I'm a huge comic nerd, huge. Well, maybe not as bad as some others, but don't put it past me to dress up like The Spirit for the Baltimore comic-con. But the problem is, I think everyone sticks to the super-hero genre and that, well, that's just sad. Don't get me wrong, I like super-heroes, but I think its unfair to pigeonhole comics as strictly for super-heroes. So here is some non-superhero graphic novels or comics you should check out, or even pick up as a gift during Christmas/Kwanza season. I'm going to try and go unconventional picks here so, yeah, no Preacher or anything like that.
For Her: Love as a Foreign Language
"Fish out of water" is such a staple of romance stories, because when it's done correctly, it's near perfect. This is a story a Joel, an English teacher in Korea, a country he is suffering complete and utter culture shock with. Joel falls for Hana, a secretary at the school, and along the series, Joel grows, comes to terms with his culture shock, and maybe gets the girl. Maybe.
It doesn't break any new ground, but it does everything so well, and the relationship between Hana and Joel feels so natural, that it rises above it's chick flick structure and becomes simply a great story that you'll keep going back to.
For Him: Brian Wood Comics
Brian Wood is my favorite writer working today. Right now, I like his stuff more than Grant Morrison, more than Warren Ellis, more than Matt Fraction. Especially since he just keeps getting better!
Demo, volumes 1 and 2, is about people with powers, but goes at it at a completely different angle than "Has pwoers, become superhero." Each issue tells a complete, stand alone story. The stories usually revolve around the characters, and how they're affected by their powers, than any absurd display of power or super fights. Issue 9 of the first volume, "Breaking Up", is my favorite single issue of any comic book, ever. And the art by Becky Cloonan is expressive, and matches each story perfectly. I actually voted Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan as the #1 writer and artist, respectively, for Comics Should Be Good blog's Top 100 Artists/Writers.
Pounded, a comic Wood did with artist Steve Rolston, is the exact opposite of Demo and equally as brilliant. It's a quick, loud, violent punk rock love song, where the main character of Heavy Parker is an asshole, yeah, but you can't help but like him. The best thing is, Heavy stays an asshole, even as he matures during the story. The Heavy Parker of page one and the Heavy Parker of page 44 is the same character, just a character who has grown because of the what happened during the story.
For the audiophile: Phonogram
Music as a form of magic. That is Phonogram summed up in a sentence, but it expands on that idea, and through two volumes, builds this world up so completely, that you hate Kieron Gillen and Jamie Mckelvie for doing work for Marvel because, fuck it, they should be giving us more Phonogram.
The second volume is one of the few times, in my opinion, that a sequel is better than the original. Seven stand alone, yet interconnected, stories set in the same club, on the same night. Charming, lovely, and all together mad, Phonogram is the only place where using magic to play an Artic Monkey's song could happen.
I'll be back with part two, where I help you shop for that marijuana loving little brother of yours, and that horror fiend mother-in-law.