Into the Badlands might be the most unique show on television, as it doesn't really fit into a single genre. The new AMC series blends intriguing feudal politics with badass kung fu fight scenes in a bleak dystopian world with scenery meant to remind viewers of the antebellum South and the Old West. While it’s not a comic book show, Into the Badlands was created by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, the creators of the long running Superman prequel TV series Smallville. If you’re looking for some complementary reading for Into the Badlands, here’s five comic series we think you’d enjoy:
The closest comics equivalent to Into the Badlands is Lazarus, an Image ongoing series by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark. Lazarus is set in a dystopian future ruled by a handful of powerful families, each of whom controls a territory of various size. While the bulk of humanity is considered “waste” to the families and live in lawless poverty, a small number of serfs loyal to their family help maintain order and protect the family’s interest. Each family has a Lazarus, a genetically and cybernetically enhanced enforcer who acts as bodyguard, assassin and leader of the family’s security forces. The book follows Forever Carlyle, the Lazarus of the Carlyle family as she struggles to balance familial politics and betrayals with her dangerous occupation and her own secret love life. Lazarus is one of the best comics on the stands, a mix of high octane action, backstabbing politics and the always important struggle for identity.
If you enjoy wild swordplay set in the backdrop of a bleak version of the modern world, Rumble is the comic for you. Written by John Arcudi and illustrated by James Harren, Rumble stars an immortal warrior god imprisoned in a scarecrow body. After fighting (and losing) a war against a group of demon-like foes, war god Rathraq returns to Earth to discover his home abandoned, his warhound dead, and his enemies hidden amongst humanity. When he discovers that his enemies have his mortal body locked away, Rathraq embarks on a deadly quest to get it back, enlisting the help of two (rather pathetic) humans to help him navigate the modern world. While it’s missing the politics and alternate dystopian future, Rumble shares Into the Badlands’ bleak outlook on the world and the show’s love of over the top sword fights.
Old Man Logan
If you’re looking for a superhero take on dystopian loner stories, look no further than Old Man Logan, a miniseries featuring an older Wolverine living in the remains of the Marvel Universe. Due to a deadly accident involving the X-Men and Mysterio, Wolverine retired from superheroics and moved to California, a land now controlled by the Hulk and his incestuous offspring. Needing money to pay off the Hulk family, Wolverine accepts a job to accompany Hawkeye across country, travelling through lands controlled by other supervillains. Mark Millar and Steve McNiven’s Old Man Logan shows the Marvel Universe at its bleakest but provides a glimmer of hope that one reluctant superhero can make a difference. Marvel recently returned to the world of Old Man Logan in a recent miniseries written by Brian Bendis and illustrated by Andrea Sorrentino before bringing the character into the main Marvel Universe during their recent “All-New, All-Different” Marvel relaunch.
Lone Wolf and Cub
One of the greatest manga ever written, Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima’s Lone Wolf and Cub is the story of a disgraced samurai and his young son seeking revenge in a feudal Japan ruled by corruption and disorder. Once the executioner of the Shoganate (a position of high power in feudal Japan) Ogami is forced out of his position when his wife is killed and he is framed as a traitor. After discovering his wife’s death was part of a plot by a rival clan, Ogami and his young son becomes an assassin for hire, with the ultimate goal of avenging his wife’s death and wiping out the clan that wronged him. With remarkable historic accuracy that depicts feudal Japan in a stark and un-nostalgic manner, Lone Wolf and Cub has influenced numerous Japanese mangaka and American comics creators, including Frank Miller.
East of West
Set in an alternate dystopian version of the United States, Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta’s East of West is the story of one man trying to reunite his family in the face of the Apocalypse. Of course, that man is none other than Death, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse who abandoned his mission after falling in love. After he’s betrayed by the other Horseman and ripped from his family, Death spends ten years searching for his wife before learning he had a son, who is now being raised to become the Beast of the Apocalypse. East of West combines a Western style story, high science fiction and prophecy driven political intrigue to create one of the more unique comics on shelves today. Although there’s no swordplay in East of West, there’s plenty of epic fights, gruesome violence and sinister intent to keep fans of Into the Badlands captivated.