Funnybook Babylon

April 6, 2007

Funnybooks fans of Lost would love!

Filed under: Articles — Gabe Mariani @ 2:00 pm

Well, here’s another experiment with this format. I was a big fan of Lost when it first premiered, and even though I think it’s fallen off lately, I still enjoy a lot of the plot devices and storytelling techniques they used. Here’s a couple series I think have that same “Lost formula” – intertwining character and plot threads with some science fiction thrown in here or there to keep things interesting. So this week’s column is a list of Funnybooks fans of Lost would love!

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I’m sure everyone has heard about this series: a weekly comic book running for a year that’s co-written by funnybook greats Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka and Mark Waid. It’s a tour of the DC Universe, exploring street level problems, the magical and science-fiction realms, and even includes global politics. The art is hit or miss, but it’s batting around .800 at this point in the series. Most issues include backups about DC characters that you may or may not enjoy, depending on what you’re looking for. At this point, it’ll probably be better to wait for the trade (which won’t include the backups).

52 follows a half-dozen or so plot threads through a year in the DC Universe. There are some that drop off for a while only to be picked up later, and some are prominent throughout the book, but they’re all pretty interesting. As I mentioned, there’s enough diversity in this series’ settings and themes to keep everyone interested. The characters are the backbone of this series, though – you care about what they’re going through and want to see them make it out ok.

Like Lost, there are also tons of little clues to pick up on and sort through, which will have you frantically trying to cobble together your best guess for the story before the rug’s pulled out again. The authors planned everything out from the beginning, so there are no mistakes in either art or writing: almost everything you see serves a purpose and can be a clue. There’s also some heavy allegory to ancient mythology. The layers of evidence to choose from go pretty deep.

It’s set up to run pretty much like a TV show, and even steals the real-time gimmick from 24, which works better in some parts than others. While 52 is steeped in DC continuity, I think newcomers to the series shouldn’t be intimidated, because the writers have worked to make it very accessible, explaining all the necessary information with aplomb.

The trades start being released on May 2nd (5/2, get it?).

Seven Soldiers
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Seven Soldiers is Grant Morrison’s latest masterpiece in the DC Universe. I know you’re thinking “again with the mainstream continuity!” but I assure you, this series is even more newbie-friendly than 52. Made up of seven underused heroes in DC, this series serves as an introduction to these characters as they are used to sew together a much larger story.

The series’ structure might seem a little odd to most funnybook fans: it’s seven miniseries numbered 1 through 4, but that’s not the order you read them in. Don’t worry; the trade sorts it all out for you. It’s like Lost in that way: each “episode” focuses on a different characters’ story and gives you a little more information about the overarching story. Unlike Lost, however, you only get one character per book, usually.

And that’s the beauty of the series. All these individual “soldiers” never meet, but they are all working together to defeat the villain of this series. If you’re smart, you will start picking up connections and relations a couple issues in, and by the end, you might even have some idea of how this unlikely, impossible team comes together to defeat the villain. When you get to the last issue where everything is laid out, it’s pretty amazing how tightly interwoven these miniseries were.

The organization of the series is so remarkable that it almost takes the spotlight when it comes to the overall work, even though the individual funnybooks are very focused on their protagonists. It takes a while to absorb everything, and when it’s finished, you will probably have to go back and pick out things you missed the first time. That’s one of the best parts of the series. Beautifully illustrated by greats such as JH Williams III, Ryan Sook, Simone Bianchi, and Doug Mahnke, each funnybook is a visual masterpiece. It’s much more pleasing to look at than Lost. I’ll take Zatanna over Evangeline Lilly any day.

Y: The Last Man
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When I first thought up this column, Y was the first series that popped into my head. I think it’s the funnybook most like Lost being published right now, and perhaps that’s why Brian K Vaughan was invited to work on the writing crew. Illustrated mostly by Pia Guerra, Y: the Last Man has very well rendered characters to go along with the wide variety of settings she’s called on to draw, from Tokyo to freighters on the sea to occasional space station visits.

The main concept of Y: The Last Man (a disease wipes out every male mammal on the planet instantly [except for one {and his helper monkey}]) is pretty science-fictiony, but it’s very subtle, just like it is on Lost. It’s only the main focus of a couple issues here or there, and like Lost, it has some pretty silly explanations that you ignore because the overall quality of the series is very good. There are some other very interesting parts that involve science, but they are few and far between, and much more interesting than the explanation behind the initial disease.

Y is also very character-driven. Over the course of the series, we get to know the main characters very well, and are given flashbacks into their previous lives with some regularity (sound like anything familiar?). We’re even given background on secondary characters that play important roles in the series as it progresses, and are given updates on them as they become important again. Vaughan will get you very attached to the characters and then do terrible things to them, but you still love him for it.

The series is also pretty famous for its cliffhanger endings. While it’s not packed with clues like your average episode of Lost is, the surprises Vaughan throws at the reader make up for not being able to predict every single plot point. The trades are available for good prices, and we’re quickly approaching issue 60, where Vaughan has always planned to end the series.

And speaking of planned endings, that’s about it for this week. Hope you enjoy the recommendations, and see you next time.


  1. This is the best one yet, man. Good one.

    Comment by david brothers — April 6, 2007 @ 8:23 pm

  2. Really? 52? I guess I may have to stop ignoring it since everyone I know is into it…

    Comment by Joseph Mastantuono — April 7, 2007 @ 8:42 am

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