Spring Graphic Novel Roundup

It’s been raining in Sacramento for the last several days, and we have the COVID-19 quarantine going on. It’s times like this that beg for book lovers to settle in with a hot drink and an exciting new read. If your eyes are begging for something with more than just words, why not give a graphic novel a try? Whether you’re a “traditional” comic book fan, a lover of fantasy worlds, an artist, or even someone who just enjoys a well-written story, this season has some great new ones on offer. Need a recommendation? Check out some of our top picks below.

In these pages you will find fantastic stories told with both words and amazing artwork.

Archaia, 208 pages, $26.99

A chilly winter day just begs for book lovers to settle in with a hot drink and an exciting new read. If your eyes are begging for something with more than just words, why not give a graphic novel a try? Whether you’re a “traditional” comic book fan, a lover of fantasy worlds, an artist, or even someone who just enjoys a well-written story, this season has some great new ones on offer. Need a recommendation? Check out some of our top picks below. In these pages you will find fantastic stories told with both words and amazing artwork.

DC Comics, 224 pages, $24.99

Fans of The Magicians trilogy by acclaimed author Lev Grossman absolutely love the world of magic and secrets that these books introduced them to. Now readers can delight in a new addition to the canon, a graphic novel that offers parts of the story from the perspective of fan-favorite character Alice Quinn. Fantastic artwork by Pius Bak helps really bring to life these selected scenes from the story, and the characters they revolve around, giving readers who may not have seen the television show some amazing visuals. While there is not much added to the actual story readers already know and love, fans will still love this comic.

Image Comics, 528 pages, $49.99

Monstress has been a highly acclaimed comic book series since its debut, and it is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards in the fields of graphic art. Now readers both new and old can celebrate the first eighteen issues of this amazing series with a gorgeous omnibus-style book; while all of these issues have previously been available as single comics, or in three smaller graphic novels, there’s something inherently satisfying about being able to binge a series like this. Readers will love the art deco-style, steampunk feel of the illustrations, and the fast-paced story will keep everyone on the edge of their seats.

Fantagraphics Books, 332 pages, $29.99

In 17th century Rome, a female painter named Artemisia Gentileschi lived and rose to prominence, despite living in a country and a culture that excelled in keeping women down. Very few people today know her name, outside of art enthusiasts, but Artemisia is getting her story told now in this vivid and breathtaking graphic biography. Author and artist Gina Siciliano gets deep into the details of Artemisia’s life, and many of her most beautiful works of art are reproduced, in a sense, in these pages. This is a story that is sure to remain in readers’ heads long after they’ve finished the book.

First Second, 320 pages, $17.99

Bea has a lot of things to run from, so it’s not surprising that now, finally, she’s on the move. What she wasn’t expecting was to run into Lou. And she definitely wasn’t expecting the amazing journey that this unanticipated encounter would lead to. Together, Bea and Lou explore an increasingly unfamiliar West Texas landscape, befriend a mysterious cat, and try to outrun their own demons. Readers interested in a unique tale of heartbreak, loss, past sexual assault, and, ultimately, human connection will fall in love with this graphic novel written and illustrated by Tillie Walden.

Dynamite Entertainment, 128 pages, $14.99

Seventeen-year-old Nancy Drew thought she had left her hometown behind, and has since been trying to embrace the illusion of a perfectly in-control life. But after she garners media attention for solving a crime, it seems like her hometown isn’t done with her quite yet. When Nancy receives a threatening letter, she knows she has to return to the city she left behind. Reunited with her old friends, Nancy, Bess, George, and the Hardy Boys will encounter a dead body and an unsolved case. Can they follow the clues and solve this mystery before the danger catches up with them? Whether readers grew up with classic Nancy Drew mysteries or are completely new to the teenage sleuth, this story is engaging and action-packed, and a true pleasure to read.

Fantagraphics, 232 pages, $29.99

Who was Maria M.? Fans of author Gilbert Hernandez’s previous work will remember her well, but readers of all stripes will be intrigued by this tale of her twisty, turny life. Maria first came to America in search of a better life, like so many immigrants, but instead found herself married to a mob boss and lost in a world of drugs, sex, and violence. This volume collects the tales of Maria (originally published years ago and now out of print), mother of Luba and a fascinating character in her own right. The gritty black and white illustrations perfectly complement the story.

Hot Graphic Novels Roundup

Roundup by Thomas Rojek

The last few months brought us some wonderful graphic novels. I’ve taken the liberty of creating this roundup of my favorites and providing a summary of each book and why I loved each of them.

Midnight Radio
By Iolanda Zanfardino
Lion Forge, $14.99, 160 pages, Trade Paperback

In Midnight Radio, four strangers in San Francisco grappling with various life struggles from sexuality to PTSD, are unexpectedly brought together by a mysterious late-night radio message that changes their lives. Artist Lolanda Zarafardino’s style is beautiful and captivating, its color palette warm and striking, and the story feels personal, topical, and important. The characters put us affectingly in their shoes, making the issues they struggle with feel raw and real. It’s an important work and a compelling story done in beautiful style.

Blackbird Volume 1
By Sam Humphries & Jen Bartel
Lion Forge, $16.99, 168 pages, Trade Paperback

Blackbird is the story of Nina Rodriguez, a young woman who lost her mom at a young age and become obsessed with the idea of a secret society of Paragons, or wizards, and is treated as if she is crazy for it. All that changes after a giant monster kidnaps her sister and she is thrust into a world that she had always hoped to find, but nothing is as it seems, and she soon finds that everything that she knows has been a lie. Sam Humphries, Jen Bartel, and the rest of the team behind Blackbird have given us a fantastic and beautiful story full of intrigue, and I cannot wait to see what comes next in the series.

Milo’s World Book One: The Land Under the Lake
By Richard Marazano, Christophe Ferreira
Lion Forge, $12.99, 120 pages, Hard

Richard Marazano and Christopher Ferreira bring us the story of young Milo, a boy who stumbles across a magic goldfish that brings him to another realm where he must help stop an evil sorcerer. With the help of a thief, a goldfish, a grumpy villager, and his aunts, he will help to restore peace to a world on the other side of the lake. Milo’s World is a very sweet story with a charming cast of characters with an adorable art style that draws you into the story. Marazano and Ferreira do an amazing job with what is sure to be a beautiful and charming story.  

Old Souls
By Brian McDonald, illustrated by Les McClaine
First Second, $24.99, 256 pages, Hard

Brian McDonald and Les McClaine have brought us Old Souls, a story about a world in which you can unlock and live through your past lives by using a form of hypnosis, and, for Chris, it very quickly becomes something of an addiction. After meeting an elderly homeless man named Jack, who claims to have known him in a past life, Chris is dragged into a world in which he gets to re-live everything and everyone he has been, but he soon starts to slip further and further away from his family and those that care about him, and an unhealthy obsession begins to develop. Both McDonald and McClaine are masters in their respective fields and together they have created something truly beautiful.

By Ezra Claytan Daniels and Ben Passmore
Fantagraphics Books, $24.99, 288 pages, Hard

BTTM FDRS by Ezra Claytan Daniels and Ben Passmore is an important narrative and stylistic entry into the graphic novel cannon, which currently lacks in the area of Afrofuturism. But more than offering a stellar instance of Afrofuturist style, BTTM FDRS, much like Jordan Peele’s Get Out, explores the horror/comedy of everyday social injustices–gentrification, in this instance. The symbolism of an insidious force drawing evil power from the oppression of a vulnerable group is intentionally evident–and it becomes the source of both biting satire, absurdist comedy, and genuine, well, horror. Brilliant, striking, unique, compelling, and just a damn good read, BTTM FDRS is a triumph. 

Monstress Book One
By Marjorie Liu, Sana Takeda
Image Comics, $49.99, 528 pages, Hard

I don’t even know where to begin with this book. Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda have won multiple awards and received high praise for this beautiful graphic novel already, and I can see why. The story follows Maika Halfwolf as she hunts for a link to her past, and those that hunt her for the crimes she has committed in an attempt to find freedom. Accompanied by a talking cat, a fox-child, and an eldritch abomination, they are continuously and viciously pursued as they try their hardest to stay one step ahead of everyone. Anyone looking for something new and unique needs to pick this up; the artwork is beautiful, the story is full of beautifully done characters and environments and features a matriarchal society, and the world building is staggeringly deep. Do yourself a favor and get a copy as soon as you can.

The Magicians Original Graphic Novel: Alice’s Story
By Lilah Sturges
Archaia, $26.99, 208 pages, Hard

If you are unfamiliar with The Magicians series by Lev Grossman then you should probably go pick the series up (it is basically Harry Potter goes to college). Unlike the original series of books and the tv show, this one focuses on Alice’s perspective. We get to see her as she forces her way into Brakebills to try and join, her own struggle, and ultimately her own decision that saves the known universe. Lilah Sturges and Pius Bak do a fantastic job of breathing new life into the story from Lev Grossman. Well worth a read for any fans of the series.