The Best Comics & Graphic Novels of September

Saga: Compendium One, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
So you’ve heard all about Vaughan and Staples’ weird, emotional, meme-worthy (Lying!) and emotionally powerful sci-fi story of star-crossed lovers and the daughter they fight for against the backdrop of a galactic war, but you’ve not yet taken the plunge. Or maybe you just want to consolidate your collection of trade paperbacks? And also you have relatively strong arms. Well, this is the perfect (very large) book for you: a giant compendium collecting all 54 issues of the book to-date, encompassing exactly half of the planned 108-issue, er, saga. There’s no better way to catch up (or re-familiarize yourself with) the whole sprawling story. Plus, over 1300 pages of Fiona Staples’ gorgeous art in a budget-friendly package—with a brand-new cover from the artist herself—is a steal any way you figure it. Originally planned for release in October, this one snuck out early, giving you plenty of time to plow through it before the series returns from hiatus sometime next year.

The Umbrella Academy, Volume 3: Hotel Oblivion (B&N Exclusive Edition)by Gerard Way, Gabriel Bá, Nate Piekos, Nick Filardi, and Jeff Lemire
It’s been almost a decade (if you can believe it) since Way and Bá last teamed up on an Umbrella Academy story, making this third volume a long-anticipated event (and dovetailing nicely with the debut of the well-received Netflix adaptation). Luckily, the team hasn’t lost a step: as strange and surreal as ever, volume 3 picks up with the team of super-powered siblings divided, and scattered around the globe. What brings them back together (almost) is a dark secret from the past of the late Sir Reginald Hargreeves: a master plan to protect his heroic charges from rising threats involving a secret prison and a new generation of gifted individuals. The B&N Exclusive Edition includes several pages of extra material along with a very nice variant cover by Bá.

Batman: Damned (B&N Exclusive Edition), by Brian Azzarello, Lee Bermejo
This story from DC’s mature reader Black Label imprint begins as a mystery: the Joker is dead, murdered after a fight with Batman—but Bruce Wayne has no memory of said events. With the help of hard-living magician John Constantine, Batman travels to the darkest and most horrific corners of the supernatural underworld in order to solve the mystery. The B&N Exclusive edition includes an extra 8 pages of content, as well as an exclusive lithograph.

Cosmoknights, Book One, by Hannah Templer
Queer romance, friendship, and wild mech battles against the patriarchy? I’m not sure what more you’d need, but here goes: Pan is a mechanic in a future-medieval world where male gladiators battle for the hands of princesses. When Pan’s relationship with just such a princess complicates her life dramatically, she’s forced from her home, hitting the road alongside a pair of space gladiators and discovering a larger and more interesting world in the process—one she’s looking forward to burning down.

Skyward, Vol. 3: Fix the World, by Joe Henderson, Lee Garbett, Simon Bowland, and Antonio Fabela
Having handled all manner of crises, Willa’s journey comes to a conclusion in the final volume of this Eisner-nominated series (though there’s a movie in the works). Twenty years ago, gravity on earth went haywire and was reduced to a fraction of what it used to be. An entire generation has grown up without being tethered to the Earth… though the change has also upset the world’s balance in other, more dangerous ways. Willa’s goal all along has been to fulfill her father’s dying wish and fix the world… but can she? And does she even want to?

Spider-Gwen: Ghost-Spider, Vol. 2: Impossible Year, by Seanan McGuire, Takeshi Miyazawa, and Ian Herring
Stepping out from under the shadow of Spider-Geddon, Gwen Stacey is looking for a little break—the band, school, a little low-key crimefighting action. Not likely. The success of Gwen’s music career is causing problems in her super-hero life, giving her a level of fame and recognition that’s not very helpful in maintaining a secret identity. It’s not long before her situation puts her friends and bandmates in danger, forcing her to decide just who she is and who she wants to be.

Archie by Nick Spencer, Vol. 1, by Nick Spencer, Marguerite Sauvage, Sandy Jarrell, Matt Herms, Jack Morelli, and Thomas Pitilli
Back from summer vacation with a soft reboot and a return to classic numbering (starting with issue #700), Spencer and Sauvage continue the modern run of Archie with a new job for Jughead (writer at the school paper) and a mysterious new romance for Archie. Oh, and there’s also murder in the air. As with the rest of the modern Archie franchise, the story adds some realism to the world of Riverdale without pushing things too far into grown-up territory, and Sauvage’s art remains gorgeous.

The Batman Who Laughs (B&N Exclusive Edition), by Scott Snyder and Jock
He might have been merely a one-off villain pulled from the pages of the creepy Dark Knights: Metal miniseries. Instead, the Batman spawned by the Dark Multiverse is poised to have a major impact on the future of the mainstream DCU. Having survived the events of that earlier series, The Batman Who Laughs kicks off a story that spans the multiverse, forcing Bruce to consider breaking his cardinal rule and actually killing his doppelgänger before his monstrous plan comes to fruition. Of course, it was murder that birthed the villain, leaving Batman with an impossible choice.

DC Poster Portfolio: Jim Lee
Though he made his name working on X-Men and WildC.A.T.S, Jim Lee has, over time, become inextricably linked with DC and its characters (none more so than Batman). The latest in DC’s poster portfolio series features 20 of his most iconic images of Batman, Catwoman, Wonder Woman, and more—each printed on heavy paper and at a large 12- by 16-inch trim size. It’s an impressive collection of art, and each page can be easily removed for framing and display.

Ophiuchus, by Alexis Leriger De La Plante and Natasha Tara Petrovic
A lone sentry guards a long inactive gate—in fact, she no longer even knows what it is she’s supposed to be guarding, until finally, a strange creature breaks through it and infects her with a virus. It’s the same rot that’s infecting the entire universe, and she might be the only one able to put an end to. The angular, bright, and beautiful art is a highlight of this popular webcomic-turned-trade paperback.

Rusty Brown, by Chris Ware
From legendary illustrator Chris Ware (of Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth and Building Stories fame) comes a monumental and idiosyncratic new work. Ware interrogates time and space themselves through the life of the title character as he grows from childhood into middle age, never losing his obsession with Supergirl and other comic heroes even as the world around him changes. Each page is packed with detail and a pantheon of complicated characters—as usual with Ware, there’s no shortage of ideas in each panel, as storylines diverge and dovetail constantly and unexpectedly. Ware’s been working on this one for 16 years, and it shows—it might be his most impressive achievement yet.

Fairlady, Vol. 1, by Brian Schirmer, Claudia Balboni, Marissa Louise, and Shari Chankhamma
During an epic war in a violent high-fantasy world, Jenner Faulds posed as a man in order to fight. In the wake of that conflict, she returns home to finds that her best hope for a future is in getting a fresh start as a Fairman—a specially licensed private detective. As the only woman with the job, she winds up with the cases that nobody else wants in the kick-off to a new series that blends imaginative fantasy, talking animals, and police procedural tropes. Kieron Gillen is a big fan, and so are we.

Simon Says: Nazi Hunter, Vol. 1, by Andre R Frattino and Jesse Lee
Inspired by the true story of artist, Holocaust survivor, and Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal, Simon Says liberally dramatizes his story and those of others who fought the good fight against the Third Reich in a pulp/noir style. Forced to paint swastikas on train cars during the war, Simon and Bruno channel their desire for revenge into careers as unlikely vigilantes, hunting down those who murdered their families.

Grease Bats, by Archie Bongiovanni
Charming and funny misadventures in dating starring Andy and Scout, best buds and roommates who are just trying to get through their 20s with the help of their circle of friends—and lots of beer. Andy, genderqueer and trans, is a casual dating overachiever, while Scout is still recovering from a breakup that happened two years ago. This collection of Bongiovanni’s funny, slice-of-life vignettes is full of misadventures, dates gone awry, and truly terrible decision-making.

Immortal Hulk, Vol. 4: Abomination, by Al Ewing, Joe Bennett, Ruy Jose, and Paul Mounts
In adding elements of the surreal and supernatural (alongside plenty of body horror) to the Marvel formula, the team on Immortal Hulk has created one of modern superhero comics’ most-acclaimed and buzziest books. In the latest volume, Hulk’s experiences in Gamma Hell lead him to seek out the truth behind the death of his best friend, one-time teenaged sidekick Rick Jones. Complicating his quest is the arrival of one of Hulk’s oldest foes, Abomination, and the vengeful revival of Betty Ross in the form of the Harpy.

Free S**t, by Charles Burns
Since 2000, Burns (Black Hole) has been publishing a secret, homemade zine solely for his friends. A sketchbook decades in the making, its 25 issues are now collected for his broader base of fans. This weird assemblage from one of comics’ most idiosyncratic talents includes finished drawings, rough sketches, process pieces, and more. It’s a unique peak behind the scenes at several of his evolving projects, and you’ll never lose the semi-illicit thrill of looking at something that was initially only meant for a few very lucky pairs of eyeballs.

The River at Night, by Kevin Huizenga
Huizenga revisits his Glenn Ganges character (star of a 2010 Ignatz Award Winner for Outstanding Series) for an exploration of relationships and time. The deceptively simple premise begins with Glenn and Wendy trying to fall asleep after a long day. Unable to drift off, Glenn reflects on everything from life back in the ’90s to his habit of gaming with friends, continually coming back to ruminating about the passage of time. Huizenga’s imagery and use of the comics medium to create rhythm and poetry from panel to panel is as striking as ever.

The Girl in the Bay, by J.M. Dematteis, Corin Howell, and James Devlin
Following an attack in 1969, 17-Year-Old Kathy Sartori is thrown into Sheepshead Bay. She emerges from the water in 2019. Figuring out why is the mystery that drives this unique new book from editor Karen Berger’s Berger Books imprint, as Kathy confronts the strange double who has been living her life over the intervening decades, and hunts down the man who murdered her. Kathy’s past and present unfold in opposite directions as she tries to reclaim her life and her missing years.

Assassin Nation, Vol. 1, by Kyle Starks and Erica Henderson
A violent, funny, and foul-mouthed collaboration between Henderson and Starks, this new book follows the world’s former greatest hitman, now the head of a powerful crime syndicate. Discovering that he’s been targeted for death, he hires the world’s 20 best assassins to be his own personal bodyguards—individuals who will stop at nothing to keep the boss safe and uncover the identity of whomever’s trying to kill him. Let the the blood and bullets fly.

Captain Marvel, Vol. 1: Re-Entry, by Kelly Thompson, Carmen Carnero, Annapaola Martello, Amanda Conner, and Tamra Bonvillain
After spending the last few months in space, newly minted movie star Carol comes down to Earth—New York City, specifically. But there’s no time to rest… the Nuclear Man has turned Roosevelt Island into an apocalyptic wasteland, cut off from the rest of Manhattan. Leading an uprising, Carol is joined by Spider-Woman, Hazmat, Echo, and old ally with whom she has a particularly complicated relationship: the X-Men’s Rogue. After appearances in two 2019 mega-blockbusters, Carol’s profile has never been higher, and this is a great place for new readers to jump onboard with her adventures on the page.

I Know What I Am: The Life and Times of Artemisia Gentileschi, by Gina Siciliano
Among the giants of Renaissance painting, Artemisia Gentileschi is rarely mentioned in the same breath with some of the male figures of the era, and for reasons having little to do with her extraordinary talent and everything to do with the patriarchy. Not only was she one of the very rare women to be accepted among the artistic circles of her time, she depicted in her work strong and sometimes suffering women from myth and history. She was also a single mother, and a sexual assault survivor who saw her attacker prosecuted. Gina Siciliano debut graphic novel is a revelatory work of historical biography.

Age of Bronze, Vol. 2: Sacrifice (New Edition), by Eric Shanower and John Dallaire
Shanower’s fictional but thoroughly developed and researched take on the Trojan War continues here, and is presented for the first time in brilliant full color by John Dallaire. Agamemnon is faced with an impossible choice: lose the war with Troy or sacrifice his daughter. Shanower’s series is both an award-winner and a reader favorite for good reason; with an eye toward real bronze-age history and a compelling narrative of the world’s best-known war (as it may or may not have happened), it’s never less than captivating.

Atar Gull, by Fabien Nury, Bruno
Atar Gull, son of a king, is kidnapped at an early age and taken to Jamaica to become a plantation slave. His seemingly submissive manner belies an inner fury and patience that sees him build toward righteous and bloody vengeance. Based on the French novel of the same name, the graphic novel explores the mercilessness and brutality of slavery while focusing on the complex humanity of those claimed by slaveholders.

What’s on your pull list this month?

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