3 Episodic Formulaic Comics that are Totally Worth Your Time

#1. Baltimore 

Baltimore is by Mike Mignola, author of Hellboy. The story structure is formulaic, but I’ve come to realize that I love formula. Baltimore is an Englishman who fought in World War I. Let me start over, the world was much like ours until World War I, where all the blood shed on such a massive scale awoke ancient Lovecraftian monsters (primarily vampires), and spread a plague of vampires across the world. Under such an onslaught, the world pretty much collapsed into a pseudo Dark Age.

Baltimore fought in World War I for the English where he lost a leg, but when he returned home a vampire had murdered his family. Swearing revenge, our one-legged hero begins a journey across Europe, hunting the vampire that killed his family. He also uses a harpoon.

It’s Ahab from Moby Dick, only they swapped in a vampire for the whale. I’m. On. Board.

Every episode of the story is Baltimore walking into a town where something shady is going on, then Baltimore usually kills the things involved. Part of what makes the story so great is that the Plague can manifest in such wacky and weird ways, each encounter is usually really interesting. Like there was one time when zombie divers in antiquated diving suits emerged from the ocean infected with an evil fungus.

It’s implied that Baltimore, by the time of the story, is a supernatural being himself, though he never exhibits super powers beyond superhuman toughness and a strangely mobile wooden leg.

#2. One Punch Man

Another formulaic story, not unlike Baltimore in some ways. It’s written by a man under the name of ONE, originally published as a web comic it eventually was republished as a manga, redrawn by a professional artist Yusuke Murata. Murata is a fantastic artist and ONE crafts an engrossing tale despite the superficial nature of the story.

The premise of the story is that the world is beset by monsters, and they have something called the Hero Organization that protects the world. Heroes generally have varied abilities, not unlike comic book characters like the Avengers. Each official Hero is given a ranking, S-class being the highest.

Into this world comes Saitama, the titular One Punch Man. Saitama, in a world of alien beings, cyborg warriors, and pyschic supermen, is so powerful that he defeats all of his opponents with one punch. He’s so mind bogglingly powerful, and also so physically unimposing, that people don’t believe he’s actually a Hero at all. The conflict that drives him is the ennui that comes with becoming omnipotent.

Like Baltimore, the fun of the series is mostly about One Punch Man going to a place to deal with a new monster. What’s great about One Punch Man is watching characters gradually realize, with horror, that everything they knew about the world was wrong, and that Saitama cannot be defeated.

In a weird way One Punch Man has some of the charm of Columbo. Columbo is an unstoppable force, but also so unimposing and self-effacing, that it’s endlessly entertaining watching people manipulate him, only to realize by the end that they never stood a chance.

Oh and what’s the source of Saitama’s infinite power? He did a 100 pushups, situps, and squats every day for a three years.

#3. Silver Surfer

The current Silver Surfer is written by a comic book writer named Dan Slott. It’s the last comic I read other than the two above and I liked it.

The Silver Surfer is a superhero that was a guy named Norrin, who came from another planet. When his planet was threatened by an alien menace, Norrin sacrificed himself to become a servant of that menace in exchange for his world. He was given a magic surfboard and “The Power Cosmic” and sent off into space to search for worlds to be destroyed.

Dan Slott’s Silver Surfer is the best possible Surfer comics I’ve read. Also its damn good Doctor Who. The Surfer, through circumstances, ends up pairing up with an Earthling named Dawn. Dawn is a bit of a homebody, so it’s pretty amazing when she gets swept up into adventures with the Surfer and they end up traveling through space together.

By now I’m realizing that I don’t need long soap opera drama anymore. The Surfer and Dawn go to a planet and have adventures, and after a few issues have moved on to something else weird and new. I love the art (I like the artist Michael Allred), it’s lighthearted enough to bring back something sorely missing from Batman comics: fun. The Surfer loves to go around the universe checking stuff out and Dawn loves to travel with him. Like I mentioned before, it’s sort of the Doctor Who dynamic only the Surfer functions with less arrogance in some ways than the Doctor, but is personally way more powerful than the Doctor.

I highly recommend all three of these comics if you can find them.

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