Whether you’re a die-hard superhero fan or an art enthusiast looking for works that meld text and visuals in innovative ways, 2019 has some remarkable comic books and graphic novels to satisfy your needs. Our most anticipated comics of the year feature some first-rate creative pairings along with noteworthy works from solo cartoonists who are some of the most forward-thinking, ambitious voices in the medium. Established properties like Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Guardians Of The Galaxy, and Teen Titans are reinvigorated with creative teams that take them in new directions, while the independent comics scene continues to put out titles that explore the unlimited creative potential of the medium. Every year brings fresh discoveries, and these are some significant new releases that should be on the radar of both comic-book veterans and readers that want to get into the graphic medium.
Assassin Nation (Image Comics)
After making a name for herself on The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Erica Henderson is moving in a very different direction for her new creator-owned series with writer Kyle Starks. Assassin Nation follows the world’s 20 best assassins as they work together to protect the world’s former best assassin turned crime boss, a concept that is firmly in line with Starks’ hitman fascination (see: Sexcastle and Kill Them All). Early artwork spotlights how Henderson’s distinct character design immediately imbues the assassins with personality, but she also gets to work out her fight choreography skills in bombastic, brutal new ways thanks to Starks’ over-the-top action storytelling. Henderson is taking another artistic leap by coloring herself on this series, giving her pages a vibrancy that visually distinguishes Assassin Nation from grittier hitman stories with a drab aesthetic. Both creators have a strong sense of humor, ensuring the book will be a lot of fun no matter how violent it gets.
Buffy The Vampire Slayer (Boom)
There has been no shortage of Buffy The Vampire Slayer comics since the TV show’s conclusion in 2003, but now that the licenses for Joss Whedon’s properties have moved from Dark Horse to Boom!, it’s time for Buffy and friends to get a fresh start at a new publisher. In the pages of Redlands, writer Jordie Bellaire has proven that she can write compelling horror with a strong feminist perspective, making her an inspired choice to reimagine the Scooby Gang for a new generation. Artist Dan Mora is an equally inspired collaborator for Bellaire; whether he’s drawing high school drama in Go Go Power Rangers or Santa Claus fighting demons on the moon in Klaus, Mora does it all with dynamic energy, rich characterization, and outstanding detail. Mora’s design work for Buffy captures the likenesses of the original actors while updating the characters’ personal styles for modern times, and the breadth of his talent allows Bellaire to go big with her horror storytelling in a way that wouldn’t be possible on a TV budget.
Guardians Of The Galaxy (Marvel)
The future of the Guardians Of The Galaxy in the MCU is a mystery after the firing of writer-director James Gunn, but fans of the team have plenty of reasons to be excited for the next phase of the Guardians on the page. After delivering a fascinating character study in Thanos, writer Donny Cates and artist Geoff Shaw are taking on the full scope of Marvel’s interstellar landscape with a new Guardians Of The Galaxy series that features “every cosmic superhero in the known universe.” The cover for the first issue has Guardians fixtures like Star-Lord and Groot standing alongside lesser known heroes like Darkhawk, Beta Ray Bill, and Moondragon, and this creative team’s passion for Marvel mythology puts this sprawling line-up in very good hands. Cates’ other Marvel work takes advantage of continuity to tell engaging stories rooted in history but still accessible to new readers, and Shaw has grown dramatically in each of his collaborations with Cates, turning up the spectacle while mining new depths of emotion in his storytelling.
How I Tried To Be A Good Person (Fantagraphics)
Ulli Lust’s last graphic memoir, Today Is The Last Day Of The Rest of Your Life, blew us away, so we’re thrilled to see her return to autobiographical material with How I Tried To Be A Good Person. This new book looks at the period immediately following her previous work, when Lust travelled to Vienna in the 1990s and found herself in the middle of a complicated love triangle with one man who is a “perfect lover” and one who is a “perfect companion.” Lust looks at her past with unflinching honesty, examining her personal flaws and how they impacted her relationships with the people she cared about most during formative moments in her life. Her imaginative use of layout and color turn everyday experiences into striking visual sequences, reinforcing the importance of these memories with bold graphic design that sears these moments into the reader’s mind.
Invisible Kingdom (Dark Horse)
It’s been almost a decade since G. Willow Wilson worked on a creator-owned comics project, but she’s making her grand return to independent comics with Invisible Kingdom, a new sci-fi series from Dark Horse’s Berger Books imprint featuring art by Christian Ward. Two women—one a religious zealot, the other a freighter pilot—are brought together when they uncover a conspiracy connecting a pervasive religion with a corporation that has a stranglehold on a space sector, giving Wilson the opportunity to explore the symbiotic relationship between organized religion and economic powers. Wilson departs Ms. Marvel this year after making Kamala Khan a key player in the Marvel Universe, but it’s great to see her pursuing new creative avenues that allow her to create new worlds while continuing to explore themes that have been a major part of her previous works. She has a superb collaborator in Ward, who has made a reputation for himself with imaginative, off-kilter digital artwork that pushes the boundaries of what is possible on the page.
Marvel Action: Black Panther (IDW)
Last year, Marvel started a partnership with IDW that had new all-ages books released through the smaller publisher, which has plenty of experience with kid-friendly licensed comics. The Marvel Action line began with Spider-Man and Avengers series made for younger fans of those characters’ movies, and given the breakout success of Black Panther, it makes a lot of sense for the Wakandan characters to step into the spotlight. The most exciting thing about Marvel Action: Black Panther is that it’s written by Kyle Baker, a comic-book legend responsible for one of the best all-ages superhero titles of the 21st Century: DC Comics’ madcap Plastic Man. Joined by artist Juan Samu, Baker gets to bring his imagination to a corner of the Marvel Universe that has a very different look and feel than the typical New York City setting, which introduces a slew of new creative possibilities.
10 Dance (Kodansha)
Manga has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to sports comics. Inouesatoh’s 10 Dance delves into a sport that combines physicality with artistry in a way that makes it ideal for the comic-book medium: ballroom dancing. Two top male dancers from different factions of the ballroom community partner up to learn each other’s styles so they can win the 10 Dance championship, but dance moves aren’t the only thing these former rivals end up sharing. The queer romance angle is intriguing given the stigma against same-sex partnerships in the ballroom circuit, and the inherent intimacy of the sport adds an extra layer of seduction to push this reluctant relationship forward. Dance is an under-explored artform in a medium that often highlights bodies in motion, and we’re eager to see how Inouesatoh brings the fluidity and precision of ballroom dancing to the page while using it to reinforce character relationships.
Pumpkinheads (First Second)
Novelist Rainbow Rowell made a remarkable comic-book debut as the writer of Marvel’s Runaways, instantly taking to the new medium and avoiding many of the pitfalls novelists-turned-comic writers fall into. Her new graphic novel, Pumpkinheads, with artist Faith Erin Hicks and colorist Sarah Sterns, is more in line with Rowell’s prose writing, telling a down-to-earth story about the drama surrounding two high-school seniors working at a pumpkin patch. Rowell thrives when she writes stories that delve into the dynamics of characters during key transitional moments in their lives, and Hicks’ comic-book work is rooted in a similar narrative foundation, making for a complimentary creative pairing that promises an emotionally turbulent journey. Hicks knows how to create lived-in worlds with charismatic characters, and Stern’s vibrant coloring ensures that the book will have an exuberant tone that amplifies the festive atmosphere of the seasonal workplace.
Teen Titans: Raven (DC)
DC Comics makes a major play for the middle grade and young adult markets with its Zoom and Ink imprints debuting this year, releasing original graphic novels written by bestselling novelists with art by industry veterans and exciting up-and-comers. Written by Kami Garcia (co-writer of the Caster Chronicles series) with art by Gabriel Picolo, Teen Titans: Raven offers a new interpretation of the team’s brooding demon princess before she joins forces with her superpowered teammates. Having lost her memory in the same accident that killed her foster mother, Raven Roth is in for a challenging senior year of high school, especially when strange phenomena starts occurring around her. The most notable thing about Teen Titans: Raven is that it marks the DC debut of Picolo, a social media sensation thanks to his fan art of the Teen Titans acting like real teenagers. These images have more heart and youthful exuberance than most official Teen Titans comics, and bringing Picolo’s perspective to a new graphic novel series is a brilliant decision by DC editorial.
Tomorrow (Drawn & Quarterly)
Eleanor Davis is an essential voice in contemporary comics, constantly experimenting with form to tell stories that surprise, stimulate, and push the medium forward. After delivering an astounding manifesto on art and creation in last year’s Why Art?, Davis is taking a more grounded approach for her graphic novel, Tomorrow, which is currently being serialized on Gumroad. Exploring our current political moment through the experience of a caregiver and activist, Tomorrow takes advantage of Davis’ skill for creating multidimensional, endearing characters striving to make changes in their lives and the world around them. The chapters already released highlight how well she establishes intimacy, and the complexity and warmth of these relationships draws readers deeper into the story. Her impeccable control of facial expressions and body language enriches the interiority of her characters, adding extra layers to the dialogue-driven story through how these figures carry themselves around different people.
When I Arrived At The Castle (Koyama)
Emily Carroll is one of the modern masters of comic-book horror, telling scary stories that are as gorgeous as they are haunting. Her new graphic novel, When I Arrive At The Castle, continues with the anthropomorphic animal horror of last year’s Beneath The Dead Oak Tree, trafficking in gothic horror tradition as a woman finds herself in a deadly castle with a countess ready to snare her in a trap. The story gives Carroll the chance to lean into the erotic elements of her work, and given her penchant for twisting narratives, it’s very likely that the predator/prey dynamic here will get flipped on its head. No matter what happens, it’s going to be visually sumptuous, and there are few cartoonists who are able to immerse readers in a specific atmosphere like Carroll, whose writing, artwork, and lettering all work together to make you feel like you’ve been transported to a terrifying new world.