The Hive

By Charles Burns
56 pages, color
Published by Pantheon Books

Two years ago, Charles Burns began a new trilogy of graphic novels with X’ed Out, an odd book that shifted between reality and a different, cartoonish world following its protagonist Doug. It was simultaneously intriguing yet also frustrating; as good as it was, so much was still feeling nebulous and unfinished with two more installments still en route. Burns’s second installment The Hive is now just around the corner, and with it comes not only a larger feel for Burns’ new story, but also a slightly more satisfying look back at X’ed Out.

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Rutabaga: Adventure Chef Chapters 1-3

By Eric Fuerstein
84 pages, black and white

For 17 years, every autumn I’ve gone to the Small Press Expo (SPX) in the Washington DC area, and every year I’ve left with a bag full of cool comics. Over the years I’ve found myself buying more and more mini-comics and self-published books, the sort that I can’t find at my always-great local comic book store chain. One of the discoveries for me this year was Rutabaga: Adventure Chef, a collection of the first three chapters of an utterly charming web comic. And while you can read the pages of this comic online for free, I suspect once you check it out for yourself you’ll agree that this is a comic worth supporting with a copy of the print edition, too.

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Bloodshot #1

Written by Duane Swierczynski
Pencils by Manuel Garcia with Arturo Lozzi
Inks by Stefano Gaudiano
32 pages, color
Published by Valiant Entertainment

Bloodshot was one of the books at Valiant that I rapidly decided wasn’t for me; feeling very much like a standard shoot-em-up series, there was never quite the hook needed to make it stand out in my eyes. I was a little surprised, then, for it to be one of the first properties to come back from the new Valiant Entertainment. (Although at least it wasn’t the nondescript H.A.R.D. Corps, perhaps the one Valiant series that no one is clamoring to see revived.) Now that I’ve read Bloodshot #1, though? Well, credit to where it’s due, this version definitely seems more interesting.

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Only Skin

By Sean Ford
272 pages, black and white
Published by Secret Acres

It’s easy to tell a suspense or horror story if you have distinct, identifiable, gruesome monsters jumping out of the shadows at every turn. Sean Ford’s Only Skin doesn’t take that easy route, instead building its nightmares through a combination of an iconic ghost design, and the terror of what we didn’t see. And in doing so, Ford’s debut graphic novel becomes a genuinely scary adventure for reader and character alike.

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Harbinger #1

Written by Joshua Dysart
Art by Khari Evans
32 pages, color
Published by Valiant Entertainment

When the original Valiant Comics published Harbinger back in the early ’90s, it was a title I found myself uninterested in right off the bat. The characters seemed a little too nasty and horrible to one another, and while I’m not against the idea of a less-than-admirable protagonist, it had felt a little too rough. It was one of the biggest hits for the company, though, and with the new Valiant Entertainment re-launching some of the original properties, it seemed like a good chance to see how the new version of Harbinger was shaping up. What I found was a book that deliberately doesn’t make things easy for readers.

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Fracture of the Universal Boy

By Michael Zulli
208 pages, black and white
Published by Eidolon Fine Arts

I’ve loved Michael Zulli’s art ever since I first saw it, and over the years he’s just gotten stronger and stronger as a creator. When Zulli turned to Kickstarter last year to fund the printing of a 208-page hardcover graphic novel that he’d written and drawn titled The Fracture of the Universal Boy, I jumped at the chance to get a copy for myself. At the same time, though, I’ll admit that a voice in the back of my head warned me not to get too excited. Zulli wrote two of the three chapters of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Soul’s Winter back in the day (Stephen Murphy is credited as providing the script over Zulli’s story for the first third) and while the art was amazing, the story never quite came together. So it was with that slight hesitation that I finally sat down to read The Fracture of the Universal Boy to see just what I’d helped pay for.

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Farm 54

Written by Galit Seliktar
Art by Gilad Seliktar
128 pages, two-color
Published by Fanfare/Ponent Mon

Farm 54 is one of those books that quietly straddles multiple categorizations, almost silently defying you to try and place it somewhere. It’s autobiographical, but also fiction. It’s a graphic novel, but it’s based off of three prose short stories. Even the fact that it’s two-color instead of full color or black and white will no doubt perplex some readers. But if you’re willing to cross the boundaries to examine Farm 54, you end up with a curiously enjoyable experience.

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Take What You Can Carry

By Kevin C. Pyle
176 pages, two-color
Published by Henry Holt Books

The split-narrative is a tricky structure to master, as Kevin C. Pyle’s Take What You Can Carry illustrates. Pyle’s book tells two different stories separated by four decades, switching back and forth between the two. In order to pull that off, though, both halves of the book need to be of equal strength. Otherwise you end up with a book like this one, where one half ends up feeling a bit superior to its counterpart.

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Written by Mark Waid
Art by Jeremy Rock
33 pages, color

At 2012’s WonderCon, Mark Waid announced that he has a series of digital comics coming soon, and was offering up a free short comic story that he’d created as a proof-of-concept for the venture. That comic, Luther, is available now for download. (And as Waid suggests on that page, the best way to view it involves downloading the PDF file to your computer first, and proceeding from there.) Waid’s approach to the digital comic format is different than just slapping pages onto a screen, but time will tell if it’ll catch on.

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Shuteye: Six Tales of Dreams and Dreamers

By Sarah Becan
300 pages, black and white
Published by Shortpants Press

Shuteye: Six Tales of Dreams and Dreamers is a collection of Sarah Becan’s six Shuteye mini-comics, each dealing with dreams in some way, shape, or form. I’m glad that I hadn’t read any of these mini-comics before getting the Shuteye collection through a Kickstarter drive, though. Individually, I think each of these stories is good. Read as part of a greater whole, though? Shuteye takes on a very different and more powerful feel, one that begs for them to be read as a complete unit.

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