VGBlogger’s 2014 Holiday Gift Guides for Geeks & Gamers: Comics and Novels

Written and edited by Matt Litten with Dark Horse and Comixology contributions from Tim Mack.

VGBlogger_HolidayGiftGuides_Banner.jpg

Gaming nerds don’t just like video games. There’s a strong chance that the geek in your life also loves to read. Whether buying paperback or hardcover copies or going the digital download route on your smartphone, tablet or eBook reader via services such as Comixology, which also offers subscriptions and gift card options, these are some of our gift recommendations in the comics and novels category!

Read our other gift guides for more shopping and wish list ideas at these links:

VGBlogger’s 2014 Holiday Gift Guides for Geeks & Gamers: Art Books
VGBlogger’s 2014 Holiday Gift Guides for Geeks & Gamers: Toys and Collectibles
VGBlogger’s 2014 Holiday Gift Guides for Geeks & Gamers: Accessories, Stocking Stuffers & Other Last Minute Gift Ideas

Dragon Age Novels — By Tor Books — Buy From: Amazon.com

DragonAge_LastFlight.jpg DragonAge_Asunder.jpg DragonAge_MaskedEmpire.jpg

BioWare’s Dragon Age universe has spawned a number of expansionary novels in the years since the original RPG, but this year alone, obviously to further hype for the video game launch of Inquisition, there have been three new additions to the series: Asunder, Last Flight, and The Masked Empire. While I haven’t read Asunder, I did get a chance to dig into the pages of the other two, and I must say they were both fantastic. As you can probably infer from her gaudy appearance on the cover, Empress Celene of Orlais takes center stage in The Masked Empire, a story that centers on the politics and betrayal of the “Game” and the intense racial divide between humans and elves, with a biracial, lesbian love story underpinning the whole narrative. Last Flight, on the other hand, introduces the elven mage Valya, a Grey Warden recruit who discovers the hidden journal of Isseya, sister to legendary hero Garahel. In addition to studying Isseya’s account of the many battles and choices that led to the end of the Fourth Blight, Valya learns the cause behind the extinction of the griffons and draws from the diary pages a discovery that may just bring about their return. Anyone that has spent tens, or more likely hundreds, of hours absorbed by the games will be sucked in by the additional lore and backstory. But these novels are more than just great fan service, they are great novels of the high fantasy genre, period.

Assassin’s Creed: Unity — By Ace Books/Penguin Books — Buy From: Amazon.com

AssassinsCreed_Unity.jpg

Author Oliver Bowden returns with another excellent tie-in novel based on Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed franchise. Carrying the exact same name as the latest video game, the novelized adaptation of Unity reads from the perspective of game protagonist Arno Dorian as he reads the journal entries of childhood friend and Templar lover Élise de la Serre, primarily spanning events prior to the game’s storyline before eventually overlapping and presenting familiar story beats from Élise’s point of view, even connecting to the past adventures of Edward and Haytham Kenway from Assassin’s Creeds 3 and 4. Since Arno is the one reading the journals, Élise actually takes over the protagonist role, the novel digging into her backstory to offer fans a deeper understanding of her upbringing as a young girl burdened at an early age with the knowledge that she is being groomed to take over for her father as the next Grand Master of the Templar order and will eventually carry the deadly responsibility of somehow trying to negotiate a peace with the Assassins. While I’ve only dabbled with Unity the game for a couple hours on my own time, I found myself far more engaged by the book’s characterization. Or perhaps Élise is just a more interesting character than Arno, I’m not sure. I will say that finishing the book has made me want to play more of the game, because where at first I was a bit bored, having a deeper knowledge of the backstory has made subsequent time with the game more enjoyable. Certainly, this is a must read for AC fans.

Tomb Raider: The Ten Thousand Immortals — By DK Publishing — Buy From: Amazon.com

TombRaider.jpg

Written as a bridge between last year’s Tomb Raider and the upcoming timed Xbox exclusive sequel, The Ten Thousand Immortals continues Lara Croft’s rebooted origin story following the events of Yamatai from the video game, which have plagued the heroine archaeologist with terrible anxiety. As she struggles to deal with her own PTSD, Miss Croft’s emotionally scarred friend, Sam, is hospitalized after apparently attempting suicide by overdose. Thus Lara sets out on a quest to track down the Golden Fleece to use its legendary healing powers to help Sam. But of course Lara isn’t the only person with a lust for the mythical artifact, and so she must race to find the Fleece against an evil magnate and his henchmen, as well as various other factions and shady originations, never knowing who to trust. Unlike the games, there isn’t any actual tomb raiding in the book. It’s primarily a story of mystery and conspiracy, with some shootouts and fight sequences, as well as cat-and-mouse chases and escapes that read a lot like those of the Bourne movies as Lara uses her state of heightened paranoia to detect and evade mysterious people following her every move. Until the next game comes out it’s impossible to say how if the events of the book will have a lasting narrative impact, but Crystal Dynamics have officially stated that this is canon to Lara Croft’s modern timeline. Fortunately it’s a compelling read on its own.

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse — By Titan Comics — Buy From: Amazon.com or ComiXology

FourHorsemen.jpg

After failing to come to fruition in its originally intended form as a video game at two now-defunct publishers over the span of a decade, Michael Mendheim’s modern horror take on The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse has arrived as an epic graphic novel chronicling the story of four Chosen anti-heroes–a Rabbi warrior from the Order of Solomon bloodline, a Minister turned serial killer bearing more than a passing resemblance to Kratos, a heroine junkie punk rock chick, and a sniveling senator–given the chance to redeem their sins by banding together to defeat the Four Horsemen, War, Death, Pestilence and Famine. Speaking of fours, there are four other things this novel has plenty of: bullets, blades, blood and boobs. (This one’s for adult eyes only, folks.) The comics originally came out a couple years ago and the individual issues are available to download from ComiXology, but this year Titan Comics released a hardcover compilation containing the full series plus additional bonus materials, including details and screenshots from the two unreleased video game projects, writer/artist biographies, and a gallery section of posters, covers and concept art. The book also contains a running series of hidden object puzzles, such as certain letters printed in red that can be unscrambled to spell out clues, as well as symbols and demon names hidden within the artwork on each page. This element of “re-read value” combined with the story’s action heavy flow and graphic art definitely provide the sense that you’re reading a video game rather than playing one.

Assassin’s Creed Graphic Novels — By Titan Books — Buy From: Amazon.com

AssassinsCreed_Hawk.jpg AssassinsCreed_ElCakr.jpg

From Titan Books come the hardcover editions of the fourth and fifth volumes of the Assassin’s Creed comic series, continuing directly from the first three parts we recommended a holiday season ago. Vol. 4, Hawk, and Vol. 5, El Cakr, following the events of Jonathan Hawk, who has taken the protagonist mantle from Desmond Miles in the real world and enters the Animus to track down the Scepter of Aset in 13th century Egypt through the genetic memories of his Assassin ancestor, El Cakr. All the while, the Templars have an agent hot on Hawk’s trail and are conducting experiments in the present day at Abstergo to gain a major advantage in the war against the Assassins. Assassin’s Creed fans will definitely enjoy reading the new characters and settings introduced in these fun story extensions.

Costume Quest: Invasion of the Candy Snatchers — By Oni Press — Buy From: Amazon.com or ComiXology

CostumeQuest.jpg

Christmas may be approaching fast, but that doesn’t mean you have to forget all about Halloween until next October 31st rolls around. Thanks to Double Fine’s Costume Quest, Halloween is a holiday that can be appreciated at any time of the year, now more so than ever with the recent launch of the series’ second video game installment, as well as the addition of a tie-in graphic novel by Zac Gorman and Oni Press. Aimed at young readers and adults who are big kids at heart, Invasion of the Candy Snatchers switches things up from the games, telling a cute, witty Halloween tale about three Grubbin kids, called dorks and picked on constantly by bullies, who take a portal to the human world in order to score a whole bunch of candy so that they can impress the “cool kids” and be invited to the big party back home. A couple familiar faces do make cameos, but in general this comic allows fans to meet new characters and snack on a completely original story in the Costume Quest universe. The art style combined with the 13×9 hardcover presentation also lends the feel of a classic children’s storybook, which complements the themes of the story perfectly. This is a delightful comic romp bursting with charm and Halloween spirit.

Wynter — By New Worlds Comics — Buy From: ComiXology

Wynter_1.jpg Wynter_2.jpg Wynter_3.jpg

The indie scene is booming right now in gaming, but apparently there’s a growing indie movement in comics as well. Like independent publisher New Worlds Comics’ series Wynter, a new work of science fiction starring the rare female comic heroine, Liz Wynter. Wynter is steeped in gritty sci-fi, but the central theme of the growing invasiveness of social media, as represented by Liz and all other humans having apps embedded in their heads along with an AI that is constantly pestering its host about how everything they are doing and feeling has been done and felt countless times before and is not unique, grounds the story in a plausible near-future reality that is truly fascinating. There’s also a Minority Report-style element to the story where agents are able to track everyone’s actions based on all of the accumulated data and know what they are going to do before they actually do it. The series is only three issues in so far, but it’s off to a wonderful start and Liz Wynter has without question established herself as a rising comic book star.

Goof — By New Worlds Comics — Buy From: iTunes (digital) or My Toy Favorites (paperback graphic novel)

Goof.jpg

We’ve all read comics about superheroes with amazing super powers, who perform great feats of heroism normal humans are not capable of accomplishing. But what if Earth’s only superhero was the geekiest, clumsiest person on the face of the planet and the last person you would ever want coming to your rescue? Thus is the story of Goof, a hilarious new comic series, currently into its fourth issue, about Nick Knickerbocker, a total goofball granted super powers by aliens which transform him into the super goofball named Captain Gorgeous. Captain Gorgeous’s heart is in the right place, but his rescue attempts always lead to dead pets, demolished property, the removal of clothing (either his own or those of the person he’s “saving”), or tragic moments of embarrassment that recall and exaggerate the worst possible memories boys have from their awkward age of pubescence. For example getting a boner in public, only here the moment is immortalized by Captain Gorgeous hitting the pavement and leaving behind an imprint of his dick for all to see (and judge the depth of, if you know what I mean). Goof’s tale is whimsically illustrated and written yet full of lewd humor, sexual innuendo, and occasional foul language, making it a fun read for teenagers and adults alike.

Death Sentence Vol.1 — By Titan Comics — Buy From: Amazon.com or ComiXology

DeathSentence_Vol1_Cover.jpg

Confidently written and artistically captivating, Death Sentence is a bold and brash newcomer to the comic book biz. Relating to video games for a moment, this outrageous mix of sex, drugs, violence, superpowers and comedy is like something born from the brilliantly twisted brain of Suda51 — only it was created by two dudes from the UK. It’s weird, but that’s the genius of Death Sentence. Read our full review here.

Colder: The Bad Seed — By Dark Horse Comics

Colder.jpg

This picks up from a previous five issue run introducing Declan Thomas whose body temperature runs lower than what should allow a person to still be alive. This “power” allows Declan to get in touch with the darker side of humanity and leach the insanity from others to help cure them. The Bad Seed introduces a creepy as hell “farmer” named Swivel, who gathers fingers as a crop (and when his true self appears is made entirely of fingers). A must read for any fans of psychological horror.

Conan the Avenger — By Dark Horse Comics

Conan.jpg

What makes Conan great in comic books is the fact that he isn’t just the hulking barbarian as portrayed in the movies. There is style and nuance attributed to the warrior. The Damned Horde tells the tale of Conan rallying a small band of mercenaries as they successfully assault a huge fortress of a city to rescue a young woman. Conan is always a fun romp of battles and mysticism.

Father’s Day — By Dark Horse Comics

FathersDay.jpg

This is one of my favorite titles from Dark Horse, a story about the bittersweet reunion of a hitman who has gone legit with his daughter whom he left ten years prior. Of course any worthy hitman is either needed or a target, and the series humorously explores what happens when rival gangs try to put a hit on a hitman while his daughter is around. This is a title that shouldn’t be missed!

The Massive — By Dark Horse Comics

TheMassive.jpg

Set in a post apocalyptic world where a huge ocean vessel struggles to keep humanity alive, The Massive teases as much information in each issue as it leaves unanswered questions. A dark exploration of what humans have done to the environment and what rigors they face now that society as we know it has been destroyed after the crash. Post apocalyptic junkies will love this excellent series.

The Ghost Fleet — By Dark Horse Comics

GhostFleet.jpg

Who do you trust to move rare goods from one side of the country to the other? Specially trained combat truckers, that’s who. Ghost Fleet sounds silly but is a complete hoot to read as the team attempts to securely transfer a payload of goods while becoming embroiled in a secret conspiracy that involves members of the US Congress.

Chew — By Image Comics — Buy From: ComiXology

Chew.jpg

The world has been dealt a horrific flu-like epidemic and all forms of chicken have been outlawed. The FDA is now more powerful than the FBI and CIA and Tony Chu is the main cibopath responsible for tracking down the true cause of the epidemic. What’s a cibopath you ask? Tony has the ability to eat anything and feel how the food lived prior to being food. A handy, yet dangerously disgusting power that even applies to dead bodies, enabling him to find out clues on his way to solving the world’s problems. Chew is fantastic and shouldn’t be missed.

Revival — By Image Comics — Buy From: ComiXology

Revival.jpg

What happens when the dead come back to life and attempt to live their lives again? Revival explores the relationship of Dana, a local Wisconsin cop, her police chief father, and younger sister (who is secretly one of the recently revived). Finding out what caused the dead to live again while also trying to solve the mystery of who killed Dana’s sister while dealing with crazy evangelical end of days fanatics and a supernatural force is what drives the narrative of Revival.

Saga — By Image Comics — Buy From: ComiXology

Saga.jpg

Love conquers all in this tale of intergalactic war between two civilizations. Darkly humorous and poignent, Saga tells the story of a prisoner of war who escapes death after falling in love with his captor. The two are on the run while trying to raise their daughter in a cynical greed filled world. Relationships are hard, but Saga makes them enjoyable, especially when you have a cat around to tell you when you are lying.

The Walking Dead — By Image Comics/Skybound — Buy From: ComiXology

TheWalkingDead.jpg

I hate to beat a dead horse, but damn TWD is a fantastic franchise. Spawning a TV show, and two video games, the original comic is a must read. It isn’t just about zombies. In fact, the zombies are largely just a nuisance. What makes TWD so special is the humans, and what they deal with to live and overcome what has become of the devastated world after the zombie uprising.

Disclosure: Free copies for some of the books featured in this gift guide, including Dragon Age series, Tomb Raider: The Ten Thousand Immortals, Assassin’s Creed: Unity, Assassin’s Creed graphic novels, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Costume Quest: Invasion of the Candy Snatchers, Wynter, Goof, Death Sentence, Colder, Conan the Avenger, Father’s Day, The Massive, and The Ghost Fleet, were provided to VGBlogger.com for review.

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!