This week, I’m trying something different. Summer blockbuster season is upon us; I love going to the movies, and my tastes are a little more diverse this year than in years past. I find myself seeing a bunch of films with a bunch of different people.
So, this week, I’m going to take a look at four very different cinema experiences of summer 2014, and recommend a graphic novel that pairs well with each. Think of this as a gateway drug, friends; if you have a pal who liked one of these movies, pass ’em a copy of one of these graphic novels and they just might be hooked for good. As always, all of these are available at your local comic shop, via Amazon, or on the Comixology app on your computer and smartphone.
If you liked The Fault in Our Stars:
Yeah, I saw it. Yeah, I cried. Yeah, I’m not ashamed. Okay? Okay. While I think it’s a bold and foolish misstep to slavishly compare the film to its book of origin, as many reviews did, there’s a lot that the movie gets right and streamlines for cinematic effect. John Green’s novel becomes a gallop-paced exploration of youth, love, revolt, cynicism, disease, and parenting, all at once. It’s not our generation’s Terms of Endearment; it’s the closest thing we’ve got to a latter-day John Hughes movie. With that in mind…
Try Pedro and Me.
Judd Winnick is a cartoonist who rose to fame in the early ’90s as a cast member on The Real World: San Francisco. His roommate, Pedro Zamora, was among the first representations of fully-realized gay men on television, and his living with AIDS–and what it meant for his housemates–was dealt with head-on. Pedro died days after the season finished airing, and Judd used his talents to craft a beautiful graphic novel about a friendship that arrived easily and ended too soon. It’s goofy and sweet, and love shows up in unexpected places. When I first read this book a decade ago, I unashamedly laughed and snorted my way through a three-hour train ride…and then wept inconsolably. This is a novel about how illness limits life and makes it important. There’s real joy in it. And it will make you examine your friendships, what you have, and what you stand to lose in different ways. Pedro and Me was nominated for a Pulitzer the year it was published, and Judd’s gone on to create several successful animated series and write a whole slew of mainstream comics. But this–this remains his real gem. And it’ll hit you in the same places and make you glad for this world just like The Fault in Our Stars did.
If you liked Captain America: The Winter Soldier:
Well, this is a cheat. It’s one of two bona fide comic book successes of the summer thus far (I’m counting X-Men and ignoring Spidey) and that’s a pretty easy transition. But Cap is different; this wasn’t a normal fights and tights superhero film; it owed a lot more to Tom Clancy and the Jason Bourne films than you’d expect at first glance. It’s a thriller about betrayals, legacies, the Cold War, and patriotism–it just happens to have a central character who dresses up like a flag and throws a titanium dinner plate. So…
Terry Moore followed up his sweeping LGBT romantic comedy Strangers in Paradise with this sci-fi conspiracy thriller about two women, a secret government experiment, and a rain of silver particles over the desert one day that sort of kills one of them and bonds them together. To say anything more would be telling; this is a great, ripping yarn that feels a little bit like Orphan Black without the occasional goofiness. The art is simple and gorgeous, and Terry Moore (a guy, in case you were wondering) writes the very best women in just about any medium. This a great story.
If you liked Edge of Tomorrow:
We all say we’re tired of seeing the same action movie dressed up a little differently and shoved down our throats; well, we were given a truly different action flick in this film, and great performances, savvy writing, clean direction, and a unique and fun plot couldn’t save it at the box office. That makes me sad. That said, this science fiction modern classic had a real and lively beating heart, and took its Groundhog Day trappings and applied them in cool ways that got the audience invested and paid off in deeply satisfying ways.
Try The Manhattan Projects.
Jonathan Hickman is a mad genius; he’s like the current incarnation of Alan Moore, with bold and ballsy ideas and a wicked sense of humor. When he’s not architecting the big hits of the Marvel Universe these days, his new book over at Image is a darkly funny twist on scientists working undercover and underground after World War II, with a whole bunch of alternate history, crazy science ideas, evil twins, and the fate of the world hanging in the balance. You’ll laugh, you’ll wince, you’ll cheer, you’ll think. This is a great read.
If you liked 22 Jump Street:
Seriously, who expected 21 Jump Street to be as good as it was? Its sequel is even better, with head-on comedy, great supporting bits, and heaping loads of fun.
In a world where the bird flu killed over 20 million people, Tony Chu is a hard-hearted cop with a superpower: when he eats meat, he gets a psychic impression of the life of the living thing he’s eaten. Anyway, he gets fired from the Philly PD and his talents get him hired by the FDA, and things just get weird from there. He’s basically a cannibal cop in a world where nothing makes sense. It’s also set in a really goofy version of Philadelphia. It’s imaginative and cooky, and full of surprising and crazy oddball humor.
This week’s picks:
Graphic Novel of the Week: Glory: The Complete Saga
Back in the 90s, Rob Liefeld, famously brash artist of X-books and an Image founder, created Glory as basically a large-chested, tiny-footed Wonder Woman rip-off. Well, Joe Keatinge and Ross Campbell took the property and the basic idea and turned it on its ear into a fun, flippant, and engaging story of a warrior lost in time, tied to her family and struggling with a world that she doesn’t completely understand. In short, they created the best Wonder Woman story of the last ten years, without Wonder Woman in it. Bold stuff.
Single Issue of the Week: Sex Criminals #6.
I’ve raved about this book before, about a pair of lovers whose orgasms stop time, and their plan to use their powers to rob banks. I’ve waited months for the continuation of this story; it’s going to be great. And don’t blink, or you might miss a Morrissey cameo…
That’s all for now, folks. Let me know what you like. See you soon. Comics
Jonathan is the founding editor of the Jersey Arts Culture Vultures Blog, where he produced weekly coverage of New Jersey’s not-for-profit arts events and published interviews with: Steve Martin, Junot Diaz, the Lumineers, Joan Osborne, Alan Menken, and over a hundred more national arts personalities. He has written pieces for Americans for the Arts and currently serves as theater critic for US1. He is the co-creator of the made-for-web series NeverLanding, and covers TV for Cinema Blend. His play Forward Motion is available for purchase and production via Playscripts.