Comics

Beach Reads For Those Who'd Prefer Not to Acknowledge That They're At The Beach

Person with feet up relaxing with a glass of wine. i i
Janine Lamontagne/iStockphoto.com
Person with feet up relaxing with a glass of wine.
Janine Lamontagne/iStockphoto.com

You know who you are, fellow sun-shunner.

You hate slathering suet-like, coconut-scented sunblock on your pasty skin, because you recognize it for the grim exercise in futility it is. You do not tan, after all; you char.

You hate sand, for it is hot, and dry, and gritty, and makes its way into some shockingly intimate places on your person without buying you dinner.

You hate the boardwalk, where the odor of fry-grease hangs over the t-shirt shops and the tinkling laughter of little children curdles without notice into the ravenous rage-shrieks of feral beasts whose mothers have just denied them Dippin' Dots, the Ice Cream of the Future.

Here, on the other hand, are some things you love:

The rented beachhouse.

The air-conditioning in the rented beachhouse.

The kitchen, stocked with beverages and heavily salted snack treats, in the air-conditioned rented beachhouse.

The couch, which is next to the kitchen stocked with beverages and heavily salted snack treats, in the air-conditioned rented beachhouse.

Because it's on that cool, dark, right-handy-to-the-beer rented beachhouse couch that your summer happens. There, you can ease into the recursive read/nap/read feedback loop that signifies summer to you, just as the endless cycle of baste/bake/flip signifies summer to your poor, misguided, foolhardy (and, let's face it, very likely pre-melanomic) friends and family.

Look, we understand. That's how we know you're not the sort who's looking for a light and frothy beach read. No, what you're looking for, my fellow dweller in the shadows, is a story in which you can fully immerse yourself, just as your housemates choose to immerse themselves (and their irregular moles) in death-from-the-skies UV radiation.

I'm talking comics, here: Big, thick graphic novels whose characters, storylines and art invite you to spend a few lazy hours engrossed in their worlds, yet still let you come up for air in time for cocktail hour.

Yeah, I told you: We understand.

Finder by Carla Speed McNeil

Cover of The Finder Library: Volume I
Dark Horse Comics

Dark Horse has collected several volumes of McNeil's cultish Eisner-award-winning webcomic, a singular mashup of science fiction, romance and a weirdly elaborate futurist anthropological thesis, in a great big honkin' 600+ page paperback. It's a hefty, absorbing read full of big ideas, intricate plotting and layered characters, and McNeil tackles issues of class and gender in a clear-eyed and refreshing way.

Duncan the Wonder Dog by Adam Hines

Cover of Duncan the Wonder Dog
Adhouse Books

A darkly gorgeous, resolutely odd and seriously troubling work of art. The book's elevator pitch (in an alternate world where animals can talk, they begin to form revolutionary groups that rise up against humans) suggests an animal-rights screed; the reality is a good deal more uncanny and beautiful. This massive 400-page tome is Hines' first graphic novel (the first in what he says will be a nine-volume story), and while his experimental and discursive sensibility might make for tough going to those not used to the comics medium, Duncan the Wonder Dog is a book built not to be read, but absorbed.

Eye of the Majestic Creature, by Leslie Stein

Cover of Eye of the Majestic Creature
Atomic Books

As a young woman named Larrybear travels the country (accompanied by her talking guitar name Marshmallow) she attempts to keep her misanthropic nature in check, with decidedly mixed results. Stein's cartooning is broad and trippy, and if she occasionally becomes intoxicated with her own gimlet-eyed sensibility, she's never afraid to turn that dark wit on herself. Eye of the Majestic Creature, which is made up of the first four issues of Stein's ongoing comic, is ultimately the tale of a young woman rejecting the things that shaped her and attempting to figure out what comes next for her. Thanks to Stein's loose, amiable approach, you'll want to know that, too.

Strangers in Paradise, by Terry Moore

Cover of Strangers in Paradise Volume I
Abstract Studio

Grab a handful — say the first five volumes — of Strangers in Paradise's digest-sized paperbacks and head for the couch; you're in for a treat. Moore's clean, open Archie-Andrews-done-growed-up artwork draws you in, but its his girl-girl-guy love-triangle (which, over the course of the series' long and intricately constructed run, becomes a frickin' love-dodecahedron) and a plot laced with dark pasts, political intrigue and noirish thrills that keep you turning pages. A deservedly beloved series.

Runaways, by Brian K. Vaughn and Adrian Alphona

Cover of Runaways Volume I
Marvel Comics

Or maybe it turns out you are looking for a something a little lighter, a little more fun. Howsabout picking up the first few digest-sized volumes of this rich and character-driven superhero book? Upon learning that their parents are secretly murderous super-villains, six teenagers take it on the lam (but not before stealing some super-gear to protect themselves, including robo-hands, a staff of sinister magic, and a pet dinosaur). This smart, funny and high-stakes adventure(not all of the kids will make it out alive) is set in the Marvel Universe, and there are plenty of cameos for fans, but the guts of its story is self-contained. A good choice for someone looking to see what the super-hero fuss is about.

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