Pax Romana #1

By Jonathan Hickman
28 pages, color
Published by Image Comics

What is it with time-travel and alternate-timeline stories that involve the Roman Empire? Every time one turns around, a new one seems to crop up, ready for action. (The phenomenon is so commonplace that Lance Parkin’s novel Warlords of Utopia is about a war between every parallel universe where the Roman Empire, and every parallel universe where Nazi Germany was victorious.) The latest arrival in this genre is Jonathan Hickman’s Pax Romana. Can it transcend the tired genre that it’s placed itself squarely inside?

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Mutts: Animal Friendly

By Patrick McDonnell
208 pages, black and white & color
Published by Andrews McMeel Publishing

There are times when I look at the newspaper comic strip pages and just groan at how many uninspired strips continue to limp on, churning out one lifeless joke after another. There’s always a ready antidote, though, in the form of Patrick McDonnell’s Mutts. I wouldn’t dare to go so far as to say it’s the only strip of interest these days (there are a handful of other good ones out there), but I will say that it’s not only the best one out there, but even in the heydays of newspaper strips it would still be at the top of the list.

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Hell Girl Vol. 1

By Miyuki Eto
208 pages, black and white
Published by Del Rey

Sometimes you read a book because the initial hook sounds too good to ignore. That was certainly the case in Hell Girl, where the idea of people using a website to send other people to hell (but at the cost of their own soul) seemed like a fun take on an old chestnut, and seemed to promise at least a slight exploration at the idea of, “How much are you willing to pay to change your life?” What I found, though, was anything but that.

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Good As Lily

Written by Derek Kirk Kim
Art by Jesse Hamm
176 pages, black and white
Published by Minx/DC Comics

After creating the multiple-award-winning Same Difference and Other Stories, all attention would certainly be on Derek Kirk Kim’s next major project. Good As Lily, teaming him with artist Jesse Hamm, at first seemed like a slight and perhaps forgettable new book. The longer it’s been since I’ve read Good As Lily, though, the more I find myself thinking about it—and in a good way.

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Therefore Repent!

Written by Jim Munroe
Art by Salgood Sam
160 pages, black and white
Published by IDW Publishing

It’s very strange when you’re reading a graphic novel and feel like it was formed by an entirely different set of creators. In some ways it’s a little unfair to do so to the actual creators, almost like you aren’t giving them their fair credit. None the less, if you’d asked me who’d created Therefore Repent!, I’d have probably guessed Jonathan Lethem and Farel Dalrymple (who coincidentally really are collaborators on Marvel’s Omega the Unknown revival). I’d like to assure Jim Monroe and Salgood Sam, however, that such a comparison really isn’t a bad thing at all.

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That Salty Air

By Tim Sievert
120 pages, black and white
Published by Top Shelf Productions

What is it about the ocean that seems to inspire so many works of literature? Maybe it’s because it, unlike land, is part of the world that we still haven’t really conquered. We visit it and travel through it, but the ecosystems and order of life within the ocean is one without mankind living in it, one that most people still don’t really understand. It’s probably why Tim Sievert chose it as a backdrop for his debut graphic novel That Salty Air. When you need a nemesis that is both living and inanimate, and both logical and irrational, it’s hard to go wrong with the sea.

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Savage Dragon Archives Vol. 1-2

By Erik Larsen
616 pages, black and white
Published by Image Comics

When Image Comics debuted in 1992, there was a lot of talk from the founders about how these were characters they could work on the rest of their lives. Really, most people don’t take those sort of statements terribly seriously. It’s usually just a turn of a phrase, a promise that isn’t expected to be carried out, with the meaning behind the words usually something along the lines of, “I’m proud of this book.” With all that in mind, I don’t think anyone would have guessed that 16 years later, Erik Larsen would still be plugging away at his comic Savage Dragon, or that it would be at over 130 issues and counting. Now Larsen is releasing Savage Dragon Archives, fat 600+ page black and white reprints of the series. Reading over 20 issues together in a single edition, though, gives me a new-found respect for the creator.

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Dark Horse Heroes Omnibus Vol. 1

Written by Barbara Kesel, Jerry Prosser, Mike Richardson, Randy Stradley, Chris Warner
Art by various creators
488 pages, color
Published by Dark Horse

In 1993, it seemed like every publisher was debuting a new superhero line. The Image Comics explosion of the previous year had multiple companies putting together their own response; some took existing properties and tied them together, others launched entire new characters and titles. Dark Horse’s approach was Comics’ Greatest World, which was renamed Dark Horse Heroes a little over a year later. Now, with both the original 16-part mini-series as well as the later 12-part Will to Power crossover collected into a single omnibus, it’s interesting to look back and see both the strengths and the weaknesses of the line brought together so succinctly—as well as the fact that in many ways, it looks like nothing has really changed when it comes to a publisher launching a new line.

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Sword #1-4

Written by Joshua Luna
Art by Jonathan Luna
28 pages, color
Published by Image Comics

I’m not entirely sure why I’ve never actually read a comic by the Luna Brothers before. Their debut title Ultra was a break-out hit (and stood out on the stands with their faux-magazine covers), and Girls seemed to fend quite well for itself as well. So with their new title, The Sword, it seemed like a right time to finally take a look at just what they’re putting together. The end result? Not at all what I was expecting. I’m not entirely sure if that’s a good thing or not.

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Museum Vaults

By Marc-Antoine Mathieu
64 pages, black and white
Published by NBM

When I first heard about the Louvre commissioning four graphic novels set within the art museum itself, I was a little intrigued and, at the same time, worried. The idea seemed sound enough, but I couldn’t help but fear that each book would either so gushingly about the Louvre that it would become off-putting, or alternately sanitized to the point of boredom. In the case of Marc-Antoine Mathieu’s The Museum Vaults, though, I was quite surprised to find something extremely different.

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