From melancholy and introspective works focusing on climate change and the possible destruction of the Earth, to brash and pulpy crime stories, to peculiar steampunk alternative realities, to wide-ranging examples of the best that the genre has to offer, the comics included in this roundup are sure to satisfy all those who enjoy graphical storytelling.
by Jean-David Morvan
Magnetic Press, 144 pages, $24.99
After a mysterious occurrence hits the Earth in 2052 and wipes out electricity as both a concept and a phenomenon, the planet is left in chaos as power and supplies run out and civilizations crumble. Jean-David Morvan’s Ashes, Ashes switches focus between a technologically advanced near-future utopia, where everyman Francois Deschamps and his wannabe influencer girlfriend Blanche little realize they are standing on the precipice of a monumental happening, and the aftermath of the terrible event of 2052, where two rival clans compete for control of the post-apocalyptic wilderness that used to be France. While in the past Francois and Blanche struggle to orient themselves to the new normal as they make their way toward Paris in the hope of finding salvation and answers, in the future the leader of the largest surviving clan is motivated by the belief that technology made humanity weak to plan a devastating attack intended to destroy the steam engine designed by his major rival.
by Stephon Stewart
Markosia Enterprises, 188 pages, $24.99
As a consequence of excessive solar flares and accelerated global warming, the Earth has been reduced to a desolate and parched husk, having not experienced rainfall for years. Dry by Stephon Stewart follows a farmer and his daughter as they trudge across the ruined surface of the planet in the hope of finding an underground water source. The farmer has an idea that they need to head to what used to be the coast, but along the way they encounter bands of surviving humans left deranged by the water shortage and are forced to fight for their own survival. These marauding humans soon turn out to be the least of their worries, however, when the two are forced to narrowly escape a nuclear attack. The Earth’s atmosphere has been damaged to the point that the pair need oxygen tanks to continue their journey, which is made even more tricky by their increasing state of dehydration. As they plod onwards, the farmer and his daughter are forced to contemplate the likelihood of salvation, both for themselves and for humanity as a whole.
The EC Archives: Crime Illustrated
by Al Feldstein and Jack Oleck
Dark Horse Books, 192 pages, $49.99
The EC Archives: Crime Illustrated is a lavish volume collecting the entire run of the legendary “picto-fiction” crime/thriller pulp magazine written by Al Feldstein and Jack Oleck and illustrated by acclaimed artists such as Wally Wood and Reed Crandall. Focusing on suspense and definitely not afraid of a little (or, even, a lot) blood and guts, the included stories feature shocking crimes, bold heroes, and psychopathic villains. Ahead of its time, the magazine’s structure differed from that of other comics, with panels of typography alternating with panels of illustrations in an attempt to capture and sustain the interest of adult readers. This volume represents a particular treat for fans of the magazine, as it includes the elusive third issue, which was not published by EC Comics during the magazine’s initial run. With each issue including three to five sensational stories, the collected edition includes a plethora of crazy criminal capers that are sure to both shock and entertain.
by Matt Madden
Uncivilized Books, 120 pages, $29.95
A comic lover’s comic, Matt Madden’s Ex Libris centers on a character who appears to be trapped in a room that is entirely empty, save for a futon and a bookcase stuffed with comics. With nothing much else to do, they start to browse the comics, flicking through some and thoroughly reading others, until they come to suspect that the words and pictures are conveying hidden messages, possibly even a deadly threat. As time passes, fiction and reality start to blur, madness descends, and the reader becomes obsessed with the idea that the key to their salvation lies somewhere between the panels of the various comics. So begins a kind of existential locked-room mystery in which the reader traverses an impressive and inventive range of visual and narrative styles, which show off the very best the contemporary comics genre has to offer, in an attempt to find the answer to their predicament.
The Amazing Screw-On Head and Other Curious Objects
by Mike Mignola
Dark Horse Books, 104 pages, $19.99
A tribute to all things strange and steampunk, the title story in Mike Mignola’s The Amazing Screw-On Head and Other Curious Objects follows Screw-On Head, a robotic special agent employed by President Lincoln, as he attempts to track down the nefarious Emperor Zombie and retrieve a stolen manuscript. Emperor Zombie and his diabolical henchmen intend to use the manuscript to access the temple of the feared warlord Gung and steal the fabulous jewel stored there, which would convey untold supernatural powers on them. The other collected stories include the award-winning “The Magician and the Snake,” which sees a magician reveal that he has doomed himself in order to be named the Greatest Magician in the World by temporally making three objects that are inextricably linked to his own fate disappear, “Abu Gung and the Beanstalk,” “The Witch and Her Soul,” “The Prisoner of Mars,” and “In the Chapel of Curious Objects.” The volume also features nearly fifty pages of additional material sure delight fans of the Hellboy universe.