As the end of summer’s long shadow inches ever closer, so too grows the stack of amazing graphic novels that must be read! This August sees the release of an incredible lineup of books that offer something for readers of all shapes and sizes. Whether you’re looking for fiction or nonfiction, young or mature readers, superhero, sci-fi, horror or anything in between, you’re sure to find something to love. I’ve used my 6-plus years of experience pushing panels from behind the counter of central Oregon’s best comic book store to comb through the month’s releases to bring you the very best hardcovers (HC), trade paperbacks (TP), collections and original graphic novels that you can’t afford to pass up.
Any releases you’re looking forward to that I missed? Spread the word on your favorites in the comment section below. Happy reading!
BLACK PANTHER, VOL 1: A NATION UNDER OUR FEET TP
(By Ta-Nehisi Coates, Brian Stelfreeze and Laura Martin. August 31 from Marvel)
Black Panther has always been one of my favorite superheroes, and so it’s been a thrill to see his profile be raised in such a monumental way this year. Fans are jumping on the T’Challa train like never before thanks to Chadwick Boseman’s movie-stealing performance, but also in no small part because of this smash-hit new ongoing series from National Book Award winner Ta-Nehisi Coates and veteran artist Brian Stelfreeze (Day Men). The series garnered a lot of attention upon announcement, and has fortunately lived up to the hype.
Coates brings revolution to Wakanda in his philosophically and politically poignant story. In the first four issues of the series collected here, we witness a country spiraling into chaos and its leader trying to find the balance between stopping it and doing the right thing for his people. Wakanda and its inhabitants have never looked better than they do under the pen of Brian Stelfreeze, who brings a realistic weight to the geometric and dynamic Kirby-inspired characters and architecture while using a heavy shadow that creates a compelling visual tension between the king and his gleaming city. Also included in this not-to-be-missed collection is Fantastic Four #52, the Stan Lee and Jack Kirby tale that first introduced the groundbreaking character to readers 50 years ago. Marvel fans, superhero fans and fans of action-packed, topical comic books can’t miss this one.
(By Kim W. Anderson. August 24 from Dark Horse)
This 2012 graphic novel from Swedish creator Kim W. Anderson (Love Hurts) has already enjoyed a lot of success outside the U.S., having won the top honor in Swedish comics, The Adamson Statue, and been adapted into a critically-lauded Swedish film. The movie just recently came to American shores at the Santa Barbara Film Festival, and now the graphic novel is following suit, with an American edition of the book being published by Dark Horse.
Alena is the story of a girl of the same name who has transferred to terrifyingly preppy boarding school, where she quickly became the preferred target of the school’s bullies. To make matters worse, Alena’s best friend Josephine insists that she fight back before Josephine is forced to fight back for her. Oh, and Josephine is dead. Romance, horror, and a bit of lacrosse make Alena the perfect choice for a summer spine-chiller.
(By Rick Remender, Jonathan Wayshak and Jordan Boyd. August 10 from Dynamite)
Rick Remender has been behind some of the wildest sci-fi worlds in comics recently, with Black Science, Low, and Tokyo Ghost, and now he’s at it again with his most recent series, Devolution. The story is set in a world where evolution has done a one-eighty, leaving Earth’s population on a one-way trip back to the Paleolithic. Think Planet of the Apes, but with cavemen instead of apes, and also wooly mammoths, Nazi hillbillies, and giant spiders. The plot centers on one of the few sapiens left, Raja, who thinks that she can reverse the process if she can get to San Francisco to obtain the antidote known as DVO-8.
Remender is joined by Jonathan Wayshak (The Ferryman), whose twisted, gritty artwork perfectly captures the pain, filth and darkness of a deteriorating world. His keen eye for action and detail give this world a look and a merciless attitude that looks unlike anything else on the stands right now. Pick up this collection of the full five-issue series and experience an apocalyptic world about humanity reverting to its primal state that’s a lot more fun than the one we’re all living in.
TEEN TITANS: EARTH ONE, VOL. 2 HC
(By Jeff Lemire, Andy MacDonald and Brad Anderson. August 10 from DC)
Growing up watching the original Teen Titans cartoon, I’ve always been disappointed with how hard it’s been for the ongoing comic book series to hold my interest for more than a couple issues at a time. At least in the decade-plus I’ve been reading comics, the Titans franchise has seemed pretty aimless, with DC rarely treating it like the A-list franchise it should be. That’s why I was so happy when DC announced Teen Titans: Earth One.
The first volume in the series released in 2014 and was by the top-notch creative team of Jeff Lemire (Descender) and Terry Dodson (Princess Leia), and featured Beast Boy, Cyborg, Raven, Starfire, Terra and Jericho in a modern reimagining of their origin as both a team and individuals. The teens, most of whom attended the same high school in Monument, Oregon, discovered that they all had extraordinary abilities thanks to experiments conducted on them as children using material from the captured alien Starfire. They wrecked Project Titans, defeated this world’s version of Deathstroke, and freed Starfire, and now they’re back for more in the second volume, this time with art by Andy MacDonald (New 52: Futures End) that’s set to introduce new versions of classic Titans like Wonder Girl and Kid Flash. If you want an easily accessible and boldly creative take on these iconic characters, then look no further than Teen Titans: Earth One.
JIM HENSON’S STORYTELLER: DRAGONS HC
(By Shane-Michael Vidaurri, Kyla Vanderklugt, Matthew Dow Smith, Jeff Stokely, Daniel Bayliss, Nathan Pride, Hannah Christenson and Jorge Corona. August 3 from Archaia)
Archaia revived one of Jim Henson’s lesser-known gems The Storyteller in 2011 with their first series Witches, and now the Storyteller and his talking dog are back with stories of a more fiery variety in Dragons. This collection contains four different stories, each based on a different dragon myth from a different culture, each presented by a different creative team. First, Fabian Rangel Jr. and Daniel Bayliss take inspiration from Native American folklore to tell the tale of the Horned Snake and the Thunrderbird, then Nathan Pride writes and draws the English story of “The Worm of Lambton,” followed by Hannah Christenson putting her twist on a Russian tale of a three-headed dragon, and the book is finished off by Jorge Corona recounting “Samurai’s Sacrifice.” This collection is a wonderful blend of cultures and artistic styles sure to delight readers of all ages that want to lose themselves in classic fantasy stories.
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY GUARDIANS OF INFINITY TP
(By Dan Abnett, Carlo Barberi, and more. August 10 from Marvel)
There would never have been a Guardians of the Galaxy movie if it wasn’t for the 2008 run by writers Andy Lanning and Dan Abnett, who reinvented the team from the ground up, giving us the incarnation featuring Rocket Raccoon, Groot, and the gang that we all know and love. With this story, Dan Abnett returns to the team in a story that sees them teaming up with not only the guys the stole their name from, the original Guardians of the Galaxy, but also the mysterious team of Guardians from the year 1000!
It’s a three-way Guardians extravaganza as Rocket, Groot and Drax discover a mysterious structure jutting into our universe at the same time the other two Guardians teams find it in theirs. The teams have to team up to defeat the ship’s invasive inhabitants, known as the Newcomers. In addition to the main story, the series also features backup tales by a variety of creators, including Jason Latour (Southern Bastards), Robbie Thompson (Spider-Gwen), and Run-D.M.C.’s Darryl McDaniels that span everything from heart-string-tugging tales of Drax the Destroyer to The Thing returning to his career as a professional wrestler. A smorgasbord of all-things Guardians with a great balance of old favorites and new discoveries.
BATMAN/TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES HC
(By James Tynion IV and Freddie Williams II. August 17 from DC)
If you were a child at any point between 1984 and today, chances are I don’t really need to convince you to try this comic. Batman meeting the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is one of those pop culture “peanut butter and chocolate” combos that seem like such a natural fit for a crossover that it’s kind of shocking that it took this long for it to happen. But happen it did, as Splinter, Leonardo, Donatello, Michaelangelo and Raphael find themselves dimension-hopping over to Gotham, with Shredder and the Foot Clan not far behind them. James Tynion IV (Detective Comics) provides a fun script with just as much fanservice as you’d hope, while Freddie Williams II (Captain Atom) balances the more cartoony qualities of both franchises with their darker visuals. The result is a cohesive aesthetic that will leave you wanting more Bat/Turtle goodness—and luckily, there’s more coming, with Batman/TMNT Adventures coming later this year. So if you’re like me and want that immortal question answered—Does Batman like pizza?—then you’ve found your next favorite comic.
HELLBOY AND THE B.P.R.D.: 1953 TP
(By Mike Mignola, Chris Roberson, Ben Steinbeck, Paolo Rivera, Joe Rivera, Michael Walsh and Dave Stewart. August 10 from Dark Horse)
Recent Hellboy series have seen the demonic detective sent to Hell, and his creator Mike Mignola wrapping up his time as an artist for the character, but there are still plenty of Hellboy stories left to be told! Appropriately following up on Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.: 1952, which told the story of Hellboy’s inaugural mission as an agent, 1953 continues to flesh out the early days of the character that have only been hinted at until now.
This volume collects four short stories followed by a three-part tale, and following the precedent set with Alex Maleev (Daredevil) drawing 1952, features artwork by two fabulous artists that you might not expect to see on a Hellboy title. Ben Stenbeck is no stranger to Mignola-style horror, having illustrated Baltimore and Frankenstein Underground, but this is his first time illustrating Hellboy, and he turns in some wonderfully moody artwork for the short stories “The Phantom Hand,” “The Kelpie,” “The Witch Tree,” and “Rawhead and Bloody Bones.” This is followed by the three-part “Beyond the Fences,” masterfully illustrated by Eisner Award-winning Daredevil and The Valiant artist, Paolo Rivera. Rivera draws a much brighter Hellboy story than readers may be used to seeing, but his razor-sharp storytelling makes it a seamless transition, and he nails the story of a giant demon dog ravaging a Rockwellian California town. A great action-horror read for Hellboy fans new and old.
MARCH: BOOK THREE TP
(By John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell. August 3 from Top Shelf)
America got a reminder of what makes U.S. Representative John Lewis an American icon in June when he lead a sit-in over gun control in the House of Representatives. Now readers can go back to the beginning and see where his story began with the completion of his autobiographical graphic novel trilogy, March. Hot on the heels of an Eisner Award win for March: Book Two, the third book in the series focuses on John Lewis’ life as a young man embroiled in the Civil Rights movement and as the chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. The story of his incredible activism in the book culminates in the historic Selma to Montgomery marches in 1965, but that’s just one of the many ways in which Lewis fought for equality in the 1960s. Co-written by the Congressman’s aide Andrew Aiden and illustrated by the powerful black-and-white artwork of Nate Powell (The Silence of Our Friends), whose work combines a Joe Sacco-like journalistic eye for detail with a flair for expressive cartooning. This is an important work for the comic book medium, and also one with historical weight all its own. Pick up the individual books now, or wait for the slipcase collection of the trilogy, which releases on August 24th.
EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS’ TARZAN: THE COMPLETE JOE KUBERT YEARS TP
(By Joe Kubert and Tatjana Wood. August 3 from Dark Horse)
Tarzan has had a long and influential career in the comics medium, but in his over eighty years in comics, there are few times he was more acclaimed than when he was under the masterful pen of industry legend Joe Kubert. It’s also one of Kubert’s most fondly remembered contributions to the medium, which is really saying something for the man who redefined Hawkman, created Sgt. Rock, founded a school for comics creators, and fathered two more star comic book artists.
The omnibus puts Kubert’s entire run in one hefty package (it was previously split up into three hardcover archives), issues #207-235, which were originally published by DC Comics beginning in 1972. Kubert wrote and drew the book, bringing a keen sense of story, elegant anatomy and unparalleled sense of movement to the Lord of the Jungle. Included are Kubert’s adaptations of several of the original Edgar Rice Burroughs novels, including the original book, The Return of Tarzan, and Tarzan and the Lion Man, among many other tales. The massive collection weighs in at over 600 pages, including several essays and some of the late artist's original thumbnail layouts, and is a must-have for any collector’s bookshelf.
SPIDER-MAN/DEADPOOL, VOL 1: ISN’T IT BROMANTIC TP
(By Joe Kelly, Ed Mcguinness, Mark Morales and Jason Keith. August 31 from Marvel)
Marvel has put out a lot of quality Deadpool books this year — both due to the movie and the character’s 25th anniversary — but Spider-Man/Deadpool stands above the rest. And it’s no surprise. After all, as the creators behind Deadpool’s first ongoing series, Joe Kelly (I Kill Giants) and Ed McGuinness (Nova) are the men that made Wade Wilson the fourth wall-breaking super-satire that he is today. So who better suited to write and draw a Deadpool book teaming him up with Spider-Man? Or is that a Spider-Man book teaming him up with Deadpool…?
Kelly and McGuinness do not disappoint. They give us a Miles Morales guest-spot, a Dead-Buggy, Mysterio, the Mercs for the Money, Thor, Shiklah, and the titular heroes performing a Magic Mike routine. This book is bombastic, ridiculous, and out of frickin’ control. But at its core is a surprising amount of heart. Mysterious forces send Deadpool gunning for Spider-Man in a complicated way, and being a huge Spider-Man fan, Deadpool does as much as he can to give him the doubt, and at first Spidey wants none of it. But over the course of the insane story, they both begin to have a much deeper understanding of the other, punctuating the hilarity with genuinely touching moments of male bonding. Insert Deadpool-esque joke about “touching” and “male bonding” here.
BONE: CODA TP
(By Jeff Smith. August 3 from Cartoon Books)
Jeff Smith’s Bone was one of the quintessential comic books of my childhood, and I’m not alone in that. Thanks in large part to its popularity in—and unfortunately-frequent challenges to their inclusion in—school libraries, several generations of kids have now grown up reading the thrilling adventures of the odd little cartoon Bone brothers. Part slapstick comic strip, part high-fantasy, and part Disney cartoon, the nine volumes of Bone rank as one of the crowning achievement in kids comics. The original monthly comics ran from 1991 to 2004, and Smith has returned a handful of times to the world he created for spinoffs, short stories and prose novels, but never to continue the Bone brothers’ story in any significant way. That changes with the release of Bone: Coda, which will feature a 32-page epilogue to the Bone series picking up where the last book left off, as well as the full—and newly-illustrated—text of Stephen Weiner’s Bone Companion, which takes readers deep into the world of Bone and behind the scenes of its creation. A can’t-miss 25th anniversary celebration of one of the greatest series in comic books.