135 Pages of Action in a 140-Page Book: Warren Ellis on the Intense Adventure of Cemetery Beach

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Reuniting the Trees team of Warren Ellis and Jason Howard, the new graphic novel Cemetery Beach strives for something rather different. While the earlier book takes a deeply personal approach to a near-future science fiction mystery, Cemetery Beach kicks off with a similarly heady high concept, but uses the clever premise as a sturdy hanger for a story that’s almost non-stop action.

In this alternate (or is it?) history, humans set out to the stars in the 1920s and established a colony world that’s been running more or less on its own for much of the intervening time, developing a parallel culture that shares similarities with our own, but is nonetheless distinct. Mike Blackburn is the pathfinder sent to clandestinely investigate the colony as a precursor to possible invasion, but he’s quickly captured by the local military. The book is the story of Mike’s escape on foot across the landscape of this virtually alien world, to the extraction point at the ominously named Cemetery Beach.  To his benefit, a level-headed revolutionary named Grace Moody joins him on his fast-paced journey. Unfortunately, the colony is almost entirely comprised of violently unstable types determined to ensure that Blackburn can’t report home.

Jason Howard’s art is wonderfully visceral, and the action (of which there’s a lot, some of it brutal) is very clear—it’s an interesting contrast to his equally great but more contemplative work on Trees. Cemetery Beach might not be as cerebral as some of the creative team’s other works, but they’re clearly having a lot of fun.

But don’t take our word for it: we recently had the chance to chat with Warren Ellis about what inspired this particular sci-fi thrill ride.

Cemetery Beach is almost non-stop action, which makes for an interesting contrast with a book like Trees. How do you approach the different types of stories differently? Does the plot come first, or do you start with a tone you’d like?
For me, every story starts in a different place. As I recall, this one all started with Jason and I finishing up volume 2 of Trees and my saying, “You want to go into volume 3, or do you want to do a palate-cleanser kind of thing?” And Jason sobbing “oh god yes please.”

We decided to do an action piece. Jason likes to moodboard, in a way, and sends me art and photography he likes that sort of surround a space he’d like to play in. In the meantime, I was working out how to do an action piece that would also be an appalling punishment for Jason. And so I got to Cemetery Beach, a 140 page story that contains a 135-page action scene.

The off-world colony in this story split off from Earth around 1920. I’m curious about the considerations that went into choosing that date. Just timing? Or is there something special about that era.
If I’d made it any earlier, I wouldn’t have had access to the mechanization and the sort of post-WW1 condition that was useful—I mean, around the turn of the 20th century, European intellectuals considered science close to being a completed book, the sense of mad grasping reach for the future wasn’t there so much. Any later, and you get into the sort of political metaphors that I didn’t want so close to the surface of the book. Also, the 1920s is when all the good “secret space program” conspiracy theories start now.

We know the ways in which we’ve screwed things up in our own world, and this book shows us the ways in which an offshoot of humanity has screwed things up. Should we read works like this as cautionary tales? As reflections of our current state of things?
The obvious thing, to me, is this: a bunch of crazy white people founded a distant colony, largely by trial and error, and then built a wall around it. And when that didn’t solve their problems, they built new walls inside the wall. And kept building walls, and getting more insular and stranger and crazier. So, y’know, you can have some fun with that.

Science fiction is a very good tool for taking the temperature of the contemporary culture. I think it’s the genre’s primary use case, right back to Mary Shelley.

Since they’ve been cut off, the off-world colony is stuck at a roughly ’60s level of tech. Do you think we’d be at all better off without things like cell phones?
Oh, they’ve been there a hundred years. It’s just that the supply runs stopped. But this is a personal thing. Some people feel the need to avoid digital communications, for very personal reasons around health and philosophy. Me? My daughter lives a hundred miles away but she’s always there in my hand no matter where either of us are, and I can talk, listen, watch, send help, even beam money into her bank account. I’m not giving that up. That’s a net win. These are all just tools—the question is whether you’re going to use them in the ways that you want, or if you’re going to use them the way the tool creators tell you to.

At any given point, you seem to have about 15 different things coming out, and then you’re working on the film adaptions of those things. Are you typically working on one thing at a time, or is it all a mad jumble?
It’s not that many things, I promise. I usually have a couple of things on the go—right now, I’m working on  [the Netflix animated series] Castlevania, but I’m also booting up the treatment for another TV show that goes into production in a few months. And there’s a reason for that: my brain is aging and imperfect, and some days I just don’t have it for a certain piece of work. I can’t be funny today, or I can’t do complex stuff well today, something like that. But that means that my brain does have it for something else. So I keep working, and just change tracks, and at the end of the day I’ve produced something on something. Or something—I dunno. It’s late and I still have to do notes on the music for an episode of the show. Little bit busy. But I’m coping!

Cemetery Beach is available now. 

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The Five (or More) Deaths of the X-Men’s Dark Phoenix

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

The X-Men’s Jean Grey (the one-time Marvel Girl) has been defined for decades by her many deaths and resurrections. She’s the Phoenix, after all—it’s right in the name.

One of Jean’s deaths in particular—the one that serves as the climax of the legendary Dark Phoenix Saga—has haunted the character, and superhero comics in general, for more than 40 years. As a bit of comic book storytelling, it’s stellar stuff, but its legacy is complicated by the fact that as a character, Jean’s been punished for her actions in that arc ever since (a chapter in Cathrynne M. Valente’s incendiary women-in-comics clapback The Refrigerator Monologues offers a darkly satirical take on this eternally punished woman).

The Dark Phoenix Saga has been adapted several times, including in the new film Dark Phoenix—which is actually the second go at adapting this particular story within the X-Men film franchise. Will Jean finally break the cycle of death and rebirth? The comics suggest that it won’t be easy: here are the most significant deaths of the Phoenix.

Art by Dave Cockrum

Solar Flare

The first death of Jean Grey is among the briefest: it lasts for about a page. In Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum’s X-Men #100, the team finds itself on a damaged space shuttle with pilot Peter Corbeau, with an incoming solar flare about to fry the lot of them. Dr. Corbeau is the only one who knows how to fly the thing, but, being a normal human, he’s also the most susceptible to the incoming solar radiation—outside of the shuttle’s shielded cell, he’ll die within seconds. Without hesitation, Jean uses her mental powers to absorb Corbeau’s knowledge and disables Scott (aka Cyclops, her sometimes boyfriend) so that there’ll be no one to stop her from sacrificing herself—the best she can hope for is to survive long enough to get the ship safely to Earth’s atmosphere. She does, just barely, before being consumed by the radiation.

Luckily, she’s reborn from the shuttle debris, dramatically rising from the water with a new superhero name, Phoenix, and, in an all-time great example of a beloved comics trope, a stunning new costume. (Being resurrected in a tired old outfit is so basic.)

Within a few issues, she’s called upon to put her newly expanded powers to the test: the M’Kraan crystal, an object of Infinity Gauntlet-level power, is fractured. With a little help from her friends, Jean/Phoenix is the only one able to make the crystal whole again and save the universe. Which she does—otherwise we wouldn’t be here to talk about it, obviously.

Best Adaptation: The ’90s-era kids’ cartoon X-Men: The Animated Series adapted the story in  a five(!)-episode run during its third season, doing a fairly thorough job of it. No other adaption has even tried, though the second X-Men movie (technically X2) sees Famke Janssen’s Jean giving her life to save the team from a flood before a Phoenix-ish shape is glimpsed cruising beneath the waters.

Art by John Byrne

Blown Up on the Moon

The death that came next was, at the time, one of the most dramatic moments ever in superhero comics. Chris Claremont had by then been joined by artist John Byrne and inker Terry Austin, and together, the team had built an impressive world around the X-characters, telling elaborately serialized stories through carefully choreographed character beats. Uncanny X-Men was a superhero soap opera of the first order, and what came to be known as The Dark Phoenix Saga benefitted from all that build-up—and especially from those well-established relationships.

As with the earlier Phoenix storyline, there’s a lot going on alongside the headline events. The power-hungry Hellfire Club is introduced, as are Kitty Pryde, Dazzler, and future team leader/telepath/sex therapist Emma Frost. It all swirls around Jean, who is attacked by mind-manipulator Jason Wyngarde of the Hellfire Club, who seeks to control her and the vast power at her command. He’s briefly successful, but waaaaay underestimates her resiliency. She’s fairly quickly able to shake off his control and then drives him mad with his own delusions. Where he has succeeded, though, is in unleashing the full power of the Phoenix. Imbued with new and nigh-godlike abilities, Jean is no longer able view her old teammates objectively. Or, rather, she views them with perfect objectivity: like all living creatures, they’re specks—tiny, temporary things unworthy of her consideration. The same goes for the distant civilization that she destroys when she sucks the juice out of their sun on a galactic sight-seeing trip.

The alien empire of the Shi’ar (lead by Queen Lilandra, Professor X’s sometime space girlfriend) very quickly decides that Jean has to be put down. Which… good luck. Fortunately for everyone but Jean, she ultimately has the presence of mind to blow herself up before the Shi’ar can destroy the entire solar system to get to her.

Best Adaptation: We’ve yet to see the new Dark Phoenix film, so we’re giving the film adaptation nod to the the animated series by default—which isn’t to say the four-part storyline isn’t a good take on the material. There’s also a prose novelization from Stuart Moore that does an excellent job of faithfully retelling and expanding on the classic tale.

Art by Jim Starlin

Snapped by Thanos

According to Sean Howe’s Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, there were plenty of discussions between the creators and editorial at the time of The Dark Phoenix Saga’s publication about the extent to which Jean could ever be forgiven for what is, essentially, the genocide of at least one world. The exact status of Jean’s relationship with the Phoenix powers has always been a little fuzzy: early on, it certainly seems as though all of the darkness came from within her. Later on, the power became something of an external force, to varying degrees. After four decades of shifting continuity, it’s hard to know exactly where Jean ends and the Phoenix begins.

But here’s a wrinkle: when she’s resurrected for the first time, she’s 100 percent not guilty, as we learn that the Phoenix Force created a copy of Jean way back in X-Men #101, and it was the copy who cut loose on the galaxy—the real Jean was actually chilling out in a cocoon the whole time. Problem solved!

Jean 1.0 joined up with her original teammates to form the spin-off X-Factor team. And she lived happily ever after… at least until Thanos showed up. On the big screen, the X-Men were spared the effects of the Infinity Gauntlet by complex rights issues—but they weren’t so lucky in the original comics. Jean was one of the many characters wiped away by Thanos, though, as in the movies, it wasn’t permanent.

Best Adaptation: Of Infinity Gauntlet? You’re kidding, right?

Art by Phil Jimenez

Stabbed by Wolverine/Electrocuted by Magneto

Since these two deaths are related, and occur within just one issue of each other, it’s fitting to lump them together. Jean was a main character during Grant Morrison’s redefining run on New X-Men from 2001 to 2004, a time when Magneto rose once again to embrace true villainy. He manipulates events around the team to get them out of the way during the final phase of his plan, leaving Jean and Wolverine trapped aboard a space station moving ever closer to the sun. After sharing several tender moments toward the end, and with no hope of rescue, Logan tearfully stabs Jean in order to end her suffering. (Thanks?) It’s all for the good, though, as her death releases the Phoenix power within her, saving them both.

The two return to New York, where a wild-eyed, vengeful Magneto is wreaking havoc. She stops him, but not before he directs all of his accumulated power into Jean/Phoenix, causing her to suffer a lethal stroke.

Best Adaptation: It might not be the best X-Men movie, but X-Men: The Last Stand‘s take on the Dark Phoenix saga blends in several elements from the Grant Morrison run. In particular, Jean’s death in the movie is slightly more in line with how she goes out in Morrison’s version. (Please direct all of your angry comments resulting from this scant praise of Brett Ratner’s woeful X-film to my email spam filter.)

Art by Marc Silvestri

Erased Her Own Timeline

Grant Morrison gave Jean two deaths in quick succession, but there was one more on the horizon: immediately following the stroke that killed her in New York, we jump forward 150 years to a dark, dystopian future. In the previous storyline, and in the best X-tradition, there had been plenty of soap opera dramatics to go along with the superhero action. The prominence of Emma Frost on the team drove a wedge between Jean and her then-husband Scott “Cyclops” Summers. What at first seemed likely to devolve into a sadly typical fight between two women over a man is cut short by Jean’s growing maturity. She comes to realize that while she loves Scott, they’re probably not terribly well-suited as lovers. And it doesn’t matter much, as she soon dies (twice)—or it wouldn’t, except her death sends Scott spiraling into despair. Shortly after her death, he disbands the X-Men.

But in the dark future, the Phoenix is reborn, manipulated by dark forces. She eventually comes to realize that the whole timeline is pretty much a bust and needs to be eliminated, so uses her power to travel back in time to nudge a guilty and grieving Scott into the arms of Emma, giving her tacit blessing for him to move on with both the X-Men and his own life rather than letting it all dissolve.

Best Adaptation: There’s not really been one, though the Days of Future Past film does nod to some of the book’s imagery.

Art by Leinil Francis Yu & Joe Bennett

After this death, Phoenix was gone from the pages of the X-Men books for almost fifteen years, with a few exceptions: two miniseries—Phoenix: Endsong and Phoenix: Warsong—saw the Phoenix Force itself attempting to resurrect an entirely unwilling Jean Grey, and Avengers vs. X-Men saw something similar happening on a grander scale, as the Phoenix Force returned in search of a new host. Finally, All-New X-Men saw a time-displaced young Jean Grey brought to the present, where she was ultimately forced to reckon with the knowledge of her own twisted future.

Finally, Jean returns for good (?) in Phoenix Resurrection: The Return of Jean Grey, during which she literally and metaphorically casts off both the Phoenix and the fallout from that iconic storyline. She goes on to lead her own team in X-Men Red. The suggestion is that she’s broken the cycle for good, but time will tell—in Jean’s case, staying alive’s about the only thing she can’t do.

Will you see Dark Phoenix, or are you content with the comics?

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9 Books to Prepare You for The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance

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It’s always with some apprehension that we approach a reboot of a classic, and certainly Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal is one of those movies that seems almost untouchable. Sure, it was critically panned and a box-office dud back in 1982, but the decades since have treated this ahead-of-its-time all-puppets fantasy quite kindly. When, in the wake of several shuttered plans to develop a sequel, Netflix announced a TV series set in the world of the film, well, I’m sure I’m not the only one who had mixed feelings.

But then I saw that trailer.

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance returns to the world of Thra as originally envisioned by Jim Henson, Frank Oz, designer Brian Froud, following three Gelflings—Rian, Brea and Deet—at the dawn of a rebellion to unseat the twisted Skeksis who rule their world. We’ve only seen a few minutes of footage and I’m already totally onboard—how can you resist that wonderfully old-school focus on puppets and practical effects?

There’s no need to wait to revisit this stunning, sometimes nightmarish world, though—while this is the first time Thra will be appearing on film since the ’80s, there are a number of books that expand upon the world. Some revisit the origins of the Dark Crystal, others move the story forward, while still others go behind-the-scenes. One thing is eminently clear: The Dark Crystal has inspired a generation of skilled artists and writers to produce some of their very best work.

Jim Henson’s The Power of the Dark Crystal, by Simon Spurrier, Kelly Matthews, and Nichole Matthews
While we don’t know everything about Age of Resistance, we know that it’s a prequel to the original film. But that doesn’t mean the movie is the end of the story—graphic novel publisher Archaia released this series chronicling life in the wake of the healing of the Crystal. The three-volume saga joins Kira and Jen years into their rule over a peaceful, united Thra. The scientist Aughra, however, finds evidence in the stars of a coming sickness that will ultimately affect the entire planet. Deep underground, the hidden race of Firelings finds that their world is dying—and the only thing that can restore it is a piece of the Dark Crystal. The young Fireling Thurma is charged with stealing a shard, which puts her at odds with the Kira and Jen, who both understand the danger of shattering the Crystal again. Thurma finds a friend and ally in the Gelfling Kensho, and together they succeed in their mission, but at a tremendous cost. The beautifully illustrated series was, at one point, intended to have been a movie itself, and is in every way an official continuation of the story. If you love Power, the story of Kensho and Thurma continues in the recent Beneath the Dark Crystal.

Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal: Creation Myths, by Brian Holguin, Adam Sheikman, and Brian Froud
When Jim Henson and company were developing The Dark Crystal with concept artist and illustrator Brian Froud, they dreamed up a great deal more background for the world of Thra then appears onscreen—realizing, correctly, that the story didn’t require complicated exposition, especially given that Jen, the film’s point-of-view character, himself had only a very hazy understanding of his world’s history. Nevertheless, there’s the feeling a fully realized fantasy world outside the frame. In this three-volume series, Froud returns to the world he helped to create and travels back thousands of years to reveal the history of Thra through the eyes of tragic, brilliant, persistent storyteller Aughra. Her stories are sumptuously illustrated (truly), and each book includes some of Froud’s brilliant original designs. Creation Myths is available in individual volumes, and in a collected edition coming this October.

Jim Henson’s Dark Crystal Tales, by Cory Godbey
Along similar lines, artist and writer Cory Godbey offers up three interconnected tales from the age of wonder. Though the stories are set during the dark times, when Thra was ruled by the Skeksis, each is hopeful: about the importance of compassion and the way a which small act of kindness can have wide-ranging effects. These illustrated tales are well-suited to younger/middle grade readers, but the art is so thoroughly stunning, and the stories so effective in their combined message, that older fans will find plenty to enjoy.

Shadows of the Dark Crystal, by J.M. Lee
J.M. Lee’s young adult novel series takes a deep dive into the culture of the Gelflings in the time when the Skeksis reigned supreme, but before the gentle fairylike creatures had been all but wiped out. Young Gelfling Naia is destined to become a leader among her people, but she’s desperate to see the world beyond her home. She gets her wish, after a fashion: her twin brother has been accused of treason and taken to the Castle of the Crystal, and she’s the only one who can make the journey to rescue him. Over four novels (the final one comes out in August, just in time for the show), the series ultimately sees young Gelflings from several different clans work together to unite their people and awaken them to the dangers posed by Thra’s ruling Skeksis. Though they will tell very different stories, this series is probably the closest match to the new TV series in terms of its timeframe, and in its focus on heroic Gelflings finding ways to resist their world’s twisted masters. The author is also penning Heroes of the Resistance, an illustrated guide to the characters of Age of Resistance, and Aughra’s Wisdom of Thra, both expected in November.

Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal: A Discovery Adventure, by Ann Marcellino
Going a bit younger still, this one’s a fun, interactive retelling of the original film. The storybook follows the journey of Jen and Kira to restore the Dark Crystal, but does so with dense artwork on each page that challenges younger readers to find hidden items and characters (older fans: just take off your glasses to enjoy a similar experience). It’s a neat way for kids to experience (or revisit) the world of the movie in an interactive way.

Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal Artist Tribute
If it’s not already clear, world of The Dark Crystal has drawn and inspired some truly tremendous artists to produce incredible designs and illustrations—going right back to the work of Brian Froud on the original movie. This hardcover book includes work from Froud, as well as of the many artists who have contributed to the Crystal-themed works of publisher Archaia. Among the creators represented are Jae Lee, David Petersen, Mark Buckingham, Cory Godbey, Jeff Stokely,  and Benjamin Dewey, many of whom also provide text to accompany their art. The variety of lush, gorgeous pieces representing the many creatures and locations of Thra make this a stunning art book.

The Dark Crystal: The Ultimate Visual History, by Caseen Gaines, with Cheryl Henson, and Brian and Wendy Froud
This coffee-table book from Caseen Gaines (We Don’t Need Roads: The Making of the Back to the Future Trilogy) dives into the production of the original movie in tremendous detail, telling the story through candid photographs, film stills, production artwork, sketches, archival interviews with Jim Henson, and new ones with others on the film’s creative team. As a reference work detailing the labor and love that went into the creation of The Dark Crystal, and as a work of art in itself, the book is a must.

The The Art and Making of The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance
Bringing us right up to date, this book should do for the new series what the previous book does for the original movie: reveal the secrets behind the making of Age of Resistance through photos, interviews, and on-set photography. The show promises a focus on practical effects and puppetry rather than CGI, so it’ll be fascinating to see how designer Brian Froud, director Louis Letterier, and the many others involved bring the world of Thra back to life.

Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal Novelization, by A.C.H. Smith, Brian Froud, and Jim Henson
Last but not least, the original novelization of The Dark Crystal is back in print in a lovely new edition that includes the entire original text alongside previously unpublished illustrations from Froud and notes from Jim Henson on the first draft of A.C.H. Smith’s adaption. The notes reveal a great deal about Henson’s thinking on the fantasy world that he helped to create, and  provide details that didn’t make it to the screen. The main draw here is, naturally, the novelization itself—a faithful take on the story that’s nevertheless unable to rely on the film’s spectacular visuals. The prose offers new details while also revealing that the world of The Dark Crystal is compelling in any form.

How hype are you for The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance?

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The Best Comics & Graphic Novels of June 2019

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

Saga: Book Three, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
We’re still waiting for Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ blockbuster space opera family drama to return from that post-devastating-cliffhanger-hiatus that followed the publication of issue #52. Here’s a decent way to bide your time until then: reread the entire series via the deluxe hardcover editions. Book Three takes us up to date with Saga as it stands, collecting issues #37 to #54 (reflecting the contents of trade volumes 7-9), and features some fantastic bonus material in the form of an 18-page interview between Vaughan and Staples that covers the genesis of the series, highlighting the development process and the controversies that marred the launch of the book. We’re also given a (heavily redacted) peek at the original story document Vaughan provided Staples that lays out his vision for the narrative arc of the whole, er, saga.

Six Days: The Incredible Story of D-Day’s Lost Chapter, by Robert Venditti, Kevin Maurer, and Andrea Mutti
During the D-Day campaign, a group of 182 paratroopers were mistakenly dropped 18 miles away from their intended target, into the small French village of Graignes. The villagers agreed to feed and shelter the soldiers, but German reprisal was swift: over 2,000 Nazi troops passing by laid siege to the town, with only the small band of American soldiers and French villagers to hold them off. Based on the true story of a lesser-known incident from World War II, this book, grittily illustrated by Andrea Mutti, is timed to honor the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landing.

Moonbound: Apollo 11 and the Dream of Spaceflight, by Jonathan Fetter-Vorm with Michael Collins
Another milestone anniversary—50 years since the Moon landing—this year is celebrated in this graphic history from Fetter-Vorm. With an attractive and accessible (but not simplistic) art style, the book alternates between a narrative retelling of the harrowing and epic moments immediately prior to the 1969 moon landing, and capsule biographies of key figures like Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Margaret Hamilton, and Wehrner von Braun. It’s an impressive homage to an inspiring historical moment—and the remarkable individuals who made it happen.

BTTM FDRS, by Ezra Claytan Daniels and Ben Passmore
This cool satirical horror-comedy follows a fashion designer named Darla and her image-obsessed friend Cynthia as they visit the “Bottomyards,” a blighted neighborhood on the south side of Chicago, in search of cheap rent in an expensive city. What they find instead is something sinister lurking behind the walls of their new home. The book is bright and lively regardless of its commitment to gory horror elements, and like the best satires, it also has plenty to say—in this case about cultural appropriation and gentrification.

Fearscape, Vol. 1, by Ryan O’Sullivan, Vladimir Popov, and Andrea Mutti
The Muse, an other dimensional being, periodically travels to Earth in order to retrieve each generation’s greatest storyteller. In her realm, the Fearscape, humanity’s own worst fears are made manifest, and only the greatest of us is able battle the fear-creatures on our behalf. This time, though, something went wrong: instead of the great fantasy writer she came looking for, the Muse found failed author and plagiarist Henry Henry, who was in the process of stealing a manuscript. The pretentious fabulist is suddenly our only hope, which is decidedly not a good thing. This archly funny horror comic from O’Sullivan (Void Trip) and Andrea Mutti features great art and makes a lot of great points about the art of storytelling.

Jook Joint, by Tee Franklin, Alitha E. Martinez, Taylor Esposito, and Shari Chankhamma
Another horror series, this one focused on well-earned revenge, is led by creators Tee Franklin (last year’s wonderful Bingo Love) and Alitha Martinez (Black Panther: World of Wakanda). The hottest jazz brothel in 1950s New Orleans is a place where dreams and fantasies come true, but not all of the male guests are interested in following the rules and keeping their hands to themselves. Mahalia, who runs the Jook Joint with her coven of slain women, is happy to remind them. She also helps the sick and frightened, including abused wife Heloise, who has to decide how far she’s willing to go to get rid of her husband.

Detective Comics #1000: The Deluxe Edition, by James Tynion IV, Kevin Smith, Jim Lee, Neal Adams, Paul Dini, Tom King, Brian Michael Bendis, Becky Cloonan, Warren Ellis, Christopher Priest, et al.
The 80th anniversaryof Batman, by chance or design, lined up very nicely with the 1,000th issue of Detective Comics, the book in which Batman made his debut way back in 1939. If you missed picking up that landmark issue a couple of months ago, you’re in luck: DC is re-releasing it as a fancy hardcover with all of the original content as well as a new bonus adventure by Robert Venditti and Stephen Segovia and several pages of new art. The celebratory stories from several all-star creative teams speak to the many different facets of the Bat-mythos, and offer a few peeks into Gotham’s future as well.

The Dreaming, Vol. 1: Pathways and Emanations (The Sandman Universe), by Si Spurrier, Bilquis Evely, Mat Lopes, and Neil Gaiman
It’s been quite a while since we last visited the world of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman in earnest, but Gaiman himself is curating this new series featuring an impressive creative team led by Si Spurrier (Cry Havoc) and Bilquis Evely (Wonder Woman). As the book opens, it’s been 23 years since Daniel was anointed to take Morpheus’ place as the lord of dreams—but now he’s disappeared, leaving his domain open to catastrophe. Lucien the Librarian is left to protect the Dreaming from internal disarray and, more pressingly, an external threat making its way to the gates. But Lucien is no warrior, and the dangers are real and growing.

CALEXIT: Emmie-X, Vol 1, by Matteo Pizzolo, Carlos Granda, Lauren Affe, Soo Lee, and Tyler Boss
Publisher Black Mask returns to the world of CALEXIT, in which California responds to an authoritarian government by declaring itself a separate Sanctuary, with this largely standalone story set. Emma works at a punk record store until Homeland Security turns the mall into a detention center for immigrants. In response, she switches her focus to pirate radio to counter the government-friendly channels, even befriending a Homeland Security trooper in the process. It remains to be seen whether he’ll defy his bosses or choose to turn her in.

Cemetery Beach, by Warren Ellis and Jason Howard
Master of high-concept sci-fi Warren Ellis kicks off his latest with an impressively wild premise: there’s another Earth out there, a colony that split off from our own decades ago and has since been left to develop on its own. Its society and culture have deviated from ours, and it’s full of people who aren’t quite mentally stable. A pathfinder come to check on the colony is captured, narrowly escapes from his torture cell, and sets out to reach his extraction site with only a young murderer for company. High-concept action abounds.

The Grave, by Dan Fraga
Dan Fraga (the comic book and storyboard artist currently working on TV’s Doom Patrol) developed this charming, creepy coming-of-age tale over the course of a year, doing just a panel a day. It was a labor of love, and it shows. During a weekend camping trip, three boys discover a shallow grave with a cigar box seven items: a knife, a coin, a pocket watch, a rare baseball card, a gold ring, a silver spoon, and a strange manga comic. Each item has a story, as does the mysterious body found with them… and they’re all inter-connected—to each other and, ultimately, to the boys who’ve uncovered them. Fraga’s detailed art is a highlight.

West Coast Avengers, Vol. 2: City of Evils, by Kelly Thompson, Daniele di Nicuolo, Gang Hyuk Lim, and Moy R
The funnier, sunnier team of Avengers has been a highlight of Marvel’s recent line-up, an odd next-generation team consisting of two Hawkeyes (Clint and Kate Bishop), America Chavez. Gwenpool, Kid Omega, and Fuse. In the second volume, Kate is troubled by the return of her ex-, Noh-Varr, who brings word of a new Masters of Evil forming in Los Angeles. At the same time, the Temple of the Shifting Sun has its eyes on America, their prophesied savior.

Avengers: No Road Home, by Al Ewing, Jim Zub, Mark Waid, Paco Medina, and Sean Izaakse
And now to the other Avengers. In 2018, the miniseries No Surrender put an end to one era of the team. Nevertheless, the success of that series (and the need to clear up a few loose ends) allowed for this sequel starring Voyager, the villain of the earlier book, before she was moved by the selfless nature of the Avengers and became a hero. Returning from her self-imposed exile, the Grandmaster’s daughter assembles a team of Avengers to oppose Nyx, the embodiment of darkness. Like the earlier series, it’s smart and action-packed, building toward an impressively impactful conclusion.

DIE, Vol. 1: Fantasy Heartbreaker, by Kieron Gillen, Stephanie Hans, and Clayton Cowles
There’s been a lot of buzz around this series heading into its first collection, and the art alone is enough to justify it: this is the first comic series from digital painter Stephanie Hans, and visually, it’s a stunner. Fortunately, that art is in service of a compelling fantasy/horror narrative with a neat hook: in 1991, six teenagers disappeared while playing a Dungeons & Dragons-esque role-playing game. Found two years later and 50 miles away, they are unwilling or unable to explain where they’d been. Years later, as adults, they’re drawn back into the dangerous, otherworldly plane from which they’d previously escaped. Shades of Stranger Things, Ready Player One, and Birthright make this one a surefire fan favorite.

Paradox Girl, Vol. 1, by Cayti Bourquin and Yishan Li
Though a comedy, Paradox Girl cleverly deals with the consequences of time travel in ways that other more straightforward sci-fi books can’t be bothered to. The hero fights crime using her ability to visit anywhere in space and time, but, in the process, leaves behind versions of herself that are sometimes helpful and sometimes only get in the way. As a result of having changed time so frequently and chaotically, she’s not even really sure who she is anymore. It’s a fun book that grapples with questions of identity, told in a not-entirely-linear way—Paradox Girl’s abilities mean that different versions of her show up unexpectedly, often for reasons that only come to make sense much later in the story.

Old Souls, by Brian McDonald and Les McClaine
Everything’s going pretty good for Chris Olsen: he’s got a decent job with a promising future, and enjoys a relatively happy family life—at least until he encounters a homeless man who triggers memories of past lives and buried traumas that have never really left him. Digging into the wold of the “grave robbers” who can help him dredge up his past lives, he grows increasingly desperate to find closure without losing sight of his life in the here and now.

The Follies of Richard Wadsworth, by Nick Maandag
Nick Maandag’s darkly satirical collection of stories follows several characters who find themselves in deeply awkward and uncomfortable situations, usually as a result of their own questionable morals. “Night School” sees a fire Chief attending to a fire alarm during a class and refusing to leave; “The Follies of Richard Wadsworth” finds the title philosophy professor coming up with an absurd business plan while high at a student’s party; and “The Disciple” follows sexual shenanigans at a coed Buddhist monastery. If the comedy of awkward silences and cringeworthy behavior is your thing, Maandag delivers.

Giant Days, Vol. 10, by John Allison, Max Sarin, Julia Madrigal, and Whitney Cogar
It’s hard to believe that this beloved, perpetually EIsner-nominated slice-of-life comedy series is nearing its conclusion as Esther de Groot, Susan Ptolemy and Daisy Wooton move into their final year of college. Following Ed’s long-gestating declaration of love for Esther and a blow-up between Susan and McGraw over their new flat, senior year is off to a bumpy start. Meanwhile, Daisy’s stuck with nowhere to live as the world of adult problems and adult choices looms for the best friends (for now).

X-Force, Vol. 1: Sins of the Past, by Ed Brisson, Dylan Burnett, Damian Couceiro, and Jesus Aburtov
Cable, founder of X-Force, is dead, and the original team of Domino, Cannonball, Shatterstar, Boom-Boom, and Warpath have come together to hunt down his killer. Time travel being what it is, though, it’s not nearly that simple: their target is soon revealed as a younger version of Cable himself. Matters are further complicated by the interference of the clone Stryfe. It’s a whole lotta X-Force action and a whole lotta twisty-turny time tripping.

Star Trek vs. Transformers, by John Barber, Mike Johnson, Philip Murphy, and Jack Lawrence
Sure, it’s a ridiculous crossover—the Enterprise and the Autobots join forces against the Decepticons and their new allies, the Klingons—but what are comics for if not to allow us to indulge a little once in a while? There’s a lot of fun to be had in this book’s off-the-wall mashups and beautifully retro art, which mixes the ’80s-era Transformers with the ’70s-style Star Trek: The Animated Series crew, but it’s not all silliness: Transformers veteran John Barber and long-time Trek writer Mike Johnson ensure that there’s a real story in the mix alongside the fun call-backs and colorful action.

Prince of Cats, by Ron Wimberly
This new edition of Wimberley’s way-cool work sees Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet refashioned to focus on the story of Tybalt, Juliet’s quick-tempered cousin. Oh, the drama is also set in Brooklyn, in the ’80s, with both hip-hop and kung-fu thrown into the mix. It’s a unique take on Shakespeare, to say the least—a romp that scoffs at following a formula while respecting the spirit of one of the Bard’s most beloved works.

What’s on your pull list?

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Weird. Queer. Disabled. Ugly: A Brief History of Doom Patrol

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

Superhero comics are weird. That’s not meant as an insult—far from it. It’s just to say that there’s nothing prosaic about people who dress up in tights and spoil for fights with enemies who are generally even more bizarre than the heroes.

So when we talk about the Doom Patrol, understand that being known largely as the biggest weirdos in the DC stable, that’s really saying something.

Since the team’s creation in 1963 by writers Arnold Drake and Bob Haney and artist Bruno Premiani, they’ve been standard-bearers for the outré. Shaped by tragedy, their line-up has featured rejects of all types: some shunned for their comic book origins, others because they fall outside of real-world expectations of what’s “normal.” The team has always provided a home and family for the disabled, the queer, the ugly. That might help explain why they’ve never been popular with the mainstream, but it definitely explains why Doom Patrol engenders so much love.

Gerard Way (of My Chemical Romance, and more recently the comics mastermind behind Umbrella Academy) recently brought the team back with artist Nick Derington as part of DC’s experimental Young Animal imprint. That, in turn, seems to have generated enough interest to launch the team’s own TV series on DC’s subscription streaming service (oddly enough, the first episode of Doom Patrol dropped the same day the first season of Umbrella Academy hit Netflix). It’s heavy exposure for a series that has always thrived on the fringes. Will success spoil the Doom Patrol?

The similarities to Marvel’s X-Men, who also first appeared in 1963, just a few months after the Doom Patrol, might be entirely coincidental. Then again, maybe not: it has been debated for decades whether or not Stan Lee and co. came across the Doom Patrol concept via a bit of corporate skullduggery. Reed Tucker’s Slugfest: Inside the Epic, 50-year Battle between Marvel and DC, deals some pretty good dirt on the ways in which the rivalry between the venerable DC and the plucky upstart Marvel got ugly. So Marvel might have nabbed the idea. Then again, Doom Patrol might have been a twist on Marvel’s Fantastic Four—each company spent most of the ’60s chasing the other around.

Regardless, comparing the books opens a window on the state of superhero comics of the era. These were both teams of misfits and rejects who came together into slightly dysfunctional surrogate families led by disabled, cerebral, somewhat distant father figures. One of these wheelchair-using daddies had lots of hair, and the other had no hair whatsoever, so it’s not like they were entirely similar. In spite of their innovations, both books were initially successful but eventually fizzled (X-Men’s more mainstream success came only in the wake of a nothing-to-lose post-cancellation revival). While the mutants at Marvel eventually birthed some of the most successful books on the stands, the Doom Patrolers have remained outsiders, developing a cult following in part from the spectacular (and then-unprecedented) way the creative team ended their initial run.

The original Patrol consisted of four members: Chief Niles Caulder, the genius and mastermind who brought the team together; Cliff Steele, whose brain had been transplanted into a robot body following a racing accident; Rita Farr, an athlete and actress who developed stretching powers after huffing on a volcano during a location shoot; and Larry Trainor, a test pilot exposed to weird radioactivity in the upper atmosphere.

The horror-movie implications of Robotman’s status are pretty obvious—his brain is the last remaining bit of his human existence, stuffed into a metal skull atop a mechanical body incapable of any real sensation. Trainor, who takes the name Negative Man, can’t remove the full-body bandages that keep his radioactivity from harming others; luckily, he can control a shadow-like energy being independent of his body, but only for about a minute at a time, after which his helpless physical body will die. Like Cliff, he’s isolated from any real human contact. Rita Farr seems, at first glance, like the least freaky of the team of freaks. She can pass as totally normal, and her literal movie-star good looks remain intact. But she makes the choice everyday to forego the dream of 1960s womanhood: marriage would inevitably involve settling down and surrendering to normalcy—all things that she wants, but not as much as she wants to be a hero. In a sense, her willingness to give up the the perfect ’60s life and family in favor of living in a mansion with a bossy megalomaniac, a surly robot, and the radioactive guy with a crush, makes her just as much of a freak as the boys. She chooses a career.

At the series’ outset, the Chief assembles these sullen, reclusive individuals and offers them purpose. The resulting squabbling, dysfunctional family vibe was unique at DC, hewing much closer to Marvel’s house style, and the villains were as wild as anything in the comics, then or now: Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man; a brain in a jar called “The Brain”; and uplifted gorilla Monsieur Mallah, to name just a few. It’s fun stuff, with enough angst and weirdness to make the stories distinct, especially among the DC comics of the era. What really gave the team legs, though, was the way the creative team handled the book’s eventual cancellation: the heroes didn’t just fade away or walk off into the sunset. The October 1968 issue saw the entire team sacrifice itself to save a small fishing village from the machinations of the Nazi General Zahl and the Chief’s sometimes-love interest Madame Rouge. A memorable ending can be more effective than a successful run, which is perhaps why the Doom Patrol eventually came back.

Prolific writer Paul Kupperberg spent years keeping the flame alive, first in a series of one-off stories, and then with a full revival in 1987. Cliff, we learned, survived, as did the negative energy spirit that once inhabited Larry Trainor. The Chief’s estranged wife Arani Desai takes it upon herself to put together a new team. The book that followed isn’t bad, amping up the soap opera aspects of the storylines while otherwise leaning into the more superheroic aspects of the team. (I tend to think of some of the lesser-appreciated Doom Patrol runs the same way I think of the Doom Patrol-ers themselves: plucky outsiders that don’t get enough love.) The Kupperberg era simply has the misfortune of being overshadowed by what came next. After 18 issues of declining sales, Kupperberg was replaced by a hip young Glaswegian named Grant Morrison and artist Richard Case.

If the original run of Doom Patrol in the 1960s was groundbreaking, Morrison and Case’s book was utterly subversive. Weird, goofy, and meta at a time when that wasn’t yet a default mode for superhero comics, it brought together a new team after several members of the old met a tragic end (a Doom Patrol running theme). Here, Cliff Steele isn’t just a man with a robot body; he describes himself as a total amputee, complete with phantom bowel movements. Each of newcomer Kay Challis’ 64 personalities manifests a different superpower. As a portrait of dissociative identity disorder, symptoms like Kay’s probably don’t show up in the DSM-IV. But Morrison grounds her DID in real, and genuinely heartbreaking, childhood abuse of the kind that can trigger symptoms very similar to those experienced by “Crazy Jane.” Dorothy Spinner is a pre-teen with a facial deformity. Tellingly, she’s never drawn as Hollywood ugly (with, like, glasses and a mole). She’s drawn with the face of an ape, and it’s very believable that a sweet but very damaged young girl approaching puberty would have a rough time of it. The queer and biracial Rebis is an amalgam of Larry Trainor, the Negative spirit, and an African-American doctor named Eleanor Poole. Josh Clay is the most “normal” member of the team, but that normalcy is leavened by the the relative scarcity of black superheroes.

They’re occasionally joined by Flex Mentallo, Man of Muscle Mystery, and Danny the Street: a literal suburban street who also identifies as a cross-dresser and communicates in Polari, an old slang code used in Britain’s gay communities (he’s inspired by the British drag performer Danny LaRue). There are memorable adversaries (the Scissormen who cut people out of reality, the nihilistic Brotherhood of Dada, and Men from N.O.W.H.E.R.E. But the lines are always shifting, with classic-era arch-villain Mr. Nobody becoming a kinda/sorta ally and eventually runs for President with the Doom Patrol not standing in the way. And their final and most devastating adversary during this period isn’t a “bad guy” at all, but one of the team’s most important figures. It’s all much less about good vs. evil than it is about how damaged people engage with a world full of other damaged people who may have very different ideas.

It could all be a whole lotta weird-for-the-sake-of-weird, but these are all real people with problems that aren’t just metaphors for real problems—they’re real problems. Cliff and the Chief’s disabilities, Dorothy’s lack of friends her own age, and the childhood sexual trauma that leads Kay to the mental hospital where the story begins. It’s not always easy to relate to super heroic angst, but these people’s problems and challenges bleed over into our world. Where this incarnation soars is not just in its wild story ideas and completely bonkers villains, but in its absolute commitment to the emotional reality of team members. As out there as things got during this era, they never stopped feeling like real human beings. Morrison’s run wasn’t an attempt to deconstruct superheroes so much as a triumphant effort to breathe new life into them.

Following Morrison’s groundbreaking run, Rachel Pollack took over, partnering first with Richard Case and then with the more abstract Ted McKeever. Those runs are not currently in print, though a reprint collection was recently announced and then quickly cancelled. Dorothy sets up housekeeping with Cliff and the Chief as her surrogate fathers, though the house they’ve chosen just happens to be a spiritual refuge for people who died there during sex accidents and a creepy doll named Charlie, so they’re never really alone. The two men are working through their own dramas while Dorothy’s just trying to get through puberty. Pollack leans into Morrison’s weirdness while adding layers distinctly her own: the challenges of Dorothy as a maturing young woman ostracized from society solely because of her appearance; the Kabbalah; and the introduction of Kate Godwin, a superhero who also happened to be a trans-woman and a bisexual former sex worker. It’s a vastly underrated run, building on the better-known stories that preceded it without merely aping what came before.

After Pollack’s run, the Doom Patrol lay fallow for several years. Three new series followed: one continuation and two reboots. Each has its virtues, none really caught fire… until late 2016, which brings us back to the beginning and the Gerard Way/Nick Derington series for Young Animal. Gleefully remixing elements from the team’s long history, this run introduces a point-of-view character named Casey Brinke, who serves as a guide to the Doom Patrol’s weird world. Of course, she’s not strictly normal herself: we quickly learn that she’s a creation of Danny the Street, enlisted to help save him from an intergalactic fast food consortium that wants Danny to use his life-giving powers to make their meat.

Like the best of Doom Patrol, Way and Derington’s issues are explicitly psychedelic while harboring more personal themes just below the surface. Coupled with the TV show, which more than deserves a second season, it feels like the next big boom in the team’s history, and it’s not a bad place to hop on board.

What’s your favorite run of Doom Patrol?

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Announcing the Dangerous Beautiful B&N Exclusive Edition of Monstress: Book One

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

Marjorie Liu and Sana Tekada’s Monstress is one of the most acclaimed series in comics. The grim, gorgeously rendered dark fantasy saga—about an inhuman teenage girl named Maika Halfwolf, who shares a psychic bond with a magical and lethal monster—has earned widespread acclaim from readers and critics and taken home a raft of industry honors, including three Hugo Awards, two British Fantasy Awards, and five Eisner Awards in 2018 alone.

Last year, the book wrapped its third story arc, and now, publisher Image Comics has collected every issue to date for inclusion in a deluxe hardcover edition, Monstress: Book One.

It’s a darkly beautiful book—how could it not be?—but the exclusive Barnes & Noble edition will be particularly prized. In addition to an intricately rendered variant cover from arist Sana Takeda, it includes an additional full-page illustration signed by writer Marjorie Liu and a collection of 12 pull-out postcards featuring additional work by Takeda.

Check out the cover image, full wraparound cover, exclusive art, and postcard gallery below, and place your preorders now. The exclusive B&N edition is available in limited quantities this July.

Monstress: Book One B&N variant cover

The richly imagined world of MONSTRESS is an alternate matriarchal 1900s Asia, with an art deco-infused steampunk aesthetic that’s brimming with arcane dangers. Within it, a teenage girl struggles to overcome the trauma of war, a task that’s made all the more difficult by her mysterious psychic link to an eldritch monster of tremendous power-a connection that will transform them both, and place them in the crosshairs of both human and otherworldly powers.

Creator/writer Marjorie Liu (who made history as the first woman to win an Eisner Award for Best Writer) and creator/artist Sana Takeda present a deluxe, oversized hardcover edition of their beloved breakout comic in MONSTRESS BOOK ONE. Collecting the first 18 issues of the New York Times bestselling series, this massive edition features a striking new cover, as well as special extras, including never-before-seen sketches, script pages, and more for over 500 pages of award-winning content.

This exclusive Barnes & Noble edition is signed by Marjorie Liu and contains postcards featuring the artwork of series’ artist Sana Takeda!

Full wraparound cover

Exclusive signed title page

Exclusive pull-out postcards

Exclusive pull-out postcards

Exclusive pull-out postcards

Preorder the Barnes & Noble Exclusive Edition of Monstress: Book One, available July 9, 2019.

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The Best Comics & Graphic Novels of May 2019

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Vol. 1, by Jordie Bellaire, Joss Whedon, and Dan Mora
A Buffy reboot was always going to be a risky proposition, the show having earned a devoted fanbase over seven seasons and a popular, acclaimed run of comics. Turns out we had nothing to worry about: Jordie Bellaire and Dan Mora have retained the slayer spirit (and all the Scoobies) while updating the setting (cell phones: now a thing) and throwing in some new twists to your favorite storylines and characters. It the rare reboot that works just as well for old school fans as for Scooby Gang noobs.

States of Mind, by Patrice Guillon, Emilie Guillon, and Sebastien Samson
This memoir from the father-daughter team of Patrice and Emilie Guillon relates the story of the pseudonymous Camille, who suffers her first major panic attack in college and then spends several years struggling to get help for what is eventually diagnosed as bipolar disorder. The work is unflinching in its depiction of mental illness and the toll taken by BPD, but it’s also offered alongside a measure of hope, as Camille learns to seek help and finds much-needed compassion and understanding from those closest to her.

Bitter Root, Vol. 1: Family Business, by David F. Walker, Chuck Brown, Sanford Greene, Rico Renzi, Clayton Cowles, and Jarreau Wimberly
A once-great, now altering family of monster hunters is all that stands between New York and a host of supernatural forces threatening humanity in this new action-horror series. Tragedies and intra-family conflict have left the Sangeryes divided, opening the door for evil to slip through, fueled by racism and hate. Set during the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and featuring an all-black creative team, there was a lot of buzz surrounding this book, and it lives up to the hype.

The Unstoppable Wasp: Unlimited, Vol. 1: Fix Everything, by Jeremy Whitley and Gurihiru
With the help of her surrogate mother and mentor, the original Wasp, Nadia Van Dyne is back in a new series accompanied by her team of teen scientists, the Agents of G.I.R.L. (Genius In action Research Labs). But the evil scientists of A.I.M. (Advanced Idea Mechanics, which came close to appearing as an antagonist in last year’s Ant Man & the Wasp film) are waiting to strike. This is a fun and inspiring book, with a complex and compelling lead—a superhero who also happens to have bipolar disorder.

Waves, by Ingrid Chabbert and Carole Maurel
Inspired by writer Ingrid Chabbert’s own experiences, Waves tells the poetic, poignant story of a young woman and her wife whose attempts to have a child lead to heartbreak. With dreamlike imagery, the couple is tested when a joyous pregnancy announcement is followed by loss and the new reality that they may never be able to conceive a child. The graphic novel explores their pain, but also their journey toward rediscovering hope.

Jessica Jones: Purple Daughter, by Kelly Thompson, Mattia de Iulis, Filipe Andrade, and Stephane Paitreau
Her TV show may have come to an end, but the comics are far from done with Jessica Jones. Things seemed to be looking up for Marvel’s lead private investigator with the death of her longtime nemesis, the Purple Man—until her daughter comes home with purple skin. Jessica is forced to dig deep into her own dark past as Killgrave reaches out from beyond the grave to throw her marriage and family into chaos.

The Legend of Korra: Ruins of the Empire, Part One, by Michael Dante DiMartino, Michelle Wong, Vivian Ng, and Bryan Konietzk
Written by animated series co-creator Michael Dante DiMartino, the Korra comics are, like the Avatar comics before them, an official continuation of the beloved show, picking up just after the events of the final episode. Korra, Asami, Mako, and Bolin thought they’d put the imperial ambitions of Kuvira to rest, but her trial casts a shadow over the first-ever elections held by the Earth Kingdom. With no agreement on a solution to the conundrum, the budding democracy faces dire birthing pains—and war might be the result.

Shuri: The Search for Black Panther, by Nnedi Okorafor, Leonardo Romero, and Jordie Bellaire
Expanding on a recent run of Black Panther comics that has recruited the talents of cross-media giants like Ta-Nehisi Coates and Roxane Gay, Afrofuturist author (and Hugo and Nebula award-winner) Nnedi Okorafor picks up the story of Wakanda’s master of technology (and also princess) Shuri. With T’Challa off to the stars in his own book, a governing council lead by Queen Ramonda and Okoye concludes that there’s only one Wakandan capable of taking on the role of Black Panther. (Hint: her name’s in the title.)

Spider-Gwen: Ghost-Spider, Vol. 1, by Seanan McGuire, Rosi Kampe, and Takeshi Miyazawa
Prolific fantasy novelist (and comics superfan) Seanan McGuire takes over the writing duties for a new Spider-Gwen series, now with a higher profile than ever before thanks to her memorable appearance in Into the Spider-Verse. In a story that ties into the Spider-Geddon crossover, Gwen Stacey becomes trapped in an alternate dimension in which her Spidey counterparts are dropping like… flies, and with her teleporter watch broken, she has no way to get back to Earth-65! McGuire writing brings a fan’s enthusiasm and eye for obsessive detail to this engaging soft reboot of one of our favorite characters in the Verse.

Altered Carbon: Download Blues, by Richard K. Morgan, Rik Hoskin, and Ferran Sellares
Though Richard Morgan isn’t new to comics, having written for Marvel, this is the first time that his own Altered Carbon universe has expanded into the medium, following the completion of the related novel trilogy in 2005 and last year’s Netflix adaptation. A bit of time has passed since the last time we saw Takeshi Kovacs, but no matter—his propensity for body-switching means that it was inevitable that he’d pop up again sooner or later. Now he’s back, and once again in the middle of a cyberpunk-infused, noir-inspired murder case that has the cops baffled.

Middlewest, Book One, by Skottie Young, Jorge Corona, and Mike Huddleston
We’re huge fans of Skottie Young’s solo books and cartoony work for Marvel, but his new book, in which he serves as writer but not artist, is something completely unexpected. Inspired (to some extent) by The Wizard of Oz, Middlewest drops dark fantasy in the middle of America like a house caught in a tornado. Abel’s a kid who feels trapped in small-town middle-of-nowhere. He’s part of a broken family and has a bad relationship with his father. When the town is destroyed, Abel sets out on a dangerous and epic quest with his companion, Fox, to reconcile his family’s history.

Doctor Who: The Thirteenth Doctor, Vol. 1, by Jody Houser, Rachael Stott, and Enrica Angiolini
A fan-favorite team lead by Jody Houser, Rachael Stott, and Enrica Angiolini bring fun and energy to the first comics adventures of the new Doctor and Team Tardis. A pair of treasure hunters are collecting riches for a being known only as the Hoarder, and rifts in the fabric of space are complicating the Doctor’s efforts to investigate. The book captures much of the flavor of the latest series, nailing the rapport between 13 and her companions.

Six Days: The Incredible Story of D-Day’s Lost Chapter, by Robert Venditti, Kevin Maurer, and Andrea Mutti
During the D-Day campaign, a group of 182 paratroopers were mistakenly dropped 18 miles away from their intended target, into the small French village of Graignes. The villagers agreed to feed and shelter the soldiers, but German reprisal was swift: over 2,000 Nazi soldiers passing by laid siege to the town, with only the small band of American soldiers and French villagers to hold them off. Based on the true story of a lesser-known incident from World War II, the book is timed for the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landing.

Rat Queens, Vol. 6: The Infernal Path, by Kurtis J. Wiebe, Owen Gieni, and Ryan Ferrier
Following the revelation that Dee shattered reality, the Rat Queens decide that their carefree days are behind them. While Dee travels to the very edges of reality, the rest of the Queens face down an orc invasion and a pack of recently deflowered were-owls. In volume six, the revived Rat Queens is just as loudly, brashly entertaining as ever.

Rick and Morty Presents, Vol. 1, by Magdalene Visaggio, J. Torres, Daniel Mallory Ortberg, Delilah S. Dawson, and CJ Cannon
The start of an anthology series featuring contributions from top creators, the stories in this volume focus on the hidden past of one of Rick & Morty’s characters. The secret history of The Vindicators is revealed, as is that of professional assassin Krombopulos Michael. Sleepy Gary gets a spotlight, as does Pickle Rick in an oddball reimagining of his appearance on the show.

Life Is Strange, Vol. 1: Dust, by Emma Vieceli, Claudia Leonardi, and Andrea Izzo
The beloved video game (and its prequel) upon which this book is based follow Max Caulfield, a photography major who learns to rewind time in order to attempt to save the life of her best friend Chloe. The two uncover the dark secrets of their town of Arcadia Bay while learning the dangers of altering the past. This continuation takes place one year after the conclusion of the main game, catching up with Max and Chloe following the destruction of Arcadia Bay.

Gender Queer: A Memoir, by Maia Kobabe
Maia Kobabe began the story of Gender Queer as a way to explain to eir family about eir non binary and asexual identity, but the work eventually transformed into a powerful comic memoir. Kobabe charts a journey of self-discovery, from early crushes to coming out, and tracks the associated triumphs and traumas, offering a personal story that’s also an important guide to broader issues related to gender identity.

Bezimena, by Nina Bunjevac
Visually inspired by classic film noir, with a narrative that nods to the Greek myth of Artemis and Siproites—a story of rape and punishment—Ninja Bunjevac draws upon her own experience of sexual trauma in this twisted and disturbing chronicle of Benny, a man slowly losing his grip on reality in the midst of a sexual obsession with a former classmate. It’s a stunning, if uncomfortable, work.

A Shining Beacon, by James Albon
Albon explores the relationship between ideology and art in the story of Francesca Saxon, an artist and loyal citizen living in the near-future under a regime that borders on tyrannical. Thrilled to move to the capital to work on a new mural for the government, she finds herself drawn to the promise of revolutionaries offering true freedom.

What’s on your pull list?

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Let a Dad Mansplain His Theory about the Meaning of Tom King’s Eisner-Nominated Mister Miracle

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

Last weekend, the 12-issue limited comic Mister Miracle by Tom King and Mitch Gerads was nominated for an Eisner Award (aka comics’ version of the Oscars) for Best Limited Series; King and Gerads also received individual nods for their writing and art, respectively, and the series received an additional nod for a cover by artist Nick Derington.

None of this is at all surprising. The duo of King and Gerads picked up wins for the series last year too, and the quality of the book only improved, all the way up to the final panel. It ranks right up there with King’s other recent high-profile, self-contained series, The Vision and The Sheriff of Babylon. It’s the story of Scott Free, an escape artist originally created by the ’70s-era pen of Jack Kirby. Reinvented for our current anxiety-ridden age, he is an anxious, quiet, modern White Guy With Problems. He just also happens to be a god who was tortured as a child on the DC Comics planet of Apokolips. He’s married to another god named Big Barda, who was raised under similarly hellish circumstances. They’re fighting a war back home while also living here on Earth and dealing with their laughably small L.A. apartment, bad traffic, and, most notably, the fallout from the Scott’s suicide attempt Scott in the first issue’s opening panels.

(Spoilers follow.)

It’s a moment that informs and haunts every nine-paneled page of every issue that follows, centering the book around a central mystery: did Scott’s most ambitious escape—an escape from the pain of his life—succeed? Or did he actually kill himself, leaving us with an Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge-style narrative of what’s flashing through his mind at the moment of death? Or by opening Death’s door, did he also open up an alternate timeline that his life must now follow? Is he infected by the Anti-Life Equation?

There are visual cues throughout the comic, right up to the end, that suggest it’s all either a hallucination, a glitch in whatever reality we’re being presented, or some kind of broadcast or test. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter on a narrative level; it’s truly a metaphor for depression and trauma. Can Scott be convinced to stop trying to escape his own life’s joys and sorrows? How can anyone, Scott and Barda included, go on living when in a universe full of genocide, war, and so much darkness? Who wouldn’t want to break free of it all?

Images copyright DC Comics

But I come today to suggest that as a dad—a card-carrying, joke-making, yelling-to-knock-that-racket-off-in-there Dad of two—that I have a very simple theory to explain what’s happening, or at least eliminate some of the possibilities that King acknowledges he has left open to interpretation via the story’s ambiguous conclusion.

As a reader and as a dad (have I mentioned we have a club for Dads? We meet once a month at Red Lobster and always ask for extra cheesy biscuits), I was profoundly impacted by Mister Miracle. The themes of bringing life into a world you have serious misgivings about resonated, as did the detailed documenting of what the post-birth period is like—its stretches of incredible tedium butting up against otherworldly happiness. The moments of awkward waiting and family drama at the hospital during childbirth, the struggle to get reliable childcare, using a stroller to cleverly smuggle goods you might need into a place they’re not allowed—King knows of which he writes here.

These are not the concerns of or the details known to a person who’s never had a baby.

Images copyright DC Comics

And to me, a Dad (we don’t carry cards, but we have matching bowling shirts), it’s clear that the only way Scott Free would truly know these things—the reality of what it feels like, and looks like, and smells like, and how it preys on the mind—would be to experience those moments for himself. They are not the constructs the mind of a non-dad could conjure up in his last gasps of life. They are not the kinds of Dadtails (a term we coined that means “details concerning Dads!”) that an invasive computer program could come up with on the fly. Darkseid Is a lot of things, but he’s not an expert on newborn crib safety and onesie sizes.

Images copyright DC Comics

My Dad Theory™ is simply this: Scott Free wouldn’t, can’t, and will never know Dadness in his bones like that unless he has experienced fatherhood for himself, entering the Brotherhood of Dads Who Are Not Necessarily Brothers (we all have Xbox Live accounts). Scott Free, therefore, is alive throughout Mister Miracle. Something weird is certainly going on; Scott Free is not right a lot of the time, and he’s got a lot to deal with. He’s talking to dead people. His panels sometimes look like they’re inside a microwave oven that’s about to catch fire. Maybe there’s a glitch in his brain or in the world around him.

But the one thing Scott Free doesn’t have to deal with is the question of whether he’s already dead.

We may be Dads, but we’re still alive, dammit. Picking kids up from Robotics Club. Telling bad jokes on Twitter. Losing money at fantasy football.

Scott Free, alive and well, is one of us. A Dad.

And yes, we do call this living.

Mister Miracle is available now in an exclusive Barnes & Noble edition featuring a variant cover, a special introduction, and the complete script of issue #1.

The post Let a Dad Mansplain His Theory about the Meaning of Tom King’s Eisner-Nominated Mister Miracle appeared first on The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog.

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A Graphic Novel for All 22 Movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

The Endgame is upon us: the fourth Avengers movie opens tonight, both the 22nd film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in just over a decade and the end of an era—at least until the next era begins about three months from now, with the opening of Spider-Man: Far From Home.

Still, “The Infinity Saga” (as they’re calling it) has been one helluva ride–but there’s a whole other side Marvel Universe out there on the printed page. Much of that work has fed into the movies directly, while in other cases, the films have influenced the comics. Regardless, for every Marvel movie we’ve loved over the last 10 years, there are years or decades worth of stories that relate to it, going back to at least the early 1960s work of Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Don Heck, and others (Captain America’s on-the-page history goes even further back).

Since we can’t list every book that relates to every movie (though we would if we thought your browser could handle it), we’ve decided to pair one single book for each movie. In some cases, the book was clearly an inspiration for the film, while others simply offer some of the same flavor. Either way, there’s plenty to read while you’re waiting on line for seats, and then more to help you come down off of what will (hopefully) be a once-in-a-lifetime movie high.

Iron Man

Iron Man: The Five Nightmares, by Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca
In the mainline Marvel Universe of the comics, Obadiah Stane’s been dead for some time, having essentially taken his own life following his final failed confrontation with Iron Man. Not so his son, Ezekiel Stane, created by Fraction and artist Barry Kitson in 2008. Representing a younger, faster, smarter threat to Stark, Zeke Stane’s habit of manipulating supervillains to do his dirty work pairs with his obsession with bio-hacking. In his ruthlessness and bio-tech savvy, Zeke’s sort of an evil, post-human Tony Stark in the story that kicks off an all-time great Iron Man run from Fraction and Larroca.

The Incredible Hulk

Incredible Hulk Epic Collection: Man or Monster?, by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and Dick Ayers
Going old-school with this one: just a few months after Fantastic Four #1 reinvented superhero comics and changed the pop culture landscape, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby came up with something even weirder: an unpredictable, Jekyll & Hyde superhero who becomes trapped in the middle of his own bomb test. The (then) grey-skinned monster is doomed to be misunderstood and disliked (when angry) for decades—but it all began with these stories. The Hulk meets just about every other Marvel hero of the early 1960s in this collection, providing a good sense of the burgeoning connected universe so brilliantly recreated on the big screen.

Iron Man 2

Black Widow: The Finely Woven Thread, by Nathan Edmondson and Phil Noto
Though often placed near the bottom in the MCU power rankings, Iron Man 2 has its virtues, chief among them is the introduction of Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow, who manages to keep up with the gods, superhumans, and monsters of the Avengers throughout the rest of the series. This Edmondson/Noto series sees Natasha going back to Russia and to confront her past while uncovering the conspiracy behind a mysterious global threat. The book gets deep into the morally murky world of spycraft, a side of Natasha we’ve only seen in passing on the screen. (Maybe her forthcoming solo film will change all that?)

Thor

The Unworthy Thor, by Jason Aaron and Olivier Coipel
In the film, Thor is stripped of his godly powers and exiled to Earth. Much the same happens here, except in the comics, the Odinson finds himself on a quest into the stars following his mysterious disgrace. Though the title Thor now rests with another, and he can’t lift Mjolnir, there’s another hammer in the possession of The Collector which might aid in his redemption… if he lives long enough to find it. It’s a far more cosmic take than the rather earthbound film version, and a great deal of fun.

Captain America: The First Avenger

Captain America: White, by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale
The all-star team of Loeb and Sale have done beloved work to both celebrate and redefine several of Marvel’s heroes (much as they did for a certain flying-rodent themed hero from that other comics publisher). Here they recount the untold story of Cap and Bucky’s first mission together, with appearances from the Howling Commandoes and villainous turns from familiar names like the Red Skull, Batroc, and Baron von Strucker. (The slightly awkward title places the book in a run of color-themed books the creative team did for other Marvel heroes, each one a small classic.)

The Avengers

Avengers: The Origin, by Joe Casey and Phil Noto
The first Avengers movie draws quite a bit from the team’s debut appearance on the page, even if they forgot to include the Wasp. This 2010 retelling of the team’s origin story hews even closer to the source material, but expands the 1963 single issue from Lee & Kirby (with inker Dick Ayers) into a mini-series, filling in plenty of details and fleshing out Loki’s motivations.

Iron Man 3

Iron Man: Extremis, by Warren Ellis and Adi Granov
None of the movies is a straight adaption of the comic book source material, but you can draw a pretty straight line between Extremis and the third (and final?) Iron Man movie. After an updated retelling of Stark’s origin, Ellis and Granov introduces Dr. Aldrich Killian and his Extremis virus, which is intended to dramatically enhance the human body’s repair systems and which, of course, quickly gets out of control. Much of Iron Man’s look onscreen is based on Granov’s work in these comics and as a consultant on the films.

Thor: The Dark World

Thor, Vol. 1: The Goddess of Thunder, by Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman, and Jorge Molina
Dark elf Malekith the Accursed, antagonist of the movie, leads an invading army of Frost Giants as part of his latest plan to conquer the realm of Midgard. In the book, the Odinson we know and love is out of the picture and a new Thor has claimed Mjolnir and taken up the defense of Earth. Not even Odin knows who has taken up the mantle of the Goddess of Thunder, but her identity, when revealed, will certainly be familiar to fans of the movies.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Captain America: Winter Soldier, by Ed Brubaker, Steve Epting, Mike Perkins, Michael Lark
Perhaps the most direct translation from book to film, particularly in tone, this story, which kicked off Brubaker’s long run on the character, begins by ramping up elements of mystery and globe-spanning spycraft. Cap is called on by S.H.I.E.L.D. to help investigate the murder of his greatest enemy, the Red Skull, as well as the theft of the Cosmic Cube (which movie fans will know as the Tesseract) in the villain’s possession. The trail leads to the Winter Soldier: a near-mythical assassin operating since the days of the Soviet Union. If you’ve seen the movie, you know some of the story—but things actually get much worse for Steve on the page.

Guardians of the Galaxy

All-New Guardians of the Galaxy: Communication Breakdown, by Gerry Duggan, Aaron Kuder, Ive Svorcina, and Marcus To
This recent run on the cosmic Marvel series offers a lot to fans of the film, not least of which is a sense of pure fun. There’s also a familiar cast–the team roster has changed several times over the decades, but Star-Lord, Gamora, Rocket, Groot, and a now-pacifist Drax are all assembled here for a heist that quickly goes wrong, landing the team in the middle of a fight between the Collector and the Grandmaster.

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Vision, by Tom King, Jordie Bellaire, and Gabriel Hernandez Walta
There’s a lot going on in the second Avengers movie (too much?), but perhaps its most important additions to the Marvel Cinematic Universe are the new heroes, Scarlet Witch and Vision. King, Bellaire, and Walta’s self-contained series sees the Vision settling down to the suburbs with his new synthezoid family. Their obsession with normality leads to some very unpleasant consequences, including murder. Wanda puts in an appearance, as do the rest of the Avengers. For Ultron action, there’s alsoBrian Michael Bendis’ Age of Ultron. It’s a cool story of a conquered Earth, but don’t be surprised if it doesn’t have much in common with the movie other than the name.

Ant-Man

The Astonishing Ant-Man: The Complete Collection, by Nick Spencer, Ramon Rosanas, Brent Schoonover, and Anapaola Martello
The characters and their backstories don’t 100 percent sync up with the comics, but Scott Lang is the same lovably down-on-his-luck hero in this collection that you met on the screen. The former criminal has started a new business while trying to raise his teenage daughter, herself a one-time Avenger. The smart-alecky, capering tone will be very recognizable to fans of the film version.

Captain America: Civil War

Civil War, by Mark Millar, Steve McNiven, Dexter Vines, and Morry Hollowell
The other quite close translation from page to screen, Civil War sees the Marvel heroes split apart after a team of amateur vigilantes accidentally destroy a Connecticut town and the government proposes registering heroes due to the resulting public outcry. Tony Stark leads the pro-registration side and Steve Rogers leads the anti-. Many of the film’s conflicts—and even some of the visuals—are lifted directly from the book, which set the tone for at least a decade of Marvel comics.

Doctor Strange

Doctor Strange: The Oath, by Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin
It’s not an origin story like the movie, but this standalone classic is written by one of comics’ biggest names: Bryan K. Vaughan, of Saga fame. Wong arrives at the after hours clinic of the Night Nurse (a partial inspiration for Rosario Dawson’s Claire Temple character in the Marvel Netflix shows) with the dying body of the Sorcerer Supreme, who, in his astral form, has discovered that Wong is suffering from terminal cancer. In addition to solving his own attempted murder, Strange commits to finding a way to save Wong.

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2

Avengers by Jason Aaron: The Final Host, by Jason Aaron and Ed McGuinness
We’re cheating here, though the intent is not to steer you away from some of the very cool Guardians of the Galaxy comics out there, but toward a story related to one of the most intriguing parts of the movie—when Kurt Russell’s Ego teased the existence of the mysterious and ancient Celestials, who may or may not have a bigger role to play in movies to come. So no, this story doesn’t involve the Guardians, but it does begin with a literal rain of enormous bodies that the newly reformed Avengers have to deal with. It seems that Celestials are dying, killed by others of their kind who have ties to the first, prehistoric Avengers team.

Spider-Man: Homecoming

Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man—Into the Twilight
by Chip Zdarsky, Adam Kubert, Michael Walsh, and Jordie Bellaire
The easy thing to suggest would be one of the Amazing Spider-Man Epic Collections that gather together some of Spidey’s earliest tales from Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, including the introduction of the Vulture. And that’s still an A+ way to go. But for something a bit more current, the recent Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man run lead by Zdarsky and Kubert is pretty great: the humor, heart, and action that make up the best Spider-stories are blended perfectly in a story that sees a crime ring with ties to Wilson Fisk closing in on Peter. To tie it just a bit closer to the movie, it also features Adrian Toomes (formerly the Vulture), who reinvents himself and becomes an even more imposing threat.

Thor: Ragnarok

Planet Hulk, by Greg Pak, Carlo Pagulayan, Aaron Lopresti, Juan Santacruz, and Gary Frank
The single most significant comic inspiration for Thor: Ragnarok doesn’t involve the God of Thunder at all—it’s a Conan-inspired story of alien gladiatorial games. After his latest freak-out, Bruce Banner’s bosses (Marvel’s Illuminati) didn’t like him so they shot him into space. They were aiming for a quiet, peaceful world where Hulk could chill. Instead, he winds up on Sakaar, where he is forced to fight in the violent games of the Red King (a job taken by Jeff Goldblum’s Grandmaster in the movie). You’ll recognize fellow gladiators like Korg as Hulk gathers allies and plans to make the Red King regret ever putting him in chains.

Black Panther

Black Panther: Shuri—The Deadliest of the Species, by Reginald Hudlin, Ken Lashley, Paul Neary, and Paul Mounts
As much as T’Challa himself, Shuri was a breakout character in Black Panther, more than holding her own as a princess, a technical genius, and a fighter. None of that is a reimagining of the character: her co-creator, Reginald Hudlin, saw her assume the mantle of protector of Wakanda within just a few years of her first appearance on the page. When T’Challa is left comatose, Shuri assumes his title in defiance of the Panther God, making her a Black Panther with none of the superpowers. She does just fine. (We also recommend preordering Shuri: The Search for Black Panther, the start of a new run penned by award-winning novelist Nnedi Okorafor.)

Avengers: Infinity War

The Infinity Gauntlet, by Jim Starlin, George Perez, and Ron Lim
An easy recommendation for fans of the films, this book is very much the source material for the film, though also quite different in terms of plot and execution. Thanos, who courts Death (literally—he’s in love with her), seeks out the infinity stones in order to bring about the type of devastation that might convince a massacre-lovin’ gal to give him a second look. If his motivations are a bit less complex, the overarching struggle is much the same. Just don’t expect any clues about the fate of the Marvel U on the screen—the ending of the comic is a bit more permanent.

Ant-Man and the Wasp

The Unstoppable Wasp: Unstoppable!, by Jeremy Whitley, Elsa Charretier, and G. Willow Wilson
The second Ant-themed movie gives at least as much screen time to the Wasp as it does to Ant-Man, and is all the better for it. The comics’ Nadia spent most of her life in the same Red Room that birthed the Black Widow, but she’s still the daughter of Hank Pym. In her solo book, she’s on the run from her former keepers while assembling a team of Marvel’s best and brightest girl geniuses to help her.

Captain Marvel

Captain Marvel: Earth’s Mightiest Hero, Vol. 1, by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Chris Sebela, Dexter Soy, Emma Ríos, and Felipe Amdrade
It’s tough to overstate the importance of this 2012 series to the present-day popularity of Carol Danvers: Kelly Sue DeConnick and company took a powerful, semi-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 the first woman to headline a movie in the MCU (which, granted, is something that should have happened years ago). The series opener sees former Ms. Marvel 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.

Avengers: Endgame

Avengers Forever, by Kurt Busiek, Roger Stern, Carlos Pacheco, and Jesus Saiz
Avengers: Endgame might, it’s been suggested, 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 this influential story.

BONUS: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Spider-Man Noir: The Complete Collection, by David Hine, Fabrice Sapolsky, Roger Stern, Carmine Di Giandomenico, and Richard Isanove
Though this 2018 Acadamy Award-winning animated film isn’t officially a part of the MCU, its multi-verse plotline certainly doesn’t mean it isn’t occurring within the same continuity. And also, it’s perhaps the best Marvel movie of them all, so we’d be remiss to leave it off this list. Aside from giving an A+ treatment to the origin of Miles Morales as Spidey, the film also features the unforgettable participation of webslingers from alternate dimensions, none more memorable than Nicholas Cage’s hilarious Spider-Man Noir. In this forthcoming reissue of Hine, Sapolsky, et al’s take on the character, the black & white Spidey faces down a very different Vulture: a creepy, murderous, cannibalistic character who’s incredibly hard to defeat. Noir is likely less funny and more serious in the context of his own ‘verse, but this one is still a must for fans of the film.

What’s your favorite MCU movie and book pairing?

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Preview the Exclusive Saffron Story Included in the B&N Edition of Firefly Vol. 1

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

It’s hard to believe it has been close to two decades since Joss Whedon’s Firefly lit up the Fox Network—and then saw its flame unceremoniously snuffed out after only 14 episodes.

Plenty of sci-fi shows have passionate fandoms, and plenty of too-soon-canned series have maintained a dedicated following, but no series that ran for as short a time as this weird space western has found followers whose passion has burned so brightly for so long—it was even enough to get a major movie studio to throw tens of million of dollars at a big screen adaptation!

While the passage of time (and even the death of a principle case member) has made another filmed continuation of the adventures of Captain Mal Reynolds and the crew of the Serenity unlikely, the series continues to live on in comics. Recently, Boom! Studios has reissued the original run of Firefly comics in handsome deluxe editions, and later this month, the publisher launches the trade paperback edition of Greg Pak and Dan McDaid’s recent series reboot, which goes back to the beginning to tell the story of the civil war between the oppressive Alliance and the rebel Browncoats that set Mal and his closest compatriot, Zoe Washburne, on a path to being the space outlaws we know and love.

Firefly, Vol. 1: The Unification War is being released in a special Barnes & Noble hardcover edition featuring a variant cover by acclaimed artist Jock.

The B&N edition is also the only place you can find “Bad Company,” an exclusive 40-page bonus story by Josh Lee Gordon and artist Francesco Mortarino featuring Mal’s ex-wife and expert con-woman Saffron!

Check out eight preview pages from “Bad Company” below, and preorder a copy of the exclusive edition of Firefly: Vol. 1 now!








 The Barnes & Noble Exclusive Edition of Firefly, Vol. 1: The Unification War is available April 30.

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