Hello, Faithful Spoilerites!
The month of December holds many holidays and end of the year celebrations. Religious or secular, it’s a blast to celebrate with geekery and we are here to offer a series of helpful suggestions on GRAPHIC NOVEL options:
These are in no ranked order, but they come recommended from years working in comic book retail, what was popular in the last year, and what will set you apart from every other gift giver in a person’s life who knows they like Wonder Woman and thinks a pencil case with the Diana Prince on it counts as a thoughtful present.
Please consume this list knowing that comic books are for everyone and can be appreciated across age and gender lines. My suggestions have been tailored based on current trends and what my experience has taught me works for a specific audience.
Wonder Woman Earth One volume 2
DC Comics Earth One series of books are super cool – pun completely intended! The first volume was released in 2016 and provided a contemporary update to Diana, Princess of Themyscira’s origin. The second volume explores more of what it means to be Wonder Woman in the modern world and asks questions like: how should she operate as a role model? As a public figure? As a Goddess with the ability to end a war? The first volume dove into the power of a woman in a man’s world, now the second volume pits Diana against an updated version of a classic DC Comics villain who literally exemplifies toxic masculinity as we are coming to readily identify in the modern world. Couple the timely story themes with Yannick Paquette’s absolutely stunning art and this volume makes a great gift for the person in your life who is a lifelong Wondy stan, fell immediately in love with the character in a post Wonder Woman movie world, or a long-standing DC Comics fan this volume is unlike anything else that you will find stocked next to it on the shelf.
Doctor Aphra volume 1: Aphra
(please imagine the following sung to the Star Wars march) Star Wars! We all love Star Wars! We all love Star Wars! Oh, yes, we do! The franchise doesn’t always to right by the female characters, but the branded comics that Marvel has been putting out have created one of the best new characters in the Star Wars franchise that I am dying to see in a movie someday! Doctor Aphra (both the character and her eponymous title), spin out of the Darth Vader series (which is incredible in its own right), and brought write Kieron Gillen along with it. Doctor Aphra is a scrappy pilot trying to scrape out a living for herself in a post-Vader world. For my money, here is the story of the heroine with moxy I was hoping to get out of Rey. Plus, an abundance of the most popular and recognizable bounty hunters in the Star Wars universe appear throughout Aphra’s story. They’re fun to see here and they make narrative sense and since we aren’t getting the Bounty Hunters movie everyone thought we were for so long this is the best place I can recommend to find them. Doctor Aphra vol 1 exists completely outside of all continuity, so it’s a no fear gift for a fangirl even if she hasn’t been keeping up with the Extended Universe Comics continuity.
The New Teen Titans Judas Contract: New Edition
Titans is on the air and, like all adapted Teen Titans products, it owes a gigantic debt of gratitude to The Judas Contract. A good choice for anyone who is familiar with any incarnation of the Teen Titans, as The Judas Contract is considered to be the best Teen Titans story of all time. Not only does it feature Terra who, for my money, is the best teen villain the team has ever faced, but its been adapted a number of times. The Judas Contract also works for the person you are buying for who is mentally geared toward the comic book historian head space. Both Marv Wolfman’s writing and George Perez’s artwork are reflective of the very best of what comic books were in the 1980s. By the same token, the work is so good it transcends. I defy you to find more beautifully rendered, strong women than when Perez has pencil in hand. Lastly, The Judas Contract is a very important turning point for Dick Grayson’s newly debuted Nightwing identity (complete with the iconic Discowing costume). It was among the first stories that addressed what it must be like to transition from being a child sidekick to an adult superhero identity.
My Boyfriend is a Bear
At first glance you might want to dismiss My Boyfriend is a Bear as a traditional dating comic (of which there are many, of widely varying qualities), it is so much more than that. Yes, Nora (protagonist), dates an American Black Bear. Yes, it is awesome. Yes, the person you gift this to for the holidays will be rooting for them to make it. Yes, it manages to squeeze in reflectively honest truths about the ins-and-outs of an intimate relationship. My Boyfriend is a Bear is the type of gift that earns the giver points for making a unique indie comic choice AND doubles down with an evocative narrative – simple though it is. Artist Cat Farris renders her interspecies romance in a cartoonish fairytale style and when the person you’ve given this to remarks on how stunning they think is it you can let them know it’s being adapted for television and – suddenly – the entire world will make sense. Recommended for readers with a flair for the romantic and who could use a vacation from the tradition cape-and-tights offerings.
March Complete Set
March is almost exclusively available in a three volume box set and I am completely peer pressuring you into buying the complete stories. The brainchild of Representative John Lewis, March tells the story of the height of the American Civil Rights Movement from the point of view of a man who was actually there. Historical fiction can sometimes lead to dry comic book storytelling, but that is not the case here. March is tragically evocative in the narrative and the art. It grants pause at each page turn for readers to remember this is based on real events that happened in the living memory of generations worth of people. This is not ancient history. There is a level of education incorporated in March that will leave the reader having learned something, in the absence of the sensation that they’ve just watched a Netflix special. It elevates what can be done with the medium of comic books. It will leave you in tears. It will make you think. Isn’t that the best gift of all?
Romance through the ages! Bingo Love began its life as a Kickstarter project (and you can find reviews of on the Major Spoilers podcast!), and was so popular it got snapped up by Image Comics. It tells the story of two girls who fall in love through time spent together in a bingo parlour with their respective grandmothers, but aren’t able to even imagine spending their lives together until much later in their lives. The overarching narrative is pretty straightforward, to be honest, but it is so sweet and such a nice love story to see featured amidst a slough of Matt Murdock/Elektra Nachios ballads of longing. Series artist Jenn St-Onge brings Bingo Love to art with such an adorable, bubblegum style that the graphic novel is nothing short of comic book eye candy. This original graphic novel is a standalone story (there are side stories to be found across the internet), but it’s a one-and-done gift certain to leave the giftee wanting more.
Fence volume 1
For fans of Yuri on Ice, or the broader sports mange/anime genre, Fence is my favourite thing from BOOM! Studios this year. Like My Boyfriend is a Bear, giving the gift of Fence will win you cool points with your comic book consuming friends/family for not being a Marvel of DC offering. It brings the competitive romance to one of the all-time most romantic, fairytale sports that you can still conceivably set in an elite private school: fencing! I’m pro-more-swords-in-things and the framing device brings a literal edge to Fence’s storytelling that, for my money, edges it out over some other graphic novels which could have conceivably been recommended in this slot. Like Yuri on Ice, Fence is fast-paced and addicted and before they know it the reader is caught up in protagonist Nicholas Cox’s plight and social standing at his new school: Kings Row. If you are looking to give a gift of a new series where you will be able to give subsequent installments of the series for birthdays and holidays to come, Fence volume 1 is an excellent place to start!
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
This was originally the first volume in a series, but the creative team behind Chilling Adventures of Sabrina have gone on to larger success and busier schedules, so it’s likely to remain the only volume until the far-flung future, but that doesn’t mean it’s not epic! The perfect gift for the girl who loved Archie Comics, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, or Sabrina: the Animated Series growing up and would enjoy a story about the same characters with a little more bit … and by “bite” I mean “brutal character death”. Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is an exception reimagining of Sabrina dressed up with all of the Satanic Panic and fear of Witches that has promulgated American culture. Characters’ actions are deadly and the consequences are far reaching. It’s an absolute must-read for fans who revel in new versions or updates to favoured characters or are just into the horror genre! Obviously a recommendation for fans of the television show which was recently adapted for Netflix – and announced a Winter Solstice Special!
X-Men Red volume 1: The Hate Machine
X-Men is a franchise that has often been a tough pill to swallow. Continuity is ever a tricky thing in comics books – perhaps most of all with Charles Xavier and his School for Gifted Youngsters. However, X-Men: Red is one of the better jumping-on points that Marvel has offered us for the mutants in recent years. Imagine and X-Men team led by Jean Grey – BOOM! you have the premise for this series. It also features Laura Kinney in the mantle of Wolverine fresh of her awesome All-New Wolverine series, from which X-Men: Red writer Tom Taylor also jumped ship. To be quite honest, if you see any graphic novel with Tom Taylor’s name on it consider it worth picking up as a gift this winter season OR simply as a treat for yourself. The man’s a modern master. X-Men: Red also has Nightcrawler on the team and, from my point of view, all of the best X-rosters do. This is the X-Men trade paperback for the woman who grew up reading these comics or watching X-Men the animated series or X-Men: Evolution and always wanted her own swing at things.
Black Magick volume 1: The Awakening
Right up front: the second volume of Black Magick came out earlier this year, but it’s such a singular story I want to recommend you begin at the beginning – as the King in Alice in Wonderland so sagely advised. Black Magick is a must-read for the same type of person you are considering getting Chilling Adventures of Sabrina for except it has two full volumes and is still being actively worked on, it’s an entirely adult adventure, and it incorporates aspects, traditions, and visuals from a variety of real-world witchcraft practices which then get expanded upon in some of the series more magickal fancies. I would also consider gifting this to any Murderino or true crime fan in your life because the murder mystery that is the groundwork of the entire series is solid (writer Greg Rucka has some other outstanding crime series you can search out including his series Stumptown), painted in some of the most breathtaking art currently being produced by Nicola Scott. Then, if they love this, you can suggest they pick up Rucka and Scott’s Wonder Woman: Year One.
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