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Longer comics series

Some recommendations for those interested in something longer lasting than a graphic novel:

Usagi Yojimbo - a heartfelt exploration of a society long gone by a masterful Japanese cartoonist, Stan Sakai, who has spent almost his whole life in Hawaii; deceptively simple and cartoonish on first glance, the art and storytelling share a strong sense of economy rare to comics; Sakai is an award winning letter, and his inking is some of the best in the business; 22 volumes and counting

Vagabond - perhaps the best comic being published anywhere today, this manga follows the lives of Miyamoto Mushashi, wandering swordsman, and his contemporaries (with a particular interest in two of his childhood friends); the art effortlessly slips between bold brush strokes to light line work, or watercolours to black and white; the layouts and transitions from panel to panel are excellent; the fight scenes progress logically and show a surprisingly realistic understanding of both the mental and physical sides of conflict; a joy to read, everything about the series gets better as it goes along; 29 volumes and still going

Blade of the Immortal - a sometimes cynical, sometimes sentimental story of revenge and redemption focused on a young teen girl whose parents have been murdered and the immortal swordsman, whom she convinces to help her; the 22 volume drops in January

Cerebus - an odd, absurd, surreal parody of anything and everything Dave Sims could think of, but especially of comicbooks; at turns serious and intellectual, at turns completely farcical, each book is a dense read, and there are something like 30 volumes

Hellboy & BPRD - perfect for when you feel like curling up with a ghost story; I've lost track of how many books there are in these series, but it's over a dozen combned

Kane - Paul Grist delivers some of the best crime genre work in contemporary comics; his layouts are fantastic, and the art's not shabby, either; may be out of print in the US, but still available on the used circuit, often at descent rates

Madman - the pop-art action series that launched Mike Allred's career; good, quirky fun

Preacher - its convoluted plot and sophomoric, angst ridden anti-Christian bent aside (and, being an atheist, I am well acquainted with such rants), this series is highly entertaining for those with a dark sense of humour and a taste for a bit of gore

Berserk - at one time, this was the best manga being published; a heady adventure series which starts with a dark and disturbed world run by monsters, then shows how things got to that point, while following a youthful band of highly successful mercenaries

GrimJack - a genre bending work set in Cynosure, the nexus of all realities, and following John Gaunt, an aging badass who works as something of a private detective out of the back of a bar; classic work recently revisited by John Ostrander and Tim Truman

American Flagg - newly back in print, this was Howard Chaykin's big break, and he went for it, envisioning a corporatist future engulfed in violence and vice; its hard edges are softened by a pulpy sense of humour

Conan - high adventure of all sorts written and drawn by some of the best

Nexus - Baron and Rude's ongoing masterpiece follows a man given mysterious powers and driven (by visions and headaches) to execute mass murderers throughout the galaxy; deals in politics, romance, espionage, and comedy, as well as action

Love and Rockets - perhaps the definitive black and white alternative collection, the Hernandez brothers form a drama spanning countries and generations; balanced between pulpy and sometimes soap-operish tendencies, and a real care for humans as living, breathing, feeling individuals

The Flaming Carrot - following Wally Wood's Plastic Man, this is the next step in semi-surreal comics action; a hard boiled parody featuring a hero whose mask is a giant, flaming carrot

American Splendor - real life tales and reflections from a very interesting and intelligent author

The Goon - ridiculous thirties pulp action involving the mob, zombies, giant robots, and sundry animals

Independent authors many of whose works may as well be series:

Jason - a minimalist with a strong sense of story, and real feeling for his subjects

Will Eisner - one of the early masters and innovators of the medium remained among the best until his death a few years ago

Paul Hornschemeier - at turns poetic, absurd, and touching, Hornschemeier has written some of the best comics of this decade, especially Mother Come Home, which stands as one of my favourite works of literature in any genre

Joe Sacco - comics' best journalist and historian; his art, writing, and layouts are all distinctive; he has an eye for engaging characters, and a mind made for exploring their personalities


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