We are in the middle of Spring Break season. For some it is just getting started. For others it is just a short week or two away. No matter when or where Spring Break falls, one thing is for sure: there will be bingeing.
No, I’m not talking about alcohol (although I am certain there will be plenty of that). I am talking about sitting down for extended periods of time and working through an entire run of something. It seems to be THE thing to do, with Netflix releasing entire series of tv shows all at once for us to watch, and people organizing binge viewings of their favorite move series, tv show, or NCAA playoff round.
But what about comics? Shouldn’t we be taking the same opportunity to devour an entire run of comics?
For this article I set up a couple of parameters for a good binge comic. First, the comic had to be finite. Nothing is more frustrating to me than binge watching an entire run of a show, only to find out that there are more episodes, but they are not yet on Netflix. So, no cliffhangers in this set (which leaves out fantastic books such as Mind the Gap by Jim McCann and Rodin Esquejo and the spectacular Usagi Yojimbo: The Special Edition by Stan Sakai). Second, the binge title had to be a reasonable size, not too long to read in a couple of sittings (Walking Dead is on volume 20 and counting!), and not so short that it could be read in a regular couple of readings (ReMind by Jason Brubaker is two amazing volumes.) Finally, the series had to be creator owned (sorry Guardians of the Galaxy).
With those caveats in mind, adjust that chaise lounge, refresh that umbrella drink, and let’s get bingeing!
1) Echo by Terry Moore (6 volumes/one omnibus). Julie’s life is crumbling. She is in the middle of a divorce, her professional life is going nowhere, and her sister has suffered a complete nervous breakdown. To make matters worse, Julie is is in the wrong place at the wrong time and witnesses an explosion which rains down metallic debris which clings to her body. Julie is forced on the run from the government as well as a deranged lunatic who believes himself to be the Biblical Cain, both of whom want her dead.
Echo is from the same mind as Strangers in Paradise, so it has some of the same strengths and weaknesses. The characters are engaging, funny, and the reader forms a genuine bond to them almost immediately. Fans of Terry Moore’s art will not be disappointed with Echo as it continues the tradition of strong, feminine characters who manage to feel read and believable, despite the mayhem of the world around them. The book stumbles a bit at the climax, but it manages to right itself and come home for a satisfying resolution.
2) Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo (6 volumes). You have seen the movie. It blew your mind. Did you realize that the movie barely scratches the awesomeness that is Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira? To give you an idea, most of the action in the movie takes place in just the first two volumes of the series! The middle three volumes are almost completely ignored by the movie (only being hinted at in places) while the final volume deepens and enriches what was seen on the screen. While some people found the movie (and the ending) to be confusing, the manga clears up some things considerably. Others, however, are left open to the reader’s interpretation. So don’t expect to walk away from reading this and “get” it all.
At over 2,000 pages, this manga will take up most of your Spring Break! For people who are concerned about the cost factor (all six volumes could put you back $150 or more), Akira is part of the collection of most well-stocked libraries. Check out all six volumes and smile as you save money for tequila shots!
3) Cross Game by Mitsuri Adachi (8 double-sized volumes). Ko’s family owns a sporting goods store just down the street from the Tsukishima family batting center, run by a father and four daughters. Ko and one of the daughters, Wakaba, are the same age and always together. They have a sweet love for each other, as only young children can. Aoba, the younger sister is a stellar pitcher, and is frustrated by Ko’s carefree attitude towards sports, as well as life. But, when a tragedy strikes, both families are forever changed, and Ko is forced to re-evaluate what is important in life.
This one caught me by surprise. I first heard about it at last year’s San Diego Comic Con and picked up the first volume just to see what it was about. I was hooked by the end of the first book. To say that this is a baseball manga is to sell it short. Yes, it is about baseball, but it is more about honoring the commitments one makes to friends, family, and teammates. This is a book that works on many different levels. Kids can read the book and get one thing out of it, while adults will read it and get another. Either way, both will find it difficult to put it down until the final pitch is thrown.
4) Locke & Key by Joe Hill and Gabrielle Rodriguez (6 volumes). After a brutal murder, the Locke family relocates to the ancestral family home in Maine. The creepy old house offers some comfort to the family, as do the townsfolk and students at the local high school. However, things begin to get strange as ancient mysteries are revealed, weird happenings occur, and the keys and doors in the house are not all as they appear. Will the family discover all the mysteries of Keyhouse before the spirits who have awakened come to claim what is theirs?
Joe Hill and Gabrielle Rodriguez set up a compelling, multi-generational mystery with this series. The characters are frightening, and the setting adds to the overall creepiness of the book. There are some fantasy elements at play here, so it is not a straight-forward horror book. But the mystery of what lies at the bottom of the cave will leave even the most hardened of horror fans shivering.
5) Scott Pilgrim by Bryan Lee O’Malley (6 volumes). Like Akira, you’ve seen the movie, now see what it was really all about! The movie was a pretty faithful adaptation of the six-volume series by Bryan Lee O’Malley. However, many of the sight gags played out much better in the comic than in the movie. Additionally, there were dozens of scenes, lines and gags which never made it into the final film. So, if you loved the movie, now is the time to sit down and enjoy the books.
6) Planetary by Warren Ellis and John Cassaday(4 volumes / one omnibus). Elijah Snow, Jakita Wagner, and The Drummer are Planetary. They are archaeologists of the strange, tasked with tracking down evidence of super-human activity, paranormal secrets, and lost histories.
When Warren Ellis is on, he is arguably the best writer in comics. Planetary puts all of Ellis’ vast skills on display in one powerful punch! Each volume tackles a genre of characters and stories, from pulp heroes, to science fiction, to futurism, and turns them on their ear to make the old new again, and the worn out completely unexpected. While the penultimate issue gave me the climax I was expecting, the final issue completely surprised me and gave me the finale I never even knew I needed. It is a rare gift to be able to deliver a package as perfect as Planetary, but Ellis and Cassaday manage make every page of Planetary vibrant and electrifying.
So there you go, my recommendations for 6 comic series to binge read this Spring Break. What are your thoughts and recommendations? Sound off in the comments!
Keri Grassl is a Web professional who collaborates on a graphic novel and creates a variety of art in her free time. Her work has been shown at Gallery Sesso, Seattle Erotic Art Festival, and private clubs in the area. One of her comic illustrations has been showcased in the 2013 San Diego Comic Con souvenir program. Keri has also donated work to a number of charity auctions including the Women of Wonder fund raising campaign, Twitter Art Exhibit, and the Portland Timbers Community Fund. A native to the Pacific Northwest, Keri currently resides in Portland, Oregon.