The Best Comics & Graphic Novels of June 2019

Saga: Book Three, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
We’re still waiting for Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ blockbuster space opera family drama to return from that post-devastating-cliffhanger-hiatus that followed the publication of issue #52. Here’s a decent way to bide your time until then: reread the entire series via the deluxe hardcover editions. Book Three takes us up to date with Saga as it stands, collecting issues #37 to #54 (reflecting the contents of trade volumes 7-9), and features some fantastic bonus material in the form of an 18-page interview between Vaughan and Staples that covers the genesis of the series, highlighting the development process and the controversies that marred the launch of the book. We’re also given a (heavily redacted) peek at the original story document Vaughan provided Staples that lays out his vision for the narrative arc of the whole, er, saga.

Six Days: The Incredible Story of D-Day’s Lost Chapter, by Robert Venditti, Kevin Maurer, and Andrea Mutti
During the D-Day campaign, a group of 182 paratroopers were mistakenly dropped 18 miles away from their intended target, into the small French village of Graignes. The villagers agreed to feed and shelter the soldiers, but German reprisal was swift: over 2,000 Nazi troops passing by laid siege to the town, with only the small band of American soldiers and French villagers to hold them off. Based on the true story of a lesser-known incident from World War II, this book, grittily illustrated by Andrea Mutti, is timed to honor the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landing.

Moonbound: Apollo 11 and the Dream of Spaceflight, by Jonathan Fetter-Vorm with Michael Collins
Another milestone anniversary—50 years since the Moon landing—this year is celebrated in this graphic history from Fetter-Vorm. With an attractive and accessible (but not simplistic) art style, the book alternates between a narrative retelling of the harrowing and epic moments immediately prior to the 1969 moon landing, and capsule biographies of key figures like Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Margaret Hamilton, and Wehrner von Braun. It’s an impressive homage to an inspiring historical moment—and the remarkable individuals who made it happen.

BTTM FDRS, by Ezra Claytan Daniels and Ben Passmore
This cool satirical horror-comedy follows a fashion designer named Darla and her image-obsessed friend Cynthia as they visit the “Bottomyards,” a blighted neighborhood on the south side of Chicago, in search of cheap rent in an expensive city. What they find instead is something sinister lurking behind the walls of their new home. The book is bright and lively regardless of its commitment to gory horror elements, and like the best satires, it also has plenty to say—in this case about cultural appropriation and gentrification.

Fearscape, Vol. 1, by Ryan O’Sullivan, Vladimir Popov, and Andrea Mutti
The Muse, an other dimensional being, periodically travels to Earth in order to retrieve each generation’s greatest storyteller. In her realm, the Fearscape, humanity’s own worst fears are made manifest, and only the greatest of us is able battle the fear-creatures on our behalf. This time, though, something went wrong: instead of the great fantasy writer she came looking for, the Muse found failed author and plagiarist Henry Henry, who was in the process of stealing a manuscript. The pretentious fabulist is suddenly our only hope, which is decidedly not a good thing. This archly funny horror comic from O’Sullivan (Void Trip) and Andrea Mutti features great art and makes a lot of great points about the art of storytelling.

Jook Joint, by Tee Franklin, Alitha E. Martinez, Taylor Esposito, and Shari Chankhamma
Another horror series, this one focused on well-earned revenge, is led by creators Tee Franklin (last year’s wonderful Bingo Love) and Alitha Martinez (Black Panther: World of Wakanda). The hottest jazz brothel in 1950s New Orleans is a place where dreams and fantasies come true, but not all of the male guests are interested in following the rules and keeping their hands to themselves. Mahalia, who runs the Jook Joint with her coven of slain women, is happy to remind them. She also helps the sick and frightened, including abused wife Heloise, who has to decide how far she’s willing to go to get rid of her husband.

Detective Comics #1000: The Deluxe Edition, by James Tynion IV, Kevin Smith, Jim Lee, Neal Adams, Paul Dini, Tom King, Brian Michael Bendis, Becky Cloonan, Warren Ellis, Christopher Priest, et al.
The 80th anniversaryof Batman, by chance or design, lined up very nicely with the 1,000th issue of Detective Comics, the book in which Batman made his debut way back in 1939. If you missed picking up that landmark issue a couple of months ago, you’re in luck: DC is re-releasing it as a fancy hardcover with all of the original content as well as a new bonus adventure by Robert Venditti and Stephen Segovia and several pages of new art. The celebratory stories from several all-star creative teams speak to the many different facets of the Bat-mythos, and offer a few peeks into Gotham’s future as well.

The Dreaming, Vol. 1: Pathways and Emanations (The Sandman Universe), by Si Spurrier, Bilquis Evely, Mat Lopes, and Neil Gaiman
It’s been quite a while since we last visited the world of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman in earnest, but Gaiman himself is curating this new series featuring an impressive creative team led by Si Spurrier (Cry Havoc) and Bilquis Evely (Wonder Woman). As the book opens, it’s been 23 years since Daniel was anointed to take Morpheus’ place as the lord of dreams—but now he’s disappeared, leaving his domain open to catastrophe. Lucien the Librarian is left to protect the Dreaming from internal disarray and, more pressingly, an external threat making its way to the gates. But Lucien is no warrior, and the dangers are real and growing.

CALEXIT: Emmie-X, Vol 1, by Matteo Pizzolo, Carlos Granda, Lauren Affe, Soo Lee, and Tyler Boss
Publisher Black Mask returns to the world of CALEXIT, in which California responds to an authoritarian government by declaring itself a separate Sanctuary, with this largely standalone story set. Emma works at a punk record store until Homeland Security turns the mall into a detention center for immigrants. In response, she switches her focus to pirate radio to counter the government-friendly channels, even befriending a Homeland Security trooper in the process. It remains to be seen whether he’ll defy his bosses or choose to turn her in.

Cemetery Beach, by Warren Ellis and Jason Howard
Master of high-concept sci-fi Warren Ellis kicks off his latest with an impressively wild premise: there’s another Earth out there, a colony that split off from our own decades ago and has since been left to develop on its own. Its society and culture have deviated from ours, and it’s full of people who aren’t quite mentally stable. A pathfinder come to check on the colony is captured, narrowly escapes from his torture cell, and sets out to reach his extraction site with only a young murderer for company. High-concept action abounds.

The Grave, by Dan Fraga
Dan Fraga (the comic book and storyboard artist currently working on TV’s Doom Patrol) developed this charming, creepy coming-of-age tale over the course of a year, doing just a panel a day. It was a labor of love, and it shows. During a weekend camping trip, three boys discover a shallow grave with a cigar box seven items: a knife, a coin, a pocket watch, a rare baseball card, a gold ring, a silver spoon, and a strange manga comic. Each item has a story, as does the mysterious body found with them… and they’re all inter-connected—to each other and, ultimately, to the boys who’ve uncovered them. Fraga’s detailed art is a highlight.

West Coast Avengers, Vol. 2: City of Evils, by Kelly Thompson, Daniele di Nicuolo, Gang Hyuk Lim, and Moy R
The funnier, sunnier team of Avengers has been a highlight of Marvel’s recent line-up, an odd next-generation team consisting of two Hawkeyes (Clint and Kate Bishop), America Chavez. Gwenpool, Kid Omega, and Fuse. In the second volume, Kate is troubled by the return of her ex-, Noh-Varr, who brings word of a new Masters of Evil forming in Los Angeles. At the same time, the Temple of the Shifting Sun has its eyes on America, their prophesied savior.

Avengers: No Road Home, by Al Ewing, Jim Zub, Mark Waid, Paco Medina, and Sean Izaakse
And now to the other Avengers. In 2018, the miniseries No Surrender put an end to one era of the team. Nevertheless, the success of that series (and the need to clear up a few loose ends) allowed for this sequel starring Voyager, the villain of the earlier book, before she was moved by the selfless nature of the Avengers and became a hero. Returning from her self-imposed exile, the Grandmaster’s daughter assembles a team of Avengers to oppose Nyx, the embodiment of darkness. Like the earlier series, it’s smart and action-packed, building toward an impressively impactful conclusion.

DIE, Vol. 1: Fantasy Heartbreaker, by Kieron Gillen, Stephanie Hans, and Clayton Cowles
There’s been a lot of buzz around this series heading into its first collection, and the art alone is enough to justify it: this is the first comic series from digital painter Stephanie Hans, and visually, it’s a stunner. Fortunately, that art is in service of a compelling fantasy/horror narrative with a neat hook: in 1991, six teenagers disappeared while playing a Dungeons & Dragons-esque role-playing game. Found two years later and 50 miles away, they are unwilling or unable to explain where they’d been. Years later, as adults, they’re drawn back into the dangerous, otherworldly plane from which they’d previously escaped. Shades of Stranger Things, Ready Player One, and Birthright make this one a surefire fan favorite.

Paradox Girl, Vol. 1, by Cayti Bourquin and Yishan Li
Though a comedy, Paradox Girl cleverly deals with the consequences of time travel in ways that other more straightforward sci-fi books can’t be bothered to. The hero fights crime using her ability to visit anywhere in space and time, but, in the process, leaves behind versions of herself that are sometimes helpful and sometimes only get in the way. As a result of having changed time so frequently and chaotically, she’s not even really sure who she is anymore. It’s a fun book that grapples with questions of identity, told in a not-entirely-linear way—Paradox Girl’s abilities mean that different versions of her show up unexpectedly, often for reasons that only come to make sense much later in the story.

Old Souls, by Brian McDonald and Les McClaine
Everything’s going pretty good for Chris Olsen: he’s got a decent job with a promising future, and enjoys a relatively happy family life—at least until he encounters a homeless man who triggers memories of past lives and buried traumas that have never really left him. Digging into the wold of the “grave robbers” who can help him dredge up his past lives, he grows increasingly desperate to find closure without losing sight of his life in the here and now.

The Follies of Richard Wadsworth, by Nick Maandag
Nick Maandag’s darkly satirical collection of stories follows several characters who find themselves in deeply awkward and uncomfortable situations, usually as a result of their own questionable morals. “Night School” sees a fire Chief attending to a fire alarm during a class and refusing to leave; “The Follies of Richard Wadsworth” finds the title philosophy professor coming up with an absurd business plan while high at a student’s party; and “The Disciple” follows sexual shenanigans at a coed Buddhist monastery. If the comedy of awkward silences and cringeworthy behavior is your thing, Maandag delivers.

Giant Days, Vol. 10, by John Allison, Max Sarin, Julia Madrigal, and Whitney Cogar
It’s hard to believe that this beloved, perpetually EIsner-nominated slice-of-life comedy series is nearing its conclusion as Esther de Groot, Susan Ptolemy and Daisy Wooton move into their final year of college. Following Ed’s long-gestating declaration of love for Esther and a blow-up between Susan and McGraw over their new flat, senior year is off to a bumpy start. Meanwhile, Daisy’s stuck with nowhere to live as the world of adult problems and adult choices looms for the best friends (for now).

X-Force, Vol. 1: Sins of the Past, by Ed Brisson, Dylan Burnett, Damian Couceiro, and Jesus Aburtov
Cable, founder of X-Force, is dead, and the original team of Domino, Cannonball, Shatterstar, Boom-Boom, and Warpath have come together to hunt down his killer. Time travel being what it is, though, it’s not nearly that simple: their target is soon revealed as a younger version of Cable himself. Matters are further complicated by the interference of the clone Stryfe. It’s a whole lotta X-Force action and a whole lotta twisty-turny time tripping.

Star Trek vs. Transformers, by John Barber, Mike Johnson, Philip Murphy, and Jack Lawrence
Sure, it’s a ridiculous crossover—the Enterprise and the Autobots join forces against the Decepticons and their new allies, the Klingons—but what are comics for if not to allow us to indulge a little once in a while? There’s a lot of fun to be had in this book’s off-the-wall mashups and beautifully retro art, which mixes the ’80s-era Transformers with the ’70s-style Star Trek: The Animated Series crew, but it’s not all silliness: Transformers veteran John Barber and long-time Trek writer Mike Johnson ensure that there’s a real story in the mix alongside the fun call-backs and colorful action.

Prince of Cats, by Ron Wimberly
This new edition of Wimberley’s way-cool work sees Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet refashioned to focus on the story of Tybalt, Juliet’s quick-tempered cousin. Oh, the drama is also set in Brooklyn, in the ’80s, with both hip-hop and kung-fu thrown into the mix. It’s a unique take on Shakespeare, to say the least—a romp that scoffs at following a formula while respecting the spirit of one of the Bard’s most beloved works.

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