The Heroes of This Week’s Best New Comics Are Powered by Belief


Special powers or prophesied destinies aside, having conviction and powerful faith in something is often what makes comic book heroes special. Usually, that faith is in something larger and more grandiose like a deity or mystical being, but the heroes of this week’s best new comics draw strength from the faith they’ve…

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G. Willow Wilson’s The Bird King Is a Fantastical Ode to the Power of Stories

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

G. Willow Wilson ‘s The Bird King holds many truths within its pages, but one stands out: stories, it promises, have the ability to not only free us, but empower us to become the avenue of our own escape.

Fatima and Hassan, the main protagonists of this tale, know this better than anyone; both of them are part of the royal court of Granada, and both important in their own ways. Fatima is a concubine to the Sultan, pleasing him and caring for the palace because she is told to, but never because she wishes to. Hassan is a cartographer with a special gift; through his drawings and etchings, he can make maps that change reality—creating rooms that have never existed, tunnels that were not there before, altering the world through the act of putting pen to paper.

The two of them are barely masters of their lives, let alone their fates. Fatima is essentially a slave, regardless of her lofty position, and Hassan, for all that the Sultan puts up with his drinking and sleeping with men, would never be allowed to leave the palace with the powers he possesses. Each is in a prison of sorts, but they find comfort in one another, both in simple friendship and their shared telling of an epic poem called, “The Bird King.” In one another, they have found a sort of escape: a world to which they can fly away, and be free.

Even these small comforts are under threat, however. For Granada is under siege, and efforts to resist it are failing. As an envoy from a newly founded Spain comes to the royal court seeking Granada’s surrender, Fatima meets Luz, a nun of this burgeoning nation. When Luz learns of Hassan’s abilities, she sees them as a threat to her country and her god, and Fatima fears her friend’s life will be taken in the surrender to the Spanish. Fleeing in the middle of the night, desperate to save him so they may together escape the confines of Granada, Fatima begins a long, arduous journey across land and sea and even into unknown realms, seeking true escape—from Luz, from Spain, from any who would try to shackle them.

What follows is a trek fraught with perils both mortal and immortal, yet the novel’s true heart is the bond between Fatima and Hassan, and in watching them grow beyond the people they thought themselves to be, and learn how to take control of the story of their lives.

Wilson, who won the World Fantasy Award for her debut novel Alif the Unseen and has received numerous accolades for her work in comics (including her original graphic novel Cairo and the creation of Kamala Khan, aka Ms. Marvel), is no stranger to epic stories. Across mediums, her stories are rife with complex characterization, empathy for all citizens of the world, and a fierce determination to see that good and right win out in the end. The Bird King continues this tradition with a story that is equally invested in Fatima and Hassan learning how to be brave, how to be just, how to rise above mere survival, as it is in documenting their fantastical travels across 14th century Spain and beyond.

One of the many great joys of this novel is the time and attention given to the inner journeys of the characters as they experience incredible adventures. Their growth is measured; true change is rarely a smooth transition, and Fatima and Hassan fight dearly to become who they’re meant to be, even if it entails hurting one another. Both must learn to forgive. Coming from lives of near-imprisonment, they have no choice but to trust one another, and yet it is when they do choose to do so—when silence their inner demons and listen instead to the voices of their hearts—that The Bird King soars.

As much the novel argues in the importance of stories, Willow also realizes that, at a certain point, they must end. The latter half of the novel explores how truly far believing in stories can take you, and what happens when the story ends, and life doesn’t. How do you carry onward? The final sections of the narrative are its most moving and enjoyable, as everything we’ve learned about the characters is put to the test in the best way possible, simply by asking: what next?

The Bird King is a stunning novel, overflowing with lush prose and careful examinations of humanity, faith, empathy, and justice. Its characters are deeply human: complex, and humorous, and stubborn, and wonderful. It’s a book that, in its own way, serves as a guideline for anyone looking for inspiration that will help them take control of their own story. At the end of the day, we’re all writing the stories of our lives; The Bird King reminded me that I have the power to tell my story exactly the way I want. I hope it does the same for you.

The Bird King is available now.

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39 Amazing New Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books to Check Out in March


March is here—damn, that was fast!—and with it, a stack of new sci-fi and fantasy books to add to your reading list, including entries from genre favorites like Cory Doctorow and G. Willow Wilson, plus a new Expanse novel, Tiamat’s Wrath, that was originally supposed to come out in 2018 but is finally on its way. Dig…

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Kamala Khan’s Creator Is Stepping Away From Ms. Marvel


A new Ms. Marvel ongoing is on the way from Marvel Comics—but it heralds the end of an era. For the first time, writer G. Willow Wilson, who helped bring Kamala to life four years ago, will not be penning her creation’s adventures.

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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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