January’s Top Picks in Graphic Novels

kaptaraA whole new year is upon us, with brand-new graphic novel excitement to be had. There’s a bunch more Star Wars this month, if that’s your jam (have you seen the new movie? It’s your jam.), and a fine assortment of superhero books, a really touching memoir, and some quirky sci-fi. As they don’t come much quirkier than Chip Zdarsky, we’ll start with his new book. Here’s what’s coming in January.

Kaptara, Volume 1, by Kagan McLeod and Chip Zdarsky
Kaptara is the latest from the delightfully twisted Chip Zdarsky. Known for his work on Sex Criminals and the new Jughead book, Chip is joined by artist Kagan McLeod for the story of Keith Kanga, a space-guy who finds himself shipwrecked on the titular planet. Given the chance for greatness on a world that’s a hodgepodge of past and future references, Keith is mostly wondering what’s in it for him. Chip’s been describing the book as a “gay Saga,” but also funny. Sold.

Star Wars, Vol. 2: Showdown on Smugglers Moon, by Jason Aaron, Stuart Immonen, and Simone Bianchi
In this second volume of Marvel’s blockbuster Star Wars series, Stuart Immonen (Ultimate Spider-Man) takes over as penciler. Following the revelations from Obi-Wan Kenobi’s diary, the  gang has split up: Han and Leia are confronted by Solo’s (maybe) wife, while Luke is searching out the secrets of the Jedi order. Naturally, it’s a trap, leading to the wretched hive of scum and villainy that is the smuggler’s moon of Nar Shaddaa.

Curb Stomp, by Ryan Ferrier and Devaki Neogi
Controlling a quarter of the city with their gang The Fever, five women are dragged into a war and forced to defend their turf. It’s a bit like The Warriors—these are tough women in a violent book—but it’s a stylish, neon city out of time. Perfect if you’re looking for something a little punk rock, with a bit of an edge.

The Flash, Vol. 6: Out Of Time (The New 52), by Robert Venditti, Van Jensen, and Brett Booth
With a slight nod to the TV show, a new creative team brings time travel back to Flash just in time for the New 52’s introduction of a classic, and deadly, Flash foe. In the future, a broken and defeated Barry Allen concocts an ambitious plan to return to our present to stop the event that destroyed him. It’s new-reader friendly, so this new paperback is not a bad place to jump on if you’re looking to check out Barry’s graphic novel adventures.

Star Wars: Darth Vader, Vol. 2: Shadows and Secrets, by Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca
Darth Vader’s story in the wake of the Battle of Yavin continues. The dark lord is still trying to get back into Palpatine’s good graces, while at the same time going behind the Emperor’s back to loot a huge stash of credits from an Imperial ship to fund his own plans. When Vader’s assigned to the investigation, he might well have to sell out his ally Doctor Aphra in order to cover up his own complicity. It’s a twisty-turny story that also reveals how Vader learned the truth about Luke Skywalker.

Punisher Max Complete Collection, Vol. 1, by Garth Ennis, Darick Robertson, Lewis Larosa, Leandro Fernandez
In the mid-2000s, Garth Ennis, of Preacher fame, brought similar sensibilities to Marvel’s Punisher in a mature-readers run that redefined Frank Castle. Always an uneasy fit in Marvel’s broader universe, Ennis largely took him out of the superhero genre and presented him as a deeply disturbed anti-hero with issues that go beyond the death of his family. The book, which gets a set of fancy reprints starting this month, is deeply violent and has quite a bit to say about America in the latter half of the twentieth century. It also continues to be the definitive version of the character.

Rosalie Lightning: A Graphic Memoir, by Tom Hart
Cartoonist Tom Hart struggles to find meaning in life following the death of his young daughter in this story of loss. Hart, of the Hutch Owen series, among others, is a talent, and this deeply heartfelt and poignant story looks rather lovely.

Star Wars: Lando, by Charles Soule and Alex Maleev
Marvel’s Star Wars strategy has allowed room for off-beat stories from a galaxy far, far, away, and the franchise is rarely more fun than when Lando’s around. Before he was running Cloud City, Lando was one of the best smugglers in the game. This time, though, he’s in over his head: a simple but lucrative commission to procure a fancy ship looks to turn into either the score of a lifetime, or the end of Lando and his companions. The ship’s owner? Emperor Palpatine himself.

Apollo: The Brilliant One, by George O’Connor
O’Connor’s Olympians books have each been a rare treat: they’re geared largely toward young teens, and include highly educational back-matter, but the art is truly stunning and the storytelling is fast-paced and fun. Each book tells the mythological story of a god of ancient Greece, with this eighth book in the series focused on Apollo.

Batman/Superman/Wonder Woman: Trinity Deluxe Edition, by Matt Wagner
One of the greatest DC stories ever told gets a new printing. The differing philosophies of the three heroes come into direct conflict in this version of their first meeting. Ra’s al Ghul, Bizarro, and Artemis team up to turn the worlds’ communications satellites against us, and only the greatest trio of heroes ever assembled can stop them—if they can get put aside their differences and work together.

Lazarus, Vol. 4, by Michael Lark and Greg Rucka
Greg Rucka’s series about a future world ruled by 16 families and their engineered, virtually immortal protectors continues. Forever Carlyle is drawn further into family secrets as the patriarch lies on his death bed, while his children work to take control. Rucka and Lark’s rather brilliant work is being developed as a TV show, so it might be worth catching up.

Dirk Gently: The Interconnectedness of All Kings, by Tony Akins and Chris Ryall
Douglas Adams’ unique, entirely holistic detective gets his first-ever comic book series from IDW. Dirk is best known for his prickly personality and a relentless belief in the fundamental interconnectedness of all things in the universe. He’s taking it all on the road in this new adventure, heading to sunny San Diego to solve three seemingly unrelated cases. Of course, with Dirk, nothing stays separate for long.

The Metabarons, by Alexandro Jodorowsky, Juan Gimenez
Polymath Jodorowsky is having a bit of a renaissance thanks to the documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune; as a result, we’re getting a bit more of his expansive Metabarons universe translated into English. The title characters make up a brutal warrior dynasty with bases in Greek myth and Frank Herbert’s Dune. Each successive Metabaron is destined to defeat his own father in deadly combat, and this book tells of the family history.

James Bond: Spectre: The Complete Comic Strip Collection
A little late for the movie, but this is still a cool thing: Titan books is reprinting some classic James Bond newspaper strips from the ’60s. Having begun four years prior to the first movie, the strip is a classic, and much more faithful to the source material than any of the films would ever be. This collection includes adaptations of each of the four Ian Fleming books in which Spectre was the primary antagonist.

Grayson, Vol. 2 (The New 52), by Tom King, Tim Seeley, Mikel Janin
Dick Grayson’s recent reboot has been a surprise hit for the New 52. After having his identity outed to the world, he’s no longer Robin, nor Nightwing—just Grayson, working with the secret (and shady) super spy organization Spyral. In this new volume, he’s joined by the Huntress and takes on sometimes-friend Midnighter while working a case involving dead villain body parts.

What’s on your pull list?

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