God Country, Namesake, Superman and 6 more must-read August graphic novels

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Aug 2, 2017

Some days you just really need a good story, and oftentimes the right stories will find their way to you. There has been more than one time when I happened to read just the right page of just the right comic book and it had a big effect on the way I saw the world. It's important to read good stories, because whether we're conscious of it or not, the stories we're told shape who we are.

That's why I'm here every month to make sure you're reading the greatest graphic novels out there. On August's list we have nine graphic novels that are ready to rock your world; whether you're looking for some superhero icons, all-new worlds, or twists on classic horrors, I've got you covered. We have trade paperbacks (TP) and hardcovers (HC), stand-alone works and ongoing series, and even a bit of manga this month.

So dive into the list, where I hope you'll find just the right story for you. And as always, please let me know what you're reading — or looking forward to — in the comments. I love to hear your recommendations.

 

GOD COUNTRY TP

by Donny Cates, Geoff Shaw & Jason Wordie. Cover art by Geoff Shaw & Jason Wordie. August 2 from Image.

This year, God Country became a pretty special book to me. It's a special book, period, but it took on some special significance in its timing in my life. But I'm getting ahead of myself ...

God Country is about a man named Roy Quinlan and his family. It begins with him taking his wife and daughter to see his very sick and often violently confused father, Emmett, in the middle of Nowhere, Texas. The decision what to do with him ignites conflict between Roy and his wife, but that conflict is quickly eclipsed by a giant all-powerful sword that falls from the sky and is lifted by Emmett. His memories and mind are suddenly fixed, but his family's problems are only beginning, because some very powerful beings want that sword. The book soon erupts into insane cosmic action in the grand Kirby tradition, with crackling power, swirling storms, and mythic figures ... but at the end of the day, it's still about a man having to come to terms with losing his father.

The first issue of this book came out exactly two weeks before I lost my father to cancer, and I can't begin to explain to you how deeply watching Roy and Emmett's journey together touched me because of it. Their relationship, their things left unsaid, their difficulty reconciling to one another's realities … it all hit me pretty hard and helped me process the things I was feeling. I don't tell you this because I particularly like airing my personal stuff out in this column (I don't), but rather because there is no greater compliment to any comic book — any story — than to say that it helped someone understand their own story, and God Country did that for me.

Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw created something beautifully personal but cosmically and universally true in God Country, and you need to experience their story for yourself. Go buy God Country today.

 

CALLA CTHULHU TP

by Evan Dorkin, Sarah Dyer, Erin Humiston & Bill Mudron. Cover art by Erin Humiston & Bill Mudron. August 16 from Dark Horse.

The idea of an all-ages Lovecraft tale may not seem feasible at first glance, but it won't take more than a few pages of this book for you to wonder why a teenage tale of Eldritch horror hasn't been done like this before.

Calla Cthulhu stars the titular young woman, Calla, who is a descendant of the Elder-est God of them all, the tentacley titan Cthulhu. The problem is that Calla is a good person who is desperately trying to shed her heritage, but that doesn't stop a host of her ancestors' allies and enemies from coming out of the woodwork ... and it's rarely clear which is which.

The sometimes goofy level of secrecy and cloak-and-dagger antics of Lovecraft play well into this coming-of-age story, as does the existential dread. Lovecraft's trademark fear of the unknown goes hand in hand with young adult themes of growing up, and writers Evan Dorkin and Sarah Dyer use each genre to view the other in interesting new ways. The art by Erin Humiston probably isn't as Goth-tastic as you'd expect for a book with the word "Cthulhu" in the title but instead has the feel of a Saturday morning action cartoon, and it works perfectly for the adventurous tone of the book.

Full of great characters and a fun take on a familiar set of tropes, Calla Cthulhu is sure to be a blast for all ages of readers. The book was published digitally first, so if you're inclined to read it that way, you can go do that now, but if you're like me and can't leave print, you can pick it up later this month.

 

DEADPOOL 2099 TP

by Gerry Duggan, Scott Koblish & Nick Filardi. Cover art by Scott Koblish & Nick Filardi. August 16 from Marvel.

At this point, there should be no doubting the ability of this creative team to tell quality Deadpool stories; they've been doing it for a while. This latest run of Deadpool has been one of the best in the character's history, and one of the delights of the series is when it tells seemingly jokey side stories that build into larger, more emotional arcs. Deadpool 2099 is one such story.

In Deadpool 2099, the Merc With a Mouth is forced to deal with his long-lasting legacy. And speaking of long-lasting, Wade is still alive — albeit looney, frail, and bearded — in 2099, kept prisoner by the new Deadpool, the leader of the notorious gang "The Bobs," and Wade's daughter with Shiklah. But there's another heir to the Deadpool name, and she's determined to rescue the original. The war that breaks out between the competing Deadpools is as hilarious, violent, and heartwrenching as you'd expect and features the amazingly wacky debut of the Iron Fist of 2099.

It's fascinating seeing Wade have to deal with what he leaves behind as a father and as a superhero in a story that works as a great standalone tale and also has big implications for the present-day character. A must-read for any hardcore Deadpool fans and a clever, character-driven Marvel romp for every one else.

 

NAMESAKE TP

by Steve Orlando & Jakub Rebelka. Cover art by Jakub Rebelka. August 16 from BOOM! Studios.

Steve Orlando has been making waves at DC, writing everything from Midnighter to Supergirl to Justice League of America, but it's always most interesting to see what creators do when they're cut loose on a world entirely their own. Namesake is Orlando's latest creator-owned fantasy series with the incredibly talented illustrator Jakub Rebelka, and it features both creators at the top of their games.

Namesake is set in a world not unlike our own that converges with a fantastical dimension called Ektae every seven years, allowing travel between the two worlds briefly possible. It has evolved into a huge Mardi Gras-style celebration, but it's not a party for everyone. The book's protagonist, Jordan Molossus, is a hot-headed firefighter who has to clean up the mess and keep people safe during the festivities. But after a late night on the job, he returns home to find a mysterious package that sets him off on a dangerous quest to take his parents' ashes back to where they met — on a beach in Ektae. His trip to the other world — which looks like a beautiful blend of Mad Max and The Incal — forces him to confront his past and takes him on a much more harrowing journey than he was expecting. Namesake is a wild and gorgeously illustrated book with unique sci-fi fantasy worldbuilding and tons of attitude and deserves a spot on your bookshelf.

 

BATMAN: REBIRTH, BOOK 1 DELUXE HC

By Tom King, Scott Snyder, Steve Orlando, David Finch, Mikel Janin, Riley Rossmo, Mitch Gerads, Ivan Reis, and more! Cover by David Finch & Jordie Bellaire. August 30 from DC.

It's been fascinating to watch the evolution of Tom King's run on Batman. Each issue and arc has been a satisfying and compelling standalone tale, but each has also built off the other and called back and enriched the previous stories, making the whole seem more impressive with each successive issue. This collection presents the first 15 issues of King's run, which introduce new characters like Gotham and Gotham Girl, team Batman with the Suicide Squad, reignite his relationship with Catwoman, and much more.

But the thing that makes this run on Batman so special is the ideas behind it. In the first issue, as Bruce singlehandedly steers (from the outside) a failing 747 into the river, he asks Alfred, "Would they have been proud? Is this a good death?" That question really drives the series as it dares to ask whether Bruce can be happy, whether he believes he deserves to be, and just how far he has to go as Batman to feel he has made his parents proud. Thematically and formally, these are some of the most driven and purposeful Batman comics I've ever read, and they're drawn by an incredible lineup of artistic talent. It really feels like King is shepherding in a whole new era for Batman — one full of heart, heroism, and humanity — and this collection is the perfect place to jump on board.

 

SIF: JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY COMPLETE COLLECTION TP

by Kathryn Immonen & Valerio Schiti. Cover by Jeff Dekal. August 23 from Marvel.

While both of the trailers for Thor: Ragnarok have been great, they have been lacking in Sif. And if you're like me and need some more of Asgard's greatest warrior woman, then Marvel has the conveniently timed collection to sate you. This book collects the entirety of Sif's run as the lead in Journey Into Mystery that began in 2012, giving you a complete and action-packed solo tale about Sif, all in one book.

The story revolves around Sif struggling to control her berserker rages, which leads to trouble both in Asgard and on Earth. There are guest stars like her brother Heimdall and former flame Beta Ray Bill, all looking better than they ever have thanks to the smooth but fierce lines of Valerio Schiti. Along with writer Kathryn Immonen, they weave a compelling and appropriately mythic tale for the coolest lady in the Nine Realms, and upon finishing it your only complaint will be that it was too short. This is an action-packed celebration of one of the most criminally overlooked members of Marvel's pantheon.

 

MY HERO ACADEMIA, VOL. 9

by Kouhei Horikoshi. Cover by Kouhei Horikoshi. August 2 from Viz Media.

I don't keep up with modern manga as well as I should, so I feature it on these lists sparingly, but this is a series I've absolutely fallen in love with recently. My Hero Academia is a breath of superheroic fresh air in a world of increasingly familiar and repetitive superhero landscape. The series follows Midoriya, a powerless kid in a world where superpowers are the norm who is given the power and legacy of All-Might, the world's greatest hero. He then enrolls at the premiere superhero school, where he makes many friends with the fellow students as he learns his new powers.

There have been a handful of "hero training school" arcs in western comics, but there haven't been any as well done as this. The incredible imagination in character design and worldbuilding is impressive, and the cast of classmates are all well-rounded and interesting, each with their own subplots, making it a more satisfying experience than many shonen, which can fall into a trap of depending too much on the lead character at the expense of interesting side characters. In this volume of the manga, the students head to superhero summer camp, where I'm sure nothing will go wrong at all.

This is one of the most engaging, weird, and fun superhero universes I've ever seen, and there's not so much out yet that it's hard to catch up. If Marvel and DC aren't scratching your itch for superhero originality lately, then this series will do the trick.

 

KILL OR BE KILLED, VOL. 2 TP

by Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips & Elizabeth Breitweiser. August 9 from Image.

Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips have created some of the most celebrated comics of the last decade together, between Criminal and The Fade Out, so anything this storied duo does together is always going to be worth a look. And Kill or Be Killed may be their best work yet.

In this book, we are introduced to Dylan, a man who finds himself having to kill a person each month to stay alive. The story follows him as he goes from reluctant to calculated as he begins to embrace his fate and tries to use it to rid the world of some bad people. The book is scary in how charming it is, as if it's tempting you right along with Dylan into believing that killing bad people might be fine. It's a nuanced look at what would happen if someone tried to be a Punisher-like vigilante and how it would quickly change into something bigger. The story is thought-provoking and equal parts funny and terrifying, often at the same time. In this second volume, Dylan begins to get some unwanted attention and things begin to fray.

Sean Phillips and colorist Elizabeth Breitweiser turn in some truly stunning pages that splash an impressive amount of color into scenes that may have been drenched in shadow in your typical crime book. But there's nothing typical about Kill or Be Killed. It's a psychological thriller of the highest order from one of the best creative teams in comics, and you should not miss it.

 

SUPERMAN, VOL. 3: MULTIPLICITY TP

by Peter Tomasi, Patrick Gleason, Jorge Jimenez, Ivan Reis, Ryan Sook, Tony Daniel, and more! Cover art by Ivan Reis. August 2 from DC.

Superman has been one of the absolute best things to come out of the DC Rebirth. Superman is one of my favorite characters, but it has been hard to stick with any of his titles for very long since I’ve been reading comics. His regular books just haven’t had consistent quality in a long time. Until now.

In the third volume Tomasi and Gleason — and the army of amazing artists along for the ride — continue their run by smoothly shifting gears from small-town adventures to cosmic craziness. When Superman counterparts begin to go missing across the multiverse, there is only one person to call: Superman.

Our universe's Superman gets swept away by Justice Incarnate (the team formed to defend the multiverse in Multiversity) to try to rescue the other Supermen from the mysterious force that's been imprisoning them and ends up fighting alongside his other selves in a battle too spectacular to miss. It's a loud, bombastic arc, and the cherry on top is a second story about Superman upsetting Swamp Thing, gorgeously illustrated by Jorge Jimenez. The range of stories and stakes this book comfortably plays with is really impressive and ensures that it has something for everyone, no matter what they're looking for in a Superman story.