The J&STAC Holiday Gift Guide

-J. Michael Bestul is a writer for the Addison Recorder. Stephanie Ruehl is an artist who works in a comic book shop. They’re married and have a lot of discussions about comic books and graphic novels. Combine all that into a biweekly feature and you get “J. & Steph Talk About Comics.”

If there’s someone on your holiday shopping list who like comics, or books, or art here’s a list of our favorite comic book recommendations, most of which Steph has already shoved in peoples faces and shouted READ THIS!



A space opera in the highest. Follow Marco and Alana and their forbidden love-child, Hazel, as they travel across the Universe trying to survive.

Steph: Heart warming and heart breaking, and wholly original. Saga is beautiful.


Man creates robots, robots kill man, man culls robots. One little companion bot, Tim-21, may be the key to ending the violence and fear.

-J.: This one surprised me. It’s an utterly beautiful book, both in appearance and narrative.

Bitch Planet

When you are deemed a Non Compliant woman you are shipped to a prison planet (not-so-)affectionately referred to as “Bitch Planet.”

Steph: I thought about saying if there’s a strong woman in your life you should get this for them, but really everyone should probably read this.

Star Wars

There’s a certain movie coming out on Friday… And if you’ve been following STAR WORDS, you know that our resident Star Wars geek has enjoyed much of the new comics leading up to The Force Awakens.

Fantasy, Fantastical, and Supernatural

3468665-rat+queens+02Rat Queens

A romping good time following a band of four adventurers. In volume 1, the Queens try to solve the mystery behind a lot of dead adventurers — while trying to remain alive themselves. Sex, drugs, magic, and sword fights ensue.

-J.: It’s the best of tabletop RPGs and sword & sorcery wrapped into one brilliant series. It’s still a young series, so there are only two trades out. But if you get them the Deluxe Edition, it has the amazing “Braga” one-shot.


the Sandman

The epic, decades spanning book that changed the face of comics. Follow Morpheus, the shaper of dreams and one of seven Endless siblings, his relationships and family ties.

Steph: -J. got me back into comics by introducing me to Sandman. It’s so beautiful and well crafted, if you like stories this is a series for you.

-J.: We discussed the coda to this series, Sandman: Overture, when it came out last month. If you read the original series, you need to read Overture. For the new reader, start with Preludes & Nocturnes… and enjoy the ride.

the Wicked + the Divine

Every 90 years 12 gods are reincarnated in the bodies of young adults. 2 years later they are all dead.

Steph: A murder mystery, beautiful art, and great characters. This is a good one.

Sex Criminals

Suzie discovered she has the ability to stop time when she orgasms. She meets Jon who can as well. What better use of this talent than robbing banks?

Steph: This is a fun, hilarious, sweet and sexy book.

Thrills, Chills, and a Western

Anything by Greg Rucka (Lazarus, Queen & Country, The Veil, Star Wars)

If you want a taut, character-focused narrative with a thrilling plot, you can’t go wrong with anything by Greg Rucka. From Whiteout to Batman to Star Wars, Rucka’s work spans nearly two decades of engaging comic books.

-J.: Greg Rucka had a lot of great books this year, but I’m going to kick it old school. Gotham Central: Half a Life and Queen & Country: the Definitive Edition (vol 1) are the books that made me a lifelong Rucka fan.

Locke and Keylocke-key-head-games2-gabriel-rodriguez

When tragedy hits the Locke family, moving back to the family home in Lovecraft, MA, seems like a good idea, but it’s really, really not.

Steph: The magnificent art only helps to make the horrible events of this book easier yet somehow harder to look at.

-J.: The series wrapped up two years ago, but the story stays with you, much like the aforementioned Sandman series.

Pretty Deadly

Death releases his reaper, Ginny, to track down the thing he fears most.

Steph: This is more of a supernatural take on a western, but it’s just damn good.

-J.: The Western milieu isn’t my cup of sarsaparilla, but this DeConnick / Rios joint is an amazingly-crafted story in any genre. The second story arc just started, so volume 1 is perfect for any fan of deadly tales told on the edges of civilization.

Capes, Squirrels, and Action (Science)!


As a young boy, Matt Murdock was blinded by an accident that heightened his other senses. Now a lawyer in his beloved Hell’s Kitchen, Murdock battles corrupt power as Daredevil: the man without fear!

-J.: If you enjoyed the Netflix series, start with Parts of a Hole and the Ultimate Collection (Bendis/Maleev book 1). These are where the stories from Bendis, Mack, Maleev, and Brubaker begin. Parts of a Hole gives the new reader a clear portrait of the Daredevil v. Kingpin dynamic, and how it spreads beyond the two. The beginning of the Bendis/Maleev collection is my favorite story with Ben Urich.

Squirrel Girl

Doreen Green, aka Squirrel Girl, goes to college, and manages to fight crime and be awesome in the meantime.

-J.: I tend to be wary of “humorous” books, but when a series hits the sweet spot that mixes endearing, relatable, and fun, I fall pretty hard for it. Squirrel Girl has all of that, and a bag of nuts. And Tippy-Toe.

Steph: Squirrel you know it’s true.

Atomic Roborobo-banner

Early last century, Nikola Tesla built Atomic Robo — the scientific marvel whose pulp-style adventures save the world from Nazis, mad scientists, and Dr. Dinosaur. He’s the robot who puts the action in “Action Science!”

-J.: Speaking of titles that excel at being fun while telling a whip-cracking good tale, we have Robo. Want to know if Atomic Robo is for you? Check out the series for free at in the archives at, then pick up all the books. All of them. Because this series is for you.

School Days

Giant Days

Three unlikely friends find each other in their University dorm, and shenanigans and drama ensue.


Rebooted for the 21st century, Archie and Betty’s breakup is the talk of Riverdale High, until a new girl moves in.

Steph: As someone who never cared for Archie before, this is one of my favorite reads this year.

Gotham Academy

Young Olive tries to stay out of trouble at Gotham Academy, but trouble always seems to find her.

Steph: This is a good book for any middle schooler or teenager who may feel like an outsider.

Ms. Marvel

Kamala Khan is the recent, youngest addition of the Avengers, and she couldn’t be more psyched about it.

-J.: Ms. Marvel fits in a similar vein as classic Spider-Man, the hard-luck teenager who confronts adult responsibility when she suddenly receives superpowers. G. Willow Wilson updates the archetype in ways both fascinating and relatable.

To Sum It All Up…

There are thousands of comics out there, and we hope our recommendations are a helpful way to find what you, or someone you love, might be looking for.


The entity known as -J. would be at home in a place like Carcosa or Night Vale, but instead lives near a far more dreary place -- Wrigley Field. He is the patron Addisonian of whisk(e)y and tabletop games, and is often adorned with a waistcoat & his ridiculous mustache.

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