This month’s spotlight closes out another year of new additions to Comics Plus, while ushering in yet another 12 months to look forward to! With what’s already on the horizon, 2024 promises to be another exciting year indeed, but for now let’s take a look at some of the highlights from last month’s Recent Additions.
Like most of my monthly selections, it should represent a nice cross-section of recommendations — from classic action/adventure for fantasy and sci-fi fans, to high-concept horror and cutting slice-of-life examinations — and definitely feels like a nice “core sample” of what contemporary comics and manga have to offer.
And what better way to ring in the new year than exploring a selection of new-to-you titles you may have missed to add your virtual shelf?
For our younger readers, what’s old can be new again with Disney Manga: Stitch! Best Friends Forever! (Tokyopop). Whether it’s the Disney tie-in or the engaging manga style (or both!), Tokyopop’s Disney Manga line may be one of the best ways to engage new, struggling, or reluctant readers and keep them coming back for more!
Star Wars is another popular Disney franchise that will be popular with many young readers, and the anthology-style Star Wars-with-a-spooky twist Tales from the Death Star (Dark Horse) is a visually thrilling, occasionally chilling exploration of that doomed space station and what occurs in the aftermath of its destruction. Like Hyperspace Stories and Tales from the Rancor Pit before it, readers can use the library to visit a galaxy far, far away.
Teens are also in for an exciting ride, first with the slightly oddball sci-fi romp Junior (Scout Comics), where we join the eponymous space marine and her psychic hippo-like alien friend who have crash-landed on a strange world populated by carnivorous dinosaurs, alien temples, and agents of a ruthless corporation that covets an ancient hidden power. It’s Avatar (Dark Horse) meets Indiana Jones, meets Land of the Lost; mix in a little family drama and Junior serves up quite the quirky sci-fi cocktail.
The stand-out title in this group was from one of the newest publishers in the Comics Plus family, Fair Square Comics’ Breath of the Giant. Joining the ranks of similar stories that walk the weird line between “grounded” and metaphorical fantasy, two sisters learn that slaying one of the fabled giants of their world could grant them the power to return their dead mother to life, and they set out on a harrowing quest where danger seems to dog their every step — where the true price of victory may just be too costly to bear. It’s Adventure Time (BOOM! Studios) meets Full Metal Alchemist, and is sure to appeal to fans of similar adventure-epics like Kaya (Image) or even Bone (Cartoon Books).
Things start to skew a little more serious for older teens, and there are a number of interesting titles to consider. Animalheads (Dark Horse) is a slick, manga-inspired, white-knuckle thriller whose treatment is akin to something like an indie crime film in comics form, while The King of the Moths (Ablaze) is an eerie, uncomfortable take on the supernatural monster story that feels like an eerie blend of Hereditary meets Locke & Key (IDW).
One of the best additions last month was the latest from Zerocalcare. I say latest, but it’s actually the first collection of the popular Italian cartoonist’s semi-autobiographical narratives, The Armadillo Prophecy (Ablaze), providing us key insight into the genesis of his well-deserved popularity. It’s an honest blend of emotional impressions (typically filtered through the eye of a surrealist) to produce the kind of artistic storytelling you can really only do in comics. Trying to unpack what he does with this book here wouldn’t do it justice, just know that it becomes a moving tribute to the loss of a friend and those who shared her life, and is worth your time and attention.
For mature readers, there’s plenty more to get excited about, especially for horror fans. First, Where Monsters Lie (Dark Horse) is a darkly fun, if deeply meta, exploration in a (self-compared) Cabin in the Woods kind of way, giving a behind-the-scenes look into the variety of maniacal killers we know from classic horror movies. With tongue firmly planted in cheek even as it never pulls a punch, this is one of those super high-concept stories I’m not even sure I truly liked when it was all over, but I just can’t stop thinking about — so maybe you won’t either.
Sticking with horror, Killchella (Scout Comics) is a clever exploration of extreme fandom pushed to cult-like levels, while Dark Ride (Image Comics) shows off some impressive worldbuilding by imagining a Disney World-style park with a deep horror theme, where its original founder made a literal deal with the devil and now his children must pay the price. Unsettling, and at times ghastly, we’re two volumes in and I can’t wait to find out what happens next! Rhe truly unfettered weirdness of Project Monarch (Dark Horse) really caught my attention this month, too. As another who sees conspiracy theory as the next incarnation of American mythology (the stranger the better), Oeming and Santos’s unique exploration of some of the more “classic” concepts of conspiracy culture is fresh and inventive.
While certainly entertaining, the aforementioned recommendations might be considered junk food compared to another set of recent additions, each of which shares a uniquely feminine perspective. Dear Body (Fair Square Comics) is an honest and unflinching anthology on the topic of female body image from a multi-generational array of creators who supply a spectrum of one-of-a-kind insights. The equally poignant Sixty Years in Winter (Europe Comics) is a powerful, if somewhat “quiet” story of an elderly woman’s struggle to regain her independence from a family that just can’t seem to understand her choice to leave home.
Perhaps the most intriguing discovery this month was also from Fair Square Comics, No Kidding, which takes the often unpopular topic of women who choose not to have children and tackles it head on. This is one of those brave pieces of graphic literature with the power to open eyes and change minds, and should find itself confidently shelved alongside similarly important titles like Gender Queer (On Press), Everything is Beautiful and I’m Not Afraid (Andrews McMeel), and A Woman’s Voice (Europe Comics).
Honestly, that’s just a small sample of the great comics and manga added to Comics Plus last month. With literally thousands of titles to choose from across a wide range of genres, I could keep writing forever! Be sure to check in every month for more highlights, and browse our expanding list of past Rob’s Advisory selections.
Until next month, here are some more honorable mentions that (mostly for space reasons) didn’t quite make my list, but you may also enjoy checking out:
- Breathers (Dark Horse)
- Noir is the New Black (Fair Square Comics)
- Regression: The Complete Collection (Image Comics)
- Through Clouds of Smoke: Freud’s Final Days (Humanoids)
- Since I Could Die Tomorrow, Vol #1 (Tokyopop)
- Magni the Mighty Vol. 1 (Band of Bards)
- Masters of the Universe: Masterverse Volume 1 (Dark Horse)
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Rob Randle is the Production Director for LibraryPass, and has worked in and around the comic book industry in various capacities, including as a book reviewer for the NY Journal of Books, and a judge for various comic book industry awards—the 2006 Eisner Awards, among others. Before joining LibraryPass, he had been the Director of Publishing for iVerse Media LLC since 2010, and prior to that was a purchasing manager for Diamond Comic Distributors where he helped to manage the monthly Previews catalog for close to a decade starting in 2002. Additionally, Rob occasionally does freelance work as a comics creator, and is the author of the critically acclaimed graphic novel, Serial Artist. Rob holds a B.A. of Illustration from the Maryland Institute, College of Art (MICA).