Read This!: Graphic Novel Round Up 2

Ladies and gentlemen, a selection of the graphic novels I’ve picked my way through in the last month…

Hellblazer (The Azzarello arc)
By Brian Azzarello and various artists

Before he was an idiot with a golden, cross-shaped shotgun played by Keanu Reeves, John Constantine was a total bastard of a magician (and English, too!).  He was one of the best characters in comics, written at various times by some of the greatest writers comics has ever seen.

Brian Azzarello (100 Bullets) took control of Constantine for an extended arc, the first American to write the character.  Brian’s arc is collected in the four volumes titled Hard Time, Good Intentions, Freezes Over, and Highwater.  These four trades contain some of my favorite stories, period.  The situations Constantine finds himself in as he crosses the underbelly of America might not be the normal Constantine adventures we’ve seen, but they are powerful.

The story begins in Hard Time, with Constantine entering prison for the murder of one of his friends.  I’ll try not to give any spoilers, but I will say by the time Azzarello is finished, Constantine encounters animal porn, a murderer who only comes out during blizzards, and a billionaire industrialist named S.W. Manor that Azzarello had to cook up when DC comics said he couldn’t use Bruce Wayne as his villain.  There’s evil, wonder, and delicious depravity.  Fun!

Recommendation: Read it now!

Dragon Head, Volume 1
By Minetaro Mochizuki

A commuter train full of school children is swallowed up by the ground when a massive earthquake hits Japan.  Out of several cars, only three children survive–and one of them might be insane.  Will they be rescued?  What’s that sound in the darkness?  And why is it so hot?

Dragon Head stands out as one of the strongest horror comics I have ever read.  The sense of claustrophobia and darkness is overwhelming.  The pacing is spot on and completely amazing, letting the tension build and build until you’re ready to scream.  There are several volumes of Dragon Head available, with more on the way.  Run out and grab them right away!

Recommendation: Must Read!

Wasteland Book 1: Cities in Dust
By Antony Johnston and Christopher Mitten

A hundred years after the Big Wet, Earth has been left a broken, infertile world of rock and sand. The town of Providens is like many others on the post-Big Wet planet – small, mostly illiterate and struggling for survival. But while most communities are like Providens, not all the cities that survived the Big Wet are. Some are like Newbegin, burgeoning metropolises that combine pieces of past societies with the new status quo. When Providens welcomes a stranger named Michael into its midst, will the quiet man lead them to the better world of Newbegin or shatter what little order still exists?

Johnston and Mitten bring you one of the best new comics of the past few years, and it all starts here.  There’s an equal emphasis on story and world-building in this volume, and it all clicks together perfectly.  Scenes like the journey through the pre-city and the attack of the sand eaters will get the blood pumping and the hairs on the back of your neck standing on end.  Amazing stuff from start to finish.

Recommendation: Super-ultra-mega strong!

The Exterminators Vol. 2: Insurgency
By Simon Oliver, Tony Moore, and Chris Samnee

If there’s a stranger book out there, I don’t think I’ve found it.  Buddhist pest exterminators, an immortal redneck, and an army of cockroaches doing battle against humans.  I haven’t even gotten into the masked rat wrestler yet.  Oh, or the literature cathouse.

When a bug poison ends up mutating a roach, it gets pissed that its friends are being exterminated and leads an attack against mankind.  What follows is at times hilarious, gross, and always well-written.  And when you have Samnee and Moore–two of the best artists working today–on the title, you can’t go wrong.

Recommendation: Very high.  Pick up volume 1 first, though.