Comics to Read on Your Holidays – as recommended by the Awesome Comics Podcast’s Tony Esmond

Breathe in…

It’s been a big week of comics reading as I have just got back from a pool side holiday. I headed out to see pals Pat and Lisa Mills, in Spain (who recently released Kiss My Axe! Sláine The Warped Warrior: The Secret History). Apart from spending many hours chatting comics with them, I also got to read a suitcase load (thank Ro-Jaws for digital, huh!)

Tony Esmond - View in Spain

memory of where I used to sit…

Here are just a few examples of what I’ve read by the pool.

Alex + Ada Volume 2

As the week began I fancied something a little quieter and with a little bit of the bitter sweet so I downloaded the three volumes of Alex and Ada from Image Comics.

Created by Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn, this is a love story set in the near future, clever SF that raises the same kind of questions as Channel 4’s Humans.

It has that slightly unremarkable Luna, basic style art but living amongst that is a complicated story of emotions and relationships. Sure, the main criticism of the Luna brothers over both of their careers is that their style is a little sterile and lacks detail/noodling/personality. But what this story does successfully is slowly and carefully weave a believable story of love and loneliness in an unbelievable setting.

Alex and Ada could easily be dismissed by someone who hadn’t read it as a sex doll story (That’s not why I read it – I promise) but it is gentler and much more romantic than that. Sure, there is a small amount of sex and some adult conversations and themes but it is, at its heart, the feeling of two individuals.

Volume One and Two of the total three volumes have some cracking writing but in my opinion it rushes the ending: a shame, as I was really invested. I’d still give it a go.

I bought mine from Comixology during a recent(ish) sale but it’s still less than a physical copy. A good three trade self contained story.

So….. what did I fancy next?

Some nostalgia.

I bought in digital form a couple of comics that I have great affection for and are both some of the best examples of the use of the characters up until this day.

The Hands of Shang-Chi Master of Kung Fu - issue 68

The Hands of Shang-Chi Master of Kung Fu – issue 68

Written by Doug Moench

Art by Mike Zeck

A book that is so at the top of it’s game it can’t be touched. I can remember where I was when I read this as a kid. It features a battle between Shang and his nemesis – and the only man in the world who he felt could possibly beat him Shen ‘The Cat’ Kuei.

The Hands of Shang-Chi Master of Kung Fu - issue 68 Sample Art

It’s great to see that this series is finally getting the reprints it deserves and that a whole new audience can realise just how good a martial arts comic can be. Why isn’t this a movie franchise! This issue was the conclusion of the storyline “A Game of Death and Deceit” and has a great turn by Black Jack Tarr (surely the greatest sidekick in Bronze Age comics!)

Next up was …

Avengers #195 (May 1980) - Sample Art

Avengers #195 (May 1980)

Written by David Michelinie

Art by George Perez and (inks) Jack Abel

I first read this over and over sat in the back of a parents’ car on a summer holiday. The art is crisp and bright and shows that Perez is a class act. It is also the first appearance of The Taskmaster!

Ant Man and Yellowjacket team up to infiltrate a henchman training academy to rescue The Wasp.  It’s a cracker! I wonder why this finally came out on digital?

Next up was a really pleasant surprise. Over at the Awesome Comics Podcast, all three of us, Vince Hunt, Dan Butcher and myself – are big fans of Europe Comics, a digital only platform for translations of European comics that have rarely been previously released in English language. A month or so ago I spotted a tweet asking for reviewers of their books and responded. Whilst I have been away they sent me some amazing books to read and review.

The first one that caught my eye was…

Gypsy: The Gypsy Star

Gypsy: The Gypsy Star

by Thierry Smolderen (writer) and Enrico Marini (art)

I read this and it is amazing! Marini is a rock star. You really have to see this series. There are currently six volumes available on Comixology and I’ll be reading all of them.

It’s a full on action adventure with all the blood and gore and sex and death you’d expect. It’s got a 17+ rating and is very highly recommended.

“I’ll s*** in your pockets!”

Have a listen to Episode 156 of the Awesome Comics Podcast for more on this series.

(I’ll probably write something in more detail when I catch up with the current volume).

Gypsy: The Gypsy Star

Find out more about Europe Comics and sign up for their newsletter at and follow them on Twitter @EuropeComics

Thanks again to Irina Polianina for hooking us up.

Do you ever ration yourself when you find a series that really hits the spot? Do you read it slowly and hope that it never ends?

This is a series that I mentioned in my Cockney Kung Fu mailer a few months ago and remains as amazing as the first time I read a volume.

Coincidentally it’s another book from Europe Comics.

Mermaid Project Volume 5

Mermaid Project Volume 5

Script and dialogue by Leo and Corine Jarmer

Art by Fred Simon

Colours by Jean-Luc Simon

The title of this series initially confused me and I thought that it was simply because some of the story was set at sea… but hold onto your hats, it’s much more than that!

This book is set at the end of the 21st century in a world that is on the edge of breaking. It is a twisted and off kilter version of our reality. The central character is a punky young white girl detective in a precinct house of all African/French officers. It plays on pointing out this reversal in status quod nicely and has some well paced dialogue and plotting.

The art verges somewhere between Moebius and Richard Corbin. It has that Euro colouring that is bright and not something we are used to in US mainstream comics.

Yes, that cover is genuinely part of what happens.

Anyone up for sex on the back of a whale?

Some more nostalgia? Why not…

How about some –

Contest of Champions - Sample Art

Contest of Champions

Written by Mark Gruenwald

Art by John Romita Jnr and Bob Layton

I examined every single ruddy millimetre of this comic when it came out. It had new, rarely used and established characters all fighting each other.

It also had a big role for Captain Britain before he suffered the Moore mystic change!

Contest of Champions - Sample Art with Captain Britain

This was one of the early mini series that told a self contained story and really packed in the action. As a kid, I felt the tension and worried who would come out as the winner in each of the battles. This is a series that is set squarely at the end of the Bronze Age and you feel the past and what is to come soon. An actual fun crossover!

It also has (in my opinion) one of the best drawings of Alpha Flight’s Sasquatch.

The above is just a small section of what I’ve been reading. Worthy mentions go to Peepworld, Daredevil, Dr Fate (Giffen is a beast), Maggie the Mechanic, Heartbreak Soup, X-Men: Gold (come on Marvel, sort that art out!).

I also managed to read some actual prose too!

Ed McBain - Cop Hater

And I bulk watched Luke Cage Season 2 on Netflix (although that may have been a slight waste of time!)

Oh well, back to normality now. Ah look, some post! I bet it’s comics!

Many thanks for reading.

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Do you have any recommended comic reads for holiday reading? Why not suggest them below?

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