With Marvel and DC narratives increasingly taking over our movies and television shows, it’s sometimes hard to remember that there are tons of other comic book series to read — and what better time to do so than during a lazy summer full of unoriginal reality programs and questionable blockbuster movies? Plus, comics are lightweight and convenient to throw into a beach bag. Here are 20 series to check out, featuring everything from teen camp scouts to self-aware robots, and Golden Age of Hollywood noir to prison exploitation riffs.
Lumberjanes Creators: Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Shannon Watters
Is Lumberjanes the most adorable girl-power comic ever? Possibly! In Lumberjanes, five best friends are trying to have the Best Summer Ever at summer camp (Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady Types) while also battling supernatural creatures. As a cute addition, each issue ends with a mixtape track listing. It’s accessible and important, perfect for any young girl beginning to get into comics or any veteran who wants to read a new story.
Alex + Ada Creators: Jonathan Luna, Sarah Vaughn
Alex + Ada comes to an end this Wednesday, but that just means you can spend the week racing through the entire story. Alex, a young and lonely man, is gifted a hyper-realistic android named Ada. The series manages to give a human/robot love story (and action thriller) a new feel.
Bitch Planet Creators: Kelly Sue DeConnick, Valentine De Landro
Easily one of the most exciting comic series in recent history, Bitch Planet is a modern, feminist take on the women-in-prison exploitation genre. The dystopian series is about “non-compliant” women who are sent to a space prison. Non-compliancy doesn’t just involve actual crimes, but also encompasses anything a women does that society believes proper women shouldn’t to do. Bitch Planet is a powerful, brutal, and attention-grabbing comic and a must-read.
The Fade Out Creators: Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips
This noir-within-a-noir series takes place in 1948 Hollywood as a screenwriter wakes up after a bender and discovers a Hollywood starlet has been murdered. The Fade Out will suck you in like the best detective TV series. With an interesting mystery, information doled out at a slow but teasing pace, and real-life Golden Age stars appearing throughout, The Fade Out is a great, compelling read.
Ody-C Creators: Matt Fraction, Christian Ward Homer’s Odyssey has been done a million times in a million different mediums, yet Fraction and Ward’s take manages to come off as entirely original. It certainly helps that it’s now a gender-bent (Odyssia!), futuristic science-fiction epic. The ambitious series can be a touch confusing at times, but the stunning, trippy artwork keeps everything moving.
As You Were Curated by Mitch Clem
While not a narrative series, As You Were is a nice little gem, a music-centric anthology zine that features writing and art from a variety of independent comic book creators and musicians who all have ties to the punk scene. Curated by Mitch Clem (punk/pun hero of Nothing Nice to Say), each issue features a different theme — house shows, the pit —and incorporates a wide range of approaches (and art styles), so there’s always something for everyone. (Available from Silver Sprocket.)
Wytches Creators: Scott Snyder, JOCK
The super-creepy Wytches will have you hooked within the first few pages — and also terrified. Wytches brilliantly reinvents the witch genre, in a tale centering around the Rooks family, particularly daughter Sailor, and the eerie occurrences in the woods. Wytches can be brutal and horrifying, but once you get to the end of the first issue, there’s already no turning back.
Saga Creators: Brian K. Vaughn, Fiona Staples
If you ask anyone who knows comics to recommend a series, it’s likely Saga will be one of the first they mention. In this epic fantasy, Alana and Marko are two lovers from dueling extraterrestrial races who are on the run — with their newborn daughter. The fantastic (and fantastical) art will win you over immediately, and the story will make sure you keep reading.
Rat Queens Creator: Kurtis J Wiebe
It’s no surprise that Rat Queens will be adapted into an animated series, because it’s an endlessly entertaining comic book series with some of the most memorable characters: a “pack of booze-guzzling, death-dealing battle maidens-for-hire, and they’re in the business of killing all gods’ creatures for profit.” Rat Queens has no trouble balancing gory violence with uproarious, dark humor.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Creators: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Robert Hack
This dark — and very welcome — take on Sabrina the Teenage Witch erases much of why you now from the Archie Comics series (and the Melissa Joan Hart TV show). Instead, it introduces us to a brooding, more sinister world — and it’s nothing short of amazing. It’s also, surprisingly, quite unsettling at times, though it never loses its bleak sense of humor (yep, Salem’s still around).
Afterlife with Archie Creators: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Francesco Francavilla
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina makes more sense upon learning that Aguirre-Sacasa also interrupted the ultra-pleasant town of Riverdale by creating Afterlife with Archie, in which the gang tries to survive a zombie apocalypse. It’s pretty brilliant, maintaining the same basic characteristics of our favorite characters while also creating an actually scary, nail-biting narrative.
They’re Not Like Us Creators: Eric Stephenson, Simon Gane
At first glance, it seems easy to write off They’re Not Like Us as another person-discovers-they-have-super-abilities story, but there are twists and turns that lead to the series becoming something entirely different. They’re Not Like Us is still building, and its compelling characters make it worth reading.
The Wicked + The Divine Creators: Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie
Hands down my favorite newish comic book series (OK, maybe it’s tied with Sex Criminals), The Wicked + The Divine has one of the most thrilling narratives I’ve seen in any medium, let alone comics. Every 90 years, 12 gods take on human form and live on Earth, only to die two years later. The gods in The Wicked + The Divine are like our biggest pop stars — and are treated as such — but with supernatural powers. At the center of all of this is a 17-year-old fangirl who finds herself caught up in the gods’ world, but to reveal anything further wouldn’t be fair.
Deadly Class Creators: Rick Remender, Wes Craig, Lee Loughridge
Set during the late ‘80s, Deadly Class takes place at King’s Dominion High School for the Deadly Arts — a secret school that trains assassins. Marcus, our lead character, is a homeless punk kid turned deadly arts student who balances some unconventional school work with the typical teen dilemmas: failing classes, dealing with obnoxious jocks, and harboring a crush on a murderous classmate.
Shutter Creators: Joe Keatinge, Leila Del Duca
In Shutter, a fun and subversive adventure story, Kate Kristopher is a young Indiana Jones-type character who goes on global adventures as part of her family “business.” Early in the series, she quits her job, only to learn that there are bounty hunters and Kristopher secrets that force her to return to the life she gave up.
Sex CriminalsCreators: Matt Fraction, Chip Zdarsky
Along with Saga, Sex Criminals is probably the series that has gotten the most attention during the last year or so (including on Flavorwire). The original, affecting story centers around two 20-somethings who have the ability to stop time when they orgasm and use this power to rob banks… only to get caught and chased down by the Sex Police. It’s funny, it’s weird, and it’s incredibly (and refreshingly) sex-positive. And, as a bonus, you’ll get some pretty strange looks if you read it on the subway.
ChewCreators: John Layman, Rob Guillory
Chew has been around for a while, but I only started it recently, just as it gets closer and closer to its predetermined ending (Issue #60). But it’s utterly fantastic and delightfully gross — main character Tony Chu is a cibopath who can eat anything (food, living people, corpses) and receive a psychic vision of everything in its past. The inventive series incorporates all sorts of food-related powers, from the ability to carve working weapons out of chocolate to the ability to write a food review so vivid, people can actually taste it.
Velvet Creators: Ed Brubaker, Steve Epting, Elizabeth Breitweiser
Velvet is a unique spy thriller that begins when the world’s best secret agent is murdered and Velvet Templeton, currently working a desk job, is framed for the crime, resulting in her return to the field after almost two decades. It’s a clever twist on the spy genre, and the action, in which Velvet kicks some serious ass, looks great.
Bob’s BurgersWriters: Rachel Hastings, Jeff Drake, Brian Hall, and more
It’s tempting to write off television tie-ins, but Bob’s Burgers, which is written and drawn by members of the show’s crew, is a quick, funny read. The series features all-new stories focused on each of the Belchers — and, of course, some erotic friend fiction from Tina involving horses.
Rick & MortyCreators: Zac Gorman, CJ Cannon, Ryan Hill, Marc Ellerby
When you’re done with Bob’s Burgers, pick up Rick & Morty, which is fairly new from Oni Press. While the comic is not quite as good as the show — which is really just a testament to how great this little Adult Swim series is — it will certainly help fill the void while we wait until Season 2 premieres late next month.