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Books To Read: Best Graphic Novels:

June 2015

To quote Boom Studios’ Tenth Anniversary pledge, here are my recommendations for June 2015 titles that are really “pushing comics forward”. It’s great to welcome back Hewlett and Martin reunited on their big-booted shero Tank Girl (above). The manga master of modern J-Horror Junji Ito is set to chill your early summer days in Fragments of Horror (wraparound original Japanese cover below), in contrast to the sensitive silent world of Chinese visual storyteller Daishu Ma. Leah Hayes addresses abortion in America today while Mark Waid and J.G. Jones look back to the country’s legacy of racism. Reflecting the usual eclectic international mixture, this month’s PG Tips offer challenging subjects like the Nanjing Massacre or suicide bombing in Israel alongside delightful comedy and the strangest of fantasies. So which ones here are you looking forward to most? Join me every month to look ahead at the shapes of comics to come… 

8House: Arclight #1
by Brendan Graham & Marian Churchland

The publisher says:
A lady of the blood house has had her mind trapped in a strange alien root-body. She’s hiding on the outskirts of her kingdom until she learns that the alien monster pretending to be her has returned. The first issue of a shared fantasy universe. Sharp genderqueer knights, blood magic, music, dancing, and a goose. 32pgs colour comic book. Comic Book Resources have some visual previews here…

21st Century Tank Girl #1 (of 3)
by Alan Martin, Jamie Hewlett & others
Titan Comics

The publisher says:
Jamie Hewlett returns to Tank Girl. After a break of 20 years, artist extraordinaire Jamie Hewlett (Gorillaz) is leaping back on the Tank Girl wagon, re-teaming with series co-creator Alan Martin to bring you a whole new take on the foul-mouthed, gun toting, swill-swigging hellion. Featuring riotous 100% original content from Hewlett & Martin along with contributions from a host of series stalwarts and newcomers including Jim Mahfood, Brett Parsons (below), Philip Bond, Jonathan Edwards, Warwick Johnson-Cadwell and Craig Knowles, get your head down, put your hands over your private parts, and prepare for a chaotic collection of strips, pin-ups, and random carnage. 32pgs colour comic book.

American Barbarian: The Complete Series
by Tom Scioli

The publisher says:
Presenting the first-ever collection of American Barbarian. A red-white-and-blue-haired hero must defend a post-post-apocalyptic world from the immortal Two-Tank Omen. Conceived and executed as only Scoli can, American Barbarian stretches the comics medium to its limits. It tells the complete tale of Meric, the last American, on a revenge quest across the POST-post-apocalyptic landscape of New Earthea. The half-tank/half-mummy Two-Tank Omen murdered Meric’s family and payback is due. The young barbarian will fight every zombie, mutant motorcycle gang, and robosaur (robotic dinosaur) if that’s what it takes to keep the American Dream alive. This new edition from IDW Publishing collects the complete series with exclusive, behind-the-scenes bonus material and an all-new introduction by comics legend Rob Liefeld. A pop art odyssey from the artist and co-author of Transformers vs. G.I.Joe. 256pgs colour hardcover. Read pages online here…

Bacchus Omnibus Edition Vol. 1
by Eddie Campbell
Top Shelf/IDW

The publisher says:
In Bacchus, the visionary behind From Hell (with Alan Moore) and ALEC: The Years Have Pants presents his version of “an American-style comic book,” filtered through his own brilliant, whimsical, and wide-ranging sensibility. With a fine blend of action, comedy, suspense, and an ear for a great story, Bacchus brings the gods and myths of ancient Greece to modern life, as if they had never left. Nearly 600-pages, this deluxe volume collects the first half of the Bacchus saga, including Immortality Isn’t Forever, The Gods of Business, Doing the Islands with Bacchus, The Eyeball Kid: One Man Show, and Earth, Water, Air & Fire, with new notes and commentary by the author. 576pgs B&W paperback. Sequential has samplers for their digital volumes here…

by Jason Little
Uncivilized Books

The publisher says:
Borb by Jason Little (Shutterbug Follies, Motel Art Improvement Service) is the story of Borb, a severely alcoholic homeless man. Borb is a downtrodden urban Candide whose misfortunes pile up at an alarming rate. The narrative is presented as a series of daily newspaper strips as the author draws on the long and complex tradition of the comic strip slapstick vagabond archetype. At once hilarious, horrifying, and full or heart, Borb depicts the real horrors specific to present-day urban homelessness. Borb is Little’s most complex and challenging work. Jason Little studied photography at Oberlin College, and now resides in Brooklyn with writer Myla Goldberg and their daughter Zelie Goldberg-Little. He has been drawing cartoons since he was a child. In addition to acclaimed Shutterbug Follies and Motel Art Improvement Service, he also created the Xeric Award–winning Jack’s Luck Runs Out, as well as a number of short works for various cartoon anthologies. 96pgs B&W hardcover. Act-I-Vate have some chapters online here…

Bravo for Adventure
by Alex Toth

The publisher says:
Alex Toth’s magnum opus, collected in its entirety for the first time ever. This deluxe hardcover edition contains all three of The Genius’s stories starring Jesse Bravo, knock-about pilot and reluctant swashbuckler, including the original graphic novel that’s been out of print for 30 years. Also included are never-before-seen pencil roughs, preliminary drawings, and story fragments, as well as Toth’s own coloring samples for an edition that never saw print and, freed from storage after 40 years, some of the coloring for what was intended to be Bravo’s original 1975 first printing in France. The ultimate Bravo for Adventure, published by special arrangement with the Toth family. 100pgs part-colour hardcover. Some of Toth’s annotated pages are online here…

Cursed Pirate Girl Annual #1
by Jeremy Bastian

The publisher says:
Jeremy Bastian’s intricate artwork is unlike anything in modern comics, and his first Cursed Pirate Girl graphic novel has garnered wide critical acclaim. Now he’s back to bring readers the next chapter of the Cursed Pirate Girl’s adventures in this over-sized annual in the vein of Alice in Wonderland meets 19th-century political cartoons. The fiery Cursed Pirate Girl and the young Apollonia continue their search for the pirate girl’s father, one of the pirate captains of the dreaded Omerta Seas. This is the first annual installment of Volume 2 of Cursed Pirate Girl with 52 pages of all-new story. 56pgs B&W paperback.

Damocles Vol. 1: Bodyguards
by Joël Callède & Alain Henriet

The publisher says:
In a future where kidnapping has become a severe threat, the Damocles agency’s mission specializes in protecting the rich and powerful. London, the near future. Ever-increasing social inequalities have seen the birth of a flourishing kidnapping industry. To counter such a constant, overhanging threat, private security companies employing highly trained bodyguards have sprung into existence. Ellie Braxton works for the Damocles agency, the most renowned of those companies. Tasked with protecting the son of an important British industry magnate, she and her team find themselves faced with terribly efficient and remarkably motivated opponents… 48pgs colour paperback.

by Jeremy Baum

The publisher says:
A woman wreaks havoc in Jeremy Baum’s dystopic, debut graphic novel. Set in a dystopian future, alternating between current time and flashbacks, between an urban environment and a natural landscape, Dörfler is as much about space and time as it is about the characters who inhabit the two milieux. Strange inter-dimensional creatures live in the ancient lands of the Northern Mountains, where electronic and engine powered machinery is rendered inoperable. The city is a police state where the military subjects its citizens to experiments that turn memory and identity into malleable, political tools. While one woman wreaks havoc against the totalitarian state in revenge for what they’d done to her, two lovers wander through the Northern Mountains trying to distinguish between real and false memories. The towering landscapes, reflected in the very dimensions of the book itself, play an important role in the story—dizzying skyscrapers of rock formations and trees in contrast to the desolate, vertiginous cityscape that looks like a decaying version of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. A bold and sure to be talked-about debut graphic novel. 96pgs colour hardcover. The Comics Journal has a review of Baum’s previous work here…

Fragments of Horror
by Junji Ito
Viz Signature

The publisher says:
A new collection of delightfully macabre tales from a master of horror manga. An old wooden mansion that turns on its inhabitants. A dissection class with a most unusual subject. A funeral where the dead are definitely not laid to rest. Ranging from the terrifying to the comedic, from the erotic to the loathsome, these stories showcase Junji Ito’s long-awaited return to the world of horror. 224pgs B&W hardcover.

by Will Exley
Nobrow Press

The publisher says:
Abandoned by his friends, one young boy goes searching for fun—and finds a golem on the hunt for the same. But as the two go about living out their dreams of having the best summer ever, the boy realizes that golems don’t know how to take it easy. To save his town, he’ll have to get his new friend under control. William Exley has exhibited across the United Kingdom and has been widely commissioned to create gig posters and record covers for bands. He has worked on editorial features for publications including Time Out London and Little White Lies. 24pgs colour saddlestitch comic in the 17x23 series. Down The Tubes have reviewed and previewed this here…

by Daishu Ma

The publisher says:
A brightly glowing leaf effects change in this wordless graphic novel. How much power does a single man, let alone a single leaf, have in the industrial world? In this wordless, all-ages graphic novel, our protagonist discovers a leaf that radiates a vibrant light. He returns to a detailed metropolis — depicted in somber greys and blues — and searches for answers. During his quest, he stumbles upon a man who knows what’s really happening in the city’s labyrinthine ducts; a woman who spends her life studying and classifying obsolete flora; and the truth about the ever-dwindling environment. Leaf is a graphically stunning story that unfolds with a dream-like pace. Shaded in pencil and punctuated by spot colors, drawn in a delicate but concretely realized tonal approach reminiscent of Shaun Tan’s The Arrival and Chris Van Allsburg’s Jumanji, Chinese cartoonist Daishu Ma’s first foray onto American shelves is ultimately a hopeful vision of the coexistence of the urban and natural worlds. 96pgs colour hardcover. Interview with Daishu Ma on Chuina Radio International’s site here…

Mike’s Place: A True Story of Love, Blues, and Terror in Tel Aviv
by Jack Baxter, Joshua Faudem & Koren Shadmi
First Second

The publisher says:
Mike’s Place was one of the few spots in Tel Aviv where Jews, Christians, and Muslims could hang out peaceably, surrounded by the expats who filled the bar every night. It was a cosmopolitan haven from the conflict, a local gem that many pointed to as a hopeful sign that peace could come to the Middle East after all. In the spring of 2003, filmmakers Jack Baxter and Josh Faudem had just begun making a documentary about the phenomenon of Mike’s Place. And then the bar was destroyed in a suicide bombing that took three lives and wounded another fifty people – an attack that changed Jack and Josh’s lives forever. 192pgs B&W hardcover. Read the first eight pages here…

Munnu: A Boy From Kashmir
by Malik Sajad
Fourth Estate

The publisher says:

A beautifully drawn graphic novel that illuminates the conflicted land of Kashmir, through a young boy’s childhood. Seven-year-old Munnu is growing up in Indian-administered Kashmir. Life revolves around his family: Mama, Papa, sister Shahnaz, brothers Adil and Akhtar and, his favourite, older brother Bilal. It also revolves around Munnu’s two favourite things – sugar and drawing. But Munnu’s is a childhood experienced against the backdrop of conflict. Bilal’s classmates are crossing over into the Pakistan-administered portion of Kashmir to be trained to resist the ‘occupation’; Papa and Bilal are regularly taken by the military to identification parades where informers will point out ‘terrorists’; Munnu’s school is closed; close neighbours are killed and the homes of Kashmiri Hindu families lie abandoned, as once close, mixed communities have ruptured under the pressure of Kashmir’s divisions. Munnu is an amazingly personal insight into everyday life in Kashmir. Closely based on Malik Sajad’s own childhood and experiences, it is a beautiful, evocatively drawn graphic novel that questions every aspect of the Kashmir situation – the faults and responsibilities of every side, the history of the region, the role of Britain and the West, the possibilities for the future. It opens up the story of this contested and conflicted land, while also giving a brilliantly close, funny and warm-hearted portrait of a boy’s childhood and coming-of-age. 288pgs B&W hardcover. Fourth Estate have an interview with Sajad and previews here…

Nanjing: The Burning City
by Ethan Young
Dark Horse

The publisher says:
After the bombs fell and shook the walls of Nanjing, the Imperial Japanese Army entered and seized the Chinese capital. Through the dust of the demolished buildings, screams echo off the rubble. Two abandoned Chinese soldiers are trapped and desperately outnumbered inside the walled city. What they’ll encounter will haunt them. But in the face of horror, they’ll learn that resistance and bravery cannot be destroyed by the enemy. Ethan Young (Tails) delves into World War II’s forgotten tragedy, the devastating Japanese invasion of Nanjing, and tells a heart-wrenching tale of war, loss, and defiance. 224pgs B&W hardcover. Heidi MacDonald on The Comics Beat has preview pages…

Not Funny Ha-Ha: A Handbook For Something Hard
by Leah Hayes

The publisher says:
This nonjudgmental, even humorous, graphic work of nonfiction follows two women through the abortion process. Not Funny Ha-Ha is a bold, slightly wry graphic novel illustrating the lives of two young women from different cultural, family, and financial backgrounds who go through two different abortions (medical and surgical). It follows them through the process of choosing a clinic, reaching out to friends, partners, and/or family, and eventually the procedure(s) itself. It simply shows what happens when a woman goes through it, no questions asked. Despite the fact that so many women and girls have abortions every day, in every city, all around us, it can be a lonely experience. Not Funny Ha-Ha is a little bit technical, a little bit moving, and often funny, in a format uniquely suited to communicate. The book is meant to be a non-judgmental, comforting, even humorous look at what a woman can go through during an abortion. Although the subject matter is heavy, the illustrations are light. The author takes a step back from putting forth any personal opinion whatsoever, simply laying out the events and possible emotional repercussions that could, and often do occur. 148pgs colour hardcover. Here’s The Huffington Post‘s feature on the book…

Pope Hats #4
by Ethan Rilly
AdHouse Books

The publisher says:
A special full-colour issue of Rilly’s moody and meditative short stories. Follow the troubled parents of “The Nest,” the forceful artist of “Stained Glass,” and loneliness in a scorched-earth colony in “The Hollow”–plus an actual letters page and more. Rilly’s Frances-and-Vickie story will return in the next issue. For now, grab this bold new work in the series that received the Ignatz Award for Outstanding Comic and Doug Wright Spotlight Award. 32pgs colour comic book. Download a colour pdf preview here…

Reckless Life: The Guns ‘N’ Roses Graphic Novel
by Jim McCarthy & Marc Olivent

The publisher says:
From the writer of Gabba Gabba Hey! The Graphic Story of The Ramones and Metallica Nothing Else Matters comes an explosive new graphic novel about The Most Dangerous Band in the World, Guns ‘N’ Roses. Having sold over 100 million albums, recorded the most expensive album ever, endlessly courted controversy with their lyrics and a full-on hedonistic lifestyle, Guns N’ Roses are well acquainted with rock ‘n’ roll excess. And it’s all here: the feud between Axl Rose and Kurt Cobain, the riots during concerts, Rose’s interest in Charles Manson, the acrimonious departure of Slash from the band, the inevitable drugs and groupies and, of course, the music. Marc Olivent’s stunning artwork and Jim McCarthy’s incisive script perfectly capture the rollercoaster tale of Axl Rose, Slash, Izzy Stradlin, Duff McKagan, Steve Adler and the many others who have passed through the Metallica story. 160pgs B&W paperback.

Sithrah: Kingdom of the Air
by Jason Brubaker
Coffee Table Comics

The publisher says:
Nirvana Page wanted to see the world. Traveling by private seaplane with her father on their annual vacation, together they explore exotic places and discover remarkable wildlife, and even if it’s only for a few days, she gets everything a seven-year-old girl could hope for. That is, until a mysterious force crashes their plane, separating Nirvana from her dad, and stranding her in a strange and unfamiliar land. It’s there she encounters Sithrah—a mysterious being who could hold the key to finding her father—and begins a grand and perilous adventure that will bring her to the end of the world and beyond! Sithrah is an all-ages book embracing a mixture of comic art and prose in a way that has never been done before. 96pgs colour hardcover. Check out Brubaker’s promo video here… and plenty of his preview extracts here…

Strange Fruit #1 (of 4)
by Mark Waid & J.G. Jones
Boom Studio

The publisher says:
Two of the industry’s most respected and prolific creators come together for the first time in a deeply personal passion project. J.G. Jones (52, Wanted, Y: The Last Man) and Mark Waid (Irredeemable, Superman: Birthright, Kingdom Come) take on a powerful, beautifully painted story set during the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. Strange Fruit is a challenging, provocative examination of the heroic myth confronting the themes of racism, cultural legacy, and human nature through a literary lens, John Steinbeck’s classic novel, Of Mice and Men. It’s 1927 in the town of Chatterlee, Mississippi, drowned by heavy rains. The Mississippi River is rising, threatening to break open not only the levees, but also the racial and social divisions of this former plantation town. A fiery messenger from the skies heralds the appearance of a being, one that will rip open the tensions in Chatterlee. Savior, or threat? It depends on where you stand. All the while, the waters are still rapidly rising… 32pgs colour comic book. Comic Book Resources offer an illustrated interview with Waid and Jones here…

The Definitive Betty Boop
by The Max Fleischer Studio
Titan Comics

The publisher says:
Before Marilyn and Madonna, Betty booped and wriggled her way into hearts worldwide with her unique mix of wide-eyed innocence and powerful cartoon sensuality. Although she made her film debut as a curvaceous canine cabaret singer in the Max Fleischer short Dizzy Dishes on August 9, 1930, Betty Boop remains animation’s first leading lady and a glamorous international icon. This beautiful volume collects Betty’s adventures as they appeared in the funny pages of daily newspapers in the 1930’s, capturing all the cheeky fun embodied by the character. 208pgs colour paperback.

The Hic Hoc Illustrated Journal of Humor Vol. 1: The United States
edited by Lauren Barnett & Nate Bulmer
Alternative Comics

The publisher says:
Edited by ambulatory laff factories Lauren Barnett (Me Likes You Very Much) and Nathan Bulmer (Eat More Bikes), the first volume of an anticipated 196 volume series of the best of funny comics throughout the world features the likes of Phil McAndrew, Box Brown, Madéleine Flores, Zac Gorman, KC Green, Dustin Harbin, Jane Mai, Dakota McFadzean, Matt Wiegle, and Joe Lambert, who did the stunning cover. 64pgs B&W paperback.

The Land of Lines
by Victor Hussenot

The publisher says:
In the land of lines, anything is possible: the connection between a boy and a girl from different worlds, the potential for self-discovery, and the vanquishing of a monster. While exploring mysterious terrain, the characters cascade down geometric cliffs and mountains, navigating the unknown and finding their potential. Readers will immerse themselves in this engaging wordless graphic novel that captures the timeless heroic journey and celebrates the power of art. 44pgs colour paperback. Hussenot has posted a few interior pages here…

The League of Regrettable Superheroes
by Jonathan Morris
Quirk Books

The publisher says:
You know about Batman, Superman, and Spiderman, but have you heard of Doll Man, Doctor Hormone, or Spider Queen? In The League of Regrettable Superheroes, you’ll meet one hundred of the strangest superheroes ever to see print, complete with backstories, vintage art, and colorful commentary. So prepare yourself for such not-ready-for-prime-time heroes as Bee Man (Batman, but with bees), the Clown (circus-themed crimebuster), the Eye (a giant, floating eyeball; just accept it), and many other oddballs and oddities. Drawing on the entire American history of the medium, The League of Regrettable Superheroes will appeal to die-hard comics fans, casual comics readers, and anyone who enjoys peering into the stranger corners of pop culture. 256pgs part-colour hardcover. Get a flavour here on Morris’s blog Gone & Forgotten

The Prince
by Niccolò Machiavelli & Morim Kang

The publisher says:
Experience Niccolo Machiavelli’s complete masterpiece The Prince in this unique blending of European and Korean sensibilities. Created by celebrated writer Morim Kang, this volume features over 200 pages of beautifully illustrated comics alongside Machiavelli’s masterful blueprint to destroy one’s enemies. After the Medici dynasty of Florence forced Niccolo Machiavelli from office, the impoverished man sought to win back their favor by writing for them the perfect instruction manual to seize and hold political power. Together, Machiavelli and Morim Kang, author of 10, 20 and 30, have written a volume for you! Never before has learning to be ruthless been more fun and easy! 368pgs colour paperback. FanGirlNation have a review and previews here…

Posted: March 29, 2015


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1001 Comics  You Must Read Before You Die edited by Paul Gravett