It’s October, and you know what that means! No, not Halloween — comics!
Okay, maybe a little Halloween, but it’s hard to think of the end of the month when there are so many great graphic novels to read before then. This month features comics both about and based on historic video games, multiple shirtless barbarian warriors, cutting-edge superhero tales, and much more. There’s sure to be a trade paperback (TP) or hardcover (HC) on the list for every reader, whether you’ve been reading comics for decades or are looking to pick up your first.
Happy reading, and as always, let us know what books you’re most looking forward to this month in the comments below.
(By Box Brown. October 11 from First Second)
Despite having played and loved the game nearly my entire life, I know basically nothing about how Tetris came to be. I suppose in my ignorance, I just thought the pieces all fell from the sky — or some game designer’s mind — and lined up to make a near-perfect gaming experience that went on to immediately make him Scrooge McDuckian amounts of cash. Fortunately, master cartoonist Box Brown is here to tell me how it actually went down.
The graphic novel simply and aptly named Tetris — no relation to the bafflingly proposed movie trilogy, thankfully — tells the story of the creation of the iconic puzzle game by Alexey Pajitnov, its unintentional viral success within the Soviet Union, its complicated escape into the outside world, and its seismic effect on a burgeoning videogame industry. This book is not just a fascinating look at an integral point in video game history, it’s also a meditation on the role that playing games has played in human history. Brown’s simple but beautifully efficient cartooning effectively and entertainingly conveys what in lesser hands could be an overwhelming amount of historical context. This is a book no fan of comics or gaming should miss.
SUPERMAN AMERICAN ALIEN HC
(By Max Landis, Nick Dragotta, Tommy Lee Edwards, Joëlle Jones, Jae Lee, Francis Manapul, Jonathan Case, and Jock. October 12 from DC)
Superman’s hard to get right. Or at least that’s what I keep hearing. Everyone has their reasons why Superman doesn’t work: he’s too powerful, he’s unrelatable, he’s boring, he doesn’t work in a modern world, he’s just too good. And what’s more, no one can seem to agree on what does work. Should Superman kill? Should he be given new powers or have them taken away? Should he wear his underwear on the inside or the outside? Whether in comics or on screen, no one seems to know what to do with Superman. No one but Max Landis, that is.
In Superman: American Alien, Landis — best known for screenwriting Chronicle and American Ultra — tells a series of seven stories about Clark Kent in his formative years that manages to somehow stay true to the character while also challenging the conventional wisdom about him at every turn. Landis makes unreachable Superman more relatable than ever by making Clark Kent infinitely relatable and fallible, and it pays off immensely.
Of course, Landis didn’t do it alone. In fact, he’s not joined by just one, but seven of the best artists in comics: Nick Dragotta (East of West) shows us a young Clark learning he can fly. Joëlle Jones (Lady Killer) draws a hilarious story of teen Clark pretending to be someone else aboard a yacht. Jock (Wytches) depicts a pulse-pounding battle between Superman and Lobo. Plus stunning stories from Francis Manapul (Trinity), Jae Lee (Dark Tower), Jonathan Case (Batman ’66) and Tommy Lee Edwards (Turf).
Superman: American Alien will go down as one of the definitive Superman stories. Do not miss it.
HEAD LOPPER, VOL. 1: THE ISLAND OR A PLAGUE OF BEASTS TP
(By Andrew MacLean. October 5 from Image)
Meet Norgal. He’s a monster slayer of legendary stature, with a big beard, bigger muscles, and the biggest sword. And also a witch’s chattering head tied to his belt. For a meager fee, he’ll lop the head off of whatever beast, monster or bad guy is currently plaguing your village. The eponymous Head Lopper is a surly swordsman of the highest order, and brings with him all the action and misadventure that comes with the role.
Head Lopper is the creation of writer/artist Andrew MacLean (ApocalyptiGirl) who brings a sharp wit to the barbarian adventurer genre that the series is both a send-up of and a love letter to. There’s a wildly creative but deliberate energy present in both the script and the cartooning that is perfectly suited to its subject matter’s insane machismo. MacLean’s style combines shadows and geometry reminiscent of Mike Mignola (Hellboy) with a Genndy Tartakovsky (Samurai Jack)-like sense of action and design. Not a single line — either of dialogue or of ink — is wasted in this hilarious and wildly fun fantasy-action romp. This is a comic you’ll love losing your head over.
MOCKINGBIRD, VOL. 1: I CAN EXPLAIN TP
(By Chelsea Cain, Joëlle Jones, Kate Niemczyk, Ibrahim Moustafa and Rachelle Rosenberg. October 19 from Marvel)
For as much online bellyaching as there seems to be whenever Marvel announces a new female-led title, the women of Marvel’s solo books tend to be among the publisher’s best. I already told you about Spider-Woman in June, as well as Captain Marvel and Scarlet Witch in July, and this month continues the trend.
Mockingbird is a long-overdue first ongoing series for Bobbi Morse, a former Avenger and slightly superpowered biologist-turned-superspy. Written by New York Times bestselling novelist Chelsea Cain (Heartsick) and drawn by newcomer Kate Niemczyk, the first volume of Mockingbird is a wildly impressive feat for two creators so new to the industry. Cain shows a knack for wielding the form with the surprisingly complex story structure that weaves in and out of and then doubles back on itself. It could be immensely confusing under the direction of a clumsier storyteller, but instead tells an intelligent, action-packed, and often savagely funny story that rewards multiple readings. Niekczyk’s Bobbi Morse is superheroically beautiful but still grounded, and absolutely oozes personality, and the people and settings around her are just as methodically detailed and compelling.
Mockingbird is a great-looking and dense comic book full of espionage, pharmaceutical malpractice, seduction, science, and great guest stars that no Marvel fan should overlook.
THE SIXTH GUN, VOL. 9: BOOT HILL TP
(By Cullen Bunn, Brian Hurtt, and Bill Crabtree. October 26 from Oni Press)
There’s no point in beating around the bush, so I’ll just come out and say it: The Sixth Gun is one of my all-time favorite comic book series. It has everything you could possibly want: gunslinging, magic, a sprawling mythology, monsters, and an intriguing cast of wild west misfits, loners, and ne’er-do-wells that both celebrate and transcend the western tropes they’re born out of. I’ve been following the series since its debut as Oni Press’ 2010 Free Comic Book Day offering, and sadly, it has finally come to an end after its impressive 50-issue run.
For anyone unfamiliar with the series, The Sixth Gun is a bit like if Tolkein wrote a western, but better. The core conflict centers around six cursed revolvers, each with a different ability — one spreads the fires of perdition, one can revive those it has killed as golems, and so on — that when brought together can bring about the end of times. When unlikely heroine Becky Montclaire finds herself in possession of the titular Sixth Gun — which gives her visions of the future — she gets swept up in an immortal war between numerous factions who each seek to claim the guns for their own ends. Over the course of her adventures, Becky encounters all manner of supernatural forces, as the series blends together ideas from American folklore, Native American mythology, voodoo and more to create an original and compelling lore all its own.
I know I haven’t talked much about this volume specifically here (it’s great), but that’s because I don’t want to spoil the truly epic conclusion to the saga. No matter what kind of comic book fan you are, The Sixth Gun has something for you, and now is the perfect time pick up the whole series and experience this pulse-pounding adventure through a mythical wild west.
SUPER MARIO ADVENTURES
(By Kentaro Takekuma and Charlie Nozowa. October 11 from VIZ Media)
One of my favorite nerdy parts of playing the Super Mario games and all their myriad of spinoffs is guessing at how exactly it all coexists. What kind of ludicrously exaggerated entertainment-based economy must exist in the Mushroom Kingdom to having the same dozen people repeatedly compete in unimaginably extravagant sporting and automotive racing events all for the amusement of the Toady masses?
While that question won’t be getting answered anytime soon, readers will be able to take a rare trip to the Mushroom Kingdom in one of the earliest examples of it being portrayed as a place that people actually live in. Super Mario Adventures is a reprint of comic stories that originally appeared in Nintendo Power magazine in the early nineties that starred Mario, Luigi, Yoshi and the whole gang in whacky adventures based loosely upon Super Mario World for Super Nintendo Entertainment System.The plot, if you’ll believe it, features the Koopa King kidnapping Princess Toadstool and it falls to the Super Mario Bros to save her.
Any fans of Nintendo or anyone looking for zany all-ages fun should make sure to pick up this collection of a long-out-of-print classic.
THE UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL BEATS UP THE MARVEL UNIVERSE! HC
(By Ryan North and Erica Henderson. October 5 from Marvel)
Prepare yourself, Marvel Universe, there’s a new top dog — I mean... squirrel.
The arboreal Avenger named Doreen Green, aka Squirrel Girl, has been eating nuts and kicking butts since she was created by Spider-Man co-creator Steve Ditko in 1992, but it hasn’t been until the last couple of years that she’s become a real phenomenon. The character’s ongoing series by Ryan North (Dinosaur Comics) and Erica Henderson (Jughead) has been a smash-hit with readers of all ages thanks to Doreen’s eccentric powers and quirky, nutty sense of humor.
It’s long been Squirrel Girl’s M.O. that she can take down the biggest and baddest of the Marvel Universe, having taken down Doctor Doom, Thanos, and Galactus with her squirrely, friendship-focused strategies. But that’s about to become much more than an ongoing joke, when Squirrel Girl beats the whole Marvel Universe in a brand new original graphic novel. Coming at you from the creative team of the fan-favorite series, this brand-new fluffy tale will also see Doreen take on her most terrifying enemy so far: another Squirrel Girl!
Squirrel Girl is one of the hottest characters in comics right now, and this new, self-contained graphic novel is the perfect place to find out what all the hype is about.
BATTLEPUG, VOL. 5: THE PAWS OF WARS HC
(By Mike Norton. October 19 from Dark Horse)
Hot on the heels of a win at the Harvey Awards for Best Online Comics work, Mike Norton’s adorably epic webcomic Battlepug returns to print for its final chapter. For those of you unfamiliar with the series, Battlepug is a ridiculously fun barbarian fantasy adventure that stars a man Conan-esque swordsman known simply as The Warrior, and his steed, a lovably dumb giant Pug named Battlepug. Their quest for revenge is framed as a tale being told by a mysterious and beautiful woman named Moll, who is fulfilling the request of her talking Pug, Mingo, and French Bulldog, Colfax, to tell them a story about puppies and “giant flaming devil monsters.” And in this final volume, the action builds to crescendo that finally gives Colfax the devil monster he desired, though maybe not in the manner he was expecting.
Walk your dog to your local comic shop (or catch up by clicking here) for this worthy conclusion to one of the most lovable and creative comics on the internet.
DC UNIVERSE BY NEIL GAIMAN DELUXE EDITION HC
(By Neil Gaiman, Andy Kubert, Michael Allred, Kevin Nowlan, Mark Buckingham, and Simon Bisley. October 12 from DC)
Despite making a name for himself writing comics, it’s an all too rare occasion that you see Neil Gaiman’s name on a comic book these days (not counting adaptions of his work, lke the just-announced American Gods series). Fortunately, DC is here to scratch your Gaiman comic itch with a new collection reprinting some of the acclaimed author’s lesser known stories for the publisher.
My personal favorite story in this collection is the Metamorpho story from Wednesday Comics, which is a colorful, pulpy tale that sends the hero on a whimsical throwback adventure, racing other element-people through a jungle temple, in search of the mysterious Star of Atlantis. The story is wonderfully illustrated by Mike Allred (Silver Surfer), who is only one of the line-up of the artistic heavy-hitters featured in the collection. Other tales include a Poison Ivy origin story illustrated by Mark Buckingham (Fables), a eulogy for Batman called “Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?”, and a lost Superman/Green Lantern team-up. This is a must-read collection for superhero fans and for followers of Gaiman’s work.
VOTE LOKI TP
(By Christopher Hastings and Langdon Foss. October 5 from Marvel)
Since the formative days of the Marvel Universe, it has defined itself by trying to be “the world outside your window.” The Marvel characters would often deal with prevalent social or political issues of the day, taking advantage of the immediacy of comics to (sometime clumsily) comment on the state of affairs.
But this year, Marvel decided to throw all that out the window and have an actual super-villain — some might even say the physical manifestation of evil — run for president. I know, it’s crazy, right?
In this hilarious and surprisingly smart story, Loki decides to put his patented trickster charm to use on the biggest stage in the world, and the only person standing in his way is Nisa Contreras, a former Daily Bugle reporter who had her home destroyed as a child in a superhero battle against a previous incarnation of Loki. She uses her reporting skills to investigate Loki, hoping to find out his true intentions, before it’s too late for the country, and the world. Though it’s certainly not a work of escapism, Vote Loki should be required reading for all comics fans this election season.