Say you want to get your loved ones some "comic books" for the holidays - Which ones would make their yuletides merry? We've chosen ten of our favorite recent SF graphic novels to help out.
This French story about a sexbot who stows away with space truckers to find her true destiny reads like a more enjoyable The Fifth Element, mixing spirituality, sexuality and awkward humor to create a beautifully-illustrated not-so-guilty pleasure.
(Published by Marvel Comics, $24.99.)
Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus:
This four-volume series of hardcovers collects all of the various comics that made up X-Men and Fantastic Four co-creator Kirby's 1970s magnum opus about godlike aliens bringing their war to Earth. Ignored and cancelled due to low sales at the time, these have since taken their place as some of the all-time best American SF comics.
(Published by DC Comics, each volume $49.99.)
The Babysitter Collection:
You probably won't have heard of Andy Ristaino's mind-bending story of Setsuko Kagaku, the Japanese schoolgirl who happens to be the world's greatest babysitter, but once you've seen this amazing, mind-bending book that gleefully rewrites the rulebook on how comics work and questions the nature of reality, you'll never be able to forget it.
(Published by SLG, $29.95.)
Buffy, The Vampire Slayer Season 8:
Surely you need no explanation why the official comic continuation of the TV series - overseen and written in part by Joss Whedon, with the other writers including Cloverfield's Drew Goddard - makes this list. If you have to pick just one of the four collections to date, we'd suggest the Brian K. Vaughan-written "No Future For You", which brings back Faith and Giles for some ass-kicking in good ol' Blighty that doesn't rely too heavily on the uber-arc for the season.
(Published by Dark Horse, each volume $15.95.)
Nick Abadzis' semi-fictional biography of the First Dog In Space is subtle, beautiful and enough to break the heart of even the most cynical bastard. If you're an animal lover, then you'll probably be in tears by the end.
(Published by First Second, $17.95.)
Bryan Lee O'Malley's enjoyable series of graphic novels - Probably my favorite current series, not that that really matters to you - blends twenty-something ennui, surreal humor (Wait until you meet the vegan in the third volume), video game references, and some wonderful artwork to create something that's both timeless and effortless contemporary. Plus, where else do you get to read about a boy who has to fight his girlfriend's Seven Evil Ex-Boyfriends in order to win her heart?
(Published by Oni Press, each volume $11.95.)
All-Star Superman, Vol. 1:
Superhero comics may not get much better than this recently-completed series by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely; pulling the genre away from angst-ridden punchfests, ASS - yes, I know - instead offers a more contemplative and imaginative Superman who falls victim to Lex Luthor's ultimate masterplan and still tries to save the day, every day. This volume collects the first half of the series; a second is due next year, so you can give it to someone this time in 2009.
(Published by DC Comics, $12.99.)
Yes, I'm stretching the "recent" thing for this 2005 collection of Paul Pope's series about life in a future New York, full of love stories and artists and people in the wrong place at the wrong time, but it'll always be an amazing book, the closest we'll ever get to Robert Altman directing a science fiction Bukowski. Or something.
(Published by DC Comics/Vertigo, $24.99.)
The Doctor Who Storybook 2009:
Is this too non-comic-booky? Possibly, but each year in the UK, a Doctor Who Storybook is released for kids, featuring brand new stories written by the TV show's writers (The 2006 edition featured the first version of "Blink," by Steven Moffat; this year, Mark Gatiss, Gareth Roberts and James Moran are all contributing), as well as a "Letter from the Doctor" written by the showrunner (This year is Moffat's first; Russell T Davies has done the last couple). If it helps, there's a comic strip in there too, but I don't think you'll need much more convincing.
(Published by Panini Books, price depending on whatever you pay on import; £7.99 in the UK.)
Any Showcase or Essential Collection:
Help a friend or family member relive their misspent childhood with these black and white phonebook collections of comics from the 1960s and '70s. DC's brand is "DC Showcase Presents", Marvel's is "Marvel Essential," but both offer over 500 pages of reprinted goodness for $16.99; you can find a list of each line here (Showcase) and here (Essentials).
(Published by DC Comics and Marvel Comics, $16.99.)
Two Additional Stocking Stuffers That Aren't Really Comics, But Still:
Fables: Covers by James Jean:
All eleven volumes to date of Bill Willingham's wonderful Fables would make ideal stocking stuffers as well, but the pride of place has to go to this stunningly beautiful collection of illustrator James Jean's covers to the first 75 issues (and ten collections) of the series. Breathtakingly illustrated in paint, pencil and digitally, the work contained in this book is awe-inspiring.
(Published by DC Comics/Vertigo, $39.99.)
Thrill Power Overload:
Another import that's well worth tracking down, David Bishop's history of the first thirty years of British comic 2000AD is both salacious and educational, filled with gossip and stories about the creation of characters like Judge Dredd and Rogue Trooper and the early careers of creators like Alan Moore, Grant Morrison and even Neil Gaiman. Enjoyable even if you've never read an issue of the comic itself.
(Published by Rebellion Books, price depending on whatever you pay on import; £34.99 in the UK.)