Welcome back to “5 for the Fandom”! In this weekly ComicsVerse series, we pick five comics that, because of their kindred characters, similar aesthetics, or shared themes, specifically appeal to your fandom. This week, we take a trip to WAREHOUSE 13!

I came to watch WAREHOUSE 13 somewhat by accident — or marketing. When it came out in 2009, I was already watching another SyFy show EUREKA. Advertising for WAREHOUSE 13 was intense, and being a fan of how they billed it — a combination of INDIANA JONES and THE X-FILES — I was excited to check it out.

The show is about government agents who go around and collect “artifacts” owned by famous people throughout history. What makes these artifacts special is that they’re imbued with a power of the person who owned them. Thus, we get things like Jack the Ripper’s lamp, which paralyzes any who stare into it; Marilyn Monroe’s hairbrush, which turns your hair platinum blonde; driftwood from the R.M.S. Titanic, which, when a breath of air is blown off of it, induces hypothermia in the target. Because of the power of these artifacts, it’s up to the Warehouse agents to gather them when they go missing.

WAREHOUSE 13
A typical artifact acquisition; Myka and Claudia look on as Pete neutralizes Edgar Allan Poe’s journal.

I remember feeling somewhat “meh” about the pilot. The story seemed a little overdramatic, but I stuck with it because of the characters and the premise. And then, over the next five years of its run, it got better and better. Whereas some “monster of the week” shows can devolve into soap operas between cases, WAREHOUSE 13 put its characters first and always strove to put their development on equal footing with interesting stories. Towards the end, it wasn’t the assignments driving the overarching plot, but the characters themselves. The show taught me how to weave thrilling narrative arcs and to appreciate good acting and directing.

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Ultimately, when the show ended, I was glad to have watched it (despite the way two characters concluded the show). Coincidentally, this was around the same time I had started reading comics again. Although there’s no replacing the charm of the show, these selections stand on their own as good stories. Therefore, I highly recommend the following comics for fans and for those who aren’t fans (yet). These comics won’t disappoint you.

1. THE FIVE FISTS OF SCIENCE by Matt Fraction and Steven Sanders

THE FIVE FISTS OF SCIENCE is a graphic novel set between 1899 and 1900 that follows the likes of Mark Twain, Nikola Tesla, Baroness von Suttner (Nobel Peace Prize laureate), and Timothy Boone (Tesla’s assistant) as they try and sell leading nations world peace. Their solution? Sell world powers the same super weapon — a human-controlled mech suit designed by Tesla — and make sure everyone buys it. With deterrent forces on all sides, who would be silly enough to start a war? To make the sale convincing enough, Tesla’s robot needs to prove its use. Twain gets the idea to use electrical apparitions (another of Tesla invention) that masquerade as forces of evil. Soon, fights between the robot suit and the evil monsters go viral, and Twain’s phone starts ringing off the hook.

The only problem? J.P. Morgan and Thomas Edison are in the business of real evil. Their project, building a temple in New York City for summoning an unearthly abomination, feels threatened by Tesla and Twain’s project. The story sets up well for the final conflict where Tesla’s metallic mech does battle with the monster Morgan summons.

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Mark Twain cheers on Tesla’s efforts in fighting the electric apparition. Image courtesy of Image Comics.

For WAREHOUSE 13 fans, such an adventure could come straight from the show. There are gadgets from Tesla (this time, Tesla is in person) and ancient evil forces for heroes to best. Where the comic really shines, however, is where WAREHOUSE 13 also drew its power: the characters. The rapport between Twain, Tesla, the Baroness, and Boone feels just like a mission with Pete, Myka, Artie, Claudia, and Steve. I like the characters in THE FIVE FISTS OF SCIENCE and the villains they face are deliciously evil (even if a bit misrepresented).

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As mentioned, THE FIVE FISTS OF SCIENCE is a complete work. Image Comics publishes the trade paperback.

2. CRYPTOCRACY by Van Jensen and Pete Woods

CRYPTOCRACY is a six-issue series from Dark Horse Comics that ran during the tail end of 2016. These six issues proceeded to tell the story of a secret society that runs the world. Going back centuries, nine powerful families have run the world — and kept that fact secret. Each family controls politicians and prominent figures in their continental domains. The focus of the series is the Mars Family. They are the most powerful and are in charge of North America.

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We follow Grahame, a top agent of the Mars family, trying to track down a foe bent on destroying the Nine Families and exposing them to the world. Throughout the story, we learn about what really happened at Roswell, the origin of the monster in Loch Ness, and how awesome a bugbear can be in a suit and a tie (Jason is his name).

WAREHOUSE 13
Graham and Jason suit up in CRYPTOCRACY #2. Image courtesy of Dark Horse Comics.

The Nine Families of CRYPTOCRACY remind me of the Regents in WAREHOUSE 13, the international caretakers of the warehouses throughout history. The overarching plot of CRYPTOCRACY recalls season three of WAREHOUSE 13 in which the regents themselves are targets of attack. Both series give a sense of wonder at the history of the secret societies in the world, and for that, I think fans will like these comics.

Unfortunately, CRYPTOCRACY seems to be over. Despite ending with a cliffhanger, Dark Horse Comics has not announced any continuation of the series on their website. You can either collect the issues individually or get the trade paperback.

3. TOMB RAIDER vol. 2: SECRETS AND LIES by Gail Simone, Rihanna Pratchett, Derlis Santacruz, and Daniel Selma

In 2014, Dark Horse Comics started its own TOMB RAIDER series based on the rebooted video game from 2013. Of these comics, there is no better arc than issues #7 to #12, released from August 2014 to January 2015. This arc sees Lara Croft going on a mission to find the sister of a friend who died in the first video game. It’s a simple mission, but it comes at the cost of an uncomfortable truth for Lara.

WAREHOUSE 13
Lara Croft has a visit with an old friend in TOMB RAIDER #7 (2014). Image courtesy of Dark Horse Comics.

The situation in TOMB RAIDER #7-#12 forces Laura Croft to address a central contradiction of the video games. In her head, she’s a survivor, forced to kill by circumstance. Yet, even still, the methods she uses in the game get more brutal and malicious as her character levels up. This arc calls her out. “You know what you are, Lara Croft. A killer. Stone cold. I see it in your eyes. I feel it. You think you kill to survive, but you kill because it is in your nature,” says a character in Issue #12. No matter how much plot armor she has, she’s not immune to her own conscience.

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Like the fourth season of WAREHOUSE 13, this arc does something remarkable: addressing consequences. The conclusion of the Season 4 premiere made me groan — there had been so much time travel on SyFy shows already, that it felt like a hackneyed deus ex machina. Yet, with the twist at the end of that episode — that such a powerful plot device could spell psychological consequences for a central character — my jaw hung open for a good ninety seconds. WAREHOUSE 13 was the first story to present that ethos to me, and TOMB RAIDER vol.2 presents that as well.

The TOMB RAIDER comics will return with a brand new creative team on November 22, 2017. You can pick up the trade of this older arc in the meantime.

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4. LADY MECHANIKA vol. 2: THE TABLET OF DESTINIES by M.M. Chen, Joe Benitez, and Martin Montiel

LADY MECHANIKA is a series that follows the steampunk adventures of the amnesiac Lady Mechanika. The “mechanical huntress” is no normal Victorian woman: she sports two mechanical arms and red eyes set within black sclera. “The Tablet of Destines” is the second arc of LADY MECHANIKA, and it follows her mission to rescue a kidnapped girl. The catch? The girl is leverage against her grandfather. The evil kidnappers will release them both once he can crack an ancient weapon instruction manual, the Tablet of Destiny. Airship battles and desert excursions make this a fun, globe-trotting adventure — with a touch of ancient chemistry.

WAREHOUSE 13
Lady Mechanika and Winnifred (the kidnapped girl) assess their surroundings in LADY MECHANIKA: THE TABLET OF DESTINIES #4. Image courtesy of Joe Benitez Productions.

In my head, the voice of Lady Mechanika is none other than Helena Wells. H.G., as she goes in the show, is one of my favorite recurring character on WAREHOUSE 13 for her character and Jaimie Murray’s performance. Although Lady Mechanika trades combat skills in place of Wells’ creative brilliance, the two share similar styles and sensibilities. One of those is their dimension. It’s true that both Wells and Lady Mechanika are presented as women who fight, assuming the male characteristics that normally define female protagonists in comic books. Yet both depictions also reveal their feminine side. Wells loves her daughter enough to kill, and Mechanika’s maternal care for another girl she rescues is a central plot point.

I’ll admit that the number of corset shots in LADY MECHANIKA may be off-putting, but there is solid writing and depth behind her red eyes. The comics are not just pin-up art, and I’m so grateful for that. If you like how WAREHOUSE 13 handles female characters, treating them like people and not props, I recommend LADY MECHANIKA as a whole, especially this arc. I have yet to read past this arc, but three more have followed it (one of which is ongoing).

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5. ATOMIC ROBO created by Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener

I am citing the entire oeuvre of ATOMIC ROBO because you don’t have to read the series by its order of publication. Instead, as the creators suggest, read it in the order that makes the most sense.

This is because ATOMIC ROBO follows the adventures of Robo throughout a life that spans most of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. In 1923, Nikola Tesla unveils the “Atomic Robot,” an advanced, sentient automaton. When Tesla dies, the automaton, named Robo, founds Tesladyne, an organization of Action Scientists who investigate and solve super science problems over the world.

Robo fights in WWII. He makes friends with Carl Sagan — and he hates, hates Stephen Hawking. But most of all, he’s fun. Robo is well-written, and he shows the emotional depth expected of a character who has seen his earliest friends pass away.

WAREHOUSE 13
One reason (among many) why Robo dislikes Stephen Hawking. Image courtesy of IDW Publishing.

WAREHOUSE 13 fans will love ATOMIC ROBO because of the stories and humor. Much like WAREHOUSE 13, Robo adventures throughout real Earth history. Therefore, there are plenty of references to people and places that made each new episode of WAREHOUSE 13 tantalizing and catchy. In addition, ATOMIC ROBO never loses its sense of humor. There are dark moments, but just like WAREHOUSE 13, there’s normally a team like Steve and Claudia to lighten the mood.

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ATOMIC ROBO is available, by the creators, for free online. The ongoing series ATOMIC ROBO AND THE SPECTRE OF TOMORROW by IDW Publishing, has just begun. Look for issue #2 November 2017.

Honorable Mention: WAREHOUSE 13 by Ben Raab, Deric A. Hughes, Ben Morse, Robert Gill, and Gordon Purcell

If you like the setting and world of WAREHOUSE 13, and if you liked the way it wrote and pushed its characters, I hope you’ll enjoy the above suggestions. But, in case you were wondering, yes; there was a WAREHOUSE 13 comic published by Dynamite Entertainment in 2011. It ran for five issues and saw the Warehouse look into the Lost Cache, a collection of artifacts vanished to history.

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Although I have not read it myself, the team that scripted it included many of the show’s own writers; Ben Morse, Robert Gill, and Gordon Purcell covered the pencils. You can see the information for individual issues here, and you can pick up the trade from other retailers. Additionally, there is more good news for continued adventures in the WAREHOUSE 13 universe. A Kickstarter campaign for a WAREHOUSE 13 board game just successfully funded. Will it be new episodes? No, but it looks like the memory of the show will remain in some capacity going into the future.

WAREHOUSE 13
WAREHOUSE 13 #5 cover. Image courtesy of Dynamite Entertainment.

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