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SYFY WIRE coronavirus

Need a fresh pull list? 8 mid-size comic runs perfect for a few weeks of self-isolation

By Matthew Jackson, Ernie Estrella & Jeff Spry

By now it's become pretty clear that, for at least a few weeks, a lot of us are going to be spending pretty much all of our time indoors. Social distancing isn't fun for everyone, but thankfully there are lots of ways to pass the time on your couch, from streaming movies to playing video games. Or you could do what many of us here at SYFY WIRE do even when we're not being told to stay inside for the good of public health: read a whole bunch of comics.

If you're a regular comics reader, you've hopefully made arrangements at your local shop to keep getting your monthly books in some form or another, but when you're stuck inside all day sometimes reading things one issue at a time just won't cut it. Whether you're a comics junkie or someone who just dips into the medium every now and then, times like these often call for big runs and complete stories that you can devour in big chunks over the course of several days or one particularly lazy weekend.

So we're here to help. We've chosen a handful of our favorite complete runs (or long, ongoing runs) of comics that you can go seek out right now to help combat that self-isolation boredom. From cartoonish escapist fare to dystopian drama and everything in between, here's a social distancing reading list to keep you company. 


Ex Machina

Published from: 2004-2010

Length: 50 issues

Perhaps it’s in these strange times we live in, where we can appreciate Brian K. Vaughan and Tony Harris’ Ex Machina even more, a decade after its last issue published. It’s a story grounded in post-9/11 city politics, featuring the Mayor of New York City, Mitchell Hundred, who moonlights as the superhero The Great Machine. Hundred used to be a civil engineer and after an explosion with a mysterious device at the Brooklyn Bridge, he gains the ability to communicate with machines. The comic was born out of Vaughan’s displeasure in the entire political spectrum at the time (just imagine if he created it now), but features freshly original sophisticated stories, nods to the comics industry, and pure nostalgia for a time when politicians inspired both idealism and optimism. It also stars some of Harris’ greatest artwork, and that says something after his work on Starman. It’s one of the more underrated collaborations since the turn of the century and wouldn’t you know it, Ex Machina is currently in film development as The Great Machine, starring Oscar Isaac, so what better time than now to read all about it. - Ernie Estrella

Starman cover


Published from: 1994-2001

Length: 81 issues (plus annuals and specials)

The issue of legacy has been hanging heavy over the world of DC Comics for decades, from the multiple generations of Flashes and Green Lanterns to the many characters who've worn the mantles of Robin and Batgirl. Starman, from writer James Robinson and (primarily) artists Tony Harris and Peter Snejbjerg, is one of the most compelling distillations of what it means to be part of a heroic legacy in all of DC history, and the whole run is available to read right now on DC Universe. The series follows Jack Knight, son of the Golden Age Starman Ted Knight, who unexpectedly takes up the mantle of Starman after his brother David, the original heir to the mantle, is killed. Robinson weaves Jack's journey of coming to terms with his legacy in with frequent trips into the past and even a few ghostly encounters with David Knight along the way, and the result is a spellbinding tapestry of DC Comics history unlike anything else published at the time. Plus, it's set in Opal City, which looks and feels like no other place in the DC landscape. If you're looking for a world to get lost in, let the wit and wisdom of Jack Knight and the mysteries of the debonair reformed villain The Shade guide you into this series. - Matthew Jackson

Superman Unchained

Superman Unchained

Published from: 2013-2014

Length: Nine issues

Here's a sweet weekend read that'll leave you breathless, conceived and delivered by the superstar creative team of writer Scott Snyder and artist Jim Lee. Come on! SNYDER and LEE! Launching in June of 2013 to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Superman and available two days before director Zack Snyder's Man of Steel struck theaters, DC Comics' Superman Unchained is a striking work that still resonates today and delivers a satisfying dissection of Superman by upending all his precious powers. This 9-issue blast has everything any red-blooded Superman fan could ever want: a Russian cyber-terrorist organization, Lois Lane's military father unleashing a government-sponsored superhuman named W.R.A.I.T.H., Lex Luthor kidnapping Jimmy Olsen, Batman and Wonder Woman battling in the Batcave, a magical Earthstone, General Lane attacking the Fortress of Solitude in a menacing mech, Superman sporting a badass war suit complete with glowing hammer and energy shield, a smackdown at the center of the Earth, and a final poignant sacrifice that might leave you misty. This is the potent force of Snyder and Lee at the top of their games, accented with inks by Scott Williams and vibrant colors via Alex Sinclair. It's perhaps one of the best Superman tales to come along in a decade... or more! - Jeff Spry


Richard Stark's Parker

Published from: 2008-2014

Length: Four graphic novels - The HunterThe OutfitThe Score, and Slayground

Get lost in the work of one of the best sequential storytellers of our time, Darwyn Cooke, a man whose art and writing were from another time when each line drawn was expressive, significant and powerful. His New Frontier forever cemented his contribution in comics and animation, but passion projects like his take on Will Eisner’s Spirit and Twilight Children were also important. His best may have been bringing Donald E. Westlake’s Parker crime novels, (written under the pseudonym Richard Stark) to another life in comic book form, earning him seven Eisner Awards. Cooke completed four adaptations before his untimely passing in 2015, but his perfectly paced drawings of failed heists, sleazy lowlifes, and crime syndicates will seduce any reader to the punchy, pulpy stylings of 1962 and the exploits of the cunning criminal, Parker. Cooke’s black and white art alone is so cinematic, but he added the simple inkwash of one color to each story, giving readers an endless supply of panels full of texture, dramatic noir lighting and added dimension. - Ernie Estrella



Published from: 2013-present

Length: 40 issues and counting

If you're looking to dig into a new dystopian world while also enjoying plenty of sci-fi, Greg Rucka and Michael Lark have got you covered with Lazarus. This ultra-ambitious series takes place in a world that's been reorganized under the rule of several prominent families which have now divided up global territory. Sometimes this structure lends itself to a bit of a Game of Thrones vibe, and other times you get something a little more like The Godfather, but either way it's a great backdrop. The Lazarus of the title is Forever Carlyle, the technologically enhanced super-soldier scion of the Carlyle family who is named Forever because her enhancements mean she basically can't die. Forever's duty is to serve and protect her family amid an escalating international crisis that could mean war, but with that crisis also come fractures within the Carlyle leadership, and Forever begins to wonder who she really is. What makes Lazarus such an addictive read is the sense that it's both a slow burn and a fast-paced action story. Rucka and Lark never give too much of the world away in any one issue, so you always want to come back for more, but the issues are also packed with so many explosive fight scenes that you'll never find them dull. Plus, you can check out the early issues with a Comixology Unlimited subscription or a Hoopla download from your local library. - Matthew Jackson

Godzilla Rulers of Earth

Godzilla: Rulers of Earth

Published from: 2013-2015

Length: 25 issues

Thundering into your quarantine zone with no regard for your lawn gnomes is this epic Godzilla run from the kaiju-crazy folks at IDW Publishing. Emerging from the ashes of Godzilla #13 in June of 2013, this giant-sized offering became the longest running Godzilla comic ever printed and captures the style and spirit of every ginormous monster movie you've ever watched. Writer Chris Mowry and artist Matt Frank ride this 25-issue series all the way home with a consistency and attention to detail to be commended. Cover artist Jeff Zornow contributed a rampaging array of killer covers, with interior colors artfully added by Ronda Pattison and Priscilla Tramontano. The action-packed plots are everything you'd expect as an alien invasion of the Cryogs arrives just as a stampede of Earth's ancient monsters awaken across the planet causing Godzilla to step in to stop their attacks. Commander Steven Woods and his Counter-Kaiju Reaction force hopes to hold the beasts at bay, while young Lucy Casprell and her ambitious scientific research crew, the Kaiju Watchers, tries to discover the truth behind all the invasions. Also noted for being part of Godzilla's 60th birthday bash arriving in 2014, Rulers of Earth presented the first comic book appearances of creatures like Manda, Zilla, Jet Jaguar, Gezora, King Caesar, Varan, Sanda, Gaira, and others. And don't worry, Gigan, Mothra, Mechagodzilla, Rodan, and King Ghidorah do make their appearances. All-in-all, a humongous helping of kaiju-clashing fun! - Jeff Spry


Le Transperceneige (Snowpiercer)

Published: 1982 (Translated 2014)

Length: Three graphic novels - The EscapeThe Explorers, and Terminus

Decades before Parasite director Bong Joon Ho became known in the States for helming Snowpiercer, French writer Jacques Lob and artist Jean-Marc Rochelle came up with the comics that would inspire the film and soon to be TV series of the same name. Born out of a global recession swelled by the conservative politics of their day, Lob and Rochelle came up with a story about the entire planet being literally frozen in time, with the only survivors on board an unstoppable train called Snowpiercer, with the rich living in the front of the train and the low class towards the back. The train encased the innovation of man, his pursuit of survival, and the celebration of life, but also shackled those physically and mentally poor to the point of complacency. The film is unable to explore the wide spectrum of emotions and struggles that each box car reveals in the comic. The Escape examines the society on the train but also the human condition as a whole. The Explorers introduces the threats of a second train and an imminent collision, while Terminus reveals a disease unleashed while supplies run low. Titan translated the entire saga in 2014, and announced three prequel graphic novels on the way this year. - Ernie Estrella


Batman '66

Published: 2013-2016

Length: 30 issues

Holy Bat Nostalgia! If you loved the wacky, joy-inspired Batman TV series that originally aired from 1966-1968, then you'll dig this candy-colored collection featuring all-new stories set in that campy world. Written with fun and flair by Jeff Parker and showcasing classic covers courtesy of Madman's Mike Allred, Batman '66 is something to take your mind off the troubles of the times and instantly transports you into a refreshing cartoon-style dimension you might not wish to ever emerge from. This addictive series was released during the run-up to the TV show's big 50th anniversary in 2016 and helped kickstart fans' affections for anything and everything Batman '66. Art duties came from a rotating roster of talent including Eisner-winning illustrator Jonathan Case, Joe Quinones, Ty Templeton, Scott Kowalchuk, Wilfred Torres, Lukas Ketner, and others. Expect an entertaining array of standalone tales showcasing all those demented, dastardly villains from the TV run like Egghead, Joker, Riddler, Bookworm, Siren, King Tut, Penguin, Catwoman, and the always cool Mr. Freeze. Available in five TPB collections for serious binging or also via online digital outlets. So fill up your cereal bowl with Lucky Charms, grab a stack of these retro gems, and dive in! - Jeff Spry