It’s the end of the month and that means it’s time to take another break from Batman to talk about all of our other favorite comic books and hopefully get more folks excited about reading! I’ll share the names of all the best comic books I had the chance to read and then I’ll invite everyone who reads this piece to then take to the comments section at the bottom of the page to list their own most highly recommended books. Let’s broaden each other’s horizons!

Before I get into my monthly list I’d like to take some time to talk about one series in particular which I’ve been reading voraciously ever since I met the book’s writer and artist, Matt Kindt, at the San Diego Comic-Con. That comic is Mind MGMT (pronounced “Mind Management”) and I give it my highest recommendation. You can currently find the first volume on sale now and the second volume will be available on October 9th. If you’re a fan of The X-Files or espionage thrillers in general then you need this book in your life.  Kindt’s water colors will take some getting used to, the book has a unique look unlike any other and it serves the story well enough but it’s the story, not hte artwork that will really have you talking. This is one of the most intricate, complex comics on the market and it has the absolute highest re-read value of any book I’m currently reading.

Each issue begins with a short story told in black and white, then there’s the real episode you came for, and then it ends with another short story (or a continuation of the first short OR BOTH). But that’s not all! Often times there is another story being told within the margins of every page either drawn in minuscule sketches along the edge or written in prose. The second arc in particular featured a single line of text on the outer border of every page so you would finish the book, then flip back to the beginning and read it all over again starting from the margins. It’s brilliant and it gives you a lot of bang for your buck. But the thing that makes this series even more prone to repeat readings is that it’s an engaging mystery filled with surprising twists and turns with clues hidden in the background imagery or scenes that take on an entirely new meaning after a plot development 3 or even 10 issues later. I’m fully caught up on all 14 issues but I have gone back to re-read the first issue 3 times because the material is so rich and ever-changing.

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So what is the story, exactly? Well, it follows Meru, a true-crime novelist who is investigating the bizarre case of a flight that landed with all of its crew and passengers suffering from amnesia. The clues she discovers lead her on a collision course with a secretive group known only as Mind MGMT. Without giving too much away, Mind MGMT is a collective of special agents who possess various psychic abilities. There’s an agent known as a “dreamwalker” who can enter the dreams of others and relay messages for Mind MGMT that cannot be traced—this is important because the US Government is not the only one out there with a Mind MGMT branch. There are also agents who can wipe minds, predict the future, create hallucinations, and more.

This is an impossibly rewarding read and one that I think everyone should give a chance. A new arc begins every six issues with the latest starting in issue #13, but I highly suggest you begin with the hardback Volume 1.

The Best Comics of August, 2013 (That I Had Time to Read)

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The Superior Foes of Spider-Man #2

Marvel Comics

New Reader Friendliness:   High

Upon Joshistory’s recommendation in last month’s Break from Batman I decided to check out this book and I’m very glad I did. It seems like I read a lot more comedic comics this month or comics are just funnier now than they have been lately. Either way, I had quite a few more laughs than usual in my comic book reading and this book was a big part of that. Superior Foes of Spider-Man is a team-up of Spider-Man’s C – and D-list villains written in a similar tone to the ongoing Hawkeye comic, but I daresay it might be funnier. Watching these pathetic villains hang out and try to concoct a heist that could maybe earn them some respect is really entertaining.

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Trillium #1 (of 8)

Vertigo

New Reader Friendliness:   High

When read one way it’s 3797 and a futuristic colony is on the hunt for resources, but if you flip the comic upside-down it’s 19271 and a WWI vet is on a Peruvian expedition he won’t soon forget. Jeff Lemire experiments with the medium and shapes a mind-bending sci-fi story here that shows signs of being something really special.

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Quantum & Woody #2

Valiant Comics

New Reader Friendliness:   High

Start reading this comic immediately. This is a great place to start but issue #1 is still on sale now and it’s just as hilarious. This is the story of two brothers who will go down in history as the world’s worst superhero team after a life-altering scientific accident gives them unimaginable powers. Valiant is putting out some really amazing comics but Quantum & Woody are here to challenge Archer & Armstrong as the publisher’s funniest title.

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American Vampire Anthology #1

Vertigo

New Reader Friendliness:   High

Even if you’ve never read a single issue of American Vampire before in your life you’ll find something to enjoy in the American Vampire Anthology. Yes, it’s a bit pricey but I think you’ll get a lot of re-read value out of it. This is a collection of great vampire stories written by some of the biggest names in comics today like Jason Aaron, Jeff Lemire, Gail Simone, Scott Snyder, and more and it has some of the best artists drawing each of these tales as well. What I was most impressed by, however, is how each of these tales stand on their own yet also enhance the existing American Vampire mythology in subtle ways. The Anthology proved to be a clever way to flesh out the backstory of characters that only longtime American Vampire fans will catch. There aren’t any major revelations, of course, but there are a lot of terrific “Aha!” moments where fans of the ongoing series will gain a better understanding of a character’s motivations. My favorite short story in the collection was about a tribe of Native Americans who had to fend off a group of European settlers who were vampires.

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Lazarus #3

Image Comics

New Reader Friendliness:   Low

It’s a great series with a strong female lead but I recommend you start from issue #1 because it’s not the most new reader friendly book out there. It’s another post-apocalyptic story but it takes place in a time when things have settled back down and there’s a new status quo in the world. Territory is now divided among a handful of families who have all the power, all the technology, and all the weapons. This story shows the politics between these families who each have their own “Lazarus,” a person who was made in a test tube to basically be a super-soldier enforcer for all the family’s ugliest business.

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Thor God of Thunder #11

Marvel Comics

New Reader Friendliness:   Very Low

Writer Jason Aaron has made me a believer in Thor. His words along with Esad Ribic’s art has been the very definition of epic storytelling. In the conclusion of the God Butcher saga you will see Thor do something that would even make Superman say “Holy S***!”

Spoiler
Thor absorbs the impact of a bomb designed to kill every god in the universe at every point in time. Yeah… pretty bad ass.

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Thor God of Thunder #12

Marvel Comics

New Reader Friendliness:   High

The previous 11 issue arc is over and issue #12 is just a nice done-in-one story to give fans a breather before the next great adventure begins. Absolutely anyone who has the most basic understanding of Thor can pick up and enjoy this comic. It’s a terrific jumping-on point to one of (I think) Marvel’s very best titles. This issue is made up of page after page of beautiful artwork by Nic Klein that shows Thor (who has just returned from the epic God Butcher saga) checking up on old friends and setting things right here and there around the Earth or, as he calls it, Midgard.

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East of West #5

Image Comics

New Reader Friendliness:   Low

After conquering the post-apocalyptic New Shanghai in the previous issue, Death, one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, is reunited with his love Xiaolian and we learn the story of how they met and how she was ultimately taken prisoner. This series is about as high-concept as it gets with religious and sci-fi overtones and a world in which the American Civil War ended far differently. It’s recommended that you start from issue #1.

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Daredevil #30

Marvel Comics

New Reader Friendliness:   High

I almost thought Daredevil wasn’t going to make the list this month. This one-and-done team-up adventure between Daredevil and the Silver Surfer just wasn’t doing it for me because I’ve never been that interested in the Surfer character, but then that final page happened and it was such a punch to the gut. Something happens on the final page of this book that turns a lighthearted superhero team-up into something way, way more poignant.

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Archer & Armstrong #12

Valiant Comics

New Reader Friendliness:   Medium (all Valiant comics have a great recap in the inside cover that brings you up-to-date on the entire series)

If you love Grant Morrison levels of trippy **** in your comics then you’re going to love what’s going on in Archer & Armstrong. It’s almost impossible to explain what’s happening at this point. Archer and Armstrong are trapped in a world called The Faraway where there are aliens in flying saucers, dinosaurs, the lost Roanoke tribe, plant life and water that’s actually glass, and one of my favorite new villains in comics, General Redacted. General Redacted is this paranoid US general who has been trapped in The Faraway for way too long and has gone coo-coo. Oh, and he swears a lot and every time he does it’s (you guessed it) redacted from the speech balloon. It’s a weird comic, but it’s really fun and can be downright hilarious.

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Indestructible Hulk #12

Marvel Comics

New Reader Friendliness:   Medium

I’m seeing a real influx in hero on dinosaur violence lately. I’m not complaining, I’m just saying there’s a growing trend. If you read the Batman Incorporated Special #1 then you would’ve seen Squire fight a bunch of velociraptors too. Anyway, this comic is all about Hulk traveling back in time to the old west where he must fight another time traveler who has an army of dinosaurs. I never thought I’d enjoy reading a Hulk comic but Mark Waid’s delivering something that’s too fun to pass up. Cowboys and dinosaurs and the incredible Hulk? It’s wild.

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X-O Manowar #16

Valiant Comics

New Reader Friendliness:   Medium (all Valiant comics have a great recap in the inside cover that brings you up-to-date on the entire series)

X-O Manowar is one of the most bad ass comics I read and this issue features the best one on one beat-down I’ve seen in quite some time. It’s a really brutal fight with amazing dialogue that doesn’t bog down the action but instead enhances it by adding to the emotional weight of the scene and supplying the necessary exposition for the story ahead. This is not your typical sci-fi superhero story. The guy in the Manowar armor is not here to fight crime or save the world, if anything he’s here to conquer it and it wouldn’t be the first time we’ve seen him do that sort of thing (the previous arc was all about him bringing down an entire planetary army). He’s a Visigoth who was ripped out of his place and time and now he wields the most powerful weapon on the planet. Guys, this comic is SO COOL. Read it!

September Comics I’m Really Looking Forward To:

  • 5) Trillium #2
  • 4) Thor: God of Thunder #13
  • 3) Eternal Warrior #1
  • 2) Mind MGMT #15
  • 1) Locke & Key: Alpha #1