Comics: Pictures You Can Read

I'd like to think of myself as a fairly solid geek: My love for Battlestar Galactica knows no bounds, I can speak a nice (if shaky) verse of Quenyan, and I've been known to not only play old Infinity Engine RPGs, but prefer them to newer, shinier gaming fare. There is one part of my geek credibility that is not only weak, it's damn near non-existent: the comic book.

Don't get me wrong, I grew up on comics. I'd walk into the local grocery store, head to the magazine section, and see what was on the cover of Wizard, or see if a copy of Spiderman/Spawn/XMen had a cool cover, and snatch it up with my lawn-mowing money. I had no need for continuity, plot twists, or huge revelatory story moments: I liked the kickass pictures of duders beating up other duders.

As I've gotten older, though, comics have left my mindset: If I were to spend my personal time doing something, I'd rather load up some Sins of a Solar Empire, or read through the new William Gibson book I picked up at a discount. Sure, I hear the occasional comic book writer's name (Brian K. Vaughan, Frank Miller), but it's usually related to a project they're doing with filmmakers or a television series, not necessarily for Pride of Baghdad or 'I'm the goddamn Batman'.

I've read a decent amount of the 'musts', if you will: Watchmen, Y: The Last Man, Walking Dead, V for Vendetta, Sandman, Batman: Long Halloween/Killing Joke, etc. I very much want to find something that's a little deeper than the cream of the crop: Many of my favorite videogames or films aren't the most popular choices in their respected genres, and I feel that the comic book industry is one that is filled to the brim with stories like this. There are probably some deeply personal, moving, and touching stories out there, I just don't know where to find them.

A series I did pick up on a whim, and fell in love with, though, is DMZ. A very raw, up-close look at a post 9-11 warzone, it's unrelenting and fairly unnerving, but that's exactly why I can't put it down. I'm only three volumes in, but I can definitely see myself reading through the entire run. It's a perfect example of what I'm looking for: Personal takes on big issues, delivered without apologies to the audience.

This is where you, dear Nitrobeard reader, come to help: I'm not well-versed in the comic book industry, so I have no idea where to look. What are some of your personal favorites, and why? What brings you into a comic, and hooks you? The characters? Story? Does it have to have everything, or are you looking for something specific? My goal is to find a deeper appreciation of the medium, and there's no better place to turn than my fellow geek brethren.

Unite, Bearders, for your love of comics! Reign down the ultimate suggestions, and know you've helped changed the world of a lowly, uneducated editor!