Turncoat by Ryan Sullivan

Turncoat is not your traditional superhero graphic novel. Duke is a superhero assassin. He’s the world’s worst superhero assassin, a fact that is lost on him because on every contract he is sent out on, those superheroes end up dead. He’s never the one that kills them though. His partner ends up doing the killing and Duke gets the credit. (And his partner usually ends up dead as well).

The company that Duke works with keeps pairing him up with weird loser partners and also only gives his contracts to kill D-list superheroes. Who wants to be known as the assassin who killed Bug-Boy or Freedom-Fighter?! Certainly not Duke! He just wants to kill a big name superhero, somebody from the Liberty Brigade. Duke is also battling against his ex-wife, Sharon. This battle isn’t a domestic one; Sharon is also a rival assassin who just happens to be way better at killing than Duke. She keeps stealing his contracts and his money! This bothers Duke. He just can’t win.

When a contract comes through to kill the entire Liberty Brigade, Duke first thinks it’s a mistake, but then realizes that this is the best thing that could have happened to him! He will finally have the opportunity to kill the big heroes, but also to beat his ex-wife at something. Killing the members of the Liberty Brigade will also give him the motivation and the prestige to move on from his ex-wife. Chaos ensues as Duke goes after the Liberty Brigade and realizes that there are other major players behind the scenes pulling the strings. This anti-hero graphic novel was a fantastic palette cleanser from all of the traditional Marvel and DC comic books I had been reading.

Angel Catbird by Margaret Atwood

Angel Catbird is author Margaret Atwood’s first official foray into graphic novels. In the book’s preface, Atwood tells readers about her life and her journey to the creation of Angel Catbird. She talks about her love of drawing and how she has loved comics in their varying forms. Atwood also talks about how Angel Catbird has a science and conservation side to it. Nature Canada and CatsandBirds.ca has included facts and statistics about birds and cats in banners throughout the book.

Angel Catbird tells the story of Strig Feleedus, a young genetic engineer, who was headhunted by a major company to help figure out and finish a secret project. He figures out the hole in the project, fixes it, and is on his way to meet his boss when he, his cat, and an owl are hit by a car. Feleedus is accidentally mutated by his own experiment, which results in his DNA being merged with a cat and an owl. He becomes Angel Catbird! This experiment is wanted for use by a nefarious person, Feleedus’ half-rat boss, and Feleedus soon discovers that he in not the only human who has either had his DNA mutated or was born with mutated DNA. Sinister plots are discovered and Feleedus and company must work together to save themselves and the people around them.

Animal puns galore run throughout this graphic novel. I wasn’t sure what to expect when reading this, but I was pleasantly surprised. Angel Catbird becomes an unlikely superhero whose adventures are not at all what I was expecting.

Atwood is also the author of The Handmaid’s Tale, a dystopian novel that she wrote in 1985 that is being made into a television series starring many famous actors. The series will be released on Hulu on April 26, 2017. Talk about the show has been blowing up all over social media with the trailer garnering much speculation and excited responses from fans the world over. Want to watch the trailer? Hulu just released it and it’s haunting. I can’t wait to watch it.

Margaret Atwood has written many, many novels, pieces of short fiction, children’s books, one graphic novel, works of poetry, nonfiction, television scripts, radio scripts, has done recordings, edited works, and even wrote a play. She’s widely known and people flock to her work. Her work has been translated, so far, into more than 25 different languages. Her critical articles and reviews have appeared in newspapers and magazines all over the world. If you’ve never read anything by Atwood, I highly recommend you check her out. If you’re already familiar with her, try reading your favorite again or maybe pick up a new-to-you piece.

Want to try something by Atwood? I highly recommend you check out her website (http://margaretatwood.ca/). It’s fabulous! This site is very easy to navigate with a full bibliography, a section with interviews, and a section for works about Atwood herself. It’s one of the best author website I have seen.

Faith, Volume 1: Hollywood and Vine by Jody Houser, Francis Portela, Marguerite Sauvage

faithFaith, Volume 1: Hollywood and Vine is a refreshing step back from the traditional female superhero tale. This first volume introduces Faith Herbert, a woman orphaned at a young age who has always wanted to do something great. Faith is a psionically gifted psiot, which basically means that Faith can fly and has telekinetic powers. She’s a body positive plus-size superhero known as the Zephyr. Pretty cool.

Now Faith is striking out on her own, having broke up with her superhero boyfriend and her crime-fighting superhero group all at almost the same time. She has decided to take control of her life and live how she’s always wanted to be: in control of her own destiny. This means that Faith is working a day job as a reporter with a secret identity and a group of colleagues who have no idea that she is Faith Herbert OR the Zephyr.

Patrolling at night, Faith stumbles upon a conspiracy revolving around the disappearances of multiple psiots around the city. Her private and public lives come to a screeching collision at her work place, where Faith is forced to mesh her two worlds together and hope things work out. The missing psiots occupy Faith’s mind, leaving her to patrol more and ask questions. She uncovers a mysterious plot to use the psiots by aliens. Of course it’s aliens. This conspiracy is deeply-rooted in entertainment, politics, and regular societies. Faith uses her superhero savvy to save the world, but finds she may need help.

Cyborg, Volume 1: Unplugged

cyborgWhat is a superhero? Is it someone with a lot of money who makes costumes and weapons for himself? Is it someone living a normal life who then has powers mysteriously thrust upon him? Is it a god or creature from another world? Is it someone who has a near-death experience and is given superhuman qualities in order to save their life? A number of different qualities can factor into the origin story of a superhero, something that I wanted to expand my knowledge base and learn more about. My first stop: Cyborg.

Cyborg, Volume 1: Unplugged introduces readers to the life of Victor Stone. Victor has lived through a large number of near-death experiences, something that his scientist father has seemingly used to his own advantage by saving Victor’s life and implanting cybernetics into his body. As a result of having these cybernetic enhancements thrust upon him, Victor has become a cyber-enhanced superhero called Cyborg, a mantle that rests heavily on his shoulders. After traveling the universe and visiting other worlds to fight with other superheroes, his most recent brush with death, one that has changed and messed with his cybernetics, Victor soon finds himself heading back to his father’s laboratory looking for answers.

Victor and his father, as well as the other scientists in his lab, have a strained relationship, to put it nicely. His father only seems to see Victor’s enhancements, ignoring the man underneath. Exploring the newest changes to Victor’s cybernetics shows that his powers are changing and no one has the slightest clue why. Victor’s new tech seems to be communicating with other worlds, specifically with a group called the Technosapiens. This group wants to possess Victor’s new technology and they are determined to do so by any means necessary. As is par for the course of any superhero graphic novel, Victor finds help in the most unlikely of places: the Tekbreakers, a group of warriors from another world who have a plan to fight the Technosapiens. Victor just has to decide if he can truly trust them, considering they did try to kill him earlier… This graphic novel is a fantastic addition to the DC line and gives readers just enough back story to be able to follow along, while also drawing them in with vivid artwork and connections to other main DC storylines. Check it out!

All-New Captain America, Volume 1: Hydra Ascendant

all-new captain americaCaptain 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.

Strong Female Protagonist, Book One Written by Brennan Lee Mulligan, Drawn by Molly Ostertag

strong female protagonistThis 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.

Thor: God of Thunder by Jason Aaron

thor god butcherI have always found Thor to be very intriguing. An immortal God growing up in his father Odin’s shadow, listening to tales of war and the defeating of enemies and subsequently struggling to lift Mjolnir, his magic hammer, when he was younger because he wasn’t worthy yet. In the Marvel movies, viewers get some flashbacks of Thor’s life, but not as much as I was looking for. Instead of digging into Norse mythology, I decided to look at the graphic novels available at the library to see what background they could provide me. That was where I found Jason Aaron’s run of Thor.

Thor: God Of Thunder, Volume 1: The God Butcher is the first volume in Aaron’s run that gives readers an insight into Marvel NOW!’s interpretation of Thor. I found this graphic novel to be confusing, yet ultimately rewarding because it filled in many of the wholes that I had about Thor’s upbringing and his motivations for behaving the way that he does.

Let’s get down to the nitty gritty: The reason I found this graphic novel to be confusing is because of the story line. In this first volume, Thor is on the hunt for the God Butcher after discovering floating body parts of a God in a river after a fight. The horror in the eyes of the deceased God catapults Thor on a hunt that defines his actions for the entirety of his life. This graphic novel is a prime example of why you MUST pay attention to the artwork in order to follow the storyline. This volume is essentially three Thor stories being told at once: past Thor, present Thor, and future Thor, all on a quest to hunt down and kill the God Butcher who has made it HIS mission to kill all of the Gods across all of the worlds. Differentiating between past Thor and present Thor is a little difficult, but there are wardrobe and art style clues that will help key you in to what Thor you are actually looking at. This first volume of Thor is perfect to set up the rest of the series’ run because it introduces a villain that even Thor has trouble defeating, the idea that gods are vanishing and no one is aware or really even cares, and that this is a problem that has taken thousands of years to solve, yet still hasn’t been fixed. (Bonus: There is a Lord Librarian who has WINGS and who Thor goes to for help!) The back stories of both Thor and the God Butcher are exquisitely thought through and Ribic’s artistic descriptions of Thor’s struggles really show the darkness of this seemingly eternal fight. Check this out and let me know what you think!

Storm: Make it Rain by Greg Pak

stormStorm, aka Ororo Munroe, goes by many different names, but this X-Man has the ability to control the winds and the weather. In this first volume, Storm: Make it Rain, people not familiar with Storm are introduced in part to her origin story and how she got to where she is today. She’s the windrider, the Princess of N’Dare, the former Queen of Wakanda, and the headmistress of the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning, the place where she met Wolverine and the other X-Men, and the place where she is struggling to control, help instill, and foster a sense of belonging amongst the young mutants attending.

With the help of Henry McCoy, also known as the Beast, Storm is able to work to better the world around her and to keep both the mutants and humans around her safe from harm. Ororo finds herself helping a small village before a giant tsunami hits, chasing down missing young adults, and dealing with tyrants who are trying to control the world. This graphic novel doesn’t disappoint as we’re introduced to Storm’s connection to Wolverine, her former lovers as well as her nemesis, and to her origin story in general.

Storm is shown and drawn as a strong, independent hero who has matured from when she was a small child to a mutant who knows the limits that her body possesses and, most importantly, how to use those powers to help others. This graphic novel is a combination of Storm (2014) #1-5 with each issue bringing to light an extra layer of Storm and the reasons why she does what she does.