Comics/Graphic Novels

The Best Comics We Read in January 2015

We asked our contributors to share the best comic they read last month. We’ve got capes, science-fiction, slice of life, and much, much more. Some are old, some are new, and some aren’t even out yet. Enjoy and tell us about the highlight of your reading month in the comments.

star-wars-1Star Wars #1 by Jason Aaron and John Cassaday

Dark Horse kept the flame of Star Wars fandom alive for years between film trilogies and beyond, right on up through last year’s wonderful Star Wars Legacy II. They were the true stewards of the Foce. It’s bittersweet, then, to see Luke, Leia, and Han charging into battle under a Marvel logo. Jason Aaron and John Cassaday didn’t lose a step in taking up the torch, however, delivering a gleeful new chapter set in that ever-crowded space between Episodes IV and V. Threepio is just as nebbish as ever, and Han Solo as charming. It even has an opening crawl! You won’t even need to fire up the John Williams score; it’ll already be playing in your mind’s ear. —Paul Montgomery


what-ifWhat If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe

Also, I gave it to my eleven-year-old son and he stayed up until 1:30 in the morning to finish it. That, my friends, is an all-ages book rec.

— Sigrid Ellis





The Hospital Suite by John Porcellino

Oh, another super depressing medical autobiographical comic to add to my collection? Don’t mind if I do! The Hospital Suite is a beautiful, heart wrenching comic written and drawn by King-Cat Comics creator, John Porcellino. It details Porcellino’s ever increasing list of both physical and mental illness and how badly it devastated every facet of his life. He gets into the nitty gritty of dealing with hyperacusis, mystery digestive issues and obsessive compulsive disorder. Then he really digs into how it destroyed his marriage, his friendships and any ability to work. The thing about Porcellino is, he doesn’t hold back for a second. He talks about how crippling his OCD is to his everyday life in such an honest, off-the-cuff way that makes you feel uncomfortable, almost like you broke into his personal journal that should have been heavily guarded with a lock and key. His black and white art is very, very loose and almost rudimentary at times, but it totally works. It really helps to enforce naked truth feel of the book. Porcellino isn’t trying to hide behind any bells and whistles, he just wants to tell his story.  If you dug books like Our Cancer Year by Harvey Pekar, Stitches by David Small, or Epileptic by David B, this is right up your alley for sure. —Eric Margolis



Wayward #1–5 by Jim Zub, Steve Cummings, and John Rauch

On an off-hand recommendation from a friend, I bought Wayward #1-5—and absolutely devoured them. Rori Lane is a pretty normal teenager; half Japanese, half Irish, and moving to Tokyo to live with her mother. She thinks her problems are going to be finding new friends and adjusting to the Japanese school system, but these are quickly the least of her worries. Strange creatures pop out of alleyways to attack her, strange allies appear when she least expects them, and she is manifesting strange powers of her own. Did I mention that her life becomes strange? This series is smart, funny, packed with action, and an absolute must-read for fans of school tales, kick-ass heroines, and mythology. Zub handles the dialogue with flair, Cummings’ art is a delight to look at (especially in the fight sequences), and John Rauch and Zub’s combined talents make the colors jump off the page. The first collection, Wayward Volume 1: String Theory, comes out in April, but I recommend getting your hands on the issues. Each contains bonus essays at the end, about Japanese culture and the myths behind the monsters that Rori encounters—I wish every fable-inspired series was so well researched and documented. —Jenn Northington

rat-queens-braga-1Rat Queens Special: Braga #1 by Kurtis J. Weibe and Tess Fowler

Oh, Rat Queens. It is so good to have you back. This comic does representation so very well. Everyone we’re introduced to is a fully realized character, full of flaws and strengths and quirks. On top of that, the creators have made an effort to keep the cast of this bawdy fantasy epic diverse. This month’s issue is no exception. A one-shot character piece, Rat Queens: Braga #1 focuses on orc warrior Braga, who we learn is transgender. And the story we get from her past isn’t about her transition, it’s personal story about how she came to leave her orc clan. A fierce warrior and first-born son of the Chieftain, then-Broog wants not nothing more than to bring prosperity and peace to the clan; to make the clan better, to be a better person. But her father and power-hungry brother are more interested in raiding and pillaging, as the clan has always done. The story is framed as Braga talking to her lover in between sexy times. Which is another thing I love about Rat Queens; those ladies can get it! And they’re not shamed or exploited for their sexuality, but rather empowered by it. This comic is nothing but awesome. —Ali Colluccio

casanova-acedia-1Casanova: Acedia #1 by Matt Fraction, Michael Chabon, Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba

Casanova is my favorite comic that I have no idea how to talk about. I end up being afraid to talk about it because there seems to be so much to discuss that I don’t know what to grab on to, and I get worried I’m not smart enough to get it, and then I’m worried that because I don’t know how to talk about it, I’ll be subject to the jeer that the book is not really smart, it’s just pseudo-smart and the only people who like it are gullible people who only think it’s deep. Casanova is the kind of book that gets that rap, sort of like basically anything by Grant Morrison.

But I’m over it. I like this book because I like it, because the story and the art work together in an amazing way, and the color palette by Chris Peter looks like absolutely nothing else and reading it makes me feel happy and like I’m in the hands of people who get it, even if I’m not sure what “it” is. I couldn’t pass a quiz on all the dimension hopping and recurring references of the last three volumes but that’s actually okay. You know?

So what is the deal with Casanova. The current volume is actually a good jump-on point, improbably enough, because dimension hopping super spy/thief Casanova Quinn is suffering from amnesia and isn’t sure how he got to be a functionary for the Hemingway-lookalike fisherman who pulled him out of the water and also, coincidentally, can’t remember the first 30 years of his own life. So readers can be baffled along with Cass. Also, there’s a backup story written by Michael Chabon (because, sure, why not?) about the members of T.A.M.I, a teen girl band that’s been a running gag in the series from the start. This book looks great and it reads like nothing else and, however improbably, it always brings a smile to my face. And that’s cool. —Caroline Pruett

shadow-show-2Shadow Show #2 by Neil Gaiman, Maria Fröhlich, Audrey Niffenegger, and Eddie Campbell

Ray Bradbury is one of my favorite authors of all time. Neil Gaiman is another. I already own and have read Shadow Show: All-New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury. It’s a collection of stories put together just after he died by other authors he inspired. The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury is a beautiful story from this book that pays tribute to Bradbury’s body of work. The first part of this issue is an illustrated retelling of that story. It spins through the mind of a man who remembers Bradbury’s stories, but not the man himself. For a big Bradbury fan who’s read many of his stories, seeing this short story come to life with Maria Fröhlich’s art was a gorgeous treat. —Chris Arnone

alex-ada-12Alex + Ada #11 by Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn

Androids are a danger to society. That’s the notion overtaking the general public in Alex + Ada #11. Tensions reach a fever pitch when the government puts measures in place to limit androids’ appearances in public and a crackdown on those who unlock their robots’ sentience. On the personal front, Alex is struggling with his relationship with Ada, and she’s trying her best to navigate a society that is prejudiced against her, though she feels no malice towards humans. This series does what the best sci-fi literature does. It critiques our society, especially racial and ethnic prejudices as well as media and government fear mongering. It’s all wrapped up in a context that rings true to the reader but also allows distance enough from reality to be fertile ground for discussion and pondering over the larger thematic issues. —Andi Miller

sculptor-scott-mccloudThe Sculptor by Scott McCloud

It seems as though everyone has been buzzing about Scott McCloud’s first graphic novel in who knows how long, and the question is: Is this book worth the wait and the buzz? My answer: YES, no question. It’s a beautiful, heart-wrenching story of one man who agrees to pay the ultimate price for fame and glory, but forgets about the smaller moments of living in between that he’ll be sacrificing. I loved this story, especially because of McCloud’s art. This is a story that really can only be told in comics, and it’s an amazing example of what comics can do. Highly recommended, whether you’re a seasoned comics reader or new to the genre. —Swapna Krishna

multiversity-guidebook-1The Multiversity Guidebook #1 by Grant Morrison, Marcus To, Paulo Siquera, and many more

In true DC fashion, this Guidebook serves as a Secret Files and Origins-type book that fills readers in on the 52 different worlds that make-up the DC Multiverse. Just on the merits of serving as a gazetteer this book is a great read. Employing nearly 52 pencilers, inkers, and colorists we get a brief snapshot of each world and its major heroes. While some of the descriptions seem light we do get some true gems, from the new take on Earth-X to Hippie Central Earth-47 and the Robot Heroes of Earth-44. There’s enough groundwork for future writers to follow while still being open enough to allow for a lot of play with the concept of each Earth.

But where The Multiversity Guidebook really shines is in its story. The map of the multiverse and the descriptions of each Earth are part of the tale, as two different sets of characters learn about the nature of their universe. This story is dual-penciled by Marcus To and Paulo Siquera who both do superlative work and who offer distinct styles to set their worlds apart. We follow two Batmen from different worlds in To’s more cartoony segment. These two heroes have been thrust together as worlds are beginning to bleed into one another. Teaming up out of necessity, they stumble upon a comic book guide that the diminutive Batman believes will help them stop the team of Dr. Sivanas hell bent on overtaking… everything. In Siquera’s more realistic, nigh-Prince Valiant, segments we follow Kamandi the Last Boy, biOMAC, and Lord Tuftan as they look for a lost friend but instead discover a deeper threat of their—and every—world. Through both stories we begin to see the larger story of The Multiversity beginning to take shape, as the skies begin to turn red and the House of Heroes comes under attack. The high point of the issue comes when Kamandi discovers the story of the creation of the Mutliverse painted on a cave wall. As he finishes off the more mythic portions of the tale we transition to a comic book that fills in the modern additions to that creation story. It’s a sweeping tale which links all of DC’s crises into a singular meta-narrative that begins… with a Flash.  —Brian McNamara

shazam-40s-70sShazam: From the 40’s to the 70’s

This book has been my white whale for years now. I grew up pouring over its sister titles—Batman: From the 30’s to the 70’s and Superman: From the 30’s to the 70’s—time and again. Each of those had several reprints over the years and can be found for a reasonable price through various online dealers if you’re a little lucky. The Shazam title was more elusive. It contains a little history and a lot of reprints of stories starring the original Captain Marvel and the Marvel Family, known since the 1970s as the Shazam family. Most of the stories found in the book have never been reprinted before, so finding ways to read them can be tough. However, the interlibrary loan department of my library came through for me in a big way and tracked down a copy for me to borrow. Spending time with it, and reading the first stories of Captain Marvel, Mary Marvel, Captain Marvel Jr., the evil Mr. Mind, and so many more, is revelatory. This title not only brought me to a time well before I was born but also to my own childhood when I was discovering the many depictions of heroes who’d been around for decades. Seeing how characters change over time has always been a particular fascination of mine, so to experience it once again was welcome. Sometimes, when you get something you’ve wanted for years, it can be a let down. In this case, it was just about the most I could have hoped for. —Jeff Reid