Friday, June 27, 2014

Missing Your Favorite TV Show? Try These Comics!

It's summer time again, meaning hot weather, cookouts, and more reality TV than you can shake a stick at. Yes, most TV shows are on summer break now, so what are you to do to occupy those entertainment hours? Why binge read comics, naturally. And I'm here to help! Here are some comics that I feel would appeal to fans of some of TV's more popular shows. Some I've talked about before, some are new, but I think there's something here for everyone. I'm steering clear of traditional super hero comics for this one to give some more exposure to books from outside the big two mainstream (although there will be a Vertigo book), and I'm not touching on The Walking Dead. If you haven't tried the comic already, nothing I say will change that.

If you like Games of Thrones, you'd enjoy East of West

Game of Thrones is known for its massive cast, sweeping storylines, and mix of fantasy with a real world grit. Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta's East of West has a similar flair with a sci-fi twist. Set in an alternate world where the Civil War caused America to splinter into The Seven Nations, the future is a world flavored with both advanced science, mysticism, and the feel of the wild west. As the series begins, a pale rider appears with his two Native American allies, and he begins hunting those responsible for his death. For this is Death himself, returned to the flesh to kill those who took his wife from him. But the other Horsemen of the Apocalypse have come in the flesh again, and they are manipulating a cabal of officials within all the governments of the American nations to bring about the Apocalypse. It's a wild, well developed world of crazy sci-fi, fantasy, and horror tropes all existing together. You can go from an issue dealing with the inner politics of the nation of African descent, to an issue about a sheriff who decided justice wasn't found in the law anymore and is hunting the cabal, and the next seeing Death confronting an oracle to learn how to find his newest target. The cast is sprawling, each of the plotlines having its own and they only seem to glance off each other, and the machinations would make Littlefinger's head spin. Oh, and there's at least one scene of GoT style sexposition. If you've ever enjoyed any comic by Jonathan Hickman, or any TV show or movie of high stakes political drama or futuristic dytopia, try East of West.

If you like Brooklyn Nine-Nine, you'd enjoy Quantum and Woody

Brooklyn Nine-Nine is the hilarious cop show comedy starring Andy Samberg that debuted this season, and it does a great job of balancing the comedy with actual police procedural, while being a sitcom at its core. There are plenty of comics that mix humor with superheroics, but I can't think of any comic that is really a sit com with superhero trappings on the wracks now that works better than Valiant's Quantum and Woody written by James Asmus. Erik and Woody Henderson are adopted brothers who haven't seen each other in years until their father's death. Now, Woody is back in Eric's life, and bringing the chaos he always does, including accidentally getting them super powers while investigating their father's death that mean they have to touch the wristbands they now are forced to wear once a day or they both just dissipate. It's classic odd couple comedy, with Eric (whose superhero codeman is Quantum) as the straight man, responsible and straight laced, who wants to use his powers for good, while Woody wants to make money and get laid; and by the end of the first arc hes's brought a sexy clone of their first evil mastermind and a superpowered goat home with him to Eric's apartment. The comic lives and dies by the relationship between the characters and the fact that, as much of a screw up as Woody is, he's a likable screw up, while Eric is stiff, but is a likable stiff. And they have a pet goat that could go hoof-to-talon with Chew's Poyo (now, that's a crossover I want to see), so what's not to love?

If you like Orphan Black, you'd like Lazarus

Orphan Black is BBC America's sci-fi series about cloning, genetic engineering, corporations, and family, starring Tatiana Maslany in what is probably the strongest performance in mainstream media right now, playing not one but eight different rolls, five of them appearing regularly. And if you're looking for a comic with a high sci-fi concept, questions that deal with modern society and science, and a kick ass female lead, you need go no further than Greg Rucka and Michael Lark's Lazarus. In the not too distant future, corporations run the world, and each corporation is run by a family, and each family has a defender/enforcer called a Lazarus. The Carlyle family is one of the most powerful of these families, and their Lazarus is Forever Carlyle, daughter of the family patriarch. Forever (or Eve) has been engineered to be nigh-indestructible, faster and stronger than normal humans, and indoctrinated to be undyingly loyal to the family. But things are not as they seem, as squabbles between her siblings (all normal humans) created fractures in the family, and Eve begins receiving messages saying that her whole life is a lie. Eve is not just strong, but she's clever, and more than a little bit broken, the hallmarks of a Greg Rucka heroine. There are secrets, plots within plots, and a cast of characters that you can never be sure you can trust. It's sci-fi drama with the same tense character drama as Orphan Black, but with a scope that can't be done on a basic cable budget. And I now can't help but think of Tatiana Maslany as the only actress to possibly play Eve in a film adaptation. But that's just me.

If you like The Blacklist, you'd like Thief of Thieves

I can think of very few performances on TV as engaging as James Spader's one as criminal mastermind turned FBI informant Raymond "Red" Reddington on The Blacklist; Spader plays the part with equal parts grace, humor, and coldblooded ruthlessness. He's really just a supervillain. And I don't know if anyone could pull that off. But if you like elaborate capers with a criminal as your protagonist, you should check out Thief of Thieves. Masterminded by Robert Kirkman, with various writers working on different arcs, and all drawn by Shawn Martinbrough, Thief of Thieves is the story of Redmond, the world's greatest thief, who decides to give up the business and try to settle down under his real name of Conrad Paulson and try to make amends with his estranged wife and adult son. But the life isn't willing to let him escape. A dedicated FBI agent who knows Paulson is Redmond continues to hound him. His son tries to live up to his father's rep and gets deeper and deeper into trouble. And his cohorts know he had one more big score planned before he dropped out. So now, Redmond is back in the game, and has to outsmart everyone by playing all sides against the middle. It's a caper book that starts out slow and picks up steam quickly as our protagonist finds himself in worse trouble, stuck with enemies from the Mafia, Mexican drug cartels, and law enforcement, and in the end, as the tag line for the series said, "There's nothing he can't steal... except the life he left behind."

If you like Breaking Bad or Justified, you'd like Scalped

TV has developed a love affair with the anti-hero. You can have a main character who isn't the lantern jawed hero anymore, and few characters better typify this shift than Breaking Bad's Walter White and Justified's Raylan Givens. Scalped is a modern noir where every character exists in shades of grey, created by Jason Aaron and R.M. Guera. Dash Bad Horse has come back to the Prairie Rose Reservation where he grew up down on his luck. It looks like Dash needs to start over, and so gets in with Lincoln Red Crow, the chief of the tribal and the local gang lord. But quickly, it is revealed that Dash is undercover FBI, sent by an old nemesis of Red Crow's in the bureau to bring him down. But after his mother is murdered, Dash begins to spiral downwards, and the waters around him get murkier. Friends might be enemies, and enemies might be the best allies Dash could have. I wrote a full recommended reading for Scalped a while back, right after the final trade came out, and you can read that right here. Scalped is also in development for a TV series, so get in at the ground floor now.

If you like Guardians of the Galaxy or Serenity, you'd like Defiance

OK, so this last one is an inversion; it's a summer TV show that appeals to the same sensibilities as some of my favorite comics. One of the great pleasures of Guardians of the Galaxy and both the Serenity comics and their TV ancestor, Firefly, is the down on their luck heroes in the big sci-fi world. Defiance, which began it's second season last week on SyFy, is set in an Earth after the aliens have arrived; specifically various races who go by the collective title of Votans. After the war, all technology has been thrown back to a pre-computer age, and humans and Votans must work together to survive on Earth. Set in what was once St. Louis, now the city of Defiance, the series focuses on Joshua Nolan, who arrives in town and winds up becoming the sheriff, his adopted alien daughter, Irissa, and various locals, including the mayor, Amada Rosewater, the local magnate, Rafe McCawley, and local alien mobster Datak Tarr as well as their respective families. It has that same grungy, used world feeling that Firefly perfectly captured, and our heroes are always out of their depths, yet pull off a win most of the time. Other than compelling plots and well rounded characters, the thing that grabs me about Defiance is the world building. The seven alien races all have distinct looks, languages, and cultures that are distinct from one another. It's such a well thought out world it grabs you and pulls you right in. The first season is streaming on Amazon Instant Video (free if you have Prime) and is out on DVD, so you can get caught up and catch the new episodes as they air.

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