The Best Comics & Graphic Novels of March 2019

The Handmaid’s Tale: A Novel, by Margaret Atwood and Renée Nault
Nearly 35 years after it was first published, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is having a moment: as the TV series continues to widespread acclaim, Atwood herself has stunned readers with the announcement of a forthcoming sequel. Moreover, the book’s themes of female subjugation are at least as relevant and biting as ever, while its humanity has never been more essential. Artist Renée Nault has collaborated with Atwood on this new graphic novel adaptation, telling the story through stunning watercolor art that captures the novel’s visceral emotional undercurrents in an entirely new way.

Captain America by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Vol. 1: Winter in America, by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Leinil Francis Yu, Gerry Alanguilan, and Sunny Gho
While in his second year writing a revitalized, more-relevant-than-ever Black Panther, Ta-Nehisi Coates has taken over scripting on Captain America too. Following America’s takeover by Hydra in Secret Empire, a story in which a Nazi Captain America (it’s complicated) was narrowly defeated, Steve is back, but weakened by his association with his evil double. He’s determined to explore the reasons why America was so easily taken in by the promise of Hydra, even as an old threat is working behind the scenes to destroy faith in the American dream once and for all.

Shades of Magic, Vol. 1: The Steel Prince (B&N Exclusive Edition), by V. E. Schwab, Enrica Eren Angiolini, and Andrea Olimpieri
Expanding upon Scwab’s Shades of Magic novel series, prequel comic The Steel Prince tells the story of Prince Maxim Maresh, adoptive father of series lead Kell, and the future king of Red London. He’s been ordered to put down a revolt in a distant port city on the Blood Coast, where he encounters lawless soldiers and a deadly pirate queen. Schwab pens the scripts (this is canon, folks), and the art, by Andrea Olimpieri and company, perfectly matches the tone of the novels. The B&N exclusive edition contains commentary from the author, a script-to-art feature, and character sketches.

Belzebubs, by JP Ahonen
Described as “Calvin & Hobbes meets Call of Cthulhu” (beat that for a synopsis), this webcomic has become a cult sensation. Collected for the first time, Ahonen’s story follows an everyday family running a small business in faux-documentary style. That business just happens to be a black-metal band, and the parents of Lilith and Leviathan are only slightly disappointed that neither of the kids has turned out to be the Antichrist. It’s a silly, Addams Family-esque family comedy with a perfect cartoony style.

Coda, Vol. 1, by Simon Spurrier and Matias Bergara
Like fantasy l, sword and sorcery RPGs tend to traffic in tried-and-true tropes. They’re ubiquitous because they work, but sometimes it feels as though we can never quite get beyond Robert Howard and J.R.R. Tolkien. In Coda, Simon Spurrier (The Spire) and Matías Bergara (Cannibal) are looking to do just that, literally, creating a meta-fantasy world in which magic, once commonplace, is now gone. What’s left is a wasteland in which a former bard named Hum and an ill-mannered, five-horned steed team up to save the soul of his wife, and are inadvertently caught up in a struggle to control a post-magic world. Bergara’s detailed art and surreal colors perfectly complement Spurrier’s offbeat scripting (you certainly need just the right artist to pull off a foul-mouthed pentacorn). The feel is akin to a particularly off-the-wall gaming session with your closet buds, each of you trying to out-weird the other in plot twists and character creation.

Rick and Morty vs. Dungeons & Dragons (B&N Exclusive Edition), by Patrick Rothfuss, Jim Zub, and Troy Little
Impressive credits on this one: Jim Zub teams up with fantasy novelist and D&D superfan Patrick Rothfuss (The Kingkiller Chronicle) and cartoonist Troy Little (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas) for the story of a tabletop game gone horribly and hilariously wrong. Morty wants to impress a girl at school, so asks D&D veteran Rick for some help. Before long, the whole family is trapped in a world in which the rules of the game become the rules by which they’ll live or die. It’s a legit Dungeons & Dragons crossover, so there’s plenty of cool stuff for fans of both R&M and D&D. The B&N Exclusive edition has a variant cover and includes a bonus poster.

Superman, Vol. 1: The Unity Saga—Phantom Earth, by Brian Michael Bendis, Ivan Reis, Joe Prado, and Oclair Albert
Lois and Jon are off in space and out of touch, but Superman has to fight for Earth just the same in the kick-off to Bendis’ Unity Saga. Under mysterious circumstances, the entire planet is transported to the Phantom Zone and finds itself subject to the whims of the dangerous Kryptonian criminals held there. They’re soon unified under Rogol Zaar, the killer of Krypton and the prison dimension’s newest inmate. Luckily, Zod joins in the fight on the side of Earth… if only he can be trusted.

Skyward, Vol. 2: Here There Be Dragonflies, by Joe Henderson, Lee Garbett, and Antonio Fabela
One day, out of the blue, Earth’s gravity became a small fraction of what it is now. Dangerous, sure, but in a lot of ways it’s pretty cool. Willa Fowler’s lived her entire life in this low gravity environment, and has no interest in seeing things go back to the way they were. Following the events of the first volume, Willa is a fugitive, having left Chicago for the home of some low-G farmers. In the process, she uncovers a plot to attack the city and some man-eating bugs. With a clever premise and some great art, the book soars. (Get it?)

Xerxes: The Fall of the House of Darius and the Rise of Alexander, by Frank Miller and Alex Sinclair
Twenty years after the publication of his controversial classic, comics icon Frank Miller returns to the world of 300 for this companion graphic novel that imagines the Achaemenid Dynasty and its ongoing war against mainland Greece. While the earlier work focused on the contributions of the Spartans and the Battle of Thermopylae, the new book looks at the Athenians and the conditions that gave rise to Alexander’s empire. Miller’s art is as vibrant and visceral as ever, brought to life in Alex Sinclair’s bold colors.

The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 8: Old is the New New, by Kieron Gillen, Stephanie Hans, Andre Lima Araujo, Matt Wilson, and Kris Anka
The penultimate volume of this pop stars as literal gods series collects all six of the specials produced for the series, each offering a special insight into the broader events of the Wicked + Divine universe, and each an essential preface to the big finale. There’s an Agatha Christie-esque murder, a resurrection at Lake Geneva, Lucifer as a nun, Ananke’s Black Death confession, and the true story of the fall of Rome.

By Night, Vol. 1, by John Allison, Christine Larsen, and Sarah Stern
John Allison (of Giant Days) and Christine Larsen (of Adventure Time) introduce Spectrum, South Dakota, a town that’s seen better days. Residents and best friends Jane Langstaff and Heather Meadows discover a device there called the Eidolon that can open a doorway to another dimension. Cameras in hand, the two friends set off to make a documentary about their explorations of a strange new world.

The Walking Dead, Vol. 31, by Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, Stefano Gaudiano, Cliff Rathburn, and Dave Stewart
When, at the very beginning of this series, Kirkman promised The Walking Dead would run “for a while,” he wasn’t kidding. The 31st trade paperback collects The Rotten Core story arc, as Rick leads Commonwealth Governor Pamela Milton on a tour of the Alexandria communities. Naturally, it’s a gesture that soon triggers some bad goings-on, including a bloody attempted coup.

Man-Eaters, Vol. 1, by Chelsea Cain, Kate Niemczyk, and Lia Miternique
From the Mockingbird team comes a fun and feminist horror-comedy comic that takes place in a near-future world in which a mutant strain of toxoplasmosis is turning menstruating women into actual wildcats. Twelve-year-old Maude’s dad is a detective investigating a series of mysterious mauling, and Maude fears that she might be the killer.

Detective Comics: 80 Years of Batman—Deluxe Edition
Batman’s 80th anniversary just happens to line up with the 1,000th issue of Detective Comics, the book that introduced Batman with it’s 27th issue waaaaaay back in March of 1939. Giving the Bat (and friends) the same type of celebration that Superman got last year, this deluxe volume includes a couple dozen of the best stories from Detective over the decades alongside essays from Bat-luminaries and a new cover from artist Jim Lee.

A Fire Story, by Brian Fies
The firsthand account by cartoonist Fies of the late-2017 California wildfires became something of a viral sensation. Forced to flee his family’s home with nothing but the possessions that could be fit in the back of his car, Fies told the story of the fires while they were happening, and as his own home was in the process of being destroyed. This book collects the entire series in an expanded form, with more detail and including the stories of neighbors and others in the community. The end result provides a more complete accounting of a very personal story.

Cold Spots, by Cullen Bunn and Mark Torres
Bunn and Torres’ supernatural mystery sets a perfectly creepy tone. Dan Kerr goes on a search for his estranged family, soon discovering that his daughter has a connection to the spirit world that’s made her a target of groups that want to exploit her abilities. Her connection to a restless spirit ultimately threatens to bring down a supernatural winter on a North Carolina town.

Faith: Dreamside, by Jody Houser and MJ Kim
The latest chapter in the story of superhero Faith Herbert (also known as Zephyr) sees her teaming with parapsychologist Doctor Mirage to go where she’s never gone before: into the Dreamside, a realm of fantasy inhabited by a nightmare adversary stalking the sleeping hours of Faith’s friend and teammate Animalia. With a little luck, she’ll return from the psychedelic plane with her mind intact.

Giraffes on Horseback Salad: Salvador Dali, the Marx Brothers, and the Strangest Movie Never Made, by Josh Frank, Tim Heidecker, and Manuela Pertega
Here’s a fun one: Giraffes on Horseback Salad was a real movie… almost. Written for the Marx Brothers by Salvador Dali in 1937, the script was rejected by the studio and thought lost. Until now! The team have recreated the appropriately bizarre screenplay as both a standalone graphic novel and a curious artifact of film history. A straight-laced businessman (portrayed as Harpo, who would have starred) falls for the Surrealist Woman, whose every action alters the world into Dali-esque fantasy. Groucho and Chico are on hand to help their relationship along in defiance of the humdrum everyday world.

The Weatherman, Volume 1, by Jody LeHeup and Nathan Fox
Amnesiac weatherman Nathan Bright is having a pretty good life on Mars, until he’s accused of having carried out the worst attack on human history, a terrorist incident that almost wiped out the population of the planet Earth. Of course, he can’t remember if he did it or not, so finds himself confused and on the run with government agent Amanda Cross, while trying to find the truth buried in his memories.

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