5 comics to read while social distancing to fight coronavirus
We've compiled a list of comic books that should make for inspiring, escapist, and/or important reads during this time of isolation.
People across the U.S. and the world are practicing social distancing in order to slow the spread of coronavirus, and with all this time stuck at home without much to do (thanks to all the canceled events), it's natural to wonder how to fill the hours. To help you out, EW has compiled a humble list of five comic books (in the vein of our monthly comic recommendation column) to give you some entertainment, depending on what you're looking for right now. Check out our picks below.
If you want post-apocalyptic pandemic fiction, read Y: The Last Man
Coronavirus is a public health crisis affecting the whole world. It presumably will not be bad enough to kill off an entire gender, but that may actually make Y: The Last Man a comforting read right now. Remember: Things can always get worse! The iconic comic series from writer Brian K. Vaughan and artist Pia Guerra is currently in development as a live-action TV series from FX, which makes this quarantine the perfect time to read the comic and prepare for its eventual adaptation.
The story follows Yorick Brown and his pet monkey, Ampersand, as they find themselves alone in a world of women after a global pandemic kills every other male mammal on the planet. The early panels of Yorick wandering through corpse-filled New York streets in a cloak and gas mask might seem especially unsettling now, but things do pick up once he connects with a vibrant female supporting cast that includes the badass Agent 355, trained by a U.S. government organization dating back to George Washington and fully prepared to defend the last man alive; the brilliant and nerdy Dr. Allison Mann, desperate to find a cure for this plague; Yorick’s adventurous older sister Hero, pulled in different directions after the apocalypse; and more.
The characters are fun to follow, the world-building has all kinds of intricate twists (since Israel was one of the only countries with a co-ed military before the pandemic, it has the only real military force in the immediate aftermath), and the whole crux of the series is about how to rebuild the world after unprecedented disaster, which should make it a hopeful and thought-provoking journey in these times.
If you want stories of sweet solidarity, read Lumberjanes
Since we’re all stuck inside for the foreseeable future, what could be better escapism than summer camp adventures? The Lumberjanes are basically like Girl Scouts who fight monsters sometimes. They do other traditional camp activities too, but they’re not very good at them. Even though they’re not very good at following orders, or staying out of trouble, this girl gang — consisting of brainy Jo, dramatic April, humble sensitive Mal, and energetic Ripley — always manage to have fun and fight for friendship. Their crushes on each other are very sweet, without taking up too much of the story or shying away from complications. There are some twists in the mythology that starts to build in the forest surrounding their camp, which stops Lumberjanes from ever getting too silly. But the blend of fun, friendship, and adventure created by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Shannon Watters, and Brooklyn Allen is exactly the kind of vicarious read some of us need right now.
If you want to rage against your body and the world, read The Immortal Hulk
Feeling angry yet? Whether you’re feeling upset from being cooped up all the time, fuming at a body that may or may not be carrying the virus, or raging at a governmental system that failed to adequately prepare for such a pandemic, it’s natural to feel some anger right now. Fortunately, the best superhero comic currently on stands is about the unofficial mascot of anger, the Hulk.
Everybody knows the Hulk, right? He starred on a TV show way back in the ’70s and was recently portrayed by three different movie actors over the course of a single decade. But you’ve never seen the Hulk like this. With The Immortal Hulk, writer Al Ewing and artist Joe Bennett have crafted an engrossing epic that is primarily a superhero story but also weaves in threads of political thriller, body horror, metaphysical mythology, and all the other flavors that have ever made you go “wow, that’s really cool!” when reading a comic book or other genre story.
The constant tug between Bruce Banner and the Hulk is still a central element, but now the two halves are really on the same side. They have a better system of exchanging control over their body: Day and night, rather than intermittent anger impulses. Because the thing is, they’re both angry all the time. This is a comic about a superhero who wants to destroy the world — not blow it up with a laser cannon from space, or unleash a horde of demons to overwhelm it, but rather destroy the systems that make the planet such an uncomfortable place for all but the wealthiest humans. At one point, Banner gives an unforgettable manifesto to the world at large that will resonate on a whole other frequency once you’ve read a couple scary articles about the future of coronavirus. He even invokes the phrase “disaster capitalism.”
“The human world is a world that destroys itself — and all who try to live in it — to make money for a tiny percentage of those in charge,” Banner says. “That is the world that needs to end. And I can’t do it alone. But then again… I’m never alone. Am I?”
You’re not alone either. Remember that.
If you want a graceful meditation about life and death, read Daytripper
Nothing like a worldwide pandemic to make you think about mortality, huh? With so many people now stuck inside reading scary headlines about a highly contagious virus, it’s easy to worry about impending doom. But even before coronavirus, death was right around every corner; at any time you could be hit by a bus while crossing the street, or turn into the wrong alley at the wrong time, or forget to take your heart medication. There’s a danger in that, but it’s also what life is all about. In a way, the only thing that makes life worth living is knowing that one day it will end.
This duality is the subject of Daytripper, the graphic novel masterpiece from Brazilian brothers Fabio Moon and Gabriel Bá. Consisting of 10 chapters, Daytripper is about the many deaths of Brás de Oliva Domingos. As a newspaper obituary writer, Brás is constantly thinking about death — and yet, always seems taken by surprise when it happens to him. See, every chapter is set at a different time in Brás’ life, and always ends with his death; sometimes it comes directly out of the story, but most of the time it’s as banal and random as the aforementioned car accident or heart attack. The following chapter proceeds as if everything except for the last-second death had really happened. The result is a beautiful meditation on how easily life can be snatched away, and how important it is to treasure while you have it. Plus, if you’re getting bored of looking at the same four walls every day, Daytripper also makes for a wonderful immersion in the colorful atmosphere of Brazil.
If you want a unique superhero epic about doing without, read 52
Are you going without things during the quarantine? Your favorite niche snack, perhaps, or regular meetups with your best friends? Well, for one year the DC universe went without Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. Okay, yes, DC Comics the real-life publisher would never go 12 months without printing new comics featuring its most iconic characters; instead, one day the fictional continuity simply lurched forward a year. 52 began shortly after, publishing one issue a week for a whole year to illustrate in real time what happened during that missing chronology.
52 is perhaps the closest any mainstream superhero comic has come to being written like a TV show. Most comics have one, maybe two writers at the helm. 52, by contrast, boasted an actual writers’ room, consisting of four of the most influential and acclaimed superhero scribes of the past few decades: Geoff Johns, Grant Morrison, Greg Rucka, and Mark Waid. They were bolstered by veteran comics artist Keith Giffen as master storyboarder and J.G. Jones on covers. The reason I’m telling you this is because each of those people has probably forgotten more about the ins and outs of DC mythology than most of us will ever learn, and they seized the opportunity to shine the spotlight on some of the publisher’s less well-known characters. Alcoholic lesbian detective Renee Montoya (recently portrayed by Rosie Perez in Birds of Prey), superpowered Middle Eastern strongman Black Adam (soon to be portrayed by Dwayne Johnson), grieving former superhero Ralph Dibny, and self-promoting time traveler Booster Gold are at the forefront here. It also introduced a couple new characters, such as the version of Batwoman who recently made her live-action debut on the CW.
Never heard of them? Don’t worry, by the time you finish reading they’ll be some of your favorite DC characters ever. Each character hails from a slightly different superhero subgenre (crime, mystery, sci-fi, etc.), which means every element you could want from a DC comic book shows up at some point over the course of 52 issues. But the real genius is, because the whole thing was handled by these same four writers, the saga builds and builds to twisty, thrilling conclusions you might never have seen coming.
Because 52 is a self-contained epic (typically split into two or four volumes), it could make a perfect reading project for these self-contained times. On top of everything else, 52 is a great reminder that a world missing some of its most famous elements doesn’t have to be any less exciting.