Best comic books?

This weekend I swapped comic book recommendations with a few folks. Today I was emailing someone a few of my favorites and thought “I should just put this up on the blog.”

So to call out a few comics I’ve enjoyed:
Sandman – the classic Neil Gaiman books that make it “okay” to be a comic book fan for me.
Transmetropolitan – a gonzo journalist in a 21st century Gibson-esque world.
Powers – about how police and the rest of the world might deal with people with superpowers.
Fables – wonderful graphic novels about a world where fairy tales bump up against our world.
Lucifer – originally a spinoff from Sandman, but satisfying in its own right. It’s about the devil.

By the way, I recently went through a phase of finding some fun web comics. At the risk of sending folks down a deep rabbit hole, consider these links as starting points:

Stand Still – Stay Silent
Hamlet’s Danish
Cyanide and Happiness
Loading Artist
Berkeley Mews

How about you–what comics or web comics do you like? Certainly stuff like xkcd or Penny Arcade can be fun, but I’d be interested to hear about things off the beaten path a bit.

Book Review: Skinner

On balance, I’m already a Charlie Huston fan. My previous favorite book by Huston is Already Dead, which is a hard-boiled noir novel about vampires in the New York underground. I didn’t care for the rest of the trilogy quite as much, but Huston is high on the list of authors I enjoy.

I’m not sure why it took me so long to pick up Huston’s new book, Skinner, but I’m glad I did. The plot is “20 minutes into the future” stuff–really fresh allusions to recent events abound. But unlike almost every other recent novel about a dystopian future, there’s a liminal glow of hope. I am truly ready for a dystopia backlash, and Skinner has some of that energy along with underpinnings of optimism.

Skinner is very William Gibson-esque, in a good way. As a connoisseur of Gibson, I’d say Huston’s book isn’t early Gibson like Neuromancer–we don’t get that very often, and maybe that time has passed. It’s mid-Gibson: think Pattern Recognition. There’s even a character in Skinner that specializes in teasing out patterns from data like in Pattern Recognition.

What’s different from Gibson is the main character, Skinner, who was raised in a Skinner box. Because of his childhood, Skinner has several special skills, as well as a lot of emotional baggage. I’ll leave it at that. One other difference is that in recent books like Spook Country, I feel like Gibson spent most of the book building up to a single big finale. In contrast, Skinner has a pretty consistent number of fun ideas and action throughout the entire book.

I’d recommend Skinner if you like Gibson, Stephenson, or Swierczynski. And if you enjoy Skinner, you might enjoy The Informationist or Daniel Suarez or Ramez Naam.