For older comic book fans, it’s like a world gone mad. In the 1970s, we crowded around TV sets, waiting for a glimpse of “Spidey Super Stories” on PBS’ The Electric Company. We watched reruns of Adam West’s cartoonish Batman, superstiff Super Friends, and a Disco-era Shazam, before finally believing a man could fly when Christopher Reeve finally donned the big red cape.
Read more about a few of this year's best graphic novels at Kirkus.
This summer alone, we have gods of thunder, a bulletproof Black Beauty, a cosmos-spanning cop with a ring, an ultimate supersoldier and cowboys fighting aliens. In 3D! Lest we forget the imaginative empire from whence all these incredible visuals sprang forth, we present the biggest, brightest and best of the mainstream comic book collections hitting shelves this year.
The Flash: Omnibus Volume 1
There is no one who has rocked the DC universe like Geoff Johns, who has earned his current status as chief creative officer of the comics giant. A little over a decade ago, Johns was just earning his way up the ladder when he was assigned to take over the faltering ongoing title The Flash. While most modern readers are familiar with the Barry Allen version of the character, killed in the 1985 miniseries Crisis on Infinite Earths, Johns focused on young Wally West as the scarlet-clad speedster of Keystone Series and reinvigorated the character’s Rogue’s Gallery of supervillains led by Captain Cold. With art by Angel Unzueta, Scott Kolins and Ethan Von Sciver, the series became an invaluable proving ground for Johns, who went on to revive the universe of Green Lantern, now on screens with Ryan Reynolds as the alien-appointed superhero.
Echo: The Complete Edition
Terry Moore will live forever in comics history as the ambitious, independent creator of the sprawling, operatic Strangers in Paradise, still one of the most acclaimed indie series ever. But Moore showed he still has a tremendous amount of narrative chops with his next series, Echo, which is more action-packed than his previous work but showing his characteristically realistic portrayal of women. The story centers on Julie, a young photographer, who is in the wrong place at the wrong time when a load of atomic plasma comes raining down on her, causing irrevocable and startling changes in her. This hardcover collection encompasses all 25 issues of the black-and-white series. Moore will promote his work at Comic-Con in July in conjunction with the release of Echo and the launch of his new series, Rachel Rising.
Morning Glories, Vol. 1
Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma
Morning Glories is one of those books that sneaks up on you. First there’s a little buzz—a sold-out first issue and some praise on the blogs and podcasts. Then a sold-out 10,000-book run on the first trade paperback. There’s even buzz about MG being the latest book to be picked up by Hollywood, in the manner of The Walking Dead. It wouldn’t be a surprise for a book that creator Nick Spencer describes as “The Runaways meets Lost.” Set at the peculiar Morning Glory Academy, the book introduces readers to six lost souls: Casey, Hunter, Zoe, Jun, Ike and Jade, all under the thumb of the sadistic Miss Daramount. Like the best years of Lost, Spencer is taking readers on a ride, and none of us really know where we’re going to wind up next. Stay tuned—the second volume hits in September.
Thor/Iron Man: God Complex
Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning
Illustrated by Scot Eaton
Like a little chocolate in your peanut butter? You’ll definitely dig this mash-up between two of Marvel’s most powerful characters. Thor, the literal God of Thunder, currently hammering movie audiences in the film adaptation by Kenneth Branagh, mixes it up with Iron Man Tony Stark in this imaginative team-up. It’s not a best bro situation, though—Thor’s still not happy with Tony following the events of the Marvel Civil War, and Tony can’t remember a thing from their recent past. But the two have paired up to help repair the mythical kingdom of Asgard (in Oklahoma?!) when they get jumped by supervillains The Crimson Dynamo and Diablo, working on behalf of the High Evolutionary. As scribed by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, who are masters at big, cosmic battles, this stand-alone adventure should satisfy fans of both heroes.
Constructing Green Lantern: From Page to Screen
Ozzy Inguanzo and Geoff Johns
You always get a book like this one anytime there’s a $200 million adaptation of one of comics’ most beloved and controversial superheroes, but rarely do we see the depth of one like Constructing Green Lantern. Developed by Ozzy Inguanzo, the film’s assets manager and an adviser on the last two Spider-Man films, the book closely follows both the story of the big budget film and the rich mythology of the Green Lantern universe, with heavy input from DC’s brain trust, most notably architect Geoff Johns. With storyboard art, character sketches, concept art and still photos from the set alongside creator and technical commentary, it’s a fitting companion piece to Johns’ marvelous run on the character—see Green Lantern: Rebirth for a great origin story to fuel the fire.
Ultimate Comics Captain America
Jason Aaron and Ron Garney
It should have opened July 4, but arriving later in the month shouldn’t hurt the chances for the big-budget adaptation of Marvel’s Captain America. Set in 1944, the original story not only braces audiences for the transformation of Steve Rogers from a scrawny but determined young man into America’s first supersoldier, but also paves the way for next year’s Avengers movie featuring Cap, Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Jeremy Renner as a killer Hawkeye and directed by Joss Whedon. For a more serious take on the first avenger, check out this hard-hitting version of Captain America from the Ultimates universe. In this bloody battle, Cap goes up against Frank Simpson, the 1960s version of Captain America who famously first appeared as “Nuke” in Frank Miller’s classic run on Daredevil.
Tintin: The Complete Companion
No less than French President Charles de Gaulle once said, "My only international rival is Tintin.” To this day, there’s been nothing like the international sensation created by Belgian creator Hergé. With 23 volumes written and drawn between 1929 and 1976, the series spans a vast array of genres, melding adventure, suspense, fantasy, mystery and science fiction. At the end of the year, audiences will thrill to Steven Spielberg’s dream gig: The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn, written by Steven Moffat (Doctor Who), Edgar Wright (Paul), and Joe Cornish (Attack of the Block). With pre-Tintin drawings, sketches, newspaper clippings, magazine and book covers, as well a rich historical context for the century-old strip, this rereleased companion is a terrific guide to the world of Tintin for readers who have discovered the young adventurer for the first time.
Astonishing Spider-Man & Wolverine
Jason Aaron with Adam Kubert
As if nailing down great stories about Wolverine, The Punisher and Ghost Rider weren’t enough, along with reinventing graphic noir in the pages of Vertigo’s amazing series Scalped, Jason Aaron had to come up with this roller-coaster ride. In a time-bending storyline that makes The Matrix look straightforward, the first pages of this team-up finds Peter Parker staring up at the stars through a handmade telescope—65 million years ago in the Cretaceous Era. It turns out it all started with a bank robbery, with Spider-Man and Wolverine teaming up to smack down a minor-league villain called The Orb. There’s time travel. Doctor Doom. The Phoenix Force. The Cosmic Cube. And if any of this makes sense to you, you’ll dig Aaron’s fan-friendly but marvelously complex story. The rest? Well, maybe stick with Archie Comics.
Batman Incorporated, Vol. 1
Grant Morrison with Yanick Paquette
Bats is back. After being killed off in the pages of Final Crisis and Batman R.I.P., the Dark Knight came back in an all-new, all-bizarre form in the person of Dick Grayson, the original Robin, in Grant Morrison’s fantastic Batman & Robin run. For both Batman and Morrison, this original take on franchising the character is a refreshing international take on crime and intrigue for those less interested in the bleak noir of Gotham City. “It's going to be even more stripped back and pulpy and fast-moving,” Morrison told comic book website Newsarama. In the new series, the resurrected Bruce Wayne announces himself as the financial back of Batman, Inc., backing a global team of international crime-fighters led by Batman himself. Alongside England’s Knight and Squire, El Gaucho and the other Batmen of All Nations, along with the new Batwoman, Batman gets to beat down on criminals all over the world. If Jason Bourne had a cape, this is what it might look like.
Scarlet, Book 1
Brian Michael Bendis with Alex Maleev
Sometimes they get it wrong—this dynamic duo’s attempt at injecting some grittiness into Brian Michael Bendis favorite Spider-Woman (with a motion comic, no less) was a minor disaster. More often, though, Bendis and Alex Maleev get it really right, as they did on their unforgettable run on Daredevil and most recently on the lunatic Moon Knight series. And then there’s Scarlet, for something entirely different. The creator-owned comic opens on a young woman, Scarlet Rue, happily living out her life in Bendis’ hometown of Portland, Ore. When the love of her life is gunned down by a corrupt cop, it unleashes Scarlet to become the revolutionary she was always meant to be. Our redheaded stepchild is soon behind the scope of a high-powered rifle, cleaning up her town in the best way she knows how. It’s a violent, funny, mess of a comic that doesn’t promise a happy ending.
American Vampire, Vol. 2
Scott Snyder, Rafael Ambuquerque and Mateus Santolouco
To quote Stephen King, who collaborated on the first volume of Scott Snyder’s killer vampire historical, “Here’s what vampires shouldn’t be: pallid detectives who drink Bloody Marys and only work at night, lovelorn Southern gentlemen, anorexic teenage girls, boy-toys with big dewy eyes.” And what should they be? In a perfect world, stone killers like Skinner Sweet, the sociopath vampire protagonist who was turned in the 1880s to become the world’s first American Vampire. This new volume opens in Las Vegas, 1936, and the toothsome Skinner Sweet has opened for business in Sin City alongside his sweetheart Pearl Jones. They run up against a hard-nosed young cop, Chief McCogan, not to mention a secret society. Things might get bloody, but as Skinner boasts, “I always, always got to be the last man standing.” Sweet, indeed.