When you look at the sheer range and number of original stories being told in comics form today, it’s hard to imagine a better time to be a comics reader. Online and in print, from all around the world, artists and writers are telling stories with their own voices and styles, and there’s so much to choose from that it’s sometimes difficult to know what to read next. With Should I Be Reading… ?, ComicsAlliance hopes to offer you a guide to some of the best original ongoing comics being published today.

What if Ursula K. LeGuin's Earthsea series had more modern technology, and focused on a young girl, a fire wizard raised by a dragon, and a winged, talking blue cat? You'd have something like Fairy Tail, one of the most popular shonen (boy's) manga being published today, and a grand fantasy that's a whole lot of fun.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT?

17-year-old Lucy Heartfilia,a celestial wizard able to summon Zodiac spirits with magical keys, and possessed with a hunger for adventure, leaves her home and travels through her home country of Fiore to join the famous wizard's guild Fairy Tail. Kidnapped by slaver pirates, Lucy is saved by two travelers: Happy (the aforementioned flying cat) and Natsu Dragneel, an impetuous fire mage who's as explosive as the fire he uses and eats.

Bewildered to learn that the two work for Fairy Tail, Lucy gets them to take her to the guild hall, gets initiated and joins the ranks of Natsu, Happy, and others --- including Natsu's rival, the ice mage Gray Fullbuster, and the multi-talented swordswoman Erza Scarlet.

Together, they take on jobs and hone their skills, all while avoiding the wrath of the Council of Wizards for the destruction they cause in justice's name, and clashing with the mercenary Dark Guilds. But can Natsu find the dragon Igneel, who raised him...?

 

From Fairy Tail Vol. 3. Fairy Tail Wiki/Hiro Mashima

 

WHO'S IT BY?

Fairy Tail is written and drawn by Hiro Mashima and his team of assistants. Although Fairy Tail is the biggest hit of Mashima's career, it's not his first. His first series, Monster Soul, only ran for two years, but his follow-up adventure series, Rave Master, was a huge hit running from 1999-2005 for a total of 35 volumes.

Fairy Tail has run in Kodansha's Weekly Shonen Magazine since 2006. In that time, Mashima managed to serialize Monster Hunter Orage, a manga adaptation of the Monster Hunter videogame series, and crossover with both fellow Weekly Shonen title The Seven Deadly Sins and Flunk Punk Rumble, a romantic comedy manga created by his former assistant, Miki Yoshikawa (better known Stateside for Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches).

From 2014-2015, Kodansha published the Monthly Fairy Tail magazine, which featured Mashima's prequel manga, Fairy Tail Zero (about Natsu and Happy's training) and Yusuke Shirato's Tail of Fairy Tail: Ice Trail, about a young Gray. Other spinoffs include  Kyota Shibano's digital-first Fairy Tail Spinoff: Twin Dragons of Sabertooth and the shojo (girl's) mangas Fairy Tail: Blue Mistrial by Rui Watanabe and Fairy Tail: Fairy Girls by Boku.

Originally published in North America by the now-defunct Del Rey Manga, Fairy Tail and all related spinoffs are now published by Kodansha Comics.

WHAT MAKES IT SPECIAL?

Like other mangaka of his generation (Naruto creator Masashi Kishimoto included), Mashima devoured the Dragon Quest videogames and Akira Toriyama's Dragon Ball manga growing up. The influence runs deep and the affection is obvious.

Mashima avoids Toriyama's potty humor, but still goes for very dude-friendly jokes (boob jokes and gags about Lucy's sex appeal abound). A little groan-worthy, but it's not overly lecherous. Lucy is usually (but not always) presented as much smarter than the dopey boys around her, and any jokes about her appearance are more than turned around on male characters. In particular, Gray has a bizarre habit of stripping for no reason.

 

Fairy Tail Wiki/Hiro Mashima

 

The story moves at an energetic pace that sweeps the viewer along into a well-built world. In that regard --- and in how Mashima draws women --- it's very similar to that king of shonen, One Piece. Like Eichiro Oda, Mashima draws some incredible battle sequences --- particularly whenever Erza uses her signature Requip Magic to swap between tons of weapons and armor --- and he excels at both funny bits and serious action. Sometimes in the very same panel.

WHO SHOULD READ IT?

Anybody who grew up watching or reading Dragon Ball/Dragon Ball Z or Naruto or One Piece. Harry Potter fans who want something a little bit more irreverent. Fans of Dragon Quest, Chrono Trigger and The Tower of Druaga. People who know exactly what Gotham Academy's Maps is talking about.

WHERE CAN I READ IT?

Fairy Tail is simulpublished every Wednesday on Crunchyroll for subscribers. It is available digitally on Comixology, Kindle and other platforms, and in print from a variety of retailers and your local library.