Welcome, folks, to the new monthly edition of Rae’s Recs! Every month, we’ll be posting a short list of some older comics you may have missed. Just because it’s a few years older, doesn’t mean it’s not worth checking out! Check out these comics to get some great stories!
This month, we’re looking at Stand Out Stand Alones, a list of comics that are self-contained stories or graphic novels!
I have said, and will say repeatedly, that Limbo written by Dan Watters and drawn by Caspar Wijngaard, was my favorite comic of 2016. In as few words as possible, this book is a neon-pastel, analog-techno-voodoo detective noir story. In several more words, this is a story following an amnesiac detective as he tries to solve the strange case given to him by the quintessential Femme Fatale. When that doesn’t go as planned, he ends up trying to find his memory, what happened to the woman, and stay alive all at the same time while something strange, sinister, and magical toys with his life and mind. This comic makes full use of all the 80’s technology that people are beginning to forget – mix tapes, betamax and VHS, antennae television. We also get to see interesting new ways for magic to take place. A shaman who uses the TV as his power source, a priestess who communicates through dance, and a protective action figure. If you haven’t read this book yet, do yourself a favor and…
If you’re a fan of Lovecraft, but also like comics with a little more fun as a side to your doom, North 40 could be the book for you! In 2010, DC Comics published this miniseries by Aaron Williams with art by the amazing Fiona Staples. A small town on the North 40 is turned on its ear when a spell turns residents into horrors and abominations the likes of which would do Lovecraft proud. The Sheriff gathers a couple of teenagedr outcasts, Wyatt and Amanda, with a handful of well-intentioned citizens around the town to try and save them. Not to mention, try and save the entire world, if the Elder Gods have their way.
Best known for his work with DC, Grant Morrison is a writer who excels at wild, weird stories. From Doom Patrol to Animal Man, he’s done some crazy things with the medium. Joe The Barbarian is no exception, but it is an original work by the author, teamed with artist Sean Murphy. The story begins with Joe, a kid with Type 1 diabetes who’s bullied often at school. Things haven’t gone well for Joe in a while; His father died in Iraq, he doesn’t have very many friends at school, and he may lose his home soon. When he’s unable to take his insulin, he begins to lose track of what’s real in the world and what’s fantasy. The fantasy world he (may or may not) be dreaming up is in danger and he is the one who can save it. It just so happens that real world events are reflected in that world, his toys seem an awful lot like the citizens, and his giant companion closely resembles his pet rat. Will Joe be able to save this fantasy world? Or is it all an insulin-deprived hallucination, one that could cost him his life in the real world?
If you’re a fan of historical fiction, especially when that deal with civil rights, check out Howard Cruse’s Stuck Rubber Baby. This graphic novel deals with race and homosexuality in the 1960’s South, and how those two intersected. Toland Polk reflects on the world he grew up in and the events that shaped the framework of the Civil Rights movement. Stuck Rubber Baby is not a book for the faint of heart, featuring some slightly graphic scenes of death and violence. However, if you talk about the Civil Rights movement in the South and leave those things out, you are doing it a great disrespect. Cruse doesn’t shy away from any of the horrors of racism and homophobia and it’s exactly as it should be.
We Can Never Go Home is a story I can imagine so easily as an indie film, and according to Hollywood Reporter, it was optioned for an upcoming TV series. Writing team Patrick Kindlon and (a favorite of mine) Matthew Rosenberg pair with artist Josh Hood on this drama about a pair of teens who run away together. The catch here is that one of them, Madison, has a superpower and they’re on the run because she used it to help Duncan. It’s a funny story, at the same time as being dark. The pair take to stealing from drug runners for money, with Duncan as the leader and Madison as the muscle. When things get bad, though, he has to make a choice. We Can Never Go Home is a beautiful book with enough comedy to keep from overwhelming the audience with darkness, but what really stands out about it is the way it deals with violence and what being around it can do to a person. Often, people do not come out on the other side of bloodshed the same way they went in and We Can Never Go Home shows us that in each panel.