My favorite comic book, graphic novels reads of 2021

Captain Orion, longtime reader of comics and graphic novels, of strangerworlds.com, writes:

2021 was a quiet year for comic book stores and retail shelves, but the awesome new reads keep coming.

The impact of the ongoing global pandemic continues to affect the industry, creators, publishers. Yet, there the push to keep sequential arts remains perpetual in a forward direction, from and for folks who are passionate for its pure form of art and storytelling. Comic books and graphic novels will never die as long as there are intelligent creatures who can distinguish, interpret, enjoy visual storytelling. But in our present days, that may change in format, and how they are received.

For myself, I am well aware of the new trends of online comics as long form storytelling, particularly with WebToons, and scrolling comics. I do find that evolving form interesting, but found nothing yet that has grabbed me. There are many new webcomics series self-published as well, which I hope to explore in 2022. But for last year, it was all about print and what was available at comic stores, borrowed from friends and local libraries.

I’m often excited if a favorite writer or artist is involved, so there might be a bit bias for how much involved with a read I get. In 2021, I was especially excited to see many favored names prominent on shelves, especially Mark Russell, J.H. Williams III, Naoki Urasawa, Tom Taylor, and more. I also discovered new favorites for the years ahead.

Many of those, I will share below as my best comics and graphic novels of 2021, which I highly recommend for 2022…

BEST SUSPENSE SERIES of 2021

Stray Dogs

Writer: Tomy Fleecs Artist: Trish Forstner, Tone Rodriguez, Brad Simpson
Publisher: Image Comics (limited series)

It’s scary being the new dog. In this suspenseful new series, readers meet Sophie, a dog who can’t remember what happened. She doesn’t know how she ended up in this house. She doesn’t recognize any of these other dogs. She knows something terrible happened, but she just…can’t…recall…Wait! Where’s her lady? Now Sophie has to figure out where she is, what’s happening, and how she’s going to survive this. They say there’s no such thing as a bad dog—just bad owners.

Stray Dogs is an underrated hit and an exhilarating reading experience. By that, I mean looking at the old cartoons. mostly from Disney where house pets and street animals are humanized, to a point of talking and having there own lives. But, also with a realistic approach keeping in mind their physical limits. Stray Dogs brings it all to a creepy extreme, with grisly murder and dark turns where nothing is off the table for the fates of some very cute, talking animals. Throw in some many nail-biting moments, leading to an epic finale. And overall, Stray Dogs is an awesome read.

BEST FANTASY (and NEW) SERIES of 2021

ECHOLANDS

Writer: W. Haden Blackman, J.H. Williams III Artist: Dave Stewart, J.H. Williams III
Publisher: Image Comics (monthly series)

In a bizarre future world that has forgotten its history, a reckless thief, Hope Redhood, holds the key to excavating its dark, strange past—if only she and her crew can escape a tyrannical wizard and his unstoppable daughter. But fate will send them all on a path leading to a war between worlds. Echolands is a landscape format, mythic-fiction epic where anything is possible—a fast-paced genre mashup adventure that combines everything from horror movie vampires to classic mobsters and cyborg elves, to Roman demigods and retro rocket ships. It’s going to be a helluva ride!

This series is a bold mix of magic, technology, world-building, but with a unique feel and presentation, bringing the reader on a dreamy, wild journey. Echolands delivers well with a landscape oriented pages, utilizing J.H. Williams III (which I know well from Batwoman, Promethea) inventive use of panels and transition. It’s all very fast-paced as we follow Hope and friends are in constant danger, but also for the reader to slow-down and really take in beautiful complexities of this strange, fantastic adventure full of interesting concepts. Also, love the extras every issue brings, expanding upon both the insights of the creators and the world of Echolands. This brings what true fantasy should be, without limits and breaking the boundaries of the fantastic.

BEST SCIENCE FICTION SERIES of 2021

We Only Find Them When They’re Dead

Writer: Al Ewing Artist: Simone Di Neo
Publisher: BOOM! Entertainment (monthly Series)

Captain Malik and the crew of the spaceship the Vihaan II are in search of the only resources that matter — and can only be found by harvesting the giant corpses of alien gods that are found on the edge of human space. While other autopsy ships and explorers race to salvage the meat, minerals, and metals that sustain the human race, Malik sees an opportunity to finally break free from this system: by being the first to find a living god. But Malik’s obsession with the gods will push his crew into the darkest reaches of space, bringing them face to face with a threat unlike anything they ever imagined, unless the rogue agent on their trail can stop them first…

This is some crazy cool sci-fi fun, told with modern digital coloring, slick animated style, and fluid storytelling. There’s action mixed with moral reflection on our place in the stars, and the limits sentients ponder on breaking. But also, the story feel believable with space physics and engineering that doesn’t seem like made up nonsense. Our main hero, Captain Malik, is the cosmic romantic with an deep life-story bringing him to the edge of the known, and beginning of the unknown. It’s all a wonderful story unfolding in vibrant color and dramatic faire, giving this hard sci-fi a wicked sharp edge. I look forward to see where this all goes!

BEST COMICS PANELING of 2021

The Body Factory: From the First Prosthetics to the Augmented Human

Writer: Heloise Chochois Artist: Kendra Boileau
Publisher: Graphic Mundi – PSU Press (graphic novel)

A young man has a horrible motorcycle accident. He wakes up in the hospital to discover that one of his arms has been amputated. Then a portrait on the wall of his hospital room begins to speak to him. The subject of the painting introduces himself as Ambroise Paré, the French barber-surgeon who revolutionized the art of amputation. From this wonderfully absurd premise, the two begin an imaginary conversation that takes them through a sweeping history of surgical amputation, from the Stone Age to the Space Age. Unencumbered by pathos or didacticism, this graphic novel explores the world of amputation, revealing fascinating details about famous amputees throughout history, the invention of the tourniquet, phantom limb syndrome, types of prostheses, and transhumanist technologies. Playfully illustrated and seriously funny, The Body Factory is sure to delight anyone interested in the history and future of medicine and how we repair and even enhance the body.

This read is both a wild story journey and a real look at the history, science, psychology of amputations and prosthetics. The story is also psychological, dealing with a protagonist dealing with the loss of his body part, and coming to terms with what comes next. It’s fascinating on that level where the situation can happen to us, what how we can understand, given it’s necessity to history and medical solutions. There are parallels of the fictional, the non-fictional, textbook information, mixed in a strategic placements giving the reader a broader understanding of the subject matter. The Body Factory gives much on this unfortunate situation that amputation brings, yet also giving an enlightened approach on the act of living through fixing ourselves. Telling this through expressive art, story mixed with information through this inventive, entertaining style, is awesome.

BEST SUPERHERO SERIES of 2021

Superman: Red and Blue

Writer/Artist: (Various)
Publisher: DC Comics (limited series)

Around the world, everyone knows that when they see a red-and-blue streak in the sky, it’s not a bird…it’s not a plane…it’s Superman. Collected for the first time in its entirety, this unforgettable anthology series showcases fresh new visions of the Man of Steel in his two signature colors!

A series of very diverse stories about Superman, sometimes from different perspectives, that give a fresh look at a character that some would think all has been done to. Those people would be wrong. There are some very interesting takes on Superman, his strengths and weaknesses, and what helped make him so iconic. All of these stories, with an artistic challenge where only red and blue colors used. I loved every issues, and excited to read about Superman again.

BEST CREATIVE STORYTELLING of 2021

Mawrth Valliis

Writer/Artist: EPK
Publisher: Image Comics (graphic novel)

During a skirmish with an opposing Martian faction, a fighter pilot disobeys orders to pursue a fleeing foe. Guided by her determination and curiosity, she is led into a dangerous chase through Mars’s forbidden valley where she will be confronted with the red planet’s darkest of secrets. A fast-paced, 128-page, full-color, pocket-format, sci-fi adventure through Mars’s mysteries all told in its original Martian form.

It’s a short read with a lot of heart. There’s a pursuit across a Martian landscape, leading to some fantastic twists and turns. But, also, there is no exposition of an Earth language. It’s all in “Martian.” giving the reader a more alien feel, and more reading of actions, reactions, and situation. There is more show, don’t tell, and I love that. The use of colors are fantastic, the choice of opposites of blank and white in our two main characters are brilliant. The end is haunting, leaving room for the reader to ponder its overall message and true nature of the story.

BEST SATIRE SERIES of 2021

Not All Robots

Writer: Mark Russell Artist: Mike Deodato Jr.
Publisher: AWA Studios – Upshot (monthly Series)

In the year 2056, robots have replaced human beings in the workforce. An uneasy co-existence develops between the newly intelligent robots and the ten billion humans living on Earth. Every human family is assigned a robot upon whom they are completely reliant. What could possibly go wrong? Meet the Walters, a human family whose robot, Razorball, ominously spends his free time in the garage working on machines which they’re pretty sure are designed to kill them in this sci-fi satire from Mark Russell (The Flintstones, Second Coming) and Mike Deodato Jr. (The Amazing Spider-Man, The Resistance).

I love Mark Russell’s style at satire with Prez, Flintstones, God is Disappointed in You, dark but with a mix of wit and humor to it all. But here is a brilliant escalation in Not All Robots; to what happens when machines are made to be more human, with attitudes and status. There is a lot of back and forth with human elements/ That includes taken in all the insecurities are also inherited with both humans and machines that they create. But there’s also a lot of metaphorical moments, bouncing back to who we treat as machines today, who we take for granted, and groups we take in as cheap, willing labor. It’s funny, because we see the absurdities that Mark Russell loves to mix as cartoonish tropes brilliantly disguised as current, real human issues.

BEST IMPORTED SERIES of 2021

Asadora!

Writer/Artist: Naoki Urasawa
Publisher:
Viz (published in monthly volumes, 16 volumes)

In 2020, a large creature rampages through Tokyo, destroying everything in its path. In 1959, Asa Asada, a spunky young girl from a huge family in Nagoya, is kidnapped for ransom—and not a soul notices. When a typhoon hits Nagoya, Asa and her kidnapper must work together to survive. But there’s more to her kidnapper and this storm than meets the eye.

Asadora is a historical fiction, science fiction, and suspense mystery all rolled together. There’s much stroy to follow with multiple plotlines, but with memorable characters that we trust will eventually be more connected – a signature style to the storyteller that brought us Monster, 20th Century boys, Pluto – all great works but took time to develop. There’s only a few volumes in the US so far, and off to a big start. Asadora gives more in curiosity with real life events mixed in with science fiction familiarities; all rooted deep in Japanese culture. We also get some great developments, with some tense reactions. But Naoki Urasawa’s art style seems more detailed than ever here. I’m excited, and looking forward to reading more of this in 2022.

BEST GRAPHIC NOVEL of 2020

Monsters

Writer/Artist: Barry Windsor-Smith
Publisher: Fantagraphics (graphic novel)

In this pen-and-ink graphic novel, in 1964, Bobby Bailey is recruited for a U.S. military experimental genetics program that was discovered in Nazi Germany 20 years prior. His only ally, Sergeant McFarland, intervenes to try to protect him, which sets off a chain of events that spin out of everyone’s control. As the titular monsters multiply, becoming real and metaphorical, literal and ironic, the story reaches its emotional and moral reckoning. Windsor-Smith has been working on this passion project for more than 35 years, and Monsters is part intergenerational family drama, part espionage thriller, and part metaphysical journey. Trauma, fate, conscience, and redemption are just a few of the themes that intersect in the most ambitious (and intense) graphic novel of Windsor-Smith’s career.

Monsters is brutal, mean, and really putting the “graphic” into graphic novel. The art is amazing with a story that leads through the familiar territory of government experiments gone out of control, but then heads into darker territory into both physiological and psychological. It’s started as a Hulk story, then kind of mutated over time, with elements from Barry Windsor’s work on Conan and Marvel’s Wolverine story of Weapon X. There is amazing passion that comes from telling the grand story of Barry Windsor-Smith’s Monsters, which comes out as an uncomfortable, emotionally-driven masterpiece.

BEST REPRINTING OF CLASSICs of 2021

Berserk Deluxe Editions

Writer/Artist: Kentaro Muira
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics (published in volume compilations)

Not much else needs to be said about the amazing epic story of Berserk and art/storytelling of Kentaro Muira. His sad passing in 2021 has brought fans and new readers together to further appreciate his great work and what we will miss in the years ahead. But to best appreciate his work I believe, are these amazing deluxe hardcover compilations of his smaller sized manga volumes, all beautiful brought on larger, high quality pages. For myself in later years of rereading, this will be how I best enjoy the story of Guts and his many companions and challenges.

BEST HISTORICAL COMICS of 2021

The Comic Book History of Animation

Writer: Fred Van Lente Artist: Ryan Dunlavey
Publisher: IDW Publishing (limited series)

Incredibly informative and very entertaining. From the Victorian Era to the Digital Age, no bits of significant knowledge of moving art is forgotten and so well put together. Everything makes perfect sense, especially in the critical turn of my growing up with Saturday morning commercialized cartoons, anime binges through college, emotional Pixar masterpieces, and all in between and moving ahead. Much behind the scenes is explained, including many rough legal spots and bitter feuds, leaving the history of the industry as cartoonish and wacky as expressed through every chapter.

That’s all my favorites for the 2021 year. I probably missed or overlooked some as I could only cover so much. I would love to read your favorites in the comments below.

Captain Orion’s bestest comic book, graphic novel picks of 2020!

Oh 2020, what an unusual year for the comic book industry.

Sadly, there are less comic book stores, less retail book outlets, and those left are mostly now struggling to survive through the ongoing global pandemic. There’s also the freeze on comic cons, potential book signings, promotions. 2020 was a troublesome year for creators, merchants, publishers, and readers.

Yet, the sequential arts shall survive. Graphic novels sales are up by 29% since 2019! Also, there are many fresh reads throughout the year, and more time among the masses to catch up on these and past work with with the quarantines and lockdowns. Also, buying comics supports the industry, among the struggling creators, publishers, distributers, small business dealers.

So below, are my bestest picks released for 2020, based on what I have checked out.

BEST NEW SERIES of 2020

Inkblot

Writer: Emma Kubert Artist: Rusty Gadd
Publisher: Image Comics (monthly series)

It’s a fun little series about a mischievous magical over-powerful cat. I love the worlds, characters, art, writing, and excited to see where it’s all going!

BEST ONGOING STORYLINE of 2020

Excellence

Writer: Brandom Thomas Artist: Emilio Lopez, Khary Randolph
Publisher: Image Comics (monthly series)

This series keeps on surprising, with twists and turns while presenting a secret world of Black magic that feels more intricate and responsible than your typical Hogwarts melodrama.

BEST COMIC BOOK COVER of 2020

Amazing Spider-Man #55 (latest series)

Artist: Patrick Gleason
Publisher: Marvel Comics

I don’t know if the story is good, but the cover is just too awesome to ignore!

BEST COLORING of 2020

MTSYRY: Octobriana 1976

Writer/Artist: Jim Rugg
Publisher: AdHouse Books

The black light colors are truly eye-popping, with this modern take on an old Russian superhero from the early Bronze Age. To further the color even more, Jim Rugg also put out a 1970s style coloring issue, and colorless version as well. Masterful stuff!

BEST INSANITY of 2020

Dark Nights: Death Metal

Writer: Scott Snyder and others Artist: Greg Capullo and others
Publisher: DC Comics (monthly mini -eries and crossover one-shots)

Also the best guilty pleasure of 2020. As a big DC fan since the late 1980s, the is the most ridiculous and over-the top crossover event yet. Everything has gone wrong in the DCU as an army evil Batman from the Dark Multiverse take over, and things just get crazier from there.

BEST SUSPENSE SERIES of 2020

Something is Killing the Children

Writer: James Tynion IV Artist: Werther Dell’Edera
Publisher: DC Comics (monthly series

If you enjoy horror, mystery, stronger and darker content than Stranger Things, than Something is Killing the Children is waiting for you to turn its pages. It’s different, not as spoon fed in pacing, full of mystery, and has a unique protagonist.

BEST SCIENCE FICTION of 2020

Planet Paradise

Writer/Artist: Jesse Lonergan
Publisher: Image Comics (Short graphic novel)

I love this story, which feels like a mix of old fashioned pulp, mixed with grit and light campy elements. Great survival story revolving around adventure, danger, friendship. Also love the alien landscapes, designs, and space tech – simple yet escapist pleasure for sure!

BEST CHARACTER STUDY of 2020

DARTH VADER Vol. 1 – Dark Heart Of The Sith

Writer/Artist: Greg Pack, Raffaele Ienco
Publisher: Marvel Comics (#1-5 of the latest series, collected in trade paperback form)

This is an interesting read as it delves deeper into the inner conflict of Darth Vader since the events of Empire Strikes Back (but before Return of the Jedi), searching his feelings. This leads to a startling revelation, that you should read to find out. The result, gives more sense to his transition and actions in Return of the Jedi, yet also plays upon his cruel, corrupted nature.

BEST WRITTEN SERIES in 2020

John Constantine: Hellblazer

Writer: Simon Spurrier Artist: Matias Bergara, Arron Campbell, Marcio Takara 
Publisher: DC Comics (Black Label) (monthly series)

I freakin love Simon Spurrier’s writing from past work and here, also with great respect back to the Vertigo socio-political days of Delano and Ennis!

BEST GRAPHIC NOVEL of 2020

Under Earth

Writer/Artist: Chris Gooch
Publisher: Top Shelf (graphic novel)

This was really, really good, and fitting for a pandemic time for themes of lonliness and isolation turning to friendships and communications through restrictive times. In this case, a prison system in a surreal future or alternate present. The artwork is perfect, with a masterful use of blacks and whites…check it out!

BEST REPRINTING OF CLASSIC COMICS of 2020

Mermaid Saga Collector’s Edition, Vol. 1

Writer/Artist: Rumiko Takahashi
Publisher: Viz

Many fans of Rumiko Takahashi will know her best for the grander Inu-Yasha anime and manga series. But for me in my older days of when manga felt more fresh to comic books stores, Mermaid’s Saga captured my heart way more. Seeing it all complete, but this time better edited and and presented, is a treasure to behold.

BEST COMICS HISTORY BOOK of 2020

Invisible Men: The Trailblazing Black Artists of Comic Books

Writer: Ken Quatro
Publisher: Yoe Books

An large book full of lost history detailing the stories and lives of many obscure Black cartoonists and comic creators during comics Golden Age around the Second World War. Full of rare panels, pictures, fascinating facts on multiple genre contributions (some are very surprising!) what would have been lost if not for this book.

And, that’s all my favorites for the 2020 year. I probably missed or overlooked that might have been better. Please if so, let me know in the comments. I don’t want to feel left out on your best books.

Give a graphic novel, big comics TP with our 2020 Holiday Gift Guide!

2020 Holiday Season is here!!

Tis season shall not to be stopped by the ongoing global pandemic. Many will shop, yet find ways to best stay safe and minimalize risks of infection. Online or local, there are ways to continue the joyous gift giving tradition of our Xmas and winter holiday season!

So, that’s where you come in reaching out to a local bookseller or comic shop, hopefully still open or have a pickup thing going on. Online also works, if local options are too inconvenient. Either way, The book-sellers, publishers, artists, writers, and creative souls that drive the sequential arts need your help! And they can help you in return, by helping to put something new in the hands of someone awesome in your life, most deserving!

But choosing can be tough, especially in this tough time of social distancing and quarantining So, I put together a shortlist of awesome, fresh current shelf reads that I know of, or heard of, or recommended by a respected peers. Much of this is fresh, creator-driven material. Some things are just fresh formats for older. more obscure material now reprinted.

These are mostly currently obtainable through major retail book chains, comic book stores, and wherever new books can be at least ordered. NOTE: Book info below is for the US and Canada retail shelves release.

So, dig in and consider perhaps gifting any of these for yourself as well.

The World of Black Hammer: Volume 1

Writer / Artist: Jeff Lemire / Dean Ormston (Illustrator), David RubÌn (Illustrator), Max Fiumara (Illustrator)
Published by: Dark Horse Comics
Format: 256-hardcover
ISBN: 978-1506719955

An expanded look at the world of Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston’s Eisner Award-winning Black Hammer universe, with two complete series drawn by David Rubín and Max Fiumara. Sherlock Frankenstein lies at the heart of the mystery of what happened to Black Hammer, Spiral City’s greatest hero, and Black Hammer’s daughter is determined to uncover his role. Doctor Andromeda, an aged crime fighter, desperately struggles to reconnect with his estranged son as he takes on personal demons and interstellar battles.

Collects Sherlock Frankenstein & the Legion of Evil: From the World of Black Hammer and Doctor Andromeda and the Kingdom of Lost Tomorrows in a deluxe, oversized hardcover format with a new cover, sketchbook extras, and more!

Get this for… Black Hammer fans of course, or someone who enjoys comics and perhaps super hero movies on a more intellectual level. The Black Hammer stories can often be enjoyed as self-contained, but also a celebration of the long-standing contributions of super-hero storytelling as literary, character building devices!

Under-Earth

Writer / Artist: Chris Gooch
Published by: Top Shelf Productions
Format: 560-page softcover paperback
ISBN: 9781603094771

The inmates of an extensive underground prison struggle to build meaningful lives in a broken system, in the most ambitious graphic novel to date from rising indie star Chris Gooch (Bottled and Deep Breaths).Under-Earth takes place in a subterranean landfill, hollowed out to serve as a massive improvised prison. Sunken into the trash and debris of the past — gameboys, iphones, coffee cups, old cars — we follow two parallel stories.

In the first, a new arrival struggles to adapt to the everyday violence, physical labour, and poverty of the prison city. Overwhelmed and alone, he finds a connection with a fellow inmate through an old, beat-up novel. While these two silent and uncommunicative men grow closer thanks to their book, the stress of their environment will test their new bond. Meanwhile, a pair of thieves pull off a risky job in exchange for the prisons’ schematics and the promise of escape — only to be betrayed by their employer. On the run with their hope for escape now gone, the two women set their minds to revenge. Yet as they lay their plans, their focus shifts from an obsession with the outside world to the life they have with each other.

Equal parts sincerity and violence, Under-Earth explores humanity’s inextinguishable drive to find meaning, connection, and even family — and how fragile such constructions can be.

Get this for… A good friend, someone looking for new positives in these tough times, and enjoys a good long read! Also, Chris Gooch’s art is awesome, with an modern tone that feels both expressive yet beautifully simple.

Accidents and Old Lace and Other Stories

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Writer / Artist:  A; Feldstein / Graham Ingels
Published by: Fantagraphics
Format: 232-page Hardcover
ISBN: 9781683963806

This volume collects short horror comics stories from Tales From the Crypt, Vault of Horror, Haunt of Fear, Crime SuspenStories, and Impact ― including a rare EC gem that hasn’t been seen since its original publication more than 65 years ago! These stories, which “Ghastly” Graham Ingels drew while he was at the pinnacle of his powers, include tales such as “Accidents and Old Lace.” Three sweet, little old ladies weave tapestries depicting the gruesome deaths of real people, but when an art dealer commits murder to get a tapestry of his own, he discovers just how closely art imitates … death. In “Marriage Vow,” a woman returns from the grave to fulfill her wifely duty to her murderous husband, until death does them … together; and in “The Sliceman Cometh,” an executioner during the French Revolution can’t escape the severed head of an innocent man.

Get this for… someone who loves good short horror stories from yesterday, lost but now found treasure in a book ol book. Some who loves scary movies, and needs to know where some of that stuff probably came from.

Lois Lane: Enemy of the People

Lois Lane Enemy of the People

Writer / Artist:  Greg Rucka / Mike Perkins
Published by: DC Comics
Format: 304-page softcover
ISBN: 1770463690

She uncovered the most dangerous secret in the DC Universe…now she just has to prove it! After a press briefing at the White House-and carrying a secret that could disrupt Superman’s life-Lois Lane embarks on a harrowing journey to uncover a threat to her husband and a plot that reaches the highest levels of international power brokers and world leaders. Bestselling writer Greg Rucka and acclaimed artist Mike Perkins team up for a tale of conspiracy, intrigue, and murder that tests the limits of tough-as-nails investigative journalist Lois Lane. As the mystery deepens, the Question hunts the people responsible for an attempt on the reporter’s life. But do they want her dead because of what she knows or to stop her from finding out more? Collects Lois Lane #1-12.

Get this for someone who loves journalism, or feels Lois Lane deserves better than how she is written in the movies. Someone who also enjoyed the Lois Lane comics in the 70s (daring reporter!) more than the 60s (Superman’s crazy girlfriend!).

Planet Paradise, Volume 1

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Writer / Artist:  Jesse Lonergan
Published by: Image Comics
Format: 128-page softcover
ISBN: 978-1534316980

To survive after crash landing on an alien planet, a vacationer must battle against a hostile environment, killer lizards, corporate bureaucracy, and the pessimism of her sole companion, the drug-addled captain of the ship.

Get this for… who loves a good hearted story filled with friendship and danger, with some surprise twists. Personal note: I absolutely loved this, and you should at least buy this for yourself.

Jack Kirby: The Epic Life of the King of Comics

Writer / Artist:  Tom Scioli
Published by: Ten Speed Press
Format: 208-page hardcover
ISBN: 1984856901

Told in vivid graphic novel form by a groundbreaking Eisner-nominated comics creator, the long-overdue biography of the legend who co-created Captain America, Iron Man, Black Panther, the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, and many more superhero favorites.

Get this for…someone who really loves comic books and loves the history that Jack Kirby has helped greatly shaped and influenced on. Tom Scioli brings a special storytelling style with his art, very detailed and stylized through each page!

Transformers/Ghostbusters: Ghosts of Cybertron

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Writer / Artist:  Erik Burnham / Dan Schoening
Published by: IDW
Format: 126-page softcover paperback
ISBN: 978-1684056200

Prime gets slimed! Crossing streams after 35 years, this action-packed graphic novel combines two of the most popular franchises in pop-culture history. After years of civil war, the Autobots fled Cybertron, leaving their home planet in the evil clutches of Megatron and his Decepticons. Years later and millions of miles away, the Autobots pick up a Cybertronian distress signal from a mysterious planet called Earth. The ghostly signal shouldn’t exist, and it’ll bring Optimus Prime and his team—including brand-new Autobot ECTOTRON—face-to-face with… the GHOSTBUSTERS!

Get this for…anyone who loves the golden age of 80s nostalgia through cartoons, movies, and toys.

Titan

Titan

Writer / Artist:  François Vigneault
Published by: Lion Forge Comics
Format: 208-page softcover paperback
ISBN: 1620107791

When MNGR First Class João da Silva arrives on the moon of Titan to take charge of Homestead Station, he finds the massive mining colony plagued by tensions between the giant, genetically-engineered Titan workers and the Terran management. As anger mounts, what began as a routine posting quickly turns into something far more dangerous.

Phoebe Mackintosh thought she left her fighting days behind her when she turned her back on the “mixing” circuit. Now, she finds herself caught between a past she’d rather forget and a future she can’t predict. Together, they must find a way to pull Homestead back from the brink of disaster… Or Titan might be the spark that sets the entire solar system ablaze.

Get this for… someone looking for something a little different in science fiction, probably watches Star Trek for the social commentary.

The Sacrifice of Darkness

Sacrifice of Darkness

Writer / Artist: Roxane Gay, Tracy Lynne / Rebecca Kirby
Published by: Archaia (Imprint of BOOM!)
Format: 128-page hardcover
ISBN: 1684156246

New York Times bestselling author Roxane Gay (World of Wakanda, Difficult Women) adapts her short story “We Are the Sacrifice of Darkness” as a full-length graphic novel with writer Tracy Lynne Oliver (This Weekend), and artist Rebecca Kirby (Biopsy.) Expanding an unforgettable world where a tragic event forever bathes the world in darkness, The Sacrifice of Darkness follows one woman’s powerful journey through this new landscape as she discovers love, family, and the true light in a world seemingly robbed of any. This young adult drama challenges notions of identity, guilt, and survival in a graphic novel for fans of On A Sunbeam and Are You Listening?

Get this for… someone who loves beautiful art mixed with thoughtful storytelling. Also, those into fresh young adult section finds!

Shuri: Wakanda Forever

Shuri

Writers:  Vita Ayala, Nnedi Okorafor
Artists: Leonardo Romero, Paul Davidson, Rachael Stott
Published by: Marvel Comics
Format: 224-page softcover paperback
ISBN: 1302923692

The Black Panther’s techno-genius sister stars in her own incredible adventures! T’Challa has disappeared, and Wakanda expects Shuri to lead their great nation in his absence! But she’s happiest in a lab surrounded by her inventions. She’d rather be testing gauntlets than throwing them down! So it’s time for Shuri to rescue her brother yet again — with a little help from Storm, Rocket Raccoon and Groot! But what happens when her outer-space adventure puts Africa at risk from an energy-sapping alien threat? Then, Shuri heads to America to investigate a lead, with Ms. Marvel and Miles “Spider-Man” Morales along for the ride! But with her people in peril, will Shuri embrace her reluctant destiny and become the Black Panther once more? Prepare for a hero like you’ve never seen before!

Collects Shuri (2018) monthly single issue comic series #1-10.

Get this for… for Black Panther fans and MCU of course, but further more, a fresh superhero journey that feels classic in its own way and stays with the reader longer after the last page.

Remina

Writer / Artist:  Junji Ito
Published by: Viz Media LLC
Format: 256-page Hardcover
ISBN: 197471747X

(note: due out on December 15th)

Another of Junji Ito’s classics, the sci-fi masterwork Remina tells the chilling tale of a hell star. An unknown planet emerges from inside a wormhole, and its discoverer, Dr. Oguro, christens the body “Remina” after his own daughter. His finding is met with great fanfare, and Remina herself rises to fame. However, the object picks up speed as it moves along in its curious course, eliminating planets and stars one after another, until finally Earth itself faces extinction… Is the girl Remina the true cause of the catastrophe? A masterwork of horror from Junji Ito, unfolding on a universal scale.

Get this forfans of Junji Ito! Also, someone who loves Japanese horror and science fiction on a much grander, cosmic scale. I haven’t check this one out, but the work of Junji Ito always breaks though and the imagination, and opens the reader to new and eerie dimensions.

Plutocracy

Writer / Artist: Abraham Martinez
Published by: NBM Graphic Novels
Format: 144-page hardcover
ISBN: 9781681122687

2051. The world’s largest company, The Company, has seized power on a planetary scale and runs the world as if it were a business. In a plutocracy, the richer one is, the more powerful one is. In this context, an anonymous citizen becomes compelled to uncover how the world came to this situation, without paying any attention to the official version. Several members of the government end up encouraging him to carry out this investigation by giving him access to all information. He decides to discover the true history of The Company and the various interests that are trying to influence his investigation.

Get this for someone who loves to talk about politics a bit too much.


That’s all for now. I tried for a wide variety, yet not beyond my own reading interests. After all, it’s my personal list. But, if you have something you would like to add to that list, post it in the comments below.

Our Fall fresh big comics and graphic novels reading list for 2020

What a year it’s been, with just a few more months to go. A fun escape into new comic worlds might really help with that.

The global pandemic and related problems will likely stretch the anxieties and effects of social isolation further down for many. It’s a strange time for comic book fans, with shipping schedules interrupted and companies thrown into turmoil with comic stores and retail book outlets struggling.

But the sequential arts are still out there, waiting to be discovered and pushed. Many creators, artists, writers, and publishers have not quite backed down. They push and promote through “virtual” comic conventions, and still have fresh and exciting stuff to share.

So, give the digital screens and social media a break soon. Check your local new comics outlet, be it near or mail order online. Seek what’s new and exciting for whatever money you may have. Finding a fresh read has a wonderful joy that can take you away to a more thrilling place.

So, I have a guide below of some hand-picked comic volume trade paperbacks and graphic novels, either recently released or set for the next few weeks of October. Each is based on peer reviews, personal anticipations, celebrated creative talent, interesting interpretations, awesome art, and storytelling worthy of your attention.

So here we go (keep in mind, the following info is for tailored for United States releases).

(Orion T, aka Captain Stranger notes – Also, I am adding in personal commentary highlighted in blue).

Olympia

Writer: Curt Pires
Artist: Alex Diotto, Dee Cunniffe, Christian Ward
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: October 6th, 2020
Retail Price: $16.99 Age Rating: 16+ Format: softcover 176 pages

Elon is a latchkey kid who spends his days alone reading comic books-until his favorite superhero, Olympian, comes crashing off the page and into reality! But as he nurses his wounded and delirious hero back to health, he discovers Olympian isn’t the only thing that came through… something evil followed him. A comedic yet heartfelt love letter to the comics medium, Olympia is also a meditation on hope and loss, conceived by Curt Pires (Wyrd) and his father, Tony Pires, while Tony was undergoing treatment for cancer. Collects OLYMPIA 1-5 and Bonus Material.

I love this series, and also the main reason I put this on the top of my recommend list here. It’s got humor, action, twists, and a whole lot of heart. It’s just a fun little serialized story that honors the joys of escapism, while dealing with harsh realities. It’s got a lot of fun nods to comics past (especially Jack Kirby), and where it should be in the future. Also, love the coloring and art.

Victory Point

Writer/Artist: Owen Pomery
Publisher:  Avery Hill Publishing
Release Date: October 14th, 2020
Retail Price: $18.95 Format: paperback 80 pages

On a summer’s day, Ellen returns to the coastal town she grew up in, the picturesque, yet architecturally strange, Victory Point. Revisiting old haunts and people from her past, she feels increasingly disconnected from her previous life, and exhausted by the constant struggle of trying to forge the path ahead. Exploring a town, which itself is an experiment in how to live, Ellen searches for some comfort in her own history that might just give her the strength to move forward.

Victory Point quietly explores the idea of how we choose to live and be remembered, asking whether we should strive for a higher calling, or if a simple, domestic legacy is the most honest and admirable achievement we can hope for.  And if the land from which we disembark feels as alien as the one we hope to reach, how does anyone make their peace with a life amongst the ever-changing  ocean waves?

I love the art and style. And there is something oddly appealing about its approach, which also involves my love of travel and exploration.

Gunning For Ramirez, Volume 1

Writer/Artist: Nicolas Petrimaux
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: September 30 2020
Retail Price: $16.99 Age Rating: 16+ Format: paperback , 144 pages

Falcon City, Arizona. Jacques Ramirez works at Robotop, the leading home appliance company in the Southwest United States. Jacques is efficient, thorough, and discreet. That last one is easy: he’s also mute. But everything changes when two members of one of Paso del Rio’s largest drug cartels stumble upon Jacques and believe him to be the deadly hitman who betrayed them in the past: the ruthless Ramirez. Could it be that the cartel’s legendary clean-up man is really a legendary vacuum cleaner expert?

Nicolas Petrimaux presents the first in a trilogy—a tribute to the action thrillers of the 1980s and ’90s, a brutal narrative with never a dull moment. Gunning for Ramirez is as much a descendant of Friedkin’s To Live and Die in L.A. as it is Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction or Rodriguez’s Mexico Trilogy.

It’s got style, with some awesome layouts and coloring. Some of the odd elements makes appeal as something fresh and different, rather than a usual drug cartel drama with the usual expectations. I am looking forward to reading this soon.

Heartbeat

Writer/Artist: Maria Llovet
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Release Date: October 6, 2020
Retail Price: $16.99 Age Rating: 15+ Format: softcover 184 page

IF NO ONE IS INNOCENT, IS ANYONE TRULY GUILTY? Eva, a high school outcast, finds herself witness to a horrible secret: the most popular boy in school enjoys the taste of blood and will kill to get his hands on it. Horrified and intrigued, Eva lets herself be pulled into Donatien’s macabre world. He offers the escape she has been looking for…but how much is Eva willing to betray her moral code in order to find something that gives her life meaning? And will she—or Donatien—ever find redemption? Acclaimed writer and artist Maria Llovet (Faithless) presents a dark, violent, decadent, and disturbing story in which life and death, blood and love are inextricably intertwined. Collects Heartbeat #1-5 for mature audiences.

High school based horror is always fun. I heard great things about this, and I need some fresh horror for October. Definitely worth checking out!

I Hope This Helps: Comics and Cures for 21st Century Panic

Writer/Artist: Tommy Siegel
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Release Date: October 6th, 2020
Retail Price: $16.99 Format: softcover, 208 pages

Tommy Siegel’s debut book collection includes 200+ pages of comics, essays, and extremely helpful guides to coping with 21st-century panic. With comics titled “Choose your social anxiety coping mechanism” and “What your coffee drink of choice says about you,” I Hope This Helps offers clever and sardonic commentary on our phone-obsessed, social media-driven culture, as well as a series of devastatingly funny relationship comics starring his popular Candy Hearts characters.

Tommy Siegel’s comics began as doodles in the back of a van as a touring rock musician, and quickly earned a viral global fanbase and shout-outs from cultural heavyweights ranging from Ringo Starr to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. With a perfect balance of absurd humor and insightful writing, I Hope This Helps outlines the journey from the author’s earliest “van doodles” all the way to the socially-distanced awkwardness of the present day.

With every little bit of suffering, that needs to be some humor and satire to help with the hard time. I love the cartoon style and humor of Tommy Siegel, especially from his Twitter feed, @TommySiegel.

Tartarus, Volume 1

Writer: Johnny Christmas
Artist: Jack T. Cole
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: October 6th, 2020
Retail Price: $16.99 Age Rating: all ages Format: paperback 176 pages

When Surka, a ruthless criminal warlord, escapes her prison pit, she unleashes a wave of destruction that ripples across Tartarus, a vital colony in an everlasting galactic war. Years later when Tilde, a young cadet, learns that she’s Surka’s daughter, will she continue to fight on the side of galactic order or reclaim her mother’s dark crown?

I just started reading this recently, and I really love the world-building and epic grand story going on here. It’s a got a fresh space opera feel to it, with a mix of what I missed from great science fiction space stories – grit, action, and some well-paced character development.

Barbarella

Writer/Artist: Jean-Claude Forest
Publisher: Humanoids
Release Date: October 20th, 2020
Retail Price: $22.99 Format: paperback 160 pages

Jean-Claude Forest’s timeless Erotic Sci-Fi series recounting the spatial adventures of the beautiful titular character is now available in a brand new English-language adaptation. In Book 1 (first collected in 1964), Barbarella’s spaceship breaks down, she finds herself trapped on the planet Lythion. There, she has a series of adventurous, and bawdy, encounters with a variety of strange beings, from robots to angels. In Book 2, “Wrath of the Minute-Eater” (first published in 1974), Barbarella’s traveling Circus Delirium enters another dimension, led by the mysterious and alluring aquaman, Narval, whose machinations catapult Barbarella & Co. into a complex battle for the planet Spectra. Featuring a brand new, contemporary English-language adaptation by writer Kelly Sue DeConnick.

I had no idea that the more famous film starring Jane Fonda was based on a French comic series of the same name. This is makes a lot more sense, in recalling the epic weirdness yet awesome style of the movie. And given that based movie adaptations are often watered down versions of original comic stores, this could be an interesting read and interesting treasure.

Henchgirl (Expanded Edition)

Writer: Kristen Gudsnuk
Artist: Kristen Gudsnuk
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: September 29th, 2020
Retail Price: $19.99 Age: 12+ Format: paperback 337 pages

Mary Posa hates her job. She works long hours for little pay, no insurance, and worst of all, no respect. Her coworkers are jerks and her boss doesn’t appreciate her. He’s also a supervillain. Cursed with a conscience, Mary would give anything to be something other than a Henchgirl. This second edition offers the humor and henching you love, along with an extra new Henchgirl story!

I read an older edition some rears ago, and found myself enjoying it more than expected, even laughing out loud at some parts. The art, style, colors are fantastic, and the story has a mix of satire, slapstick, and heart. Highly recommended!

He-Man and the Masters of the Multiverse

Writer: Tim Seeley
Artist: Dan Fraaga, Tom Derenick
Publisher: DC Comics 
Release Date: September 1, 2020
Retail Price: $17.99 Format: paperback 144 pages

The scourge of Anti-Eternia is unleashed on the Multiverse! Blazing a trail across the dimensions, he’s devastating each version of Eternia and stealing its power. Now it’s up to a ragtag team of surviving He-Men to recruit the one man in existence who might save them: Prince Keldor, the man who would be Skeletor! This series brings together the many various iterations of the fan-favorite franchise, including the 1980s Filmation cartoon series and the 2002 animated series and toy line-as the fate of Eternia is at stake! Collects He-Man and the Masters of the Multiverse #1-6.

I am definitely putting this on my list. I am an original fan, and recall some screenshots revealing some fun surprises and expected fan service. I’m a also a fan of any story that merges alternate realities crossing over TV, comics, games, movies. Plus, Tim Seeley is a huge fan of MOTU, so it’s going to be a lot of heartful fun for sure!

Did I miss anything that should be on this list that’s fresh and exciting with sequential art? Have you checked any of these out, and like to share your thoughts? Or has anything here piqued your interest? Let us know in the comments!

Looking back, my 10 faved comic series of the 2010s

The 2010s decade has been a pivitol time for comic publishers, as a direction for changes were needed in this time of digital transference and increased competition with other mediums.

In a nutshell, lots of reboots, retcons, crossovers influence from successful movies have noth helped and hurt the mainstream stuff, depending on fan tolerance. The average price of comics climbed from around $2.99 to $4.99, which has influenced my buying decisions and willingness to delve into new titles for sure. Digital comics sales have now risen to over half a billion dollars in comics, much thanks to the Comixology online service.

Still, the right series with great writing and matching excellent sequential art can transcend prices, format, and popularity towards its marketability and sustainability as a longtime treasure. The 2010s, I felt presented an opportunity for a creative team to truly stand our and shine, be noticed for their great work in this new age, where the advancements in streaming technology and interactive games are capturing far more attention per human. Image Comics, Dark Horse, IDW, Boom!, Aftershock publishers have stepped up there game for creative powered fresh universes, with much appreciation returned from dedicated comic readers.

So below, are 10 best comic book series that I felt not only stood to my eyes, but helped define the best of the 2010s, as an era of creative thinking, original art direction, and reinvention of what I enjoy about comics, in an age where the industry is still fighting to redefine itself for the years ahead…

Saga

by Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples (Image Comics)

saga

Hands down, the best series that feeds the epic space opera feel, with an interesting, very unique supporting cast revolving around the life of a growing child and her loving parents. There is a feeling of less restraint by the creative team to present a unique and fresh science fantasy vibe that turns pretty far out at times, and can push the envelope of violence and sex when the narrative fits. There are amazing twists, and emotional moments, furthering an ongoing epic worth enjoying and seeing through the next decade.

Batman vol 2 (new 52)

by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo (DC Comics)

Batman is still my favorite mainstream superhero, in terms of the costumed person focused on ideals of justice and the greater good through unconventional means and extraordinary talents. Scott Snyder took the reins of the world of Batman, and turned him upside down, shaking a new expanded mythos that reaches far the Gotham City into the very darkest depths of the DCU. The Court of the Owls, a very different Joker, a more complex Riddler, Bloom, all add to more complex and compelling picture that remains interesting and challenging to our ages old, generational spanning hero. Greg Capullo’s art gives a unique, fresh feel to the world of our Caped Crusader, adding expression and cinematic quality to each issue. I loved the hell out it all.

Locke and Key

by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez (IDW)

Locke And Key

A surprise hit, that grew from praise and a Free Comic Day preview that captured my attention. This series builds its own story around the troubles of a small family moving to a big fancy mansion, slowly expanding to a strange supernatural world of strange keys connected to otherworldly terrors. The building and pacing is awesome, adding mystery and tension to continuous developments affecting an expanding cast and revealing a deep history. As a reader, I felt more attached, connected to various characters, and excited for each new issue. All this, with some great art and original designs. I enjoyed it all to the very end, which I felt wrapped up nicely.

Animosity

by Marguerite Bennett, Mike Marts, Rafael de Lator (Aftershock)

This is a very underrated series, that I feel will only get noticed if it gets adapted into a TV show or movie…which I think is sad for this era of comics. Animosity is a strange, twisted concept where the sudden intelligence of animals changes the world, opens a post apocalypse and twists the relationships of how humans treat animals into an interesting story and that can go pretty much anywhere. But with Animosity, I feel there is a logical believable path, that The Walking Dead did well (as a comic, more than the TV). It’s wonderfully written, with a mix of emotions and tensity resulting from an otherwise silly situation. I love the mix of dark humor, drama, tension, and sudden violence, with a surprise amount of great world building and great writing for an otherwise ludicrous concept.

Hawkeye

by Matt Fraction and David Aja (Marvel)

Hawkeye is one of my least favorite Marvel Comics superheroes over my many years of reading Marvel Comics. He’s just boring to me, with an ineffective talent to me in a world of iron machines and concrete breaking super powers. Yet here with this series, changed all of that to use that for a compelling and deep narrative, of an every-man using his archery talent to find his place in the complex Marvel universe. The awesome covers, great sequential art use, and stellar writing with a mix of humor kept me aboard, identifying more with the imperfect character and all his flaws as a true hero and worth knowing.

Chew

by John Layman and Rob Guillory (Image Comics)

Chew 56

Chew is a strange, most over-the-top, brilliantly throughout comic serial that captivate me from the start to very end. It’s story involves humans with food-related powers, strange animals, aliens, cults, conspiracies, and original concepts. It’s comedic writing enhances the art of the twist, character development, unpredictable twists, and ridiculous world-building. The art is immense, detailed, and uniquely expressionistic with a cartoon flavor that brings smile, yet conveys emotion. Chew is awesome, and memorable.

Vision

by Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta (Marvel)

This series is a work of brilliance, that put writer Tom King to the forefront of the most prolific writers of the decade. Like Hawkeye, Vision is another underappreciated, underwritten Marvel character, with great potential. Here, he puts forth his pursuit of humanity, and creates a robot family. What follows are awesome twists and turns, combined with social topics and parallels to our real world, building drama and tension towards an emotional and thought-provoking climax. The art and coloring do well to enhance the writing, making this maxi-series a worthwhile addition to anyone’s reading list for their comic shelf.

Zero

by Aleš Kot and various artists (Image Comics)

Here’s a very underappreciated hit of the 2010’s, revolving around the personal struggles of a big-time international spy. Consequences, developments, and heavy does of reality follow in what becomes brilliant storytelling mixed with some often inventive (and changing) sequential art. There’s action, violence, heavy emotions, in-depth details all wrapped inside 18 issues.

The Flintstones

by Mark Russell and Steve Pugh (DC)

Flinstones

If you told me in 2009 that The Flintstones, would be a top pic for the decade, I would say get the hell out of Bedrock….really. Yet, here we are and holy wow, Mark Russell’s take on America’s first cartoon family took me for a whirl for its 12-issue run. It’s a huge mix of dark comedy, very in-depth character building on Fred and those around them as they struggle in a changing stone-age world where its strange workings make sense, but practical and present familiar challenges. Topics of war, faith, social status, economy, education, servitude are brilliantly explored. Overall, a brilliant must read for any Age.

Alex + Ada

by Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vauhgn (Image)

Another under-appreciated comics story of this decade, a sci-fi romance drama focused on a relationships between man and machine. Alex bonds with a new model of a female android, whose complexity can mimic emotions, therefore eventually feel. There are conflicts within and around in troubled less-tolerant society. It’s very conversational, and presents prospects on where real life-AI could go, with far more intellectual depth than my other favorite android tale on this list, Vision. The writing and art for all 15 issues are wonderfully different, atmospheric, and very expressive.

Our Falltastic 2019 graphic novel & comics tpb reading list

Fall List

The Fall season is here with colder, wetter, darker days for the months ahead. To best get through, we suggest some epic comic book format reads.

While single issues only give short thrills, the thicker graphic novels and trade paperback volumes give a more fulfilling, lasting reading experience. Adding to that, seek out the new reads, giving more room for discovery and excitement on what’s fresh and best. Then maybe, share with friends!

So, venture to your favorite retail store graphic novel and trade paperback shelves (or online sources). Take a look at these 10 new books below in our curated list. Each selection is either already available, or will be due out soon. Each is based on peer reviews, personal anticipations, celebrated creative talent, interesting interpretations, awesome art, and storytelling worth attention…

Fairlady, Volume 1

unnamed (13)

Writer: Brian Schirmer
Artist: Claudia Balboni, Marissa Louise
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: September 24, 2019
Retail Price: $16.99 Age Rating: 15+ Format: softcover 184 pages

Every fantasy epic ends with a war. But what happens when the war is over? After posing as a man to join the army, Jenner Faulds returns home to The Feld for a new start as a “Fairman”—a specially licensed private investigator. But sexism didn’t end on the battlefield, and as the only “Fairlady,” Jenner gets stuck with the cases nobody else wants. Hitting the streets to solve The Feld’s overlooked mysteries, Jenner finds that the smallest cases hide the biggest secrets. Collects FAIRLADY #1-5

A little something different with a mix of urban fantasy, mystery and social commentary. Each of which, this new series adds something new and thoughtful to the overall package…making this feel a bit more unique than expected.

Lifeformed Vol. 2: Hearts and Minds

Lifeformed

Writer: Matt Mair Lowery,
Artist: Cassie Anderson
Publisher:  Dark Horse Publishing
Release Date: September 17, 2019
Retail Price: $12.99 Age Rating: 12 Page Format: softcover 200 pages

Cleo, orphaned in the wake of an alien invasion, left behind the life she knew to fight for the future of Earth. Now she and Alex, the shapeshifting rebel alien posing as her father, make a fearsome team in a guerrilla war against the invaders. But Cleo’s past is about to come back to haunt her! Lifeformed: Hearts and Minds is the second installment in the sci-fi thriller series from Matt Mair Lowery and Cassie Anderson.

I enjoyed and highly recommend the first book, Hearts and Minds. But, I felt that was a little short, and cheered to see this interesting world and development from the first book carry on.

The Man Who Came Down the Attic Stairs

the Man who came down the stairs

Writer/Artist: Celine Loup
Publisher: Archaia
Release Date: September 18, 2019
Retail Price: $14.99 Age Rating: 17+ Format:Hardcover, 48 pages

Emma is excited to start a family in her new home, but after her child’s birth she finds her world turning upside-down. The infant cries like it’s scared of something, or someone, and Emma’s sleepless nights quickly drive a wedge between her and her husband, who seems uncharacteristically detached. When Emma begins to see strange things in the house, the line between reality and fantasy blurs and her grasp of what’s real and what’s not becomes even more clouded. Is something unnatural haunting the nursery? And what if it also affected her husband, who ventured up into the attic when they first arrived… Inspired by the works of Shirley Jackson and Ira Levin, Celine Loup’s The Man Who Came Down the Attic Stairs weaves a tale of horror and suspense that captures the isolation of postpartum depression, while exploring the very real fears associated with new motherhood.

The masterful black and white art on every page is amazing and sets the mood well throughout. There is a brilliant pacing throughout, which grabs attention and takes its time on the emotional storytelling, leading to a gripping end.

The Last Space Race, Volume 1: The Pale Blue Dot

The Last Space Race

Writer: Peter Calloway
Artist: Alex Shibao
Publisher: Aftershock
Release Date: October 2nd, 2019
Retail Price: $16.99 Age Rating: 15+ Format: softcover 184 page

It started as an anomaly. An outlier in the noise that’s so common in astronomical data. But the truth sends the United States-and the world-careening into what will become humanity’s The Last Space Race . Leading the effort for the United States is one man, Sasha Balodis. A fun-loving tech billionaire turned aerospace titan, Sasha’s seemingly perfect life has been gripped by recent tragedy. Building and launching the most expensive, most ambitious and most important project in history-well, it gives him something to live for again. There’s only one thing standing in his way: his arch-rival and chief aerospace competitor, Roger Freeman.

I really enjoyed the single issues, of which this volume collects. It’s intelligent science fiction, putting more emphasis on the development and visions of space travel..but also adding drama and colorful art to enhance the ride.

X-Men: Grand Design – X-Tinction

X-men Grand Design

Writer/Artist: Ed Piskor
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Release Date: August 27th, 2019
Retail Price: $29.99 Format: Softcover, giant 120 pages

The series that has critics and fans raving returns for its final installment! The ruination of the X-Men revisited! Re-live the now-classic storylines like Mutant Massacre and The Fall of the Mutants. With appearances by Longshot, Cable, and The Marauders! Out with old and in with the Blue and Gold as the X-Men enter the radical 90s! Revisit innumerous classic storylines like the return of Jean Grey! The trial of Magneto! X-Tinction Agenda! And many, many more! With appearances by Jubilee, Gambit, and The Reavers! Brought to life by the multi-hyphenate master of graphic fiction himself, Ed Piskor!

Another masterpiece by Ed Piskor highlighting the absurd modern mythology of Marvel’s long-running Mutant team. This one covering the overdeveloped and ridiculously complex late 80’s and early 90’s era, but told in a surreal linear fashion that somehow makes sense…or not.

Ascender Volume 1: The Haunted Galaxy

Ascender

Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Dustin Nguyen
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: October 23nd, 2019
Retail Price: $9.99 Age Rating: M Format: softcover 136 pages

10 years after the conclusion of Descender, magic has taken the place of machinery, and the rules are very different indeed. Mila, daughter of Andy and Effie, spends her days exploring the lonely wilds of the planet Sampson and trying to stay out of the clutches of the evil disciples of the all-powerful vampire witch known only as Mother. But, just like her parents, Mila doesn’t like to play by the rules, and when a certain robot pal of her dad’s shows up, nothing will ever be the same!

While this series takes place after Descender, one can really enjoy this series as a fresh stanadlone series on its own. Jeff Lemire’s writing and Dustin Nguyen’s art mix perfectly together, with an awesome sci-fantasy setting that one can get lost in.

False Knees: An Illustrated Guide to Animal Behavior

False Knees

Writer/Artist: Joshua Barkman
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Release Date: October 15th, 2019
Retail Price: $14.99 Format: paperback 144 pages

Based on Joshua Barkman’s popular webcomic by the same name, False Knees is animal humor taken to a very absurd, darkly delightful place. In Barkman’s debut print collection, False Knees fans will find old favorites along with an abundance of all-new material. Featuring creatures found in the author’s native Ontario, this always sharp, sometimes head-scratchingly bizarre collection of comics offers a view into the secret, surprisingly insightful world of blue jays, squirrels, geese, wolves, and rabbits.

I love the webcomic shorts, and cheered to see these now made available to the print audience. Also this makes an awesome gift or brilliant book to leave on any coffee table!

Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal Creation Myths: The Complete Collection

MAY191240

Writer: Brian Froud, Brian Holguin, Joshua Dysart, Matthew Dow Smith,
Artist: Alex Sheikman
Publisher: Archaia 
Release Date: October 1st, 2019
Retail Price: $39.99 Age Format: Hardcover 288 pages

Brian Froud, legendary conceptual designer of the beloved Jim Henson fantasy film The Dark Crystal, returns to the world he helped create in this official prequel trilogy to the cult-classic film. Collected for the first time in one oversized edition, this series reveals the definitive origins of the Skeksis, Mystics, Gelfling, and the Dark Crystal itself while introducing all new characters in an epic spanning thousands of years.

Definitely for the hardcore Dark Crystal fans out there. But, with the new Netflix series gaining new fans and bringing back an appreciation of the old, there’s a lot of new exploration into Jim Henson’s weirdest world, and this book looks to really go deep.

Black Hammer: Streets of Spiral

Black Hammer Streets of Spiral.jpg

Writer: (various)
Artist: (various)
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics 
Release Date: September 11th, 2019
Retail Price: $19.99 Format: Softcover 128 pages

A Lovecraftian teen decides she will do anything to make herself ”normal,” a bizarre witch guides her guests through her house of horrors, and an all-star slate of guest artists illustrate a bizarre adventure with Colonial Weird on the farm. Also featuring a complete world guide to the Black Hammer universe and its characters. Collects: Black Hammer: Giant Sized Annual, Black Hammer: Cthu- Louise, World of Black Hammer, and material from Free Comic Book Day 2019.

A series of short yet memorable tales set throughout the expansive world of Black Hammer comics. Much like the other stories in the Black Hammer series, the stories can be enjoyed each on their own. But, this is also a good introduction into the highly underrated universe of Black Hammer.

Rusty Brown

Rusty Brown

Writer/Artist: Chris Ware
Publisher: Pantheon 
Release Date: September 24th, 2019
Retail Price: $35.00 Format: Hardcover 356 pages

Rusty Brown is a fully interactive, full-color articulation of the time-space interrelationships of three complete consciousnesses in the first half of a single midwestern American day and the tiny piece of human grit about which they involuntarily orbit. A sprawling, special snowflake accumulation of the biggest themes and the smallest moments of life, Rusty Brown literately and literally aims at nothing less than the coalescence of one half of all of existence into a single museum-quality picture story, expertly arranged to present the most convincingly ineffable and empathetic illusion of experience for both life-curious readers and traditional fans of standard reality. From childhood to old age, no frozen plotline is left unthawed in the entangled stories of a child who awakens without superpowers, a teen who matures into a paternal despot, a father who stores his emotional regrets on the surface of Mars and a late-middle-aged woman who seeks the love of only one other person on planet Earth.

Chris Ware’s work on the Acme Novelty Library is well-deserved for its award-wining attention, because it’s brilliant. But, also Chris Ware puts heavy attention into evoking a mix of emotions, which is a lasting treat for this new work, said to be in process for over 16 years.

Our awesome 2019 summer graphic novel & comics reading list

 

 

 

Summer is here, and that means more great leisure time under warmer weather, fewer academics, and more reading time. Fill some of that wonderful time with comics!

Here at Stranger Worlds, I put together a list of graphic novels, comics volume collections, and similar books of the variety of the sequential art, to entice all to check out some literary and artistic freshness at your favorite retail book outlets and comic shops!

Through personal experiences, peer reviews, grapevine whispering, and good old-fashioned speculation, here are some recommended reads. Many are in softcover trade paperback format, collecting issues of popular monthly series. Others are in the graphic novel format, usually in hardcover. Many here are not part of some longstanding franchise or continuing from some long-running series. Overall, fresh and ripe for anyone that loves comic book storytelling!

So, take a look at the 10 new books feature below in our curated list. Each selection is either already out, or will be due out soon (range from early June to middle July). Ask for them at your favorite bookseller!

Life on the Moon
A Completed Illustrated Novel

Life on the Moon

Writer/Artist: Robert Grossman
Publisher: IDW/Yor Books
Release Date: May 29, 2019
Retail Price: $39.95

From an artist who reveled in illustrating “the un-illustratable,” a historical graphic novel based on the “Great Moon Hoax,” the most successful newspaper hoax ever. In 1835, New York newspaper The Sun published a series of six articles declaring the discovery of life—and even civilization—on the Moon, which the paper attributed to the famous contemporary astronomer Sir John Herschel. According to The Sun, the lunar inhabitants included unicorns, bison, bipedal tail-less beavers, and intelligent humanoids with bat-like wings. Life on the Moon is a full-length graphic novel capturing this mythical world. Creator Robert Grossman said the book is set in a time when “many of the signal achievements of the 19th Century still lay well in the future, Andrew Jackson was president, the steamboat was the summit of technology, and news traveled slowly.” The unfettered novel includes real historical figures such as P.T. Barnum, Jean Jacques Audubon, Lorenzo Da Ponte, Charles Goodyear, and Edgar Allan Poe

For everyone that loves the far-out visions of Jules Verne and similiar weird ideas of that era. Also, has some unexpected mature themes and unexpected social commentary.

Penny Nichols

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Writer: MK Reed, Greg Means
Artist: Matt Wiegle
Publisher: Top Shelf
Release Date: June 12, 2019
Retail Price: $15.99

Somehow, sarcastic Penny’s gotten roped into helping make an amateur slasher film. With a team of flakes and weirdos, she’s probably the only one who can save this stupid movie… but maybe it can save her, too. Now can somebody please stop that dog from licking the fake blood? This hilarious original graphic novel is a loving tribute to the chaos and camaraderie of DIY filmmaking, and the ways we find our future—and our family—in the unlikeliest of places.

DIE
Volume 1: Fantasy Heartbreaker

DIE

Writer: Keiron Gillen
Artist: Stephanie Hans
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: June 5, 2019
Retail Price: $9.95

The Wicked + The Divine writer Kieron Gillon teams up with artist supernova Stephanie Hans, Journey Into Mystery) for her first ongoing comic! DIE is a pitch-black fantasy where a group of forty-something adults have to deal with the returning, unearthly horror they only just survived as teenage role-players. If Kieron’s in a rush, he describes it as “Goth Jumanji”, but that’s only the tip of this critically acclaimed obsidian iceberg. Collects DIE #1-5

I’m in the middle of reading this now, and really loving it. I might even do a review of it soon.

The Lollipop Kids
Volume 1: Fantasy Heartbreaker

Lollipop Kids

Writer: Adam Glass and Aiden Glass
Artist: Diego Yapur
Publisher: Aftershock Comics
Release Date: June 12, 2019
Retail Price: $14.99

When immigrants came to the new world they didn’t only bring their hopes and dreams, they also brought their Monsters. Years ago, early setters locked these monsters away in a secret prison deep in the woods of New Amsterdam so that they never would return to the Old World. Those woods have become Central Park and now the monsters have escaped! Nick, 14, finds out that he’s a “legacy” to a secret society that for the last 400 years has kept these monsters in check – he and a ragtag group of kids just like him have to put the monsters back before they get out of the park and destroy the city.

It’s like the Monster Squad movie, but a thousand times better.

PROS AND (COMIC) CONS

PROS AND CONS

Writer: Various
Artist: Various
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: June 11, 2019
Retail Price: $19.99

Following the bestselling The Secret Loves of Geeks comes this brand-new anthology featuring comics and prose stories by cartoonists and professional geeks about the world of comic book conventions from the guests whove attended them across the world. Featuring stories that are funny, sad, sweet, embarrassing, and heartfelt of a geek-culture life that shapes us, encourages us, and exhausts us every summer. Featuring work by Brian Michael Bendis (The Man of Steel), Jim Zub (Wayward), Kieron Gillen (The Wicked and the Divine), Sina Grace (Iceman), and many more.

A must-read for anyone that loves going to comic conventions and identify with the best and worst of what happens in them, but really in it for the best.

HOTEL DARE

Hotel Dare

Writer: Terry Blas
Artist: Claudia Aguirre
Publisher: Kaboom! (younger reader imprint of BOOM! Comics)
Release Date: June 5, 2019
Retail Price: $9.99

Olive and her adopted siblings Charlotte and Darwin are spending the summer with their estranged grandma at her creepy hotel and it’s all work and no play. They’re stuck inside doing boring chores but they soon stumble upon an incredible secret… Behind each room door of the hotel lies a portal to a different strange and mysterious place. The simple turn of a knob transports them to a distant magical world filled with space pirates. Behind the next door are bearded wizards. Down the hall is a doorway to a cotton-candied kingdom. But once the doors are opened, worlds start colliding, and only one family can save them before they tear themselves apart. Written by Terry Blas (The Amazing World of Gumball) and illustrated by the talented Claudia Aguirre (Kim & Kim), this world-hopping fantasy tale breaks down the door to imagination and dares you to embrace the idea that family is everything.

Spider-Man Noir: The Complete Collection

Spider-Man Noir The Complete Collection

Writer: Various
Artist: Various
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Release Date: June 11, 2019
Retail Price: $24.99

The hard-boiled adventures of the grittiest webslinger in the Spider-Verse! In the dark days of the Great Depression, young reporter Peter Parker finds himself forever changed by a spider’s bite — and resolves to take on crime and corruption as the urban vigilante called Spider-Man! And there are no shortage of foes — from gangland bosses the Goblin and Crime Master, to pulp-era twists on familiar faces like Kraven, Chameleon, Doctor Octopus and more! But will the seductive Felicia Hardy prove friend or foe? Plus, Spider-Man Noir enters the Spider-Verse via an encounter with Mysterio — and shares a spectacular team-up with a six-armed Spider-Man! And a brand-new video comic adventure, in print for the first time!

Thanks to his popularity in the Spiderverse movie, this is really worth  fresh look as many missed out in the initial run.

Star Trek vs. Transformers

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Writer: John Barber, Mike Johnson
Artist: Jack Lawrence, Phillip Murphy
Publisher: IDW
Release Date: June 12, 2019
Retail Price: $17.99

When Kirk, Spock, and the entire crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise investigate problems at a remote mine, they’re met with an explosive battle between powerful warriors who change into vehicles from the 20th century! As the battle between the Autobots and Decepticons rages, it’s up to Kirk to decide—does he violate the Prime Directive and interfere in a war that’s raged for millenia? And how will the Klingons complicate the issue? It’s cartoony fun between two of the most popular science fiction franchises in the world!

This is the most ridiculous crossover ever, and I love every minute.

Archie 1941
Volume 1

Archie 1941

Writer: Mark Waid, Brian Augustyn
Artist: Kelly Fitzpatrick, Peter Krause, Jack Morelli
Publisher: Archie Comics
Release Date: June 19, 2019
Retail Price: $12.99

Archie Andrews and the gang have seen it all since the characters made their comics debut in 1941, and now they’re going back to their roots in a tale set in Riverdale during World War II. Written by comics legend Mark Waid (Archie, Captain America) with longtime collaborators co-writer Brian Augustyn (The Flash, JLA) and artist Peter Krause (Superman), Archie: 1941 finds Riverdale dealing with the impact of the impending conflict on the small town and in the personal lives of Archie, Betty, Veronica, Jughead, and Reggie.

Low Road West

Low Road West

Writer: Phillip K. Johnson
Artist: Flaviano
Publisher: BOOM! Entertainment
Release Date: June 19, 2019
Retail Price: $19.99

When five teenage refugees are stranded in an irradiated Oklahoma wasteland while trying to survive an exodus from the war-torn East Coast, they take shelter in a ghost town that is much more than it seems. The strange, unnatural threats they face there will make them question what they think they know about death, about reality, and especially about family as they learn to rely on each other if they’re ever going to make it to the sanctuary of San Francisco. Written by Eisner Award-nominated author Phillip Kennedy Johnson (The Power of the Dark Crystal, Aquaman) and illustrated by Ringo Award-nominated artist Flaviano (Thanos, Spider-Man/Deadpool), Low Road West is a story about coming of age in the throes of war, and carving your own path despite an uncertain future. Collects the complete 5-issue series.

That’s all for now. If you checked out any of these, or something else fresh was left out, let us know in the comments below!