A Novel Idea: 13 thrilling graphic novels to read in March

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Mar 2, 2016

We’ve all been there: You walk into the comic-book store, and you’re determined to try something new, but you just don’t know what. There are so many worlds to explore—and more coming out every week!—that it can be hard to keep up with all of the books out there. Hardcovers, trade paperbacks, archive collections, original graphic novels … Sometimes you just need a nudge in the right direction.

Well, dear readers, consider yourselves nudged! I’m using my six years of experience behind the counter at one of Oregon’s oldest comic-book stores to recommend to you the 13 new graphic novels and collections you should look out for this March. Whether you’re a sci-fi fanatic, a horror freak, a fantasy lover, a superhero buff or a complete comics newbie, you’re sure to find something to love on this list!

TOKYO GHOST VOL. 1: ATOMIC GARDEN WRITTEN BY RICK REMENDER, ART BY SEAN GORDON MURPHY MARCH 9. IMAGE. PAPERBACK.

Image hasn’t been hurting for good sci-fi series lately, but Tokyo Ghost immediately separated itself as something special. Rick Remender (Low) has crafted a bold, fascinating cautionary tale about the dangers of dependence—both on technology and on each other. In a future ravaged by climate change, tech-addicted Constable Led Dent dispenses dispassionate justice to the underbelly of the Isles of Los Angeles, with his partner Debbie Decay at his side, when a bounty hunt goes wrong, setting them on a path to Tokyo, where they hope to find freedom from their addictions and their pasts. This is a comic filled with sprawling cityscapes, dancing katanas, giant motorcycles and red pandas, and it’s all powerfully rendered by the sharp, dynamic lines and elegant brushes of Sean Gordon Murphy (Chrononauts). Fans of classic science fiction films like Blade Runner or anime like Akira are sure to love this series.

STAR WARS: CHEWBACCA WRITTEN BY GERRY DUGGAN, ART BY PHIL NOTO MARCH 9. MARVEL. PAPERBACK.

Marvel’s Star Wars titles have been consistently great reads, and Chewbacca is no exception. This paperback collects last year’s five issue miniseries, featuring a story by Gerry Duggan (Deadpool) and vibrant, cinematic art by Phil Noto (Black Widow), who will be returning to Star Wars this spring, when he will be artist of Poe Dameron.

When Chewbacca crash lands on Andelm IV, he just wants to fix his ship and get back to his mission, but he quickly becomes the begrudging accomplice of a young girl named Zarro, who needs his help to free her father from enslavement in a mine that’s about to be sold to the Empire. This is small-scale Star Wars adventure at its best, looking at the plight of the little person in the struggle against Imperial oppression—through the eyes of a big hairy person. The story that unfolds is a surprisingly personal one for Chewie, and you’re sure to walk away with a new appreciation for everyone’s favorite walking carpet.

PATIENCE WRITTEN AND DRAWN BY DANIEL CLOWES MARCH 21. FANTAGRAPHICS. HARDCOVER.

One of the biggest names in comic books is returning to the medium for the first time in over five years with a brand new original graphic novel. Daniel Clowes’ Patience is his longest work yet, and is being hailed as his most ambitious one. Clowes is one of the handful of comic book creators that has transcended the perception of comics as “low” art and has gained widespread acclaim in literary circles as well, as evidenced by yet another cover illustration for The New Yorker to commemorate the release.

Patience is a time-travel love story that publisher Fantagraphics describes as “veering with uncanny precision from violent destruction to deeply personal tenderness.” This should be at the top of the list of readers who are looking for something that will tug at their brains as well as their heartstrings, or those who are looking for an introduction to the comics legend ahead of the big screen adaptation of Wilson later this year. 

NAMELESS WRITTEN BY GRANT MORRISON, ART BY CHRIS BURNHAM MARCH 16. IMAGE. HARDCOVER.

An asteroid is heading towards Earth, it’s transmitting a signal in the language of angels, and a murder has been committed on the moon. And it only gets weirder from there. Looks like a job for the grumpy occult expert known only as Nameless.

This collects the entire six issue series that reunited legendary comic book scribe Grant Morrison (Multiversity) with his Batman, Inc. partner Chris Burnham (Officer Downe) and they both turn in some career-defining work. Morrison delivers a blend of space adventure, occult, and his own unique brand of magic to create the nightmarish mythos of Marduk, our solar system’s lost fifth planet. Equal parts H.R. Giger and H.P. Lovecraft with a dash of Stanley Kubrick, Nameless is darkly psychedelic, terrifying and full of the heady meta-fiction that’s made Morrison one of the biggest names in comics.

RAI VOL. 3: THE ORPHAN WRITTEN BY MATT KINDT, ART BY CLAYTON CRAIN MARCH 23. VALIANT. PAPERBACK.

One of the complaints I hear most often from people wanting to get into comics is how intimidating the shared universes of Marvel and DC are. If you’re a reader who wants the shared universe experience without the decades of continuity to catch up on, then the Valiant Universe is the universe for you, and Rai is one of the best places to start. The still relatively young Valiant Universe is completely accessible regardless of which series you start with, but the more of it you read, the more the larger tapestry of a millennia-old history comes into view.

Rai takes place in the far future of the Valiant Universe in the floating city of New Japan, and follows Rai, the city’s katana-wielding guardian who has begun to question the mysterious artificial intelligence that gives him his orders. The Orphan sees Rai’s rebellion against New Japan escalate, with Rai finding himself fighting alongside new allies and old enemies. This volume releases just in time to get you all caught up on the series before Valiant’s big summer event 4001 A.D. begins, which will spin out of events in this volume.

SECRET WARS WRITTEN BY JONATHAN HICKMAN, ART BY ESAD RIBIC MARCH 16. MARVEL. HARDCOVER.

No one does giant blockbuster events like Marvel, and they get no bigger—and look no better—than Secret Wars. I have never met anyone that’s a big Jonathan Hickman fan than I am, but the big draw here is the astonishingly good artwork by Esad Ribic and Ive Svorcina. Thor, Mr. Fantastic, Thanos, Dr. Doom, and the rest of the cast look like figures of myth, pulsing with power and dripping with story.

The story begins at the end of the Marvel Universe, and Dr. Doom is the only one who is able to save any of it. He turns disparate scraps of alternate realities into a patchwork planet called Battleworld, which he rules over as a tyrannical god. The ensuing rebellion led by the handful of survivors of the Marvel Universe is a riveting and accessible read that will reward readers of Jonathan Hickman’s Fantastic Four, Avengers and New Avengers runs, and is a mind-bendingly weird celebration of all things Marvel. Philosophical, cosmic, and a fun, wildly imaginative superhero comic, anyone looking for an entry point into the current Marvel Universe need look no further.

THE ONLY LIVING BOY VOL. 1: PRISONER OF THE PATCHWORK PLANET WRITTEN BY DAVID GALLAHER, ART BY STEVE ELLIS MARCH 8. PAPERCUTZ. PAPERBACK.

The adage is that comics aren’t just for kids anymore, but there’s certainly no shortage of good ones that are. Kids' comics have experienced a renaissance in the last few years, and The Only Living Boy is ready to join the ranks of books like Bone and Amulet as one of the very best. This first volume collects the multiple-Harvey Award nominated digital comic from David Gallaher and Steve Ellis, the creative team of the Harvey Award-winning digital comic High Moon.

The Only Living Boy stars runaway 12-year old Erik Farrell, who wakes up without his memory on a patchwork planet, and finds himself immediately hunted and captured by monsters in the employ of mad scientist Doctor Once. The adventure kicks into high gear from there, as Erik teams up with Morgan, a Mermidonian warrior, and Thea, the princess of an insect-like race, in order to escape and find a way home. The Only Living Boy is a great blend of fantasy and pulp elements that will appeal to fans of all ages.

THE RATTLER WRITTEN BY JASON MCNAMARA, ART BY GREG HINKLE MARCH 23. IMAGE. PAPERBACK.

On Christmas Eve of 2001, writer Jason McNamara watched as a seemingly helpful man who had stopped to assist with his broken down car drive away with his friend being towed in the car behind the man’s truck. She managed to break the rope and escape, and the man escaped into the night. But it left McNamara to wonder: what if the rope didn’t break?

That was the inspiration for The Rattler, which is being widely released for the first time by Image Comics, following a successful Kickstarter in 2014. Greg Hinkle’s cartooning is powerfully expressive and surreal, printed in black, white, grey, and selectively splattered bloody with red. This version of the story follows Stephen Thorn, a victim’s rights advocate whose fiancée was taken a decade earlier when he begins to hear her voice, reigniting his search for her. This suspenseful and cerebral slasher horror book will have you looking over your shoulder long after you’ve put it down.

SNOWPIERCER VOL. 3: TERMINUS WRITTEN BY OLIVIER BOCQUET, ART BY JEAN-MARC ROCHETTE FEBRUARY 24. TITAN. HARDCOVER.

The 2013 Snowpiercer movie is one of the best science fiction movies in recent years, and if you were left wanting more of the Icebreaker and its passengers, then you’re in luck! Titan has translated the third volume of the French graphic novel into English for the first time, featuring a suspense-filled story by new writer Olivier Bocquet and engrossingly moody artwork by series artist Jean-Marc Rochette. Set on a perpetually-moving train that travels around a frozen Earth carrying the remnants of humanity as its cargo, Terminus sees the train finally come to a halt, forcing the passengers to question whether they are truly alone—and whether they should dare to hope. Fans of dystopian sci-fi, as well as fans of survival stories like The Walking Dead will find a lot to love in the pages of Snowpiercer.

JUSTICE LEAGUE VOL. 7: DARKSEID WAR PART 1 WRITTEN BY GEOFF JOHNS, ART BY JASON FABOK AND FRANCIS MANAPUL MARCH 9. DC. HARDCOVER

If you’re craving some widescreen DC Universe action ahead of the release of Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice this month, you should dig in to the latest volume of Geoff Johns’ epic run on Justice League. The stakes couldn’t be higher for the team—some members of which have been mysteriously granted godlike new powers—which finds itself caught in the crossfire of a war between two of the most powerful and evil beings in the universe: Darkseid and the Anti-Monitor. The story builds off of the previous stories in the run, but also acts as a good place to jump in on DC’s flagship book as it reintroduces the New Gods mythology, including fan favorites Mr. Miracle and Big Barda, into the main DCU. Featuring beautiful artwork from superstar artists Jason Fabok (Batman Eternal) and Francis Manapul (The Flash), this is required reading for DC fans new and old.

IVAR, TIMEWALKER VOL. 3: ENDING HISTORY WRITTEN BY FRED VAN LENTE, ART BY PERE PEREZ FEBRUARY 24. VALIANT. PAPERBACK.

The spine of the Valiant Universe’s mythology is largely built off of three immortal brothers: Armstrong, of A+A’s Archer and Armstrong; the Eternal Warrior, star of last year’s Book of Death and the current Wrath of the Eternal Warrior; and lastly, Ivar, Timewalker. Ivar is the jaded time-traveller than traverses the timeline of Valiant Universe, preventing other time travelers from making a mess of things.

Ending History is the final volume of Ivar’s series, and sees his companion Neela teaming up with a young Ivar to save Ivar’s life—and all of time! This book is full of high adventure and time travelling shenanigans and features the duo travelling not just to different time periods, but to alternate timelines, which naturally leads to a romp through an ancient Rome that is populated by dinosaurs. Need I say more? Another wildly entertaining entry point into the Valiant Universe.

THE BEAUTY VOL. 1 WRITTEN AND DRAWN BY JEREMY HAUN MARCH 16. IMAGE. PAPERBACK

What price would you pay for physical perfection? In the world of Jeremy Haun’s The Beauty, a sexually transmitted disease can give you just that, and millions of humans have willingly infected themselves. This near-future story follows two police detectives as they begin to unravel the ugly truth behind a string of violent deaths and their connection to The Beauty, leading them into a much larger and more dangerous conspiracy. It's full of intriguing characters, deadly secrets and horrifying twists, and nothing is what it seems to be at first glance in this series. Jeremy Haun’s style is perfectly suited to the story as well, nailing every chiseled jaw and seductive glance, all while keeping the action moving at a breakneck pace. This book collects the fir six issues of the series, and is perfect for readers of Y: The Last Man or viewers of the X-Files. Read up, because education is the best way to protect yourself against The Beauty.

KAIJUMAX SEASON 1 WRITTEN AND DRAWN BY ZANDER CANNON FEBRUARY 24. ONI PRESS. PAPERBACK

When I first heard of a comic about an island maximum security prison for giant monsters, one thing that I didn’t expect is that it would have quite so much heart. Sure, the book is filled with zany giant monster-battle action—colorfully and boldly illustrated by writer-artist Zander Cannon—but what keeps you around is how much the characters make you care for them. The protagonist is a giant yellow bug creature named Electrogor, and he’s the prison’s fresh meat. He’s confused, isolated and is quickly taken advantage of in his desperation to get back to his kids, who he was taken away from.

Kaijumax is run surprisingly—and darkly humorously—like a real prison, just scaled up to kaiju size. That means corruption, gangs, and a gym stocked with skyscrapers to benchpress. While the comic never loses its outlandish tone, Cannon uses the monsters to make some pretty pointed commentary about the broken prison system. This book is smart, gut-bustingly funny, delightfully bizarre, and at times surprisingly moving. If you’ve ever wanted Godzilla meets Orange is the New Black, this is the comic for you.