This post originally appeared on Panels, which is now Book Riot Comics
The weather outside is verging on frightful and the radiators at Panels HQ are on full blast. Paul’s humming “Mele Kalikimaka” from the steam room (but then, what else is new?). The holiday season is upon us! As our thoughts turn to good cheer and commerce, we offer up a series of holiday gift guides.
Today: Collections and reprints of comic book classics, old and new.
The Creature Commandos! by J. M. DeMatteis, Robert Kanigher, Fred Carrillo, and more (DC Comics)
If you’ve ever really wanted to see Nazis absolutely crushed by the likes of Frankenstein’s monster, a werewolf, a vampire, and a gorgon, then this is the collection for you. These stories, originally published in the 1980s, tell the tale of a group of World War II soldiers surgically altered by the United States into the Creature Commandos. They may look like their horror film counterparts but each one of them is fighting back loneliness and despair. What it lacks in rational backstory it more than makes up for in melodrama and pathos, which it has by the truckload. Plus, it’s occasionally got a werewolf going into berserk-mode and tearing into the ranks of the Third Reich. It’s by no means subtle, but it is wonderful to finally have back in print.
Jonah Hex: Shadows West by Joe R. Lansdale, Timothy Truman, Sam Glanzman, and more (Vertigo)
For years, Jonah Hex languished at DC Comics. His various western appearances dried up and an attempt to shove him into the far future and make him into a sci-fi character was canceled after a year and a half. Then, in 1993, Hex appeared in his first Vertigo miniseries. Vertigo, an imprint of DC Comics, had begun snapping up “mature audience” titles that DC was publishing at the time. Hex was roped into this publishing line, which was just as well since no one was currently using him. He was now back in the 1800s and over the course of three miniseries he dealt with dark magic, Cthulhu-type creatures, and the occult. These three series, long out of print, are collected here for the first time ever. Together, they present a different, more supernatural, take on DC’s premiere bounty hunter.
Fury Max: My War Gone By by Garth Ennis, Goran Parlov, and Lee Loughridge (Marvel)
Nick Fury’s lived a long, hard life and he’s going back and chronicling it all. This story was originally a 13-issue miniseries that is set out of continuity and aimed squarely at adults, hence its “Max” designation. The action all takes place in the past as Fury sits in a hotel room croaking his story into a tape recorder. It spans from World War II all the way up through the Cold War and into the late 1990s. Fury led a brutal, bloody life during his time in the military and he’s all the more cynical because of it. This Nick Fury is a broken man who has been deeply affected by conflict and the things he’s done. It’s a strong book and it’s unlikely to make a list of the easiest reads of the year. Garth Ennis’ war comics haven’t been this accessible in a long time.
Guardians of the Galaxy by Abnett & Lanning: The Complete Collection Volume 1 & Volume 2 by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Brad Walker, and more (Marvel)
Guardians of the Galaxy was the number 1 movie at the United States box office, which really came as a surprise to nearly everyone. The version of the Guardians seen in that film were introduced during the run by writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning. Instead of presenting all 25 issues from this story in an giant omnibus, Marvel decided to release these two oversized paperback books instead. Together, these two volumes tell one entire story of Star-Lord, Drax, Gramora, Rocket, and Groot. As an added bonus, this comic version of the Guardians contained a larger membership roster including a telepathic Soviet dog named Cosmo. These volumes are just the thing for film fans looking for more.
The Best American Comics 2014 edited by Scott McCloud and Bill Kartalopoulos (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Anthologies are tricky beasts. There is no way that every story in them can appeal to every reader. At their best, anthologies can present readers with new avenues to walk down that they may have missed before. The latest in the Best American Comics series does just that. Many of the comics found in this book are excerpts taken from longer works. Missed Raina Telgemeier’s Drama or John Lewis’ story found in March: Book One or Brandon Graham’s Multiple Warheads? Read a piece of each to see if they’re up your alley. There’s even an entire Jaime Hernandez tale that leads off the book. It’s a thoughtful collection and one worth having on your shelf.
Batman: The Jiro Kuwata Batmanga Vol. 1 by Jiro Kuwata (DC Comics)
At the height of Batmania in 1966, DC Comics licensed Batman to Shonen King in Japan. In the pages of that magazine, Jiro Kuwata began telling tales of Batman in his own style. These continued for about a year before they stopped and were mostly forgotten about. Chip Kidd’s 2008 book Bat-Manga! brought them back into public consciousness but they’re only now getting a full reprinting and translation. These stories have been released digitally for a few months, but this bound edition is the first time the full stories have appeared in print for almost fifty years. Two more volumes are due out next year to complete the run but, for now, there’s this first volume for readers to pour over. It’s a Batman that readers will find simultaneously familiar but slightly odd. It’s a cultural funhouse mirror that’s finally been dusted off.
Planetary Omnibus by Warren Ellis and John Cassiday (DC Comics)
Over the course of ten years and just twenty-seven issues (along with a handful of one-shots), Ellis and Cassiday told the story of Planetary. Focused on a peacekeeping trio of superpowered people who view themselves as architects for the hidden secrets of the universe, the book swung from one adventure to the next. Each issue focused on another piece of fiction found in the 20th century. Thinly veiled allegorical versions of characters ranging from early pulp influences to ’80s super heroes to Godzilla movies are found in this book’s pages. While this story has been collected before in various formats, this book brings everything all together in one place and is the best way to get your hands on it.
Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck: “The Son of the Sun” – The Don Rosa Library Vol. 1 by Don Rosa (Fantagraphics)
There are two names in the annals of Disney Duck comics: Carl Barks and Don Rosa. With Barks’ Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge stories in the midst of a massive reprint by Fantagraphics, the publisher has pivoted to cover Rosa as well. This volume covers Rosa’s first stories with these characters, including the titular “Son of the Sun” story which features Scrooge McDuck battling against Flintheart Glomgold for possession of Incan gold. Rounding out the superb main course of comics is a load of backing material dealing with Rosa’s creative process and other behind-the-scenes goodies. Fans of old DuckTales episodes or of adventure comics in general can’t afford to miss this volume.
IDW’s Library of American Comics line has been republishing old newspaper comic strips in gorgeous hardcovers for years. In late 2013, they gained the license to reprint strips based on DC Comics characters. That license kicked into high gear in 2014 when they released collections of newspaper strips covering the years between 1943 and 1967. These books cover the three DC heroes who’d been popular enough to have their own strips: Superman, Batman,and Wonder Woman. The vast majority of these stories have gone unread for several generations and only now they’re finally being offered up in a beautiful package. Complete with interviews, essays, and historical photos to put each of these volumes in their proper context, these books are a fascinating look at familiar characters whose stories are told in only three or four panels at a time.
Saga: Deluxe Edition Book One by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples (Image Comics)
Saga has been one of the biggest hits in comics over the past few years and this collection is the one that will bring you up to speed. The heart of this book is the 18 issues of the ongoing series, but the extras are what drive it towards greatness. With script pages, sketches, and a brand new cover which doubles-down on the strangely controversial breastfeeding cover of Saga #1, this edition will make you want to give your earlier softcovers to some poor sap who thinks you’re being kind but really you’re just looking for an excuse to get this edition for yourself. Love and family in the time of intergalactic war has never been this engrossing.