Graphic Novel Friday: Best Graphic Novels of June

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Happy Friday and welcome to the best comics that June has to offer (according to us)! The below six books feature laughs, action, surprises, and... sure, quite a bit of the bizarre. 

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One More Year by Simon Hanselmann (Fantagraphics): Writer/artist/enabler Simon Hanselmann returns for a third time to the living room den of inequity shared by Megg, the depressed witch, Mogg, the black cat who loves her, and Owl, the tormented third wheel roommate who teeters between curling into a ball and violently raging. Come for the fuzzed-out, deadpan beats, stay for Werewolf Jones, their manic buddy who may appear to be part of the group’s journey but is really in a downward spiral all his own. (In one scene, Jones contributes to a debate of sexiness at a Forever 21 department store by wielding an axe.) Hanselmann succeeds not only in pursuing cringe humor to its darkest corner but also in his depiction of hallucinatory states—expect plenty of dripping appendages and faces, along with wild and wide-ranging color schemes. Readers may never be the same.
 

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Uncomfortably Happily by Yeon-Sik Hong, Translated by Hellen Jo (Drawn and Quarterly): What couple hasn’t dreamed of getting away, leaving the city for peace in the country? Writer and illustrator Yeon-Sik Hong and his wife do just that in Uncomfortably Happily, bidding farewell to busy Seoul for Korean mountain views. Yet without the everyday distractions, the mundane begins to loom, creating an exaggerated focus on the minor things couples can otherwise ignore when there are restaurants to try and friends to meet. In the country, however, Hong must cope with finding creative inspirations beyond the changing of seasons, while their relationship must weather financial anxiety. At 576 pages, it’s to Hong’s credit that the charm of his black and white illustrations never wanes, and the translation by Hellen Jo showcases everyday dialogue that is believable, especially when the couple must lean on one another.
 

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Bitch Planet Vol. 2: President Bitch by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Vincent De Landro (Image Comics): Sometimes a comic needs to stomp into the market, drop the subtlety, and go straight for grindhouse. Welcome to Bitch Planet, where writer Kelly Sue DeConnick and artist Vincent De Landro cut loose, raise their middle fingers, and put patriarchy on blast. In their terrifying vision of the future, women who refuse to comply with a male-dominated society are sent to a prison planet to be reformed or forgotten… or something far worse. In this second volume, more origins are revealed, especially of events back on Earth and what led to this nightmare reality. Yes, it is in-your-face; yes, it is unapologetic; yes, there are hilarious, satiric “ads” throughout; and yes, this book is an immediate reaction to everything that is wrong with everything. Let’s get ready to rumble? Sorry, the quake already occurred. Better brace for the blowback.
 

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Doom Patrol Vol. 1: Brick by Brick by Gerard Way and Nick Derington (DC Comics): DC’s strangest heroes, the Doom Patrol, return to the funny pages thanks to writer Gerard Way and artists Nick Derington and Tom Fowler. In his afterward, Way calls this new series a “celebration” of the Doom Patrol, particularly Grant Morrison’s memorable run that put the team on rebel radars of readers who were fed up with traditional do-goodery. The book follows EMT partners Casey and Sam on their usual routes but there’s nothing normal here, as the Doom Patrol’s roster includes a robot with a human brain, a hero wrapped entirely in mummy bandages, a musclebound man in only a leopard-print Speedo, and… there’s also a sentient ambulance. I haven’t even mentioned the bizarre and squirm-inducing villains. Speaking of villains, one of the stars of this book is colorist Tamra Bonvillain, who has a name born for comics. Her attention to detail in the costumes and backgrounds is easy to take for granted, especially amidst all the splashy chaos when things really start cooking, but she and letterer Todd Klein deserve special attention.
 

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Hawkeye Vol. 1: Anchor Points by Kelly Thompson, Leonardo Romero, and Michael Walsh (Marvel Comics): With the original Hawkeye, Clint Barton, mired in the event antics of Secret Empire, there exists an opportunity for another archer to draw the bowline. Enter Kate Bishop, the not-a-sidekick sidekick to Barton and a hero as eager to make a name for herself as she is to earn a paycheck. Under writer Kelly Thomspon’s pen, Kate starts her own private investigation office in Los Angeles, where she foils bank robbers, tackles suspects, and sneaks onto a campus to begin her first big sleuthing. Kate speaks in full snark (“Maybe you should be the P.I.,” she tells a potential client who dares to question her), akin to peers like Veronica Mars. Artists Leonardo Romero and Michael Walsh hew close to previous series artist David Aja’s clean and sharp cartoon lines, with plenty of expressive moments and fun design tricks (watch for Kate’s “identifiers” as she scans crime scenes), while Jordie Belaire’s colors do wonders. It’s a welcome debut book for Kate, where it’s an all-new character in the title role, and everything is new and old at the same time.
 

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Motor Crush Vol. 1 by Brenden Fletcher, Cameron Stewart, and Babs Tarr (Image Comics): Domino Swift is a professional motorcyclist in a near-future who is in search of a sponsor, or so she says. When she isn’t speeding on the track, she’s engaged in an illegal circuit where the participants race for a narcotic, speed-boosting substance known as “Crush.” It’s on this circuit where violence and death-defying stunts are the norm, and Swift is a star. Alas, her stash of Crush is stolen one night, and in order to get it back, she must further her descent into the criminal, motorpunk underworld and risk not only her adoptive father’s approval but her professional career as well. For all the bright flash and rapid-fire plot elements, the real stand-out here is the creative team. Comics fans will remember Brenden Fletcher, Cameron Stewart, and Babs Tarr as the team who brought Batgirl back to the mainstream for DC Comics a few years ago, and they’ve taken this latest project to Image Comics, with plenty of 1980s nostalgia mixed with Sci-Fi. It’s as addictive as any near-future drug.
--Alex

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