From Star Wars to X-Men, here are 7 graphic novels to read during the MCO

From Star Wars to X-Men, if you're looking for something to read while staying home during the MCO, check out these graphic novels.

Amid the anxiety surrounding the Covid-19 crisis and and the movement control order (MCO) in Malaysia, one good thing to come out of it is that I finally have time to read the trade paperback and hardcovers editions of comics that I have accumulated at home.

So, if you are looking for something good to read while staying at home and observing the MCO, here are some suggestions of books that you may be able to order online.

Marvels: The Platinum Edition
Writer: Kurt Busiek
Artist: Alex Ross

Size does matter! Not that this epic 1990s Marvel classic by Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross needs further justification for its “must have” reputation in any comic book fan’s collection.

Despite owning the single issues of the original series, I still find something new in every re-release of this compilation.

While there are no “director’s cut” material to add on to the original four-part story, the birth of the Marvels from Phil Sheldon’s perspective certainly looks livelier in this Platinum Edition’s larger panels. For newbies, you can expect to gain a new perspective on how the Age of Marvels started and all of Marvel’s milestones, from the scientific revelation of the Human Torch to the tragic death of Gwen Stacy.

To add more value to this edition, you also get a collection of Ross’ Marvel covers (Earth X, Universe X, Paradise X etc). After reading it, I still can’t confirm if the “numbing” sensation I felt is due to nostalgia or the weight of this 6.7kg book on my lap!

Star Wars (Marvel): Skywalker Strikes Hardcover
Writer: Jason Aaron
Artist: John Cassaday

If you are still suffering from indigestion after watching The Rise Of Skywalker, then this 2015 Star Wars effort by Team Aaron/Cassaday should help reinvigorate your faith in George Lucas’ greatest creation.

Set between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, this compilation of issues #1-6 of the 2015-relaunched Marvel Star Wars series reveals how Darth Vader discovered the identity of Luke Skywalker (who bested him in the Death Star dog-fight, during the final moments of A New Hope).

What I liked most here is the introduction of Boba Fett, giving him more “air time” to justify his cult status. Had this story arc been produced as Episode V back then (pushing Empire Strikes Back to VI and so on), I’m sure many of us would have bought it.

X-Men: Dark Phoenix Saga
Writer: Chris Claremont
Artists: John Byrne and Terry Austin

Forget the two failed attempts to adapt it on the silver screen – the original comic book version is still the definitive X-Men story arc, one that has inspired decades of Mutant-milestones and creative talents.

Originally featured in the pages of Uncanny X-Men (Vol.1) #129-137, the Dark Phoenix Saga is the perfect example of what the phrase “power corrupts” means, as Jean Grey struggles to control her omnipotent abilities and ends up committing genocide.

One important lesson here is that justice should prevail at all cost, and despite Jean’s popularity, Marvel had to make a harsh decision on her violent acts.

To further boost the collectibility of this story, it also offers many first appearances, including that of Dazzler and the Hellfire Club (Sebastian Shaw, Emma Frost, etc).

Ironically, what I love and loathe about this story is how the Cyclops/Jean relationship ended. Even with Jean’s (eventual) resurrection and Cyclops moving on to be with Emma, the Dark Phoenix Saga will always get a perfect 10 from me.

Spider-Man Newspaper Strips Volume 1
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: John Romita

Remember when The Star used to carry the Spider-Man comic strips? Before the Internet came about, newspapers were the main source for news and information, and also a gateway to comics for many of us living on a shoestring budget.

Speaking from experience, I use to snip newspaper comic strips and paste them (using rice!) on an exercise book meant for school work. Those were the days...

Hence, I was extremely excited when I found this compilation of Spidey’s earliest (circa 1977-79) comic strips.

Story wise, as long as you can adjust to the constant shifts from coloured to black-and-white (the strips used to be in colour only on Sundays), this is a real nostalgic read, with tales involving Dr Doom, Dr Octopus and Kraven the Hunter.

Best of all, with this compilation – you don’t have to wait on a daily basis for a new strip!

Batman: The Court of Owls
Writer: Scott Snyder
Artist: Greg Capullo

If you are in search of an epic Joker-free Batman tale, this is it!

This Snyder-Capullo collaboration is truly groundbreaking as it retcons Gotham’s mythos via the infusion of the Court of Owls into its ecosystem.

After decades of recycling tales involving Arkham’s looniest, the introduction of the Court is a breath of fresh air for Batman stories. Thanks to this nefarious underground criminal society, we got the Talons – physically compatible villains that are more than a match for the Bat-family’s skills and experience.

If the story doesn’t get to you, Capullo’s ever-improving art should, as the man clearly proves that he is the last decade’s top Batman artist. Originally featured in Batman #1-7 in 2011, this series stands out as one of the rare-positives of DC’s New 52 Universe.

Writer: Alan Moore
Artist: Dave Gibbons

THE must-have reading material for any social-distancing event.

Watchmen was instrumental in elevating the status of comic books in the world of literature. Originally released in 1986, Moore and Gibbons changed the perception on comics (as well as comic fans) by infusing contemporary anxieties into their work, via the deconstructing and satirising the concept of superheroes.

In Moore’s story, heroes are not holier than thou and are allowed to make mistakes, and even break laws, as long as the end justifies the means.

But that’s not all Watchmen is about. In fact, the graphic novel can be quite a time-consuming read, with stories-within-stories (such as the origins of the Minutemen to Tales Of The Black Freighter), historical-references (from the Vietnam War, Cold War to the Watergate scandal), and every panel serving a specific purpose.

On this note, issue #5’s Fearful Symmetry is one of the most complex single-issue comics I have ever read. Its first page mirrors the last (in terms of frame disposition), the ensuing pages mirror each other, and the centrespread is symmetrical in layout. Deciphering this gave me a headache, but trust me it is a standalone masterpiece.

Infamous Iron Man Vol.1
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Alex Maleev

The suit maketh a different Iron Man, as Victor Von Doom undergoes a career change by being a (drum roll please)... hero.

Post-Civil War 2, where Tony Stark has disappeared and is presumed dead, Dr Doom decides to step in to fill his iron boots.

If you are thinking that this is a rehash of the Superior Spidey concept (where Doc Ock replaces Peter Parker), think again, for Bendis does what he does best when it comes to characterisation.

Playing the bad guy for decades is easy, but Doom discovers that being good is much more difficult. Having to manage his new status in the public eye is already extremely tough, but Doom faces an even bigger challenge as his presumed-to-be “stuck in limbo” mum (Cynthia) is back... and in a relationship with Doom’s eternal nemesis, Reed Richards aka Mr Fantastic. This is certainly a never-before-seen perspective on Marvel’s top villain.

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