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What to Watch for… Holiday Gift Guide Edition

Posted by Luke Brown On December - 2 - 2010

That time of year is upon us once again, so instead of your regular weekly installment of comic book recommendations for the week, we’re taking a little break to present a holiday gift guide. Whether you’re looking for the perfect gift for a comic book rookie, a long-time reader, or simply wondering what to tell friends and family to get for you, we’ve got you covered with a wide range of great books from 2010.

I’ve broken up the suggestions into three categories, with the suggested retail prices as the cut off. Keep in mind that many of the books can be found available for much less than cover price. As much I want everyone to go out and support their local comic shops, the prices on Amazon are sometimes just too good to pass up.

Under $20

Haunt, Vol. 1 – $9.99
Written by Robert Kirkman
Art by Ryan Ottley, Greg Capullo, Todd McFarlane
Published by Image Comics

A while back, Robert Kirkman challenged artist and Image co-founder Todd McFarlane to get back into monthly comics. Not long after that, the two began talking about what the project would be, and in 2009, readers were greeted with the supernatural super-hero comic Haunt. Collected here are the first five issues of the book, which introduces us to the two brothers, one a priest, the other the ghost of a government operative, who co-exist as the being known as Haunt. Kirkman’s scripting is fast-paced and geared for action, and combined with the layouts of Greg Capullo, finishes by Ryan Ottley, and inks of Todd McFarlane, it’s an excellent new property that proves there can be great new heroes outside of the standard Marvel and DC universes.

Bakuman, Vol. 1 – $9.99
Written by Tsugumi Ohba

Art by Takeshi Obata
Published by Viz Media

From the creators of Death Note comes one of the best comics I’ve ever read, Bakuman. Now I still consider myself a newcomer to manga; Bakuman is not only a great story, but it just so happens to be a wonderful introduction to the medium. Centered around two Japanese teen boys who are trying to create their own manga, Bakuman not only shows a side of the industry rarely seen, but it also shows just how difficult working as manga creators can be. As someone who’s constantly curious about the creative genesis of any project, the intricate detailings of how a manga is created, as well as the process creators must go through to get their work looked at, let alone published, make a book like this is an absolute must-read. The manga also happens to be a terrific coming of age tale, where men decide to change their destinies, and try to become more than what the school system says they can be. There are two volumes available right now, and I can guarantee that after reading this first installment, you’ll want to check out the second.

Four Eyes, Vol. 1: Forged in Flames – $9.99
Written by Joe Kelly
Art by Max Fiumara
Published by Image Comics

Joe Kelly is a great writer, who in addition to writing comics like Amazing Spider-Man and Deadpool, helped create the animated hero Ben 10. Like dragons? Like depression-era alternate histories? Good. Here’s the story of Enrico, a young boy whose father dies in the line of duty. His job? Dragon handler/hunter for the city’s most popular underground sport: dragon fights. Deciding to take up his father’s line of work to provide for his desperate mother, Enrico gets himself into a bit more than he can chew. Joe Kelly does a wonderful job crafting characters and a world that are believable, and Max Fiumara’s art brings just the right amount of gloom to the story. The dragons are fierce, the emotions run high, and the finale will have you clamoring for more. It’s a story that can be enjoyed by young and old alike, and is one of the finest examples of how comics can be about more than tights and capes.

Beasts of Burden: Animal Rites – $19.99
Written by Evan Dorkin
Art by Jill Thompson
Published by Dark Horse Press

You may recall that a few months ago I was recommending the mini-series contained herein for purchase every month, but I know that not every store carried enough copies (if they carried any at all), and I’d hate to think that anyone would have missed out on this wonderful tale of animal investigators of the supernatural. It’s not hokey at all, and at times is quite serious and heart-breaking. Dorkin’s script is made all that much stronger by the wonderful watercolors of Jill Thompson, who is easily one of my favorite artists working in comics today. I wish she had more books out on a monthly basis, but projects like this more than make up for it. Included in this collection are the original stories in which the animals first appeared, so you’re getting a lot of content for you money here. It’s another excellent all-ages affair, with characters that just about everyone will fall in love with.

Under $50

Batwoman: Elegy – $24.99
Written by Greg Rucka
Art by JH Williams III
Published by DC Comics

Katherine Kane is the type of beautifully realized character that most comics wish they had in the lead, and many writers wish they could have written. Rucka presents her with a vulnerability when necessary, but there is no doubt that Batwoman is an incredibly strong and independent woman, who’s only made more enticing by how damaged she really is. I honestly feel like there have been so many other critics and bloggers out there who have raved ad nauseum about Williams’ work that it’s almost over-hyped (it’s not), but if I don’t tell you how his art is so strong that it literally pulls your eyes to the page and won’t let go until you seen every last nuance, I’ll be selling the man short. Panels and pages are packed with symbolism and innuendo, and the way Williams differentiates between the “real” world and the one where everyone wears a costume is brilliantly obvious, and makes you wish you had thought of it first. This is a complete story that will not only leave you wanting more, but will have you re-reading it over and over again. With the launch of the new Batwoman monthly kicking off next month, this is the perfect time to revisit, or introduce someone to, the adventures of Katherine Kane.

Parker: The Outfit – $24.99
Written and Drawn by Darwyn Cooke
Published by IDW Publishing

The Outfit is a brilliant noir story about a man who decides to take his vendetta out on organized crime (known as the Outfit) by gathering all his friends in to pulling nationwide heists of all the Outfit’s holdings. Of course, the Outfit isn’t going to let Parker get away with it. Stark’s novels are brilliant crime novels with one of the most dastardly leading men in history, but you can’t help but love Parker. His demeanor, his ethic, and the way in which he’s an absolute weapon of destruction. Cooke’s graphic adaptation of The Hunter was one of the best books of 2009, and I’ve no doubt that The Outfit will rank among the best works of graphic fiction published this year. Cooke’s mastery of the graphic form is on full display in this hardcover, and even if you haven’t read the previous volume, you’ll be able to follow along just fine.

Chew: The Omnivore Edition, Vol. 1 – $34.99
Written by John Layman
Art by Rob Guillory
Published by Image Comics

Collected here are the first ten issues of Rob Guillory’s and John Layman’s eccentrically awesome comic Chew. Starring cibopathic detective Tony Chu (he can get psychic impressions from anything he eats: steak, potatoes, dead bodies, etc.), Chew is an absolute joy to read. It’s bizarre, funny, well drawn, and perfectly written. There’s some mystery and intrigue, and a lot of laughs contained herein, and this book is a great read from start to finish. Tony Chu is a complicated man who hates the ability he’s been cursed with, and this is only the beginning of his tale. Word is the comic has been picked up for development as a television show, so you may as well get your friends in on the ground floor early.

Return of the Dapper Men – $24.95
Written by Jim McCann
Art by Janet Lee
Published by Archaia Entertainment

I’m adding this book to the list not just because I want a copy of it for Christmas, but because I’m pretty sure you will too. An all-ages steampunk fantasy tale, Return of the Dapper Men is the tale of a young boy, his robot friend, who happens to be a girl, and a mysterious man known only as “41,” who are trying to discover how to set their world right once more. The book is one of the most glowingly reviewed graphic novels of the year, and I’m kicking myself for missing out on it when it shipped just a few weeks ago. Hopefully there’ll be enough copies left at the comic shop for you and me.

Blacksad, Vol. 1 – $29.99
Written by Juan Diaz Canales
Art by Juanjo Guardino
Published by Dark Horse Press

Imagine art that could rival any current animated Disney film, and scripting that would make Philip Marlowe proud. That’s why Blacksad is probably the best comic you’ve never heard of. Republished in English earlier this year by Dark Horse, the critically and commercially successful story follows private detective John Blacksad through three separate cases dealing with classic noir trappings like murder, kidnapping, and Cold War hysteria. It’s a brilliant collection, and is a book that every single person should be reading. The gorgeous over-sized hardcover brings the work to life, allowing readers to really immerse themselves in Guardino’s art. For someone looking for a great new mystery, you would have a hard time doing better than this book.

American Vampire, Vol. 1 – $24.99
Written by Scott Snyder and Stephen King
Art by Rafael Albuquerque
Published by DC Comics

I’ve been pretty vocal about how much I enjoy American Vampire every time a new issue hits the stands, and for those of you who missed out on the first few issues when they were originally released, now’s your chance to pick them up in one nifty hardcover collection. Spanning generations, the story of how vampires first appeared and became so prevalent in American society is quite interesting. Scott Snyder and artist Rafael Albuquerque, joined by co-writer Stephen King, create a vision of our past that’s not so different than the one we know. Rafael’s art on both stories is outstanding, and really completes the package this book offers. If you’re a fan of King’s, or just looking for a horror story that’s a bit of the traditional beaten path, this is a book worth checking out.

The Rocketeer: The Complete Adventures – $29.99
Written and Drawn by Dave Stevens
Published by IDW Publishing

You remember the Disney movie The Rocketeer, don’t you? Did you know it was originally a comic book? Dave Stevens’ pulp hero the Rocketeer is the definition of the everyman hero. Cliff Secord is a normal man given the chance to do extraordinary things thanks to the help of some fictitious, yet feasible, technology. Set during an era of American history when Nazis were still the bad guys and aviation was the future, The Rocketeer is a love letter to a forgotten time. While the story is fun and exciting, the real star of the show is Stevens’ art, which for all intents and purposes is gorgeous. This book serves as a reminder for everything that is great about comics, and belongs in every collection.

The Life and Times of Martha Washington in the 21st Century – $29.99
Written by Frank Miller
Art by Dave Gibbons
Published by Dark Horse Comics

For $30, you’re getting 600 pages of story written by Frank Miller (the good version) and drawn by the great Dave Gibbons. Spread out over a handful of mini-series, the story of Martha Washington is one of the most critically acclaimed comics of all-time. This trade paperback is gigantic, and more than worth the investment. Full of political satire, social commentary, and science fiction, Miller’s and Gibbons’ story transcends generations to tell the story of one woman’s journey through life. Though it can be a bit preachy at times, the book really finds itself about 1/3 of the way through, and only proves just how great the talented creators behind Martha Washington really are.

Under $100

The Walking Dead: Compendium One – $59.99
Written by Robert Kirkman
Art by Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard
Published by Image Comics

What is there to say about Robert Kirkman’s Walking Dead that hasn’t been said already? This is pretty much the most enthralling read a person could ask for, particularly in zombie fiction. It may seem like zombies are being overdone, but when this book started five or so years ago, it was flying under ever radar in the country. For $59.99 you get over 1000 pages of incredible story, covering some of the most heart-wrenching moments in one of the best comics on shelves. Undoubtedly, interest in the comic has skyrocketed since the success of the television show, and what better way to get your friends and family prepared for the next season than with this giant volume of the original story.

Absolute Promethea, Vol. 1 – $99.99
Written by Alan Moore
Art by JH Williams III
Published by DC Comics

It’s widely accepted that Alan Moore is one of the most revered writers in the graphic medium. You may not always agree with his stance on the current affairs of the industry, but his opinions aside, the man can flat out write. Teaming with JH Williams III, one of the most amazing artists to ever work in comics, Moore created Promethea for his America’s Best Comics line for Wildstorm. Promethea is a tough comic to explain, but it’s also one of most interesting and compelling stories of the last ten years. Centering around a young woman named Sophie Bangs who becomes the modern bearer of the mystical heroine Promethea, the story covers religion, philosophy, history, the future, life, love, and so much more than you would expect to find in a comic book. It truly is a tale that must be read, and the way in which Moore and Williams deliver their opus is a sight to behold.

Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Box Set – $72.00
Written and Drawn by Bryan Lee O’Malley
Published by Oni Press

All six volumes of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s epic telling of the life of Scott Pilgrim are collected for the first time in one convenient box set. The Scott Pilgrim series is about, well, Scott Pilgrim, and the changes he goes through over the course of his relationship with Ramona Flowers. You may have seen the movie, but the books present a much richer tapestry of the 20-something’s life, along with those of his closest friends. Chock full of video game, music, movie, and other pop culture references, the comic has a little something for everyone. Watching O’Malley grow as an artist and writer over the duration of the series is a blast as well, and there are few books about our generation that are as engaging, heartfelt, and hilarious as those starring Scott Pilgrim.

Thor by J. Michael Straczynski Omnibus – $64.99
Written by J. Michael Straczynski
Art by Olivier Coipel and Marko Djurdjevic
Published by Marvel Comics

Few characters have had revitalizations as thrilling, smart, and fun to read as JMS’ relaunch of Thor. Long dead after Ragnarok, Straczynski finds a way to bring Thor back to life that not only makes sense, but also adds to the deep mythology of the character as he exists in the Marvel Universe. Joined by artist Olivier Coipel (Marko Djurdjevic guest-pencils a few issues), who’s linework is puts him in an elite group of artists working today, Straczynski makes Thor into a compelling character easily accessible by new readers. I never really cared about Thor before reading this book, and now he’s one of my favorite current characters. It’s amazing what one talented writer, and a handful of artistic geniuses, can do for a character.

Absolute All-Star Superman – $99.99
Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Frank Quitely
Published by DC Comics

Sure, it’s a bit on the pricey side, but it’s twelve issues of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely goodness that absolutely cannot be missed. Perhaps the greatest Superman story of this generation, the story of a dying Superman that spans the twelve issues here pays tribute to everything that came before it, as well as blazing a new, weird path to super-greatness. Morrison and Quitely are one of the premiere creative teams of the past twenty years, and if you’ve never been witness to one of their collaborations before, this is a great place to start. The art is top-notch, and the writing is so amazing, you’ll forget you were reading a super-hero comic to start with. If you can only buy one thing on this entire list, this is the book that gets my strongest recommendation.

Hope this list was helpful in your holiday gift decision making. We’ll be back on our regular “What to Watch for Wednesday” schedule next week.


3 Responses so far
  1. Lady Stardust Said,

    Awesome list. I’m now putting Return of the Dapper Men on my wish list, and I highly recommend Beasts of Burden, Martha Washington, and Blacksad to everyone.

    Posted on December 2nd, 2010 at 4:53 PM

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    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by TheQuarterbin, Sarah LeBoeuf. Sarah LeBoeuf said: Check out what makes @TheQuarterbin's excellent 2010 comic gift list. http://bit.ly/e3lfDt [...]

    Posted on December 2nd, 2010 at 5:28 PM

  3. The Quarter Bin » Blog Archive » What to Watch for Wednesday Said,

    [...] trade this week. Check out the Holiday Gift Guide for some great reads you can pick up for some friends. Also, go see TRON: Legacy. It’s going [...]

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