The Panels 2015 Read Harder Challenge consists of 26 challenge categories spanning the breadth and depth of all things that may be considered comics. We regularly give you reading recommendations from one of the categories.
For this installment of Read Harder Recommendations, we’re looking at indie comics. Basically, we’re staying away from the Big 2 and looking elsewhere for our recommendations. We hope you like them because they run the gamut from superheroes to memoir.
Strange Fruit, Volume 1: Uncelebrated Narratives from Black History by Joel Christian Gill – The art takes some getting used to, but the stories are so interesting that you just keep going. There are names that are vaguely familiar and there are names that I had never even heard before, and their histories are told through the eyes of someone who found their stories so fascinating that you can’t help but be fascinated with him. Also, Gill is a total nerd and you pick that up in the greatest of ways. (Jessica Pryde)
Displacement by Lucy Knisley – In one of her best graphic memoirs to date, Knisley accompanies her aging grandparents on their last cruise. While on their trip she reads her grandfather’s memoirs of World War II and the juxtaposition of past and present and the realization of their declining health are a wake up call for the author and a plea to the reader to enjoy the time they have with family while they can. (Andi Miller)
The Eternal Smile by Gene Luen Yang and Derek Kirk Kim – In this award-winning collection, three separate stories, all magical, are wrapped in stunning artwork and moving writing. From princes to frogs and a mysterious email, all is not what it seems. (Andi Miller)
Low by Rick Remender and Greg Tocchini – In the distant future, the sun’s expansion has made the surface of the Earth uninhabitable, mankind has fled beneath the oceans to survive, and the rule of law has broken down as the survivors have given up hope of a better life. Then, a probe, sent centuries before to search for habitable planets, returns to Earth, and Stel Caine and her family must retrieve it from the inhospitable surface. At times absolutely soul-crushing—Remdender described the book as “one woman’s optimism in the face of inevitable and true doom”—it is also a tribute to what people can accomplish through the power of belief. Plus, Tocchini’s art is absolutely astounding—it is hard to look at this book and not be immediately drawn in. (Charles Paul Hoffman)
Dreadstar by Jim Starlin – On paper, Dreadstar, one of the biggest creator-owned comics of the 1980s—sounds a lot like a Star Wars knockoff: it follows a cosmically-powered adventurer (complete with magic sword) and his ragtag team of rebels as they struggle to take down an evil empire. But, Dreadstar is so much more than that, as Starlin used the cosmic setting to explore the Vietnam War and its effects on those who fought in it. The first Dreadstar story, The Metamorphosis Odyssey, originally serialized in Epic Illustrated, was directly inspired by the infamous quote about the destruction of the village of Bến Tre—“It became necessary to destroy the town to save it”—which Starlin applied on a galactic scale. In the later Dreadstar graphic novel and ongoing series, the title character and several members of his crew struggle with symptoms of PTSD. (Imagine The Empire Strikes Back if Leia spent the movie reliving the destruction of Alderaan.) The Metamorphosis Odyssey and the Dreadstar graphic novel are probably the high points of Starlin’s artistic output, and The Metamorphosis Odyssey especially ranks among some of his absolute best writing. Dynamite has been (very) slowly reprinting the series, but with a TV series in development at Universal, hopefully that pace will pick up soon. (Charles P. Hoffman)
Ant Colony by Michael DeForge (Eric Margolis)
200 Deaf Boys by Matt Seneca (Eric Margolis)
Revenger by Charles Forsman (Eric Margolis)
Copra by Michel Fiffe (Eric Margolis)
Summer Blonde by Adrian Tomine (Andi Miller)
My New York Diary by Julie Doucet (Andi Miller)