Comics For The Apocalypse – The Apocomicsalpyse

So 2012 is here.  After a rather shitty movie (at least I hope there was only one…), an uncountable number of terrible novels, and more than a decade of hype… we’ve made it.  By the end of the year, we’ll have an apocalypse.

The latest in a series of mind-numbingly stupid predictions, the idea behind the 2012 Apocalypse revolves around the Mayan Calendar.  Honestly, that’s about all I know.  There might be something to do with crystal skulls… maybe some aliens (or was that an Indiana Jones movie that I’m still trying to forget), maybe fire from the sky… who knows.

All I’m completely certain of is that, despite the fact that the most recent of End of Days is supposedly coming on December 21, 2012, I’ll have my ass planted in a movie theater to watch The Hobbit for a second viewing some time in early January.

We’ve made it through the year 2000… we made it through both May 21 and October 21, 2011 apocalypses.  Apocalysi?  Whatever… we’re still here and having a blast.  Or at least some of us are… you know, the ones who didn’t give up their homes and possessions in a crazy attempt to spread the word of a madman.

But I can hear you wondering… What comic books should I be reading as I prepare myself for the latest (and hopefully lastest) end of the world?  Well, I’ve got six suggestions that I hope will help pass the time after the world ends, and the Elect have been raptured up to heaven and\or abducted by aliens.

6. X-Men: Days of Future Past by Chris Claremont and John Byrne

Marvel Comics make several appearances on this list, mainly because there’s roughly six thousand different stories about apocalyptic situations.  Some of them are alternate histories (a metric shit-ton of the What If… stories) and others, like this one, are part of the canon for the series.

I’ll come right out and say it here… I’m really not a huge fan of Chris Claremont.  I don’t actively dislike his writing, I don’t think he’s a terrible author… but much of the time, his writing just doesn’t work for me.  I put it down to the fact that I didn’t read any of his stuff while it was fresh and new.

That said, this storyline is fanTASTIC!  Sentinels, mutant internment camps, violence, the death of your favorite characters… and then it all becomes an alternate timeline.  So… not the best ending, but… hey, a great read from a great team of comic people!

5. Promethea by Alan Moore and JH Williams III

What can you say about Alan Moore that hasn’t already been said about Howard Hughes? I mean, really.  Alan Moore is incredibly intelligent, not to mention gifted as a writer.  But man is he a little… eccentric.  See Promethea, for example.

The story follows a mysterious heroine named… what else?  Promethea!  Honestly, I’ve read this series twice over (as the final couple of issues multiple times) and I’m still not 100% invested in it.  The main crux of the story is that a young girl named Sophie Bangs is possessed by the spirit of Promethea and (eventually) attempts to stop the universe from being destroyed.

There’s talk about stories, mythologies, madness, fantasy VS reality, good VS evil, and a whole lot of discussion of Kabbalah.  In fact, most of the story is structured around Kabbalah.  Much to its detriment.  But that’s a post for another time…

Just the same, if you read the books, you’ll get an amazingly well laid out story (the panel arrangements are consistently inventive) and it remains one of the strongest of Moore’s post-Watchmen works… but just go into it knowing that you’re going to trip your balls off.

4. Hulk: The End by Peter David, Dale Keown, and Joe Weems

Another Marvel series that deals a lot of post-apocalyptic stories is, strangely enough, titled simply The End.  Many of the comic publisher’s biggest stars have their own version of this story… Iron Man, Wolverine, Punisher (check that one out… f’n hilarious!), and even The Fantastic Four all get a special cataclysmic series, but Hulk’s… well, his is my favorite.

The trade for Hulk’s The End story begins with a two part story that’s… well typically 90s in its execution.  The art’s not terrible, but it tends to the gaudy and ugly… the writing, once again, isn’t terrible, but… well… It takes place in the future.  Or The Future, I suppose.  In The Future characters speak with terms that we’re unfamiliar with… but worry not, dear reader!  The characters will let you know what they mean… for no apparent reason.

So skip that first two-parter.  You’ll be better off than I was.  Skip it and simply read The End and you’ll be pleased.  Bruce Banner sits on a dead planet, where all human life was killed off in a nuclear holocaust… everyone, but Bruce Banner, who was saved by his Hulk persona when the bombs dropped.

Hulk surfaces every time Banner attempts to kill himself (or stumbles into a situation that will kill him) and we’re shown that Hulk cannot die.  Even when super-futuristic, super-mutated cockroaches eat most of his outsides and insides… Hulk does not die.  He simply regenerates.

And The End for Hulk?  Well… it doesn’t end.  And we feel just terrible for poor Bruce Banner.

3. Flex Mentallo: Man of Muscle Mystery by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely

Flex Mentallo is one of the more normal of Grant Morrison’s characters.  Think Charles Atlas with powers centering around his musculature.

Oh and imagine that he’s also one of several characters of Morrison’s that is aware of his existence as a comic character.

The Flex Mentallo mini-series revolves around a mystery.  Flex Mentallo investigates the possible disappearance of his fictional partner (ironically named The Fact) while the drugged out writer of the also-fictional Silver Age Flex Mentallo comics (named Wallace Sage) has a drug (maybe) freak-out while the world ends around him (also maybe).

By the end of the tale, there are so many layers of meta-fiction that it’s difficult to determine what’s real and what isn’t.  Ah Grant Morrison… always letting us question the reality in fictional situations (see: Animal Man, Arkham Asylum, The Invisibles, etc.).

Best line?

Only a bitter little adolescent boy could confuse realism with pessimism

Take That! 90s comics!

As the second weird, experimental title on this list, I recommend you not attempt to read Promethea and Flex Mentallo in the same week.  Your brain will thank you for it.

2. Wolverine: Old Man Logan by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven

Oh boy, Old Man Logan.  This is the book that drew me into Marvel Comics after I had become a bit lukewarm on them, after attempting to read several other series that people gassed over, but I couldn’t just seem to get myself to care about (see: just about anything Frank Miller wrote for Marvel).

But this?  This is something else.

In a not-so-distant future, the super-villains have won.  The heroes are mostly all dead and the United States has been carved up into territories for the strongest survivors… Red Skull gets Washington D.C., Kingpin gets Vegas, and The Hulk gets a large chunk of the West Coast (after defeating The Abomination to claim it).

Wolverine, now just Logan, has hung up his claws and lives with his family in Hulk’s territory.  Hulk has reproduced like mad in the time between the fall of Good and the rise of Evil and now has an entire trailer park of relatives to do his dirty work.

After threats from Hulk’s crew over rent, Logan decides to ride with Hawkeye (now blind, but still sharp as hell) cross-country to ensure a delivery that will give Logan enough money to keep Hulk off his back for a long time.

What follows is a story that strikes me as atypical for both Marvel Comics and Mark Millar.  There’s a lot of pathos to this tale… a moroseness that pervades each issue as we see the hell the Marvel Universe has become without heroes.

Thor’s Mjolnir sits untouched in the desert, roving bands of both criminals and dinosaurs that ride a path of destruction through the Midwest, and Red Skull has collected many artifacts from now-dead heroes, including Iron Man’s armor and Captain America’s shield.

Of course, Wolverine eventually returns (and triumphs! duh!) and we’re treated to a helluva bloodbath (there’s the Millar I’ve come to know and… erm, enjoy the work of).  If Neil Gaiman hadn’t written an excellent apocalyptic story, this would easily be at the top of my list (miles above Flex Mentallo… sorry Grant!) if only because of Millar’s treatment of Wolverine’s character.  Everything fits really well for me and McNiven’s art has never been stronger!

1. Signal to Noise by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean

If you’ve been here long enough to have read my review when I first posted it months ago (or if you’ve been exploring the archives), this won’t come as much of a surprise to you.  Signal to Noise is one of my favorite comics ever, and the message is nothing if not inspiring.

In this slim volume, a film director comes face to face with death, and silently begins a mental construction of his final film… a film that he doesn’t ever expect to see completed.  In the film, people gather on the eve of a new millennium… December in the year 999, waiting for the seemingly inevitable Apocalypse.

Two favorite quotes:

It’s not my obsession, it’s the obsession.  Human beings are always living in the last days.

And:

Apocalyses are always just around the corner.  Words mean whatever you want them to mean.

Of course, using this comic is a bit of a cheat because it doesn’t deal with a real apocalypse… but a fictional one.  Just the same, the message about how people always seem to be predicting a new time for the end of the world is a sobering response to all the people panicking and stockpiling supplies in their post-2012 bunkers

Morrison’s Animal Man has elements of apocalypse in it… So does the second volume of his run on Doom Patrol.  And if you still haven’t read it The Walking Dead is consistently horrifying, exciting, and emotionally draining.

For straight up novels, there’s Gaiman and Pratchett’s Good Omens, Brooks’ World War Z, McCarthy’s The Road, and Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle.  Oh, Ready Player One is also flippin’ fantastic, though more of a dystopia than a straight-up post-apocalyptic tale.  But novels… well, those are a post for another time.  If there’s another opportunity before this is all over.

If you have any favorites, sound off in the comments and let me know!

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