My three fellow Ladies have all shared three of their favorite comics series, so it’s high time I did the same. Many of the comics I enjoy come out infrequently, have gone on hiatus, or ended already, but that just means you can catch up or enjoy the entire story in convenient collected form.
Leave It To Chance
Plot – Fourteen-year-old Chance Falconer is the daughter of the renowned protector of Devil’s Echo, a city crawling with magical and supernatural beings. Chance is eager to follow in her dad’s footsteps and isn’t about to let his refusal to train her as the city’s next guardian stop her.
Why you should read it – Even if this sort of urban fantasy, magical creatures in the real world story is something you’ve seen before, you’ve seldom seen it executed so well. The magical aspects of Leave It To Chance are beautifully incorporated into the world of the comic while still retaining all the menace and wonder you’d expect to feel when the classic Hollywood monsters come out of the movie screen and start attacking people. Chance herself is a fantastic heroine: brave, smart, and resourceful. While her father’s refusal to train her simply because she is a girl does figure into the story, it doesn’t dominate the narrative or even make him an unlikeable character. Paul Smith’s appealing artwork is a perfect fit with James Robinson’s top-notch writing.
Leave It To Chance ended after just twelve regular issues and a double sized thirteenth. Two of these have never been collected, but once you get hooked on the series, you’ll want to track them down.
Bonus – Chance’s pet dragon, St. George. Fans of Kitty Pride’s pint-sized purple pal Lockheed will definitely enjoy having another miniature dragon to love.
Plot – With no knights in shining armor coming to her aid, Jain saves herself by escaping from an abusive home to the legendary safe haven of Castle Waiting.
Why you should read it – The Red Menace already covered this one in her Great Comics for Kids post, but it’s an equally good read for adults. The series has been described as a feminist take on fairy tales, the story of what happens after “happily ever after,” and any number of other things that are certainly true, but can’t sum up everything that makes this series such a joy to read. The focus is on character rather than action, with each issue revealing new details about the denizens of the titular castle through flashback, storytelling, and the day-to-day happenings around the castle. Linda Medley’s artwork alone makes the book worth reading and her style – reminiscent of classic children’s book illustration, complements and enhances the story.
The publication schedule for Castle Waiting is somewhat irregular, but that just gives you more time to catch up on the two tomes of stories that are currently available.
Bonus – You don’t have to be familiar with the fairy tales Medley is referencing to enjoy Castle Waiting, but if you are, it’s an added layer of fun. The stories Medley alludes to range from the well-known to the incredibly obscure. St. Wilgerfortis the patron saint of bearded women, for example, is a “real” saint created by a misinterpretation of a piece of artwork depicting an unusually feminine Jesus.
Plot – Usagi is a samurai rabbit. After his master falls in battle, Usagi wanders through a feudal Japan populated by anthropomorphic animals, creatures of legend, and no end of adventure. (The title can be translated as either “Usagi the Bodyguard” or “Rabbit Bodyguard.”)
Why you should read it – I’m nowhere near caught up with Usagi, but seeing Stan Sakai give a talk recently reminded me how great this series is. Sakai is a master cartoonist and his appealing artwork makes every issue a pleasurable read. But what really sets Sakai apart from so many other comics creators influenced by Japan’s past and culture is his attention to historical detail. The series contains enough real facts about life in feudal era Japan to fill a textbook, though it’s all in service of the story, so it never feels like you’re reading a textbook. Usagi also avoids some of the common pitfalls of “funny animal” comics; it’s neither strictly for kids nor desperate to prove that it’s not through gratuitous violence (though there’s plenty of violence) or sex (though it’s at least implied). Over the 27 collected books worth of stories, Usagi’s adventures have ranged from classic samurai battles to short comedies to thoughtful character pieces to encounters with a young Godzilla. Yet somehow, it all still feels like part of the same world and remains a joy to read with every issue.
Usagi Yojimbo has been on hiatus for a while, but there’s plenty to read in anticipation of the upcoming miniseries, in which Usagi and his friends go up against the aliens from H.G. Wells War of the Worlds.
Bonus –Gen, a rhinoceros bounty hunter and sometimes comrade-in-arms of Usagi, is one of my favorite characters. Gen’s cynical attitude and pursuit of personal gain are often a refreshing contrast to quintessential samurai Usagi. Despite his apparent selfishness, Gen is a skilled warrior and a loyal friend, though he’s not above finding ways out of paying for his share of the meal when the bill shows up.