Sweeping surveys, whiz-bang storytelling, and moments of quiet reflection speak to a range of comics fans.
Jordan Morris, Sarah Morgan, and Tony Cliff (First Second) $27.99
This sci-fi adventure comedy, adapted from the popular podcast, is set on a planet where human settlers are divided between cosseted urbanites living in corporate-controlled domed cities and those roughing it out in the “Brush” where mutant Imps roam free. Amid blowout fight scenes littered with sarcastic one-liners, a critique of the gig economy is just discernible, and the relationship comedy—tangled on-again, off-again connections and flirtations throughout—is surprisingly earnest. It’s a recklessly fun, hoot and holler of a ride.
Codename: Sailor V Eternal Edition 1 and 2
Naoko Takeuchi (Kodansha) $27.99 each
In this prequel to the Sailor Moon manga series, 13-year-old Minako Aino meets a talking white cat named Artemis, who tells her that, with the help of a magic pen, she has the power to transform into the masked hero Sailor V. These two volumes collect all the color pages from the original 1990s magazine run, with new cover art, and a gift-y glitter coating.
Matt Madden. (Uncivilized) $29.95
A postmodern puzzle narrative begins when the nameless protagonist awakens with amnesia in a nondescript room and discovers a bookcase full of comic books that seem to comment obliquely on the situation. Together, reader and protagonist move from story to story, assembling clues for an escape. Comics scholar Madden uses the comics-within-comics premise to recreate a dazzling array of genres and styles: romance comics, horror comics, gritty European realism, funny animal comics, autobio comics, manga. Hat tips to Italo Calvino and Jorge Luis Borges round out the metafictional master class.
Feelings: A Story in Seasons
Manjit Thapp (Random House) $21.99
Thapp tracks her narrator’s creative process and mental health through the lens of a six-season South Asian calendar, using simple declarations and radiant colored-pencil-and-marker illustrations. The result gorgeously depicts the delicate dance between the internal and natural worlds, and offers space for readers to reflect on their own mood cycles.
It’s Life as I See It: Black Cartoonists in Chicago, 1940–1980
Edited by Dan Nadel (New York Review Comics) $24.95
Nine trailblazing Black indie cartoonists receive overdue laurels in this collection, which frames Chicago as a Midwestern mecca for grassroots comics in the latter half of the 20th century. Among other artists, the book surveys the stylish fashion and anti-racist comics of the legendary Jackie Ormes, the sardonic cartoons of 1990 National Book Award winner Charles Johnson—a cartoonist long before he was an acclaimed novelist—and the work of the late Wee Pals creator Morrie Turner. One-page profiles convey the artists’ enterprising spirit and creative aspirations, while reprinted panels showcase their craftiness and idiosyncratic perspectives.
King-Cat Classix, Map of My Heart, and Perfect Example
John Porcellino (Drawn & Quarterly) $24.95 each
These D&Q reissues, with new, harmonious covers, show three stages of comics creator Porcellino’s life and work. Classix collects material from the first 50 issues of his long-running zine, which Chris Ware cites as an inspiration; Map of My Heart came into being following Porcellino’s divorce; and Perfect Example is a coming-of-age memoir spanning the crucial time between the end of high school and beginning of college.
Lore Olympus, Vol. 1
Rachel Smythe (Del Rey) $26.99
The Greek gods get cast as Kardashian-types in Smythe’s addictive soap opera, inhabiting a modern world of luxury cars, cell phones, and espresso machines. Hades, king of the underworld, meets newbie spring goddess Persephone at a swanky party and sparks fly. But divine forces assemble to keep the couple apart, including jealous love goddess Aphrodite, rapacious leather-jacketed bro Apollo, and Persephone’s protective roomie Artemis. Though Smythe plays with the comedy potential of her premise, she deals directly with the problematic elements of Greek mythology and takes the characters’ internal dramas seriously. This is hard to resist.
Queen of the Ring: Wrestling Drawings by Jaime Hernandez 1980–2020
Jaime Hernandez (Fantagraphics) $24.99
Hernandez, cocreator of the Love and Rockets series, shows off his genius for character drawing in this art book devoted to portraits of women wrestlers, in action and as pin-ups. The earliest sketches date from his teens, allowing the opportunity to see his work evolve over the decades: the carefully shaded photo-realism of his juvenilia develops into strong, simple silhouettes and clear anatomy, all inked in Hernandez’s famously smooth linework.
Super Sentai: Himitsu Sentai Gorenger—The Classic Manga Collection
Shotaro Ishinomori (Seven Seas) $24.99
The influential 1970s manga by the late Ishinomori is collected for the first time in English in this rip-roaring omnibus. He draws with an adult’s drafting skills but a grade-schooler’s sensibilities and enthusiasm, furiously scrawling gung-ho heroes, outlandish foes, pulp sci-fi technology, and fights that tumble on for pages. The speedy pacing and childlike simplicity belie how well-crafted Ishinomori’s work remains. While the original series was aimed at a younger readership, canny (and nostalgic) adults will also get a kick out of this blazing retro collection.
Children's and YA Comics
Fanciful narratives and sequential art keep the pages turning.
Blancaflor, the Hero with Secret Powers
Nadja Spiegelman and Sergio García Sánchez (Toon, ages 8–12) $9.99
The creators behind 2015’s Lost in NYC (“emotionally astute,” per PW’s starred review) team up again for an inversion of classic fairy tale tropes. When a sweet, clueless royal falls from the sky into the ogre’s domain, the fearsome creature challenges him to a deadly game involving tasks he can’t possibly complete. The ogre’s daughter, Blancaflor, conjures bread loaves from rocks and moves literal mountains to save her prince.
Fish and Sun
Sergio Ruzzier (HarperAlley, ages 4–8) $16.99
Fish has had it with the dark, cold, boring world under the ocean. He breaks for the surface, where he meets Sun. After a day of light and play, Sun turns red and sinks lower in the sky. Though Fish does not understand that Sun’s setting prefaces its return, young readers will, adding compassionate context to the following panels, which portray Fish’s sorrow. Painted seascapes in rich colors warm the early reader comic’s minimal text, and small details—Fish sleeps underwater with a small pillow—will draw laughter.
The Girl from the Sea
Molly Knox Ostertag (Graphix, ages 12–up) $24.99
Sixteen-year-old Morgan Kwon is eager to leave her home on Canada’s Wilneff Island for college in “the city, ANY city,” where she’ll finally come out as gay. One night, feeling distressed, she slips on rain-soaked rocks and falls into the water, where she’s rescued by Keltie, a selkie. A dreamy kiss between the two allows Keltie to shed her seal form and walk on land as a human, further complicating Morgan’s life. This endearing and often funny graphic novel cohesively combines queer teen romance, realism, and fantasy.
Nidhi Chanani. (First Second, 10–14) $21.99
When 12-year-old Shahi’s father fails to return home one night, she’s convinced that the record store where he’s been spending all his time holds answers. She and her 15-year-old cousin, Naz, slip inside an open alleyway window to get inside, and find a jukebox that transports them to the same era as the tunes it’s playing. Beginning with a Bessie Smith record that sends them to a 1929 Lindy Hop contest at the Savoy, Shahi and Naz proceed to search for Shahi’s father, traveling from one great music era to the next.
Katie the Catsitter
Colleen AF Venable and Stephanie Yue (Random House, ages 8–12) $20.99
Neko Atsume meets The Tick in this laugh-out-loud funny, well-paced series starter from the creators of the Guinea Pig, Pet Shop Private Eye series. Preteen New Yorker Katie Spera longs to attend summer camp with her friends. Her single mother can’t afford it, though, so Katie takes a job cat-sitting for Madeline Lang, a stylish woman who lives in their building. The catch: Ms. Lang has 217 cats. Yue’s expressive cartoons complement this enchanting story, the first in a series with a promising cast of characters—feline and otherwise.
No One Returns from the Enchanted Forest
Robin Robinson. (First Second, ages 8–12) $21.99
When a series of progressively worsening earthquakes threatens to collapse the underground city that their ancestors founded, the goblins of Teacup Island plan to evacuate. Confrontational Pella, furious at the fabled Earth Queen for causing the earthquakes and canceling an annual festival, sneaks into the forbidding Enchanted Forest to tell the queen off, forcing her anxious older sister, the cautious Bix, to attempt a rescue. The colorful and charismatic story is buoyed by underlying thoughtfulness and visuals that recall Hildafolk and Steven Universe.
Otto: A Palindrama
Jon Agee (Dial, 9–12) $17.99
This fantasy adventure is written entirely in 200 palindromes, from the names of protagonist Otto and his little dog Pip to the passerby who remarks “No jazz. I prefer pizza, Jon.” When Pip runs away, Otto pursues on a trek filled with incident—and undeniably inventive palindromes. The concept fulfills its offbeat premise in sequences that gleefully underline the fun of a good palindrome, and the joy of finding wordplay wherever one looks. Whether Otto’s visiting an art “mueseum” (“Koons nook”) or wandering through a cemetery (“Del was awled”), the results are supremely strange and funny.