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?

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

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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.

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/sci-fi-fantasy/the-best-comics-graphic-novels-of-january-2019/

Our Favorite Comics & Graphic Novels of 2018

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

Honestly, this list of our favorite comics and graphic novels of 2018 could easily have been twice as long. Surely we’re living in a golden age of comics, to the point that there aren’t enough hours in the day to read all the good stuff coming out on a monthly basis—though we’re trying our best. (It’s a good problem.)

This year, we’ve looked at old heroes in entirely new ways (Batman as a villain; Superman as a milkman) and encountered deeply personal narratives from creators with stories to tell. Some of the books on this list are charming and fun, some are riddled with drama and angst, and some are literally world-shattering. Long-running favorites upped their games with jaw-dropping twists, while newer ones took their first steps toward becoming classics. If there’s a common thread between all of these very different books, it’s that they are the products of bold, distinct, and individual voices—not a one of whom is afraid to toss out the rulebook when necessary.

Infidel, by Pornsak Pichetshote, Aaron Campbell, Jose Villarrubia, and Jeff Powell
This modern haunted house story follows Aisha, a Muslim woman who meets with hostility from the new neighbors in her apartment building. An act of violence years before set the stage for their xenophobia, but there’s also a more tangible hateful presence in the building, fueled by bigotry, possessing Aisha and tormenting them all. Could Infidel have said what it has to say (and it has a lot to say) if it weren’t also a nerve-jangling work of horror? Maybe, but the two halves of the story have been made inseparable, bringing home the terrifying isolation felt by someone feared only for her skin tone and head scarf. It’s a stunning accomplishment, all the more so for being so painfully timely.

Batman: White Knight, by Sean Murphy and Matt Hollingsworth
Gotham City has a new hero: Jack Napier, the reformed Joker, who is determined to bring healing to the city he once terrorized with the help of the long-suffering Harley Quinn. This new Joker becomes a civic hero by exposing corruption in Gotham City, part of a crusade which sees him discrediting the man he sees as Gotham’s true villain: Batman. The past soon closes in on both Jack and Bruce, threatening to destroy them both in a clever exploration of the fine line between the two men. This cinematic and stylish standalone work marked the debut of DC’s Black Label imprint, which gives A-list creators the chance to offer their own takes on DC’s iconic characters. If this is any indication of what the line has in store for us, we’ll be mad for it.

Marvelocity: The Marvel Comics Art of Alex Ross (B&N Exclusive Edition), by Alex Ross, Chip Kidd, and J. J. Abrams
There’s no one in comics quite like Alex Ross, whose style is somehow both hyper-realistic and painterly, creating the feeling that his superheroes are going to step off the page and bust up your living room. His stunning work for DC was previously collected in the bestselling Mythology, and this year, his work for Marvel comics got the same treatment. Marvelocity spotlights his work on iconic characters like Spider-Man, Iron Man, Captain America, Black Panther, the Avengers, the X-Men, Doctor Strange, the Guardians of the Galaxy, and the Fantastic Four. Drawing from both published and previously unseen material, as well as sketches and preparatory art, the collection is rounded out with a new 10-page Spider-Man story (the exclusive B&N edition includes a Spidery poster). It’s a retrospective, sure, but also a drool-worthy work of art in and of itself.

Bingo Love, by Tee Franklin, Jenn St-Onge, Joy San, Cardinal Rae, Erica Schultz, and Genevieve FT
One of the year’s most exciting graphic novels doesn’t involve superheroes or explosions, instead telling a charming queer love story spanning half of a century. It’s a solid reminder that comics is a medium well-suited to all kinds of stories, and that a more intimate and personal book can have big emotional stakes. Hazel and Mari meet at church bingo in 1963, but their families push them apart, and each goes on to marry other people and carve out very different lives for themselves. Another heated bingo game 50 years later brings them back together, forcing them to reconsider their lives and what their love for one another means. The queer black love story is challenging and sweet, with gorgeous artwork.

The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins (B&N Exclusive Edition), by Clint McElroy, Griffin McElroy, Justin McElroy, Travis McElroy, and Carey Pietsch
What began as a one-off audio experiment from veteran podcasting trio the McElroy brothers (Justin. Travis, and Griffin as Dungeon Master) and their dad (D&D neophyte Clint) became a cult sensation, attracting a loyal following and a million pieces of Tumblr fanart over the course of a three-year run. The show is essentially a Dungeons and Dragons campaign crossed with a comedy improv routine, plus a fair bit of heart. Here There Be Gerblins! is a graphic adaption of the first campaign, and it makes the transition surprisingly seamlessly, preserving the in-jokes and references fans will eat up, while remaining perfectly accessible to new readers (perhaps the book’s neatest trick). Worthy of particular praise is co-writer/artist Carey Pietsch, who accomplished with aplomb the seemingly thankless task of creating a visual style for a story that has taken on a life of its own in the fan community and in the imaginations of tens of thousands of listeners.

Saga, Vol. 9, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
This past summer, we learned Saga is taking an extended break (for at least a year), but not before co-creators Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples dropped this game-changing volume, which races to a brutal conclusion made even more devastating by the indefinite hiatus. Volume 9 begins by exploring the fallout from Prince Robot IV’s idea to sell his life story to the press, a decision that comes to have truly horrific ramifications for himself, his family, and for Marko, Alana, and Hazel—and, well, just about every other character. Every volume of Saga is brilliant, but this (temporary) finale reminds us just how daring it still is, even nine volumes in. Only a book this good can traumatize us this much.

Paper Girls, Vol. 5, by Brian K. Vaughan, Cliff Chiang, and Matt Wilson
Things keep getting weirder and more time-twistingly complicated in the fifth trade collection of Brian K. Vaughan’s other blockbuster sci-fi series. He and and co-creator Cliff Chiang take things to the next level with this eventful chapter in the award-winning story about a group of paper delivery girls from the mid-1980s who find themselves bopping through time in the wake of the various forces waging a temporal war. Finally, a few questions about the whos and hows of the conflict are answered (even as yet more questions are introduced): we learn the origins of the “old timers” who have been hounding our girls, even as the plot hops from the year 2000 and the Y2K crisis into the far future. Like Vaughan’s Saga, this is a book that started great and only gets better with… time.

Dark Nights: Metal: Deluxe Edition, by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo
The best event comics are the ones that truly cut loose, and it doesn’t hurt that DC’s 2018 mega-event was crafted under the watchful eyes of two of its most reliable creators: the long-time Batman dynamic duo of Snyder and Capullo. Batman spent years researching metals with mysterious properties before discovering that the materials are linked to a grim multiverse: a nightmare realm of multiple worlds observed by an evil force determined to drag all of the other universes into the darkness. When our Batman becomes trapped on the dark side, multiple twisted and nightmarish Dark Knights invade, with only the Justice League to stand in their way. It’s all way over the top (Batman riding a dragon, oh my), and so much the better for it.

DC/Young Animal: Milk Wars, by Steve Orlando, Gerard Way, Jody Houser, Cecil Castelucci, Jon Rivera, ACO, Ty Templeton, Mirka Andolpho, Langdon Foss, Dale Eaglesham, and Nick Derington
Another of this year’s biggest, weirdest events also came from DC: this one a universe-jumping, milk-themed mega-crossover. In its brief lifetime, DC’s Young Animal  imprint (currently on hiatus) has produced some of the best new superhero comics on the stands of late: books that are smart, weird, and irreverent in the best ways. In this series, characters from the DCU proper meet up with the Young Animal teams and characters to battle a reality-bending corporation called “Retconn,” with dramatic, bizarre, and retro results. Superman becomes Milkman Man, monstrous paragon of wholesomeness taken to extremes. Wonder Wife fights dirt with a golden vacuum cleaner. And Funko Pop-esque toys are made of meat. It’s wonderfully oddball, while also taking a few sharp jabs at readers who cling too hard to empty nostalgia. It’s the perfect antidote to Big Event fatigue.

Monstress, Vol. 3 (B&N Exclusive Edition), by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda
In the shadow of war, teenager Maika Halfwolf shares a psychic connection with a powerful monster. The latest chapter in the multi-Eisner-winning epic fantasy series sees Maika forced to find allies as invasion looms (no easy feat for a woman so accustomed to standing on her own). Confronting trauma and racism with a cast of powerful and nuanced women, the series remains among the most visually stunning books on the stands, and continues to evolve its story and its world, inspired by East Asian history and aesthetics. The B&N edition features a variant cover and a two-sided poster, all of them filled with more of Takeda’s beautiful, detailed, character-rich work.

The Pervert, by Remy Boydell and Michelle Perez
Perez and Boydell share a series of vignettes drawn in a deceptively simple watercolor style that nonetheless perfectly matches the book’s washed-out look at life. It’s the story of a young trans woman doing sex work in Seattle, struggling to survive in a dangerous and stressful environment. At first refusing to work as anything other than a woman, she eventually gives in and passes as a rent boy when money gets tight. It’s a new type of coming-of-age story, with hope and inspiration to be found, even as a happy ending remains elusive.

Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles, by Mark Russell and Mike Feehan
A conversation had several times this year: here’s a book that has no business whatsoever being as good, nor as interesting, as it is. A second banana Hanna-Barbera character is reimagined as a queer southern playwright in the late 1950s who draws the attention of the House UnAmerican Activities Committee. Seen as a threat and a subversive, Snagglepuss loses almost everything he has before playing his last card. It’s a portrait of a specific era, but also resonates in any era in which its demanded that someone hide who they are to get by in the world. Snagglepuss works particularly well as a stand-in for any number of public figures who’ve paid a price for being true to themselves. It’s an unexpected and impossibly bold spin on a cartoon classic.

Maestros, Vol. 1, by Steve Skroce, Dave Stewart, and Fonografiks
Once banished from an alternate realm to Earth, Orlando-based millennial and magician-for-hire Will is surprised to inherit a magic kingdom after his entire otherworldly family is murdered by monsters. Now next in line to be Wizard King,  Will suddenly finds he has enemies on all sides—but he also has access to a spell that grants him god-like powers. This is punk rock fantasy with a dark sense of humor that will appeal to fans of Curse Words, with trippy, hyper-detailed, and gleefully gory art. It’s easy to see why it garnered that Best New Series Eisner nod.

Runaways by Rainbow Rowell, Vol. 1: Find Your Way Home (B&N Exclusive Edition), by Rainbow Rowell and Kris Anka
This year saw two volumes of Rainbow Rowell’s relaunch of Runaways, and they’re totally worth a binge read. Created by Brian K. Vaughan, it was once one of Marvel’s buzziest series, but in the wake of the first run’s cancellation, the various characters (Alex, Nico, Chase, Karolina, Molly, telepathic dinosaur Old Lace, and others) were dispersed into the larger Marvel U. Novelist Rowell made it her mission to get the old gang back together, reassembling almost the entire original team—even if it meant literally resurrecting its (deceased) heart and soul, Gert. The book welcomes new readers but feels absolutely of a piece with Vaughan and Adrian Alphona’s run, and the fashion-forward art from Kris Anka (with popping colors from Eisner-winner Matt Wilson) is pure candy. Like Rowell’s novels, perfect gems of pop culture fizz and real heart, this is killer stuff: angsty, romantic, and consistently surprising.

Isola, Vol. 1 (B&N Exclusive Edition), by Brenden Fletcher, Karl Kerschl, and Msassyk
Inspired by the work of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli, but nevertheless its own animal, Isola is a visually stunning story about the Queen of Maar, who has fallen under the influence of an evil spell that has transformed her into a tiger, and the captain of her guard who will stop at nothing to save her—though the only hope lies half a world away on the mythical island of Isola. There’s a strong emphasis on the visuals, with the minimal dialogue reflecting the difficulty these two very formidable women find in mere communication—ostensibly because one’s a tiger and the other isn’t, but also because of their wide gaps in class and experience The story is compelling, but truly, Isola is is an absolute feast for the eyes. Aside from some preliminary sketches and a variant cover, thee B&N edition includes an exclusive 10-page prologue available nowhere else.

Von Spatz, by Anna Haifisch
The Von Spatz Rehabilitation Center for Artists caters to some of the 20th century’s finest: names like Tomi Ungerer, Saul Steinberg, and even Walt Disney himself. An exploration of drive and insecurity among artists, Haifisch imagines the trio as animal-headed patients at an art therapy retreat where the they develop a slow-earned friendship—sort of a Toon Town for cartoonists. It’s absurdist and experimental book, but also funny and heartwarming, with an impressively realized exploration of the creative process at its core.

Truth, Justice, and the American Way: The Joe Shuster Story, by Julian Voloj and Thomas Campi
A comics industry history that’s itself an impressive piece of (gorgeously painted) graphic storytelling, this book presents the deeply researched life story of Shuster, the shy and visually impaired co-creator of one of the 20th century’s most enduring cultural icons (we’re speaking, of course, about Superman, who celebrated his 80th birthday this year). It’s an essential slice of history that’s both inspiring and poignant: an exploration of the creative process as well as the tale of an artist who resorted to a job  delivering packages before finally seeing some measure of recompense for his world-changing work.

Sabrina, by Nick Drnaso
One of the year’s most trenchant graphic novels isn’t necessarily an easy read, only because of how well it encapsulates our present moment. Three individuals connected by tragedy are drawn into the world of online conspiracy theories, each having their experiences co-opted and dismissed as theatre by people looking to use the web to weaponize opinion. It’s the first graphic novel ever to be nominated for the prestigious Man Booker Prize for Fiction, and with good reason.

Fence, Vol. 1, by C.S. Pacat, Johanna the Mad, Rebecca Nalty, and Joana LaFuente
Troubled fencing prodigy Nicholas Cox gets accepted into the prestigious Kings Row only to find himself facing down his half-brother as well an an unbeatable rival. Inspired by the best sports manga, it’s an old-school coming-of-age story full of athletic competition and queer characters from the author of the Captive Prince novels. The art is bright and crisp, capturing the fluidity of the fencing scenes and the delicate character work with finesse. It’s a sports-centric book full of angst and romance, with dramatic action that just happens to take place during fencing bouts.

Moonstruck, Vol. 1, by Grace Ellis, Shae Beagle, Kate Leth, Caitlin Clark, Laurenn McCubbin, and Clayton Cowles
This book comes from Lumberjanes‘ creator Grace Ellis (working with co-creator Shae Beagle), and shares a similarly quirky, cute fantasy vibe: Julie wants nothing but to be a normal girl with normal girlfriend and a normal barista gig. Unfortunately, she turns into a werewolf when she gets upset. Whoops. Luckily, the world of Moonstruck is full of fantasy creatures living unremarkable lives, so Julie and her centaur best friend Chet don’t draw too much attention when they lock up the coffee shop in order to save their friends from a magical conspiracy. You know… just your typical werewolf-QPOC romcom-fantasy/magic book. At its heart, though, it’s about self-acceptance: loving yourself whether your hang-up is gender, body type, or occasional lycanthropy.

My Boyfriend is a Bear, by Pamela Ribon and Cat Farris
Nora has had many awful boyfriends, but things turn around when she meets a charming, romantic bear. (Join the club.) But this is, like, a literal bear: a 500-pound American black bear, to be precise. The two meet in the Los Angeles hills, and it’s love at first sight. Of course, there are challenges: getting friends and family to accept her slightly unconventional romance isn’t easy; also, he hibernates all winter long. It’s an impressively heartfelt and funny book about the trials and triumphs of any relationship. Writer Pamela Ribon (who we’ve loved since her days as a prolific, early-internet blogger) also created roller girl saga Slam! and wrote Disney’s Moana and Ralph Breaks the Internet.

What’s your favorite comic of 2018?

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A Guide to the Many Spider-Heroes of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

There’s one Spider-Man, right? Peter Parker’s alter-ego? The product of a radioactive spider? The bane of J. Jonah Jameson’s existence?

Well, actually, any comic book fan worth their boards will tell you, not quite. Alternate universe shenanigans are a signature feature of the Marvel comics universe, and that includes your friendly neighborhood Spider-man. In fact, there is a wide variety of alternate spider-type people (and barnyard animals) swinging around the multi-verse, which has only gotten more crowded in recent years.. The entire spider-mythology came to a head in 2015’s sprawling Spider-Verse storyline, in which each spider-person is revealed to be a (slightly confusing) manifestation of mystical spider-totem; the villain Morlun (ruler of alternate Earth-001) and his creepy family take to hunting them down across dimensions. Because they taste really good, apparently. In that book and its forthcoming sequel, Spider-Geddon, the spiders of various universes band together in order to defend themselves and stop Morlun from conquering more than one universe, but mostly, the whole thing is just a well-worth-it excuse to bring the various spideys together to make them fight for their creepy-crawly lives.

Some of these variations on a web-slinging theme have been around for decades, and some are newer. Many of them are featured in the new animated film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which isn’t a direct adaption of anything on the page, but takes its inspiration from a variety of spider-sources. Here are a few of the webbed warriors featured in the film, and well worth exploring on the page.

Earth-1610: Spider-Man (Miles Morales)

Ultimate Spider-Man, from Brian Michael Bendis, was one of the breakout books of Marvel’s “Ultimate” line—a rebooted universe that ran alongside the mainline books (referred to as the 616 universe). That Peter Parker’s story ran for years before he (spoiler) died heroically battling the Green Goblin—but not before the appearance of an inheritor to the suit, young Miles (co-created by artist Sara Pichelli), who turns spider-like after he’s exposed to a chemical formula stolen by his criminal uncle. At first reluctant to use his newfound powers, Miles witnesses the death of Peter Parker and, realizing that he could have helped but didn’t, is inspired to become the new Spider-Man. Though Marvel’s Ultimate line is no more, Miles is now a big part of the original-recipe Marvel Universe, having been both an Avenger and a Champion, and currently headlines his own book. He’s also the star of the new movie. Not bad for  a character who first appeared in 2011.

Earth-65: Spider-Woman (Gwen Stacy)

Spider-Woman (aka Spider-Gwen, to distinguish her from several earlier Spider-Women) was created by Jason Latour and Robbi Rodriguez for the original Spider-Verse event. In Gwen’s universe, she was the one bitten by a radioactive spider and became a spider-themed superhero. In a twist worthy of hanging on the fridge, the moment of tragedy that spurs her to hero-dom is the death of none other than Peter Parker, who created a formula granting himself mutant lizard powers in a bid to impress Spider-Woman. Not, strictly speaking, his best idea: the formula made him an insane mutant lizard, which isn’t really all that surprising. He didn’t mean to rampage, though, making it all the more poignant when Gwen inadvertently kills him in the act of subduing him. He dies in her arms, she feels bad, and she’s also branded a murderer by her own father, police captain George Stacy. Gwen became the breakout star of Spider-Verse, not only due to her truly stellar character design (that hoodie tho); her solo book updates the Spider-mythos with a hint of punk rock and gives a “dead girlfriend” character her own hero’s journey.

Earth-14512: SP//dr (Peni Parker)

Mech-friendly Earth-14512 sees Peni Parker piloting the SP//dr suit, the same one her father died using. Only members of the Parker bloodline can control the suit, and even then, only when bonded to the radioactive spider that forms part of the suit’s CPU. (Think Evangelion, but less whiny.) Peni has been a part of the cross-dimensional spider armies of Spider-Verse and Spider-Geddon, and also starred in one-shots in the Edge of Spider-Verse and Edge of Spider-Geddon mini-series, each written by Gerard Way of Umbrella Academy. She’s the only spider on this list who hasn’t had her own book… yet.

Earth-90214: Spider-Man Noir (Peter Parker)

During the Great Depression, young Peter Parker gets a harsh awakening—first when he discovers the terribly mutilated body of his uncle Ben, murdered in retaliation for organizing a sweatshop strike, and then when his mentor, reporter Ben Urich, is found to have been in a tit-for-tat relationship with the criminal Goblin to fuel a drug habit. Getting the “noir” part yet? This Peter is from a darker, grittier, rainier Earth, full(er) of crime and corruption. Created in 2009 by David Hine, Fabrice Sapolsky, and Carmine Di Giandomenico, the character was recruited into the Web Warriors during Spider-Verse.

Earth-8311: Spider-Ham (Peter Porker)

The spider-hero of Earth-8311 (aka Larval), Peter was a lowly spider hanging out in the lab of eccentric scientist May Porker, before she bit the future hero during an accident involving a nuclear-powered hair dryer. Thus was born Peter Porker, the Spectacular Spider-Ham, battling threats like Ducktor Doom and King-Pig of crime alongside friends and allies like Mary Jane Waterbuffalo, Deerdevil, and Silver Squirrel. Mostly, he’s an excuse for a lot of animal-related puns and barnyard adventures. Though its been decades since he’s had a solo book, he pops up here and there, having been a warrior in the spider army of Spider-Verse and its sequel, Spider-Geddon. Some fans will argue that the character is a too silly to take part in serious spider action. Those fans are wrong.

Who’s the best spider in the ‘verse?

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The Best Comics & Graphic Novels of December 2018

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

Goldfish, by Brian Michael Bendis
Bendis’ long out-of-print Jinxworld books represent not just some of his earliest work, but also some of his most beloved. The gritty noir series stars David Gold, a con man known as Goldfish, who returns to Cleveland, Ohio after a long time away in order to regain custody of his son. The boy’s mother is running the local criminal underworld, and the whole town seems to stand against him in his quest to reconnect with his kid. Fans of Bendis’ superhero books won’t want to miss this formative chapter in the writer/illustrator’s comics career.

Paper Girls, Vol. 5, by Brian K. Vaughan, Cliff Chiang, and Matt Wilson
This keep getting weird and more time-twistingly complicated in the fifth trade collection of Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang’s award-winning story about a group of paper delivery girls from the mid-1980s who find themselves bopping through time in the wake of the various forces waging a temporal war. This volume finally reveals a few answers (even as it poses a lot more questions) as it reveals the origins of the “old timers” who have been hounding our girls, even as the plot line moves from the year 2000 and the Y2K crisis into the far future.

Eternity Girl, by Magdalene Visaggio, Sonny Liew, and Chris Chuckry
Caroline Sharp has been a superhero and a spy, but lately she’s finding life meaningless, and feeling unfulfilled and generally depressed. She’s also immortal, which makes changes in her life incredibly hard to instigate. Her old foe Madame Atom shows up with an offer: she can show Caroline a way to escape from eternal life, but she’ll need to destroy the world first. This is the latest book from DC’s fabulous, sadly on hiatus mature-reader imprint Young Animal.

Doom Patrol, Vol. 2: Nada, by Gerard Way, Nick Derington, Tom Fowler, Michael Allred, Tamra Bonvillain, Dan McDaid, and Laura Allred
In grand Doom Patrol tradition, the second volume of the relaunched strange superhero team-up series brilliantly brings the weirdness. Lotion the cat is back, in more or less human shape, and has developed an attraction to his former owner Casey. Meanwhile, everyone’s eating the new animal-free meal alternative S**t, about which Cliff has his suspicions. All the threads lead back to Mister Nobody and his new Brotherhood of Nada.

Rick and Morty, Vol. 8, by Kyle Starks, Tini Howard, Josh Trujillo, Rii Abrego, and Marc Ellerby
Thank goodness for comics to keep us swimming in Rick and Morty juices (er…) during the long, long hiatus between seasons. Writer Kyle Starks has impressively captured the voices of the characters and replicated the rude sci-fi tone of the show. The latest trade collection includes an appropriately depressing spotlight on Jerry, a gothic vampire-hunting adventure, and Rick turning into all sorts of stuff, not just pickles.

Immortal Hulk, Vol. 1: Or is he Both?, by Al Ewing, Joe Bennett, Ruy Jose, and Paul Mounts
This series has been one of Marvel’s buzziest this year, as Bruce Banner returns to the land of the living—but not alone. Drawing on the character’s long history, the team behind the book have created a full-on horror story, in which the Hulk is the scariest thing of all. The twists and turns are jaw-dropping, with each chapter building dramatically on the one before.

Giant Days: Early Registration, by John Allison
The mega-popular Giant Days series started as a self-published collection of stories, and those early installments haven’t really been widely available since the book went Boom—until now. This collection tells of the freshman-year first meeting between Esther, Susan, and Daisy, and reveals how they became friends. This is a fun look at the nascent days of an established hit, and a chance for fans to explore the origins of their favorite characters.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 12: The Reckoning, by Joss Whedon, Christos Gage, Georges Jeanty, and Karl Story
The Reckoning marks the conclusion of the long-running, five “season” canon continuation of the Buffy television show, and with both comics and TV reboots in the works, that might this is the end of the road for the original Scooby gang. After a year-long time jump, Buffy and friends encounter a threat from the future: Harth, vampire sibling to post-apocalyptic slayer Fray, who already knows exactly how everything turns out (no spoilers!).

Memorabilia, by Sergio Ponchione
In the wake of the loss of comics and pop culture giant Stan Lee, here’s a chance to appreciate the lives and work of other titans of the medium. Here, Sergio Pinchione brings to life the stories offive of the all-time greats: Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby, Wallace Wood, Will Eisner, and Richard Corben. Ponchione illustrates their lives, blending biographical details with characters from the worlds each created.

The Flutter Collection, by Jennie Wood and Jeff McComsey
Jennie Wood’s Flutter trilogy is collected here for the first time, ofering a perfect way to read a deservedly lauded series. The story revolves around 15-year-old Lily, a girl who struggles with her attraction to other girls—and then develops the ability to shape-shift into a guy named Jessie, a popular quarterback. Chaos ensues as Lily struggles to find her own identity and realizes the dangers of pretending to be someone she’s not.

Now #5: The New Comics Anthology, by Nick Thorburn, Eric Reynolds, Ana Galvan, and Roman Muradov
This economical anthology series has won acclaim for presenting top-tier self-contained stories from new and established comic talents. Each volume includes brand new tales, and this features work from Theo Ellsworth, DRT, DW, Ana Galvan, Maggie Umber, Eroyn Franklin. Roman Muradov, Jose Quintanar, Walt Holcombe, Walker Tate, Keren Katz, Darin Shuler, Jesse Reklaw, and Nick Thorburn. Freed from the constraints of an extended run, it’s exciting to see what they’ve come up with.

New Challengers (New Age of Heroes), by Scott Snyder, Aaron Gillespie, V Ken Marion, and Andy Kubert
DC’s New Age of Heroes promises a reinvention of some classic characters and teams spinning out of the Dark Knights: Metal event. Here, Batman regular Snyder and Andy Kubert join forces for a new take on the Challengers of the Unknown, a bunch of misfits lead by a mysterious “Professor” who’s tasked them with locating a group of strange artifacts before a rival team gets to them first, with the fate of the world at stake (naturally).

Venom by Donny Cates, Vol. 1: Rex, by Donny Cates, Ryan Stegman, JP Mayer, and Frank Martin
As the latest chapter of Venom’s anti-heroic life begins, Eddie Brock is a complete mess, living in a flophouse with an increasingly unstable symbiote. Before long, space dragons and cosmic gods connected to the symbiote’s alien origins show up to threaten New York. This story takes place on a massive scale, but, like the recent film, keeps the focus on the very dysfunctional relationship between Eddie and his bloodthirsty symbiotic pal, making it a good onboarding point for fans won over by the year’s most touching cinematic love story.

Aquaman: The Search for Mera Deluxe Edition, by Steve Skeates and Jim Aparo
The upcoming movie makes for a pretty good excuse to revisit one of Aquaman’s best runs (and, yes, he’s had some great ones) with this new edition of 1968’s Search for Mera. Plots and sub-plots weave in and out of this complicated narrative, which sees the Queen of Atlantis drugged and kidnapped and Aquaman on the hunt to rescue her. It’s no easy task: a shifty politician soon moves in to consolidate power in Atlantis, while Arthur’s arch-nemesis Black Manta makes his own plans take advantage of the situation. Jim Aparo stellar art looks as fresh as ever.

Mera: Queen of Atlantis, by Dan Abnett and Lan Medina
Speaking of Mera: in her solo book from Abnett and Medina, the Queen-in-exile Era of Atlantis Era fights to keep the peace between Atlantis and the surface world as civil war rages below the surface. While that’s going on, Aquaman’s brother Orm returns to claim the throne of Atlantis, leading to a clash between Mere and Ocean Master for the fate of the undersea world.

Star Wars, Vol. 9: Hope Dies, by Kieron Gillen, Salvador Larroca, and GURU-eFX
Including the landmark 50th issue of Marvel’s series, this volume finds the Alliance’s greatest victory so far—the liberation of Mon Cala—trumped by a shocking betrayal: Queen Trios of Sho-Torun has sabotaged the fleet’s ships, leaving them defenseless against an Imperial onslaught. Couple with Larroca’s dynamic art, Darth Vader writer Kieron Gillen’s run on the main series has kept this book one of the best things about the new Expanded Universe.

Daredevil: Back in Black, Vol. 7: Mayor Murdock, by Charles Soule and Mike Henderson
For almost two decades, Daredevil has transitioned from one brilliant, game-changing creative team after another. Charles Soule and company are but the latest and, as their run nears an end, things are reaching a fever pitch in Matt Murdock’s New York City. Daredevil’s plan to take down mayor Wilson Fisk failed, but a deadly ambush by the Hand does his work for him. With Fisk on the defensive, Matt gathers a team of allies… who might turn out to be more dangerous than the Kingpin himself.

Doctor Strange by Mark Waid, Vol. 1: Across the Universe, by Mark Waid and Jesus Saiz
Waid and Saiz take over, ushering in a new era for the Doc: the Eye of Agamatto has closed, and Stephen cut off from Earth’s magical forces. With new nightmares trying to break through to our reality, he seeks out the help of Tony Stark and sets out into space to find new powers and new allies. It’s a fun new spin on the Sorcerer Supreme.

All Marvel, DC, and Image titles are buy two, get the third free at Barnes & Noble through January 14, 2019.

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13 Titles to Pick Up in Our B2G1 Image, Marvel, and DC Graphic Novel Sale

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

If you’ve been saving up your comics allowance money, now is a perfect time to crack that piggy bank and check out some new books: Barnes & Noble is in the midst of a Buy 2, Get the 3rd Free sale on all Image, DC, and Marvel graphic novels.

There’s a lot to choose from, so here are 13 recent titles to get you started.

Batman: White Knight, by Sean Murphy and Matt Hollingsworth
Gotham City has a new hero: Jack Napier, the reformed Joker, who is determined to bring healing to the city he once terrorized with the help of the long-suffering Harley Quinn. This new Joker becomes a civic hero by exposing corruption in Gotham City as part of a crusade which sees him discrediting the man he sees as Gotham’s true villain: Batman. The past soon closes in on both Jack and Bruce, threatening to destroy them both. This cinematic standalone work marks the debut of DC’s Black Label imprint, which gives A-list creators the chance to offer their own takes on DC’s iconic characters.

Maestros, Vol. 1, by Steve Skroce, Dave Stewart, and Fonografiks
Once banished from an alternate realm to Earth, Orlando millennial and magician-for-hire Will is surprised to inherit a magic kingdom after his entire otherworldly family is murdered by monsters. Now next in line to be Wizard King,  Will suddenly finds he has enemies on all sides—but he also has access to a spell that gives its user god-like powers. This is punk rock fantasy with a dark sense of humor that will appeal to fans of Curse Words, with trippy, hyper-detailed, and gleefully gory art that will put a smile on your face. It’s easy to see why it garnered that Best New Series Eisner nod.

Runaways by Rainbow Rowell, Vol. 2: Best Friends Forever, by Rainbow Rowell, Kris Anka, and Matthew Wilson
For a time, the Brian K. Vaughan-created Runaways was one of Marvel’s buzziest series. But then it wasn’t, and in the wake of the book’s cancellation, the various characters dispersed into the larger Marvel U. Novelist Rowell made it her mission to get the old gang back together, reassembling almost the entire original team over the course of Volume 1. Now that they’re a family again, they realize that they need a guardian, and are joined by Karolina’s girlfriend (and veteran hero) Julie Power. This teen hero drama welcomes new readers, and the fashion-forward art from Kris Anka (with popping colors from Eisner-winner Matt Wilson) is like candy.

Isola, Vol. 1: Barnes & Noble Exclusive, by Brenden Fletcher, Karl Kerschl, and Msassyk
Inspired by the work of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli, but nevertheless unique, Isola  is a visually stunning story about the Queen of Maar, under the influence of an evil spell that has transformed her into a tiger, and the Captain of her guard who will stop at nothing to save her, even as the only hope lies half a world away on the mythical island of Isola. The story of two equally formidable women on a quest is available as a very nice B&N Exclusive Edition that includes not just extra design pages and pre-production materials, but also a 10-page prequel story.

Wonder Woman: Earth One, Vol. 2, by Grant Morrison, Yanick Paquette, and Nathan Fairbairn
Volume 1 chronicled Diana’s chance encounter with pilot Steve Trevor and her first journey to man’s world. The stellar creative team from that book, one of the highlights of WW’s recent comic renaissance, returns here as the American government grows suspicious of Diana’s peace-and-love message, declaring her a threat to society. Of course,  darker forces are happy to encourage the conflict. Morrison and Paquette are two of comics’ most innovative creators, and their take on the Amazing Amazon continues to impress.

Batman, Vol. 7: The Wedding, by Tom King, Mikel Janin, and Tony S. Daniel
This buzz-worthy storyline was featured in The New York Times—the paper rather shamelessly spoiling the fact that the wedding of the century didn’t exactly go off without a hitch. No matter: the romance between the Bat and the Cat is one of pop culture’s longest-running flirtations, and this volume is a milestone even amid writer Tom King and artist Mikel Janin’s already legendary run. What might have been an ending is, in fact, the beginning of a new chapter for the couple.

Batman and the Justice League, Vol. 1, by Shiori Teshirogi
In English for the first time, Shiori Teshirogi’s manga combines Japanese influences with Western-style superhero storytelling, making for a uniquely fun experience for fans of either. A young boy from Japan lost his parents in the explosion of an experimental power plant a year ago, but believes that there’s more to the story, and that they’re still alive. His visit to Gotham City in search of answers puts him at odds with powerful forces, but he’ll soon find help from some impressive heroes.

Monstress, Vol. 3 (B&N Exclusive Edition), by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda
In the shadow of war, teenager Maika Halfwolf shares a psychic connection with a powerful monster. The latest chapter in the Eisner-winning epic fantasy series sees Maika forced to find allies as invasion looms. Confronting trauma and racism with a cast of powerful and nuanced women, this truly visually stunning book is one of the most acclaimed titles of recent years. And once again, B&N has an exclusive edition of the newest volume of this beloved, buzz-worthy series.

Scarlet, Book One, by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev
Scarlet Rue is a young woman from Portland who rebels against the corruption in the local police force. After her life is ruined, everyone expects her to back down and go away. Instead, she fights back, becoming a counter-culture figure and the spark that fires a new American revolution. Bendis and Maleev stand with the all-time great creator teams, and this book is one of their best.

Gideon Falls, Vol. 1: The Black Barn, by Jeff Lemire, Andrea Sorrentino (Artist), Dave Stewart
Two men become connected, even without meeting, by their search for a mysterious structure called “The Black Barn.” Norton is a disturbed young man searching the garbage in an unnamed city for bits and pieces of wood and nails that he believes connect to the building, while Father Fred, a similarly troubled Catholic priest, is sent to the small town of Gideon Falls, where he confronts horror among the corn fields. The disorienting tone of mystery and horror in this conspiracy thriller makes for an impressively creepy read.

Star Wars: Darth Vader—Dark Lord of the Sith, Vol. 2: Legacy’s End, by Charles Soule, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Daniele Orlandini, and David Curiel
The Darth Vader books have been among the best in Marvel’s now-extensive SW library, and that trend continues with the second volume of Soule and Camuncoli’s run, set shortly after the birth of Vader in Episode III. Heading up the newly formed Inquisitorius, the Sith Lord is charged with hunting down and eliminating the few Jedi who survived Palpatine’s purge. Opposing them is Jedi librarian Jocasta Nu, determined to preserve whatever remains of the ancient Order. But she’s not guaranteed a win: this is a tale from the dark side of the Star Wars galaxy.

You Are Deadpool, by Al Ewing, Salva Espin, and Paco Diaz
This standalone volume starring the Merc with the Mouth allows you, the reader, to create (and recreate) the story as you go along, making choices about what Wade should do, what items he should carry, etc. Because it’s Deadpool, he’s your fourth-wall breaking guide to a combat adventure in which you’re also invited to keep score and roll dice to determine paths. The book is cleverly constructed, and the cheeky, silly Deadpool humor means that things remain light and funny even when they get complicated. The gimmick shouldn’t work nearly as well as it does, but isn’t that always the case with Deadpool?

Captain America by Mark Waid: Promised Land, by Mark Waid, Leonardo Romero, Jordie Bellaire, and Adam Hughes
One of Cap’s all-time great chroniclers, Mark Waid, returns to the book, but not so much to Steve Rogers. This is the year 2314, and the original Captain’s descendent Jack is living in the type of American utopia that Steve always dreamed of. Things aren’t so great for his family, though: the super-soldier serum that’s been adapted to keep the rest of the population healthy is poison to his own son, and he wants to know why. The quest for knowledge leads him to a disturbing realization about what’s really going on in this future America.

Browse the entire sale. Offer runs through January 14, 2019.

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With a Pen, Stan Lee Changed Lives and Created Universes

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

Stan Lee, who became a towering figure in pop culture over an extraordinary eight decades in comics, died this week at the age of 95. Though his long life and career saw many phases, it was his work with Marvel comics that made him a legend.

But Stan’s stint with Marvel didn’t begin in the pop art era of the early ’60s for which he’s most famous. Family connections got him a job as an assistant at what was then Timely Comics under Captain America creator Joe Simon in 1939. The 17-year-old filled inkwells and picked up lunches until earning his first byline in Captain America #3, for a piece called “Captain America Foils the Traitor’s Revenge.” In that era, “literature” magazines generally got cheaper postal rates than did comics, so publishers made sure there were at least a couple of pages of straight text in every issue—typically forgettable bits of character backstory. This early work by Stan doesn’t stand out, except that it includes the first-ever instance of Captain America throwing his (mighty) shield—and, of course, for the career it presaged.

Stan began writing comics features and back-ups shortly thereafter. Turmoil at the company saw him landing a temporary editor job that never really went away, even during the three years of military service during World War II. Timely Comics became Atlas before evolving into Marvel in 1961. That same year saw Stan and artist Jack Kirby create the pop culture revolution that we still haven’t seen the end of.

Though inexplicably never having achieved quite the superstar status as some of their other creations, the debut of Lee and Kirby’s Fantastic Four made Marvel, and broadened the potential of the superhero genre immeasurably. The lead characters had no interest in secret identities, but lead their lives as celebrity adventurers while frequently feeling like freaks. They dealt with petty grudges and had problems paying the bills, none of which stopped them from facing down increasingly bizarre science fiction threats, from shape-shifting aliens to a planet-eating god and his surfboard-riding herald. That contrast—between the gritty and the cosmic—makes the long Lee/Kirby run on FF a high-water mark in superhero comics. The alchemy of that unlikely collaboration has never been matched—Kirby’s stunning art and wild ideas paired with Lee’s storytelling sense, and a flawless ability to deflate self-seriousness with a well-timed, if groan-worthy, joke.

Debate has raged for decades now about how much to credit Lee over his collaborators: giants like Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and John Romita, all artists with unparalleled creative minds. But I’ve never seen it as a competition, even if these men sometimes did. Marvel’s method at the time—in which Stan might provide a plot outline that Kirby would develop and expand upon before Stan added dialogue and a final polish—meant a top artist might have a profound impact on the story and overall direction of a book. Stan’s fingerprints, nonetheless, were on every issue of every title released during that era.

And the tone—that blend of cool and self-consciously corny that had a grown man ending every piece of writing with “Excelsior!”—was pure Stan. His character was something akin to your coolest uncle. He was dorky and he knew it, and it came across as something like irony, before irony was a given. Stan also engaged with fans and readers as no comic creator had ever even considered—each book started with a splash page listing the names of all of the creators, ended with a letters page, and eventually included a “Bullpen Bulletin” in which readers would get updates on the lives of Marvel staff. There was soon an official fan club offering all sorts of tie-ins, even the tackiest of which worked just fine with the so-uncool-it’s-cool style that defined Stan’s public persona. Perhaps because of the soap opera elements that make the comics so compelling, it’s tempting to set creators against each other or reduce Stan’s role to that of pitchman, but that’s not fair to any of them. There was genius to spare in Marvel’s bullpen.

Lee’s is a remarkably diverse legacy. It’s impossible not to mention Spider-Man, in whom Stan and Steve Ditko (with help from Kirby and, later, John Romita) created a teen hero at a time when the youth culture in America was in the ascendant, but the dominant mode among that other company’s heroes was “Super-Dad.” With The Avengers, Lee and Kirby (and later Don Heck) built a team book that lost some of the cosmic grandeur and weirdness of the FF but amped the soap opera elements to 11. X-Men, even with an all-white cast, made a compelling case for diversity. The Hulk managed to be a hero despite his incredibly poor impulse control.

The list goes on and on, and includes another Lee and Kirby creation: Black Panther, the first major black superhero in mainstream comics. Lead by Stan, the mostly-Jewish lead creators at Marvel didn’t hesitate to sneak messages of religious and racial tolerance into their books, and the character of the heroic African monarch from a scientifically advanced society remains resonant, perhaps more than ever. Just last year, the movie was doing huge business while a 1968 “Stan’s Soapbox” column on hate and prejudice went viral after RZA cited it at a tribute event.

The energy in those ’60s Marvel books is undeniable. It was boundless. Addictive. And you still get the same charge reading those issues today. They’re all exploding with art and ideas, with knowing asides and fourth-wall breaking moments that invite you in, even decades later. The hip tone wouldn’t work without the sense that everyone is having a tremendous amount of fun—even if we can guess that they weren’t always.

Though Stan’s relationship with the company in later years was complicated and sometimes contentious, his remains the human face of Marvel in the hearts and minds of fans—even those who’ve never picked up a comic. His later projects never quite matched the critical and artistic success of his ’60s collaborations, but he retained an enviable amount of energy well into his 90s—doing new work in comics, visiting conventions, creating a charitable foundation, putting out a comic autobiography and, of course, making appearances in pretty much every single Marvel-related movie and TV show. (Of which there are, of course, very, very, very many.) He ranks as Hollywood’s top-grossing executive producer simply for having his name on so many of the biggest movies of all time. Almost 80 years after he first walked in the door of what became Marvel Comics, Stan saw his co-creations conquer the entertainment world. Only in the last year or two, and following the death of Joan, his wife of seven decades, did he really slow down.

Impossibly, these are just bits of Stan’s resume, and pieces of his bio: all very impressive, but only part of the story. Anyone who’s ever even loved superheroes grew up with Stan Lee: his creations are essential to our pop culture landscape, sure, but that face and voice have been in cartoons, movies, and TV shows for as long as any of us can remember. He’s been a smiling ambassador for the good and tolerant bits of comics culture, reminding us that it’s OK at any age to love mutants, Hulks, and Things; teens who dress like spiders and Russian spies (who also dress like spiders). Disabled people, including a wheelchair-bound professor and a blind lawyer, weren’t excluded. His heroes were often reformed villains, eschewing the idea that evil is indelible or that good isn’t subject to temptation.

Beside the weird alliteration, bad puns, and cheesy dad jokes, Stan and company gave us big ideas, and endless inspiration. In 2018, as in 1962, is there any more relevant lesson than Uncle Ben’s exhortation to leaven great power with a great sense of responsibility? With a pen, Stan Lee changed lives and created universes. He’ll be missed, but the work is immortal.

Stan Lee, 1922-2018

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The Best Comics & Graphic Novels of November 2018

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

Wakanda Forever, by Nnedi Okorafor, Alberto Albuquerque, Ray-Anthony Height, and Oleg Okunev
Best known for her award-winning sci-fi and YA prose books (among them Binti and Akata Witch), Okorafor is lately jumping into comics in a big way. Here she takes on Wakanda’s fiercest warriors, the Dora Milaje, who have put their service to the throne of Wakanda behind them. That doesn’t mean they’re not still heroes, and here they’re teaming up with Spider-Man, the Avengers, and the X-Men in order to battle a threat to their homeland that comes from outside of its borders.

Justice League, Vol. 1: The Totality, by Scott Snyder, James Tynion, Jim Cheung, and Jorge Jimenez
Lead by all-stars Snyder and Cheung, this is the book that promises to place the JL back at the center of action in the DC universe, with the new team facing big, cosmic threats. As the series opens, a crack is discovered in the Source Wall that’s bleeding into the universe, inspiring the long-absent Martian Manhunter to reform the team with all of its biggest names. It has not escaped Lex Luthor’s notice that the Source Wall might be vulnerable, and before long the Legion of Doom is just one of several interconnected threats mobilizing against them newly regrouped heroes.

The Man of Steel, by Brian Michael Bendis, Ivan Reis, Jason Fabok, Adam Hughes, and Ryan Sook
Brian Michael Bendis makes the jump to DC with this new series, kicking off his run on the various Superman books. While Clark is adjusting to life without Lois and Jon, who’ve left Earth under mysterious circumstances, a new foe with ties to Superman’s past appears: Rogol Zaar claims that he’s the one who destroyed Krypton, and won’t stop until all of the Kryptonians are gone. He’s not nice.

Moonstruck, Vol. 2: Some Enchanted Evening, by Grace Ellis, Shae Beagle, and Kat Fajardo
The first volume of this upstart Image series, set in a world where monsters and magical creatures are part of everyday life, is a whole lot of fun—a light mystery caper that builds out an immensely cozy world. With the winter solstice just around the corner, the second volume in the (relatively) all-ages, queer-positive series finds Julie, insecure werewolf barista, caught up in the antics of some fairy frat bros.

Girl Town, by Carolyn Nowak
This new graphic novel anthology from Lumberjanes‘ Nowack puts a surreal sci-fi twist on love, coming-of-age, and just managing to get by. Diana has been hurt in relationships before, so purchasing a full-sized robot boyfriend sees like a decent way to keep herself from harm.  Two pals host a podcast about a movie no one has seen (proving there really is a podcast for everything). These and more short stories and mini-comics round out a collection that speaks all too clearly the painful truths of growing up and figuring out who you are.

 

Crude, Vol. 1, by Steve Orlando, Garry Brown, and Lee Loughridge
Big Two regulars Orlando, Brown, and Lee team up for a darkly violent, all-too-relevant revenge thriller. Being queer in modern Russia can be a death sentence, as Piotr Petrovich learns when his estranged son is returned to him in a body bag. A former assassin, Petrovich was once widely feared. His reign of terror will be again as he sets out on a quest to discover who his son really was, and in the process, avenge his death.

Thanos: The Infinity Conflict, by Jim Starlin, Alan Davis, Mark Farmer, and Jim Campbell
Writer/Infinity Gauntlet mastermind Jim Starlin returns with another high impact Thanos story. Adam Warlock is beginning to regret having given the Reality Gem to Thanos, even if he didn’t have much choice at the time. An unlikely crew gathers to prevent Thanos from becoming lord of all reality, but an internal conflict might be the biggest threat to the big guy’s plans. Starlin returns to his creation for the latest chapter in the cosmic journey of the mad Titan, continuing on from Infinity Siblings.

Star Wars: Lando—Double or Nothing, by Rodney Barnes, Paolo Villanelli, Andres Mossa, and Joe Caramagna
There’s no question Lando stole the spotlight from Han in Solo: A Star Wars Story. If we can’t get a Lando movie, maybe this will suffice: In a new adventure set just prior to Solo, Lando Calrissian and his pal L3-37 are looking for action and credits when they meets Kristiss, a Petrusian freedom fighter who wants their help with a rebellion on her home world. Is the price right? If so, they’re interested.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Adaptation, by Gary Whitta, Michael Walsh, and Mike Spicer
You know the story: at the behest of General Leia, Rey tries to bring Luke Skywalker back into the Resistance fold just as the First Order brings the hammer down on our heroes. The comic adaption, penned by screenwriter/author Gary Whitta, not only recreates the film with vivid artwork, it includes expanded and extra scenes that didn’t make it to the big screen.

Wet Hot American Summer, by Christopher Hastings, Noah Hayes, and Rebecca Nalty, created by Michael Showalter and David Wain
The wet world of the cult classic film and Netflix series continues in this original graphic novel. It’s a new story starring some old favorites, set in the summer of 1981: Camp director Beth is thrilled to have survived week one at Camp Firewood, until she learns that the health department is on its way for a surprise inspection. If the whole gang can’t clean up the camp in under 24 hours, Firewood will be closing its doors forever. Adventure Time scribe Christopher Hastings keeps up the manic energy of the films, and artist Noah Hayes captures the likenesses of the star-studded cast in perfect cartoon-y fashion.

Mother Panic: Gotham A.D., by Jody Houser, Shawn Crystal, Ibrahim Moustafa, and Jordan Boyd
Ten years in the future, Gotham is run by the Collective and vigilantes and masked heroes are strictly forbidden. That means there’s no room for Violet’s alter-ego, Mother Panic, but she’s still vowed revenge. She’s also on the hunt for her mother, Rebecca Paige, who’s gone missing. With the shuttering of DC’s Young Animals imprint, this is the last we’ll see of MP for now, and we’re going to miss her nutty vigilante ways.

Hope: For The Future, by Guy Adams and Jimmy Broxton
Dark magic is a fact of life in Hollywood of the 1940s. Private detective Mallory Hope is involved in the case of a missing boy with parallels to the loss of his own child, and he’s determined that this story will end better, even as he’s haunted by his own past and by forces of the occult.

Dodge City, by Josh Trujillo, Cara McGee, Brittany Peer, and Aubrey Aiese
Teenage misfit Tomás is struggling until he joins up with the Jazz Pandas, a dodgeball team full of fellow weirdos and outcasts. They’re also extremely competitive, and determined to win the summer regional championships. This fun YA sports comedy is also a neat coming-of-age story.

Mirenda, Vol. 1, by Grim Wilkins
Originally serialized in ISLAND magazine, this near-wordless story is wild, avant-garde, and very visual experimental fantasy. A jungle woman gets a mysterious demon trapped in her leg (like ya’ do) and goes on a wild adventure. It’s a weird, gorgeous book.

I Am Young, by M. Dean
Miriam, a second-generation Iranian immigrant in Edinburgh, met George, a visitor from Wales, at a Beatles concert in Scotland in 1964. The book follows their life stories in parallel with the evolution of the Beatles through a series of interconnected and experimental short stories. It’s a powerful, personal story and a sweeping portrait of an era in one.

Form of a Question, by Andrew J. Rostan and Kate Kasenow
Rostan’s memoir puts Jeopardy! front and center, as some of the cartoonist’s happiest memories were spent watching the Alex Trebek-hosted quiz show with his grandfather. A chance to go on the show himself in his early 20s forced Rostan to face his own past and reconcile a life lived a step removed from humanity.

Maestros, Vol. 1, by Steve Skroce, Dave Stewart, and Fonografiks
Once banished from an alternate realm to Earth, an Orlando millennial and magician-for-hire Will is surprised to inherits a magic kingdom after his entire otherworldly family is murdered by monsters. Now next in line to be Wizard King,  Will suddenly finds he has enemies on all sides, but he also has access to a spell that gives its user god-like powers. This is punk rock fantasy with a dark sense of humor that will appeal to fans of Curse Words, with trippy, hyper-detailed, and gleefully gory art that will put a smile on your face. It’s easy to see why it garnered that Best New Series Eisner nod.

Bingo Love, Vol. 1: Jackpot Edition, by Tee Franklin, Marguerite Bennett, Gail Simone, Shawn Pryor, Gabby Rivera, Jenn St-Onge, Joy San, Cardinal Rae, Erica Schultz, and Genevieve FT
No superheroes, nor explosions, but still one of our faves of the year. Bingo Love tells a charming love story spanning half of a century: Hazel and Mari meet at church bingo in 1963, but their families push them apart before each goes on to marry other people and carve out very different lives for themselves. A heated bingo game 50 years later brings them back together, forcing them to consider what their love for each other means. This queer, black love story is challenging and sweet, with gorgeous artwork, and this  fancy new edition includes a whopping 60 pages of new material from A-list creators, originally available only to Kickstarter backers.

Men of Wrath, by Jason Aaron and Ron Garney
A family of the American south with a long legacy of violence has a chance to walk a new path, if only weathered hitman Ira Rath will take the chance. A century ago, Isam Rath killed a man over some sheep, and the Alabama family has been caught in a generational cycle of violence ever since. Ira’s new job could change their fates, but habits do die hard. Southern Bastards creator Jason Aaron knows from these sorts of hardboiled south of the Mason-Dixon tales, and Ron Garney’s art drips with atmosphere in this remastered Image Comics edition.

The Fade Out: The Complete Collection, by Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips, and Elizabeth Breitweiser
Ed Brubaker has brought noir sensibilities to just about every project he’s worked on, including superhero books like Daredevil and Captain America. The Fade-Out, created with his regular collaborator Sean Phillips (working with colorist Elizabeth Breitweiser), is an old-school potboiler, a sordid tale of murder in old Hollywood—and it might be Brubaker’s best work yet. It’s the story of Charlie Parish, a Hollywood screenwriter with PTSD, and his friend Gil, a blacklisted writer. Charlie wakes up in the room of a murdered starlet one day, and has to work out her story while bringing her killer to justice. This new paperback edition collects the entire series.

What’s on your pull list?

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Collection Builder: Our Favorite Graphic Novels

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

Superhero movies have turned comic book heroes into pop culture icons, but comics and graphic novels are about so much more than high-flying fisticuffs and heroes in tights.

In the interest of convincing you that there’s an amazing illustrated narrative out there for every type of reader, we’ve assembled a collection of some of our favorite graphic novels, any of them a great starting point for anyone looking to explore a whole new section of the bookstore (though even if you’re an experienced reader, chances are decent there’s a brilliant book you’ve yet to read here too).

Here’s the full list, and here are 10 standouts; consider this your comic book collection starter pack.

Sandman, Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes, by Neil Gaiman, Sam Kieth, and Mike Dringenberg
The setup: An occultist attempting to capture the physical embodiment of Death to bargain for eternal life traps her younger brother Dream instead. After his 70-year imprisonment and eventual escape, Dream, also known as Morpheus, goes on a quest for his lost objects of power to reclaim his reign. From there, one of the greatest series in the history of the graphic novel genre begins…
Why we love it: We feel safe in saying that without Sandman, Neil Gaiman wouldn’t be Neil Gaiman. In fact, there’s a strong case to be made that this reboot of a theretofore unheralded DC comics character is Gaiman’s magnum opus, bringing to bear all of his predilections (reinterpreted mythology, sprawling casts of colorful characters, style to spare) in one gorgeous package. The series remains iconic for a reason.

My Favorite Thing is Monsters, by Emil Ferris
The setup: The fictional graphic diary of 10-year-old Karen Reyes, filled with B-movie horror and pulp monster magazines iconography. Karen Reyes tries to solve the murder of her enigmatic upstairs neighbor, Anka Silverberg, a holocaust survivor, while the interconnected stories of those around her unfold. When Karen’s investigation takes us back to Anka’s life in Nazi Germany, the reader discovers how the personal, the political, the past, and the present converge.
Why we love it: Ferris debut became an Eisner-winning sensation pretty much out of nowhere, and it’s easy to see why: it’s odd mix of gritty art (presented entirely on lined notebook paper, it’s purportedly the work of the 10-year-old narrator), propulsive storytelling, and pur pulpy passion is irresistible.

The Walking Dead, Vol. 1: Days Gone By, by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore
The setup: The world we knew is gone. The world of commerce and frivolous necessity has been replaced by a world of survival and responsibility. An epidemic of apocalyptic proportions has swept the globe, causing the dead to rise and feed on the living. In a matter of months society has crumbled: no government, no grocery stores, no mail delivery, no cable TV. In a world ruled by the dead, the survivors are forced to finally start living.
Why we love it: The television adaptation turned Robert Kirkman’s long-running survival story into a sensation, but the comics offer,let’s just say it, the better version of the story—and, perhaps, the definitive zombie narrative for the 21st century. We’ve met the monsters, and they are us.

March, by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell
The setup: Congressman John Lewis is an American icon and key figure of the civil rights movement, and March is a vivid first-hand account of his lifelong struggle for civil and human rights, meditating in the modern age on the distance traveled since the days of Jim Crow and segregation. Rooted in Lewis’ personal story, it also reflects on the highs and lows of the broader civil rights movement.
Why we love it: Anyone who thinks of comics as merely kids’ stuff would do well to pick up Lewis’s emotionally charged, revelatory graphic novel-as-memoir, which solidifies a lifetime of powerful stories in searing visuals that speak just as loudly as the congressman’s own powerful words.

Monstress, Vol. 1: Awakening, by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda
The setup: Set in an alternate matriarchal 1900’s Asia, in a richly imagined world of art deco-inflected steam punk, Monstress tells the story of a teenage girl who is struggling to survive the trauma of war, and who shares a mysterious psychic link with a monster of tremendous power, a connection that will transform them both and make them the target of both human and otherworldly powers.
Why we love it: Like something out of Jim Henson’s nightmares, Marjorie Liu and Sana Tekada’s dark fable of female empowerment is a darkly beautiful, bloody coming-of-age tale with an unforgettable protagonist, a diverse cast of heroes and villains, gorgeously rendered monsters, and talking cats.

Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life, Vol. 1, by Bryan Lee O’Malley
The setup: Scott Pilgrim’s life is totally sweet. He’s 23 years old, he’s in a rock band, he’s “between jobs,” and he’s dating a cute high school girl. Nothing could possibly go wrong, unless a seriously mind-blowing, dangerously fashionable, rollerblading delivery girl named Ramona Flowers starts cruising through his dreams and sailing by him at parties. Will Scott’s awesome life get turned upside-down? Will he have to face Ramona’s seven evil ex-boyfriends in battle?
Why we love it: Packed with lovable anti-heroes, sardonic humor, and a plethora of pop culture references, Bryan Lee O’Malley’s breakout series has become something of a bible for the self-aware hipster, and the manga-inspired art is too cute to resist.

Saga, Vol. 1, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
The setup: When two soldiers from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war fall in love, they risk everything to bring a fragile new life into a dangerous old universe. Saga is the sweeping tale of one young family fighting to find their place in the worlds.
Why we love it: Saga accomplishes the remarkable feat of marrying a sprawling space epic, soap opera storytelling, and intimate family drama, and making it look easy. Reading it, we’ve laughed, and cried, and gasped audibly more times than we care to admit.

Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1: No Normal, by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona
The setup: Kamala Khan is an ordinary girl from Jersey City—until she is suddenly empowered with extraordinary gifts. But who truly is the all-new Ms. Marvel? Teenager? Muslim? Inhuman? Find out as she takes the Marvel Universe by storm! As Kamala discovers the dangers of her newfound powers, she unlocks a secret behind them as well. Is Kamala ready to wield these immense new gifts? Or will the weight of the legacy before her be too much to handle? Kamala has no idea either. But she’s comin’ for you, New York!
Why we love it: Not since Peter Parker has there been a scrappy teen superhero so winning. Kamala Kahn is the hero we need right now: feisty, fearless, flawed, and filled with love for her working class city.

American Born Chinese, by Gene Leun Yang
The setup: Jin Wang is the only Asian American boy in his new school; Danny is a young man deeply embarrassed by his visiting Chinese cousin; a Monkey King is desperate to be treated like a god. Three very different characters, one simple goal: to fit in.
Why we love it: This coming-of-age story employs a clever structure (three separate stories of clashing cultures and the search for acceptance) to make a powerful point about the things that divide us and the truths that are universal.

I Hate Fairyland, Vol. 1: Madly Ever After, by Skottie Young
The setup: Gert, a forty-year-old woman stuck in a six-yea-old’s body, has been trapped in the magical world of Fairyland for nearly thirty years. Join her and her giant battle-axe on a delightfully blood soaked journey to see who will survive the girl who hates fairyland.
Why we love it: Like a Lisa Frank notebook torn from the Upside-Down, I Hate Fairyland allows Skottie Young’s id to run amok in the truest sense of the word. It’s a candy-colored, blood-soaked romp that gleefully smashes through the wall between childhood innocence and extremely bad taste.

Shop our complete list of graphic novel favorites in the 2018 Holiday Gift Guide.

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