Today is my birthday. I’m not letting it pass quietly by like I usually do. I’m celebrating it.
I’m not asking you to buy me anything. Instead, I want you to buy yourself something.
Get started on some good Franco-Belgian comic books. Here are some suggestions, with all applicable purchasing links.
If you’re looking for a beautiful sci-fi book, this is your best shot. I ran a review of it last year.
Valerian and Laureline v6
If you’re still looking for a beautiful sci-fi book, just slightly less modern, go with this one. It is also the basis of the upcoming “Valerian” movie, so you can look cool to all your friends for having read this first. I ran a full review of it last month.
Lucky Luke: “Daisy Town”
Technically, this is the adaptation of an animated movie based on the first 20 years or so of the series, but it works well as an introduction for new readers. Written by Rene Goscinny with Morris on art. It’s a well-drawn and funny entry in the series.
Ken Games v1
I honestly think this is the best thing I’ve read so far this year as I’ve been working my way towards 100 BD Reviews. You’ll likely immediately pick up volumes 2 and 3 (and maybe even 4) after you read this. It’s that good. It’s not in print in English, but you can click on that image to get to the Comixology page.
Largo Winch v1
Start with the “origin” issue. It fits neatly into the pattern of the series. “Largo Winch” is a board room thriller as much as it is an action thriller.
As a bonus, this is from early in the run, when Cinebook would combine both of the original albums that tell a complete story into one book. After the third, Cinebook started publishing the albums individually to get a lower price.
Asterix Omnibus, Volume 3: “Asterix and the Big Fight,” “Asterix in Britain,” “Asterix and the Normans”
I had a hard time picking a single “Asterix” volume for this list. Anything between books 4 and 24 or so would be a good start. Thankfully, with the Omnibus format, you can get three books for only a little more than the price of one. I think these three would whet your appetite to go read the rest. Ask that point, I’d suggest going back to Volume 1 and reading them in order. You’ll also see how much Oderzo’s models for the characters changed from that first book this way.
Green Manor v1
I reviewed this at CBR back in the day. it’s a two volume series of short stories. They’re little mysteries set at a private English club in Victorian-era England. Beautifully cartooned by Denis Bogart, cleverly written by Fabien Vehlmann.
Smurfs Anthology v1
Contains both of the classics, “The Purple Smurf” and “The Smurf King.” The latter you might find political resonance with today…
Little Nothings, v3
I recommend the third volume, in particular, because Amazon has it in stock. Lewis Trondheim’s autobiographical stories are so good and so self-contained that you don’t need to worry about starting in the middle like this.
Back to Basics v1
If “Ken Games” is my favorite serious find of the year out of Belgium/France, then this is my favorite comedic find. Manu Larcenet moves from the city to the country and encounters a quirky group of locals and learns to deal with small town living and his growing family.
The Theory of the Grain of Sand
I almost wouldn’t recommend this. I haven’t read it yet, but these “Obscure Cities” books can be a little cerebral and abstract.
But if you want to see the kind of work Schuiten is capable of doing, particularly in terms of architecture and some of his finer ink work, this is as good as any place to start. These books will never be best sellers or appreciated by large audiences in North America, but I’m always in awe of them.
(Full Disclosure: Amazon links are affiliate links, yes. Digital comics, sadly, have no affiliate program. And, let’s be honest: any money I make off of this will go straight towards buying the next book to review.)