It’s never a bad time to kick back with a good book but doing so in the summer has a certain appeal. Whether it’s on the front porch as the sun sets, on the beach on a hot day, or indoors while an afternoon storm thunders through, summer is the time to blow through that stack of books you haven’t had time to get to since the holidays, or start a new reading stack.
If your taste tends to skew more towards the comic book side of the spectrum, there are a ton of great releases from the last few years that are worth catching up on if you haven’t had the chance. These aren’t your typical comic reading recommendations (we’ll just assume that you’ve already been told to read Watchmen), but they’re sure to satisfy whatever comic book urge you’re feeling as the temperature rises and the days get longer.
For the last few years, the world of Batman has skewed on the slightly grimmer side. Tom King’s popular run on the book took the Caped Crusader to some dark places and the world of the DCEU and video games hasn’t fared much lighter. For a killer look at Batman through a brighter lens, check out Brian Michael Bendis and Nick Derrington’s Batman: Universe. Featuring some of the coolest superhero comic art of the last few years, the book takes a much more jubilant look at Batman as he goes up against the Riddler and slowly realizes he’s involved in a conspiracy of interdimensional proportions. Featuring a ton of fun guest appearances and a fast-moving narrative, it’s some of the most fun you’re likely to have with a Batman comic these days.
Disney pretty much crushed it as hard as a network could possibly crush it when they revamped the classic cartoon DuckTales a few years ago. It totally recaptures the feeling of watching the original show and even elevates it. If you’re a fan of the show or just want to recapture that feeling a different way, you can’t go wrong with The Life & Times of Scrooge McDuck. It might seem like a tough sell if your primary comics experience is with more conventionally adult titles, but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. The Life & Times of Scrooge McDuck is some of the best comic work of all time, with cartoonist Don Rosa telling the life story of Scrooge McDuck over the course of two stunning hardcover volumes. It’s all-time great cartooning full of vast adventures, slapstick humor, and some of the most stunning art you’re likely to come across in a comic book.
Not every great comic features daring adventures or tights and flight. They don’t even necessarily feature anything otherworldly. If you want to sit back with a good comic about real life as we experience it, you can’t go wrong with Mariko and Jillian Tamaki’s astounding and poignant This One Summer. An original graphic novel, it tells the story of a summer shared by two young friends that propels them from youth into adulthood. Stunningly drawn by Jillian and written with an attention to truth by Mariko that few can reach, it’s a rich, rewarding young adult text that offers more and more with every reread.
It can be hard to bring a highbrow slant to superhero comics, not so much because they don’t inherently lend themselves well to the take but rather because it’s so hard to achieve a balance that doesn’t tilt in the favor of coming off as try-hard. But when they’re done right, they’re unbeatable. Case in point: Tom King, Gabriel Walta, and Michael Walsh’s 12-issue masterclass in superhero storytelling The Vision. The story sees the Avengers’ resident android move to the suburbs of Virginia and build a family for himself, one that starts to fall apart at the seams almost immediately in the wake of a murder. The twelve issues are a gutting existential diatribe on consciousness and morality sure to shake you to your core. All things considered, The Vision may be the single best Marvel comic of the past decade.
Even your coolest, savviest comic-reading friends likely missed Ezra Clayton Daniels’ Upgrade Soul, a veritable modern masterpiece that went largely unread upon release due to coming out via relatively young publisher Lion Forge (which has now folded into Oni Press). Upgrade Soul is a relatively grounded science fiction story about a rejuvenation experiment performed on an old couple’s 45th wedding anniversary that seems to go wrong, only to soon reveal itself to have gone right in an entirely unintended fashion. What follows is a story about love, growing old, and what it means to be alive. Upgrade Soul will break your heart and maybe even put it back together if you give it the chance, plus Daniels’ art is mesmerizing, displaying the sort of talent that makes you wonder why this guy isn’t one of the most famous artists in the world.