That’s a question I’ve been asking myself lately. But seriously folks, Vaughan has been one of the most entertaining, funny and witty writers of the past so many years. He hasn’t done so much work that you couldn’t read it all quickly, you shouldn’t have much trouble finding his books in comic shops as they’re all in print and damn it, he writes some great dialogue!
He starts his buzz with a seven book run that kicks off the Runaways for Marvel. It’s about a group of teens who find out their parents are all super-villains and (you guessed it) runaway as they try to find out more about their heritage. They discover that some of them have powers and some aren’t even human! Every book after Vaughan’s run is a letdown so make sure you read all of his stories before you read any of the other volumes. They were originally collected into manga sized volumes as seven different books. These are full color and super cheap. They are highly recommended. For the high end collector, the seven books are now collected into three over sized hardcovers. The pages are nice and big, but there’s a higher price tag on them. While you’re unlikely to be disappointed with your purchase, it’s an easier sell to get someone to buy the manga sized books simply on price. There is a third format that Marvel has put out which is a normal sized trade at a middle range price level. These are an irritation to people who were reading the mangas, because now there is fear that they might discontinue the smaller sized books, forcing people to rebuy their books so the collection will match. Of course it’s also possible that these collections are for people who want all of their comics to be the same size and maybe were avoiding the mangas.
Probably the most popular of his work and the one series he’s done that every Brian K. Vaughan fan loves, is Y the Last Man. A Vertigo series that has already concluded it’s epic run, Y the Last Man is a question for our hero Yorick who wonders why he and his pet monkey Ampersand are the only two males alive after a near biblical event. They meet up with a secret agent who tries to protect the last man and his friend. Now they wander the globe trying to unite Yorick with his fiancé and try to find the answer to what killed all of the men.
Truth be told, the book flounders in the latter half of the series as for as building momentum, but the series is always funny, entertaining and easy to read. There are plenty of pop culture references and intrigue that you’ll rocket through the ten volumes within days if you’re a fiend. There are also a series of hardcovers that collect two books at a time.
Third on my list is a single book. The Escapists is a special treat for most comic fans and may well be the best thing Vaughan has ever written, but is third on the list because it might not appeal to your average comic reader. (Or at least they’re more likely to enjoy the first two) Available in soft cover or hard, the Escapists is one of those books that plays with the idea of fiction and reality blending. For different phases of reality and narrative, Vaughan has different artists with differing styles only drawing their piece. The story follows a comic lover who decides to acquire the rights to an old forgotten superhero comic and start publishing new adventures himself. This is only skimming the surface of the book. Highly recommended.
Taking place in a world parallel to our own, wherein one of the twin towers is still standing, Ex Machina is about a mayor of New York city with super powers. After diverting one of the terrorist’s planes, Hundred reveals his identity, retires his costume and runs for Mayor of New York. Now with his cape and tights days behind him, the series follows him as he deals with mayoral problems and political situations. The only real superhero stuff you see are in flashbacks.
While a political book could be boring, Vaughan keeps things lively with more of his sharp dialogue and engaging issues; one book deals with gay marriage while the next deals with the legalization of marijuana. And sprinkled on all of that is the mystery of his strange powers, how he got them and where the series is going.
This is where we discuss the bad news. While each book is pretty good, the series isn’t going anywhere fast enough. Every three books or so, you’re teased with some hint of things to come, but there isn’t enough movement. As long as you’re looking for the political debates and not the superhero stuff, you’re fine. We’re a little strapped for capes and tights around here. Much like Y the Last Man, the series is strongest at the beginning. This currently the only book Vaughan is still writing.
Pride of Baghdad is a supposedly true story of three lions that escape a zoo in Baghdad during a bombing. The story is told from the lion’s perspective, features gorgeous artwork and is a touching commentary on war from a unique perspective. This is very close to an adult Lion King and is one of Vaughan’s least dialogue driven works. This is interesting if only for the fact that Vaughan’s dialogue, as stated earlier, is one of his best strengths as a writer. Still, the book is beautiful to look at and very moving.
In the Marvel universe, there is a new underground crime kingpin and Brian K. Vaughan created him. Wearing a cloak that allows him to disappear for as long as he holds his breath and armed with double-fisted hand guns, the Hood is a major player in current events. This is the book that tells his origins. It’s a cool story, very solid and enjoyable, but it isn’t as epic as some of his other work or brilliant. This is mostly for Marvel readers and Vaughan fans.
Easily his most disappointing work to date and also his latest comic project, Vaughan took a hand to a three part Wolverine mini series entitled simply; Logan. Filled with flashbacks to Vietnam and signature cool artwork by none other than 100 Bullets artist Eduardo Risso, the book is a quick and painless read, but fans of Vaughan’s work are used to a higher standard. The plot was a little too simple and failed to charm readers.
Aside from Ex Machina, Vaughan seems to be taking a hiatus from comics to work on the hit TV series Lost. Of course that has just ended this year and we’ll have to wait see whether he tries his hand at more TV writing or if he’ll come back to comics for a while. The paycheck is always bigger for television work, but comic lovers usually don’t write comics for the money but rather the small paychecks and a chance to play in the sandbox.
As for his current library of material; a strong collection that can be tackled from almost any title without reservation. They’re all easy reads and well written. If there’s a weakness to his work, it looks like endings (judging by Y the Last Man and the way Ex Machina is going), but the ride still makes the journey worth it.
So pick a place to start and dive in. You’re not afraid of paper cuts are ya?