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Under the Radar’s Holiday Gift Guide 2017 Part 9: Books and Graphic Novels

From Regrettable Super Villains to Movie Maps to the A to Z of Britpop and Much More

Dec 19, 2017 By Mark Redfern and Zach Hollwedel Web Exclusive
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Welcome to Part 9 of our Holiday Gift Guide 2017, in which we look at books and graphic novels. This is the final part of our 2017 Holiday Gift Guide and we’re down to the wire, with only six days until Christmas. Still all of these can be bought on Amazon and if you have Prime then you get free two-day shipping. Plus there’s always your local bookstore. Here we highlight books for adults centered on music, film, and comic book history. Then we reprint our write-ups on books for kids (as originally found in Part 4, which focused on toys and other gifts for kids). Finally, our Comic Book Editor Zach Hollwedel highlights some of his favorite 2017 graphic novels and collected editions of comic books. There’s plenty to choose from for readers young and old.

We have previously posted Part 1 of our 2017 gift guide (for music reissues, music box sets, and vinyl), as well as Part 2 (for board games) and Part 3 (for DVDs and Blu-rays, plus there was a supplemental to Part 3 with several other DVD/Blu-ray suggestions). Part 4 focused on toys and other gifts for kids. Part 5 centered on collectibles (aka wonderful toys for adults who are film, TV, and comic book fans), Part 6 was all about video games, Part 7 highlighted technology (Blu-ray players, headphones and speakers, cameras, and more), and Part 8 featured apparel and household items. And don’t forget that Under the Radar subscriptions also make a great gift. Plus donating to the charity of your choice in the name of the gift receiver is also a good way to go.

Books for Adults:

Brad Bird (Foreword), Tim League (Introduction): The Art of Mondo (Mondo)

SRP: $75.00

For over a decade now Mondo has been leading the alternative movie poster revolution. Some children of the ‘80s and ‘90s grew up, became artists, and started drawing amazing alternative new posters for the movies they loved as a child, as well as contemporary cult (and mainstream) classics. Mondo was borne out of the Alamo Drafthouse movie theater in Austin (and now a nationwide movie theater chain). Rob Jones began making posters for Alamo screenings of classic films and their film festivals. That grew into Jones commissioning other artists to draw posters, the MondoCon poster convention that started in 2014, a gallery in Austin, vinyl reissues of classic soundtracks with exclusive new artwork, collectibles, apparel, and this year their very first board game, based on John Carpenter’s 1982 horror classic The Thing. And now this handsome 352-page hardcover book that collects some of their best posters. It starts with a foreword by director Brad Bird, whose films The Iron Giant and The Incredibles are represented by multiple posters each. Then there’s an introduction by Alamo Drafthouse Founder/CEO Tim League, a section on their early years written by the previously mentioned Rob Jones (Mondo’s Cofounder/Creative Director). Other Mondo staff also write other sections, but the main thing is the glorious posters. Some of your favorite movies have to be in here and some of mine represented in the book include Back to the Future, Brazil, 2001, North By Northwest, Tron, The Shining, Metropolis, Robocop, Dirty Harry, There Will Be Blood, The Empire Strikes Back, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Poltergeist, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Shaun of the Dead, E.T., Drive, Her, Rear Window, and various episodes of the original Star Trek and Batman the Animated Series. It’s hard to imagine any film buff or fan of poster art being disappointed in this gift. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Terry Burrows with Daniel Miller: Mute: A Visual Document: From 1978 - Tomorrow (Thames & Hudson)

SRP: $45.00

Mute has long been one of Under the Radar‘s favorite record labels and this new book documents their history, namely all the iconic album cover art and packaging over the years. Co-written by Terry Burrows and Mute founder/owner Daniel Miller, Mute: A Visual Document traces the label’s story all the way from their first release, “T.VO.D.”/“Warm Leatherette,” a single by Miller’s band The Normal, to 2017 releases from Goldfrapp, Liars, and others. In between are classic album covers from Depeche Mode, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Erasure, New Order, Yeasayer, Arca, Swans, Richard Hawley, Moby, Wire, Fad Gadget, and others. Included are quotes from some of the musicians, photographers, designers, and artists behind the various album covers. This book is essential for any fans of the label and would also appeal to Depeche Mode fans, as they are featured quite a lot throughout. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Jon Morris: The Legion of Regrettable Super Villains (Quirk)

SRP: $24.95

Jon Morris follows up 2015’s The League of Regrettable Superheroes with The Legion of Regrettable Super Villains, an ode to some of the silliest bad guys the comic books have offered up over the years, mainly focusing on the Golden Age and Silver Age foes. There is The Horrible Hand, a disembodied red hand from 1942. 1941’s Sniffer has a super nose that can sniff out his nemesis (the original Golden Age Daredevil, not the blind Marvel hero we watch today on Netflix). Egg Fu was a giant egg with the stereotypical face of a Chinese man, complete with a curled up moustache. Wonder Woman fought the racial stereotype in 1965. Other choice character names include The Human Flying Fish, Generalissimo Brainstorm, Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man, Mod Gorilla Boss, Uzzi the Clown, Angar the Screamer, Baby Face and Brother, Captain Black Bunny, Sadly-Sadly, Robbing Hood, and 1943’s half bad guy/half bad girl He-She. Each entry includes amusing observations and commentary from Morris, as well as panels from their comic book appearances. The Legion of Regrettable Super Villains would make a perfect gift for fans of comic book history that also have a sense of humor. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Andrew DeGraff (Essays by A.D. Jameson): Cinemaps: An Atlas of 35 Great Movies (Quirk)

SRP: $29.99

In this truly unique experience, artist Andrew DeGraff creates detailed maps for 35 different movies. Each map charts the journey of major characters, each assigned a different color line to show their path. Each entry is accompanied by an essay on the film by A.D. Jameson. You get a bird’s eye view of Back to the Future‘s Hill Valley and see how Marty McFly escaped from terrorists in the Twin Pines Mall parking lot. And if you want to see how Sarah made it through the Labyrinth then here’s your map. Kirk and Khan’s epic cat and mouse space battle in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is charted. The films are presented in chronological order and range from 1927’s silent movie masterpiece Metropolis all the way to 2015’s modern classic Mad Max: Fury Road. In between you have the original Star Wars trilogy, the first three Indiana Jones movies, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, The Breakfast Club, Ghostbusters, The Princess Bride, Edward Scissorhands, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Jurassic Park, Pulp Fiction, Clueless, Fargo, Rushmore, Shaun of the Dead, Guardians of the Galaxy, and more. Turn here for maps of the Death Star, the Temple of Doom, Vulcan, and the Overlook Hotel. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Jenny Natasha and Tom Boniface-Webb: I Was Britpopped: The A-Z (Valley Press)

SRP: $19.99

At the start of the 1990s, grunge and American alternative music ruled and the British rock scene wasn’t particularly fertile. But as the decade approached the midpoint a musical movement organically sprang to life: Britpop. A new crop of British bands, some inspired by the music and style of the 1960s, others more modern in their sensibilities, successfully channeled what it felt like to be young in the post-Thatcher, Tony Blair-led New Labour, 1990s Britain. Pulp, Suede, Elastica, Supergrass, The Charlatans, The Verve, and others had #1 albums. The chart battles between the more mod Londoners Blur and the more rocker Mancunians Oasis made the nightly news in the U.K. In the U.S., few of the bands made much of a mainstream mark, beyond one-off hits like The Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony” and Blur’s “Song 2” (long a stable of sports games). But select American college kids ate it up, collecting every import single from their favorite Britpop bands, each with non-album B-sides often as good as the album tracks. As the new millennium dawned and the Internet took hold, fracturing musical movements into countless sub-scenes, Britpop faded away. Some of the major players continued on and went into darker (Pulp) or more experimental (Blur) directions. Others broke-up, only to hit the reunion circuit two decades later. Jenny Natasha and Tom Boniface-Webb’s I Was Britpopped: The A-Z is an alphabetical glossary of Britpop. Entries include bands, notable frontmen, important albums, hit singles, music venues, magazines, producers, record labels, and more. Room is certainly also made for more obscure bands, such as Geneva, Northern Uproar, Menswear, Longpigs, My Life Story, and others only known to devoted collectors of the genre. This book is recommended to those such people, the ones who spent the mid ‘90s pouring over copies of Select Magazine and Melody Maker to find their favorite new band. For them I Was Britpopped will be a welcome nostalgia trip. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Hope Nicholson: The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen (Quirk)

SRP: $24.95

This year’s Wonder Woman movie was the biggest movie of the summer and the second biggest movie of the year so far (likely the third biggest once Star Wars: The Last Jedi is done). It finally proved that when handled right a female-led superhero movie can strike box office gold. Of course many previous such attempts, such as 2004’s Catwoman and 2005’s Elektra, were so bad they didn’t stand a chance. Wonder Woman worked because it was a fantastic movie experience with the perfect actress (Gal Gadot) as the title character and a female director (Patty Jenkins) with everything to prove, getting her long-awaited first chance to helm a blockbuster.

Hope Nicholson’s The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen reminds us that printed comic books have been loaded with heroines since the medium’s birth in the 1930s. And while certainly female characters have been overly sexualized over the years, especially as comic books have been mainly written and drawn by men, as well as predominantly read by males, there have also been strong women for girls and women readers to look up to, from fearless reporter Lois Lane to super-powered detective Jessica Jones and many more in between. Nicholson’s book takes things decade by decade, from the 1930s to the 2010s. Each chapter ends with an Icon of the Decade. In the 1930s it’s Little Lulu, Wonder Woman in the 1940s, Supergirl in the 1950s, Batgirl in the 1960s, Ms. Marvel (Carol Danvers) in the 1970s, Watchmen‘s Silk Spectre in the 1980s, Witchblade in the 1990s, Scott Pilgrim‘s Ramona Flowers in the 2000s, and in the 2010s it’s the new Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan), a Muslim Pakistani American written by a Muslim woman (G. Willow Wilson). Some characters, such as 1944’s Gail Porter: Girl Photographer, only latest a few issues, others such as Suicide Squad‘s Amanda Waller, Squirrel Girl, and iZombie’s Gwen Dylan are better known. But mainly the focus is on lesser-known characters (including some non-superhero ones from indie comics) and The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen is an informative, well-researched, and enjoyable history lesson in girl power. Hopefully Wonder Woman isn’t an anachronism and we’ll see even more strong super heroines fronting acclaimed big screen movies soon. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Books for Kids:

Coloring DC: Justice League - An Adult Coloring Book (DC)

SRP: $15.99

To tie into this year’s Justice League movie, DC Comics have released another in their line of Coloring DC books, which are described as “adult coloring books,” but could also be enjoyed by young and teenaged artists as well. Really, any superhero fan that can pretty much color within the lines will enjoy this book, which features black & white versions of classic and current comic book covers and splash pages featuring DC’s flagship superhero team. Parents and more diehard comic book fans might be interested to know that it includes art by Darwyn Cooke, Jim Lee, Ivan Reis, Mike Allred, George Pérez, Andy Kubert, Tony S. Daniel, Gary Frank, Nick Cardy, Yanick Paquette, and others. Kids can bring Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Aquaman, Green Lantern, Cyborg, Green Arrow, Black Canary, Martian Manhunter, Zatanna, and many others to life. And if the child is a promising artist (especially one who wants to draw comic books) then this could be a great way to encourage them. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Dave Croatto (Illustrated by Tom Richmond): Superman and the Miserable, Rotten, No Fun, Really Bad Day (Mad Books)

SRP: $14.99

Last year MAD and DC put out Dave Croatto’s Goodnight Batcave, a funny parody of Margaret Wise Brown’s classic 1947 children’s book Goodnight Moon in which all of Batman’s villains invade the Batcave one night. This year Croatto and MAD have set their sites on Judith Viorst’s 1972 children’s classic Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Superman is the butt of this joke and the day starts poorly when he gets soap in his eye, causing his heat vision to blow up his shampoo bottle. When he changes from Clark Kent into Superman to fight Doomsday, while on the way to work at the Daily Planet, he realizes his costume is inside out. Things continue to go badly, both as Clark Kent and as Superman. He sits in gum, the Justice League give him chores, and everyone likes the rest of the Justice League more than him. This amusing read would appeal to young readers who like Viorst’s original book, but also have an affinity for superheroes. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Hayao Miyazaki: Castle in the Sky - Picture Book (Viz Media)

SRP: $19.99

1986’s beloved Japanese animated Castle in the Sky, written and directed by the master of the genre, Hayao Miyazaki, has been turned into a picture book. The film and book both feature the adventures of Pazu (voiced by James Van Der Beek in the 1998 English language version) and Princess Sheeta (voiced by Anna Paquin in the 1998 English language version), as the kids try and keep a magic crystal away from some military agents while also still looking for the fabled floating castle of the film’s title. The book includes images and dialogue from the film, as adapted into English by Jim Hubbert. The film is also available on Blu-ray via GKIDS. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Kim Smith: E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial: The Classic Illustrated Storybook (Quirk)

SRP: $18.99

Quirk, the company behind Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and other amusing titles, have a new series of illustrated storybooks based on classic movies and TV shows. So far they have released ones on E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Home Alone, and The X-Files, with a Back to the Future one announced for next year. Each picture book features new delightfully retro looking illustrations by Kim Smith. Based on the beloved 1982 film written by Melissa Mathison and directed by Steven Spielberg, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial: The Classic Illustrated Storybook tells the story of Elliott, a 10-year-old boy who befriends a stranded alien on Earth. It’s the perfect way to introduce young kids to E.T. (or if they’ve already seen the film, then they’ll enjoy it even more). By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Kim Smith: Home Alone: The Classic Illustrated Storybook (Quirk)

SRP: $18.99

Home Alone was a monster hit when it was released in 1990 and was the highest grossing live action comedy of all time worldwide until 2011’s The Hangover Part II took the crown. It was written by John Hughes post all his classic 1980s high school set movies and was directed by Chris Columbus before he turned Robin Williams into Mrs. Doubtfire and also helmed the first two Harry Potter movies. Macaulay Culkin starred as Kevin McCallister, a young boy who is accidentally left home alone for Christmas when his entire family goes to Paris for the holidays and who is left to defend his house from two bumbling burglars (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern). It’s definitely a film ripe for storybook adaptation and the book would appeal to both kids who have and haven’t seen the film. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Kim Smith: The X-Files: Earth Children Are Weird (A Picture Book) (Quirk)

SRP: $18.99

Young kids definitely aren’t ready to watch The X-Files. The whole motivation behind FBI agent Fox Mulder is the alien abduction of his sister and the show is in general incredibly creepy. But while you may not be able to sit down and watch the show’s 11th season with the kids in January, Kim Smith’s X-Files picture book can plant the seeds for a future love of the adventures of Mulder and Scully as they uncover governmental conspiracies and stop secret alien invasions. The X-Files: Earth Children Are Weird imagines that Mulder and Scully were childhood friends and it features pint-sized versions of the heroes as they have an innocent sleepover in a backyard tent. But then they hear strange noises in the forest. This book is billed as being silly, rather than scary. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Various: Hello Kitty & Friends Coloring Book (Viz Media)

SRP: $16.99

Coloring books have been back in a big way in recent years and now here’s a nice one from Viz Media featuring the iconic Japanese kids character Hello Kitty. Featuring illustrations from various different artists, the book includes some incredibly detailed pages for kids to color, with Kitty and her friends in various different settings and scenes, from hot air balloons to the beach to rainbows and umbrellas to underwater settings and more. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Downtown Bookworks DC Super Heroes:

Downtown Bookworks have a great line of young kid-friendly DC Super Heroes books. All familiarize children to Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and their various friends and foes. Some are educational too, teaching kids the alphabet and numbers and colors and shapes. The artwork is usually of the retro variety, pulled from old DC comic books from the 1980s mainly (but also the ‘60s, ‘70s, and beyond). Below is a selection of their best titles.

David Katz, Morris Katz, and Julie Merberg: DC Super Heroes Little Library (Downtown Bookworks)

SRP: $49.99

This box set collects 10 board books, each on a different theme. Opposites teaches the differences between push and pull, front and back, and more, each using different heroes to illustrate the examples. Girl Power highlights all the female DC heroes and their various powers. Colors and Shapes and ABC 123 have self-explanatory titles. And Even Super Heroes Sleep is a great tool to get the little ones off to dreamland. Also includes Superpowers, On the Go!, Busy Bodies, Super-Villains, and Super Heroes Have Friends Too. Recommended for ages 0-3. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Matthew Mead: The Official DC Super Hero Cookbook - Deluxe Edition (Downtown Bookworks)

SRP: $26.99

I used to have a different DC Super Heroes cookbook when I was a kid and enjoyed it greatly, so I’ll be excited to share Downtown’s new The Official DC Super Hero Cookbook with my daughter. It includes various superhero themed and styled recipes, from a cheeseburger with the cheese cut in the shape of Superman’s shield and the “S” written in ketchup and Holy Guacamole and Caped Crusader Chips to Golden Lasso Smoothie and Plastic Man Pudding. The Deluxe Edition includes three superhero symbol-shaped cookie cutters (for The Flash, Batman, and Superman), seven superhero symbol stencils for decorating cookies, and 28 character cutouts for food styling. Beyond making cooking fun for kids, the book could also be useful if you ever plan to throw a superhero-themed birthday party. It’s recommended for kids 8 and up, but we think with adult supervision younger kids could enjoy it too. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Julie Merberg: The Big Book of Wonder Woman (Downtown Bookworks)

SRP: $16.99

Downtown Bookworks have three new nice sized hardcover books, each with a shiny foil cover and each dedicated to a different superhero: Wonder Woman, Batman, and Superman. The Big Book of Wonder Woman introduces young readers to the Lasso of Truth, the Invisible Jet, the Amazons, her origin story, her superpowers, her friends, and that time Wonder Woman ran for president (who knew). For kids 4 and up. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Noah Smith: The Big Book of Batman (Downtown Bookworks)

SRP: $16.99

The Big Book of Batman tells kids all they need to know about The Dark Knight, without getting too dark. You learn about his origin, his partners Robin and Batgirl, his various gadgets, The Batmobile, and all the colorful foes he’s faced. For kids 4 and up. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Noah Smith: The Big Book of Superman (Downtown Bookworks)

SRP: $16.99

The Big Book of Superman gives children a crash course in Superman. The basics are all here, from how he escaped the doomed Planet Krypton as a baby and ended up being raised on Earth by the Kents to his secret identity as Clark Kent to his superpowers to info on Lois Lane and Supergirl. For kids 4 and up. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Sarah Parvis: Awesome Activities for Super Heroes (Downtown Bookworks)

SRP: $14.99

This fun activity book includes puzzles, mazes, codes to be broken, and more. There are spot the difference puzzles and crosswords. There are sections where there are comic book panels with empty speech and thought bubbles and the kids can fill in their own text and write their own story. There are half drawn pictures for kids to finish, pages to color, and memory tests. There are hours and hours of fun. This one is recommended for kids 6 and up and we’d agree with that, kids that can already read and write will get the most out of it. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Sarah Parvis: Color Me Powerful (Downtown Bookworks)

SRP: $14.99

Sarah Parvis has also put together another activity book that features similar puzzles, coloring pages, pictures to finish, comic book panels with empty speech and thought bubbles, and more. The difference is that Color Me Powerful is centered only on the female characters from the DC universe. It’s also recommended for kids 6 and up and again kids that can already read and write will get the most out of it. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Michael Robin: DC Super Heroes My First Dictionary (Downtown Bookworks)

SRP: $15.99

This super dictionary contains over 500 words. Along with definitions of everyday words, each illustrated by a vintage comic book image, there are more super heroic words and phrases such as sidekick, secret identity, shrink, and Kryptonite, as well as entries for various superheroes and super-villains. You can never be too young to improve your vocabulary, so this one is recommended for kids 3 and up. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Noah Smith, Sarah Parvis, and Michael Robin: The Official DC Super Hero Joke Book (Downtown Bookworks)

SRP: $12.99

Whether you’re hoping to groom a future standup comedian or are just looking to have a good-natured laugh with your kids, this joke book has you covered. I mean, obviously joke books are usually cheesy as can be and this one is no exception, but you might get some laughs out of the little ones. Sample jokes from the book include the following. “Who is Wonder Woman when she gets really nervous? An Amazon worrier.” “Why did Beast Boy cross the road? He had turned himself into a chicken.” “Does Hawkgirl know what she’s doing for vacation this year? No, her plans are up in the air.” “Why did Scarecrow skip dessert? He was already stuffed.” It includes over 600 puns, riddles, and knock knock jokes to make any kid groan with laughter. It’s recommended for kids 8 and up, but we think younger kids will get some of the jokes too, depending on their familiarity with the DC characters. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Graphic Novels:

Where does one even begin? Frankly, there are just too many good comics and graphic novels to keep track of. Luckily for us collectors, that’s both a blessing and a curse. With so many options on shelves to choose from, below is but a mere sampling of some of the titles and books most worth your hard earned cash this year-whether you’re buying for yourself, or for a family member who usually prefers “books without pictures.” By Zach Hollwedel

Graphic Novels - Sequels and Ongoing Series

Batman: The Dark Knight: Master Race (DC)

SRP: $29.99

Thirty-one years ago, Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns redefined not only Batman, but superhero comics at large. Now, three decades later, he completes the trilogy he began then with The Dark Knight: Master Race. Equal parts a Superman and Batman story (and, truthfully, the story of Lara, rebellious daughter of Superman and Wonder Woman), DKIII finds Gotham and the world at large besieged by enraged Kandorians, released from their miniature city and ready to rip Earth apart.

Miller’s The Dark Knight series needs no introduction for comic book fans, and even casual readers are likely to have heard of his seminal work from the mid-‘80s. With this latest chapter bringing the work full circle, Batman: The Dark Knight: Master Race is more than just a stocking stuffer. It belongs on the comic book fan’s shelf, and it’s a great excuse to buy the two volumes that preceded it for anyone new to Miller’s Caped Crusader. By Zach Hollwedel (Buy it here.)

Batman/The Flash: The Button Deluxe Edition (DC)

SRP: $19.99

When a comic book company and many of its characters have been around since the World War II era the continuity is bound to get tangled and a reset is in order every few years. DC decided to relaunch their line in 2016 with DC Rebirth, combining the best of the New 52 era with fan favorite characters and storylines from the pre-Flashpoint era. Under the guidance of current DC President and Chief Creative Officer, Geoff Johns, a clever solution was hatched that would explain the new changes in continuity and also bring the characters from Watchmen into the regular DC Universe (Alan Moore’s acclaimed limited series/graphic novel from 1986/1987 existed in its own continuity). The implication at the start of Rebirth was that Watchmen‘s Doctor Manhattan might have been pulling the strings on the reshuffling of reality. The Button was a four-part story arc earlier this year that crossed over between issues of The Flash and Batman and set the stage for Johns’ Doomsday Clock event featuring Superman and Doctor Manhattan. Written by Joshua Williamson and Ton King, with art by Jason Fabok and Howard Porter, it features Batman and The Flash teaming up to determine the origin of a mysterious bloody happy face button found in the Batcave (a button that would be familiar to fans of Watchmen). It includes a trip back to the Flashpoint universe where Batman meets his father, as well as the return of the original Flash, Jay Garrick. The Button Deluxe Edition collects all four issues in a nice hardcover book. It includes all the variant covers as bonus material and the front cover is lenticular image featuring The Flash or Batman, depending on how you angle the book. By Mark Redfern (Buy it here.)

Black Hammer Volume One: Secret Origins (Dark Horse)

SRP: $14.99

Jeff Lemire must be from another planet. There’s simply no other explanation for how good he is. The Canadian writer/illustrator’s take on an aging superhero squad seemingly imprisoned in a small rural town after a mysterious explosion is something to behold. The inspirations for Lemire’s heroes find their roots in such classic characters as Shazam and Martian Manhunter, but what the artist does with them is all his own.

One feels deeply for Abraham Slam, Golden Gail, and Colonel Weird as they navigate their new existence in a world that forces them to blend in as farmers and school children. And the more Lemire intersperses their current dilemma with their origins-told, by the way, with great deference to Golden Age stories of capes and tights-the deeper he sucks us into their interpersonal dynamics, their individual histories, and their predicament. Black Hammer is about as riveting a superhero series as they come, and the fact that Volume 2: The Event hits shelves on January 2 will have you and your family members taking an extra day off to read in front of the fire place. By Zach Hollwedel (Buy it here.)

Spill Zone (First Second)

SRP: $22.99

Brace yourself for the gorgeous and captivating first volume writer Scott Westerfeld’s and illustrator Alex Puvilland’s Spill Zone. After a Chernobyl-esque event destroys a whole city, newly orphaned sisters Addison and Lexa find themselves on their own. To support them, the older Addison risks nighttime trips into the quarantined ghost city, where the rules of physics have been bent. The Spill Zone is a brightly-hued world home to the wraith-like victims of the disaster and the mutated animals that had been present during the blast. While Addison risks capture by the army, Lexa-rendered essentially mute by the event-remains at home with her doll, with whom she has established a telepathic link.

Spill Zone sounds like it has a lot going on. Don’t get me wrong; it absolutely does. But Westerfeld’s and Puvilland’s ongoing series is wholly engrossing from the very first page. Puvilland’s stunning art perfectly complements Westerfeld’s captivating story. Volume one will have you turning pages as fast as you have all year and will leave you in eager anticipation of volume two’s July 2018 publication date. By Zach Hollwedel (Buy it here.)

Graphic Novels - Collected Editions

If you’re looking for some gorgeous, deluxe collectors items, you don’t have to search any farther than Image Comics’ stellar offerings.

Saga Book Two: Deluxe Edition (Image)

SRP: $49.99

Brian K Vaughan’s Saga is arguably one of the best comic book series ever written. Spanning worlds and species (and a staple on comic books store shelves for years), it’s simply masterful. This deluxe hardcover edition, which collects a full 18-issues of the acclaimed series across 464-pages of top-notch writing and art, is a must-have for any fan of Vaughan’s work. If you haven’t yet embarked upon Saga, finish reading our other recommendations, do some online shopping, and add Saga Book One to your cart. Then buy it. You won’t be sorry. By Zach Hollwedel (Buy it here.)

Descender: The Deluxe Edition Volume 1 (Image)

SRP: $49.99

Another sci-fi knockout from Image, Jeff Lemire’s Descender was Under the Radar‘s pick for Best Comic or Graphic Novel of 2015. Fans who missed the boat when the series was new to shelves have the opportunity to catch up on the first 16 issues with this massive volume. By Zach Hollwedel (Buy it here.)

Paper Girls Deluxe Edition Volume 1 (Image)

SRP: $34.99

Not enough for ya yet? Well, Image keeps the pages turning with yet another prestige hardcover collection. Before there was Stranger Things, there were the Paper Girls. From tour de force writer Brian K. Vaughan, Paper Girls follows a quartet of bicycle-bound newspaper distributors in the late ‘80s who, while making their rounds, pedal upon a perilous and mysterious adventure that bends space and time. By Zach Hollwedel (Buy it here.)

Baking with Kafka (Drawn and Quarterly)

SRP: $19.95

The perfect gift for the writer you love, Baking with Kafka collects dozens of Tom Gauld’s hilarious cartoons about writing, literature, and entertainment. A novel collection of single page strips that originally appeared in The Guardian, it features such humorous vignettes as, “Tips for getting your novel published during a skeleton apocalypse,” “Forgotten chapters of Jane Austen’s Emma,” and “Jaws reboot possibilities.” By Zach Hollwedel (Buy it here.)

Graphic Novels - Original Graphic Novels and Standalone Titles

Lennon: The New York Years (IDW)

SRP: $19.99

A treat for fans of the Fab Four and graphic novels alike, David Foenkinos’s Lennon: The New York Years is a fascinating imagining of John Lennon’s thoughts and self-perceptions during his final years on Earth. Adapted by comic book talents Corbeyran and Horne, the captivating story finds John Lennon in therapy reflecting back on his and The Beatles’ meteoric rise and the ways in which fame and fortune changed him. It’s an absorbing analysis of celebrity culture and a fun behind the scenes look at one of the most influential musicians of the past century. By Zach Hollwedel (Buy it here.)

Hostage (Drawn and Quarterly)

SRP: $29.95

Guy Delisle’s depiction of aid worker Christophe André‘s 1997 kidnapping and the six subsequent months he spent hostage in Chechnya is a masterpiece that first captured Under the Radar‘s attention in early spring. Simply and beautifully illustrated, the original graphic novel is equally impressive for its ability to render a so fascinating and engaging story while rarely venturing beyond the small room in which its protagonist is held captive. Hostage is a master class in graphic storytelling and a top pick to gift any lover of the medium. By Zach Hollwedel (Buy it here.)

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