What are the best comics to read during the apocalypse? I woke up with an insane craving for Transmetropolitan, an epic, Hunter S. Thompson-infused futuristic thriller by Warren Ellis about a gonzo journalist who untangles a conspiracy theory that is hiding in plain sight. I called Bridge City Comics and, lucky me, they had the entire series.
I placed my order over the phone and picked up all 10 books a couple days later. (Bridge City Comics also offers delivery or shipping, for an additional fee.) While I was talking to owner Michael Ring, I asked for his recommendations: what should people be reading in these wild times? He laughed — apparently I’m not the only one asking this question — and gave me a list that blew my hair back. Here are his suggested readings for the end of days, all of which are available at Bridge City Comics.
- V for Vendetta. Not necessarily an apocalypse story, but this iconic series focuses on the consequences of totalitarianism. First published in 1982, written by Alan Moore and illustrated by David Lloyd, the comics follow the story’s title character and protagonist, V, an anarchist revolutionary dressed in a Guy Fawkes mask, as he begins an elaborate and theatrical revolutionist campaign to kill his former captors, bring down the fascist state, and convince the people to abandon fascism in favor of anarchy, while inspiring a young woman, Evey Hammond, to be his protégée.
- Y: The Last Man. Amazons. Genetic accidents. Monkeys! Y is about a dystopian future in which every organism with a Y chromosome dies — except amateur escape artist Yorick Brown and his pet Capuchin monkey Ampersand. Life as the last man on earth is harrowing. Yorick is hunted by several groups who want to capture or kill him for their own purposes, including an Israeli army commando named Alter, the militant Daughters of the Amazon, and a ninja.The series by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra was published by Vertigo from 2002 through 2008.
- Saga. Y’all like Star Wars and Game of Thrones?You’ll like Saga. In this high fantasy, sci-fi epic, Alana and Marko, from long-warring extraterrestrial races flee authorities from both sides of a galactic war as they struggle to care for their daughter, Hazel, who is born in the beginning of the series and who occasionally narrates the series as an unseen adult. The series won 12 Eisner and 17 Harvey Awards between 2013 and 2017. The first trade paperback collection won the 2013 Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story. It has also been noted for its diverse portrayal of ethnicity, sexuality and gender social roles, and for its treatment of war.
- Preacher. Not for the faint of heart or the weak of stomach, Preacher is a gutsy, ultra violent story about Jesse Custer, a hell-bent preacher from Annville, Texas who is accidentally possessed by a demon named Genesis. Freaky, kinky, and gory, Custer hunts for God with a little help from his former girlfriend Tulip O’Hare, as well as a hard-drinking Irish vampire named Cassidy. The 75-issue series ended in 2000 and casts a long pop history shadow. It became a hit TV show starring Dominic Cooper, inspired a Stephen King novel, and even had an appearance in Y: The Last Man. Yorick has a Zippo lighter with the words “Fuck Communism” engraved, identical to the one owned by Jesse Custer in Preacher. When asked about it, he says it’s “from this book I read once… a graphic novel. You know, like a comic book.” Bonus round: if you read Preacher and wanted more, try anything by Brian Bolland, who is best known for Batman: The Killing Joke and Judge Dredd.
- Paper Girls. One part Stranger Things and one part Foxfire, this comic book by Brian K. Vaughn is about four girls with paper delivery routes who are drawn into a supernatural battle that takes over their sleepy suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. While out delivering papers on the morning after Halloween, the town is struck by an invasion from a mysterious power from the future. Should time travelers ‘correct’ the past? Are some things meant to be? The girls are frequently displaced and forced to confront the boring shit they’ll have to deal with as future adults. It’s funny. It’s tough. It’s smart. It won a bunch of awards. Susana Polo for Polygon said that “if you’re a fan of Stranger Things but wish the show handled its female characters, or its queer coding, or its rosy-eyed love of 1980s pop culture with a little more nuance more frequently, you’ll find a lot to like.”
- East of West. Plague, War, Famine, and Pestilence are the notorious Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. In East of West, they’re heroes in a future dystopian version of the United States. Their mission is to fulfill a prophecy told at the end of a long-running Civil War between six warring confederacies. It’s a prophecy that kills its messenger, so the Horsemen are determined to bring about the Apocalypse and save the world. This story is epic — historically, creatively, and artistically. The cast includes characters from the Union, the Confederacy, an African American kingdom, a Native American confederacy, Chinese exiles, and Texan separatists, as well as witches, cultists, double agents, and sentient AI. Created by writer Jonathan Hickman and artist Nick Dragotta, the series ran from 2013 to 2019.
- The Handmaid’s Tale. Yes, there’s a graphic novel of this Margaret Atwood cult classic, and it is terrifying. The story follows Offred, who is trapped in Gilead, a “modern utopia” where she has no name, no power, and no hope. Originally envisioned by Atwood as a satire, Gilead is a hyper religious, patriarchal culture obsessed with controlling female fertility. (Sound familiar?) Yet, before Gilead, Offred had her own life, and she yearns to return to it by any means necessary. Beautifully realized by artist Renée Nault, the terrifying reality of Gilead has been brought to vivid life.
NB: Most of these descriptions are either from my own reading or via Wikipedia. Support your local comics store, kids.