Black Monday Murders, Kennel Block Blues and 8 more new graphic novels for the New Year

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Jan 9, 2017

If you’re anything like me, there's one New Year’s resolution that you make every year: Read more! Well, there's no better time to start on that resolution than now, and I'm here to help you figure out where to start.

As always, there's a smorgasbord of fantastic graphic novels and comic book collections being released this month in both hardcover (HC) and trade paperback (TP) for you to add to your reading list, and I've used my seven years of comic-selling expertise to narrow the list down to the best of the bunch. January has inclusions from science fiction, fantasy, superhero and other genres that showcase the adventures of wayward Kryptonians, incognito robots, sorcerous bankers, cartoon dogs and much more. There's a lot of greatness to find on the shelves of your favorite local comic shop this month, so be sure to let us know what you'll be reading — whether it made the list or not — in the comments below.

 

REVOLUTION TP

(By John Barber, Cullen Bunn and Fico Ossio. Cover by Tradd Moore. January 25 from IDW Publishing)

I’ll admit that when I picked up the single issues of this series, it was almost entirely due to the covers by my current favorite artist, Tradd Moore (Legacy of Luther Strode) laying down his impossibly smooth lines on the covers. I was a big fan of the Transformers cartoons back in the day (particularly the animated movie and Beast Wars) but I've never read the comics regularly and wasn't particularly nostalgic for any of the other franchises in this uber-crossover. But I have to say I'm glad I gave it a shot because this comic is ridiculously fun.

Throwing the worlds of Transformers, G.I. Joe, ROM, Micronauts, M.A.S.K. and Action Man together in the same shared universe may sound like incoherent madness, but against all odds, it actually works. Readers are tossed into a world gripped by robo-xeno-phobia thanks to the actions of the Transformers and ROM, where the powers-that-be are taking advantage of the situation to ramp up the response capabilities by pumping up the arsenal of the G.I. Joes and making way for the top-secret M.A.S.K. The ensuing conflict turns out to be much more meaningful to the missions of all the heroes involved than they first realize, as co-writers John Barber (Transformers) and Cullen Bunn (Micronauts) manage to weave their mythologies together in an intelligent and engaging way. Artist Fico Ossio (Orphan Black) performs an astonishing visual balancing act as he gives Revolution a unique, dynamic look while making sure everyone in the massive and iconic cast remains recognizable. A must-read for fans of any of these franchises, or for anyone curious as to how it might turn out when Hasbro attempts the same thing on the big screen.

 

THE BLACK MONDAY MURDERS, VOL. 1: ALL HAIL GOD MAMMON TP

(By Jonathan Hickman and Tomm Coker. Cover by Tomm Coker. January 25 from Image Comics)

While it's hard to think of when it hasn't been the case, it's a great time to be a rich guy. Trust fund babies in golden towers and billionaire dictators run the world in broad daylight, and the rest of the world is clueless as to how to stop them ... or as to how it all happened. We'll have to keep working on the first part, but as for the latter question, superstar writer Jonathan Hickman (East of West) has an answer for us: It's all magic.

The Black Monday Murders tells the story of a vast ancient conspiracy where the world's largest banks and financial institutions are actually schools of dark magic, powered by occultism, blood sacrifice and all manner of corrupting supernatural power. There's an order to things, and these people believe they belong on top ... and they do anything to keep themselves there. Fortunately, there's one prying homicide detective who is beginning to pull back the curtain and see the truth of what's going on, but he may not be prepared for what he finds. The Black Monday Murders combines the stunningly moody and noir-drenched artwork of Tomm Coker (Undying Love) in traditional comics pages with pages and pages of charts, timelines, transcripts and documents to create a unique, form-breaking sequential art experience at a level Hickman hasn't achieved since his debut with The Nightly News. This comic is bursting with information and worldbuilding and doesn't hand the reader anything, rewarding multiple readings and interpretations of events. I may be the world's biggest Hickman fanboy, but I can say with absolute confidence that this is the most ambitious project he's ever released and I absolutely cannot wait to read more.

 

THE GODDAMNED, VOL. 1: BEFORE THE FLOOD TP

(By Jason Aaron and R.M. Guéra. Cover by R.M. Guéra. January 18 from Image Comics)

Back in the early '60s, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby raided the halls of Norse mythology to create a superheroic version of Thor. More recently, Rick Riordan crashed the gates of Olympus to bring young adult readers Percy Jackson. So, while some may find what Jason Aaron (Southern Bastards) and R.M. Guéra (Scalped) are doing in The Goddamned blasphemous, finding space in ancient religions to tell new stories is certainly nothing new.

The Scalped creative team reunites in this series to shine an intriguing new light into the darkest days of the Old Testament, specifically the period in Genesis just prior to the flood, where things on Earth are so abysmal that God decides to start it all over. The Goddamned asks the question that most people don't think about — what exactly did that look like? — and answers it with depraved glee. For Aaron and Guéra, this was a time when bands of foul-mouthed, diseased-ridden cannibals roamed the wastelands, raping, slaughtering and pillaging wherever they went with nothing standing in their way. Nothing, that is, except the un-killable inventor of murder, Cain. The cursed son of Adam, Cain is the reluctant protagonist of this story who finds himself on a collision course with the armies of Noah, and the victor may prove whether there's anything in humanity worth saving. Relentlessly dark, powerfully subversive and brilliantly terrifying, The Goddamned is your new favorite comic book you'll never tell your mom about.

 

TIME SHARE TP

(By Patrick Keller and Dan McDaid. Cover by Dan McDaid. January 25 from Oni Press)

Time travel is a lot more entertaining when you're terrible at it. Or at least, that's the idea behind new-to-comics writer Patrick Keller and Judge Dredd artist Dan McDaid's new original graphic novel, Time Share. Described as a love letter to time travel stories, Time Share stars a gang of endearing losers as they bumble their way through the timestream and crisscross each other's paths in a comedic chrono-mess for the ages. The ensemble includes send-ups of well-known time travelers from across fiction, lampooning everything from Back to the Future, to The Terminator, to Bill and Ted, all with a Douglas Adams-style irreverence and sincerity. Leading the pack is teenager Ollie Finch, who ends up stranded in the '70s after taking his uncle's time machine for a joyride. Illustrating the book is Dan McDaid, whose cracklingly kinetic retro-influenced style is a perfect fit for the era-hopping tale and brings the comedy and adventure to life in equal measure. McDaid has proven his sci-fi chops on the Doctor Who and Judge Dredd franchises and I can't wait to see him cut loose on this original story. Time travel fans better not miss Time Share. Unless you have a time machine. Then I guess you can miss it and go back and read it whenever you want.

 

KENNEL BLOCK BLUES TP

(By Ryan Ferrier, Daniel Bayliss and Adam Metcalfe. Cover by Daniel Bayliss. January 11 from BOOM! Studios)

Everyone loves a good jailbreak story, and there was no more exciting or creative jailbreak story in comics — or any other medium — last year than Kennel Block Blues. But this isn't any old jail, it's Jackson State Kennel, and an overly-optimistic pup named Oliver has found himself locked up there for the first time. His bubbly attitude and penchant for breaking out into song at random times aren't going to do him any favors in this dog-eat-dog prison, and the dogs aren't even his biggest problem — the cats who've taken over the place are. If he's ever going to see his family again and avoid the crematorium, he'll need help from a ragtag crew of animals, including his spunky Chihuahua cellmate Sugar, a blind cat named Frisky, Fluppers the sickly rabbit and an excitable furball named Charlie to make their daring escape.

Writer Ryan Ferrier (D4VE) and artist Daniel Bayliss (Big Trouble in Little China/Escape from New York) weave a tale that gracefully dances between goofy, tense, cute and disturbing in an impressive display of craft. Despite being a story about cartoon dogs and cats locked up together, it doesn't skimp on the brains or the heart, nor does it lack in the visual department as it delivers some mind-bending hallucination sequences that are executed in a completely different animated style than the more somber and gritty prison scenes. If you're an animal lover, if you like prison dramas and classic cartoons or want to check out work by two up-and-coming creators who are surely going to be doing some huge things in the comics scene in the future, be sure to pick up this complete collection of one of 2016's most underrated series.

 

NEIL GAIMAN'S FORBIDDEN BRIDES OF THE FACELESS SLAVES IN THE SECRET HOUSE OF THE NIGHT OF DREAD DESIRE HC

(By Neil Gaiman and Shane Oakley. Cover by Shane Oakley. January 25 from Dark Horse)

If I keep writing the title of this book out, I'm going to run out of room incredibly quickly, so for the sake of expediency — and also my own sanity— I shall henceforth be referring to this graphic novel as Forbidden Brides. I appreciate your understanding.

Now that we've gotten that long-winded preamble out of the way, let's talk about Forbidden Brides, the latest in a series of graphic adaptations of the short stories celebrated author Neil Gaiman (American Gods) from Dark Horse, which we last mentioned back in June, with How to Talk to Girls at Parties. I'm a big fan of Neil Gaiman and found this hilarious pastiche to be one of his strongest stories in the brilliant collection Fragile Things. Forbidden Brides stars a frustrated author in a gothic horror world who is trying desperately to write non-fiction but keeps accidentally reverting to the overly-verbose, self-indulgent, melodramatic style of the genre.

Forbidden Brides is ridiculous fun and has found its perfect illustrator in Shane Oakley (Albion), who has worked with Gaiman previously on an issue of Sandman and has dabbled in a non-satirical manner in this genre with his own adaptation of The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe. I can’t wait to read what's sure to be another delightful adaptation, but I just have one request: Dark Horse: Please do "The Day the Saucers Came" next!

 

DEPT. H, VOL. 1: PRESSURE HC

(By Matt Kindt and Sharlene Kindt. Cover by Matt Kindt. January 18 from Dark Horse)

I'm a sucker for a good pun, so it shames me to admit it took me several months to realize there was one in the title of Dept. H. I'm also a sucker for Matt Kindt, who seems to be knocking it out of the park every time with his Valiant titles Rai and Ninjak, his previous Dark Horse series Mind MGMT and his recently debuted Ether. So between the pun and Matt Kindt, I was already sold, but for the sake of filling up more space, I shall assume that you, my ever-discerning readers, need a bit more convincing.

The smartest man on Earth is murdered six miles below the surface of the ocean and Mia is sent down to the deep-sea facility to investigate and suss out the suspected mole in the small crew of the station. There's only two things complicating matters: the man murdered was Mia's father and her brother is one of her suspects. Dept. H is beautifully illustrated, penciled by Kindt with poignantly reserved watercolors by his wife Sharlene that perfectly capture the darkness and crushing pressure of the extreme locale. Nothing is what it seems at the bottom of the ocean and readers will quickly be swept away in the currents of Dept. H's mystery.

 

CHEW, VOL. 12: SOUR GRAPES TP

(By John Layman and Rob Guillory. Cover by Rob Guillory. January 18 from Image Comics)

Okay, I admit it, I'm a few volumes behind on Chew, but I have to read a ton of comics, what's your excuse? Chew is one of Image's best and longest-running series and it all comes to a head in this, the sadly final volume of the series.

For those who have yet to dig in to the this delectable book, Chew is the gut-bustingly funny story of Tony Chu, an F.D.A. agent in a world where a bird flu outbreak turned chicken into contraband, making the F.D.A. the most powerful law enforcement agency in the country. Tony is also a cibopath, meaning he can see everywhere something has been when he eats it, making him a very valuable detective ... as long as he's willing to nibble on a corpse. Chew features a bizarre cast of characters with various food-related abilities, and most of them seem to have a bone (or tooth) to pick with Tony. Which of them will make it out of this bizarre saga alive is anyone's guess (anyone who hasn't read the 60 already-released single issues, that is), but I just can't wait to find out the ultimate fate of the greatest character of the 21st Century: the cybernetic assassin chicken known as Poyo.

If you haven't indulged in Chew yet, you've been fasting on one of the greatest comic book feasts of the modern era. Gorge yourself on all 12 volumes. You'll be glad you did.

 

SUPERMAN, VOL. 1: SON OF SUPERMAN TP

(By Peter J. Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, Doug Mahnke, Jorge Jimenez, and Mick Gray. Cover by Doug Mahnke. January 4 from DC Comics)

Superman is a very important character to me personally, so I was a bit apprehensive when I heard that he was going to be such a big focus of the continuity re-tooling that came with DC Rebirth. I — like the majority of readers, it seems — was not a fan of the New 52 Superman, but anytime big universe-altering changes are enacted, it tends to complicate things rather than simplify them. I'm happy to report that my skepticism was ill-founded.

After possibly outdoing Grant Morrison on a book he created with their run on Batman and Robin, it shouldn't have come as a surprise that Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason would absolutely nail their run on Superman. The setup of the classic Superman returning to this new world to replace the fallen New 52 version is fraught with continuity peril but the creative team flew right past all of that and set their sights on what really matters with Superman: the heart. Clark Kent has never been filled with more life and compassion than he is in these issues, raising his and Lois' son Jonathan and trying to find the balance between protecting his kid and teaching him who he is destined to be. It's heartwarming, genuine and action-packed stuff with some truly stunning artwork. Gleason is brilliant, particularly in the way he portrays the youthful exuberance of Jonathan, and he's joined by Doug Mahnke, who is well versed in how to draw a Superman that exudes both power and love after he drew about a million of them back in Final Crisis.

January sees the first releases of collections for DC Rebirth series and this is by far the most fresh and hopeful of them all. A perfect way to start a new year.

 

THE COMPLETE SCARLET TRACES, VOL. 1 TP

(By Ian Edington and D’Israeli. Cover by D’Israeli. January 11 from Rebellion/2000AD)

Steampunk rarely works for me as a reader, but when it does, it's in stories that explore the specific changes to the world or to history that made things take a different path. It's an inherently 'alternate-history' genre to me when it so often is treated as a setting unto itself that doesn't need explaining.

What intrigued me about Scarlet Traces is the unique conceit that British creators Ian Edington and D'Israeli used to create their steampunk world, one that works so perfectly that it's somewhat surprising it hasn't happened many times already. Scarlet Traces takes place in Britain following the events of H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds, where the British Empire has managed to take the technology of the Martians and use it for their own ends, using it for everything from cabs to weapons, the latter of which the British used to assert their dominance over the world. The story takes place ten years after the invasion, when Captain Robert Autumn and Sergeant-Major Archie Currie investigate the mysterious appearance of blood-drained bodies washing up on the river banks and discover its strange connection to the Martian technology. This collection includes a full adaptation of the classic H.G. Wells novel as well as the first Scarlet Traces stories that were first serialized in 2002. Sure to be a fascinating read for steampunk fans and classic science fiction fans alike.