Summer reading lists usually come out in late spring, early summer. Just as you’re starting to dream of a cold drink on a hot afternoon (or consuming your body weight in liquid, while being submerged in liquid, as one does). This ain’t no ordinary summer reading list though, it’s specifically, a late summer reading list, for those of us exiled to dog-day vacations. Fall is just around the corner, and if you aren’t still getting hit by torrential rains, the local flora is at its biggest, just about ready to give up the ghost. So as you eke out your last days, weekends, of summer vacation, maybe weeks if you’re lucky, check out some of these summer reads.
Sin City: You know, summer reading is tough. I like to read a lot of floppies, and sweaty palms and comics don’t go hand in hand. But I’m gonna go with some good old crime noir classics; nothing says summer like the seedy, sweaty underbelly of the crime world. Frank Miller’s Sin City is a good place to start. Each collection is a self contained story so feel free to pick up any volume you see in the store. One of my personal favorites is Booze, Broads, & Bullets, which is a collection of short stories, several of which are on the weirder side of noir.
Parker: A more recent crime genre “must read” is Darwyn Cooke’s adaptations of Richard Stark’s Parker. The Hunter is the first in the series and it is a revenge tale told in a bold, simplistic colour palette with stunning layouts. Wait till the sun goes down, grab some booze, sit by the window fan in your hot apartment and enjoy the ride.
Adventure Time: Playing With Fire: Summer’s hot, and what’s hotter than a princess made of fire? Danielle Corsetto and Zach Sterling put a manga-influenced spin on Finn and Flame Princess’s blossoming romance, and it’s a sweet, charming story about magic carnivals, puzzle mazes, and saving your boyfriend’s soul from a fortune-telling dragon. Y’know, typical summer romance stuff.
Saga: If any title is the “Summer Blockbuster of Comics,” Saga is it. Star-crossed lovers Alana and Marko want to protect their newborn baby Hazel from the robots, bounty hunters, and alien governments pursuing them, but can they escape their own family? In twelve issues (so far) Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples have created an alien universe that’s as new and fresh as it is immense. And no one writes jaw-dropping cliffhangers like BKV.
Marvel’s Tomb of Dracula: Gothic character studies and 70s rollnecks are the perfect compliment to lazy humid sun days. Gene Colan and Al Williamson’s swathes of black will cool your steaming brow. Available in huge B&W phonebook volumes, to pad out your suitcase. Or have a nap on.
Tetsuo Hara’s Souten no Ken: I just finished reading it; it’s heavy as anything but so easy to get through (one feels productive without having to move or work: necessary in summer). It’s also really funny without dropping its tone, there’s AMAZING expression work, and I was reminded of it when Megan P tweeted about the dangers of unconditional love – SNK believes in absolute ultimate forgiveness no matter what & pushes it hard, at which I am all “NOO,” but it’s just so GOOD. Plus everybody is super handsome. Only available in scanlations though, I think.
MOOMIN: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip: Because moomins. Read a Moomin strip or two, BBQ a herring and learn to make a rope out of grass. Summer idyl.
Are You My Mother: There are beach reads, and then there are cottage reads. Allison Bechdel’s Are You My Mother is a cottage read. This is a book you take your time over. It’s a Where’s Waldo map of psychology (both theory and personal), history, and fierce honesty. I read it in an afternoon (demands of reviewing!), and man, do I regret it. For anyone who’s up for a challenging read this summer, put down Tolstoy, it’s time to tackle AYMM.
Judge Dredd: The early Judge Dredd Case Files (up to #5, I think, but skip The Apocalypse War). Mega-City One may be grim, but damn is it funny. These earlier ones have the feeling of being written for a younger audience than they are now, which means that the excessive grimness is played for laughs rather than as proof of profundity. Most of the stories are short enough to stand up to a vacation attention span. They’ve got road trips across the Cursed Earth and into space, and crack you up even as they gross you out.
Strangers in Paradise: There’s friendship, romance, evil gangsters, global intrigue, and at the heart of it a basic love story between two women. Dramatic enough for a summery soap opera, with art that makes you feel like you’ve stepped into the lives of real people rather than just reading about characters in a book.
All-Star Superman: It’s got a vague box-office tie-in (in that a movie about Superman is out now), is created by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely, and is nice in a way that comics for adults often aren’t anymore. And although prior knowledge of Super-continuity enhances the reading experience, it isn’t required – I don’t know much about Superman beyond the basics and still loved it. This is a world where it’ll be bright and summery forever because hope and Superman will always be around.
The Batman Adventures and Gotham Adventures: These are spin-off comics done in the art style of the animated series. Seriously good, and – again – nice. They do deal with some pretty heavy themes, but do so in a sensitive way, and are almost the opposite of the grimdark sensibilities of the New 52. Remember summers when you were young, when you could watch cartoons all day and pretend you were Batman? These comics are a throwback to those days. Best read outside with a bottle of soda or inside with peanut butter crackers.