We’re back! Hello, everyone, and welcome to the triumphant return of Quintessential Comics! It’s been awhile (almost a year!), so I figured what better way to get back into the swing of things than to do a list of some of the best reads of 2019. We’ve got Batman! We’ve got magic! We’ve got talking foxes in the Midwest?! Well, you’re about to find out. Let’s get into it.
First up is a spin-off of the popular Dark Nights: Metal series. Written by Scott Snyder, the Dark Nights series accomplished something that I never thought was possible: it made Batman even more dark. Not that Batman was all sunshine and rainbows before, but when you take his character and create a slew of evil re-imaginings of him based on some of his closest allies and friends, it gets pretty rough. The Batman Who Laughs might be the most twisted character born from that idea. He is an amalgam of Bruce Wayne and, arguably, his greatest foe: The Joker. An obsession with chaos combined with the focus and abilities of Batman make The Batman Who Laughs a force to be reckoned with. In his own run, he forces Bruce to contend with his inner demons and own dark impulses in ways that begs the question: What makes Batman, well, Batman? Don’t miss your chance to find out in this series.
Leaving behind the darker tones of our first installment, we find ourselves settling into the more serene blue palettes of “Bloom.” A capture of the summer fling between Ari and Hector, this graphic novel is rife with romance and explores the duo’s goals and aspirations. Amidst the tumult of emotions and a bakery store backdrop, you’ll find yourself won over by the depth of character the two possess, as well as how very human their stories are. Complete with an edgy high-school band, this visit with the dream-like era that is youth will leave you yearning for the carefree times of yesteryear.
This ongoing series from writer Kieron Gillen (“The Wicked + The Divine“) is something truly neat. Here’s the premise: A group of 40-somethings must contend with the evil that they barely survived as young tabletop RPG players. Described by Gillen himself as a “Goth Jumanji,” this addition is a savory blend of fantasy and horror that fleshes out its characters through sharing their past traumatic experiences. With its fair share of surprises, conflict, and shocking realizations, “Die” is sure to grab hold of you and keep you close. Besides, it has some serious “It” vibes that you just can’t pass up.
Here we have a coming of age story by Skottie Young. Adolescence can be a terrifying ordeal for some. Whether your youth was filled with strife, or more picturesque, there exist certain commonalities between childhoods that tether us all to one another. These formative years end up defining us whether we realize it or not. “Middlewest” attempts to address some of the harsher realities of growing up in this tale that draws from other dark fantasy works such as “Grimm’s Fairy Tales“ or something from the Don Bluth era of animated films. Our young protagonist, Abel, must contend with the difficulty of being the son to an abusive father. In an attempt to escape from this life, he embarks on a journey of self-discovery with his fox companion, all the while attempting to avoid a sentient storm that knows him by name. For a story based in real experiences highlighted by the fantastical, this one does nicely.
Why not wrap this thing up with some good ole’ fashioned Dungeons and Dragons? “The Adventure Zone”, originally a podcast from the guys behind “My Brother, My Brother and Me,” has gone graphic! Graphic novel that is. Follow the exploits of lovable characters Taako, Magnus and Merle as they stumble their way through their second perilous campaign! I hope you’re ready for some spooky factor, because this one is a murder mystery! Kid detectives, professional wrestlers and meat monsters, oh, my!