The Strop is a place to whet your appetite for damn good stories. Check back every Friday for our latest recommendations.
1. X-MEN: House of X and Powers of X
Whether the X-Men mutants are near and dear to your heart or you’ve decided to sink your teeth in something new, this six-issue series is a must-read refresh of the beloved franchise. In short, after mutants have been consistently persecuted throughout Marvel history, Hickman tackles the question: “What would happen if all the mutants united to put themselves first and fought back?” Gritty and verging into sci-fi at times, Hickman builds a complex world, including a country for Mutants (Krakoa), new technology for travel and resurrection, and multiple timelines from the start of Charles’s revolution to the end of humanity and rise of a post-human race. Filled with surprise twists like powerhouse villains Magneto and Apocalypse uniting with Charles, innovative development of Moira Mactaggert (a massive intelligence force hosted in a network of black holes), and strategic leveraging of X-Men lore, Hickman’s reboot is a vibrant start to something new and sets a creative direction for future series that fans feel has been lacking for a long time. – Cassandra Wagner
2. Hunter x Hunter (2011)
This is one of the greatest-worst anime on the planet from one of the greatest-worst mangas ever created (Hunter x Hunter by Yoshihiro Togashi, first serialized in 1998). Season one of the 2011 remake, however, is a must for the true anime fan. The first season embraces a coming-of-age story, gripping action, adventure, and a plethora of side characters to enjoy along the way. Gon Freecss is the typical optimistic protagonist, but he plays very well alongside his new assassin friend, Killua Zoldyck, the vengeful Kurapika of the Kurta clan, and the easily flustered Leorio, who dresses like a salaryman but wants to become a doctor. The focus of season one is for these guys to pass the extremely difficult Hunter exam, so they can be licensed and live a life of fun and luxury — or, in Gon’s case, so he can be worthy of finding his missing dad. The show is great at subverting expectations by taking the Hunter exam from a seemingly simple sign-up to a cook-off and then an outright brawl. It’s overall a very feel-good type of narrative, with emotional beats and humor provided by both the cast and some of the more questionable antagonists (like Hisoka, because what true anime fan doesn’t love a perverted joker being added to the mix?). – S.N. Valadez