9 must-read graphic novels for April

Contributed by
Apr 6, 2017

It may be the month that's kicked off by a day for fools, but when it comes to comics, April is not messing around.

The nine must-read books found below are perfect procrastination material to avoid your spring cleaning, and there's a story for just about anyone. We have sci-fi adventures, surreal comic strip collections, magical musicians (or is that musical magicians?) and even some obscure superheroes like Batman and Deadpool! There's a lot to love this month, whether you're looking for a cheap paperback (TP) or a hefty hardcover (HC), my recommendations have got you covered.

And as always, if you've picked up a book from previous months' lists or think I left something off this month that everyone should be reading, let us know in the comments below. Happy reading!

DEADPOOL: WORLD'S GREATEST VOL. 6: PATIENCE: ZERO TP

by Gerry Duggan, Matteo Lolli and Scott Koblish. Cover art by Mike Hawthorne. April 26 from Marvel

Deadpool is a tough character to get right. He needs to walk a tightrope of Bugs Bunny-esque trickster lunacy and painful, nihilistic tragedy that requires writers to be able hit you in the funny bone and tear your heart out all in the same page. If it goes too far one way it comes off as crass and lazy, too far the other and it's just depressing. Fortunately, ever since he took the writing reigns of Deadpool, Gerry Duggan has been hitting high note after high note in the Merc-with-a-Mouth's main series.

This collection of Deadpool collects issues #20-25 of the current run, where Duggan is joined by his Hawkeye vs. Deadpool partner Matteo Lolli, and it kicks off with the most moving single issues of a superhero comic book that I've read all year. In it, Deadpool meets a woman who's about to end her life by jumping off of the theater that he owns, and he manages to talk her down as only Deadpool knows how, before taking her on a wild ride of a night to prove that life is worth living ... and possibly convincing himself in the process. It's a beautiful homage to the famous moment in All-Star Superman where Superman stops a similar incident, but twisted through the worldview of Wade Wilson, it becomes a strange and wonderful story of its own.

The rest of the volume is just as good as Deadpool teams up with Agent Preston to prevent Madcap from killing their families and the conclusion of the Deadpool 2099 story, but honestly it's worth the price of admission for just the one issue. For my money, this is the best Deadpool has ever been -- you'd have to have lost your chimichangas to not be reading it.

 

THE REALIST: PLUG AND PLAY HC

by Asaf Hanuka. Cover art by Asaf Hanuka. April 12 from Archaia

The first volume of Asaf Hanuka's The Realist was one of the most gut-wrenchingly powerful works of comics that I've ever read, and I'm having trouble putting into words how excited I am to read more.

The Realist is an exercise in duality. It's both a graphic novel and a series of stand-alone one-page strips. It's autobiographical while also being surrealist fantasy. It's heartbreakingly poignant but disarmingly funny. It's politically aware and pointedly smart, but painfully indifferent.

Each page of The Realist is an individual comic strip chronicling the life of Israeli cartoonist — and father and husband and brother and citizen — who writes and draws it, but it's never that straightforward. Hanuka plays with symbolism, color, panel layout and unreliable narrator in a way that makes you unsure of the facts but smacked across the face with the truth. I loved every single panel of the first volume so much that I found myself only able to read it a few pages at a time in order to digest it properly. This is pure magic in comics form and should be read immediately by anyone who needs a good laugh, a great cry or a hard think. Odds are you'll be walking away with all three.

 

CAGE! TP

by Genndy Tartakovsky, Stephen DeStefano & Scott Wills. Cover art by Genndy Tartakovsky. April 19 from Marvel

If you're anywhere close to my age, then Genndy Tartakovsky left a huge mark on your childhood. Between Dexter's Laboratory, The Powerpuff Girls, Samurai Jack and Star Wars: The Clone Wars (the first, and superior one. Meet me in the comments, nerds!), I don't think there's any creator whose work I spent more time devouring as a child than Tartakovsky's. So you can imagine my excitement, as an equally voracious reader of Marvel Comics, when the House of Ideas announced a comic book by him! But then, life happened and it never came out, and I thought I'd never see my favorite animator in comics form …

Well, it may have taken nine years, but I'm happy to have been proven wrong. In this insanely stylish and wacky series, Tartakovsky throws us back to the heyday of Luke Cage, when he patrolled Harlem in the deepest of V's and brightest of yellows, with a giant chain around his waist and a metal tiara shamelessly worn on his head. In this story, he's kidnapped, along with a handful of other Marvel heroes, and taken to a mysterious island where he's forced to fight for the amusement of a deadly villain who talks like Dr. Seuss. It's completely insane and a great love letter to the silliness of '70s Marvel, the bravado of the blaxploitation genre and the unfiltered awesomeness that is Luke Cage. You will dig it.

 

THE COMPLETE PHONOGRAM HC

by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie & Matt Wilson. Cover art by Jamie McKelvie & Matt Wilson. April 12 from Phonogram

Before Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie spun platinum with The Wicked + The Divine, they cut their teeth on another music-meets-magic series called Phonogram. In the world of Phonogram, there are magicians who meddle with and get their power from music, called "phonomancers," and the series follows several of their misadventures in an ode to music of all kinds.

The series was published in three separate arcs over ten years and the brand-new complete collection brings every issue of the series together in one book for the first time. First, in the newly-colored Rue Britannia phonomancer David Kohl is sent on a hunt for the goddess of Britpop, who has been dead for ten years. Then, in The Singles Club, we're introduced to seven different characters and their shared night of music and magic as they all find themselves in the same club on the same night. Finally, in The Immaterial Girl, we follow coven leader Emily Aster as she deals with the consequences of a deal she made long ago.

This is an absolute must for any music-and-comics fan or for anyone who has enjoyed McKelvie and Gillen's collaborations on Young Avengers and The Wicked + The Divine. And don't worry, even if you aren't a musical person (I'm certainly not), there's plenty of back matter explaining references and giving you playlists that will having you discovering plenty of new songs to jam out to while reading comics.

 

YOUNG JUSTICE, BOOK 1 TP

by Peter David, Chuck Dixon, Mark Waid, Todd Nauck, Humberto Ramos, Mike McKone and many more. Cover art by Todd Nauck. April 26 from DC

Young Justice is finally back! No, not the cartoon, we're still waiting on that, but the comic book series of the same name is finally back in print.

Now that you're upset about that fake-out, let me assure you, despite the show only being very, very loosely related to the comic, it features pretty much everything you love about the show: superteens trying to live up to their mentors' examples, drama, action, laughs and simmering secrets and plots. This huge collection features about the first dozen issues of the team's adventures from their own title and related one-shots and will introduce you to a whole new generation of super-powered teenagers to fall in love with, just like you did their television counterparts. This book was a high point for DC in the late '90s and early aughts and is fondly remembered for its strong characterizations, high-energy artwork and endearing character relationships.

Don't miss your chance to check out this newly-reprinted series and make the wait for the animated series' return sting a bit less.

 

SAVAGE TP

by B. Clay Moore, Lewis LaRosa, Clayton Henry & Brian Reber. Cover art by Lewis LaRosa & Brian Reber. April 12 from Valiant

Upon the relaunch of the Valiant universe, there were a handful of characters that didn't return from the original universe, due to rights issues. These included Magnus, Robot Fighter, Solar, Man of the Atom, and of course, Turok, Dinosaur Hunter. Their new character, Savage, is clearly intended to fill the void left by the latter, but he ended up being an interesting character in his own right.

Stranded on a mysterious prehistoric island with his mother and his pro soccer player father, Savage was raised amongst monsters. The story is one of vengeance and a quest for freedom as Savage grows up and tries to hunt down the men responsible for the death of his mother and searches for a way off the island. It's an interesting twist on the "jungle child" trope by simply having him remember his parents, and it's made all the better by the lush artwork of the legendary Lewis LaRosa and the precise lines of Clayton Henry, who each handle the illustrations for different parts of Savage's life. The island and its dinosaur inhabitants take on a life of their own thanks to the talents of these two very different but equally masterful artists who both put in some of the best work of their already impressive careers. If you like a good pulpy adventure story or simply enjoy when your comic books have beautifully rendered dinosaurs in them, you have to check the latest home run from Valiant.

 

JOYRIDE, VOL. 2 TP

by Jackson Lanzing, Collin Kelly & Irma Kniivila. Cover art by Marcus To and Irma Kniivila. April 26 from BOOM!

Much like its namesake, Joyride is an absolute blast, and it moves. It stars Uma and Dewydd, two teenagers from a future Earth that keeps outer space a secret from its inhabitants via an impenetrable dome who decide to escape by hitching a ride on an alien spaceship, which they later steal. And that's all just in the first issue! The second volume of Joyride promises the continued adventures of the motley crew that has assembled around Uma and Dewydd as they're forced to stop goofing off and confront the reality that surviving in space is a bit harder than they expected.

The star of this show for me is artist Marcus To, who makes the cast distinct, stylish and bursting with personality. There are plenty of unique and fascinating visuals that makes the universe look like anything can happen while still maintaining a cohesive and optimistic aesthetic. Joyride ranks up there with the best sci-fi adventures in comics and now is the perfect time to jump on board and join in the fun.

 

HELLBOY: INTO THE SILENT SEA HC

by Mike Mignola, Gary Gianni & Dave Stewart. Cover art by Mike Mignola & Dave Stewart. April 19 from Dark Horse

Honestly, you should probably just read all Hellboy. Hellboy is pretty much never anything short of brilliant. But, if for some reason you haven't taken the leap yet and want an easy entry into what has become one of the most fascinating fleshed-out universes in comics, you could certainly do worse than this month's original graphic novel, Hellboy: Into the Silent Sea.

In this, the third stand-alone Hellboy graphic novel, the titular demonic detective escapes a desert island by boarding a haunted ship that sails after a mysterious sea monster. Hellboy is swept into the captain and crew's quest and must survive the perils of the high sea and the crew's desire to sell him to the circus. The line work is provided by Gary Gianni, who has illustrated the Prince Valiant newspaper strip, The Shadow comic books, George R.R. Martin's A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms novel and much more. His art is astonishing in its detail, looking like it may be a centuries-old wood carving and not a comic book. Colors will be provided by longtime Hellboy colorist Dave Stewart, who is sure to provide the restrained, shadowy brilliance that he's known for. This book is a perfect place to jump into the macabre, beautiful world of Hellboy, whether it's your first time or you're returning to it after a long time lost at sea.

 

ALL-STAR BATMAN, VOL. 1: MY OWN WORST ENEMY HC

by Scott Snyder, John Romita, Jr., Declan Shalvey, Dean White & Jordie Bellaire. Cover art by John Romita, Jr. & Dean White. April 19 from DC

The biggest title of DC's Rebirth publishing initiative was undoubtedly All-Star Batman. It featured the return (if you can call a less than four-month absence a 'return') of superstar writer Scott Snyder to Gotham to continue chronicling the adventures of the Dark Knight. But he didn't come alone: he brought Batman's most infamous rogues and a murderer's row of artists with him.

Kicking off the series was a five-issue arc pitting Batman against Two-Face and featuring the artwork of the one and only John Romita, Jr., fresh off his run on Superman. It's pretty fun seeing Snyder work his magic on the classic bat-villains since he spent most of his previous run inventing new enemies, and his take on Two-Face is particularly haunting, especially as portrayed by Romita's harsh, angular lines and the hallucinatory colors of Dean White. In the story, Batman attempts to transfer Harvey Dent to a facility outside of Gotham, only to find that Two-Face was prepared and has an army of villains, including Penguin, Black Mask and KGBeast on their tail. It's a high-stakes and high-velocity story full of action and heady twists, and it's not even the only story you get! Also included is the backup story starring Bruce's newest partner beginning his mysterious training, drawn and colored by the incomparable Injection and Moon Knight art team of Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire.

A defining tale for the modern Bat-fan and one of the best-looking superhero books on the shelves.