Shifting their singles and trades to one side for the moment, the Hex Team have put together some recommendations that might not be in your comics collection right now or some classics that you have yet to get round to. So, time to flick through some comics, trades and graphic novels you might not have read yet.

Porcelain by Benjamin Read and Chris Wildgoose

PorcelainIndie publishing house Improper Books’ début publication , Porcelain: A Gothic Fairytale, is absolutely superb. I loved it – as the title said, it combines the Gothic and fairytale, and it works incredibly well; Porcelain is wonderful in its scope and story.

The story traces the journey of Girl in a harsh, winter world over the wall of the mysterious Porcelain Maker. In typical Bluebeard fashion, we see Girl becoming more and more interested in the beings her new master is creating.

Illustrations are wonderful for their detail and colouring, and every character is presented well with a lot of thought being put into every panel: emotions are played out in colour and it is clear what the artists were trying to say in their choice of colour pallet.

I love the writing of the novel, too. It enables the reader to really admire the strong characters and see how their story may play out.

This is a dark and often macabre fairytale that has enchanting illustrations and tells of metamorphoses which is both heart-breaking and dark.

A fantastic graphic novel for those who love fairytales and want to see something new.

Lucy Cokes

Kings Watch by Jeff Parker

Kings-watchThere’s been one comic series that has kept it’s hooks deeply sunk into my subconscious lately. Back in the nineties I consciously watched a cartoon series – Defenders of the Earth. It had Flash Gordon, Mandrake the magician and the Phantom all fighting to protect the earth from the evil Ming the Merciless.

Now we have a new story involving these heroes taking form in the Kings Watch published by Dynamite Entertainment. A story involving magic, evil and the moon of Mongolia. It’s been an utter joy swing some of my favourite characters return once more, with glorious art and a story that has captivated me. So if you remember the Defenders this is one series you definitely need to pick up.

Paul Everitt

Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud

UnderstandingHow nerdy are you feeling? You’re reading this article so presumably you’re in the mood for comics. But are you in the mood for pulling a comic apart and seeing how it works? If you are, then Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics is definitely worth your time. It’s a comic about comics. In fact, at times, it’s a comic about how it’s a comic about comics!

That sounds pretty meta (because it is) but, in truth, Understanding Comics is basically a text-book. Except it’s mostly pictures. And that’s the whole point: that the language of comics, mixing text and images and deceptively meaningful layouts, can only really be explained and explored using that same language.

It deals with everything from the history of the form to the theory of art to the actual printing process and, though it sometimes gets a little too subjective (one chapter about the creative process feels almost preachy), it manages to pin down a lot of awkward concepts with surprising ease. It’s also kind of prophetic – the book is over twenty years old now, but it already hints at some of the directions that webcomics would eventually take.

You may not always agree with what McCloud is saying, and you’re probably not supposed to, just so long as he gets you thinking about how this amazing artform actually works. There’s a wealth of information and ideas in here, and they’re all delivered in a clear, consise, visual way that speaks directly to your brain – and that’s something only comics can do.

Matthew Hurd

The Walking Dead: Compendium One by Robert Kirkman

Walking-DeadApart from making for an excellent doorstop, The Walking Dead‘s first compendium is a good starting point for those who haven’t read the comics before, it’s also one of the cheapest ways to start getting on top of what the heck is going on! There are several other compendiums after this one, but we’ve all got to start somewhere and this one collects together issues 1-48 of the series.

Between the TV series and the videogames, I’d say that the comics offer an even bleaker vision of the zombie apocalypse than either. Seriously, this is not a happy end of the world – this is hell on Earth in comic book form. While the artwork as it moves from artist to artist is stunning, I suppose one of the strangest aspects of the series is that it’s in black and white, which is rather unusual for most mainstream western comics, but it just adds to the comics’ bleak outlook on everything.

Admittedly, I watched the first two seasons of the TV series before reading this collection and so I did know a bit of what was on the horizon, but the comics take a different enough of a path to make this worth a read if you’ve only watched the TV series. Robert Kirkman makes it all grim and stunning at the same time.

Emily King

Marvels by Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross

MarvelsThere are a lot of brilliant comics out there, so trying to narrow it down to one is no easy job, but in terms of sheer beauty, both in artwork and storytelling, there is only one clear winner. And that winner is Marvels by Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross.

Starting in 1939 and ending in 1974, this four-part miniseries covers key events in the Marvel Universe – the birth of the original Human Torch; the arrival of Galactus; the rise of the Sentinels; even the death of Gwen Stacy – but shows them all through the eyes of Phil Sheldon, an unassuming everyman who works as a journalistic photographer.

The comic is a plethora of references to the Marvel Universe, some subtle, some grandiose, but it never loses sight of its emotional heart, the world-weary but strangely optimistic Phil, whose frank yet hopeful narration provides a brilliant and emotional outsider’s view to a world we are all so familiar with.

Smartly written by Busiek and gorgeously illustrated by Ross, each page of the comic is a masterpiece, featuring truly jaw dropping artwork. Beautiful, bittersweet, and hauntingly poignant, Marvels shows you the world of superheroes in a way you’ve never seen before, and it is a true triumph of the genre.

David Hurd