Remember, there is no better way to remind ourselves that we are fucked than by reliving alternative, horrific scenarios vicariously through fiction. Here are some comics to take you to a better (or worse) place come November 8.
Warren Ellis, Darick Robertson
Becoming ever more prescient with each passing day, Spider Jerusalem’s jaunt through the filthy alt-history America read more like an over-the-top satire than a prediction of the future when it was first released nearly 20 years ago. But look at where we are! Rejoice, this is what we’ve come to!
Spider’s particularly bonkers journalism (or, too-gonzo-for-gonzo) rankles the incumbent President known as the Beast, but soon the series propositions a new villain for our fearless writer to tackle: a sociopathic candidate nicknamed the Smiler.
Jerusalem is one of many memorable protagonists created by Warren Ellis, rendered beautifully by Darick Robertson. This book launched Robertson into the upper echelon of comic artists working today and should be mentioned alongside Vertigo classics like Watchmen, Preacher, and Sandman.
The Dark Knight Strikes Again
Frank Miller, Lynn Varley
Frank Miller’s off-the-rails sequel to his own classic Dark Knight Returns defies logic with every page. TMZ-like commentary carries through, continuing the 24-hour news cycle of the last series with heavier approach. But while the original series was truly a Batman story, DKSA attempts to speak of his importance to the DC publishing line at large — a true stab at “Batman Saves The World.”
It’s a ridiculous, over-the-top, and paranoid take on good versus evil, attempting to bring every major DC hero into one incoherent storyline about a new mystery Joker, a deformed President Lex Luthor, Wonder Woman and Superman having Super Wonder Sex in the sky for a few pages, and a god-like Green Lantern who may as well call himself Deus Ex MacGuffin.
And now for the low-hanging fruit: The art is pretty damn bad. Look at that. Shudder.
East of West
Jonathan Hickman, Nick Dragotta
For having one of the bleakest premises of all these listed series, East of West might be the most optimistic of them. Hickman and Dragotta teamed up for a few excellent Marvel comics (including the excellent FF #17, in which the Human Torch moves in with Spider-Man and turns his life to shit) before starting their Image epic about the humble beginnings of the apocalypse.
The Four Horsemen rise to initiate the end of everything in an alternate-reality version of North America segregated into six countries: the Endless Nation, the Kingdom of New Orleans, the People’s Republic, the Union, the Confederacy, and Texas. But then Death falls in love, betrays his siblings, gets murdered, and is resurrected for revenge just in time to see the world fall apart.
Mixing its own mythos with a twisted, cultish perversion of Christian-Judeo texts, East of West embraces the apocalypse with a sense of open arms that invites the next world that will inevitably rise from the ashes.
Days of Future Past
Chris Claremont, John Byrne
One of Marvel’s original post-apocalyptic jaunts and a classic later adapted into film, this is just one of many great stories in Claremont and Byrne’s foundation-laying run. Mystique wants to kill a U.S. Senator and forms the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants to achieve said goal (not to be confused with Magneto’s Brotherhood of Evil Mutants despite the many crossovers in membership).
The story (released in 1981) jumped forward in time to a dystopian 2013, where mutants were routinely registered, incarcerated, and executed for the simple crime of existing. The adult version of Kitty Pryde survives these horrors to send her consciousness back to the “present day” to stop Mystique from killin— wait, you’ve probably seen the movie. So you know how it goes.
The comic’s plot is pretty much the exact same. Unless you’re one of those nitpicking, continuity-obsessed assholes, because we are too and you’re so goddamn right, Bryan Singer doesn’t understand the X-Men franchise and should totally put himself in self-imposed exile. Aside from that, the comic hones in on the extreme racial and class divides between humans and mutants, interwoven with a dystopian future where the mutant-hunting sentinels have nearly eliminated mutants, placing them in camps.
Y: The Last Man
Brian K. Vaughn, Pia Guerra
In a world where Y-chromosomes become endangered and (nearly) all male mammals die off in an instant, two dudes survive: Yorick and his pet monkey, Ampersand. They begin to navigate the new society in the wake of man’s departure, as new hierarchies and infrastructures are installed.
Pia Guerra is a skilled storyteller, using fine and deliberate linework to create a familiar world just one disaster away from our own. The collaboration with Brian K. Vaughn launched both careers into higher echelon status, but this remains one of Guerra’s most memorable comics to date.
The comic covers interesting ground, especially as different factions form and learn of Yorick and Ampersand’s presence and wonder what it might mean. Do they reverse the disaster, if they can? Or maybe just harvest the “material” they need to keep procreating?
The Omega Men
Tom King, Barnaby Bagenda
Comics' newest darling Tom King burst on the scene with Grayson and some varying contributions at DC, but his once-canceled-then-revived series The Omega Men turned the most heads.
Originally conceived as a 12-issue maxiseries spinning out of the DC You initiative, low sales caused editorial to cancel the comic at #6. Fans were outraged, DC backtracked, and The Omega Men completed its story unimpeded and as intended. A sci-fi high-concept take on ISIS, oil, and the Middle East, it stars Kyle Rayner as the Omega Lantern who willingly relinquishes his powerful ring so that he could investigate the sovereign space of the Vega System.
Vega has barred all Green Lanterns from policing its planets in an arrangement with the Lanterns' superiors, the Guardians of the Universe. Because of this deal, regular atrocities are committed by the government in the routine mining of a powerful mineral native to their system. Uprising, propaganda, perspective, and the inevitable evil within all men — The Omega Men examines these ideas with deft layouts in a 9-panel grid. It’s an execution of form that deserves to rest alongside DC classics such as Swamp Thing, Animal Man, Watchmen, or All-Star Superman.
Mike Russell, Ben Caldwell
While Prez was originally announced as a 12-issue series as well, alongside The Omega Men in the DC You initiative, it was canceled after #6. Unlike The Omega Men, it never made a glorious comeback, and is instead wrapping its satirized look at politics in the age of social media with a short backup in this November’s Catwoman: Election Special.
Viral sensation Beth Ross, a.k.a. Corndog Girl, hits the zeitgeist in the middle of election season, and due to the increasingly antagonistic gridlocked two-party system, she becomes the write-in candidate of choice. She is elected President of the United States as a teenager.
Prez approaches the most ridiculous (and illuminating) aspect of mud-slinging campaigning we’ve come to know and love. Mike Russell’s shown he’s a great satirist, using salient and observant humor to destroy the systems we’re so used to. Fans of this should check out his wonderful work on the Flintstones.
Charles Soule, Alberto Jiménez Alburquerque
President-elect Stephen Blades knew he was inheriting a ton of problems in the wake of his predecessor leaving office. The former president apparently ran the country into the ground, serving up a record-low approval rating with disastrous policies. And now it’s Blades' turn, having just been elected to clean up his predecessor’s mess. But mere hours before the inauguration, he reads the letter the former President left for him, which informs him that everything he’s done has been toward preserving a horrifying secret and in service of the country’s greater good.
Because thousands of miles away from Earth, aliens have arrived in our solar system and are apparently building something. Probably a weapon. And all of the “awful” policies he’s put in place has been preparation for this potential threat. So, what does the newly elected President Blades do now?
Warren Ellis, Terese Nielsen, Cliff Nielsen, Chris Moeller
Probably the most batshit insane concept Marvel has printed to paper since the White Event of 1987, Ruins could essentially be referred to as “Warren Ellis shits on the Marvel Universe.”
While Alex Ross and Kurt Busiek turned heads with the prestige miniseries called Marvels — a fantastical retelling of the earliest days of the Marvel Universe and its greatest champions — Ellis teamed with Terese Nielsen, Chris Moeller, and Cliff Nielsen for its pessimistic counterpart.
Ruins is a world in which Murphy’s Law is baked into the physics of the universe, a depressing place where radioactive spider bites result in horrifying deformities instead of superpowers. There are no heroes, just awful ends to otherwise fantastic origin stories. Ruins is the perfect story for a person reaching that apoplectic, indignant regard for all these fucking superhero stories.
Judge, jury, and executioner? And here we thought SB 1070 never went through! In a parallel world, however …
Many amazing, prolific creators have carved out their own space in Mega City One within the anthology pages of 2000 AD. John Wagner’s creation has stood the test of time for nearly 40 years, resulting in two film adaptations that found varying degrees of success (that new one with Karl Urban is badass).
A statement on authoritarianism and martial law, Dredd is a protagonist not to be revered. His flawed ideology and dedication to a class system which thrives on the poverty of its citizens isn’t something to praise. But the character can be used as a lens through which to examine such themes and their follies.
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