Curse Words and 5 Other Hilarious Comic Books You’ll Love

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

In pop culture, as in life, nothing super funny tends to last. Comedy film sequels tend to be an exercise in diminishing returns. Repeated a joke a few times—it’s funny until it’s not. (In rare cases, it gets back to funny again with even more repetition, but leave that to the pros.) Lots of stand-up comics set fire to a year’s worth or more of material when the do a Netflix comedy special—once the act is seen far and wide, it’s not something they can perform again.

Comic books would seem to follow the same rule: a jokey comic book premise, even a great one, can only be sustained for so long before it loses some of its freshness. (All right, maybe Deadpool is an exception to this rule, but everybody knows Deadpool doesn’t play fair with rules.)

A comic I started reading two years ago, Curse Words, published Image Comics, has somehow managed to beat the odds and stay weird, funny, and satisfyingly energetic through 20 issues and three seasonal specials. The story of a wizard named Wizord who has escaped a brutal alternate realm called The Hole World and found fame on Earth starts off loopy and large-scale (one of his first acts here is to shrink down an entire baseball stadium full of people). And then Curse Words doubles down on its weirdness by introducing an array of assassins (including Wizord’s ex-lover Ruby Stitch) sent by a faceless demon guy named Sizzajee.

The writing by Charles Soule is wacky and hilarious, but there’s room enough here for a tender family triangle with Wizord, Ruby, and Wizord’s koala bear/shapeshifting companion Margaret that has evolved beautifully over the run of the comic.

But it’s Ryan Browne’s art—full of ridiculously detailed bodies, literal sound effects spelled out to hilarious effect, and some of the most over-the-top splash pages you’ll see in any comic—that really transform it into a comedic tour-de-force.

Curse Words is funnier than you might expect it to be, more magical and its title would suggest and a visual treat throughout. It may be the funniest comic on stands today. Here are a few others, if you like this style of humor:

God Hates Astronauts, by Ryan Browne
Even more bonkers than Curse Words is Browne’s last project, a three-arc war saga involving farmers, a human-hippo hybrid named Sir Hippothesis, a group of ineffective superheroes, and a character named King Tiger Eating a Cheeseburger. Absurd doesn’t even begin to cover the plotting shenanigans that Browne gets into over the 15 issues of this series, which isn’t nearly as straightforward as Curse Words. The panels are rendered so gorgeously that you forget you’re reading one of the dumbest (dumbest-smartest?) stories ever committed to graphic novel form.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, by Ryan North and Erica Henderson
Count me as one of fans who can’t wait for Squirrel Girl to get her own movie, or at least a good guest shot in one of the upcoming entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As told in rebooted form by writer Ryan North and artist Erica Henderson (the creative team behind her first series since the character debuted in 1991), it’s been four years of great jokes, off-kilter encounters with some of Marvel’s biggest heroes and villains, and lots and lots of marginalia jokes, not to mention goofy conversations with squirrels. Doreen Green is tough and funny and silly and perhaps my favorite character in all of comics. I’m jealous of anyone who gets to fall in love with her for the first time.

Sex Criminals, by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky
Even if you like your humor a little more, um, adult, you may find yourself blushing from the sheer number and endlessly creative ways writer Matt Fraction and artist Chip Zdarsky find to make fresh jokes out of tired tropes involving human anatomy, pornography, and the clumsy fumbling of modern coupling. (How silly is this comic? A spinoff advice book was called “Just the Tips.”) It started as a silly romp about a couple that can stop time when they have sex, but somewhere along the way toward what is expected to be the last arc of the comic later this year, though, it also became deeper, more emotional—a true exploration of relationships, sexual need, and loneliness. With, and I can stress this enough, lots and lots of penis jokes.

Kaptara, by Chip Zdarsky
Sex Criminals helped make Zdarsky a popular talent in comics and he’s gone on to write Howard the Duck and Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man, among others. But one of my favorite, lesser-known works of his is Kaptara, a strangely down-to-Earth space adventure about a very regular guy caught up in comically extreme fantasy circumstances on a distant planet. Highlights include a band of aggressively rude, Smurf-like men’s rights activists and an oft-nude wizard who’s like Gandalf on a bender. Sadly, it’s unclear if Kaptara will return anytime soon—it only stuck around for five very funny issues.

I Hate Fairyland, by Scottie Young
Walk into any comic-book store and you’re likely to see tons of variant covers with artwork by Scottie Young, who specializes in adorable and extremely weird and violent images. Young’s own Image Comics title, which just concluded after 20 issues, follows Gertrude, a young girl who finds herself in a candy-colored dreamland and quickly learns to hate the fluff out of it. With her flying-bug guide Larrigon Wentsworth III, Gertrude grows up to cause all kinds of bloody havoc across the kingdom and engage in epic boss battles with evil queens, demons, and armies of goofy villains. If you were ever a fan of The Ren & Stimpy Show, this might be your jam.

What’s your favorite funny comic?

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The Best Comics & Graphic Novels of April 2019

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

Firefly, Vol. 1: The Unification War (B&N Exclusive Edition), by Greg Pak, Joss Whedon, Dan McDaid, and Marcelo Costa
This new series set in the official continuity of the beloved, short-lived Joss Whedon sci-fi saga takes a step back to finally reveal the full breadth of the war that set everything in motion. Mal Reynolds and Zoe Washburn are hunted by mercenaries deputized to find war criminals, and in the process, reveal the history and secrets of their pasts. The B&N Exclusive Edition has a variant cover by superstar artist Jock (which is cool) and a bonus 40-page story that reveals the origin of crafty con artist Saffron (which is even cooler).

Catwoman, Vol. 1: Copycats, by Joëlle Jones, Fernando Blanco, and Laura Allred
With a wedding no longer in the offing, Catwoman’s back on the streets of Gotham and doing things on her own terms (as any respectable cat would). Unfortunately, her crime-fighting efforts are complicated by a copycat who’s pulling off heists all over Gotham, drawing unwanted attention to both of them from the GCPD. Eisner Award-nominee Jones writes and illustrates the new series, which more than proves Selena hasn’t run out of lives yet.

Is This How You See Me?: A Locas Story, by Jaime Hernandez
2014’s The Love Bunglers proved that, even after all this time, the Love and Rockets-related work of Jamie Hernandez isn’t just good—it’s essential. Here, the Locas are reunited, in a sense, as Maggie and Hopey head out on the road to visit their old neighborhood. Flashbacks to the hopeful and chaotic punk scene of 1979 are juxtaposed with reality of life in the intervening decades.

Return of Wolverine, by Charles Soule, Steve McNiven, Declan Shalvey, Jay Leisten, and Laura Martin
Soule, McNiven, and Leisten—the team that killed Wolverine back in 2014—are back together once again to explain exactly how it is he’s returned from the dead (which, c’mon… you knew would happen). This book teases out that mystery until the very end, but it spoils nothing to say it begins with a missing body and involves a powerful mutant named Persephone caught up in a plot that requires Logan’s very special talents.

War Bears, by Margaret Atwood and Ken Steacy
There’s a fascinating  and little-known history around the Canadian comics scene circa WWII—paper shortages and import difficulties meant that Canadians didn’t have access to some of the big-name American books, so artists rose up to fill the void, thriving creatively in the absence of competition from Superman and Wonder Woman. It’s that history that Atwood and Steacy are playing with here, as they tell the story of (fictional) comic book creator Al Zurakowski, and of his creation, the nazi-fighter Oursonette.

Transformers: Unicron, by John Barber, Alex Milne, Sara Pitre-Durocher, Andrew Griffith, and Kei Zama
After 13 years and 400+ issues, IDW brings their Transformers universe to a conclusion with the introduction of Unicron in a story that sees Optimus Prime gathering every human and Cybertronian possible together in order to halt the deadly progress of the planet-killer. In the process, they’ll need to unravel the dark secret of Cybertron’s past that’s drawn the renewed attention of their ultimate adversary. The book also includes several back-up stories, as well as interview with creators who’ve been involved with this particular generation of Transformers stories for years (oh, and don’t worry—the line is getting a reboot, so more Autobot-on-Decepticon action is on the way).

Archie Meets Batman ’66, by Jeff Parker, Michael Moreci, Dan Parent, and J. Bone
A brilliant premise, backed up by a creative team that’s just about perfect. The villains of Gotham City decide that Riverdale might make for easier pickings, naturally not reckoning on the intervention of Archie and the gang from Riverdale High, nor the imposition of undercover students Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon. How has this not happened before now?

Planet of the Apes: When Worlds Collide, by Matt Kindt, Pierre Boulle, Dan Abnett, Ryan Ferrier, and Jared Cullum
There’s some very impressive talent on the masthead of this collection of short comic stories celebrating the 50th anniversary of the original Planet of the Apes film. The stories are set in both in the era of the original film series, as well as continuity the more recent trilogy that concluded with War for the Planet of the Apes, including one set after that final film’s conclusion. Among the other tales recounted are a story of the ape who lives in the Statue of Liberty, as well as the history of Caesar’s rescuer Armando.

Plastic Man, by Gail Simone, Adriana Melo, and Kelly Fitzpatrick
Every generation or so, Plastic Man is rediscovered and reimagined as a representative of everything that superhero comics can be when they’re willing get a little silly. Former petty thief Eel O’Brien, believed to have been killed by a gang of criminals, is now running a strip club and maintaining his secret identity to fight crime in increasingly inventive ways. A spy tries to blackmail him over his secret identity, which draws an innocent kid and all the dancers at his club together in one deeply, delightfully convoluted caper.

Supergirl, Vol. 1: The Killers of Krypton, by Marc Andreyko and Kevin MaGuire
In her 6th decade, Kara receives a new lease on life in the form of a revived series from Andreyko and MaGuire. Spinning out of the current Superman books, Supergirl, joined by Krypto, has tasked herself with discovering the truth behind claims that Krypton’s destruction was intentional. She heads out for an extended voyage in space, encountering new friends and new enemies along the way.

Asgardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 1: The Infinity Armada, by Cullen Bunn, Matteo Lolli, and Federico Blee
Nebula wields the most powerful Asgardian weapon imaginable, and she plans to use it to conquer the galaxy. Standing in her way? Valkyrie, Thor’s half-sister Angela, Skurge the Executioner, Thunderstrike, Frog-of-Thunder Throg, and an unknown weilder of the Destroyer armor. Cosmic adventure starring some of the greatest heroes of Asgard? Sounds thoriffic.

Leaving Richard’s Valley, by Michael DeForge
Omar the Spider, Neville the Dog, Ellie Squirrel, and Lyle the Raccoon are exiled from their perfect world and lives in the valley when they displease the community’s cult-ish leader. With no where to go but the big city, the group of animal companions embarks on something of a hero’s quest to find a new home, discovering all of the different types of people that live in the city and coming to terms with different ways of living along the way. It’s a cute and funny book that also has a lot to say about the meaning of community.

ExorSisters, Vol. 1, by Ian Boothby, Gisele Lagace, Pete Pantazis, and Taylor Esposito
Supernatural mysteries abound in this fun new series starring Cate and Kate Harrow, identical twin sisters who take on the cases that no one else will. Ever made a deal with the devil and come to regret it, or had a loved one dragged off to hell? They’re the ones to call. (The rates are very reasonable.)

Seven to Eternity, Vol. 3: Rise to Fall, by Rick Remender, Jerome Opena, and Matt Hollingsworth
In the latest volume of the gorgeous dark fantasy series set in the fascist dystopia of Zhal, Adam Osidis is on the hunt for a cure to his wasting disease, but his way forward is blocked by the Skylord Volmer, on a quest for revenge against the demagogic God of Whispers. Even though Adam has no love for the ruler who killed his father, he has no choice but to stop Volmer and save the king if he wants to live.

Oblivion Song by Kirkman & De Felici, Vol. 2, by Robert Kirkman, Lorenzo De Felici, and Annalisa Leoni
Oblivion was once part of Philadelphia, until 10 years ago, when it was lost in an event that left 300,000 people trapped in an apocalyptic hell-dimension. Following the dramatic revelations as to the initial cause of the disaster that concluded the first volume, Nathan Cole finds himself facing consequences for his actions on both sides of the divide, even as the secrets of Oblivion begin to reveal themselves.

Iron Man by Fraction & Larroca: The Complete Collection, Vol. 1, by Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca
This popular and consequential run of the now-biggest hero in the Marvel U has been out of print for some time, so this first installment of complete collected edition is most welcome. It begins with a challenge from Tony’s younger, smarter rival Ezekiel Stane that triggers a slow decline in Iron Man’s fortunes and mental facilities and eventually leaves him on the run from… just about everybody. Forced to safeguard his tech by erasing knowledge of it from his own mind, Tony reverts to increasingly older and less complicated versions of his armor as his mind degrades.

The Boys Omnibus, Vol. 1, by Garth Ennis, Darick Robertson, and Peter Snejbjerg
Rude, crass, wickedly funny, and incredibly violent, The Boys opens with the violent death of lead character Wee Hughie’s girlfriend—collateral damage during a superhero fight. In this world, superheroes aren’t motivated by noble intentions so much as greed for power, money, or sex. When they get out of line, the titular CIA-backed team is charged with keeping shoving them back in, if necessary, putting them down for good. There’s a TV series in the works, so it’s a fine time to catch up with the book, and this deluxe omnibus makes that easy.

Harley Quinn, Vol. 2: Harley Destroys the Universe, by Sam Humphries, John Timms, Sami Basri, and Lucas Werneck
Most people would be thrilled to learn that they were featured in a comic, but Harley Quinn’s discovery of a book chronicling her own adventures leads to a continuity collapse that threatens the entire universe. Canon is shattered as current heroes are rebooted, old heroes return, and Harley’s mom disappears entirely. Only Harley and her new partner, the continuity cop Jonni DC, have any hope of putting things back together. It’s a delightfully Harley sort of story.

Regression, Vol. 3, by Cullen Bunn, Danny Luckert, and Marie Enger
A very impressive horror series comes to a conclusion with this volume. In Regression, past lives aren’t just a novelty or a fantasy, they’re very real, and can worm their way into your present. That’s what’s happened to series lead Adrian, who’s been entirely subsumed by his own past, forced to fulfill the schemes of Gregory Sutter and the Valgeroti demon worshippers. But now, resistance to the cult is rising from every direction on the timeline—past, present, and future.

What’s on your pull list?

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Batman at 80: The Greatest Detective Comics Stories from the First 1,000 Issues

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

Pop culture rarely stays fresh over a period of years—to say nothing of decades. But at 80 years old, Batman is at least as cool as he ever was.

Probably cooler: for much of his career, the Dark Knight settled for second billing behind DC’s high-flying megastar Superman. I’m not sure that’s the case today—for a myriad of reasons, Batman had moved to the front of the pantheon of popular heroes long before the modern superhero renaissance. He might not be able to leap tall buildings, but he can build a grapple up them with ease, and it’s that aspirational quality that makes the Bat such an effective hero.

We will never be Superman, and, let’s be honest, we will never be Batman, but it’s fun to imagine that we could be if we were just a little stronger, a little smarter, had a little more money, and had suffered a lot more psychological damage. We could be out there fighting the good fight. This month’s anniversary is a dual celebration: it’s Batman’s 80th year on the stands, and it’s also the 1,000th issue of Detective Comics, the book in which he premiered.

In honor of those milestones, here are some of our all-time favorite issues of the book that gave DC it’s name, Detective Comics.

Detective Comics #1, by Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, and E.C. Stoner
This isn’t quite as obvious as it might sound: we’re celebrating two things that don’t entirely line up. Detective Comics, which debuted in 1937, reaches its landmark 1,000th issue this month. We’re also celebrating the 80th anniversary of Batman’s debut, which didn’t happen until #27, released in 1939. As a result, a couple dozen largely forgotten issues of Detective came out before Batman was even a thought. The first issue isn’t entirely without merit, though (in spite of a rather wildly offensive cover): among its nine stories, it introduces detective hero “Speed” Saunders, whose feature ran for 50 issues and who is later (through a variety of retcons) revealed to be the relative of two different Hawkgirls, giving him a connection to the later DC universe. Even more significantly, the final story offers up the first appearance of that famous Jerry Siegel/Joe Shuster creation, Private Investigator Slam Bradley. OK, he might not be Superman, but given the legacy of his creators, and the fact that he predates Batman by about two years, he’s got almost as good a pedigree as the Dark Knight. Slam can still be counted on to put in an appearance in a DC book every so often.

Detective Comics #27, by Bill Finger and Bob Kane

“The Case of the Chemical Syndicate”

Here’s where the magic starts. Written by Bill Finger with art by Bob Kane, the origin of Batman is more in the way of a mercenary venture on Kane’s part than an entirely artistic one, but it doesn’t much matter: many of the familiar pieces are in place here, particularly Bruce Wayne’s double-identity and the involvement of Commissioner Gordon. It’s quite simply one of the most important comics in history.

Detective Comics #38, by Bill Finger, Bob Kane, and Jerry Robinson

“Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder”

There he is: The Sensational Character Find of 1940! A big piece of Batman’s lore, Robin, was introduced relatively early in the game by Finger, Kane, and another very important figure in the early development of Batman and company, artist Jerry Robinson. The other half of the Dynamic Duo showed up less than a year after Batman’s debut. Despite the Bat’s reputation as a brooding figure of the night, his devil-may-care sidekick has endured in one form or another ever since. The origin outlined here has pretty much stuck: circus performers the Flying Graysons are killed on the orders of Boss Zucco, a consequence of their employer’s unwillingness to pay protection money. Their son Dick is taken in by millionaire Bruce Wayne, who provides him with a wildly inappropriate outfit in which to aid Batman in his fight against crime.

Detective Comics #66, by Bill Finger, Bob Kane, Jerry Robinson, and George Roussos

“The Crimes of Two-Face”

By sticking strictly to the history of Detective Comics, we miss out on the debut of the Joker, that having occurred in the first issue of Batman’s self-titled series. An almost-as-important villain (with an even better origin story) first showed up here, however. Harvey Kent (not a typo: Kent, not Dent, was his name in the early days) is a young district attorney with everything going for him—until he tries to prosecute Boss Moroni, using an unusual double-sided coin as evidence. In an ill-conceived plan to avoid prosecution, Moroni throws acid at the DA, hideously scarring one side of Harvey’s face. Now drawing horrified looks from the citizens he once tried to help, and rejected by his fiancée, a flip of Moroni’s coin sends him to a life of crime. In the end, Batman convinces his friend to try for another coin toss—this time, it lands on its edge, leaving Harvey’s fate ambiguous. For about two issues.

Detective Comics #168, by Bill Finger, Lew Sayre Schwartz, Win Mortimer, and George Roussos

“The Man Behind the Red Hood!”

Detective Comics didn’t give us the Joker’s debut, but it does give us his origin. Or one of them, anyway. Batman regales a class at the state university with the tale of an unsolved case: a criminal going by the name of the Red Hood, who had managed to escape from Batman and Robin by jumping into a the chemical waste of the Monarch Playing Card Company (a bigger polluter than you’d think). Reopening the case, the dynamic duo lure the Red Hood out of retirement only to discover that he is… you guessed it: the Joker. The once small-time criminal survived his chemical bath in part because of that hood (more of a helmet, really), but it didn’t save him from his trademark ghostly pallor, distorted features, or penchant for murder.

Detective Comics #225, by Joseph Samachson, Jack Miller, and Joe Certa

“The Strange Experiment of Dr. Erdel”

He’s never managed to become quite the household name the other Justice Leaguers have, but J’onn J’onzz, the Manhunter from Mars, has been one of DC’s MVPs since his debut in this 1955 issue. A mainstay of the League for decades, he’s also appeared on several different TV shows and cartoons—just never on the big screen, which explain the pop culture disconnect. The title’s Doctor Erdel sends a teleportation beam out into space that snags the green Martian and traps him on Earth. Any hope of returning home is thwarted when the doctor drops dead almost immediately after J’onn’s arrival. Good thing for Earth really. Using his shape-shiftinf powers, the Martian becomes a police detective as John Jones while avoiding his one great weakness: fire.

Detective Comics #233, by Edmond Hamilton, Sheldon Moldoff, and Stan Kaye

“The Batwoman”

Some good things require a bit of a wait. And, given an eight-decade history, there’s time for that. Case in point? Kathy Kane, the Batwoman. Introduced here as a society heiress and circus aerialist who takes on the mantle in order to aid Batman and Robin in their fight against crime, she was popular for a while, but then fell out of favor when the Batman books went darker a few years later. She was reintroduced in 2006 as both Jewish and gay, having been booted from West Point for her sexual orientation. She quickly took on a high profile through a couple of solo books and, for a time, as the lead in Detective Comics itself. Today, she’s poised for broader recognition via a forthcoming CW TV series.

Detective Comics #327, by John Broome, Carmine Infantino, and Joe Giella

“The Mystery of the Menacing Mask!”

The story itself is OK, but this particular issue represented a major change toward a more recognizably modern style for Batman. With the addition of legendary editor Julius Julius Schwartz and artist Carmine Infantino, Batman took on a much-heralded “New Look,” most obviously via his adoption of a yellow background behind the logo on his chest. Even more importantly, this was the beginning of the Bat-books’ move away from the more kid-friendly science fiction elements in favor of a more mature themes.

Detective Comics #359, by Gardner Fox, Carmine Infantino, and Sid Greene

“The Million-Dollar Debut of Batgirl”

Batgirl begins. In her comic debut, Barbara Gordon creates the Batgirl costume for a charity masquerade ball, but leaps into action when she sees Killer Moth attacking Bruce Wayne, giving him time to escape. Naturally, Batman shows up moments later, and the two make introductions. Though Batman initially dismisses her help, not wanting to have a girl underfoot, she proves herself against the villain by the end of her first story. Bats welcomes her help with surprising encouragement: “She doesn’t have to take a backseat to anybody!”

Detective Comics #475-476, by Steve Englehart, Marshall Rogers, and Terry Austin

“The Laughing Fish”

The conclusion of a legendary run from the creative team of Englehart, Rogers, and Austin is also a fantastic and suitably wild Joker story. The Clown Prince comes up with an elaborate scheme to trademark his chemically altered fish, and goes on a murderous rampage when Gotham’s small-minded bureaucrats won’t do him the simple favor. This one was adapted into an episode of the Batman: The Animated Series.

Detective Comics #633, by Peter Milligan, Tom Mandrake, and Mike DeCarlo

“Identity Crisis”

Peter Milligan had a relatively brief run on Detective Comics, joined by legendary artist Jim Aparo and, for this issue, by the similarly talented Tom Mandrake. Each of his largely standalone tales of the Dark Knight is a mini-masterpiece, with this one cutting to the core of the character to tell a darkly It’s a Wonderful Life-style story in which Bruce is trapped in a world without a Batman. This one also was turned into an episode of the animated series.

Detective Comics #854-857, by Greg Rucka, J.H. Williams III, and Dave Stewart

“Elegy”

For the first time in ages, a character other than Batman took over Detective Comics, although they didn’t stray far from the theme. This issue marks the return of Kate Kane, Batwoman, as she leads a one-woman war on crime and a cult in the deepest and darkest recesses of the Gotham underworld. The storytelling propelled Batwoman to the DC heroes A-list, and the prominently red-and-black art is iconic in itself.

Detective Comics #871-881, by Scott Snyder, Jock, and Francisco Francavilla

“The Black Mirror”

Before he began a long and already legendary run on Batman’s self-titled book, Scott Snyder cut his chops here, with a story of Batman (who was, at the time, Dick Grayson) and Jim Gordon teaming to hunt a killer with a deeply personal connection to the commissioner. It’s a grim and exciting story that’s part detective procedural, and part chronicle of the cost of life in Gotham City.

Detective Comics #934-940, by James Tynion IV, Eddie Barrows, and Alvaro Martinez

“Rise of the Batmen”

The Batman books have been firing on all cylinders in the last few years, with both of the main books telling very different kinds of stories. Detective here becomes a team book, with Batman setting Kate Kane up as the leader of a band of Bat-friends including Red Robin, Spoiler, Orphan, and Clayface. He needs a team in order to stop the group of vigilantes that’s running around Gotham killing criminals in the name of the Batman. It’s a fun new spin on the Batman’s long legacy, and it’s also a great jumping-on point for the modern era of Detective Comics leading up to #1000.

Detective Comics: 80 Years of Batman is available now. Preorder Detective Comics #1,000 here.

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Werewolf Baristas and Fairy Frat Bros: Grace Ellis and Shae Beagle on the Magical World of Moonstruck

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

The first volume of Grace Ellis and Shae Beagle’s cozy, queer comic series Moonstruck was a delight: the story of werewolf barista Julie and her pals, who live in a world in which magical creatures are commonplace—which is not to say a world without problems: Julie’s got a crush on Selena, which is entirely requited, but her insecurities about her wolfish nature still get in the way, and she still has to deal with her attention-seeking best pal/co-worker Chet, a lovably overbearing centaur.

The stars of the all-ages rom-com are, not least, wonderfully diverse, and not just in mythical terms. They are representative of a wide array of body shapes and sizes, skin colors, and gender and sexual identities. In a world in which a were-gorgon might flip out on you at a coffee shop, what’s going on in your pants (or in your bed) isn’t a huge hang-up for anyone.

Volume 2, Some Enchanted Evening—which arrives in bookstores March 19—is similarly small-scale and relatable in its concerns: the gang attends a fairy bro frat party that quickly goes awry. An enchantment traps a few members of the group in the house, while on the outside, Julie continues to tentatively open herself to a real relationship with Selena while also trying to rescue her pals. How do you break a fairy circle with the winter solstice on the way?

Writer Grace Ellis and artist Shae Beagle were kind enough to chat with us about the series, and the challenge of continuing it into this second volume (since the release of Vol. 1, the series has switched from a monthly issues to an “original graphic novel” format). In the process, we learned a great deal about the making of a series that werewolves everywhere are calling “a very realistic portrayal of lycanthropic life”—and about how there can never be too many comics by and for queer people. (Also about how Cher might be a werewolf. Which is totally a compliment.)

]Julie’s growing in self-confidence, and her relationship with Selena seems to help, but it seems like she has a long way to go. How do you see her journey?

Grace Ellis: Oh man, Julie’s journey is a complicated one. She’s on a journey of self-confidence, but it’s not a straight line. It’s about gaining the confidence to realize that she doesn’t have to live up to anyone’s expectations of what she should do or who she should be, which is tough for everyone but especially for someone so full of contradictions. Everyone in the book has an idea of who Julie is, but it’s just an idea. Julie’s gotta learn to worry less about what she thinks she’s supposed to be doing and just go her own way, even if it’s not what people expect of her. The confidence she gains throughout their adventures is a big part of that.

Shae Beagle: Julie’s so similar to my younger self it’s a little scary. She’s struggling with identity, relationships, confidence… and while she’s making a lot of progress through the story so far, she does still have a long way to go. I think her journey is realistic in that way. She learns and reverts, pushes her comfort zone as well as stays inside it. I’m rooting for her every step of the way, because I know that struggle, and a lot of people do, and I think we all want to see her grow.

Is she tough to write? In this very diverse and welcoming world, she’s still got all these hang-ups.

GE: I had some trouble with her in the beginning, and then Laurenn [McCubbin, series editor] had an amazing idea that really clarified who she was for me: the idea to have her apologize a lot. The thing about Julie is that she feels like she’s taking up too much space, physically and emotionally. I think she would like to disappear, if she could. So she’s constantly apologizing for literally nothing, because she feels like she’s in the way somehow. It’s kind of fun to write, actually, because it’s an impulse I completely understand, as a woman.

Julie’s able to hide her dual nature, whereas, say, Chet can’t hide theirs. Is that significant in terms of their very different levels of self-confidence?

GE: Oh, completely, that’s one of the fundamentals of who those two characters are, specifically. When Chet walks into the room, there’s no mistaking who they are, whereas Julie at least has the option of pretending to be someone she isn’t. That difference is part of what makes them such good friends, I think. They challenge each other in that way.

Where do the characters come from, both visually and in terms of voice and personality? Inspired by your own werewolf friends, I’d assume.

GE: Oh man, can I just tell you: I met someone literally last night who believes that all lesbians are werewolves. I am not making that up. He genuinely believes that, and I didn’t even say anything about this book. And he’s gay! So he’s got a lot going on. But yeah, we’re all werewolves and Moonstruck is based on a true story, I want that on the official record.

So the characters of Moonstruck were created in what I would consider the ideal comics way, which is that the art and the writing informed each other. We started as a five-page mini comic, so I wrote out these characters and only had a vague sense of who they would be, and then Shae the Genius came along and turned them into real people. Once I could see how they looked and moved, it was easy for me to go back and fill out their personalities even more.

SB: Like Grace says, the art and the writing inform each other! So Grace is amazing at giving a character so much life and personality in writing, and I just try to match that visually! How would this character move, how would they dress, how emotive are they? As each keeps informing the other, it feels a lot like you’re growing with that character and getting to know them better in this really natural way. Also all my werewolf friends love the story and find it to be a very realistic portrayal of lycanthropic life, can we get that as a pull quote?

Part of the fun is that the book takes place in this very lived-in, believable world that, in reality, has much different rules than our own.  Can you talk a bit about creating the look and feel of the world that Julie and co. inhabit?

GE: Well, it’s definitely one of my mains goals: to make the world of this book a friendly, cozy [one]. I wanted it to feel like Stars Hollow or the bar in Cheers where everybody knows your name and your friends are there and you can always stop by and feel like you’re home. I should say, too, that I think those goals are especially well-served by the art, because it all looks like it could be made out of cotton candy, with Shae’s art and Caitlin Quirk’s colors.

On the writing side of things, there are a couple different strategies working all at once. A big part of it is imagining what day to day life in Blitheton would be like and then populating it accordingly. And being specific! Specific things, like the idea that it’s a college town, so of course there are two coffee shops within blocks of each other. The secondary characters have to be specific too, with rich inner lives: Mark working at the mall or Chet playing Newpals or Manuel being an English major, all of which make them feel more like people you know. And then there’s the coffee shop itself, which is meant to feel like it could be in your neighborhood, if only you took a different route home. It’s about making the  world [feel like it has] a lot going on beyond what we immediately see.

That being said, the rules of this world are pretty different from the real one, and I think that comes back to specificity as well. You’ve gotta fulfill the promise of the premise as much as you can, which is to say that if there were a storyline without a single magical thing happening, it would feel like a waste. If you picked up a volume of a book about werewolves and they spent the entire thing just drinking coffee like a lesbian My Dinner with Andre, you’d probable feel cheated. Probably. Making magic an everyday part of the world and integrating it into an emotional story that’s grounded in real life is an important part of what makes Moonstruck Moonstruck.

SB: Ever since our five-page mini comic, the feel of the world has been light-hearted, warm, and fun. I wanted to make sure to live up to that in the art. Hard black inks didn’t seem to fit the feeling, so I settled on a softer, sketchy, penciled look. Most of the character designs feature lots of round shapes and curved lines, and the color palette leans toward the pastel. This happens to be my exact aesthetic, but shhh it’s all intentional.

Also along with Grace’s points on specificity, I try to keep each character’s space as specific to them as possible. This could be as broad as Julie’s room being tidy and filled with books that reflect her interests, to as small a detail as Chet’s cellphone charms. All these things flesh out the world and make it more familiar and lived-in, despite all the magic.

Now that the book’s firmly established and popular, are you thinking any differently about how to tell the story over a potentially longer term?

GE: I don’t really know. At the beginning, I was just happy to get one volume out, but once we knew Image would let us go on for a while, I started thinking of it as four volumes, one for each season, so we could watch the characters and the town change over the course of a year. Honestly, I think I’d like to cap it at four. I love comics, but I do think infinite stories are a weakness of the medium. Sometimes things are better with an ending. That’s one of the later themes of the book, actually, so maybe that’s appropriate.

Moonstruck has been a part of the discussion about queer representation in media over the past year or so. How are you all feeling about where we are now? It seems like we’ve seen some huge progress…and then some ugly pushback.

GE: That’s a complicated question. The comics community is having some real growing pains right now, [specifically] reckoning with the fact that the comics community has never been just straight white men ages 18 to 35. My general feeling is that I’m going to keep making comics, and those comics are going to have LGBTQ characters, and I don’t really care if people don’t like that about them.

I do think the real answer is to just make more comics and tell more stories about (and told by) LGBTQ people. There isn’t one single narrative that’s going to capture everyone’s experience—nothing can be everything to everyone—so the solution is to seize and create opportunities for more stories that more people could potentially connect with. Even the goals of Moonstruck and Lumberjanes are very different; they’re meant to connect with different audiences. In media as a whole, all the big LGBTQ stories tend to be about suffering—even still—and in that way, I’m happy that Moonstruck and Lumberjanes can contribute some queer joy. We have come an unbelievably long way, though, so I’m grateful to be making comics in the current moment.

SB: There’s a bit of tension within the comic’s community about marginalized creators finding success in telling our stories. I’m not going to let that stop me from creating and contributing to queer stories as a queer creator, stories that I needed to see in my childhood.

Comics have come far [in terms of] queer representation, but we can keep going and keep proving that these stories are important to tell. I never thought I’d be making comics until I could finally relate to what I was reading. I’d like to keep seeing a variety of queer stories from every unique perspective—happy queer stories, queer stories for kids, and more queer talent to make them!

When will the crossover with the Cher film Moonstruck happen, and where can I send the money to ensure it does?

GE: I wonder if we can get Cher to do a signing at a convention with us. Honestly, if anyone in the real world is a werewolf, it’s probably Cher. She’s pretty magical, I’d believe anything you told me about her.

SB: I keep wanting to sneak Cher into a crowd scene or something, but she deserves better than that… Can we get Cher? Cher are you reading this?

CHER IS TOTALLY READING THIS. HI CHER.

Moonstruck Volume 2: Some Enchanted Evening is available now.

The post Werewolf Baristas and Fairy Frat Bros: Grace Ellis and Shae Beagle on the Magical World of Moonstruck appeared first on The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog.

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8 Brilliant Graphic Novel Adaptations of Classic Books

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

Any adaptation of a book can never truly replace the original work, but it’s often revelatory to experience a story in a new medium; it’s like seeing, if only imperfectly, through someone else’s eyes.

The rise of comics as a “respectable” medium is a case in point: Margaret Atwood’s 1986 dystopia The Handmaid’s Tale is receiving a high-profile graphic novel adaption this month, and it’s far from the first prose classic to be reinterpreted by noteworthy artists. These adaptations aim to honor and embellish rather than replace the books on which they are based—because how could they? In creating visual versions of classic works, the brilliant artists behind them allow us to see, literally and figuratively, the stories we love from new angles.

Here are 8 book-to-graphic novel adaptations that serve as impressive companions to their source material.

The Handmaid’s Tale: The Graphic Novel, by Margaret Atwood and Renée Nault
Almost a quarter century after its publication, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is having a moment: the TV series continues to widespread acclaim, and Atwood herself recently stunned readers with the announcement of a forthcoming sequel. More than any of that, the book’s themes of subjugation are at least as relevant and biting as ever, while its humanity has never been more essential. Artist Renée Nault has been collaborating with Atwood on this new graphic novel adaptation, telling the story through stunning watercolor art that captures the novel’s visceral emotional tone in a new way.

To Kill a Mockingbird: A Graphic Novel, by Harper Lee and Fred Fordham
Sixty years ago and today, we could all stand to consider and reconsider the lessons of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Its themes of understanding and compassion are no less relevant or universal in 2019, and Fordham’s art honors the original novel while casting new light on the world of Scout, Gem, Boo Radley, and Atticus. Fordham visuals the book in a classic style that feels appropriate to a story of childlike reverie concealing undercurrents of racism, injustice, and heroism in a sleepy southern town.

Monster: A Graphic Novel, by Walter Dean Myers, Dawud Anyabwile, and Guy A. Sims
Walter Dean Myers’ complex 1999 novel follows 16-year-old Steve Harmon, an African-American amateur filmmaker awaiting trial for the robbery and murder of a bodega owner. The twisty-turny narrative explores issues of crime, race, and peer pressure as Steve documents his own circumstances in ways that leave his guilt or innocence—and even the notion of what it means to be innocent—up to the reader. This striking, monochrome take on the story adds an extra layer of complexity: it’s a visual adaptation of a novel about a young man who imagines his life as a movie.

Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation, by Damian Duffy, Octavia E. Butler, and John Jennings
It’s tempting to imagine how we might have fared during the times of our ancestors: could we survive the past? Would we be welcome? For Black Americans, this is an idea that’s particularly fraught, and one that Octavia Butler explored in one of her earliest and most resonant novels. Dana, a young black writer living in California of the 1970s, is transported to the pre-Civil War South, where she encounters both the slaves from whom she’s descended and a white plantation owner who is also one of her ancestors. It’s a frequently harrowing exploration of the past’s lingering grip on our present and future. Duffy and Jennings’ award-winning graphic novel adaptation narrows the novel’s focus by emphasizing Dana’s struggle to save herself in a way that brings a renewed power to the story.

American Gods Volume 1: Shadows, by Neil Gaiman, P. Craig Russell, Scott Hampton, and Colleen Doran, and Walt Simonson
Artist P. Craig Russell has collaborated with Neil Gaiman on any number of projects, including an earlier adaptation of the writer’s beloved fantasy Coraline. Here, the two are joined by the similarly accomplished Scott Hampton to tell the story of ex-con Shadow and Mr. Wednesday, a strange traveller who happens to be the Odin of myth. Russell and Hampton remain largely faithful to the original novel, bringing it to life with gorgeous artwork in this first of three volumes that will ultimately adapt the entire tale. The two are joined by several notable guest artists (including Colleen Doran and Walter Simonson) who provide art for flashbacks and side-stories in addition to alternate cover art.

The Giver: The Graphic Novel, by Lois Lowry and P. Craig Russell
Lowry’s classic 1993 dystopian children’s novel introduces Jonas, selected to be the Receiver of Memory—a vessel for the thoughts and feelings of earlier generations—in a pharmaceutically control world that exists without pain and strife, but also lacking depth of emotion. The story has been adapted into a variety of formats, with varying degrees of success, but Russell’s art truly brings it to life, and includes important scenes left out of other adaptations. He makes excellent literal use of the novel’s concept of a colorless world, using color less and less sparingly as the story develops.

Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation, by Ari Folman, Anne Frank, and David Polonsky
The director of the 2008 Israeli animated war documentary Waltz with Bashir adapts the story of Anne Frank alongside that film’s art director, David Polonsky (the two also produced the graphic novel version of their quasi-documentary film). That art style is vivid, bright, and generally appropriate for kids, placing an emphasis on the comedy and charm of Anne’s telling of her life story, diving deep into her mind to recreate a teenage girl’s mundane world, then piercing it through with moments of incredible upheaval and horror. As in the original book, the unremarkable, day-to-day humanity of Anne’s story makes the injustice she suffered through all the more poignant—and universal.

A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel, by by Madeleine L’Engle and Hope Larson
Cartoonist and writer Larson’s resume is peppered with varied and complex female protagonists, making her a perfect choice to adapt L’Engle’s cosmic coming-of-age story for its 50th anniversary. “Difficult” Meg Murry, her brother Charles Wallace, and their friend Calvin O’Keefe set out on a journey across universes to save Meg’s father and, ultimately, the world. Along the way, Meg matures into adolescence and faces conflicts filled with meaning and purpose. Larson’s blue-toned, soft-lined art never lets us lose sight of the human characters at the core of the wild adventure at hand.

What’s your favorite book-to-graphic-novel adaptation?

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The Best Comics & Graphic Novels of March 2019

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

The Handmaid’s Tale: A Novel, by Margaret Atwood and Renée Nault
Nearly 35 years after it was first published, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is having a moment: as the TV series continues to widespread acclaim, Atwood herself has stunned readers with the announcement of a forthcoming sequel. Moreover, the book’s themes of female subjugation are at least as relevant and biting as ever, while its humanity has never been more essential. Artist Renée Nault has collaborated with Atwood on this new graphic novel adaptation, telling the story through stunning watercolor art that captures the novel’s visceral emotional undercurrents in an entirely new way.

Captain America by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Vol. 1: Winter in America, by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Leinil Francis Yu, Gerry Alanguilan, and Sunny Gho
While in his second year writing a revitalized, more-relevant-than-ever Black Panther, Ta-Nehisi Coates has taken over scripting on Captain America too. Following America’s takeover by Hydra in Secret Empire, a story in which a Nazi Captain America (it’s complicated) was narrowly defeated, Steve is back, but weakened by his association with his evil double. He’s determined to explore the reasons why America was so easily taken in by the promise of Hydra, even as an old threat is working behind the scenes to destroy faith in the American dream once and for all.

Shades of Magic, Vol. 1: The Steel Prince (B&N Exclusive Edition), by V. E. Schwab, Enrica Eren Angiolini, and Andrea Olimpieri
Expanding upon Scwab’s Shades of Magic novel series, prequel comic The Steel Prince tells the story of Prince Maxim Maresh, adoptive father of series lead Kell, and the future king of Red London. He’s been ordered to put down a revolt in a distant port city on the Blood Coast, where he encounters lawless soldiers and a deadly pirate queen. Schwab pens the scripts (this is canon, folks), and the art, by Andrea Olimpieri and company, perfectly matches the tone of the novels. The B&N exclusive edition contains commentary from the author, a script-to-art feature, and character sketches.

Belzebubs, by JP Ahonen
Described as “Calvin & Hobbes meets Call of Cthulhu” (beat that for a synopsis), this webcomic has become a cult sensation. Collected for the first time, Ahonen’s story follows an everyday family running a small business in faux-documentary style. That business just happens to be a black-metal band, and the parents of Lilith and Leviathan are only slightly disappointed that neither of the kids has turned out to be the Antichrist. It’s a silly, Addams Family-esque family comedy with a perfect cartoony style.

Coda, Vol. 1, by Simon Spurrier and Matias Bergara
Like fantasy l, sword and sorcery RPGs tend to traffic in tried-and-true tropes. They’re ubiquitous because they work, but sometimes it feels as though we can never quite get beyond Robert Howard and J.R.R. Tolkien. In Coda, Simon Spurrier (The Spire) and Matías Bergara (Cannibal) are looking to do just that, literally, creating a meta-fantasy world in which magic, once commonplace, is now gone. What’s left is a wasteland in which a former bard named Hum and an ill-mannered, five-horned steed team up to save the soul of his wife, and are inadvertently caught up in a struggle to control a post-magic world. Bergara’s detailed art and surreal colors perfectly complement Spurrier’s offbeat scripting (you certainly need just the right artist to pull off a foul-mouthed pentacorn). The feel is akin to a particularly off-the-wall gaming session with your closet buds, each of you trying to out-weird the other in plot twists and character creation.

Rick and Morty vs. Dungeons & Dragons (B&N Exclusive Edition), by Patrick Rothfuss, Jim Zub, and Troy Little
Impressive credits on this one: Jim Zub teams up with fantasy novelist and D&D superfan Patrick Rothfuss (The Kingkiller Chronicle) and cartoonist Troy Little (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas) for the story of a tabletop game gone horribly and hilariously wrong. Morty wants to impress a girl at school, so asks D&D veteran Rick for some help. Before long, the whole family is trapped in a world in which the rules of the game become the rules by which they’ll live or die. It’s a legit Dungeons & Dragons crossover, so there’s plenty of cool stuff for fans of both R&M and D&D. The B&N Exclusive edition has a variant cover and includes a bonus poster.

Superman, Vol. 1: The Unity Saga—Phantom Earth, by Brian Michael Bendis, Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, and Oclair Albert
Lois and Jon are off in space and out of touch, but Superman has to fight for Earth just the same in the kick-off to Bendis’ Unity Saga. Under mysterious circumstances, the entire planet is transported to the Phantom Zone and finds itself subject to the whims of the dangerous Kryptonian criminals held there. They’re soon unified under Rogol Zaar, the killer of Krypton and the prison dimension’s newest inmate. Luckily, Zod joins in the fight on the side of Earth… if only he can be trusted.

Skyward, Vol. 2: Here There Be Dragonflies, by Joe Henderson, Lee Garbett, and Antonio Fabela
One day, out of the blue, Earth’s gravity became a small fraction of what it is now. Dangerous, sure, but in a lot of ways it’s pretty cool. Willa Fowler’s lived her entire life in this low gravity environment, and has no interest in seeing things go back to the way they were. Following the events of the first volume, Willa is a fugitive, having left Chicago for the home of some low-G farmers. In the process, she uncovers a plot to attack the city and some man-eating bugs. With a clever premise and some great art, the book soars. (Get it?)

Xerxes: The Fall of the House of Darius and the Rise of Alexander, by Frank Miller and Alex Sinclair
Twenty years after the publication of his controversial classic, comics icon Frank Miller returns to the world of 300 for this companion graphic novel that imagines the Achaemenid Dynasty and its ongoing war against mainland Greece. While the earlier work focused on the contributions of the Spartans and the Battle of Thermopylae, the new book looks at the Athenians and the conditions that gave rise to Alexander’s empire. Miller’s art is as vibrant and visceral as ever, brought to life in Alex Sinclair’s bold colors.

The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 8: Old is the New New, by Kieron Gillen, Stephanie Hans, Andre Lima Araujo, Matt Wilson, and Kris Anka
The penultimate volume of this pop stars as literal gods series collects all six of the specials produced for the series, each offering a special insight into the broader events of the Wicked + Divine universe, and each an essential preface to the big finale. There’s an Agatha Christie-esque murder, a resurrection at Lake Geneva, Lucifer as a nun, Ananke’s Black Death confession, and the true story of the fall of Rome.

By Night, Vol. 1, by John Allison, Christine Larsen, and Sarah Stern
John Allison (of Giant Days) and Christine Larsen (of Adventure Time) introduce Spectrum, South Dakota, a town that’s seen better days. Residents and best friends Jane Langstaff and Heather Meadows discover a device there called the Eidolon that can open a doorway to another dimension. Cameras in hand, the two friends set off to make a documentary about their explorations of a strange new world.

The Walking Dead, Vol. 31, by Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, Stefano Gaudiano, Cliff Rathburn, and Dave Stewart
When, at the very beginning of this series, Kirkman promised The Walking Dead would run “for a while,” he wasn’t kidding. The 31st trade paperback collects The Rotten Core story arc, as Rick leads Commonwealth Governor Pamela Milton on a tour of the Alexandria communities. Naturally, it’s a gesture that soon triggers some bad goings-on, including a bloody attempted coup.

Man-Eaters, Vol. 1, by Chelsea Cain, Kate Niemczyk, and Lia Miternique
From the Mockingbird team comes a fun and feminist horror-comedy comic that takes place in a near-future world in which a mutant strain of toxoplasmosis is turning menstruating women into actual wildcats. Twelve-year-old Maude’s dad is a detective investigating a series of mysterious mauling, and Maude fears that she might be the killer.

Detective Comics: 80 Years of Batman—Deluxe Edition
Batman’s 80th anniversary just happens to line up with the 1,000th issue of Detective Comics, the book that introduced Batman with it’s 27th issue waaaaaay back in March of 1939. Giving the Bat (and friends) the same type of celebration that Superman got last year, this deluxe volume includes a couple dozen of the best stories from Detective over the decades alongside essays from Bat-luminaries and a new cover from artist Jim Lee.

A Fire Story, by Brian Fies
The firsthand account by cartoonist Fies of the late-2017 California wildfires became something of a viral sensation. Forced to flee his family’s home with nothing but the possessions that could be fit in the back of his car, Fies told the story of the fires while they were happening, and as his own home was in the process of being destroyed. This book collects the entire series in an expanded form, with more detail and including the stories of neighbors and others in the community. The end result provides a more complete accounting of a very personal story.

Cold Spots, by Cullen Bunn and Mark Torres
Bunn and Torres’ supernatural mystery sets a perfectly creepy tone. Dan Kerr goes on a search for his estranged family, soon discovering that his daughter has a connection to the spirit world that’s made her a target of groups that want to exploit her abilities. Her connection to a restless spirit ultimately threatens to bring down a supernatural winter on a North Carolina town.

Faith: Dreamside, by Jody Houser and MJ Kim
The latest chapter in the story of superhero Faith Herbert (also known as Zephyr) sees her teaming with parapsychologist Doctor Mirage to go where she’s never gone before: into the Dreamside, a realm of fantasy inhabited by a nightmare adversary stalking the sleeping hours of Faith’s friend and teammate Animalia. With a little luck, she’ll return from the psychedelic plane with her mind intact.

Giraffes on Horseback Salad: Salvador Dali, the Marx Brothers, and the Strangest Movie Never Made, by Josh Frank, Tim Heidecker, and Manuela Pertega
Here’s a fun one: Giraffes on Horseback Salad was a real movie… almost. Written for the Marx Brothers by Salvador Dali in 1937, the script was rejected by the studio and thought lost. Until now! The team have recreated the appropriately bizarre screenplay as both a standalone graphic novel and a curious artifact of film history. A straight-laced businessman (portrayed as Harpo, who would have starred) falls for the Surrealist Woman, whose every action alters the world into Dali-esque fantasy. Groucho and Chico are on hand to help their relationship along in defiance of the humdrum everyday world.

The Weatherman, Volume 1, by Jody LeHeup and Nathan Fox
Amnesiac weatherman Nathan Bright is having a pretty good life on Mars, until he’s accused of having carried out the worst attack on human history, a terrorist incident that almost wiped out the population of the planet Earth. Of course, he can’t remember if he did it or not, so finds himself confused and on the run with government agent Amanda Cross, while trying to find the truth buried in his memories.

What’s on your pull list?

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The Umbrella Academy Makes a Perfectly Improbable Leap from Page to Screen

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

The Umbrella Academy unfurled on Netflix earlier this month, spreading itself out on our screens with bombast. Based on the quirky graphic novel series by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá, the show explores what it might truly mean to grow up with super powers, mixing slick ultra-violence, childhood drama, and absurdist humor with impeccable style. It is a breath of fresh air in a time when television is choked with more superhero shows than it seems possible for any one person to follow (case in point: on the same day The Umbrella Academy dropped, the new streaming service from publisher DC debuted another revisionist comic adaptation, Doom Patrol).

I’ve been a fan of Gerard Way for a long time. My fandom began with his band, My Chemical Romance, my devotion to which meant I’d follow him to the ends of the earth. Certainly, I didn’t hesitate when I heard he was putting out a comic. In the mid-2000s, Way—who was raised on the medium and allowed its influence on him to bleed through into his music—concocted an incredible idea for a subversive hero comic following seven super-powered siblings (each with their own code name and numerical identifier) who grow up to be maladjusted adults, only to be suddenly tasked with saving the world.

Published between 2007 and 2013 as two mini-series, plus a few standalone stories, the comic picked up an Eisner Award for Best Limited Series in 2008, thanks in no small part to Gabriel Bá’s instantly iconic art, which made Way’s writing soar and gave the series its own unique flair—which, impossibly seems to have translated quite well to the screen. With a rich color palette, careful framing, and an offbeat sense of absurd humor—not to mention a healthy smattering of voice-over narration—developed by Steve Blackman (Fargo) and Jeremy Slater (the live-action Death Note film), Netflix’s take on The Umbrella Academy resembles nothing so much as a superhero story by way of Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums. 

The adaptation combines the first two graphic novel volumes, The Apocalypse Suite and Dallas, into one cohesive plot stretching across 10 episodes. It deftly mixes characters and set pieces from each into a narrative that is engaging, suspenseful, and largely free of the bloat that has plagued many a streaming series in the past. As a devoted fan of the books, I at first quibbled at some of the liberties being taken with the plot and characterization, but it gets the important stuff entirely right.

My favorite character, the clairvoyant Klaus, fares very well: he’s a sarcastic, drugged out, goth-y mess of a human, played with charm and a hidden, haunted sadness by Robert Sheehan. Number Five, the lost brother of the family, who misjudged his time jumping ability and spent decades living alone in a post-apocalyptic future, only to come back to the present day in his original body, is one of the comics’ most sympathetic characters. Aidan Gallagher captures him perfectly, bouncing from cold-hearted killer to young kid at a blink. Ellen Page—certainly the most recognizable member of the cast—deserves particular notice for her portrayal of Vanya, the “ordinary” seventh member of the family. She plays her with kindness and a quiet, lingering sadness that anchors the madness whirling around her.

In some areas, the show builds upon the ideas in the source material to create something new. On the page, Klaus visits Vietnam with two of his siblings, and their trip is played largely for comedy. In the show he goes alone, and what he experiences there—including his relationship with a man named Dave, who becomes something of a love interest—hits like a punch to the gut, changing his character arc in interesting ways.  I’m usually a grump about it when an an adaptation veers from the source material, but again and again, The Umbrella Academy succeeds by doing just that.

Another way the show stands apart is through its use of music—not exactly a factor on the printed page. (It’s almost like Gerard Way is a musician or something.) The utterly inspired use of Tiffany’s ’80s’s pop anthem “I Think We’re Alone Now” to underscore an impromptu house dance party in the trailer sets the tone for the whole show. Other notable music moments: The Bay City Rollers cheesy stomper “Saturday Night,” pairs perfectly with a gunfight in a bowling alley; They Might Be Giant’s iconic “Istanbul” blares as Number Five faces down a platoon of masked goons in a donut shop. Way even gets into the act, reuniting with My Chemical Romance’s original guitarist, Ray Toro, to record two cover songs.

Even at this late date in the comics-to-screen era, the translation from four-color page to screen is still a tricky one. So many of the cartoony elements and over-the-top action beats inherent to the medium just don’t work the same way in live action. Netflix’s take on The Umbrella Academy does a good job of leaning into the realism while preserving some of the zanier moments. Only in the anything-goes television landscape of 2019 would an adaptation retain a character like Pogo, the monkey butler and helper to the heroes of the UA. On the page, he’s one more weird letter in a bowl of alphabet soup in an alien language. Making him work onscreen, both as a character and a special effect, must’ve been incredibly tricky. The show deploys him in just the right way.

Other wacky elements didn’t make the cut, sadly. Early in the comics, the heroes face down a band of floating robotic death machines. In the show, they’re merely masked assassins. Vanya—whose UA alias is the White Violin—undergoes a much less dramatic transformation than she does in the graphic novel: she still turns white, but she doesn’t become a living violin. (Yes, it’s that kind of comic.) In these cases, the tradeoffs make logical sense, even when you sometimes wish the show had gone for the weirder choice. But that’s why we have comics—where the show strives for (and attains) a fantastic balance between realism and the absurd, the comic can go as far over-the-top as it wants (and it goes pretty far).

By sticking close to its source material, The Umbrella Academy delivers everything you could ask for from a superhero show. It doesn’t lean on tired tropes, and its heroes—and their powers—are interesting, unusual, and, most critically, unique. But its even better when paired with the comics themselves—not only to hold off your ennui at having to wait for a second season, but to allow you to get ahead of the game. You’l want to be ready when the third volume, Hotel Oblivion—collecting on the first new UA stories in five years—arrives this summer.

Begin reading The Umbrella Academy now.

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Your Essential Marvel Cinematic Universe Reading List, 2019 Edition

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

Sure, you can see a comic book movie without doing your homework first. But we wouldn’t recommend it. It’s another big year for Marvel movies, with the next (last?) Avengers movie at the chewy center, but also the just-as-anticipated (some would say long overdue) debut of Captain Marvel, the modern MCU’s first film headlined by a woman.  Meanwhile, this year’s mutant movies adapt two very different, similarly iconic storylines. And of course, there’s a new Spider-Man sequel, picking up where the surprisingly fun Homecoming left off.

While we don’t know everything about these movies, here are the books that should help you prepare. Or just give you something to read while you’re waiting in line.

Captain Marvel (March 8)

Captain Marvel has a long and twisted history in Marvel comics. Created by Roy Thomas and Gene Colan in 1968, the character of Carol Danvers first appeared as an Air Force officer and colleague of the original Captain Marvel, an alien Kree warrior turned hero. Just under a decade later, she starred in her own series as Ms. Marvel, having absorbed Kree DNA in an explosion. Over the decades, she’s been promoted to Captain and joined up with just about every Marvel super-team imaginable and, like any superhero who’s been around more than a few years, built up a history full of twists, turns, and retcons. The movie version will likely iron much of it out.

Captain Marvel: Earth’s Mightiest Hero Vol. 1, by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Chris Sebela, Dexter Soy, Emma Ríos, and Felipe Andrade
It’s tough to overstate the importance of the 2012 series to the popularity of Carol Danvers: Kelly Sue DeConnick and company took a powerful and popular B-lister and moved her firmly into the top tier of Marvel superheroes through sheer force of fun, in much the same way Marvel Studio’s first Iron Man movie made Tony Stark a household name. She’s been A-List ever since, and this reboot is unquestionably the reason she’s become the first woman to headline a movie in the MCU (which, granted, should have happened years ago). The opening of the series sees Carol finally assuming the “Captain Marvel” name while teaming up with Captain America, Iron Man, and the World War II-era Banshee Squad for a time-travel adventure.

The Life of Captain Marvel, by Margaret Stohl and Carlos Pacheco
As Danvers’ stock has risen over the years, her origin story—she inherited her powers from an older male hero—has grown less and less appealing. A slight tweak was made to her story during Kelly Sue DeConnick’s long run with the Captain, but this latest mini-series fleshes out her backstory during the course of a trip home gone awry. For Carol Danvers noobs, it’s a great way to meet the Captain. For long-time fans, a secret is revealed that puts a new spin on everything that’s come before.

Ms. Marvel Epic Collection: This Woman, This Warrior, by Chris Claremont, Gerry Conway, Archie Goodwin, Jim Shooter, Jim Mooney, John Buscema, Sal Buscema, John Byrne
Go back to the beginning with a chunky collection of stories from Marvel’s Ms. days, starting right from issue #1. A woman circa 1977 could truly have it all: a superhero in one aspect of her life, a NASA security chief in another, and, not least, editor of the magazine Woman (a bit on-the-nose, perhaps) running up against J. Jonah Jameson and other misogynist media pigs.

Marvel’s Captain Marvel Prelude, by Andrea Di Vito, Will Corona Pilgrim, and Laura Villari
This book collects several classic Carol Danvers stories alongside a new prequel that sets up what’s coming on the big screen. Included here are her first appearance from 1968, the first issues of three of her solo books from 1977 to the present, as well as a team-up between Captain Danvers and the (long-deceased) original Captain Mar-Vell.

Avengers: Kree/Skrull War, by Roy Thomas, Sal Buscema, Neal Adams, and John Byrne
Given that the shape-shifting alien Skrulls are the movie’s primary villains, you could also read this galaxy-spanning adventure from the early years of the Avengers. It’s an epic, slightly psychedelic classic in which the empires of the Kree and Skrulls go to war with Earth as the battlefield. Carol Danvers doesn’t appear, but the original Captain Mar-Vell is a key character, and the trailers hint that elements of this story feature in the film.

Avengers: Endgame (April 26)

We’ve asked Marvel to provide us with a full and complete synopsis of Endgame so that we might produce an exhaustive list of sources and inspirations. Weirdly, they haven’t gotten back to us. In the meantime, we feel comfortable in making a few educated guesses about which stories might have an impact on the new movie. If nothing else, these are all essential reads that caused major repercussions within Marvel’s print universe.

Infinity Gauntlet: Deluxe Edition, by Jim Starlin, George Pérez, and Ron Lim
This seminal mini-series was, of course, the primary inspiration for last year’s Avengers movie, but the book and the film don’t end at the same place. The motivations of comic-book Thanos are a bit different, but there may well be clues as to the ultimate fate of the Marvel Universe in the book’s story, particularly with regard to Nebula, one of the few survivors of the previous movie, who has a major role to play in the comic’s conclusion. If nothing else, the book is one of the cornerstones of the Marvel universe on page and screen both, with an all-time great creative team.

Infinity, by Jonathan Hickman, Jim Cheung, Mike Deodato, Stefano CaselliJerome Opeña, Lenil Yu, and Dustin Weaver
Like its predecessor, this 2013 follow-up goes fully cosmic with a story that’s fun, but also incredibly dense and filled with wild ideas and characters. While the Avengers are distracted by a threat from an ancient alien race and a universal plague hitting the Earth, Thanos returns for a new attack on life itself. Elements of the last Avengers movie, including Thanos’ Black Order and the invasion of Wakanda, were inspired by Infinity, so there may well be more on offer in Endgame.

Avengers Forever, by Kurt Busiek, Carlos Pacheco, and Jesus Saiz
Extra credit time: we have reason to believe that Avengers: Endgame will, in some capacity, involve time travel. It’s possible, even, that the Avengers will somehow revisit their earlier adventures. In a similar vein, Avengers Forever finds the team’s pal Rick Jones pulling different Avengers from various (iconic) moments in comic book history to build a lineup ideally positioned to battle the villain Immortus across time. If the creative team behind Endgame is indeed going the time travel route, it would be hard to imagine them not drawing inspiration from the influential story.

Dark Phoenix (June 7)

There are also two X-Men films coming out this year: a sequel in the same continuity as X-Men: First Class and New Mutants, a presumably largely sandalone semi-horror offshoot. With the Disney/Fox merger looming, it’s entirely possible these are the last films in the long-running series (remember, 2000’s X-Men is widely credited as the first modern superhero movie), at least in its present form.

X-Men: Dark Phoenix Saga, by Chris Claremont, Jo Duffy, John Byrne, Mike Collins, and John Buscema
The Dark Phoenix Saga is one of the most beloved superhero stories ever, representative of both the best in epic superhero storytelling and the juicy soap-opera elements that the X-Men have long reveled in. If you only know the story from how it was bowdlerized in X-Men: The Last Stand, well… that’s not quite it. Hopefully the new film handles it a bit better. In the comic version, Jean Grey has been forced to stretch her abilities to the limit, awakening latent powers within herself that threaten entire worlds. There are a few ways to experience it: the nine-issue main storyline, or in a massive omnibus, perfect for completists, that starts earlier in the run to provide a fuller picture of Jean’s developing abilities. Prose lovers, on the other hand, may enjoy the forthcoming novel adaption of the storyline, penned by Stuart Moore.

Spider-Man: Far From Home (July 5)

Spider-Man goes on a well-earned European vacation and meets Mysterio, a special-effects wiz and master of illusion.

Spider-Man vs. Mysterio, by Stan Lee, Gerry Conway, David Michelinie, Howard Mackie, and Steve Ditko
Though we don’t know a ton about the movie, we do know that Jake Gyllenhaal will play Quentin Beck, the original Mysterio. Mysterio was created by Steve Ditko and Stan Lee way back in 1964 for Amazing Spider-Man #13 (the series hit #800 last year, so the master of illusion’s big-screen debut is probably overdue). Conveniently, Marvel has a forthcoming collection of Mysterio’s greatest hits, including the first appearance of Beck, as well as of Beck’s sometime replacement Daniel Berkhart, hired by J. Jonah Jameson to torment Spidey by pretending to be Mysterio’s ghost. There are stories here from the ’60s run to the present, all with one thing in common: when Mysterio’s around, stuff gets weird.

Amazing Spider-Man Epic Collection: Kraven’s Last Hunt, by Peter David, David Michelinie, J.M. DeMatteis, Ken McDonald, and Alan Kupperberg
Extra credit: this one’s definitely a bit of a stretch, but you could do worse than to check out the Kraven’s Last Hunt Epic Collection. Not only is the title story one of the best, and most disturbing, Spidey arcs of all time, the volume also includes Peter’s marriage to MJ and their subsequent honeymoon in Europe (you know: far from home). It probably won’t have much to do with the film (or will it?), but it’s a varied and incredibly consequential run all the same.

New Mutants (August 2)

New Mutants Epic Collection: The Demon Bear Saga, by Chris Claremont and Bill Sienkiewicz
The original New Mutants series that began in 1982 became a fan favorite by amping up the drama and tragedy elements of the X-Men via the addition of healthy doses of teen angst. Rather than doing cute young mutants, the creative team went deeper and darker. That style reached its height with the “Demon Bear” saga, in which indigenous mutant Dani Moonstar sets out to confront the entity that murdered her parents years earlier. It doesn’t go well, and she winds up in a hospital during a snowstorm as her teammates join her to battle the beast. The groundbreaking work of artist Bill Sienkiewicz pushes the story into full-on horror, as the team is forced to come together or die. This story has been mentioned a primary influence on the film’s plot and tone.

New Mutants Epic Collection: Renewal, by Chris Claremont, Bill Mantlo, Bob McLeod, Sal Buscema, and Paul Smith
If that’s not enough, there’s also this earlier collection, which follows the New Mutant team from the very beginning of their tenure at Xavier’s school. Most of the film’s characters have their origins here, and this book ends right where the Demon Bear storyline begins. Together, the two provide a whole lot of mutant action for your comic-buying dollar.

What are you reading while you wait for this year’s Marvel movies?

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The Best Comics and Graphic Novels of February 2019

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

Mister Miracle (B&N Exclusive Edition), by Tom King and Mitch Gerads
One of the most acclaimed comics works of the last year (already a classic in the making) is collected in a Barnes & Noble Exclusive Edition that includes a variant cover from series artist Gerads, a new introduction from writer King, and the complete script of the first issue. Scott Free was raised on the nightmare world Apokalips as part of a child exchange designed to bring peace. Now he just wants to live a normal life in the suburbs with his life-long love, Big Barda. Mind-bending complications ensue, including an opening scene that sees Scott attempting an escape from his own life. Ultimately, it’s a very contemporary story about moving beyond past trauma and finding a way to live in a world where new traumas are always just around the corner, and it belongs on your shelf next to the recent collector’s edition of King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta’s similarly acclaimed Vision.

PTSD, by Guillaume Singelin
Former sniper Jun just wants to find peace, but there’s very little of that on offer following her return from an unpopular war. Her tough exterior served her well in combat, but only serves to alienate her at home, leaving her without friends and without help when she begins suffering the effects of PTSD. Coming to rely on drugs to her her function normally, she slowly begins to realize there’s solace to be had in relationships with her fellow vets, not to mention a warm-hearted soup-seller and an incredibly stubborn dog named Red. Singelin’s lush watercolors bring a vibrancy and poignance to this story of war’s long reach.

Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess’s Stardust (New Edition), by Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess
This collaboration between luminaries Gaiman and Vess is always worth a reread. If you’re new to the story, all the better: this new edition presents the illustrated novella in fine form. Set in rural England of the 19th century and inspired by Tolkien, the story follows Tristran Thorn, half-Faerie and resident of the town of Wall, who promises to retrieve a fallen star named Yvaine as a sign of his devotion to his love Victoria.

Transmetropolitan: Book One, by Warren Ellis, Darick Robertson, Rodney Ramos, and Nathan Eyring with Garth Ennis
Self-exiled gonzo journalist Spider Jerusalem finds himself forced to return to The City, finding it more degenerate and corrupt than he left it. Naturally, he is determined to clean it up, fighting injustice via his popular newspaper column. This surreal cyberpunk series is a bonafide classic, and this new edition includes fresh behind-the-scenes material, variant covers, and scripts.

Chronin, Vol. 1: The Knife at Your Back, by Alison Wilgus
Out of place and out of time, Mirai Yoshida, a student from 2042, finds herself trapped in 1864 Japan after a temporal mishap. She befriends a humble tea mistress and just tries to get by, knowing all the while what no one else does: civil war is coming, with forces aiming to restore the imperial court set to depose the shogunate. Taking up the sword might be her only means of survival.

Marvel’s Captain Marvel Prelude, by Andrea Di Vito, Will Corona Pilgrim, and Laura Villari
In anticipation of the forthcoming movie, this book collects several classic Carol Danvers stories alongside a new prequel that sets up what’s coming on the big screen. Included are Danvers’ first appearance from 1968, the first issues of three of her solo books (from 1977 to the present), as well as a one-shot team-up between Captain Danvers and the (long-deceased) original Captain Mar-Vell. It’s a great primer for our most anticipated comic book movie of the year (sorry, Avengers).

The Life of Captain Marvel, by Margaret Stohl, Carlos Pacheco, Julian Totino Tedesco, Rafael Fonteriz, Marcio Menyz, Marguerite Sauvage, and Clayton Cowles
And if you’d like some additional study materials before witnessing Carol’s long-awaited big screen debut, this recent mini-series fleshes out her backstory over the course of a trip home gone awry. For readers who might be coming to Captain Marvel for the first time, it’s a great way to orient yourself to the adventures of the one-time NASA security officer turned intergalactic super-being. There’s plenty here for long-time fans to appreciate as well, included a stunning revelation that puts a new spin on the entirety of the character’s 50-year history.

Black Panther, Book 6: The Intergalactic Empire of Wakanda Part 1, by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Daniel Acuña, Jen Bartel, Joe Sabino, and Triona Farrell
Awakening in the vibranium mines with no memory of his past, T’Challa comes to discover that the borders of Wakanda extend far beyond his wildest dreams: across the universe, there exists a vast empire founded in his name. The latest chapter in Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Black Panther epic is heading out into space.

The Be-Bop Barbarians: A Graphic Novel, by Gary Phillips and Dale Berry
Cliff Murphy is a light-skinned black comics artist and inventor of the Phantom Avenger, a character who is about to be stolen out from under him. Stef Rawls writes a romance-adventure strip by day and works as a maid at night to make ends meet. She’s offered a gig by the FBI doing art for an anti-agitation flyer, and needs the money too much to say no. Ollie Jefferson is a Korean War veteran and editorial cartoonist whose brutal beating by a cop becomes symbolic of oppression. The lives and struggles of these three friends intersect,even as the streets are about to explode into violence during another volatile time in history.

Vagrant Queen, Vol. 1, by Magdalene Visaggio, Jason Smith, Harry Saxon, and Zaak Saam
Once the child queen of an intergalactic empire, Elida Al-Feyr now wanders the galaxy as  a thief, scavenger, and all-around scoundrel, staying alive and dodging the revolutionaries that deposed her to begin with. Approached with information suggesting that her mother is alive and at the heart of her old kingdom, Elida is forced to stage a bold rescue. This creator-owned book from Magdalene “Maggs” Visaggio (Eternity Girl, Kim & Kim) is a satisfyingly pulpy, over-the-top outer space adventure, enlivened by Smith’s detailed, ever-so-slightly cartoony art and Harry Saxon’s bold coloring.

Shanghai Red, by Christopher Sebela, Joshua Hixson, and Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
There are real-life legends about the Old Portland Underground, a series of tunnels beneath the city ostensibly used for the movement of goods from ships to local businesses. This was during the era when dwellers in port cities could be shanghaied: tricked or forced into service aboard ships. Red has assumed the identity of Jack in order to move through this seedy world, only to find themselves kidnapped. The story’s not about a victim, though… it’s a wonderfully gritty story of revenge starring a lead with a complex gender identity and expression.

High Crimes, by Christopher Sebela and Ibrahim Moustafa
Another impressive new book from writer Sebela, here joined by rising star Ibrahim Moustafa. Zan Jensen is a disgraced former Olympic snowboarder who’s now running tours as a climbing guide in Kathmandu. She’s also got a sideline as a grave robber: robbing the corpses of wealthy tourists littering the mountain, and charging phenomenal sums to retrieve them. Zan gets more than she bargained for when her latest score is a body hiding a wealth of state secrets. She soon  finds herself pursued by government agents who will stop at nothing to retrieve the information and eliminate any witnesses.

Spider-Geddon, by Christos Gage, Clayton Crain, Dan Slott, Jorge Molina, David Curiel, and Travis Lanham, and Carlo Barberi
If we learned anything from the eye-popping Into the Spider-Verse movie, it’s that you can never have too many Spider-People (even when they’re not people). Using technology stolen from the Spider-Predators called the Inheritors, one-time Superior Spider-Man Otto Octavius has found a way to extend his life indefinitely. Unfortunately, that’s all that the Inheritors need to return from their prison universe and restart their hunt. All of your favorite Spiders, and several new ones, team up to save themselves and end the threat of… Spider-Geddon!

Monster, by Enki Bilal
The four-volume magnum opus collected here represents some of the most personal work of legendary French/Serbian comic creator Enki Bilal’s storied career. Orphans, Nike, Leyla, and Amir are born days apart in the same bed in Sarajevo during the 1993 war in Yugoslavia. They each go on to lead very different lives, until fate brings them crashing back together again. This is the first time this deeply personal, deeply emotional work has been translated into English.

The Long Con, by Dylan Meconis, Ben Coleman, and EA Denich
The convention’s been going on for five years—though nobody in the outside world has a clue. Los Spinoza Convention Center, and everything within a 50-mile radius of the building, were thought to have been obliterated in a catastrophe, but it turns out that the con-goers survived and kept the party going. Victor Lai was a reporter covering the con who escaped at the last minute, abandoning his best friend in the process. Now, he’s going back to find out what happened. It’s a fun mystery and full of insider humor for anyone familiar with the odder side of con culture.

LOUD, by Maria Llovet
Promising a wild ride and more than delivering one, Llovet’s LOUD takes place in the titular underworld nightclub, an after-dark spot filled with as much sweat and blood as hard liquor, peopled with a cast of characters that includes strippers, hitmen, lesbian junkies, a dominatrix, and a clan of vampires. And that’s just on one particularly busy night. It’s been billed as Tarantino meets The Hunger, which isn’t far off; in other words, if seedy vampires are your thing, have at it. It’s a grungy blast.

Lowlifes, by Brian Buccellato and Alexis Sentenac
Grand is a cop barely hanging on. Leonard is an addict trying to win back his family. Rip is an underworld fighter. Wendell is the man pulling all their strings. The morally compromised lives of these citizens of Los Angeles come together in the fallout from a poker game robbery, as each fights to stay ahead of the others in a different sort of game, one in which the stakes aren’t life or death so much as redemption or destruction.

Iron: Or The War After, by S.M. Vidaurri
A top-secret document is stolen by a Resistance spy named Hardin, and he falls into a complex web of government plots and counter-plots. The chain reaction from his act of espionage impacts everyone from the leaders at the highest levels to Hardin’s own children. It’s a beautifully drawn story about the consequences of political extremism—and did we mention that the characters are all anthropomorphized animals? In the tradition of Maus comes this novelistic fable about the costs of fighting back, even when your cause already seems lost.

What’s on your pull list this month?

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The Best Comics & Graphic Novels of January 2019

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

New year! New comics!

Hobo Mom, by Charles Forsman and Max de Radigues
Natasha left her family years ago to ride the rails and live the life of a free-wandering vagrant. Tom and their daughter Sissy must endure without her, until the day she shows back up on their doorstep. Tom, still in love, isn’t quite ready to overlook her abandonment, while Sissy just wants a mom. Natasha, meanwhile, has to figure out how much of her independence she’s willing to surrender for her family. This book was crafted via a cross-country collaboration between greats Charles Forsman (The End of the Fu*king World) and Max de Radiguès.

Tony Stark: Iron Man, Vol. 1: Self-Made Man, by Dan Slott, Valerio Schiti, and Edgar Delgado
After a long (somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 issues) run on Spider-Man, Dan Scott jumped right into two of Marvel’s other big books: Fantastic Four and, of course, Iron Man. In this first volume, Slott, Schiti, and Delgado go back to basics with Tony, who is made part of an ensemble team centered around his new venture, Stark Unlimited, plus an old rival who is poised to become a new ally. There’s every reason to think that this is just the ground floor of what will be another long and entertaining run.

Fence, Vol. 2, by C.S. Pacat, Johanna the Mad, and Joana la Fuente
The first volume of this romance-meets-sportsmanship book was among our favorites of 2018, with a soapy, queer take on the type of sports stories that we more typically find in manga. In volume 2, tryouts are underway for the King’s Row fencing team, and Nicholas is desperate to make the roster and get a shot at showing up his whiz-kid half-brother. Unfortunately, Nicholas’ unstoppable roommate Seiji Katayama is just one of the tests he’ll need to overcome if he hopes to make it.

Ghostbusters: Crossing Over, by Erik Burnham, Luis Antonio Delgado, and Dan Schoening
IDW has put a great deal of work into building a vast Ghostbusters mythology, primarily centered around the classic 1984 team. But there have been other iterations, too, plus the team gained access to an inter dimensional portal a while back that they’ve been working to keep control of. The only way to contain the resulting breach is to call on all the iterations of the Ghostbusters: from the cartoons, the video games, and especially the Answer the Call team. It’s a lot to juggle, but the creative team manages to have a lot of fun with the “more is more” aesthetic.

Off Season, by James Sturm
The political is particularly personal in Sturm’s story gauging the impact of the 2016 presidential election on one family. From the primaries through the months after the vote, a couple becomes separated emotionally and, eventually, physically by the stress and rage brought on by our current political reality. Sturm doesn’t draw distinctions between the very real love of a family and the broader world of politics, instead diving into the interconnectedness of both. It’s a story of the daily life of a family surviving in emotionally fraught times.

The Death of Captain Marvel, by Jim Starlin, Steve Englehart, Doug Moench, Pat Broderick, and Jack Abel
This probably isn’t essential prep for the upcoming film, but it does serve as a good introduction (and farewell, for readers who prize efficiency) to the earlier, man-shaped Captain Marvel, to be played in some form or another in the movie by Jude Law. Perhaps more importantly, it’s an all-time classic of superhero comics: as the cosmic Marvel learns that he’s dying of cancer, an entire universe has to help him accept it.

Spider-Geddon: Edge of Spider-Geddon, by Jed Mackay, Zac Thompson, Lonnie Nadler, Gerard Way, and Gerardo Sandoval
As was the case with the Spider-Verse crossover event, the set-up can be at least as much fun as the main event. The five stories here each spotlight a different Web Warrior in more-or-less standalone stories from all-star creative teams: Spider-Punk Hobie Brown faces an attack from space, while Peni Parker (who you’ll remember from the movie) comes into conflict with her family. The book also introduces two new spiders, and features a return from the Superior Octopus, now protecting San Francisco via highly questionable means.

The New World, by Ales Kot, Tradd Moore, Jordie Bellaire, and Tom Muller
As a series, this one generated a lot of buzz in 2018, and the entire story is collected here. A vegan hacker and a reality TV-star police officer fall in love in a United States changed by the outcome of the Second Civil War. Though the California of the near-future is a vibrant, colorful and diverse place, it’s also a place where airs a reality show involving cops hunting down impoverished criminals, with viewers voting on whether the contestants live or die. The romance is, as they say, fraught.

Southern Cross, Vol. 3, by Becky Cloonan, Andy Belanger, and Lee Loughridge
This ambitious sci-fi series has flown a bit under the radar, and that’s too bad: it’s a creepy thriller story set in outer space, with some of the mysteries surrounding the cursed ship Southern Cross coming to a head in this volume. Hazel Conroy and her crew of misfits are trapped on the ship, facing their own secrets and lies, even as the alien-possessed undead are coming for them.

Shade, the Changing Woman, by Cecil Castellucci and Marley Zarcone
This is the latest from DC’s on-hiatus mature-readers imprint Young Animal, which has produced some of the best and most innovative series of the last couple of years, under the guidance of Gerard Way. The Changing Girl no more, Shade has shed her original Earth body for a new one, cutting ties with her past—but the human emotions that she’s forced to confront haven’t let up, especially when she comes face to face with the original Changing Man.

Lucy Dreaming, by Max Bemis and Michael Dialynas
She’s a space princess. A rebel. The leader of a nationwide revolt. Each night, 13-year-old Lucy goes to bed and dreams herself as a different hero from one of her favorite stories. Except, she soon realizes, these dream adventures have real consequences. She’s soon forced to figure out just what her multi-versal journeys mean for her dreaming and waking lives.

Modern Fantasy, by Rafer Roberts and Kristen Gudsnuk
A Ranger, her drug-dealer roommate, and their Dwarf BFF face evil cultists and a Balrog while working the day jobs they need to keep in order to pay off their student loans. The fun and bright series imagines a fantasy world that looks unsettlingly like our own humdrum one.

The Mighty Crusaders, Vol. 1, by Ian Flynn and Kelsey Shannon
Created by Jerry Siegel, this team has an impressive pedigree, even if it hasn’t always been at the forefront. The recent revival follows Archie’s reboot of the various characters across several successful solo books. A prehistoric monster threatens D.C., bringing the team together just in time for the villainous Dr. Iddh to awaken an evil that threatens the entire world.

Empowered & Sistah Spooky’s High School Hell, by Adam Warren and Carla Speed McNeil
High school is hell in the latest story starring Empowered. Though the character has been around for over a decade, this is the first time she’s appearing in a standard size-and-style comic book format, and the standalone story serves as both an introduction to the hero and an origin for Sister Spooky, the obnoxious teammate who sold her soul for hotness. Her Spooky’s former bullies learn that she wasn’t always so hot, and they want that magic for themselves.

Coyotes, Vol. 2, by Sean Lewis and Caitlin Yarsky
In the first volume of Coyotes, women were being hunted by specially engineered werewolves—actually men who don animal pelts that augment their hatred of women and turn them into monsters. In the violent story, Red hunts down these killers, decapitating them to end their reign of terror. In the newest, she continues her quest to bring hunted women to safety, but encounters a group that challenges her once unshakeable believe in the righteousness of her cause.

Letter 44: Deluxe Edition, by Charles Soule, Alberto Jimenez Alburquerque, and Dan Jackson
Soule & company’s recently concluded series is getting a mega-sized rerelease with this new omnibus, and it’s a great way to dig into a gripping, political sci-fi series. United States President Stephen Blades announces the presence of alien life in his State of the Union address, kicking off a global battle for power in the wake of the new status quo. While Earth is distracted, Charlotte Hayden and her crew are heading to the asteroid belt to make first contact.

I Moved to Los Angeles to Work in Animation, by Natalie Nourigat
Nourigat’s newest autobiographical graphic novel is part memoir, part how-to for anyone considering a career in animation. The artist tells her story of moving from Portland to Los Angeles looking to take her work to the next level, and once there climbing high and falling low in pursuit of a dream. In telling her story, she dispenses advice about salaries and navigating studio culture with style and a wonderful sense of humor.

Jinx, by Brian Michael Bendis
Now that Brian Michael Bendis has lived multiple lives as a comics megastar, some of his earliest work is getting reprinted—including Jinx, probably his best known book from back in the day. Inspired by Sergio Leone westerns, but set in modern times, the crime noir follows the title character, a bounty hunter who gets wind of a huge cash treasure but finds that con-artist and felon David Goldfish is hunting it at the same time. The two realize that their chances are better if they work together, assuming either can trust the other.

What’s on your pull list?

The post The Best Comics & Graphic Novels of January 2019 appeared first on The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog.

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