Captain America is a widely loved and widely known superhero, one who fights for good against evil while decked out in red, white, and blue. The origin story of Captain America is fairly well-known following Steve Rogers’ journey to ultimate patriotic superhero. Movies both starring Cap as the major protagonist and also as a supporting character backing up the Avengers helped bring up his popularity.
What happens when Steve Rogers, the original Captain America, becomes too old to fight? All-New Captain America, Volume 1: Hydra Ascendant follows the story of Sam Wilson, formerly known as Falcon, as he assumes his new role as Captain America. Sam is selected for this role after the original Captain America Steve Rogers is robbed of his strength and vitality, leaving Steve to pick from a pool of viable candidates to find the next Captain America. Sam is chosen. He must learn to hone the skills that he developed as Falcon in order to become the best Captain America he can be, one that has the power to stand up and fight without being weighed down by emotions, revenge, or vendettas.
Cap finds a sidekick in his friend, Nomad. They work together to combat Hydra, only to discover that Hydra has infiltrated every aspect of society around the world. Nomad and Cap must rush to figure out Hydra’s ultimate plan, battle the Sect of the Unknown, and try to combat old villains as Steve Rogers’ band of villainous enemies start coming out of the woodwork to take down the new Cap and join Hydra. Sam and Nomad battle against the new generation members of Hydra, working out their battle techniques and trying to figure out what massive world-dominating plot this far-reaching network of super villains has in store. Once they figure it out, will they be able to stop or will this new band of fighting heroes be relegated to the sidelines as the public clamors for its original superheroes to come back and save the day? This new graphic novel definitely caught my interest and has me wanting to learn more about this new Captain America and his comrades.
Do you enjoy world-building? If you do, then I recommend Brass Sun, a science fiction and steampunk graphic novel by Ian Edginton and I.N.J. Culbard. In this graphic novel, Edginton and Culbard take the world-building idea often present in science fiction and fantasy novels and give it a quite literal translation. Someone actually built the Wheel of Worlds in Brass Sun and after its creation, the creator gave each world a piece of the key that when whole, would allow all of the worlds to reach and restart the sun. Sounds like a solid plan to make sure everyone gets along, right? Not even close.
The Great War broke out amongst all the worlds as some worlds clamored for all the pieces of the key, while others struggled to stay out the way. Hoping to lessen the damage, the tram/train system that connects the worlds is closed off, plunging the worlds into further chaos. After the Great War ends, the surviving inhabitants see their beliefs shift and the surviving knowledge about the Brass Sun and the Wheel of Worlds begins to be twisted.
Now this giant mechanical solar system is dying. It’s failing. The outer worlds are starting to freeze and inhabitants are dying by the millions. Sounds like a pretty cut-and-dry and fairly urgent problem that the governing party would want to solve quickly, right? Nope. INSERT ALL THE CHAOS!
First of all, there are MAJOR disagreements throughout the people in charge regarding who and how the world was created and for what purpose. There is this mysterious religious order who is literally burning people at the stake if they disagree with the common doctrine, ie. if these dissenters say that the cog is failing and the world is slowing down, they’re lying and must die! The Orthodoxy believes if you have faith, there is nothing wrong. There is also a whole class of royalty fighting amongst themselves with their dissent stemming from the aftermath of the Great War. On one of the worlds where ice is encroaching, a young girl named Wren is given a piece of the key by her grandfather and entrusted to save the galaxy. Thrust into this crazy chaos with absolutely no idea how to complete this task, she starts collecting a rather ragtag group of accomplices to help her. The power to save the galaxy rests in her alone though. The art in this graphic novel is stunning, the colors bright with brilliant world creation. The art combined with the elaborate storytelling hooks you in and definitely left me rooting for a positive outcome.
Need a good old-fashioned American graphic novel about heroes? Look no further than G.I. Joe: Origins Omnibus, Volume 1. This graphic novel has everything you could hope for in a superhero graphic novel, except that the characters are more realistic for kids to hope to become and to look up to. Nobody in this book was born a God with special powers(Heeeyyy Thor and Loki), none were bitten by radioactive spiders(Lookin’ good, Spider-Man), received their powers through some sort of solar flare/energy boost(Fantastic Four), nor do they have tons of money to buy all the fancy equipment they could ever want(Here’s looking at you, Iron Man). The people in the G.I. Joe program mostly all have military backgrounds with the skills and training they received as part of those organizations playing a major role in their initial selection to and their subsequent success in the program.
G.I. Joe: Origins Omnibus, Volume 1 gives readers a much-needed glimpse into the origin stories of various members of the G.I. Joe team. Something I noticed throughout this volume was the level of secrecy that is shown in both the selection of new members to the team and the shadowing of the actual name of their organization. This level of secrecy is necessary for them to maintain once readers see the wide variety of highly dangerous and covert missions they go on.
The origins of the G.I. Joe team came out of the changing and new era of war. New kind of war and fighting means that the good guys need to find a fighting force. The war that the G.I. Joe team finds themselves fighting is not out on the battlefield; it is instead being waged within cities, involving more innocent bystanders and a new breed of villain that is willing to do anything to create havoc. Check out this graphic novel to learn more about each G.I. Joe and to really see how this team came together.
The Fade Out: Vol. 1, Act One by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips is a gripping journey into the film industry in the 1940s. This dark graphic novel takes place in Hollywood in 1948, beginning with Charlie Parish, one of the writers for a film studio, waking up to find Valeria, the up-and-coming lead actress of his current film lying dead, sprawled on the floor in the room next door, obviously murdered with ligature marks around her neck. The noir film he’s working on has been stuck in endless reshoots with the cantankerous German director barreling down on everyone to do what he wants perfectly or they will have to face the consequences.
Charlie finds himself struggling to write, plagued with writer’s block, troubled at keeping the secret of Val’s death, and turning for help from Gil Mason, an ex-screenwriter who has been blacklisted by the studios for being a suspected Communist. Gil and Charlie have worked out a Everyone involved on-set and off-set, from the head of the studio to the press office to the head of security seems to be hiding something and Charlie is left to wonder just what is true and just what he can tell to the people he thinks would never betray him.
This graphic novel is full of suspense, leading readers down dark hallways and dimly-lit streets with Charlie as he tries to figure out what really happened to Val and why the studio is covering up how she died. The film noir feel is shown through the dark coloring within each panel and the accent colors that pop on each page. The colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser, really bumps up the impact the story has on the reader by adding in color that boosts the intriguing, dark, and mysterious nature of this book. Brubaker and Phillips even add in real movie stars to the book, something that I noticed when I saw that a couple of the characters looked familiar! (There is also a cast of characters at the front of the graphic novel for you to refer back to if you become confused.) The Fade out: Vol 1: Act One is a wonderful read and I highly encourage you to check it out!
This is a superhero comic book, but not your typical one. While there is a significant amount of crime fighting and struggling with inner demons, writer Brennan Lee Mulligan and artist Molly Ostertag have incorporated necessary humanity into the lives of their superheroes and villains, allowing readers to become more attached to their daily lives outside of being more than normal.
Strong Female Protagonist dives into the life of Alison Green. Alison used to be an active superhero. When she was younger, it was discovered that she was one of many teenagers who had “biodynamic anomalies,” in essence they were different than normal people. These anomalies allowed her to become Mega Girl, her superhero alter ego with super strength and invulnerability to injury, heat, cold, and many other things. Alison and other heroes went about life fighting crime on a day-to-day basis until she had an interaction with her nemesis, the villain Menace, who has the ability to read minds. This encounter forces Alison to take a close look at her life fighting crime and decide whether or not she wants to continue being Mega Girl. Flash forward and now Alison is going to college and trying to balance her superhero side with the normalcies of college life. She still wants to save the world, but does not necessarily want to be forced to do so while hiding behind a mask. She shouldn’t need a mask to be a hero. After all, everyone has different opinions on what really constitutes being a hero.
While this book follows a fairly straight storyline, there are some flashbacks, as well as a running commentary at the bottom of each page that allows readers to break away from the seriousness of the comic to revel in the writer’s witty commentary. I felt like those sentences added to the events happening within the book and even allowed me to garner a little insight into the writing and artistic processes that went into creating this book. Check this out if you want a break from the traditional superhero graphic novel, but still want to see some battles alongside a “normal” life.
What would you do if you were thrust into a situation that you initially thought you could control, but then you found out that everyone who had prepared you had either lied to you or had been unaware of a certain MAJOR event? Would you panic? Would you want to tell everyone about the secret you just learned about? This is the predicament that newly-elected President Stephen Blades finds himself in on his very first day in office in Letter 44, Volume 1: Escape Velocity.
In this first volume, President Blades is ushered into the oval office to find a letter for him from the previous President. Opening the letter and expecting to have to dive headfirst into fixing the critical issues facing the nation caused by President Carroll, Blades instead discovers the one singular event and reason behind the country’s involvement in two major wars, the economy collapsing, and the healthcare system to be failing. It’s a national and world secret that only a handful of people are aware of: seven years ago, NASA discovered an alien presence in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, one that was able to cloak itself somehow and had the potential to be dangerous. In order to learn more about this, a team of 9 astronauts made up of both military members and scientists was sent into space to discover what is really going on.
This graphic novel divides focus between Blades and the group of astronauts who are almost to their destination. As the astronauts prepare to reach their destination, you learn their ship, the Clarke, is becoming increasingly damaged and should not have been sent on this mission so quickly. Secrets abound both in the air and on the ground, leaving readers to wonder what really is the truth and showing that President Stephen Blades has the ultimate power in his hands. All that’s left is for him to decide what to do with it.
Stay tuned for a review from Volume 2 (and be on the lookout for Volume 3)!
Sometimes you just need to take a break from the superhero comics and step into something completely different. If you happen to be in that mood, join me and check out Lady Killer. This graphic novel will be a refreshing break from those men in tights comics who insist on saving the damsel in distress. (Be sure to read the introduction – It’s something you definitely don’t want to miss!)
In Lady Killer, readers are introduced to Josie Schuller, a 1950s housewife who seems to have everything: a fantastic husband, two adorable daughters, and perfect domestic bliss. She does have all that, plus much more! Josie also works outside the home without her husband even realizing what she really does. She isn’t just a lady who goes door-to-door selling Avon though. Josie is a killer.
Yes, I said that right. She’s a killer, an assassin to be specific. Josie doesn’t kill people the way you would expect a lady killer to either. She’s not afraid to get dirty, even though she may seem a little bit delicate with her perfectly done makeup and outfits. Josie is ruthless and has been with the agency for 15 years, performing assassinations whenever asked. Now that she has a family and is working to keep up her picture-perfect life at home, her employers are starting to worry that maybe her priorities are no longer “correctly” in order the way they wish. As a result, Josie soon finds her life to be under attack and she is forced to decide how she really wants her life to be, while hopefully keeping her family blissfully unaware of what mommy really does all day long.
If this description caught your attention and you’re looking for something similar, check out Miss Meadows. This movie stars Katie Holmes as Miss Meadows, a perfect, prim, and proper school teacher who under the surface is a vigilante who seeks to right all the wrongs in the world however she can and with any means necessary, like a vigilante Mary Poppins. Right on par with Lady Killer.
Ant-Man is a Marvel creation that most recently came out as a movie starring Paul Rudd as Scott Lang and Michael Douglas as Dr. Hank Pym. Dr. Pym was the original Ant-Man, the one who discovered the Pym Particle, a substance that had the ability to shrink items, most importantly a suit. He became Ant-Man and his wife became the Wasp. After a devastating accident, Dr. Pym hid away the formula and the process to find the Pym Particle, locking the suit away.
Flash forward to the present and viewers are introduced to Scott Lang, a burglar who has just been released from jail and is trying to turn his life around so that he can be in his daughter’s life. His roommate and a few friends approach him with the chance of a lifetime: they heard about a rich man who has a safe in his basement and if Scott can crack it, then they will be set financially for a long time. This heist changes Scott’s life and puts him in the sightline of a very powerful man, former Ant-Man Dr. Pym. Giving Scott a chance to reform his life and atone for his past crimes, Dr. Pym presents him with the opportunity to protect the Ant-Man suit and the formula from a group of scientists who wish to harness the power for dubious reasons. Dr. Pym mentors Scott in the ways to use the suit and how to harness all of its powers, while Scott works to change his life for the better. This movie is an excellent introduction to the background of Ant-Man and provides viewers with some pretty spectacular effects, while also keeping the mood light yet fill of action and adventure.
Moving further down the timeline is Nick Spencer’s Ant-Man. In this volume, Ant-Man is older, somewhat more mature, and has worked with a variety of other superheroes. Just because he’s older doesn’t mean he has become a better superhero though. Throughout this graphic novel, it’s pointed out to Scott that he isn’t even the best Ant-Man and that some people still think he’s dead.
Scott is still trying to better his life and provide for his daughter, something that this graphic novel shows has not been without some significant difficulty. Scott thinks he has it made when Iron Man calls and offers him a job, but quickly realizes that he’s only one of many candidates and just because he’s worked with Iron Man before doesn’t mean he is going to get the job. The realization that his ex-wife is moving with his daughter to Florida and a rumble with an old foe throws Scott off-balance, leaving him to try a new business venture that takes Scott and his family down a dangerous path where he is forced to see that what he thinks is right for his family and what is actually right for his family are two very different things.
What I liked best about this graphic novel is that if you are confused about something that is happening, the writers have written in explanations and have also provided you with the issue numbers of the different graphic novels that will help you to fill in the holes. Plus Scott does a lot of reflective thinking, so that helps. It’s brilliant! Check out this graphic novel for a more sarcastic and humanized approach to a superhero who is just trying to get his life together.
If you think of Marvel, chances are the first name you think of is Stan Lee. He has become the face and name most closely affiliated with Marvel and rightfully so. Amazing Fantastic Incredible: A Marvelous Memoir is Stan Lee’s memoir and it’s not like your traditional memoir. This book is a fabulously illustrated graphic memoir done in full color that gives you a birth until present glimpse into the life of Stan Lee.
With Marvel just recently celebrating its seventy-fifth anniversary, the release of this graphic novel comes at a high point when Marvel is once again at the center of awareness. Stan Lee is the most legendary name in the history of comic books and this graphic memoir will answer questions about his life and work history that anyone from comic newbie to comic guru may have.
Following Lee’s life from a small boy in an apartment to his current venture of traveling and speaking in venues around the world, this book gives readers a glimpse into the life of the comic legend and co-creator of Spider-Man, the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk, and many, many other superheroes. Stan Lee changed the superhero game by insisting his superheroes/villains/other characters were complex characters, dealt with personal issues and used wit in order to give readers more relatable superheroes. He read other characters as flat portrayals of the age-old story of good vs. evil and wanted to bring out the human qualities of these superhuman heroes. This graphic memoir illustrates the life and times as Stan Lee as he first broke into the comic industry and effectively changed comics as the world knows them today.
This book is chock full of advice for writers, readers, illustrators, and anyone else who has a dream that they want to follow, despite what other people may be saying to them. Believing in yourself and not giving up are two of the main themes that are consistent throughout this memoir, reminding readers this through speeches and also through the stories of the superheroes that he created and was able to successfully launch into the mainstream public. Whether you’re a comic fan, love Marvel, or are wanting to learn more, I highly recommend this graphic novel as a look into Stan Lee’s past and the overall history of both Marvel and the cast of superheroes that he created.
So if you’re not aware, a major event has unfolded in the Marvel Universe resulting in the Spider-Verse, the biggest Spider-event in history. In Spider-Verse, this November 2014 debut event began with Morlun announcing the Great Hunt, where he and his family would hunt down and kill every Spider-totem/Spider-creature in the Multiverse. As numerous Spider-themed superheroes were being killed, they realized that they needed to band together, so Spider-Man decided to create a team to help fight against all of the villains. This event launched multiple storylines with villains across the different universes launching their own nefarious plans to take down the different Spider-heroes in their own specific universes.
All of this background information leads to Spider-Gwen, Vol. 0: Most Wanted. In an alternate universe, Earth-65 to be exact, Gwen Stacy is alive, having never been thrown off the Brooklyn Bridge by the Green Goblin. In Earth-65, it isn’t Peter Parker that is bitten by the radioactive spider, it is in fact Gwen Stacy, who then becomes Spider-Gwen, also known as Spider-Woman.
Spider-Gwen, Vol. 0: Most Wanted focuses on the life of Gwen Stacy after the death of Peter Parker. Gwen is wrestling with Peter’s death for two reasons: 1) he died in her arms and 2) everyone is blaming Spider-Gwen for his death when in reality, it wasn’t her fault at all. In this universe, Gwen is in a band called the Mary Janes, and shortly after becoming Spider-Gwen, Peter Parker experiments and in trying to become more like Gwen, he becomes the Lizard, which ultimately leads to his death. A man-hunt begins with everyone looking for Spider-Gwen and J Jonah Jameson leading a giant smear campaign against her in the papers and with Gwen’s own father, Captain George Stacy, leading the hunt to capture Gwen.
This first volume is especially intriguing to read because in addition to all of the superhero problems Gwen is facing, she is also dealing with the drama of being in an all-girl rock band and trying to find a balance between her personal and private lives. I highly recommend you check out this graphic novel because it will go more in-depth into Gwen’s world and will allow you to compare the “normal” Spider-man universe with the universe where Gwen has the spider powers.