What is the best entry level comic for new readers? This is a question I get asked a lot and it is a difficult one to answer sometimes. There are a number of factors that can affect a reader’s enjoyment of a book, and a number of different things to consider when making a recommendation.
Sure, it’s easy to recommend Batman, or Spider-Man, or any of the other dozen and a half popular titles, but do those books really work as entry level material? Imagine a young kid wanting to pick up a comic for the first time and you hand them part 2 of The Joker War, or The Clone Saga. Are they really going to get into that book?
See, as much as we love those popular series, the downside to them is that they are frequently difficult works for new readers, especially younger ones, to dive right into. Marvel and DC sadly do not put a ton of effort into entry level books, and with the increasing number of events that seem to have completely taken over both publishers, it’s becoming harder and harder to find anything from those publishers I can recommend to people who want to share the love of comics with others.
The good news is that there are entry level titles that are not only fresh and interesting, but also appropriate for younger readers. The even better news, especially for me, a guy who writes about indie comics, is that they are coming out from other publishers. Oh sure, Marvel and DC have spent some time in recent years dabbling with YA titles, with varying degrees of success, but it’s in the indie market that I feel we can find the best examples of entry level books for any age.
BOOM! Studios gets a lot of points for Spector Inspectors, a fantastic all ages title that I can say for a fact was very well loved by my 11 year old niece, and IDW gets major props for the series Canto, a book that is definitely in my top ten recommendations for any new readers. Both series manage to capture everything that is great about comics in a way that anyone could pick up and read for the first time, and could be a doorway into the new readership this industry desperately needs.
Today’s work is another in that same vein, and honestly, after reading issue one, might very well be one of the best new titles for all ages I have ever read. Visually stunning, narratively fascinating, and brilliantly executed, today’s title Twig #1, is exactly the kind of book that the comic industry needs, and people looking to get others into comics have been searching for.
So let’s crack into Twig #1 from the creative team of Skottie Young and Kyle Strahm, and see just what I love so much about this book.
Here’s the blurb: Eisner Award-winning I HATE FAIRYLAND and MIDDLEWEST writer SKOTTIE YOUNG and artist KYLE STRAHM (SPREAD, UNEARTH) come together for an all-new epic fantasy/adventure miniseries!
It’s the first day of Twig’s new job as a journeyer on a JEFF SMITH’s Bone-esque quest to save a The Dark Crystal/Labyrinth-style world. Join our hesitant hero for an inspiring and imaginative tale of hope, heartache, and determination to overcome insurmountable odds!
So right off the bat I know that the blurb might confuse a few readers. If you are familiar with the credits listed above, the last thing you are going to think is that this is a book for young readers. I was legitimately surprised as well, and yet as I read this first issue the thought that kept going through my head was how much my niece would love Twig.
This book does remind me, in a lot of ways, of works like The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth, works that adults find fascinating, and kids find just scary enough to thrill, but not such much that they would be woken up screaming in the night. The character designs are adorable (which is no surprise with Young on the title) but they are also incredibly detailed and expressive. The lead character, the titular Twig, would be right at home on Sesame Street, although I think his adventure would better fit Fraggle Rock (there’s your deep cut today, kids).
The tale itself is the classic call to adventure story, a fact that is embraced wholeheartedly by our hero. Twig desires a life of adventure, following in his father’s footsteps, and takes off on a wild journey to discover what the world holds. I don’t want to ruin the ending, but suffice it to say, things do not work out the way he intended, and I can’t wait to see where this series goes from here.
As great as the story is in Twig, the real charm of this book is in the art. As I said, the characters are beautifully and brilliantly designed, and so to is the world in which they inhabit. Panel after panel is illustrated with rich, lush backgrounds that I found myself staring at, trying to take in all the detail. Usually I have to speed through review books in order to write my articles, but this book demanded a slower, and more patient read.
So pick Twig up when it hits shelves May 4th, and grab an extra copy for that young reader in your life. We need the next generation to fall in love with this amazing medium, and books like this are the perfect way to make that happen.
Until next time, stay safe.