Tonight marks the season finale of the runaway TV hit, How to Get Away with Murder. On this legal procedural/soap opera, Professor Annalise Keating and her scrappy band of law students/unpaid labor regularly win exciting/procedurally improbable courtroom victories. And, because they are such go-getters, in their spare time the gang have been hard at work committing/concealing their involvement in some very serious crimes.
So how will Annalise, her scrappy band of One-L’s, and their copious character flaws occupy themselves during the off-season? Assuming they survive, they may finally have time for some recreational reading (even if they have to do it in a jail cell). So let’s spread the love of comics by making some reading suggestions — recreational and sometimes educational — for the HTGAWM ensemble.
Annalise may be a law professor, but she’s not especially interested in truth and justice. Her approach to the courtroom and classroom puts the emphasis on getting results. Let’s bypass the Justice League and go with a superhero team that’s more Professor Keating’s style: The Authority. Created by Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch, this title took elements and characters from Wildstorm’s Stormwatch series to create a group that stops at nothing and answers to no one. Apollo and Midnighter, the Engineer and Jenny Sparks — this team represents a power fantasy Annalise can get behind.
Verdict for Annalise: The Authority: Volume 1
Annalise’s wide-eyed protégé has gained some legal savvy, but he’s still a sucker for a pretty girl with a sob story. He could use a stiff shot of hard-boiled cynicism, and Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’s noir series Criminal is just the thing. Specifically, Wes should read Volume 6, Last of the Innocent. Set in a town that is definitely not Riverdale, starring a guy who’s definitely not Archie, who’s definitely not married to Veronica or plotting to kill her for her dad’s money. . .
All right, leaving room for legal deniability, Last of the Innocent is pretty much a dark-alt-universe fanfic of Archie Comics. It’s sick and twisted and, particularly with Phillips’ uncanny mimicry of Archie’s clean-lined aesthetic, it’s an eye-opening must-read for a character who’s been too naive for his own — or anybody else’s — good.
Verdict for Wes: Criminal: Last of the Innocent
Connor is the best there is at what he does and what he does is . . . get dirt on key witnesses from gay dating sites and then have sex with them in exchange for information. He has other skills, but these are particularly useful for pushing the envelope of what network prime time will allow. Watching Connor, it’s hard to avoid wondering, “Is this a progressive depiction of gay sexuality . . . or is it really, really not?”
No doubt, then, of the perfect character for Connor: Daken Akihiro, Wolverine’s biracial, bisexual, and super-murdery son. Daken is such a badass that he once starred in a comic called Dark Wolverine, which sounds like the stabbiest, 90s-est thing. Written by Daniel Way and Marjorie M. Liu, though, Daken’s stories had more to do with cunning, stealth, and seduction. He even had a thing with the villain Bullseye when there were on a ‘Dark Avengers’ team together.
Connor has totally written Daken/Bullseye fanfiction.
Verdict for Connor: Dark Wolverine, Volume 1
Laurel comes across as the sweet, innocent one, constantly insecure about not belonging. She’s convinced that Annalise’s assistant Frank brought her into the elite group because he’s attracted to her. This makes her uncomfortable, but she also takes advantage of it. Then she cheats on her nice boyfriend with Frank, and calls Frank for help when she really really shouldn’t.
It’s not that Laurel lacks brains and talent to make her mark, but she doesn’t believe in herself. The comic Laurel ought to read is Princeless by Jeremy Whitley and M. Goodwin. The story of Adrienne, a princess who would rather fight dragons than be a damsel in distress, Princeless gives Laurel — and anybody else looking to reclaim their own agency — some models of positive behavior. Plus it’s cute and funny. It would make her smile, which she could use.
Verdict for Laurel: Princeless: Save Yourself
Unlike Laurel, Michaela has no trouble laying down the law for the men in her life. She’s not so confident with parental figures, though, particularly the prospective mother-in-law who wants her to sign a pre-nuptial agreement.
As a former prep school princess tangling with matriarchal families, Michaela might enjoy the adventures of Eve Coffin. In Coffin Hill a horror comic by Caitlin Kitteridge and Inaki Miranda, Eve returns to the family home she left. She confronts old mysteries, family dealings in witchcraft, and a mother who is intimidating as hell.
Granted, the connection to old friends and old crimes might make this book less escapist for Michaela than it would have been a semester ago. But she seems like the kind of reader who fights fear by confronting it, and Miranda’s unearthly art is definitely the stuff of nightmares.
Verdict for Michaela: Coffin Hill Vol 1.: Forest of the Night
Look, I know this character has a name. His name is Asher Millstone. But nobody on the Internet, or even on the show calls him anything but “Doucheface” anymore. Because he has a really douchey face.
Ironically, barring stunning finale revelations, Doucheface is the only member of the team who hasn’t committed some kind of felony. He’s honestly pretty innocuous and will likely grow out of his douchiness with time. Or not. Either way, no point in trying to teach this guy anything. He probably likes Deadpool comics.* Give him some adventures of Marvel’s fourth-wall-breaking mercenary, so he can read them while waiting for the Ryan Reynolds** Deadpool movie to come out.
*It’s not that only douchefaces can enjoy Deadpool comics. But douchefaces like Doucheface almost certainly do.
** You just know Doucheface has Van Wilder memorized.
BONUS RECS for Annalise’s two assistants:
A working class guy prone to questionable romantic decisions, who isn’t a lawyer but clearly wishes he were — you just know Frank would love Daredevil. Panelteer Scott recently wrote a feature on where to start with Daredevil, and anything from that list is a great rec. I’ll go with Miller and Mazzucchelli’s Born Again because it’s my personal favorite, but any Hornhead titles are a good bet for Frank.
Verdict for Frank: Daredevil: Born Again
Bonnie is the team’s wildcard in a lot of ways. It’s hard to get a handle on who she’s hung up on at any given moment: Annalise? Annalise’s unfortunate husband? Frank? Doucheface, for some reason? If she makes it through the finale unscathed, Bonnie should take a good long break from her own interpersonal confusion and get absorbed in somebody else’s. There’s not a more absorbing, twistier soap opera in comics than Terry Moore’s epic Strangers in Paradise. Pour some wine and curl up with an omnibus, Bonnie. The drama will still be there when you get done.
Verdict for Bonnie: Strangers in Paradise: Omnibus Edition
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