character balance. The art is also gorgeous and every panel is a painting to enjoy. MacLean uses pages in unexpected ways that keep you engaged and every minor character adds world-building charm. Head Lopper reads like the best Dungeons & Dragons campaign you’ve ever played, without any of the work.
Captain Canuck (Chapterhouse Comics: issue #2 available Dec. 27)
Canadian publisher Chapterhouse is attempting to start their own comics universe, starting with 2017’s Captain Canuck, written by Kalman Andrasofszky and illustrated by Leonard Kirk. The titular character is Tom Evans, a Canadian secret agent from a reservation near Flin Flon, Manitoba who gains superhuman powers from an alien. There’s also historical significance — the Canadian comic book industry was in ruins following material restrictions in the Second World War. Captain Canuck was one of the first popular Canadian comic books to punch out of those ruins. Give it a read and support a great industry at home.
Rock Candy Mountain (Image Comics: volume 1 available Sept. 27)
Kung-fu! Hobos! The Devil! Jokes! Rock Candy Mountain, written and illustrated by Kyle Starks, is hands-down one of the best books of the year. It follows Jackson, a brawling and train car-hopping man of mystery on a hunt for the mythical Big Rock Candy Mountain. With a great cast of supporting characters and a story filled with twists, action and comedy, Rock Candy Mountain is a no-brainer.
Black Bolt (Marvel Comics: issue #6 available Oct. 4)
Written by Saladin Ahmed and illustrated by the incredible Christian Ward, Black Bolt is worth the purchase just to look at. When you pick your jaw up off of the floor, you’ll realize the story is just as beautiful. Blackagon Boltagar, the king of a race of superhumans, finds himself trapped in a wickedly twisted prison deep in space. It’s a great story of introspection and finding allies in unlikely places. It’s also one of the few Marvel comics that doesn’t rely on endless characters and history. Even when it does reference the Marvel Universe, it’s well-contextualized and always accessible.
X-O Manowar (Valiant Entertainment: volume 1 available now, issue #7 available Sept. 27)
If you ever wanted to see a successful mix of Lord of the Rings and Star Trek, look no further than X-O Manowar. The protagonist is a Germanic barbarian born under Roman aggression in the fifth century. Oh, and he was abducted by aliens and bonded with a sentient suit of war armour from space. He’s as great at fighting as he is wise, making him a grounding character for such a wild premise. The 2017 series, written by Matt Kindt and illustrated by a rotating selection of talented artists, begins with his attempt to live a simple farming life on a distant planet before being quickly conscripted into a local war. This is the best sci-fi fantasy comic on the market today.