The Best Comics We Read in September 2015

This post originally appeared on Panels, which is now Book Riot Comics

wic-div-14The Wicked + The Divine #14 by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matthew Wilson, Clayton Cowles, Dee Cunniffe, and Chip Zdarsky (Michael Chasin)

It’s rare for an issue of a comic to be innovative within the medium itself, but that’s exactly what Team WicDiv attempted with this spotlight on Woden, the deplorable Daft Punk-inspired DJ deity, that not only paints a terrifying picture of informed, sociopathic misogyny, but does so almost entirely through art that’s been recycled, repurposed, and remixed from the previous thirteen issues (and some inspired outside sources). Make no mistake: This isn’t a clip show. It moves the story forward in big ways, answering questions set up as far back as issue #1, and introducing huge mysteries for later. It just so happens to do so with both hands tied behind its back, an audacious and dazzlingly effective artistic experiment done for no other reason than Gillen & Co. bet they could pull it off. Well they pulled it off and then some, further cementing The Wicked + The Divine as one of the most exciting comics on shelves.

head-lopperHead Lopper #1 by Andrew MacLean (Kris Saldaña)

I had been hearing tons of great things about this book before finally picking it up. It’s a fun and bloody good time with vikings and monsters and mythology and dope art. Andrew MacLean has quickly become one of my favorite artists.

 

 

 

 

1602-angela-31602: Witch Hunter Angela #3 by Marguerite Bennett, Kieron Gillen, Stephanie Hans, Frazer Irving, and Clayton Cowles (Hilary Lawlor)

1602: Witch Hunter Angela is always badass and exciting, but this month’s issue kicked it up a notch. There was a stage-death-that-became-a-real-death-that-became-a-demon! There was something resembling seppuku! It was so exciting that, after I read it, I went to sleep and had a dream that I became an awesome faustian demon witch. That’s the best kind of comic, the kind that wiggles its way into your subconscious. When this series ends, I’ll be very, very sad.

 

we-are-robin-4We Are Robin #4 by Lee Bermejo, James Harvey, Diana Egea, Alex Jaffe, Jared L. Fletcher (Katie Schenkel)

I had been enjoying We Are Robin #1-3, but I was waiting for it to get past the story set up and crack open. That’s absolutely what happened in We Are Robin #4. This issue is focused on Riko after the tragic events of last month and gives us so much of what I’ve been waiting for. At the center of this issue are both indirect and direct references to Ferguson (check out one of the posters in Riko’s room) and the #BlackLivesMatter movement, from the public considering the Robins misguided thugs to other young people making life harder for the Robins in the name of chaos and attention. It’s when Riko’s idol Batgirl shows up that things turn around for Riko and Babs’ mentoring of the “little Robin” is absolutely touching. I hope Barbara can be a Batmentor for all the young heroines of Gotham (from Riko to Steph to the Gotham Academy girls to soon-to-be-introduced Cass).

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the art because it’s absolutely crucial to the issue’s impact. Lineart by Harvey, inks by Harvey and Egea, and colors by Harvey and Jaffe work perfectly to make this issue distinct from both the issues that came before and anything else DC is putting out. Homaging pulp comics, the art fills the whole page and the distinct coloring forces you to pay attention. If every Riko-focused issue is done by this art team, I will be a very happy reader.

marblesMarbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me: A Graphic Memoi by Ellen Forney (Caroline Pruett)

When cartoonist Ellen Forney was searching for ways to deal with her bipolar disorder, she took to carrying around a sketchpad to record her emotional experiences as they occurred. It was, for her, “a combination of carrying a teddy bear and carrying a can of mace.”

When I read that observation in Marbles, I gasped out loud, and Forney’s graphic memoir is packed with words and images like that, simultaneously unexpected and oh so true.  I She goes into merciless detail about both her illness and the challenges of treatment. Parts of it are wrenching, but it’s not all bad — much of it is surprising and funny and even sweet. The ultimate outcome is hopeful — although, as Forney frankly tells us, she was only able to afford the quality of treatment because her mother was willing and able to help with her medical bills.  If you as a reader have dealt with mental health issues, you may relate to a lot of the things that happen in this book. If you haven’t, then Forney provides a set of tools for understanding the experience better.

ms-marvel-18Ms. Marvel #18 by G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona, Ian Herring, Joe Caramagna, and Kris Anka (Christine Hoxmeier)

Confession: though I love Kamala Khan and consider myself a member of the Carol Corps, life got the better of me and I let issues #16-18 of Ms. Marvel pile up on my to-read stack. I know, I know. But it made for a great afternoon of reading full of feelings and moments I had been waiting for since we saw our first glimpse of Kamala two years ago. It was amazing to see these two ladies, side by side, trying to restore order and rescue a kidnapping victim. And yeah, I totally teared up when Carol had to say goodbye, but unexpectedly, it was the final two pages that knocked me off my feet and made my heart grow so big I had to cry. Families, man. It’s one of this books numerous strengths, and it gets me every time.

habibiHabibi by Craig Thompson (Emily Wenstrom)

I re-read this book after reading Thompson’s other major work Blankets in August, and holy moly. This book is too visually rich, and too soulfully tragic, to be taken in one read. The utter abuse of the two protagonists of this book breaks my heart over and over … and all the while, the elegance of its illustrations, inspired by Arabic calligraphy, is something I could stare at for hours. Like Blankets, Habibi delves unflinchingly into the struggles of getting by in a broken world from a spiritual perspective–particularly with how one copes with his/her own physical being and sexual desires as a victim of sexual abuse.

wecannevergohome1We Can Never Go Home  by Matthew Rosenberg, Patrick Kindlon, Josh Hood, Amanda Scurti, and Jim Campbell (David Accampo)

A new comic by new talents and a relatively new publisher (Black Mask Studios) can often get overlooked in our pre-order culture. And that makes the supply all the more scarce when you suddenly start to hear about a new comic book like We Can Never Go Home. Luckily, writer Matthew Rosenberg was at the Rose City Comic Con in Portland this month, and I was able to snag all four issues of this buzzed-about book. And, as I devoured them all in a single sitting, I can now attest that this book is indeed worth the buzz, and you should all scramble to get in on this series. I’m not exactly sure how best to describe this series. It’s definitely not a super-hero book. Set in 1989, it reads a bit like John Hughes and a True Romance-era Tarantino had a super-powered baby. Madison is the popular girl who is hiding the fact that she has powers. Duncan is the classic high school misfit. But when Madison’s powers get the pair into some serious trouble, they must flee from home for a life on the run, robbing drug dealers even as other people with powers begin to take notice. Hood’s art is clean, a little reminiscent of Gabriel (Locke & Key) Rodriguez, and Rosenburg and Patrick Kindlon’s story is youthful and energetic. And the team knows how to pace an issue, giving a great cliffhanger at the end of each issue to keep you rolling into the next chapter.

star-wars-shattered-empireStar Wars: Shattered Empire #1 by Greg Rucka, Marco Checchetto, Andres Mossa & Joe Carmanga (Brian McNamara)

Marvel has really been knocking their Star Wars properties out of the park since inheriting the property in January. While the continuity between the films, TV shows, books and comics is now interconnected by design, it’s still fascinating to watch the pieces slot into place on the Journey to The Force Awakens cross-media event. Shattered Empire takes us into the final moments of Return of the Jedi as we follow A-Wing pilot Shara Bey during the pitched firefight over Endor. Rucka captures the frenetic nature of the battle with overlapping pilot chatter, quick course corrections, and a feeling of importance. The battles are beautifully realized by Marco Checchetto and Andrea Mossa, sweeping double page spreads and tight panels providing scale. Winning the day, Shara descends to Endor to take part in the victory celebrations and find her husband, a special forces operative named Kes Dameron. The two reunite, only to be interrupted by the revelation of an Imperial Garrison on the opposite side of the planet. It’s a great read that rounds out the Empire’s defeat, while introducing us to a compelling new character and perhaps hinting at the parentage of a character in the upcoming film.

Long Red Hair cover by Meags Fitzgerald

Long Red Hair by Meags Fitzgerald (Jon Erik Christianson)

There are a zillion reasons to be thankful for Bisexual Visibility Week, and Meags Fitzgerald’s memoir comic Long Red Hair is absolutely one of them. The color palette took me off-guard at first; it’s entirely comprised of greens and oranges, but it really works at conveying everyday mundanity with the green and sharp details that pop (a comic, long red hair, Jessica Rabbit) with the orange. Through her refreshing honesty and dry, comedic humor, Fitzgerald crafts a story that’s engaging, relatable, and a lot of fun.

 

terror-assaulterTerror Assaulter: One Man War On Terror by Benjamin Marra (Eric Margolis)

I’ve been waiting for this book for a while and I have to say that it didn’t let down one bit. Terror Assaulter functions as both an homage to over-the-top action movies of the 80’s/90’s and as a satire of american foreign policy/neocon philosophy/the state of masculinity and sexuality. This beautifully printed risograph book is full of plenty of nods to comics greats like Kirby and Steranko. This book isn’t for everyone but if you don’t mind the fact that it’s full of nudity, violence and gore, check this out!

 

fables-150Fables, Vol. 22: Farewell by Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham, Nimit Malavia, and a whole lot of guest artists (Ryan Haupt)

I definitely put off reading this one. I’ve been with Fables a long time and I’m not sure I was ready to let them go. The final volume does everything in typical Fables fashion; it’s sprawling, comprehensive, but somehow intimate. Loose ends are (mostly) tied up, and every character you grew to know and care about gets a, sometimes brief, finale or conclusion. Some endings are sad, others simply melancholic, and a few don’t really feel like endings at all, rather glimpses into a future of continued stories and legends. Buckingham really gets to cut loose and does some astonishing and impressive layouts, outdoing his own previous work on the book which has always been stunning and unique amongst the modern comics landscape. There have been detractors of the book who’ve pointed out that maybe it should have ended when it was originally intended at issue 75, and while the subsequent 76 issues have had their stumbles, I’ve been very glad we all got to spend a little more time in these worlds before saying goodbye to Bigby, Snow, and all the rest.  

step-aside-popsStep Aside, Pops: A Hark! A Vagrant Collection by Kate Beaton (Brenna Clarke Gray)

I don’t think there is a more magical sentence in the English language than, “Hey, Kate Beaton has a new book out!” Every comic in this collection is completely delightful, and American audiences who found the historical/cultural references to Canadian life overwhelming in the first collection will appreciate the less-Canadian focus here, but it’s every bit as charmingly nerdy and esoteric and weird as you’ve come to expect from Kate Beaton. Buy it right now.

ODYC_1ODY-C, Vol. 1 by Matt Fraction, Christian Ward (Amy Diegelman)

It took me forever to get all the way through this book, but it was a really great forever. There is so much to take in here, between the writing and the art, that I had to take it in pieces. Big, meaty bites that I had to take the time to chew and savor. I don’t even know how to talk about this book. Do I mention the all female cast of a classic tale of men? Do I mention the way it believes in the reader’s intelligence and openness? Do I mention the art that is so big and brave it will knock you flat? You’ve got to read this.

 

imageGrayson #12 by Tim Seeley, Tom King, Mikel Janîn and Jeromy Cox (Mart Gray)

When this superspy series was announced I feared it would put Dick’s background as founding member of the Batman Family firmly on the backburner. I couldn’t have been more wrong, as his history as Robin, Nightwing and temporary Batman informed his adventures as Spyral’s Agent 37. This month it’s a total nostalgia-fest, as Dick returns to Gotham City after not hearing from Batman for weeks – why stay undercover when his ‘control’ is either dead, or in need of help?

The issue starts with Alfred applying a disguise to Dick, after he learns Bruce is alive, but ignorant of his past as Batman. The old friends’ conversation reminds us of just how much they have in common. There follows a fascinating chat with Bruce, a loud interruption and encounters with Tim, Jason, Barbara and Damian. Their reactions to learning Dick isn’t dead, as they’d been led to believe, makes for a rich, entertaining read. Seeley and King’s narrative is cleverly constructed to use Dick’s past without it smothering the present, while Janín’s art, coloured by Jeromy Cox, is intelligently conceived and beautifully executed. Grayson #12 is an issue that uses the past to move the series forward, and it’s a gem.

death-vigil-1Death Vigil #1-3, by Stjepan Sejic (Marcy)

I’m late to the Death Vigil party but it is been gripping me all night. I’ve read #1-3 in one sitting and after the first I thought “OK, this is interesting, let’s see where it goes.” After the second issue it had more hooks in me “What now?!” After the third I’m in for the long haul and I’m buying all the eight issues that are out so far. Death Vigil is written and drawn by Stjepan Sejic and published by Image Comics.

I don’t normally go in for the dark magic borderline horror books, it’s not my thing. What makes Death Vigil though is a great sense of humour and heart, the characters don’t take themselves seriously and the tone is light, dare I say Buffy/Dresden-like. Helped by the great quality artwork and good characterisations. Some of the characters don’t really get much time in #1-3 but I already care what happens to them and that’s the sign of an engaging book. Sejic seems really good at nailing down the family dynamic.

At 40 pages each comic is well worth diving into, a humourous tale of the gifted but newly deceased drafted and returned to unaging life by the Death Vigil to fight the enemy, who is supported by necromancers that seem to be increasing in power all the time.

Copperhead, Cover art by Scott Godlewski

Copperhead, Vol. 1  by Jay Faerber, Scott Godlewski, Ron Riley, and Thomas Mauer (Melody Schreiber)

There’s a new sheriff in town. Jasper is a dusty town on a nowhere planet most notable for its copper reserves–but Clara Branson, a single mom and the town’s newest law enforcer, has plenty of work to do. Basically, this comic is what happens when you mix together my favorite things: strong female characters, witty dialogue, windswept frontiers, wild space creatures. I expected to like it, but instead I loved it!

 


calling-dr-lauraCalling Dr. Laura 
by Nicole Georges (Swapna)

I love graphic memoirs, and I’ve had my eye on this ever since Monica wrote about it a few months ago. This memoir, about George’s visit to a psychic and subsequent revelation that her father is alive, and not dead as she’s been told her whole life, is stunningly drawn. Georges lets the reader into her life, sharing her emotional journey with self-deprecation and wit. There’s a lot going in this memoir, but it never feels busy or overwhelming. I read it digitally, but I can already tell I’ll be buying it again in print to be able to keep on my shelf and savor again and again.

 

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