The Best Comics & Graphic Novels of December 2016

best comics & graphic novels decemberIt’s December, and for many of us that means holidays. Family. You’ll ned to de-stress, is what I’m getting at. Happily, there are some good comics and graphic novels on the way—here are a few of the ones we’re most looking forward to.

The Legend of Wonder Woman Vol. 1: Origins, by Renae De Liz
It took almost 75 years, but we’re finally beginning to see female creators take on the comics’ most iconic woman superhero. It’s paying off: writer and artist De Liz has crafted a long-form, standalone story of WW’s origin that brings a new energy to Diana’s journey to America during World War II. There’s plenty of action, but De Liz spends as much time developing Diana and her supporting cast, particularly Etta Candy and the raucous Holliday Girls, as they protect man’s world and Paradise Island from Nazi ally the Duke of Deception.

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Rowan’s Ruin, by Mike Carey, Mike Perkins, and Andy Troy
Even post-Halloween, the chillier months are a perfect time for a spooky mystery. History buff Katie gets offered a house-swap: her Florida apartment for Emily’s English cottage. She jumps at the chance to travel, to get out from under her parents, and to experience the history that you can’t get in southern Florida. Unfortunately, all’s not well in the creepy rural community, and the house, Rowan’s Rise, is full of mystery and has a troubled past.

Archie, Vol. 2, by Mark Waid and Veronica Fish
Archie made waves when the seminal and long-running series was rebooted with an updated look and feel from Waid and Fish. We needn’t have worried. While the creative team has crafted a fresh imagenfor the series, and introduced a bit more soapy continuity into the world of Riverdale, they’ve retained the spirit and fun of the original. In volume two, Riverdale’s own civil war is brewing via comics’ most famous love triangle, and Hiram Lodge is running for mayor.

Moon Knight, Vol. 1: Lunatic, by Jeff Lemire and Greg Smallwood
Marvel’s been having fun putting new spins on older characters lately (Vision being a great example); this newest Moon Knight book is doing a similar trick. Marc Spector’s days as Moon Knight might be over, or they may never have begun. The hero has always walked the edge of sanity, but when he wakes up in an asylum, he has to face the very real possibility that he’s never been a superhero at all.

Paper Girls, Vol. 2, by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang
Vaughan and Chiang’s Paper Girls was a pretty great surprise earlier this year: it’s about oa group of punk paper girls who get caught up in an otherworldly mystery in 1988. Think Stranger Things. Volume 2 finds the troupe propelled forward through time into the distant and alarming future that is 2016.

Penny Dreadful, Vol. 1, by Krysty Wilson-Cairns, Andrew Hindraker, and Louis De Martinis
Showtime’s supernatural series Penny Dreadful seems perfectly suited for the comic book format, and De Martinis’ painterly, gothic art style works in this prequel. The story comes from the creative talents behind the show itself, and tells the tale that first led Vanessa Ives to search for her friend Mina Harker.

Astrid: Cult of the Volcanic Moon, by Kim W. Andersson
Astrid, a once-promising, now down-and-out former recruit of the Galactic Coalition, receives a new mission from her old commander: she’s sent to face an ancient evil on a dangerous moon in order to earn another shot at glory. This sci-fi story is from the Swedish artist Kim W. Anderson, best known for the recently translated Love Hurts.

Star Wars: Poe Dameron, Vol. 1: Black Squadron, by Charles Soule and Phil Noto
There are several Star Wars books coming from Marvel this month, which is probably no surprise considering the imminent launch of Rogue One. First up: Soule and Noto’s book about everyone’s favorite sexually ambiguous X-Wing pilot. Set just prior to The Force Awakens, it finds Poe, BB-8, and the team of Resistance fighters searching for Lor San Tekka, the explorer and friend of General Leia who came into possession of the map to Luke Skywalker in the movie. The mission is complicated by the First Order, which sends the notorious Agent Terex in pursuit.

Star Wars: Darth Vader, Vol. 4: End of Games, by Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca
The Darth Vader series has gone a long way toward correcting for the weenie-fication of the Dark Lord in the prequels and reestablishing him as a master strategist and the smartest bad guy in the Star Wars Universe. Sidekicks, archaeologist Doctor Aphra and gleefully sadistic droids 0-0-0 and BT-1, have been working alongside Vader to bring him back into the Emperor’s good graces following the destruction of the first Death Star, while each also plays a deeper game. It all comes to a conclusion in this final volume.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens, by Chuck Wendig and Luke Ross
We’ve all seen The Force Awakens, like, 15 times now, so this should be a pretty cool way to relive the story in time for Rogue One and next year’s Episode VIII. Veteran franchise scribe Chuck Wendig (the soon-to-be-completed Aftermath trilogy) and top-tier artist Luke Ross, best known for his work on Captain America for Marvel, tackle bringing screen to page, so there’s no shortage of talent on this latest SW comic adaption.

The Spire, by Simon Spurrier, Jeff Stokely, and Andre May
Spurrier and Stokely’s noir fantasy takes place in the titular Spire, a giant city in a radioactive desert. Humans and non-humans live together by necessity, but tensions are frequently high. It’s the story of Sha, the last of her species, called upon to bring to justice a serial killer just as a new Baroness is to be sworn in to lead the city. The new Baroness is deeply resentful of non-humans, and threatens to bring society crashing down around her.

Throwaways, Volume 1, by Caitlin Kittredge, Steven Sanders, Maiko Kuzunisi
Abby Palmer and Dean Logan were once disposable assassins, mind-controlled by a mysterious government agency and intended to die alongside their target. They weren’t the only ones—but they were the only two who made it out alive. Abby’s now a veteran, a drifter with severe PTSD, while Dean’s just a burnout. As the story begins, they’ve both come to realize how they got this way, and also that their implanted abilities are still with them. Now, they’re planning to bring down that shadowy agency and its leader once and for all.

Descender, Vol. 3: Singularities, by Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen
Canadian cartoonist and writer Jeff Lemire (working here alongside artist Dustin Nguyen) brings a great deal of humanity to each of his projects; even in a sci-fi space epic like Descender, his roots in more intimate books like Essex County are always showing. That’s a big part of what’s made this series so good, along with the fact that the story of a young robot’s struggle for survival in a universe in which all of his kind have been outlawed has gone in much weirder directions than we ever imagined, even as it remains as charming and heartbreaking as it is cool. Nguyen’s gorgeous watercolor-style art is a big part of the appeal. Volume three takes some time to dig into the backstories of the growing cast.

Gemini: The Complete Series, by Jay Faerber
This fun superhero series stars the utterly normal, entirely boring Dan Johnson. What nobody knows, not even Dan himself, is that he’s secretly the hero Gemini. A secret organization is using Dan to fight crime behind his own back in what the publisher describes as The Manchurian Candidate-meets-Spider-Man. This volume collects the whole series.

DC Rebirth Omnibus, Vol. 1, by Geoff Johns, Greg Rucka, Tom King, and Peter J. Tomasi
DC called upon some big-name creators in order to make a success of this year’s Rebirth. Each and every series started with a new special establishing the updated status quo, with a through-line about the return of the original Kid Flash, Wally West, forgotten and lost to time for the past several years. A whole chunk of time has gone missing, as it happens, and the Watchmen might have something to do with it. This is a big book, assembling all 21 specials from each series.

The Dark Knight Returns: The Last Crusade, by Frank Miller, Brian Azzarello, and John Romita, Jr.
Frank Miller has, um, returned to the world of his classic and groundbreaking Dark Knight Returns, bringing with him co-writer Azzarello and legendary artist Romita. In this trilogy-capper-slash-prequel, they tell the story of Batman’s final mission before the retirement that set up the groundbreaking first book. The Joker is behind bars, and Batman has a new Robin: Jason Todd, an ill-fated boy who might not be ready for what’s to come.

Weapons of the Metabaron, by Alexandro Jodorowsky, Travis Charest, and Zoran Janjetov
Jodorowsky’s cult status and a revival of American interest in his work mean that we’ve been fortunate to see new books and new translations of his long-running (and over-the-top bonkers) sci-fi opus about a family dynasty and galactic power struggles. Here, the Metabaron assembles the most powerful weapons in the galaxy in order to cement his status as the greatest warrior in the universe.

Ms. Marvel, Vol. 6: Civil War II, by G. Willow Wilson and Takeshi Miyazawa
Civil War II (that’s the sequel, of course, to Marvel’s 2007 series, not the Second American Civil War, which hasn’t started yet, at least) has pulled in heroes from all corners of the Marvel U, including younger ones like Nova, Spider-Man (aka Miles Morales), and Ms. Marvel herself. While it’s likely that she’d rather not be involved, her participation solidifies her status as part of the future of Marvel. Before she gets embroiled in the war, though, she’ll have to face something equally terrifying: a math competition.

Injustice: Gods Among Us: Year Five, Vol. 1, by Brian Buccellato
I would never have believed you if you told me this series, based on a video game, would last for more than five years, and I certainly wouldn’t have believed you if you told me that the quality would be so consistent. The book has provided a neat alternate take on the DCU, in which a series of tragedies send some heroes down dark and authoritarian paths, while other stand against them. With a stalemate looming, the war between Batman and Superman takes a new turn when the former friends realize that they’ll have to recruit old enemies if either hopes to claim victory.

One Week in the Library, by W. Maxwell Prince, John Amor, and Frazer Irving
This one sounds neat: it’s the story of a week in a magical library in which every story ever written (a la Jorge Luis Borges’ Library of Babel) is held and catalogued by a single librarian. Writer Prince has constructed the story in an experimental format, with a segment for each day of the week; each chapter uses comics art, prose, poems, and even infographics to create a sense of a living narrative in which the books themselves are no longer content to be held on shelves.

I Hate Fairyland, Volume 2: Fluff My Life, by Skottie Young
We loved the first volume of writer/artist Skottie Young’s hyper-violent, hyper-goofy series, and volume two offers more of the same. It’s about Gert, a little girl who got whisked away to Fairlyand and grew up there, even though she can never age, and she’s not happy about it. It’s Alice in Wonderland by way of Looney Tunes, with over-the-top violence and a protagonist who has quickly gotten sick of the candy-colored weirdness of her new home. In this volume, she hates Fairyland as much as ever, which makes her new job even more of a challenge: she’s now the queen.

What’s on your pull list?

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