Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Google+ Share on Reddit Share on Pinterest Share on Linkedin Share on Tumblr Comic books are among my favorite gifts to give for any occasion. With such a variety available, there’s guaranteed to be a book that’s perfect for anyone. As far as gift-giving goes, a gift of comic books can be perfectly personalized for any recipient. Have a friend who loves dogs? A friend who’s really into fairy tales? Or maybe there’s someone who loves literature but hasn’t given comic books a chance yet? Our recommended comic books have you covered. Whether you’re shopping for a longtime comic book fan, a superhero purist, someone just getting into comics, or someone who hasn’t fallen in love with them yet; there is a comic book out there for everybody. And with that in mind, here are 11 recommended comic books for you to give away as a gift this holiday season: from recent releases, to tried-and-true classics, and everything in between! SHERIFF OF BABYLON Recommended by Alex Bisignaro Recommended comic books: SHERIFF OF BABYLON vol 1. Image courtesy of Vertigo. Created by Tom King (writer) and Mitch Gerads (artist/colorist) in 2015, SHERIFF OF BABYLON takes place during the Iraq War. This is a very humanizing story, one that gives identities not only to US soldiers and personnel but citizens of Iraq as well. Tom King actually worked as a counterintelligence officer in 2004, and this is where much of his material comes from. It makes the story feel authentic. The artwork from Gerads is also stunning. While a bit gruesome at times (the blood can be poignant), the art makes this story raw and genuine. This is the story that helped spark King’s rise to acclaim, and it’s one that deserves critical analysis when reading. SHERIFF OF BABYLON is a murder mystery, following the random connectedness of Chris, Sofia, and Nassir. It’s humorous, heartbreaking, and thrilling: a must read for any fan of good storytelling. Recommended for: Your literary friend who still thinks comics are only about superheroes in spandex; anyone who needs proof of the literary value in comics. VISION Recommended by Kat Vendetti Recommended comic books: VISION vol 1. Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment. Also by Tom King and with art by Gabriel Hernandez Walta and Jordie Bellaire, VISION follows the eponymous Avenger as he attempts to start a normal life with a nuclear family in the suburbs of Virginia. New and old fans alike will recognize Vision from comics and the movies, but VISION is more than a standard superhero tale; it’s a heartbreaking look into what defines humanity and normalcy, as Vision struggles to achieve that with his picture-perfect family. Along the way, this story shows that even with the best of intentions, things can fall apart. VISION is an example of what the comic book medium is capable of: a beautiful, powerful, and moving tale told through the lens of a superhero. King, Walta, and Bellaire take the Avenger to brand new, poignant depths. For a book about androids, VISION is an incredibly human story. It will give you a renewed appreciation of the medium and of superheroes, and is guaranteed to move you. Recommended for: Fans of the Marvel movies; anyone who appreciates the literary value of superhero comics; someone who needs a good cry. THE ESCAPISTS Recommended by Jeremiah Johnston Recommended comic books: THE ESCAPISTS. Image courtesy of Dark Horse Comics. One of the first articles that I wrote for ComicsVerse was about MICHAEL CHABON’S THE ESCAPISTS. This six-part series follows the script of Brian K. Vaughan who wrote it as a modern story set in the universe of Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. Joining him are artists Steve Rolston and Jason Shawn Alexander, with guest work by Philip Bond and Eduardo Barreto. In a somewhat quixotic mood, I subtitled my article “the best I’ve read all year” — and it’s still true. THE ESCAPISTS has everything I want in a story. The heroes are audacious, the villains are reasonably evil, and the drama, romance, and action are stupendously balanced. And the crazy thing? It’s just a tale about making a comic book. But in that adventure, you see what it takes to pursue a dream. The heroes sweat over money, reviewers, and a corporation intent on buying their dream out. I couldn’t put it down once I started reading it. The story is not emotionally deep or socially challenging (it’s set in Ohio). But it’s fun, it hits hard when it needs to, and leaves you feeling good at the end. I can’t love it enough. Recommended for: Anyone interested in comics as a creative medium — or anyone who wants to lose 3 hours without realizing it. NIMONA Recommended by Mara Danoff Need a fun, relatively light story about supervillains failing drastically at being super? Then look no further — NIMONA is here for you! Created by Noelle Stevenson, this comic is the perfect gift for your friends who are “comic book curious.” It’s by no means part of what some might consider a “larger graphic novels canon,” but it does not have that aspiration. Instead, this completed story simply wishes to tell a funny and heart-warming fantasy tale about villains. The story focuses on the evil Lord Ballister Blackheart getting a new villainous sidekick in the form of the shapeshifter, Nimona. Her rambunctious attitude and eagerness to commit crimes bashes with his much more formulaic approach to evil-doing. They find themselves constantly clashing with the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics and, more specifically, Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin. What makes NIMONA so enjoyable is how Stevenson manages to add so much charm to this simple world. Everything in the comic gets slathered in wit to the point where you can’t help but find yourself smiling at almost every turn of the page. What’s more, cute art really helps convince some of the more wary friends of the genuinely enjoyable nature of this comic. I’ve been on a personal journey to make as many of my friends read comics as possible. Yet what normally turns them off from the grander DC and Marvel stories are the years of continuity between them and a single issue. NIMONA bypasses this concern by being a complete story. It shows off what makes comics such a great storytelling mechanism and acts as a wonderful introduction to this medium. Recommended for: Your friends who are comic book curious. FETCH: HOW A BAD DOG BROUGHT ME HOME Recommended by Molly Barnewitz Recommended comic books: FETCH: HOW A BAD DOG BROUGHT ME HOME. Image courtesy of Mariner Books. One of my favorite comics this year was Nicole Georges’ graphic memoir FETCH: HOW A BAD DOG BROUGHT ME HOME. Published by Mariner Books, FETCH chronicles the relationship between Nicole and her good bad-dog Beija. Beija is a troubled shar-pei/corgi mix who, despite all odds, forges a life with her troubled teenage owner. Georges’ story frequently elicits anxiety about the well-being of her many childhood creatures. Georges depicts a feral childhood and early adulthood that are startlingly bleak. However, for all of her mistakes, Georges’ determination to care for her dysfunctional dog in the face of adversity will win over even the harshest critic. Likewise, Beija’s poor behavior is also understood as symptomatic of pup-hood scars that she tries to overcome for the love of her owner. Anyone who ever had a special canine friend will relate to this memoir. FETCH matches a loveable story with fantastic artwork. Georges, who also wrote INVINCIBLE SUMMER and CALLING DR. LAURA, is an experienced zinemaker, illustrator, and pet portrait artist. The illustrations of Beija, with her rolly poly body, oversized head, and droopy bat ears, are charming. Beija is not the only animal to grace the pages of FETCH. Georges masterfully captures the attitudes and personalities of her animal friends throughout the memoir. The graphic memoir style is reminiscent both of Alison Bechdel’s FUN HOME and Lynda Barry’s ONE! HUNDRED! DEMONS! Like these two books, FETCH depicts painful memories, as well as happy ones, with love and humor. Beija and Georges’ friendship is a testament to the love shared by a girl and her dog. Recommended for: Dog Lovers; zinesters; fans of FUN HOME. ALL-STAR SUPERMAN Recommended by Alex Bisignaro Recommended comic books: ALL-STAR SUPERMAN. Image courtesy of DC Comics Superman. It’s hard to be indifferent to this guy: you love em’ or you hate em’. I used to fall into the latter. However, when I was given the gift of ALL-STAR SUPERMAN, my opinion changed quite dramatically. Written by Grant Morrison and drawn by Frank Quitely, this dynamic duo bring a stellar superhero story. The tale springs from a mighty premise: what if The Man of Steel was on his deathbed? My biggest gripe with Superman is that he can’t be defeated: Morrison tackles this issue immediately. With this attribute pushed to the side, we’re given a look into the human side of Clark: his job at the Daily Planet; his relationship with Jimmy Olsen and Lex Luthor; his infinitely cool and outrageous gadgets; and of course, his love for Lois Lane. This story is simply fun. There’s subtle humor in Morrison’s writing and Quitely’s artwork (the prison scenes with Lex are especially hilarious), and the dialogue is really solid for a Superman tale. ALL-STAR SUPERMAN is self-contained, making it easy to get into if you’re not too familiar with the DC Universe. It’s sad at times but very humanizing and hopeful overall. Recommended for: Your friend who thinks Superman always wins; Someone who could use a little optimism in their life, even when things seem so very bleak. SHADE, THE CHANGING GIRL Recommended by Kat Vendetti Recommended comic books: SHADE, THE CHANGING GIRL vol 1. Image courtesy of Young Animal. Written by Cecil Castellucci with art by Marley Zarcone and Kelly Fitzpatrick, SHADE, THE CHANGING GIRL follows Loma Shade, an alien from the planet Meta who has a fascination with Earth life. Shade steals the Madness Coat, allowing her to travel to Earth where she possesses the comatose body of mean girl Megan Boyer. But, as Shade lives her new human life as Megan, she quickly discovers that Earth isn’t as great as she imagined — and being human comes with a lot of baggage. Meanwhile, the Madness Coat has side effects of its own, and Shade’s theft of it has consequences back on Meta. Inspired by the poetry of Rac Shade, 50’s sitcom “Life With Honey,” and no way back to her home planet, Shade decides to make the best of a bad situation and make her new life on Earth work. SHADE, THE CHANGING GIRL is one of my favorite new series. Castellucci writes Shade’s adventure poetically and beautifully, imbuing everything Shade experiences with so much meaning. She imparts a great deal of wisdom into each chapter, with Shade digging deep into Megan’s life, as well as her own, to find the beauty in humanity. Joined by Zarcone’s diverse and expressive art, Fitzpatrick’s lively colors, and bookended with covers by Becky Cloonan and backup stories by a rotating team of artists; SHADE, THE CHANGING GIRL is a complete work of art from a powerhouse team of creators. Recommended for: Your hip friend who’s into poetry; anyone who likes comics but isn’t a fan of superheroes; someone in need of finding their own beauty in humanity. SAGA Recommended by Matt Attanasio Recommended comic books: SAGA Book One. Image Courtesy of Image Comics I started reading SAGA about three years ago, and since then it’s been one of my most recommended comic books. SAGA is a phenomenal series. The story is brought to readers by author Brian K. Vaughan and artist Fiona Staples. A book is only as good as its creative team, and let me tell you, this creative team rocks. Vaughan is a mastermind of a writer, and Staples has such an expressive and energetic art style. The two come together to tell such an incredible story, set in an extremely creative world. The story is very mature; it’s a story about family, war, and the hardships of both. SAGA is gritty and serious, but not always; it artfully bounces between moments of gripping action and tender character spotlights. There isn’t a dull moment or character in this series; everything has meaning. The series can also be hysterical. Vaughan and Staples have a great knack for delivering pitch-perfect, realistic comedy. There are random outbursts of unadulterated sex, extremely creative uses of profanity, and tons of humorous character designs, i.e. people with TVs for heads. Recommended for: Someone looking for a well-written and perfectly paced story filled with poignancy, strong themes, and realistic comedic moments. FABLES Recommended by AJ Zender Recommended comic books: FABLES vol 1. Image courtesy of Vertigo. I love me some superheroes, and there are plenty of intellectual stories in that particular genre. However, comic books are so much bigger than this single set of stories. If you ask someone about their favorite comic book character, their go-to will most likely be Captain America or Batman. But where are the Bigby Wolfs or the Snow Whites? This season, why not bring a friend or loved one into a whole new world (Disney puns intended) with Bill Willingham’s icon of storytelling, FABLES? Set in modern New York City, FABLES follows a group of magical beings called Fables. Hailing from worlds of mystical creatures and grand adventures long ago, the Fables were driven from their Homelands by the evil Adversary. Many inspired our greatest stories including Snow White, her sister Rose Red, and the werewolf Big Bad Wolf. After falling into our mundane reality, the Fables built a society for themselves where they could be free to prepare to reclaim the Homelands. FABLES is a perfect series for nearly every reader. Each of its 150 issue main run (followed by three spin-off series) draws from different storytelling genres. Volume 1 begins as a noir detective series where Bigby Wolf attempts to solve the murder of a Fabletown resident, while Volume 2 follows a coup within a Fables community. The story is incredibly varied, and Willingham is unafraid to take risks from the start. More importantly, the writing is incredibly smart, with a deep focus on building characters and developing a complex narrative. Recommended for: English majors; lovers of the Brothers Grimm. SANDMAN Recommended by Brandon Bloxdorf Recommended comic books: SANDMAN vol 1. Image courtesy of Vertigo. If you’re wanting to enrich a close one’s life with a piece of art, look no further than Neil Gaiman’s SANDMAN vol. 1 “Preludes and Nocturnes.” Although taking place inside of the DC universe, new readers don’t need any background history of any sort. It’s a wonderful book that blends into DC’s ever-expanding universe, but is also the beginning of its own. Lovers of great storytelling and literature will enjoy the fantasy world that takes us on trips to hell to bargain with Lucifer, meeting with ancient gods and demons, DC character cameos, and the enriching theme of finding oneself. Gaiman not only gives us some poetic comic book prose, he encaptures us and has us craving more. And luckily, there are plenty of SANDMAN stories available after “Preludes and Nocturnes.” Even now, SANDMAN has made recent appearances in DC’s METAL storyline. “Preludes and Nocturnes” is guaranteed to also make you fall in love with Sam Kieth’s magnificent goth-esque artwork. Their combination helped transform comic books in the late eighties, and Gaiman’s critical acclaim as a writer has seen no limits. SANDMAN can even segue readers’ interest in his novels like American Gods, Coraline, and Good Omens, if they aren’t already avid fans. Recommended for: Comic book fans who are also keeping up with DC’s METAL storyline; Lovers of literature, especially of Neil Gaiman’s work. MARVEL 1602 Recommended by AJ Zender Recommended comic books: MARVEL 1602. Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment. Sometimes you read something that absolutely changes everything. After closing the book on the final page and looking up for the first time in days, the sun shines a little differently. I personally have had this happen only three times in my life. Still, the greatest of these experiences came after reading MARVEL 1602, a standalone mini-series written by fantasy icon Neil Gaiman. Gaiman has written extensively for both Marvel and DC Comics, but MARVEL 1602 was my first experience of his writing and of the beauty possible in the comic book medium. Set on an alternate world, MARVEL 1602 follows Marvel’s greatest heroes through the landscapes of 15th century Europe. Dr. Strange advises Queen Elizabeth I, The Fantastic Four are renowned sailors, and the X-Men are hunted and executed as “Witch-Breed.” In this flow of events, a young girl from America, a shapeshifter, arrives in Europe amidst a web of intrigue and mystical war. Massive storms strike European settlements in apocalyptic wrath, while one Otto Von Doom makes a play for Elizabeth’s throne.MARVEL 1602 is a beautifully laid out narrative, with action and characterization in equal parts. Somehow, each Marvel character fits their new roles perfectly, and the political intrigue is masterfully handled. In terms of art, I have seen very little like this book. Using a technique called “enhanced pencils,” where the inking step is skipped to provide a more fluid, painterly style, MARVEL 1602’s art leaps off the page. It is an absolutely gorgeous story, and even if your gift receiver doesn’t read comics, they will marvel at these beautiful pages. Recommended for: Art majors, Shakespeare aficionados, and fans of “What If” questions. Recommended comic books Whether recent releases or longtime classics, comic books always make great gifts. New fans, old fans, and everyone in between will appreciate digging into these recommended comic books, which will feel like they were made just for them.