Many comic books are the product of a collaboration between writer and artist, synthesizing their talents into a singular vision. But sometimes that singular vision, and those talents, all come in a single package. The cartoonist that proves themselves a true jack-of-all-trades is a rarity, but this month sees the release of a number of graphic novel projects by just those kinds of creators. From cartoonists born of the newspaper strip tradition like Tom Gauld and Berkeley Breathed to webcomic artists like Tom Parkinson-Morgan, nearly half the comics that made the September must-buy list were one-person shows.
But regardless of how many people you like making your comics, there’s a fantastic new read for everybody this month. I know it can sometimes be hard to narrow down your options or intimidating to know where to start, so I’ve used my 6 years of experience recommending graphic novels from behind the counter of one of Oregon’s oldest comic shops to bring you the best of the best. Whether you’re in the market for science fiction, crime, humor, superheroes, Shakespeare, or anything in between, there’s a book on this list for you.
Did we miss any books you can’t wait for? Let us know what you’ll be reading this month in the comments below!
(By Tom Gauld. September 21 from Drawn and Quarterly)
I first became aware of Mooncop back in May when Drawn & Quarterly released an excerpt from the graphic novel as their offering for Free Comic Book Day, and it was my favorite FCBD book of the year. Now, the full-length graphic novel from The Guardian cartoonist Tom Gauld is about to arrive, and I’m ecstatic to read the rest.
Mooncop is the melancholy story of the last police officer on a lunar colony whose resources and population have slowly been leaving for greener pastures. Gauld’s simple but emotionally-evocative cartooning breathes life, deadpan humor, and a sense of hope in the face of the inevitable into the officer and the few people left in his orbit. In the FCBD excerpt, the cop helps an old woman — one of the colony’s original design team — find her runaway dog, and she says to him “Living on the moon. Whatever were we thinking? It seems rather silly now.” But the humble policeman replies “Not to me. I think what you did was wonderful.” Slice-of-life science fiction and masterful cartooning make this a can’t-miss release from one of comics’ most innovative publishers.
POWER MAN AND IRON FIST, VOL. 1: THE BOYS ARE BACK IN TOWN TP
(By David Walker, Sanford Greene and Flaviano. September 21 from Marvel)
Luke Cage and Danny Rand are one of the most beloved best-buddy duos in superhero comics, but both of them have both come a long way as characters since their first run of team-ups in Power Man and Iron Fist. Luke has become a father and husband, and Danny has had numerous revelations about the nature of K’un Lun and his power as the Iron Fist. Friends reuniting after growing in different directions can be tough, and it’s out of that dynamic that this new wonderful new volume of Power Man and Iron Fist was born.
Writer David Walker (Nighthawk) has updated the dynamic between two characters with roots in outdated stereotypes and fleshed them out into a friendship that feels genuine and interesting in its tension and its earnestness. Meanwhile, artist Sanford Greene (Secret Wars: Runaways) has crafted a look for the mean streets of 21st century New York City that pays homage to the character’s genre roots while feeling modern and distinctly Marvel. These alleys, dive bars and pawn shops are populated by a cast of characters that are bursting with energy and personality regardless of the color of their skin, and it makes the Marvel Universe feel like a much more inclusive and interesting place. Danny and Luke find themselves in conflict with foes like Black Mariah, Tombstone and Manslaughter Marsdale for one of the cleverest, most exciting and heart-warming tales Marvel has published in years. If you’re looking for the perfect book to scratch your Luke Cage itch after you’ve binged the show later this month, this is it.
ANGEL CATBIRD, VOL. 1 HC
(By Margaret Atwood, Johnnie Christmas and Tamra Bonvillain. September 6 from Dark Horse)
Angel Catbird is without a doubt the month’s most highly-publicized release, and for good reason: This pulp and superhero-inspired tale springs from the Booker Award-winning mind of Margaret Atwood, the author of The Handmaid’s Tale. Presumably looking to replicate their previous success with acclaimed novelists after Chuck Palahniuk smash-hit Fight Club 2, Dark Horse Books will publish the first of a planned trilogy of original graphic novels by Atwood, illustrated by Sheltered artist Johnnie Christmas. But unlike Palahniuk’s novel sequel, Angel Catbird is both a wholly original idea and an all-ages title.
When a young man is caught up in an accident involving a cat, a bird, and an experimental gene-splicing formula, he unexpectedly finds himself mutated into a creature that combines the DNA of all three of them. The book’s editor, Daniel Chabon, described the book as equal parts Will Eisner’s The Spirit, Grant Morrison’s Animal Man and Marvel smash-hit Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, meaning that readers can expect a weird, pulpy story full of action and laughs. And if all that isn’t reason enough, the project is also working with Nature Canada’s Keep Cats Safe and Save Bird Lives initiative to raise awareness for animal conservation efforts. A good cause, a great author, and a bizarre original concept should put Angel Catbird at the top of everyone’s September reading list.
PRINCE OF CATS HC
(By Ronald Wimberly. September 28 from Image)
Drop the mic and draw your sword, because you’re getting a second chance to read Ronald Wimberly’s Romeo and Juliet remix, Prince of Cats. Originally published by Vertigo in 2012, this original graphic novel was criminally under-printed and is now getting a second chance to find its audience at Image Comics.
This genre-bending tale takes the Bard’s most famous play and sets it to a new beat, placing it in an alternate 1980s New York that moves to the rhythm of The Warriors, classic samurai films, and period hip-hop. The retelling of the tragic romance keeps the characters and iambic pentameter, but shifts the perspective, finding its lead in the antagonist, Tybalt. The Montagues and the Capulets have never looked better than under the pen of Wimberly, whose character designs drip attitude and style, and whose dynamic lines and shadows evoke anime like Afro Samurai. Don’t sleep through your chance to read Prince of Cats with this newly remastered edition.
THE CREEPY CASE FILES OF MARGO MALOO HC
(By Drew Weing. September 14 from First Second)
Moving to a new city can be nerve-wracking regardless of your age, but it’s especially scary as a kid. That’s why the last thing Charles wanted to learn about his new him home in Echo City is that it’s infested with monsters. Luckily for him, Margo Maloo, monster mediator, is on the case. Charles, a curious kid with a passion for journalism, is immediately intrigued by the mysterious Margo, who knows just what to do about the troll in his closet, the ghost in the abandoned printing press, and the baby ogre Charles is framed for kidnapping.
The Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo is a whimsical and incredibly fun original graphic novel both written and lavishly illustrated by Drew Weing (Set to Sea), who utilizes the book’s landscape format to let readers get lost in the shadowy corners of Echo City. The cartooning is charming and expressive, a unique, timeless mix of traditional comics, strips, and animation that will immediately earn Charles and Margo a place in your heart—and on your bookshelf.
KILL SIX BILLION DEMONS, BOOK 1 TP
(By Tom Parkinson-Morgan. September 7 from Image)
College student Allison Ruth was just trying to get laid, but instead, she found herself with an ancient treasure embedded in her forehead, adventuring across a bizarre hellscape with an angel. Kill Six Billion Demons is a story with wild, over-the-top action set in a meticulously-designed demonic super-metropolis called Throne that is built atop dead gods and located at the center of all universes, and if she wants to return home, Allison will have to overthrow its seven terrifying rulers.
This volume collects the first arc of the bizarre and entrancing webcomic that writer-artist Tom Parkinson-Morgan has been creating since 2013. The mythology and history of Throne is an astonishingly detailed blend of Hindu, Taoist, Abrahamic and other mythologies and philosophies that create something largely its own, and wholly engrossing. There are a lot of demons to kill, so don’t get left behind.
DIVINITY II TP
(By Matt Kindt and Trevor Hairsine. September 7 from Valiant)
The first volume of Divinity asked readers: what if someone had the power of God, and what if that person was a communist? And now, Matt Kindt (Mind MGMT) and Trevor Hairsine (Wisdom) have returned for a second volume that asks an even more terrifying question: what if there was another one?
Valentina Volkov was one of three Soviet cosmonauts sent on a top-secret mission to the edge of universe during the height of the Cold War. In the first volume, her comrade Abram was granted seemingly limitless power over the very fabric of reality, and returned to Earth, leaving her and their dying third crew member stranded at the farthest reaches of the universe. Now, she’s been granted power of her own, and she’s returning to modern-day Earth to remake it into the future she’d been promised as a child in the USSR — and to kill Abram, if she can.
Divinity is the first completely original concept to come out of the new Valiant, and is also one of their most mind-blowing titles, making it a perfect place to jump into the highest-quality shared universe in comics.
DOCTOR STRANGE OMNIBUS, VOL. 1 HC
(By Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. September 21 from Marvel)
You may have heard of a little movie coming out starring Benedict Cumberbatch called Doctor Strange. If you’re anything like me, the trailers have you so excited that you could break the Crimson Bands of Cytorrak and you need some Strange to tide you over. Luckily, Marvel has you covered with a massive magical tome to transport you back to where it all began.
This omnibus collects the first three years of Doctor Strange comics by his creators Stan Lee and Steve Ditko (assisted in some later issues by legendary writers Roy Thomas and Denny O’Neil), from the Strange Tales anthology, beginning with the doc’s 1963 debut in #110. The issues that follow introduce mainstays to Dr. Strange’s cast and the Marvel Universe, such as Wong, Clea, Dormammu, Baron Mordo, The Ancient One, Eternity, the Mindless Ones, and much more. Steve Ditko’s art is a one-of-a-kind journey through early-sixties psychedelia that combines elements of Salvador Dali and M.C. Escher into a trippy extra-dimensional geometry that you can already see evidence of all over the trailers for the new movie. Anyone wanting to know more about Stephen Strange or about a fascinating and influential moment in comic book history shouldn’t miss this huge 456-page collection.
BLOOM COUNTY EPISODE XI A NEW HOPE TPB
(By Berkeley Breathed. September 14 from IDW)
While some of the characters from Berkeley Breathed’s Pulitzer-winning comic strip Bloom County appeared in the funny pages as recently as 2008 in Opus, the strip itself hadn’t been published in over twenty five years. But in the middle of July of last year, something magical happened: Opus woke up. In a post to his Facebook page, Breathed revealed the first strip in a new run of Bloom County, which reintroduced Milo and Opus to the world (and established that Opus’ self-titled strip had been a lengthy dream sequence). After explaining the new world of 2015 to Opus—specifically teaching him how, and how not, to use the internet—the strip continued right on satirizing some of the things that Breathede hadn’t since the '80s, like Donald Trump and Star Wars. Breathed has been using the new digital medium to cut loose formally, occasionally adding splashes of color to strips that would’ve been forced to be black-and-white in newspapers, meaning Bloom County has never looked better. Now IDW is bringing the new strips to print for the first time, ready to sit next to the rest of your classic Bloom County collections on your shelf.
POISON IVY: CYCLE OF LIFE OF DEATH TP
(By Amy Chu, Clay Mann, Ethan Van Sciver and more. September 7 from DC)
A hero is only as good as his villains, is the old adage, and Batman certainly has a lot of good villains. But not all of them have got their share of time in the spotlight, and none have been more deserving of a turn as the star as Poison Ivy. Now, after 50 years bringing Mother Nature back to Gotham City, Pamela Isley finally has her own miniseries, Poison Ivy: Cycle of Life and Death, all six issues of which are collected in this new paperback volume.
Ivy proves herself a worthy and complex protagonist in this tale, which features the villainess attempting to reform and put her genius to good use at the Gotham Botanical Gardens. But when one of her coworkers turns up dead, Pamela is forced to walk on both sides of the law once again in order to find the murderer and to protect her own dangerous research.
Writer Amy Chu (Alpha Girl Comics) really digs into Poison Ivy’s tendency to isolate herself and her difficulty relating to normal people, all while growing her cast and narrative potential. The artwork—the majority of which is by Clay Mann (Ninjak)—perfectly captures Ivy’s allure and power, and compliments her with lushly rendered vegetation. Anyone who loves the rogues of Gotham needs to add this story of one of its deadliest members to their collection.
THE FIX, VOL. 1 TP
(By Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber. September 14 from Image)
Nick Spencer has been all over the comics news cycle thanks to his politically-charged run on Captain America: Sam Wilson and more recently by making Sam’s predecessor hail Hydra, but sadly, it’s all been about the wrong book. Sure, his Captain America books are solid, but the best book Nick Spencer is writing right now isn’t at Marvel, and it’s far more incendiary than they are.
Image Comics’ The Fix sees Spencer reunite with his Superior Foes of Spider-Man collaborator Steve Lieber for a tale of crime, corruption and utter depravity that you have to read to believe. The series stars two terrible Los Angeles police officers who are determined to scam their way into a movie deal based on their half-real exploits. Along the way, they’ll have to keep the local unhinged crimelords happy, take a bullet for the team, frame a fellow officer, babysit a drunken starlet, and somehow earn the trust of their nemesis, Pretzels, the police dog. Lieber’s side-splittingly funny cartooning and Spencer’s razor-sharp ear for dialogue mesh seamlessly for a raucous crime romp that will have readers drawing comparisons to the movies of Shane Black and Quentin Tarantino. This comic is completely out of control, and you’ll love every panel of it.