Superhero comic fans, please help my son become one of you.
May 25, 2012 6:33 AM   Subscribe

Recommendations of Superhero comics for a 13 year old boy, please?

I took my two boys (10 and 13) to Free Comic Book day and now the older one wants to get into superhero comics on a regular basis. I would like to help him pick 2 or 3 series to follow, but I have no idea on how to help him choose. He likes the X-Men, the Avengers, Justice League, etc., but there appear to be about a dozen different series for each set of characters. I sure can't afford them all and I think he would have a better experience if he were to follow a limited number (with full freedom to switch up after trying them for a bit) rather than following a score of disjointed narratives.

So, say you were transported into the body of a 13 year old boy (while retaining all of your current knowledge of superhero comics) and were given, like, $20 per month to spend on comics, which series would you buy?

(Before you-all go there, Suicide Girls, or the like, is not an acceptable answer)
posted by qldaddy to Media & Arts (20 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
DC just "rebooted" (started over) its universe, so your kid could get in at the ground floor with the new series. All of the series are currently on issue 8 or 9.

The new Action Comics (the Superman flagship title by Grant Morrison, who's a well-known artist) is especially good. I think your kid would probably like the main Justice League title as well...
posted by gerryblog at 7:07 AM on May 25, 2012

I wouldn't push him to current books, I'd get some trades. That way each month, he'll be able to read a contained story and get a good idea of the flavor of each character.

There's some good books that Marvel has in their "Essentials" series and DC in their "Showcase" line that are big 500 page reprints of old books. The only drawback is that they're not in color, but it does let you get like 30 issues in one book.

But even full color trades that cover less issues would still be a better idea than reading monthly for a kid who is starting out.
posted by inturnaround at 7:07 AM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Well, you have a lot of back issues, but I think "Invincible", a story that starts off as basically a "what if your a teenager whose dad is superman and your powers finally turn on" type comic and then gets epic would be hard to beat. It deals with adult themes, but gently (I.e. it acknowledges sex happens, but it's all off screen) and in a context I would have been comfortable with as a 13 year old.

Plus it's well written and fun.
posted by bswinburn at 7:08 AM on May 25, 2012

"...what if you're..." My power is not using the preview button.
posted by bswinburn at 7:09 AM on May 25, 2012

Oh, and take him to the library. Almost every library I've been to recently has large graphic novels sections.
posted by bswinburn at 7:12 AM on May 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

Yes, go with trades. There's really nothing out right now in the traditional superhero genre a 13 year old would have fun with.

I think they'd really enjoy Perez & Wolfman's Crisis on Infinite Earths; it's really just a classic story that may be a little confusing, but is just pure fun all the way through.

(For the love of god don't confuse it with Infinite Crisis, though.)

They also might enjoy Grant Morrison's All-Star Superman, but I don't recall if there's anything Adult in there they shouldn't be reading yet. There is an absolutely lump-in-the-throat scene wherein Superman convinces a teenage girl to not kill herself that should be required reading for anyone entering high school, though.
posted by griphus at 7:36 AM on May 25, 2012

Also, you might be wondering why people are suggesting trades, so here's a quick rundown.

Editorial policy at the big 2 (Marvel and DC) has been driven almost exclusively by forces that have absolutely nothing to do with telling a good story or selling comic books. It's complicated, but it's a giant mess at both companies, and they're madly restructuring, trying to fix things, making them worse in the process and, on the whole, comics are in an arguably worse state narrative-wise than they have ever been since the mid-90s. There's some great writers with a lot of room -- Ellis, Morrison, et. al. -- but many, many more have their hands tied. So, you're better off with exposing kids to what amounts to the contemporary classics than end up having to explain the next incident akin to the whitewashing fiasco.
posted by griphus at 7:42 AM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would suggest the first few trades of Runaways. Also maybe DC: The New Frontier. All-Star Superman might go over his head a little, but it's really good. And Astro City is outstanding, especially The Tarnished Angel.
posted by nonasuch at 8:05 AM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

He might enjoy some series with teen protagonists: Teen Titans -- I don't love the current series, but it has a lot of fans -- or Young Avengers (which is in trades; I don't know if there's a current monthly).

There's a Young Justice book based on the current cartoon series, or, if you have an iPad or tablet, you can get the classic Young Justice run, which is tons of fun, from the DC digital store.

Current series that I really like and that I think might appeal: Batman and Robin; Flash; Action Comics. Batman Incorporated is just kicking off with issue #1 and should be excellent given the creative team involved.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 8:09 AM on May 25, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks all. I will try to talk him into the trades (we have gotten some of those from the library). He does seem kinda fixed on the idea of individual books now, so please keep those rec's coming.

In re: the trades, they are compilations of older books? Or new stories that come in a longer format? (also, could I be more clueless?)
posted by qldaddy at 8:12 AM on May 25, 2012

They're either a story arc that goes across multiple issues (i.e. "Colossus Loves Wolverine" Uncanny X-Men #456-#450) or a collection of a limited-run miniseries (i.e. Hulk Smash #1-5). In traditional superhero comics from Marvel and DC, extended-length, one-shot graphic novels are pretty rare.
posted by griphus at 8:25 AM on May 25, 2012

Most trades are compilations of 5-8 sequential issues of a comic series. Sometimes, they will collect books from different series that were part of a crossover event. This site provides reviews of a wide range of trades. I often get them quite cheaply from remainder bookstores, if you have access to such a thing.

There are also 'graphic novels' which are purpose-written for publication in the 'trade' format. Many people use the terms interchangeably.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 8:27 AM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

First, $20 a month for comics is a small amount. The average comic price is $3 per issue, a graphic novel/trade paperback is ~$20. So realistically we are talking 6 comics or one trade paperback book a month.

Second, talk to the guys at the comic book store. They will likely be able to hone in to meet parental concerns and the kid's interests. They will be able to find that trade of Avengers by Bendis that is great while ignoring the worse stuff.

Third, the recommendation of Invincible is good. You might also consider Runaways, where kids learn that their parents are actually super-villains and decide to become heroes.

Good luck.
posted by Argyle at 8:39 AM on May 25, 2012

I came across Kirby's Fourth World series at just about that age and was filled with wonder. Paperback trades of the first two volumes are available.
posted by wittgenstein at 8:39 AM on May 25, 2012

Best answer: Both Marvel and DC had line-wide relaunches in the past year (DC officially, Marvel more of a soft relaunch). This means for the most part many of their books had fairly new storylines that shouldn't be too hard to jump into.

Short version: get Batman, Justice League, Avengers vs. X-Men, and Wolverine and the X-Men.

From DC:

Batman by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo. This is the flagship Batman book. If your son is interested in Batman, this is the on to get. The first story arc will wrap up in a few months and features Batman's fight against a new cabal of bad guys called the Court of Owls. Snyder is very good at plotting longer stories that pay off over time and Gapullo is brining some good kinetic artwork to the table. Of the other Batman series, Batman and Robin is good and Batman, Incorporated is my favorite, but I think a newer reader would have a harder time getting into it.

Justice League by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee, co-publishers of DC Comics, is a pretty big action-packed book. Jim Lee's art is very big and boisterous and Geoff Johns knows how to plot exciting superhero action. It's not actually DC's best book but it's the sort of thing that will give him a good range of characters all working together. On a budget, you get tons of DC's characters, and the Free Comic Book Day book had a teaser for this book.

From Marvel:

Marvel just started a big bi-weekly series called Avengers vs. X-Men. See my above comments on JL. It'll give him lots of characters and its events are going to sort of set the stage for Marvel's books for the next year. It's on issue 4 and finding the first three shouldn't be hard.

For X-Men, Wolverine and the X-Men is fantastic. It's only on issue 9 or 10 right now and follows the story of Wolverine setting up a new school for mutant kids after a falling out with Cyclops.

The other Avengers books are probably not good places to jump in. The writer who's been helming them for almost a decade is about to step off the books so they're all headed for culmination mode. They did start a new Avengers book called Avengers Assemble, which was supposed to be the book to jump onto and features the movie cast, but the quality isn't there. The solo books for the main Avengers cast are all pretty good (Invincible Iron Man, The Mighty Thor, Captain America), but getting all three is probably not in the budget.

There are tons of other, often better books, from each publisher (and smaller publishers, too), but if you're looking at solid titles that feature the main characters of each universe, I'd say those four will do him well.
posted by davextreme at 9:19 AM on May 25, 2012

Check out the Ultimate Spider-Man series. It's a modern reboot of the Spider-Man story and would match up very well with your son's age; Peter Parker is 15 years old and a sophomore in high school. My husband started reading this series in his teens and fell in love with it.
posted by castlebravo at 10:15 AM on May 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

These are a new kind of superheroes for our times.
You can buy the books but they are all for free on the web: FreakAngels.
posted by bru at 11:24 AM on May 25, 2012

Yes to Ultimate Spider-Man, Invincible, Young Avengers, and Runaways! Also, maybe Red Robin? I don't remember if it is gory, but I think it was aimed at teens.
posted by zoetrope at 11:24 AM on May 25, 2012

Oh, and Gladstone's School for World Conquerors--it follows a group of kids who are the offspring of supervillains at their boarding school (Hogwarts for baddies!). I think it's still ongoing, so he can pick up the issues as they come out.
posted by zoetrope at 11:41 AM on May 25, 2012

Atomic Robo (by Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener) has been blowing anything made by the Big Companies out of the water for a while now. The first six volumes are out in trade paperbacks, and there's a bunch of free stories available online from past Free Comic Book Day editions.
posted by The demon that lives in the air at 12:10 PM on May 25, 2012

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