The Best Comics & Graphic Novels of August 2019

Prodigy, Vol. 1: The Evil Earth, by Mark Millar and Rafael Albuquerque
There’s been a lot of buzz around Mark Millar’s latest, a comic series created in conjunction with Netflix and ready made to be adapted for the screen. As such, the book could have wound up feeling like an afterthought—mere ancillary marketing for a TV series. Instead, it’s an impressive and self-sufficient work from an all-star creative team, introducing one of Millar’s most compelling characters yet: Edison Crane, the world’s smartest man. Called upon to solve some of the world’s most intractable problems, Crane finds himself up against a threat from a parallel world with ties to a conspiracy that began right here on Earth.

The Walking Dead, Vol. 32: Rest in Peace, by Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, Stefano Gaudiano, Cliff Rathburn, and Dave Stewart
Robert Kirkman and company pulled off a nearly seemingly impossible feat last month, bringing their long-running series to a surprise conclusion after 16 years and 193 issues without anyone catching wind of the big finale until the issue was on its way to stores (false covers were even circulated for future issues). By extension, though by now slightly less surprising, this trade paperback gathers the final seven issues of the series, which revolve around a massive conflict at the Commonwealth and include a tragic death and a flash-forward to the future. If you’ve been along for the ride up until now, you certainly need to find out how it all ends.

Aquaman, Vol. 1: Unspoken Water, by Kelly DeConnick, Robson Rocha, and Daniel Henriques
A new creative team marks this soft reboot on the character, who now has a much higher profile thanks to a certain Mr. Jason Momoa. An amnesiac Arthur washes up on the shores of a remote village and makes friends with the locals while he works to regain his memory. Naturally, there’s more going on than he realizes and what begins as a mystery builds to a massive battle for the fate of the Earth against a vengeful mother goddess.

William Gibson’s Alien³, by William Gibson, Johnnie Christmas, and Tamra Bonvillain
Look: David Fincher’s Alien³ is underrated. Nevertheless, given the film’s troubled production, it’s hard not to imagine what might have been, especially given that cyberpunk legend William Gibson wrote the original screenplay, which was then discarded for reasons having little to do with its quality. Far more political than the finished film, this comic adaptation of Gibson’s version finds Ripley, Hicks, Newt, and Bishop caught in-between Earth’s government and a breakaway socialist colony as they battle for control of the Alien.

Sparrowhawk, by Delilah S. Dawson, Matias Basla, and Rebecca Nalty
The illegitimate daughter of a Victorian Naval Captain, Artemisia has never fit in anywhere, and certainly not in the high class world of her father’s family. This dark fantasy series from writer Delilah S. Dawson (Lady Castle) sees Artemesia captured by the Faerie Queen and transported to another realm where she must survive a fairy fight club and forge alliances if she’s ever to have any hope of reclaiming her life and returning home.

Black Panther, Book 7: The Intergalactic Empire of Wakanda, Part 2, by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Kev Walker, Jen Bartel, and Marc Deering
Ta-Nehisi Coates’ run on Black Panther has only gotten better, and bigger, as his superhero-infused tapestry of pan-African myth, history, and legend has moved into the stars along with T’Challa. 2,000 years ago Wakandans established an empire deep in space, and now a dissident faction of former slaves is attempting to curtail the empire’s acquisitiveness. Their hero and champion is none other than the former king himself, who needs to reclaim his memory and history if he’s to be the champion they need. The story spans time and space, building on the long and epic run.

Spencer & Locke, Vol. 2, by David Pepose, Jorge Santiago Jr., Jasen Smith, and Colin Bell
The unique neo-noir thriller (that’s also an improbable riff on both Calvin & Hobbes and Sin City) returns for a second volume. Detective Locke and his imaginary panther Spencer are this time faced with the rampage of Roach Riley (who resembles yet another famous comic-strip character), a disgraced and scarred former soldier whose acts of violence threaten not only the city, but the partnership between a detective and his imaginary friend.

Deadpool by Skottie Young, Vol. 2: Good Night, by Skottie Young, Nic Klein, Scott Hepburn, Ian Herring
Skottie Young (I Hate Fairyland, Middlewest) is as good a fit as ever there was for Deadpool, displaying a mastery of cartoon violence that somehow dovetails perfectly into the disfigured-but-still-quippy hero’s more emotional side. The plot is suitably bonkers, as twisted rivalry between competing amusement parks leads to a confrontation with a villain seeking revenge on Wade for an act of violence going back to childhood.

Grass, by Keum Suk Gendry-Kim and Janet Hong
Cartoonist Gendry-Kim sets out to document the life story of Korean Okseon Lee, a “comfort woman” forced into sexual slavery for the Japanese Army during WWII. Lee experienced the conflict and occupation as a child, seeing firsthand the impact of the growing conflict on her home and family. Gendry-Kim depicts Korea in gentle detail, using an increasingly dark and jagged style to represent conflict in her true-life story of the ways in which war changed both an entire way of life and a single individual.

Horizontal Collaboration, by Navie and Carole Maurel
The writer/artist duo of Carole Maurel and Mademoiselle Navie fascinatingly interrogate and explore the lives of French women during World War II, focusing on Rose, a married woman with a husband in a POW camp. When she attempts to intervene in the detainment of a Jewish friend, she unexpectedly begins a relationship with a German officer. Through the story of Rose and the other women in her building, the book explores not only domestic violence and sex work, but also the costs of loving the wrong person. The bright and atmospheric artwork is phenomenal.

Empress Cixtisis, by Anne Simon
Inspired by the true-life story of the Empress Dowager Cixi, the de facto ruler of China for almost half a century until her death in 1908, this comic allegory stars Cixtisis, the empress of Tchitchinie, who kidnaps the entire male population of a neighboring kingdom and makes them into slaves. The married women of Suffragette City, though, want their husbands back, and they’re ready to go to war. The result is a surprisingly fun feminist satire.

Isabellae, Vol. 1, by Raule and Gabor
In feudal Japan, bounty hunter Isabellae Ashiwara is the daughter of a Celtic witch and a master samurai on the hunt for he missing sister, Siuko. Slowly building a rag-tag team (including the ghost of her father), Isabellae slowly uncovers the truth about her sister while battling all manner of evil. The much-loved series is here available in English for the first time.

War of the Realms, by Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman, and Matthew Wilson
Aaron, Dauterman, Wilson (and company)’s run on Thor-related books is already one for the record books (and has seemingly inspired the next movie, Thor: Love and Thunder, which will see Jane Foster take up the hero’s mantle). It’s no surprise, then, that it had also finally built to its own mega-event, guest-starring the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, and even Venom. The dark elf Malekith has been working his way through the ten realms, leaving only Earth unconquered. With armies at his side, and help from the corporate soldiers of Roxxon Oil as well as Loki, he’s got a pretty good shot. Luckily, Thor and the refugees of Asgard are on our side.

Savage Sword of Conan, Vol. 1: The Cult of Koga Thun, by Gerry Duggan, Ron Garney, and Richard Isanove
Marvel only recently reacquired the license to Conan, and they’ve already gone a long way toward building up the character’s already impressive comics resume. Here, Conan and escapes from captors with a box containing a map that he hopes will lead to treasure. A journey to the Stygian city Kheshatta puts him in conflict with others on the same trail, and also leads him into a dark mystery with roots in the earliest days of the Hyborian Age. The creative team has infused the book with plenty of action and barbarian violence, while also recognizing that there’s a bit more to Conan than just hacking and slashing.

Deadly Class, Vol. 8: Never Go Back, by Rick Remender, Wes Craig, and Jordan Boyd
Inspired by a peyote trip on Tosahwi’s grandfather’s farm, Marcus and Maria make the choice to bring things full circle: the crew are going back to King’s Dominion for revenge. But everything there has changed, and the the gang are forced to settle back in to the old school just in time for Freshman finals. The Syfy series won’t be back, but the comic was always better anyway.

The Kitchen New Edition, by Ollie Masters, Ming Doyle, and Jordie Bellaire
Just in time for the forthcoming Andrea Berloff-directed, Melissa McCarthy/Tiffany Haddish/Elisabeth Moss-starring film adaptation, the Vertigo series is getting a rerelease this month. Kath, Raven, and Angie are all the wives of mobsters, all of whom have been sent to prison. At first having no choice, the women take over the rackets–only to discover that they’re surprisingly good at it.

Tank Girl Action Alley, by Alan Martin and Brett Parson
Believe it or not, Tank Girl has never, in her thirty-year history, had an ongoing series to call her own. Until now. Getting ready for a road trip, Tank Girl and company are sidetracked by some bad news: her adoptive mother is gravely ill. Setting off to visit before it’s too late, the gang find themselves forced to cross Action Alley, a place of wild, dangerous creatures and dark forces. They also take in a stray kangaroo. Lots of anarchic action in classic Tank Girl style.

King of King Court, by Travis Dandro
Travis Dandro’s gripping comic memoir recounts a childhood shaped by addiction and abuse—an illustration of the impact of the generational cycle of trauma. As a child, Dandro would escape into his imagination to escape the world shaped by his drug-addicted birth father, alcoholic step-dad, and overwhelmed mother, with, naturally, limited success. As Dandro grows to adulthood, he comes to a greater understanding of the roots of his family’s damaging and toxic behaviors, and the book becomes not just an exploration of abuse but a nuanced and sensitive look at a troubled family.

Star Wars: Age of the Rebellion—Heroes, by Greg Pak, Chris Sprouse, Matteo Buffagni, and Karl Story
Marvel’s celebratory anthology series visits the classic heroes of the classic era of Star Wars with a collection of standalone stories that shed light on some of the saga’smost beloved characters. Princess Leia’s story finds her taking on the identity of bounty hunter Boushh in the lead-up to Return of the Jedi, while Lando plans one last scam before he settles down to run Cloud City. Luke struggles with the Dark Side after learning about his father, and Han and Chewie get drawn into yet another Rebel mission while trying to figure out what to do with their reward money. Shorter stories focus on Yoda, Biggs, and even Porkins (maybe he finally loosens up).

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