Graphic Novels for The Expanse fan.
April 20, 2017 10:01 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for graphic novels, comics, or anything similar to fill the void in my life left by The Expanse between seasons.

After tonight's viewing of the season finale of The Expanse, I'll need something to replace that world in my media diet. I am already planning on reading the books, but since I started watching the show first, I'm going to be pacing my reading with the show, not the other way around. I think I have an appropriate set of other novels to tackle, but I've got a huge blind spot for graphic novels, comics, and illustrated stories of all stripe. I'm just not in that world at all, and never really know where to start finding things.

I'm looking for 'words with pictures' (comics, graphic novels, webcomics, anthologies, etc) that might meet the following criteria:

1. Immersive world building is vital. One of the reasons I enjoy the Expanse so much is that the world is believable, there are rules, and is relatively coherent (with some obvious exceptions).
2. They really ought have an ending, or some sort of satisfying pause between volumes. Cliffhangers are fairly undesirable to me, and I'd prefer completed works.
3. I would prefer hard-ish science fiction (but this is subordinate to an immersive world).
4. I also really like anthologies of stories that occur in the same world.

In an effort to be responsible in our awful economic system, I'll try to avoid Amazon for these purchases, so letting me know where to buy these things in Portland, Oregon would be helpful too.
posted by furnace.heart to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
So one of the authors who makes up the author of The Expanse series is a dude named Daniel Abraham. Given that your preference is for hard sci-fi, it might be a reach for the fantasy series The Dagger and the Coin. Please believe me that it is not. While Expanse tackles how to tell a sci-fi epic while bound by the laws of physics, Dagger and the Coin looks at how do you tell a fantasy epic in a world where macroeconomics exists.

Listen to my voice. Believe me. You want to read about the founding of a fantasy bank, dragons, and the spiders of belief that live in our blood.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:18 AM on April 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

The (English-language) comics industry does not tend to do hard sci-fi well. Why explain when you can just show and let people fill in the gaps with their imagination?

Try Hickman's and Ellis' creator-owned stuff:

-For Hickman, try Manhattan Projects (sort of complete? it was relaunched with a pivot) & East of West (not complete, mixes fantasy in with the sci-fi).

-For Ellis, try Planetary, Injection or Trees (both still ongoing, sadly), or Orbital. FreakAngels might be too hand-wavey for you, but is available free online.

You might like Brian Wood. Try DMZ and The Massive.

Lazarus by Rucka is also ongoing (sorry), but I also think it is otherwise the best match. It's hard dystopian sci-fi with heavy emphasis on worldbuilding (I don't know about the trades, but the letters column in the floppies has, in the sidebars, in-universe information about that month's 'family', complete with the back cover as an in-universe ad for one of that family's products). Cliffhangers tend to happen early in the arcs and arcs tend to end strong. (Tend to. They recently dropped a cliffhanger-y bomb.)

This series literally just started, but God Shaper might be up your alley.

On the 'weirder, less sci-fi, most about worldbuilding' end of the spectrum, you might like Zero and Pretty Deadly. Two very different books.

If you're willing to deal with cliffhangers -- Brian K. Vaughan's Saga and Paper Girls. The cliffhangers are mainly intra-arc, but he's so cliffhanger-y that yelling "GODDAMNIT, VAUGHAN" is a joke in our household when someone reaches the end of a floppy.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 11:24 AM on April 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

Black Science and Descender, both published by Image Comics, are a good place to start. Descender is probably a bit "harder" when it comes to the sci-fi of the two. They are ongoing, though, but already have several collections out.

Prophet is a maybe. It's probably on the weirder side of things in this context, though.

Other thoughts might be some European stuff like The Incal and spinoffs like Metabarons, but those do start moving away from the "hard" sci-fi angle.

Any reasonable comic shop in Portland should have these, but I'd start with Floating World. And if you like any of them, feel free to go back and ask what else they recommend.
posted by darksong at 11:26 AM on April 20, 2017

A solid choice is most of what Warren Ellis has written; these range from hard SF (mostly short-form: Ocean, Mek, Ignition City, Supergod) to near-future SF (Transmetropolitan, which if you think Hunter Thompson is good, you'll like) to refractions of "normal" comics (Planetary, No Hero). If you can find Orbiter, see what you think of the narrative voice; he's only got the one, and if you like it, you'll like most of what Ellis has written. But there's a ton of other stuff: honestly, you're in exactly the right place, because Powell's has just the right strain of breathless enthusiasts to send you in the right direction.
posted by BReed at 11:30 AM on April 20, 2017

Ditto on Saga. It's one of the best things going right now. It's on-going so it's going to be a cliff-hanger.

Also ditto on The Incal. It's one of the source materials for Luc Besson, both in The Fifth Element and this summer's Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. It's hard to say enough good things about this. It's a work that has come to define the entire culture of French sf, in comics and the movies.

RASL by Jeff Smith is worth the time. Multi-dimensional SF art theif. 4 issues, finished.

Y The Last Man is another Vaughan project, but it is finished too. There are some cliff-hangers, but that's solved if you read the whole thing. It does get a proper ending. It's a bit of a relief to read apocalyptic fiction that isn't zombies, IMO.
posted by bonehead at 11:47 AM on April 20, 2017

A sci-fi series I like by Karl Schroeder was turned into a comic series title Virga. It looks like there were only four issues, and I haven't tracked/read any so can't comment on the comic itself.

But I love thinking about the Virga world/setting being essentially a giant bag of air in space with a fusion-sun in the center. I liked his thoughts/treatment of the affects of gravity off of a planet work, without needing to have everyone tied into space suits limiting the effects of losing a tether of a gravity source / ship / etc.
posted by nobeagle at 12:00 PM on April 20, 2017

I haven't watched The Expanse, but one of my favorite hard-SF comics of the past 15 years is the manga series Planetes. It's about a team of orbital debris collectors (i.e. "garbage men") in a realistic near-future setting (2060ish, IIRC) and takes a nicely humanistic, plain-folks approach to space travel and exploration. Being a Japanese comic, two of the main characters are Japanese by default, but the cast is otherwise a diverse international bunch. There's only a handful of volumes (5 or 6, IIRC), so it's not the massive commitment that other manga series can be.

It was also adapted into a good (and criminally underwatched) anime series a few years ago, but it can be tough to find for a reasonable price on DVD now. The anime adds a number of additional characters, and takes on more of a "workplace dramedy" feeling than the manga, but the hard-SF core is still there.
posted by Strange Interlude at 12:03 PM on April 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

Maybe a little less hard SF, but William Gibson is currently publishing a 5 issue comic called Archangel. I've read the first three, and I'll head to my local comic book store for the fourth this weekend.

Alternate universe, set in 2016 and WW II, evil US VP trying to invade another universe and being opposed by elements of the US military.
posted by The Incredible Gnome at 6:33 PM on April 20, 2017

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