For many readers, May is probably crunch time for reading of a more scholastic variety as the school year winds down, but for the rest of us (and for the academic procrastinators), there are graphic novels to be read!
There are so many new trade paperbacks (TP) and hardcovers (HC) rolling into bookstores and comic shops every week that it can feel impossible to keep up. Fret not, however, because I’ve used my six years of knowledge from working in those very stores to narrow down the month’s graphic novel releases to 12 must-read titles. The list includes new printings of classic material, original graphic novels and the latest volumes of the greatest series in science fiction, horror, fantasy and superheroes, and may very well include your next favorite comic. Happy reading, and let us know what you’ll be reading this month in the comments!
TWILIGHT CHILDREN TP
(By Gilbert Hernandez & Darwyn Cooke. May 11 from Vertigo)
Part Twilight Zone, part Twin Peaks, and glowing with the artistic fingerprints of both its legendary creators, Twilight Children is the story of a small coastal village and a giant luminescent orb. The mysterious sphere comes and goes seemingly at random throughout the Latin American town, disrupting their lives in a variety of ways, such as blinding a group of children and it leaving a — possibly alien — woman on the beach. The story that follows is one of love and intrigue, packaged in masterfully crafted surrealist science fiction. Gilbert Hernandez (Love and Rockets) spins an ambitiously ambiguous adventure yarn while Darwyn Cooke (DC: The New Frontier) provides crisp, confident and expressive line work that perfectly captures the spirit of the setting and the eerie tone of the story. If you’re looking for a book that will leave you thinking about it long after you’ve put it down, then Twilight Children is for you.
DOCTOR STRANGE, VOL. 1: THE WAY OF THE WEIRD HC
(By Jason Aaron & Chris Bachalo. April 27 from Marvel)
Did a certain trailer release cast a spell on you that only the Sorcerer Supreme can fix? Well, look no further than the first volume of Marvel’s new Doctor Strange series.
Written by master scribe Jason Aaron (Star Wars) and drawn by the always transcendent Chris Bachalo (Uncanny X-Men), this hardcover collects the first five issues of the character’s first ongoing in 20 years and is bursting at the seams with imagination. As the good doctor cures magical ailments from the streets of New York City to the far corners of unspeakable dimensions, a fascinating story unfolds about the toll that magic takes on its practitioners, and the secrets they keep to protect the world. With innovative layouts and rendered in sublimely psychedelic fashion by Bachalo, this is the gateway into the remarkable realms of Stephen Strange that you’ve been waiting for.
DESCENDER, VOL. 2: MACHINE MOON
(By Jeff Lemire & Dustin Nguyen. May 4 from Image)
The most exciting and imaginative space-adventure in comics continues with the second volume of Descender from the heavy-hitting creative duo of Jeff Lemire (Bloodshot Reborn) and Dustin Nguyen (Batman Li’l Gotham). In this volume, plucky and very endangered robot companion Tim-21 continues to discover more about his own nature as he’s introduced to the more aggressive Tim-22 and taken to the enigmatic robotic world known as The Hardwire. The rest of the colorful and endearing cast are also fleshed out more in this arc, particularly Tim-21’s former childhood companion Andy, who has unfortunately grown up to be a robot hunter. Nguyen’s vivid watercolors blend with his wicked design-sense to create a powerful aesthetic that looks like nothing else in comic books today. In both art and writing, equal care is given to small character moments and to stellar spectacle, and it truly pays off. Descender is quite simply one of the best science-fiction series in comic books, and it shows no signs of slowing down.
PROVIDENCE ACT 1 LIMITED EDITION HC
(By Alan Moore & Jacen Burrows. May 4 from Avatar Press)
He’s turned the world of comic books upside down time and time again as he deconstructed superheroes, pulp adventurers, fairy tales and many other genres, and now the inimitable Alan Moore (Watchmen) is taking his literary scalpel to Lovecraftian horror. In Providence, Moore reteams with his Neonomicon partner Jacen Burrows to take the mythology that H.P. Lovecraft built and put it under a microscope, finding new horror in all the details and shadowy corners that only Alan Moore would think to look at.
This limited edition collects the first four issues of the series, and is limited to an ominous 6,666 copies, and won’t be reprinted until the complete collection is released by Avatar Press after the series concludes. Horror aficionados and Alan Moore maniacs wouldn’t dare miss this macabre masterwork.
KINGDOM COME 20TH ANNIVERSARY DELUXE EDITION HC
(By Mark Waid & Alex Ross. May 11 from DC)
When I want to introduce new comic book readers to the DC Universe, the first book I put in their hands is Kingdom Come. Wonderfully accessible in spite of its enormous cast, Kingdom Come is set in a possible future of the DCU where a violent and cynical new generation of heroes have come into power, and showcases the classic pantheon of DC heroes at the very best as they return from retirement and obscurity to upend the status quo and save the world. Truly a masterwork in modern myth-making, Mark Waid’s (Daredevil) story is somehow like reading both an opera and the biggest superhero event comic ever, all wrapped in the flawless paints of the legendary Alex Ross (Marvels). Massive-scale action takes place throughout, side-by-side with characters waxing poetic about the end times and asking fundamental questions about the nature of good and evil. If you want your superheroes to inspire, to struggle, to triumph and to leave you in complete awe, then pick up this new edition of a landmark story not just for the DC Universe, but for all of comics.
LITTLE NEMO: RETURN TO SLUMBERLAND DELUXE EDITION HC
(By Eric Shanower & Gabriel Rodriguez. May 18 from IDW)
2015 was a big year for Little Nemo in comics, as the medium celebrated 90 years of Winsor McCay’s comic strip sleepyhead with a number of special projects, and not least among them was IDW’s Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland, by Eric Shanower — the writer behind the multi-Eisner Award-winning Wonderful Wizard of Oz — and Gabriel Rodriguez — the artist behind the multi-Eisner Award-nominated Locke & Key. Rounded out by the contribution of Eisner-nominated colorist Nelson Daniel, it’s no surprise that this whimsical and beautifully realized tale won the Eisner for Best Limited Series.
Readers of all ages should follow Nemo into his dreams as he’s selected to be the newest playmate of King Morpheus’ daughter. Shanower captures the trancelike pace and tone of McCay’s original strip while also updating it into something delightfully new. The same is true of Rodriguez’s artwork, which pays tribute to what came before but isn’t afraid to experiment and throw visual convention out the window, a carefree artistic attitude that McCay surely would have endorsed. This new extra-sized collection of the four issue series also includes more back up material and bonus content on the making of the series than you could ever dream of. Don't sleep on this one.
WE STAND ON GUARD DELUXE HC
(By Brian K. Vaughan & Steve Skroce. May 4 from Image)
People fleeing for survival across the southern border and what to do about it has been a topic of heated political discourse in the United States for some time now, but in his new series, Brian K. Vaughan (Saga) asks us a new question about it: What if those people were us? And what if the border was Canada’s?
We Stand on Guard is set in the Canada of 2124, twelve years after the United States invaded their northern neighbors and took over the country out of a desperate need for water. A young woman named Amber, whose parents were killed in the initial bombings, finds herself swept into the conflict when she comes across a squadron of resistance fighters who are wandering the snowy wilderness, taking down the American’s forces one mech at a time. Oh, did I not mention the giant robots yet? Those are all meticulously designed by series artist Steve Skroce — best known for storyboarding The Matrix trilogy — and he brings his trademark widescreen action and incredible eye for detail to every panel. This deluxe hardcover collects all six issues of the 2015 series and is not to be missed by fans of Skroce, Vaughan, or thrilling underdog stories.
THIS DAMNED BAND TP
(By Paul Cornel & Tony Parker. May 4 from Dark Horse)
What if the band your mom didn’t want you listening to because it was “devil music,” actually was?
That’s the premise of Paul Cornell (Doctor Who) and Tony Parker’s (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) rock-and-roll romp, presented as a Spinal Tap-esque documentary that follows the superstar band-members of Motherfather on their 1974 World Tour. The band cheekily embraces the Satanic image they’ve been labelled with, but when some of them take it too far — with the help of plenty of hallucinogens — they find themselves questioning whether they really have met the devil. Full of outrageous behavior and witty dialogue from Cornell and mind-bending visuals from Parker, This Damned Band is a hell of a good time.
ART OPS, VOL. 1 TP
(By Shaun Simon, Mike Allred & Matt Brundage. May 4 from Vertigo)
In Art Ops, art truly comes alive. So alive, in fact, that it sometimes hops off the wall and runs away!
The task of recovering the runaway art falls to unlikely agent of Art Operatives Reggie Riot, who wields his arm made out of living art in defense of artwork everywhere! Featuring dazzlingly vibrant artwork from Mike Allred (Silver Surfer), this book is a true feast for the eyes that any fan of Vertigo’s more meta-fictional output like Fables or The Unwritten is sure to enjoy. Challenging and weird while still being fun, this collection of this first arc of Art Ops puts art and genre in technicolor blender and pours it out into a boldly original comic.
THE DEATH-DEFYING DOCTOR MIRAGE, VOL. 2: SECOND LIVES TP
(By Jen Van Meter and Roberto de la Torre. May 18 from Valiant)
I’ve yet to read a bad book from Valiant, but The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage is definitely one of their best. In the first volume of the series, occult expert Shan Fong Mirage went through Hell — literally — to retrieve the lost soul of her husband Hwen, but now that they’ve been reunited, they’re forced to solve a whole new set of problems as they try to sustain a relationship between a ghost and a human. The hauntings, possessions and supernatural sleuthing pull you in, but you stay for the tragic and compelling romance between the Mirages — and what their desperation for a magical solution unleashes. A believably human and punchy script from Jen Van Meter (Hopeless Savages) and lush, otherworldly pencils from Roberto de la Torre synthesize in an almost paranormal concoction to become even more than the sum of its parts. One of the publisher’s stand-out titles, Doctor Mirage doesn’t just defy death; it defies expectations.
GUARDIANS OF THE LOUVRE HC
(By Jirô Taniguchi. May 13 from NBM Graphic Novels)
Certainly the most avant-garde book on this list, Guardians of the Louvre is the latest in a series of graphic novels that have been commissioned by the world-famous museum since 2007. This time around, renowned mangaka Jirô Taniguchi (The Walking Man) brings his appropriately French-influenced manga stylings to the museum’s halls in a tale of a Japanese artist struck with fever on a trip to Paris to visit the city’s museums. The story ebbs and flows between reality and his fevered hallucinations of art and artists, and meditates on the nature of art itself. A rare full-color work from an artist who has received recognition for his craft on multiple continents, this is the perfect low-key, high-brow book for the discerning reader this May.
ALL-NEW WOLVERINE, VOL. 1: FOUR SISTERS TP
(By Tom Taylor & David Lopez. May 11 from Marvel)
With the original Wolverine gone, his clone, Laura — formerly known as X-23 — decides to finally put her violent past behind her and attempt to fill the heroic void left by her mentor. Unfortunately for Laura, her past comes crashing back into her life in the form of a trio of clones that happen to look just like her. Tom Taylor (Injustice: Gods Among Us) puts Laura through a physical and emotional wringer in this volume (which collects the first six issues) as she fights for her own individuality all while hoping to give her newfound sisters an opportunity to do the same. Artist David Lopez (Captain Marvel) nails the emotional beats as well as the beatdowns, the latter of which feature some of the most fluid choreography you can find on the page. It’s Orphan Black and Bourne, but with claws — and guest appearances by Doctor Strange and the Wasp. A poignant action-thriller, All-New Wolverine is one of the best there is at what it does.