Dustin Hall‘s 7 of the Best
Books, Movies, Comics, Video Games, no matter the medium nothing gets me going like an epic! Stories of globetrotting, dimension spanning, life changing, blood-shedding adventure are both the most inspirational and most memorable tales ever told.
In no particular order, here are seven of the best!
BONE by Jeff Smith – From 1991 to 2004 Jeff Smith independently published 55 issues of this landmark book, his first, which remains one of the finest tales in all comicdom. It is a master-class in visual storytelling and character building, and good for all ages!
BONE is the tale of three cartoony creatures, the Bone cousins, Smiley, Phoney, and Fone, who come out of Boneville and get swept away into a world of adventure. Coming from their contemporary home into the medieval Valley on one of Phoney Bone’s plots to take advantage of the yokels, the trio instead find themselves joining the local community as they are attacked by giant rat creatures in ever increasing numbers. War consumes the land, and the the comical critters must face off against the malevolent Lord of the Locusts who is ravaging the peaceful countryside. Starting small and funny and endearing, BONE grows with its characters into a sweeping yarn in the tradition of Lord of the Rings.
AKIRA by Katsuhiro Otomo – At one time, AKIRA was the landmark work of Japanese fiction that bridged their pop offerings to our own. Over the years this definitive work of cyberpunk has faded from the center of the cultural landscape, and though many still praise the impact of the anime, the original source material, the manga, really deserves your attention.
A generation has gone by since a tremendous explosion eradicated most of Tokyo, and instigated World War III. Now rebuilt from that tragedy, Neo-Tokyo and its inhabitants again have become a culture of technology and wealth, sight and sound, corruption and opulence. A pair of divergent stories come together one fateful night, as a motorcycle gang in the heat of a battle cross paths with a group of political freedom fighters who have liberated a child imbued with tremendous psychic powers from a government lab. The contact awakens dormant telekinetic powers in gang member Tetsuo, a shrimpy loner with a Napoleon complex. The new powers go to the young man’s head, and soon he uses his tremendous new abilities to shred the city, brutalize the military, and attack friend and foe alike. The only one who can stop this man-made monster just might be his old biker gang of ne’er do wells, as they begin to realize there’s more to the world than their petty squabbles.
BERSERK by Kentaro Miura – Running for over 20 years, BERSERK is one of the darkest examples of epic fantasy you will ever find. It has great characters, a lot of humanity and a lot of heart… and it is absolutely unafraid to put all of those wonderful things in a meat grinder for effect. If you want an amazing tale of war and love and survival, look no further, but above all BERSERK exemplifies the pain, horror, and anguish of the human condition on almost every one of its 8,000+ (and counting!) pages.
Set in a fantasy medieval world, BERSERK follows Guts on his one-man quest for, at various times, money, enlightenment, and revenge, in that order. Initially a simple sell-sword fighting for survival and a bit of coin at the end of the day, Guts soon finds himself conscripted into a fighting force known as the Band of the Hawk. As a part of this brigade, Guts discovers friendship for the first time in his life, forging a powerful friendship with their leader, Griffith. Alongside his new comrades, Guts helps Griffith gain power and prestige, and step ever closer to his goal of eventually owning his own kingdom. But when Guts leaves the Band of the Hawk to find what his own dream might be, determined to not let his life be spent in pursuit of another man’s vision, everything changes. Griffith’s undefeated streak suddenly collapses, and as his dream begins to slip from his grasp, we see the lengths he is willing to go to, the sacrifices he will make, to retain it. There is death, there are demons, and soon the former friends, Guts and Griffith, are set on a winding road that will eventually bring them crashing headlong into each other for a final confrontation.
WAR OF KINGS by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning – This Marvel comic series is actually part of a linking series of epics which began with the story Annihilation, but WAR OF KINGS remains my personal favorite part. Abnett and Lanning’s cosmic Marvel run was full of twists and turns, hitting the jokes and the action in every chapter. Plus it features the first adventures of the modern Guardians of the Galaxy, so if you’re a fan of Rocket & Groot and the gang, its a must read.
After the Inhumans return to the Kree homeworld of Hala and take it over, they create a brief period of peace and prosperity. However this is soon threatened by the new and despotic leader of the Shi’ar Empire, Vulcan. The two clashing kingdoms storm across each others’ territories, though it soon becomes clear that only a decisive victory in a battle between the Inhuman King, Black Bolt, and the Omega Level Mutant Vulcan will settle the conflict. However, the Guardians of the Galaxy have received a prophecy that a battle between the two peerless powers will result in a hole being ripped in the fabric of space time, dooming the universe! Will the Guardians be able to move through war-torn worlds, and appeal the better natures of these titanic leaders, and get them to lay down their arms? (Spoiler: No)
GOD EMPEROR OF DUNE by Frank Herbert – The DUNE saga is a well-known epic, and it certainly shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone to see it come up on any ‘best of’ list. However I wanted to highlight GOD EMPEROR as possibly my favorite book in the series, or at least the one that fascinates me the most. Possibly the weirdest of the DUNE books by Frank Herbert, GOD EMPEROR serves as a climax to the story of the House of Atreides.
GOD EMPEROR OF DUNE takes place 3500 years after the preceding book, and since then Leto II, son of legendary Paul Atreides, has been mutated into a giant sandworm, like those native to Arrakis, with a tremendous human face hidden inside of its armored maw. Leto II is immortal. Leto II is all powerful. Leto II can see all potential timelines of the future, and much like his father before him, he feels trapped by his gift of foresight. Unlike the previous DUNE books which were about galaxy-spanning war, GOD EMPEROR is a more intimate tale, following this bizarre protagonist around his palace, as forces around him try to find a way to accomplish the impossible task of assassinating him, and ending his eternal rule. In truth, Leto II wants to die, but he can only do so in a way that continues his ‘Golden Path’, the timeline that allows humanity to flourish and evolve as a species, free from the stagnant control of the royal houses and mutated guilds of old. This book, told from the perspective of an omnipotent lead who longs in equal parts for companionship and for final rest, is as metaphysical as it gets.
CHRONO TRIGGER from Squaresoft Games – Hands down, my favorite video game of all time. Late in the 16-bit era, Squaresoft released arguably the crowning achievement of the Super Nintendo with CHRONO TRIGGER. Featuring brilliant character design by Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama, the game introduced a unique time-travel narrative spanning several centuries, where player’s actions in the past would affect gameplay in the future. Along with the great art and unique gameplay was a tremendous story that enthralled gamers worldwide, and created some of the most memorable character moments in all of interactive media.
The story revolves around a trio of friends, Crono, Lucca, and Marle, and their adventures in time travel. When Lucca’s teleporter malfunctions, sending Marle back in time, Crono launches a rescue. Though he saves his friend, his actions in the past create a butterfly-effect that eventually leads to the future awakening of the beast Lavos, who sleeps deep in the Earth, and the apocalypse. The friends travel through the centuries, meeting new allies, righting wrongs, and doing everything they can to save the world through all time, finding the combination of events that will prevent the end of the world. But finding the right path might mean not all of them will come home…
LEGEND OF THE FIVE RINGS formerly by Alderac Entertainment, now by Fantasy Flight Games – This, while possibly the most tremendous epic on the list, is also the hardest one to actually sit down and read. The story of LEGEND OF THE FIVE RINGS, or L5R, was told across 20 years, with its many chapters told not only in books and short story releases, but also via art and flavor text on collectible game cards, in role-playing books, in live readings at conventions, and fan club mailers. It is nearly impossible to piece together the entire epic outside of the Wiki, and even then not in chronological order. But even so, I urge you to attempt, for the results are so, so satisfying.
L5R is the story of Rokugan, a fantasy setting based largely on legends of Japan’s Samurai, with a bit of other Eastern Asian folklore systems thrown in for good measure. In this world the Kami descended to Earth a bit over a thousand years ago, and intermingled with humanity, ultimately created the Samurai and their code of Bushido. The Samurai are divided into seven great clans, all under the Hantei Emperor, who occasionally war in traditional feudal style. There is endless military and political drama between the clans, and meanwhile another threat grows far to the south. In an area known as the Shadowlands, a hole is open in the Earth, a festering pit which leads down into Jigoku, the realm of Hell. At all times, the honorable Samurai must balance their battles and enmity with each other against their endless war against humanity’s true enemy, the demonic forces of the corrupted Kami Fu Leng. The tale of Legend of the Five rings spans thousands of written pages, and as many years across the history of Rokugan. If you enjoy tales of Samurai, political intrigue in the style of Game of Thrones, or tales of supernatural warfare, you need to look into L5R!