It’s that beautiful time of the year yet again when the snow starts to pile up — and so do the comics. There are plenty of brand-new graphic novels and collections being released just in time for gift-giving season, from superheroes to sci-fi, myths to metafiction, and everything in between. Whether you’re looking to buy a book for yourself or for someone on your list, I’ve combed the comics catalog’s to bring you the month’s debuts that will leave you the most merry.
December’s hardcovers (HC) and trade paperbacks (TP) feature Marvel and DC’s biggest heroines, brand-new worlds from BOOM! Studios, new printings of foreign material and Vertigo classics and much more. As always, be sure to let us know what’s on your wish list in the comments below!
MS. MARVEL, VOL. 6: CIVIL WAR II TP
(By G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona, Takeshi Miyazawa. December 14 from Marvel)
How have I gone this long without talking about Ms. Marvel? I don’t know, but it’s a crime I’m rectifying right now. More importantly, how have you gone this long without reading it?
Ms. Marvel remains one of Marvel’s most relevant and consistently excellent series, providing readers with classic Peter Parker-style superhero soap opera that’s updated for modern audiences with a gentle self-awareness and an effortlessly engaging and diverse cast. In this volume, Kamala Khan’s super-mettle is tested like never before as she is caught up in the tide of war, being pulled between her idol, Captain Marvel, and her Avengers teammate Iron Man. Kamala’s is one of the more interesting and personal fronts for the second superhero civil war, as her hometown becomes the testing ground for Captain Marvel’s predictive justice programs, and Kamala’s loved ones are caught in the crossfire. Packed with pathos, action, meaningful character development and good old-fashioned superhero fun, Ms. Marvel is essential reading for fans of every age.
GUN THEORY HC
(By Daniel Way & Jon Proctor. December 21 from Dark Horse)
Daniel Way knows a thing or two about writing hired killers. After all, he’s the writer who spearheaded the Merc With a Mouth’s explosion into superstardom. But Gun Theory is a bit more serious than Deadpool. A modern noir about a ruthless and untouchable hitman named Hector, Gun Theory is a meticulously paced story with shadowy, hyper-real art from Jon Proctor. It’s incredibly tense and expertly framed, but you don’t need to take my word for it, you can check out a 34-page preview right here.
If for no other reason, fans should check this out just to support some truly admirable artistic persistence. Two issues of Gun Theory were originally published 13 years ago, but was a casualty of Marvel’s failed Epic imprint, and also fell short of getting Kickstarted in 2013, but it’s finally seeing life at Dark Horse Comics as an original 160-page graphic novel. Don’t miss December’s most long-overdue release.
A&A: ADVENTURES OF ARCHER & ARMSTRONG, VOL. 2: ROMANCE AND ROADTRIPS TP
(By Rafer Roberts & Mike Norton. December 14 from Valiant)
Archer and Armstrong are one of the most unlikely duos in comics, but they are also undoubtedly one of the best. Armstrong is the laziest of three immortal brothers (the others being the Eternal Warrior and Ivar, Timewalker), who drew such ire over his drunken historical antics that a whole religious cult sprung up that was dedicated to killing him. Archer’s adopted parents were prominent members of said cult and trained Archer to be an assassin capable of killing Armstrong. Unfortunately for the religious fanatics, they didn’t count on the two becoming inexplicably inseparable friends.
The pair’s previous adventures were chronicled in their first modern series, and are well-worth catching up on, but the recently relaunched A&A is a great jumping-on point as well. This arc, Eisner-winner Mike Norton joins the art team with writing newcomer Rafer Roberts continuing his run, this time telling tales of romance for our heroes. Archer goes on his first date with superheroine Faith, and then he joins Armstrong on a hunt for his wife. This action-comedy is yet another great chance to dive into the ever-growing Valiant Universe.
(By Santiago García & David Rubín. December 21 from Image)
Beowulf is one of the most influential stories in the English canon, and the myth has been retold, remixed, and deconstructed more countless times over the centuries. But creators Santiago García and David Rubín went back to basics in their 2013 Spanish-language graphic novel version, giving readers as faithful an adaptation of the epic myth as they could. Now, Image Comics is bringing their work to English for the first time, and just in time for the most Viking-y season of the year. I was recently blown away by David Rubín’s artwork on Ether, with his unique, dynamic designs, energetic compositions, and lush, powerful colors, and he looks like he really cuts loose in this book. This wild vision of Beowulf and Grendel is finally able to be enjoyed in English, and readers should seize the opportunity to experience this powerful vision of the classic tale.
LEGEND OF WONDER WOMAN HC
(By Renae De Liz & Ray Dillon. December 7 from DC)
DC has been re-telling Wonder Woman’s origin a lot, recently, from the New 52 version, to the Rebirth revision, to Grant Morrison’s long-awaited Earth One interpretation, to Jill Thompson’s True Amazon graphic novel. But my favorite, and the version of Wonder Woman’s origin that I believe will stand the test of time, is Renae De Liz’s superb and Eisner-nominated The Legend of Wonder Woman.
De Liz both writes and draws the digital-first series, which chronicles Diana’s growth from a child into a young woman on Themyscira, and her subsequent escape into the outside world. Once there, Legend of Wonder Woman shifts gears from a young-adult fantasy vibe into a delightfully pulpy World War II period piece that will thrill the most hard-to-please adventure fans. Liz’s Diana is both powerful and beautiful while being adorably aloof, and is aided by her new best friend, the unstoppably feisty Etta Candy, making for one of the most genuine friendships you’ll read in comics this year.
Fantastically imaginative and fresh while adhering to classic Wonder Woman themes and ideas, The Legend of Wonder Woman is inspirational and entertaining fun for every fan.
STAR WARS: POE DAMERON, VOL. 1: BLACK SQUADRON TP
(By Charles Soule, Phil Noto, Chris Eliopoulos. December 7 from Marvel)
It seems like Marvel can do no wrong in the galaxy far, far away ever since they reclaimed the license from Dark Horse a couple of years ago, but most of their series have been playing it relatively safe, being set in the era of the original trilogy. That’s why I’ve loved exploring the time just prior to The Force Awakens in the series starring one of its most memorable characters: Poe Dameron.
The story begins with Leia sending ace X-Wing pilot Poe on a mission to find the man he’s talking to at the beginning of the film, so the story’s true value isn't in the desination, but in seeing how he gets there, and in the many sidetracked adventures he and his ragtag squadron have along the way. Charles Soule returns to the Star Wars world after writing Star Wars: Lando, and provides unique voices and roles for each member of Poe’s crew, and even gives BB-8 plenty to do, as they search the galaxy, stage prison breaks, and much more. Artist Phil Noto continues to make his mark after his stint on Chewbacca, providing both cinematic storytelling and truly iconic takes on the characters. Essential reading for Star Wars buffs and anyone who need something to tide them over until Rogue One—or Episode VIII, for that matter.
THE SPIRE TP
(By Simon Spurrier & Jeff Stokely. December 14 from BOOM! Studios)
Simon Spurrier has been one of the most underrated and inventive writers in comics over the past few years. I was first exposed to him at Marvel on the superb X-Men: Legacy (which will certainly have a big influence on the Legion show), Marvel Zombies and Silver Surfer: In Thy Name, but he’s also been leaving his mark all over the industry with Crossed: Wish You Were Here at Avatar, Cry Havoc at Image, and of course his previous BOOM! series with Jeff Stokely, Six-Gun Gorilla. Six-Gun Gorilla proved that both creators are capable of putting out wildly entertaining and imaginative stream-of-consciousness fantasy, and they honed that skill even more in The Spire.
The Spire is set in the titular towering metal structure in the middle of a giant, dangerous desert, where layer upon layer of increasingly strange civilization resides. Oddball creatures and ancient machines exist side by side in The Spire and it’s up to Shå, the Commander of the City Watch to keep the peace. But there’s a change in leadership coming to the Spire that, along with a series of mysterious murders, is set to complicate matters for Shå and force her to question her (and the Spire’s) already shaky foundations. Weird, genre-bending, cutting edge work from some of the medium’s most imaginative talents.
NIGHTHAWK: HATE MAKES HATE TP
(By David Walker, Ramon Villalobos, Martin Morazzo. December 28 from Marvel)
One of the most interesting bits of fallout from Marvel’s Secret Wars mega-event was the introduction of a new Squadron Supreme team into the Marvel Universe, its members made up of heroes who are the last survivors of their own realities. This made the team a bit angrier than the average supergroup, but none of their rage matched that of Nighthawk, a remnant of the Supreme Power universe who got his own all-too-short series this year by writer David Walker (Tarzan on the Planet of the Apes) and artist Ramon Villalobos (E for Extinction).
The creators put this twisted Batman analogue on full offense, letting him unleash his brand of brutal justice upon the streets of Chicago, taking down racist militias, killer cops and corrupt politicians with the urgency and enthusiasm of a man who has recently lost his entire world. Walker’s script takes a sledgehammer to sensitive issues of race and violence with a bold and charmingly sadistic glee, while the deceptively detailed pencils of Villalobos and shockingly vibrant colors from Tamra Bonvillain combine into a hyper-styilsh, hyper-violent fever dream unlike anything you’ve ever seen. While it may have been brought to an end too soon, what we did get was an unmissable and timely tour de force.
THE UNWRITTEN DELUXE HC BOOK 1
(By Mike Carey, Peter Gross, Jimmy Broxton, Kurt Higgins, Zelda Devon. December 14 from Vertigo)
With brand new Potterverse material in theaters, Vertigo’s metafictional masterwork The Unwritten feels even more relevant than ever. Reteaming Lucifer writer Mike Carey with his frequent artistic collaborator on that series, Peter Gross, The Unwritten stars Tom Taylor, the adult man who served as the inspiration for Tommy Taylor, the boy wizard protagonist of a series of novels written by his father. He loathes the character and his celebrity-by-proxy, though he still makes money off of it. It is only when he is kidnapped by a seemingly insane fan dressed as the book’s villain that things start to get interesting for Tommy as his world begins to unravel, and the line between fact and fiction begins to blur. What follows is a fascinating journey into and meditation on literature that will sweep readers along with its magic and mystery as Tom uncovers the nature of his existence, and of his story.
Any now-grown fan of books like Harry Potter, Lev Grossman’s The Magicians, or Vertigo books like Fables and Sandman will be enthralled by The Unwritten. Discover — or re-discover — the magic right alongside Tom with this new hardcover edition collects the first twelve issues of the now-completed series.
TYSON HESSE’S DIESEL: IGNITION TP
(By Tyson Hesse. December 7 from BOOM! Studios)
Meet Dee Diesel, your new favorite heroine. She just wants to take it easy until her 18th birthday, when she’ll inherit her father’s flying ship/town known as Peacetowne, but she can’t seem to keep out of trouble, and might get kicked off the ship before then. To complicate matters further, the bird people who took her dad from her have returned to attack Peacetowne, and for some reason she’s the only one who can control a mysterious flying engine that they left behind.
I was a huge fan of Tyson Hesse’s webcomic Boxer Hockey and was kicking myself when I missed the previous Diesel miniseries from BOOM! so I was very excited to check this original graphic novel out, and I wasn’t disappointed. It’s a perfect place to jump in and is full of unforgettable characters, enthusiastically weird and imaginative world-building, intense action sequences, and hilarious dialogue. Diesel is a unique mish-mash world of sci-fi, steampunk, and fantasy that hits the same tonal notes as classic adventure cartoons like Avatar: The Last Airbender, and is sure to delight kids and adults alike.
LOVE IS LOVE TP
(By Phil Jimenez, Steve Sadowski, Paul Jenkins, Mike Carey, Matt Wagner, Marguerite Bennett, Aneke, Damon Lindelof, Patton Oswalt, Steve Orlando, Jason Aaron, Jason Latour, James Asmus, Ming Doyle, Brian Michael Bendis, Kieron Gillen, Paul Dini, Elsa Charretier, and many more. From December 21 from IDW Publishing with assistance from DC Entertainment)
If you have to buy only one comic this month, make it this one. Love is Love is a 144-page anthology organized by Manhunter and Batwoman writer Marc Andreyko following the tragic attack at The Pulse nightclub in Orlando in June, and all proceeds from the book will go to the victims and their families. In over 100 short stories, more than 200 of the industry’s best and brightest pour their hearts out in support of the LGBTQ community in a project of hope and love. As a co-publication of DC Comics, many of the stories even use DC characters, including Batwoman and Wonder Woman. Read great stories, and support a great cause, because as the book’s solicitation says, “It doesn’t matter who you love. All that matters is you love.”