I will admit, at the outset, that I am somewhat biased towards comic books. Not in the "SUPERMAN PUNCHES BADGUYS" sense, but in the "Calvin and Hobbes, I really enjoy the art and it manages to be funny AND poignant at the same time" sense. I think I've even talked about it before.
At the risk of repeating myself, I think comics like Calvin and Hobbes are totally rad. Go read them.
But now, delving into new territory, you should totally read other comic books as well.
I know it may be old news to some, but comics have grown (and continue to grow) as a medium that is completely capable of imparting a mature, innovative storyline while expressing itself as no other medium can.
One of the best examples of this?
The Walking Dead.
I know-- zombies are for weirdos and geeks. Before they shambled into the public eye (and, really, even after that) they were seen mainly around that one table in the lunchroom that nobody really wanted to go near because of the overwhelming cheetos-and-Mountain-Dew fug that seemed to hover there like a cloud (I call it 'chountain-foo.') From inside of this cloud, muffled grunts could be heard debating the merits of specific tactics during a zombocalypse, such as which weapon to use (fire-axe) and where to go (post-office. Think about it.)
Needless to say, this esoteric mumbling doesn't foster a sense of 'welcome.'
But that's all changed in the past few years. With the explosion of nerd-culture onto the pop-culture scene, normal people have started learning about robots and aliens. Moreover, they've learned that, hey, there've been some pretty smart things written about nerdy subjects. And--like it or not, Hollywood!--people tend to like smart things.
Where was I going with this?
The Walking Dead is one of those 'smart things that have been written about nerdy subjects.' To quote the author (Robert Kirkman):
"To me, the best zombie movies aren't the splatter fests of gore and violence with goofy characters and tongue in cheek antics. Good zombie movies show us how messed up we are... They show us gore and violence and all that cool stuff too, but there's always an undercurrent of social commentary and thoughtfulness."
So, basically, what Kirkman is saying is that he's writing a character drama. Except, when anything gets boring or tedious, zombies show up.
How cool is that?!
Here we have an intelligent, well-thought-out character drama with awesome supernatural tension to influence the character's actions and drive the plot when things get stable. And the best thing is, there are so many comics like this now.
Check out Watchmen by Alan Moore, for one. It's excellent. The Sandman series, by Neil Gaiman is another. If you're not put off by dark, surrealistic visuals and grim plot, read Black Hole by Charles Burns. If realism is your cup of tea, go for Persepolis or Fun Home.
My point is, comic books are awesome. You can get into them without having to read years and years of backstory. You can enjoy them even if you don't like superheroes. And the best part is, they will probably make you smarter.*
Moral of the story? Read more comics.
(*This claim is not proven by science. Indeed, it is not supported by anybody but me, because I think smart things make you think, which makes you smart. Like exercise. For your mind. But you can also enjoy it, which you will.
... Read comics.)