Movies & TV / Columns

Comics 411: Feel Good Comic Books To Read

March 2, 2022 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
Hawkeye Image Credit: Marvel Comics

Welcome back! I’m Steve Gustafson and if you enjoy discussing anything comic book related, you’ve come to the right place. Each week we cover something in the industry and I always enjoy your input in the comment section below.

Previously on…

Last time we discussed our Thoughts on Marvel’s Ghost Rider Relaunch Here’s what some of you had to say:

Be A Star: “I find Johnny Blaze’s backstory so hokey. He was a stunt cyclist for a carnival, gave his soul to help out his father figure, Crash Simpson? Yep, that sounds like a 70s comic. I always preferred Danny Ketch as Ghost Rider, just some kid who got caught up in some gang stuff, sister gets shot, he finds an abandoned cycle that gives him the power to become the Rider. Simple. With enough mystery to entice readers to come back each month. Then they over explained it and somehow this disqualifies Danny from being the lead Ghost Rider ever again? Lame. They should just ignore the Noble Kale stuff like they ignore Johnny’s carny past.

Al Lobama “ “I don’t get why Marvel always goes back to Johnny Blaze as Ghost Rider, as the original Volume I Ghost Rider series honestly isn’t very good (and this is coming from someone who loves Bronze Age Marvel Comics more than just about anything). Not to mention that every other Ghost Rider series they’ve launched since then with Johnny Blaze as the lead hasn’t lasted very long. I’m sure you can blame Brian Michael Bendis’s obsession with bringing back all of the ’70s characters he grew up with and loved as a kid for that in the early 2000’s, but why are they still doing that today when there are multiple other Ghost Riders out there that they could be focusing on instead?

In my opinion, Johnny Blaze worked better as a supporting character in Ghost Rider Volume II than he ever did as a lead in a solo series. Blaze as a normal guy with a family who escaped his curse but still mentored the new Ghost Rider and occasionally hopped back into the saddle during emergencies was a much more interesting portrayal of the character, but of course like all things that came out of Marvel in the early ’90s, they couldn’t leave well enough alone and gave us too much of a good thing until they eventually killed the golden goose.

The only way I could possibly be interested in the return of Johnny Blaze Ghost Rider is if it somehow led to the return of the original Champions line-up as well*, but even then I’d rather see Danny Ketch on the team instead.”

Benjamin Kellog: “Sounds a bit more like a premise for a Hulk book influenced by the Bill Bixby TV series… Anyway, I’m a bit more interested these days in the Robbie Reyes version, the one driving a Dodge “Hell” Charger and apparently becoming a de facto leader of the team in the “Avengers Forever” ongoing. His narrative is radically different from what Johnny and Danny usually go through, and it offers a bit more potential for redemption than what is seen in most Rider stories. Not to mention a new wrinkle added to his power set implies he can turn ANYTHING into a hellfire-fueled mount, which will doubtless generate even more crazy comic art.”

Great stuff and thank you to everyone who commented last week! Too many great comments to list so go and check it out! This week we discuss…

Feel Good Comic Books
With plenty of headlines to give you a headache or anxiety, isn’t it nice to escape, even for a little bit, to something a little bit lighter? That’s the beauty of comic books!

Like any list, what comic book you pick up to feel good is subjective. It could be something humorous, something serious, maybe a horror or even classic superhero story.

One of my go to books is Bone by Jeff Smith. It’s a pretty obvious choice and made even easier since I’ve introduced it to my kids recently. Seeing them delve into them was pretty cool and they clicked with the story and the characters. Fone Bone, Phoney Bone, and Smiley Bone and their exile from Boneville was all they talked about and when I told them it would eventually be made into a series, they cheered. For me, it boils down to the tale itself. Even while I was reading it the first time, I felt like I was reading a classic. Picking it up now is like reconnecting with old friends.

When I want to feel inspired visually, I grab The World of Edena, by Jean “Mœbius” Giraud. Something about that art just takes me to another place. This book plays to his strengths and delivers a mesmerizing trip. While interstellar investigators Stel and Atan are investigating a missing station and crew, they come across the mythical paradise planet of Edena. An artistic ballet that leaves you wanting more.

In need of a laugh? I Hate Fairyland by Skottie Young and Jean-Francois Beaulieu is my book to reach for. Is it high humor? Not even close and it’s obviously meant for those who still find immature humor funny. Guilty.

This next one might get some looks but Sex Criminals from Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky is a wild ride that can make you forget about just about anything. I don’t even know where to begin in describing it but will say it’s for mature audiences. See how I went from immature humor to mature reading?

Anyways a couple realize they can stop time when they do the ole vertical dance so they decide to rob a bank in order to save…a library. From there it explodes into a much larger world filled with sex police, explicitly shaped guns and so much more I can’t talk about.

If you want more from Fraction, his Hawkeye is always a good one to pick up and get away from the world for a while. Fun and funny.

Like Bone, another constant in my house is Astro City by Kurt Busiek, Brent Anderson, and Alex Ross. Since this series came out in 1995 I’ve been a faithful reader and have read and reread these stories over and over. The concept of giving superheroes a realistic edge isn’t new but the execution of Astro City is near-perfect. In fact, after I submit this, I’m diving into the adventures of Jack-in-the-Box, Winged Victory, and Samaritan.  

For pure fun that will make you smile and remind you why you love comics, grab The Superior Foes of Spider-Man. It’s just so well done and endearing. While we’re following the supervillain c-list, there’s so much charm in each page.

When I want some nostalgia, I can always pick up G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero from Larry Hama and Herbe Trimpe. Again, it checks all the boxes and was the book that really locked down my love for comic books. There’s something relaxing about watching the battle between the Joes and Cobra play out with a cast of colorful characters.

There you go! Share yours below!

That’s all the time I have. See you next week!