Each month, we round up the most interesting comics, graphic novels, webcomics, digital comics and comic-related Kickstarters that we think you should check out.
By Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire
Most wouldn’t expect formal comics experimentation to come from the writers of Batman and the X-Men, but, to be fair, Scott Snyder and Jeff Lemire are two of the most celebrated creators in comics and both have had a lot of success outside of their work for Marvel and DC. In this three-part prestige format series, they are collaborating to tell a story about a future in which death has been cured. Jonah Cooke, the story’s protagonist, has been alive for centuries and in this first chapter, reflects on his life and his culpability in an event that changed the world.
The format of this book is not entirely a comic; it's a combination of sequential art, prose, and illustrations. Lemire, who lately has been writing for other artists, provides the art in his discernibly loose, outsider art style while Snyder handles the considerable sections of prose with a novelist’s skill. The result is an ominous and contemplative read about memory and mortality.
2. MUHAMMAD ALI
By Sybille Titeux and Amazing Ameziane
Dark Horse Comics
Some biography subjects were born to be in comics and the brash, super-heroic figure of the boxing world known as Muhammad Ali is one of them. He famously appeared in a comic with Superman back in 1978, but in this 2015 French graphic novel, being released for the first time in English, he gets a 128-page bio-comic all his own. Ali’s life—from his youth as Cassius Clay through his storied boxing career, his conversion to Islam, and his rise as an early hero of the civil rights movement to his final battle with Parkinson’s disease—is all covered here. Titeux gives many of the biographical events some proper historical context by providing some details of the Nation of Islam, Malcolm X, and the conflict in Vietnam. Ameziane’s photo-realistic artwork depicts these events with accuracy and an appropriate sense of drama equal to Ali’s legend.
By Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani
Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani are responsible for some of the most popular all-ages comics and their work for DC, like Tiny Titans, is just about the best option you can find out there for early reader superhero comics. Their newest series, Super Powers, stars some of the biggest heroes in the DC Universe and begins with a story in which Batman has gone missing, leaving Superman and Wonder Woman to not only find their friend, but to also fill in for him in Gotham City while he’s gone.
By Nicolas Otero
For Gen Xers, Kurt Cobain’s death by apparent suicide in 1994 was a “where were you when…” moment that is forever burned into their memories. Over 20 years later, the mystique around his death has sparked conspiracy theories and a number of books including the French novel Le Roman de Boddah by Héloïse Guay de Bellissen, which focuses on Cobain’s suicide note and its reference to his imaginary childhood friend “Boddah." French artist Nicolas Otero has adapted that book into a graphic novel that captures the feeling of the ‘90s—both the grunge aesthetic and even the page layout-driven style of the comics from that decade—while depicting a dramatized version of the real events of Cobain’s life. We see Nirvana’s sudden rises to success, Cobain's passionate relationship with Courtney Love, his struggle with heroin addiction. and his early death, all told from the point of view of Boddah.
5. ETHER #1
By Matt Kindt and David Rubin
Dark Horse Comics
Writer Matt Kindt isn't a fan of the supernatural genre, so the protagonist of his new book is himself a skeptic who prefers science over magic. However, Boone Dias is a scientist-adventurer who is often brought from our world to a magical dimension called the Ether to solve a murder. In a world where seemingly anything can happen, the inhabitants of that world lean on Dias to find explanations for the unexplainable. Kindt is one of the smartest genre writers in comics right now and he’s paired with astounding new talent David Rubin (The Rise of Aurora West), whose richly colored art is like an hallucinatory children’s book that you’ll want to spend some time admiring.
By Ta-Nehisi Coates, Roxane Gay, Yona Harvey, Afua Richardson, and Alitha Martinez
After his cinematic debut in Captain America: Civil War, an upcoming solo film, and a new comic series written by acclaimed writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, Black Panther has now become a high-profile character in the Marvel Universe—enough to warrant a spinoff series focusing on his supporting characters. The Dora Milage is the King of Wakanda’s elite all-female guard, made famous during Christopher Priest’s iconic run on the Black Panther series in the 1990s. Two of the members, Ayo and Aneka, have been a major part of Coates's run and will now be the focus of this book.
Neither of the big two comics publishers have been a model for hiring diverse creators—especially when it comes to African American women—but this particular book boasts an interesting creative team of women of color, led by professor and op-ed writer Roxanne Gay who readers of Bitch Planet will know from her essays in that comic. She is joined by artist Alitha E. Martinez, while a 10-page backup story co-written by Coates and poet Yona Harvey features art by Afua Richardson, who made a splash this past year drawing the politically charged Image series Genius.
7. MAYDAY #1
By Alex DeCampi, Tony Parker, and Blond
This is the first issue of a proposed trilogy of mini-series that mix Cold War espionage with unexpected elements like ‘70s drug culture, Alice Cooper, and Krautrock. The series will follow a pair of CIA agents through different exploits in the 1970s. The first issue begins with the murder of a Soviet general while he is in the act of defecting to the United States. Rather than a John le Carré-style of complex spy maneuvering, it quickly veers into the unexpectedly violent and weird vibe of a Coen brothers film when the two Russian assassins hook up with a bunch of hippies and fall victim to some LSD-laced vodka.
DeCampi employs a number of neat writing tricks here, including a clever way of showing how someone trying to understand another language may miss every few words as they’re trying to keep up with a conversation. She also manages to integrate a ‘70s era soundtrack into the story, along with a recommended playlist at the end and some notes about the musical choices.
By Keith Giffen, Bilquis Evely, and Ivan Plascencia
Sugar Plumm and Spike Wilson are private investigators for superheroes. When someone like Alfred the butler needs someone to track down a stash of embarrassing zebra and rainbow-colored Batsuits that has been stolen or Green Lantern needs to investigate whether an alien flower on display in a museum is the same sentient being he used to wear on his lapel for a time back in the ‘80s, they turn to Sugar and Spike for help. This series, which ran in the recent Legends of Tomorrow anthology and is now collected on its own in a trade paperback edition, is representative of DC Comics's new, brighter outlook on its properties; one that embraces the silliness of the past and lets their superheroes be superheroes (Sugar and Spike themselves are meant to be grown-up versions of a couple of toddler characters that ran in a strip of the same name back in the 1950s). It’s a clever yet ridiculous concept that is played for laughs and works well, thanks to the physical comedy and character acting by artist Bilquis Evely. Amidst all the broad comedy, there are also subtle hints at a complicated but affectionate relationship between the two protagonists that leaves you wanting to know more.
9. SUNNY VOL. 6
By Taiyo Matsumoto
The final volume of Taiyo Matsumoto’s award-winning manga series reaches English-speaking audiences this month (it came out in Japan last year). The poignant, slice-of-life series about a group of foster children who only find solace and escape when sitting in an abandoned yellow car they’ve named “Sunny” is considered a masterwork by many. This series has been nominated for numerous awards and won the Shogakukan Manga Award this year, one of Japan’s highest honors for manga.
10. THE PLUNGE
By Emi Gennis
Kilgore Books & Comics
In 1901, Annie Edson Taylor was the first person to survive a trip over Niagara Falls in a barrel. And she did it at the age of 63. Emi Gennis tells her story in this beautiful new black-and-white comic, released through brand-new publisher Kilgore Books & Comics. Taylor’s life story is both an uplifting example of can-do feminism and an anti-climactic tragedy, as she would eventually die poor and alone, gaining nothing from her death-defying feat. Gennis’s crisply inked cartooning style has an appropriately old-timey feel and her depiction of the horrific ride down the falls is captivating and surreal.
By Samuel Sattin and Chris Koehler
After humans have been wiped out by a biological terror attack, dogs and cats are left to rebuild the world in their absence. But there is something else out there—a mysterious creature called the Endark—that has killed Ransom, the leader of the dogs, requiring an English Pointer named Legend to step up and take his place. Chris Koehler is an accomplished editorial illustrator who has worked for publications such as The Atlantic and Variety. His style exhibits a high level of photorealism and a designer’s sense of minimal color. He manages to translate that style to his first piece of sequential comics without losing any of his technical polish. This collaboration with novelist Samuel Sattin, also a comics newbie, should please most domestic animal adventure fans of stories like The Incredible Journey or We3.
12. Off Season
By James Sturm
Acclaimed cartoonist and director of the Center for Cartoon Studies James Sturm (The Golem's Mighty Swing) has been creating a webcomic for Slate that began in September and will continue through the end of the year. It is about 2016, with a focus on the election and now on its aftermath. Set in New England, it follows a down-on-his-luck divorced dad who was a Bernie Sanders supporter raising a daughter who is excited about the prospect of electing the first female president. Sturm draws everyone—including real-life players like Donald Trump—as anthropomorphic dogs, trudging through the same reality we’re all currently living in real time.