The Best Comics & Graphic Novels of July 2019

Harry Potter-esque boy wearing glasses standing in front of a montage of spooky images, including a witch's cauldron and robed figures

Monstress Book One (B&N Exclusive Signed Edition), by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda
One of the most (justifiably) buzzworthy and award-winning books of the last couple of years is now available in a lavish new hardcover edition. Set in a steampunk-flavored matriarchal Asia of the early 1900s, the series follows a teenage girl with a psychic connection to a monster of tremendous power. The story’s suspenseful and deeply complex—no less so than the stunning art deco-inspired artwork from Eisner-winner Sana Takeda. This hardcover collects the first 18 issues of the series (encompassing the first three trades) alongside sketches, variant art, and script pages. Even better, the B&N exclusive version is signed by Marjorie Liu and has extra postcards showcasing Sana Takeda’s character portraits. If you’ve yet to check out the series, this is a great time to dive in… and, for fans, it makes for a pretty fabulous upgrade. (But don’t wait—once these signed copies are gone, they’re gone.)

LaGuardia, by Nnedi Okorafor, Tana Ford, and James Devlin
A pregnant Nigerian-American doctor named Future Nwafor Chukwuebuka smuggles an illegal alien plant through LaGuardia security in a world where aliens have integrated with human society. With her mysterious plant, she joins a community in the South Bronx made up of African and alien immigrants, along the way confronting discrimination and travel bans. Dr. Okorafor has made more than a mark with her Afrofuturist sci-fi novels, not to mention her well-received work on Shuri for Marvel. This one comes from Dark Horse’s Berger Books imprint, overseen by legendary editor Karen Berger, former head of the just-shuttered Vertigo imprint, so it should be no surprise when we say it’s groundbreaking stuff.

The Adventure Zone: Murder on the Rockport Limited! (B&N Exclusive Edition)by Clint McElroy, Griffin McElroy, Justin McElroy, Travis McElroy, and Carey Pietsch
The first Adventure Zone graphic novel proved that a comedy/fantasy Dungeons & Dragons-themed podcast actually could translate perfectly well to comics, thank you. With success pretty much assured (Here There Be Gerblins was a number one New York Times bestseller after all), the second volume dives right in without any hesitation. We rejoin Taako, Magnus, and Merle as they take on a railroad murder mystery involving a kid detective, an axe-wielding pro wrestler, cursed artifacts, and a pair of meat monsters. Fans will want to grab the B&N exclusive edition, which includes a gold foil variant cover as well as four metallic-stamped trading cards with images of Magnus, Merle, Taako, and Angus McDonald, boy detective.

Smooth Criminals, Vol. 1, by Kiwi Smith, Kurt Lustgarten, Audrey Mok, Brittany Peer, and Leisha Riddel
Hacker geek extraordinaire Brenda messed up: in her latest bit of digital skullduggery, she accidentally awakened Mia, an international jewel thief frozen in the 1960s and kept in cold storage ever since. What she doesn’t count on, however, is how well the two of them will come to work together. Before long, they’re planning the heist of the century—though first, Mia has a lot of catching up to do. The book is bright, colorful, and funny—a suspenseful caper with plenty of laughs.

The Green Lantern, Vol. 1: Intergalactic Lawman, by Grant Morrison and Liam Sharp
A new era for Green Lantern dawns with this new book from the superstar creative team of Grant Morrison and Liam Sharp. With all the mind-bending, trippy elements that you’d expect from this team, Hal Jordan sets off into deep space to help uncover an intergalactic conspiracy that’s tied to a traitor among the Green Lantern Corps’ membership. He’s forced to go undercover to root out the villain, potentially putting aside everything he believes in to attempt to put down a threat that would ultimately bring down the Corps.

Conan the Barbarian, Vol. 1: The Life and Death of Conan Book One, by Jason Aaron, Mahmud Asrar, Gerardo Zaffino, Esad Ribic, and Matthew Wilson
The prose of Robert E. Howard, creator of Conan, is often unfairly overlooked, but there’s no question that the adventures of his famed barbarian have lent themselves well to comics over the decades. After a long and impressive run with Dark Horse, Conan’s back with Marvel, the company that chronicled his adventures over hundreds of issues from the ’70s to the ’90s. They’ve given the book an all-star team, and are opening with this exploration of Conan’s journey from Rogue to King in a series of interconnected stories touching on several of the turns round the wheel of his long and bloody career.

Archie: 1941, by Mark Waid, Brian Augustyn, and Peter Krause
Another of Archie’s bold reimaginings of the Riverdale mythos, Archie 1941 travels back to the year of the character’s creation for a very personal story of the impact of World War II on a small town and the lives of young people who live there. Riverdale makes a perfect stand-in for real and imagined Americana of the 1940s, and the familiarity of Archie, Betty, Veronica, Jughead, and Reggie makes the story that much more poignant.

House of Whispers, Vol. 1: The Power Divided (The Sandman Universe), by Nalo Hopkinson, Neil Gaiman, Sean A. Murray, Dominike “DOMO” Stanton, and John Rauch
One of four books revisiting Neil Gaiman’s Sandman universe (and two coming to trade paperback this month), House of Whispers is written award-winning author Nalo Hopkinson (Midnight Robber). The titular house is the home of Erzulie Fréda, who inhabits a houseboat that’s also a welcome refuge for the dreams of voodoo practitioners. From her home on the water, Ezrulie sees the signs of a sickness that could cause untold devastation, but she’s powerless to help when her river turns sour and she’s drawn into the realm of the Dreaming.

Books of Magic, Volume 1: Moveable Type (The Sandman Universe), by Kat Howard, Neil Gaiman, Tom Fowler, and Jordan Boyd
This month’s other book set in Neil Gaiman’s Sandman Universe, Books of Magic follows Timothy Hunter, destined to become the most powerful magician in the universe.  For now, though, he’s just a teenager in London, trying to study while he’s hunted by cultists determined to kill him before he can become a threat. A mysterious new substitute teacher wants to help, but Tim’s not sure if he can trust Dr. Rose. The four new Sandman Universe books form part of a more complete story, even as each stands alone; this one is penned by award-winning fantasy author Kat Howard (The Unkindness of Magicians).

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 he 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 Magicians: Alice’s Story, by Lilah Sturges, Lev Grossman, and Pius Bak
The first prose novel in Lev Grossman’s The Magicians trilogy novel focused on Quentin Coldwater’s introduction to the world of magic and his doomed relationship with the similarly talented Alice, a fellow student at Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy. This new original graphic novel turns that story on its side to tell Alice’s side of the tale. She’s the most brilliant student of her year, and rises to the top of her class before witnessing the invasion of a horrifically magical creature into their dimension, with deadly results. To put things right, she and Quentin make plans to visit the idyllic landscape of Fillory, which hides a darkness behind its children’s-book-ready facade. Fans of both the novels and the Syfy television adaptation (which veers off the text quite a bit) will be satisfied by this new look at a character they love.

Ms. Tree: One Mean Mother, by Max Allan Collins and Terry Beatty
Towering, tough-as-nails private detective Michael Tree, an iconic 1981 creation from Max Allan Collins and Terry Beatty, is a woman who takes over her husband’s investigation business after his murdered. The stories deal with then (and now) hot-button topics like abortion and homophobia, even as Ms. Tree hunts down her husband’s killers and takes on organized crime in a series of violent, noir-influenced stories that develop over time. This collection reprints five classic investigations.

Tonta, by Jaime Hernandez
One of the newer characters from Jamie Hernandez (Love & Rockets), teenager Tonta gets the spotlight in this standalone graphic novel. While the title character is staying with her half-sister, Vivian, her stepfather is shot during a botched robbery. The shooting leads to the revelation of unpleasant family truths that Tonta has either ignored or repressed for years. Some of Hernandez’s familiar characters pop in during the character-driven story.

Joker (DC Black Label Edition), by Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo
The latest classic addition in DC’s adult-focused Black Label is one of the darkest Joker stories ever—and that, of course, is saying something. Azzarello and Bermejo’s fever dream sees the Joker mysteriously released from Arkham Asylum for a long night of revenge, crime, and murder—not even other criminals like The Penguin, The Riddler, Two-Face, Killer Croc are safe from his escapades. This new edition celebrates the book’s 10th anniversary.

Shanghai Dream, by Philippe Thirault and Jorge Miguel
In Berlin of 1938, a young Jewish filmmaker aspires to direct the screenplay that he and his wife are writing—but the dangers for him, and for his family, are mounting in Hitler’s Germany. When his wife is killed by Nazis during their deportation, he finds himself alone in China, heartbroken but determined to bring that screenplay to life in honor of his wife. The humanistic drama takes a devastating, inspiring, and distinctive look at the World War II era.

Gunning for Hits, by Jeff Rougvie, Moritat, and Casey Silver
When the opportunity to make a comeback album for his favorite rock legend goes horribly awry, talent scout Martin Mills is forced to use the deadly skills he thought he’d left behind in order to save his own reputation and the artist’s career. This 1980s-era, New York-set music/crime thriller is written by real-life music producer Rougvie.

Miles Morales: Spider-Man, Vol. 1: Straight Out of Brooklyn, by Saladin Ahmed, David Curiel, Javier Garrón, and Cory Petit
After a star-making turn in Into the Spider-Verse, Miles Morales is back in the comics thanks to this new series from Saladin Ahmed and Javier Garrón. Still trying to balance life, school, friends, and family with his superhero gig, Miles life is further turned upside down when the Rhino and a gang of criminals begin rampaging through Brooklyn. It’s one thing to stop them, it’s another to uncover the mystery at the core of the sudden villain uprising. If you loved the Oscar-winning animated film, this is the best way to continue Miles’ adventures.

Black Widow: No Restraints Play, by Jen Soska, Sylvia Soska, Flaviano, and Veronica Gandini
Her fate on the big screen may be… let’s say up in the air, but Natasha is back in fighting shape in this new series. After her recent experiences, she’s finding it harder and harder to walk the heroes’ path, and travels to Madripoor to satisfy her growing bloodlust. There, she uncovers the existence of “No Restraints Play,” a brutal torture website that doesn’t do much to put her in a better mood, and sets off to track down the very bad people behind it.

Marvel Visionaries: Roy Thomas, by Roy Thomas, Stan Goldberg, Don Heck, John Buscema, and Barry Windsor-Smith
With the 80th anniversary of Marvel (or, at least, the publisher that eventually became Marvel) upon us, it’s a good time to reflect on some of the talents that made the publisher what it is. Roy Thomas sometimes sits in the shadow of Stan Lee as his successor as editor-in-chief, but, as a writer, he’s also responsible for some of the most groundbreaking superhero comics of all time. Many of them are represented here, as the Fantastic Four fight racism, Vision joins the Avengers, the Invaders get an origin story, and Dracula rises from the grave.

Tomb of Dracula: Day of Blood, Night of Redemption, by Marv Wolfman, Gene Colan, and Al Williamson
Marvel’s 1970s work on its own version of Dracula was killer (pun totally intended), driven by brilliantly creepy creators. This 1991 follow-up from the dream team of Wolfman, Colan, and Williamson has somehow never been reprinted before. It stars Frank Drake, Drac’s last descendant, who is drawn, alongside his wife, into a plot to revive the vampire lord himself—one that requires human sacrifice as depicted by Colan’s lavish art. Luckily, Blade the Vampire Hunter is on the case.

What’s on your pull list this month?

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