You want to explore other universes? Get under the skin of some weird, complicated, are-we-even-sure-they're-human people? Rekindle the love you once had for word balloons and illustrated drama? The comic books being published nowadays are a great place to do that. Here are twelve sequential series that will open you up to all sorts of awesome.
There are thousands of comic books coming out in digital and print form every week. People coming to the land of words-and-pictures-together might need help figuring out what they'd like. Even if you've been an ardent reader for decades, the thrill of a great new taste remains intoxicating. So, the staff at Kotaku have come up with a handful of ongoing comics series and miniseries that we think comics-curious folks would enjoy. Like the rest of the lists that we tag as "Bests," this will be a living, mutating compilation. And this particular dozen picks comes after much internal debate and soul-searching, just as we've done with our other Bests. Think we've done a grave injustice to a favourite series by leaving it off the list? Let us know — politely — in the comments below.
Who it's about: Kamala Khan, a Pakistani-American teenager who sneaks out one night, inhales a weird mist and wakes up with superpowers that let her change shape and size. After years of playing video games and writing superhero fan fiction, she decides to put on a costume herself.
Why we like it: Marvel Comics have a long, beloved tradition of speaking to the times in which they're created, with characters shot through foibles of all sorts. The newest heroine in the publisher's fictional universe continues that trend for the 21st century. She looks and sounds a teenager of the now: a child of immigrants and a fan of the fantastic fictions borne of nerd culture. For all her nerd savvy, she's still awed by the world-saving action she just become a part of, which lends Ms. Marvel much of its charm.
Start with this issue: Ms. Marvel #1. Ms. Marvel sits solidly in the superhero origin story template so readers should begin with the very first moments of Kamala's funny, bittersweet adventures.
Don't read it if you want: Cosmic spaceship battles or melodramatic space opera. So far, Kamala's battles have been grounded in a down-to-earth version of Jersey City. She might get to space one day, though.
Who it's about: Beautiful space humanoids Alana and Marko, who fell in love while fighting for opposite sides of long-running galactic war. They have given birth to a little girl and are trying to be the best parents they can be while on the run from bounty hunters and political operatives who want to capture or kill them.
Why we like it: Saga's biggest appeal is a prickly, temperamental cast of characters that each have fears, flaws and doubts a mile long. They're neurotic, hardheaded and horny, like people in the real world, but have magic spaceships, robot royal families and
Start with this issue: Saga #1. Everyone grows and changes in Saga and watching how the unpredictable spacewinds toss characters like Lying Cat, The Will and Hazel around is defnintely part of the fun.
Don't read it if you want: Grandiloquent bombast. Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples' craftmanship have created an understated universe and the naturalistic tone of the proceedings makes the sharp spikes of dramatic climax a guilty pleasure for everyone who reads Saga.
Who it's about: An fractious team of rogue scientists assembled by anarchist Grant McKay, caught in the blast of a malfunctioning construct that teleports them into foreign, hostile dimensions.
Why we like it: Each new world that Black Science's motley crew jumps to is a sharp little slice of Twilight Zone-style imagining. And the new journeys offer flashback insights into the personal failures fueling McKay's reality-piercing breakthrough, making writer Rick Remender's inversion of the familiar benevolent super-scientist archetype more compelling.
Start with this issue: Black Science #1. The series' first story arc starts right in the middle of things having gone wrong and ensuing issues let readers get to know the characters before and after their fateful first trip.
Don't read it if you want: Intricately explicated super-science. So far, Black Science hasn't gone that deep into the quantum physics undergirding its dimension-hopping, preferring to focus instead on the clashing personalities of the wayward crew.
Who it's about: Re-imagined versions of popular and obscure characters from DC Comics' vast ecosystem of alternate Earths, all connected by a haunted comic book and reckoning with the end of their respective worlds.
Why we like it: It's legendary writer Grant Morrison teaming up with best-in-class artists to do what he does best: pulling apart familiar superhero characters and tropes, reconfiguring them in cool ways and injecting them with huge doses of weirdness. The resulting mix of tones and milieus serve as a great reminder of why superhero comics have won the hearts of many over the decades.
Start with this issue: The Multiversity #1, because this is a crossover that consists of interlocking yet standalone installments. It's all going to come together soon and these chapters will no doubt be important for understanding the larger tapestry.
Don't read it if you want: A big publishing event that re-orders the entire DC Universe. While Morrison pays homage to the continuity resets of the past, Multiversity looks like it will be its own self-contained thing.
Who it's about: blind lawyer Matt Murdock, whose remaining senses were enhanced to superhuman levels after a childhood accident robbed him of his sight. His legal and superhero lives often intertwine, giving him a different vantage point on the Marvel Universe.
Why we like it: Because Mark Waid and Chris Samnee have found a wonderful balance between two of the character's most long-running interpretations. When he was first introduced, Daredevil was a devil-may-care, wisecracking crimefighter. Then in the 1980s, his personality and adventures became darker, increasingly violent and more emotionally volatile. The Daredevil that readers get today is more well-adjusted but just as dramatic.
Start with this issue: Daredevil #36 of the previous volume. It's the climactic issue that essentially wraps up Murdock's old status quo, summing up where he's been and setting up where he's going next in life.
Don't read it if you want: Grimdark superheroics and a tortured lead character. Waid's tenure on Daredevil has had its haunted moments but has largely kept the gloom once synonymous with Matt Murdock to a minimum.
Who it's about: Jon and Suzie, two lovelorn singles who hook up to suddenly find out that they have the same weird superpower: freezing time after they orgasm.
Why we like it: Because it pokes fun at how twisted society's messages about sex and relationships have become (and probably have always been), painting people into ridiculous corners. For every adolescent horndog moment that Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky splatter onto the page, they offer heartfelt counterpoints about how rare and fragile it feels to find completion in another person.
Start with this issue: Sex Criminals #1. Things feel like an Apatow-esque romantic comedy at first, complete with bathroom humour and randy outsiders. But it feels increasingly raw and real as the story goes on, exposing the characters in ways that are more meaningful than just getting them naked.
Don't read it if you want: Porn. This comic has sex in it and can feel sexy. But it's not exploitative, objectifying titillation. The appeal here is not just physical; it's also in seeing how if Jon and Suzie will be able to reconcile their different needs with each other.
The Wicked + The Divine
Who it's about: a pantheon of 12 pop stars who are reincarnated gods, all young adults fated to live only two years after the musical magic hits them. The chart-toppers become engulfed by drama after a mysterious conspiracy frames one of their own for murder.
Why we like it: It winks at the way the gap between celebrity adulation and religious worship has shrunk in our modern world, while giving us an alluring celestial reasoning for the recycling of pop-star archetypes.
Start with this issue: The Wicked + The Divine #1. Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie hook the reader with just a few intriguing musical deities at first but, with each new persona introduced, the gossipy, seductive feel of the pop/rock opera grows even stronger.
Don't read it if you want: Neatly scheduled plot payoffs. The Wicked + The Divine is more of a long-playing concept album than a collection of radio-ready singles. Things are developing slowly here, building to a crescendo that will probably be deafening.
Who it's about: Superman, along with Superman's childhood friend Lana Lang and superhero Steel as the main supporting cast. The series is mostly self-contained with only occasional crossovers to DC's other super-books.
Why we like it: DC's New 52 Superman launched well three years ago with the Grant Morrison-written Action Comics, but Morrison's departure and some poor work in the main Superman comic made the Kryptonian corner of the DC universe skippable. That changed when writer Greg Pak and artist Aaron Kuder took over Action for a run of freshly-told stories, including a rare-for-Superman horror arc that may be heavy on action but hit the character beats well. Kuder is an artist to watch. Many New 52 books are dreary. This one's fun and just about the line's best.
Start with this issue: Action Comics #25, the first of Pak and Kuder's run (or 26 to avoid the Batman crossover). Morrison's run from 1-18 is a great read, too.
Don't read if you want: a super-hero comic with quirk. This is a classic superhero comic, not a tonal experiment like the acclaimed New 52 Wonder Woman run by Azzarello and Chiang of Marvel's slew of offbeat darlings such as Ms. Marvel, Hawkeye and Daredevil.
Who it's about: a green-skinned female super-hero lawyer who has to do things like help Dr. Doom's son gain asylum in the U.S. and argue a case against Captain America, who has Daredevil as his lawyer.
Why we like it: It is smart, funny and written by an actual lawyer, rising star Charles Soule.
Start with this issue: She-Hulk #1. The book is getting cancelled at issue 12, the full dozen telling a great season of stories that somewhat tie together.
Don't read if you want: more punching and less talking.
Who it's about: Mick Moran, a shlumpy news photographer whose troubled dreams reveal that he's actually the secret identity of a decades-dormant hyper-powerful hero called Miracleman.
Why we like it: Miracleman is one of the founding texts of 1980s superhero comics, one that helped start the trend of deconstructing long-accepted elements of cape-and-tights mythologies. Like, "why ever go back to pretending to be human when you can be so much more?"
Start with this issue: Miracleman #1. It's been out of print for more than twenty years so you should really read Alan Moore's long-lost work from the beginning.
Don't read it if you want: A PG-13 version punching-and-flying metahuman battles. The physical and psychological ultraviolence in Miracleman tries to show what the damage of superhero existence would really wreak on ordinary peoples' lives. It's ugly to look at sometimes.
Who it's about: Marvel's most screwed-up super-hero team, a group of broken people whose secrets are best discovered by reading the series.
Why we like it: Writer Si Spurrier writes some of the most refreshing super-hero books around, breaking genre conventions as he tells stories that seldom go where you'd expect starring a cast of characters you'll be surprised to find yourself caring about. This is pretty dense reading for a super-hero comic, rewarding those who backtrack and find clues seeded early in the run.
Start with this issue: X-Force #1. As with Spurrier's similarly superb X-Men Legacy (a book about a mere two broken heroes), not enough people dug this great book, so it looks like it will be gone soon.
Don't read it if you want: Something quick. Individual issues stand out, but this is best taken in as a slow read, several issues at a time.
Who it's about: Some pretty rough people in Craw County, Alabama where high school football is religion and the cops won't stop the guy with Rebel tattooed across his throat from beating someone to death.
Why we like it: Writer Jason Aaron may write good super-hero and Star Wars comics, but his grittier, more realistic tales are his best. What his dark, magnificent Scalped was for life on a Native American reservation, Southern Bastards is for the Deep South.
Start with issue: Southern Bastards #1. And don't peek ahead. Trust us.
Don't read it if you want: something cheerful. Aaron is telling some grimy, painful stories, drenched in blood and BBQ sauce.