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Holiday Gift Guide 2014: Graphic Novels

The holiday season can be a stressful time of year. Amidst the craziness of booking flights to visit your family, preparing feasts, or simply maintaining your sanity while maneuvering holiday traffic, the last thing on your mind may be finalizing your holiday gift list. Fanboy Comics is here to help with recommendations for the must-read graphic novels from the year. Give your friends and family gifts they can enjoy curled up by the fireplace, catching up or rereading their favorite comic series in trade. Or, perhaps, introduce them to a new title outside of their regular pull lists and give yourself someone to geek out with over your favorite series. – Kristine Chester

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Dream Thief
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Written by Jai Nitz
Art by Greg Smallwood
Recommended by Tim Palmer

What if when you fell asleep, someone, or something, took over your body and went about righting wrongs . . . by killing people? Exciting, smart, and morally complex, that is the conceit of writer Jai Nitz and artist Greg Smallwood’s inventive mystical noir thriller, Dream Thief, published by Dark Horse. A twisting tale of revenge and redemption that moves all across the South and is rooted in Atlanta, GA, Dream Thief centers on John Lincoln, a bit of a layabout with nothing much going on, until he finds himself possessed by vengeful ghosts whenever he falls asleep, and that’s just the beginning. This is a dark, brooding story full of crazy cliffhangers and diabolical characters that all fit together as Nitz and Smallwood build their world and mythology. Also, it must be mentioned that this is Smallwood’s first comic book work, and he does it all – art, lettering, colors – and it looks amazing. The first miniseries is available as a trade paperback, and John Lincoln’s adventures continue in Dream Thief: Escape, which will be collected come January. Dream Thief mixes crime, magic, past, present, action, and reaction in remarkable ways, and you quickly find yourself in as deep as John Lincoln, and just as invested.

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Published by Archaia Publishing/Boom Studios
Written by Alyssa Milano, Collin Kelly, and Jackson Lanzing
Art by Marcus To (Pencils/Inks), Ian Herring (Colors), and Deron Bennet (Letters)
Recommended by Jason Enright

Hacktivist brings the world of Internet activism to life in a daring story that follows two technology entrepreneurs who decide to use their newest social media creation as a tool to help organize a group of protesters to rise up and take back their country. Milano’s story is expertly crafted by Lanzing and Kelly, who weave an intricate tale that is, at times, both ripped from the headlines and seems like the next big thing in tech and internet activism. The art team, led by Marcus To, creates a cinematic look and feel to the story and really pushes the boundaries of visual storytelling at every opportunity they have.

Recommended for fans of tech movies, political intrigue and spycraft, Hacktivist is a look at the future of the graphic novel medium. It is sleek, stylish, and will challenge readers to question the world around them like only the best literature can.

Hacktivist is available in a beautiful hardcover edition for $24.99 and can be found in bookstores, comic book shops, ComiXology, or on the BOOM Studios! website.

Knuckleheads 85b

Published by Monkeybrain Comics/IDW Publishing
Written by Brian Winkeler
Art by Robert Wilson IV
Recommended by Tim Palmer

Knuckleheads is one of the most hilarious and enjoyable comics I have read in a long time. Created by writer Brian Winkeler and artist Robert Wilson IV, and published digitally by Monkeybrain Comics, Knuckleheads tells the story of slacker Trevor K. Trevinksi who is granted superpowers by aliens but doesn’t know how to use them, or why he was even given them, much to his best friend Lance’s chagrin. Soon, these two unlikely heroes find themselves pulled into an adventure that is both bizarre and completely understandable, given recent developments. Neither of them is truly prepared for this though, but as they make new friends, they begin to kind of understand what it actually means to be heroes. This book is rife with off-the-wall jokes and pop culture references, and the humor comes across beautifully in the art. Yet, it also has a great, big heart and characters that you laugh at and believe in, all at the same time. As the friends begin to uncover the story behind Trev’s new powers, they form a camaraderie that feels honest and real, like the relationship you have with your friends, and their conversations are sometimes just as ridiculous. These are completely relatable characters in a world with giant monsters and outer space intrigue, and they make you laugh and laugh and even snort with laughter, but they also make you care. You care about these knuckleheads so much you can’t believe it, but yes, those are real tears you’re fighting back. All eight issues of the first run of Knuckleheads are available at and collected in print by IDW in Knuckleheads: Fist Contact. It’s time you and your friends made some new friends this holiday season, so put yourselves out there and let Knuckleheads become a part of your lives. 

Lumberjanes 8a3

Published by BOOM! Studios
Written by Grace Ellis and Noelle Stevenson
Art by Brooke Allen
Recommended by Tim Palmer

Lumberjanes is the most exciting, fun summer camp experience you will have all year, even if you actually went to summer camp. Friends Ripley, Molly, Mal, Jo, and April are spending the summer at Lumberjane scout camp, and they seem to have an uncanny knack for uncovering the mysterious, discovering the bizarre, and running headlong into danger, and doing it all as a team. The five girls are completely unique and interesting on their own merits, both in the wonderfully cartoony-yet-still-realistic way that Brooke Allen draws them, and in the fact that writers Grace Ellis and Noelle Stevenson flesh them out beautifully, slowly revealing their individual strengths, weaknesses, skills, and fears through their natural and honest interactions and experiences. Brimming over with comedy, friendship, thrills, and all manner of adventure, you are sure to see bits of yourself in one or more of the courageous, intelligent, hilarious girls. Part of BOOM Studios! BOOM Box line, Lumberjanes can be enjoyed by boys and girls of any age, so that means adults, too, and even parents. The issue-by-issue escapades the girls get into are sure to captivate young, creative minds while the unfolding mystery will be especially intriguing to older readers. Each issue even has a wonderfully interactive element, where one of the girls creates a playlist of real songs that relate to that issue’s story, so by the end of the first story arc, which rounds out in issue eight early this December, you could have a whole library of Lumberjanes adventure songs.  I sincerely believe if you could take pure joy and make it into a comic book, that book would be Lumberjanes.

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Monkeybrain Comics
Recommended by Tim Palmer

Let me introduce you to Monkeybrain Comics, just in case you haven’t met yet. Started in 2012 by writer/creator Chris Roberson and his equally talented wife Allison Baker, is a digital comics publishing powerhouse – and I do not use the term powerhouse lightly. Since it first exploded on the internet, Monkeybrain has been fostering amazingly creative and beautiful stories, brought to life by talented and original writers and artists. Completely creator owned, the titles cross and mix genres and styles, meaning there is something for everyone, and most likely more than a few things for each person, and are available through the ComiXology digital comics platform. The print world has taken notice of Monkeybrain Comics, as well, and a large number of titles have been collected by publishers such as Image and IDW, so you can pick up one of these books for that friend or family member who is afraid of the Internet, or still struggling to embrace digital comics. From supervillain-turned-superhero Edison Rex and the desperate-for-happiness Joe of Kinski to the magical and empathetic wunderkind Amelia Cole and the inept, but lovabl,e Knuckleheads, Monkeybrain titles can be found or ordered at your local comic book shop, bookstore, or Barnes & Noble. Now that you’ve met Monkeybrain Comics, introduce those you love to this new, burgeoning world of exciting possibilities, unique ideas, and memorable characters. Digital or in print, it doesn’t matter how you share or enjoy the wonders of Monkeybrain Comics, because just like creativity, love comes in many different forms, and in all shapes and sizes.    

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Pantalones, TX: Don’t Chicken Out
Published by BOOM! Studios
Written by Yehudi Mercado
Art by Yehudi Mercado
Recommended by Jodi Scaife

Looking for a graphic novel that will appeal to the children and the young at heart in your life? Check out Yehudi Mercado’s hilarious Pantalones, TX: Don’t Chicken Out, the tale of a juvenile troublemaker who harasses the small town’s sheriff accompanied by his trusty corgi and group of friends! Chico Bustamante is the type of kid our parents always warned us about, but we can’t help rooting for him in the challenge to ride Sheriff Cornwallis’ monster chicken.  Mercado’s cartoony art style and hilarious writing make this something the whole family can enjoy! (Heck, if my brother, who hates reading, read the entire thing in one sitting, you know it’s gotta be good!)

For a slightly more adult read, check out Buffalo Speedway: The Deep Dish Omnibus, a tale of the busiest pizza delivery day ever!

Pantalones, TX: Don’t Chicken Out and Buffalo Speedway: The Deep Dish Omnibus are available at multiple retailers; however, if you purchase Pantalones, TX through Yehudi’s main website, a few little extras may take a ride along with the books.

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Rat Queens
Published by Image Comics
Written by Kurtis Wiebe
Art by Roc Upchurch (Art/Colors) and Ed Brisson (Letters)
Recommended by Jason Enright

“Let’s get stabby!” is the battle cry that the Rat Queens’ smallest, but possibly deadliest, member Betty screams when she jumps into battle and is emblematic of the fun, action-packed, and hilarious comic series that has reinvented the fantasy genre in 2014. The story follows four young mercenaries who like to party hard and get in bar fights between their dangerous adventures; however, their hard-partying ways lead to trouble when a contract is taken out on their lives. Kurtis Wiebe masterfully transitions from heartbreaking personal moments to epic battles and sprinkles tons of humor and great character throughout. When it comes to art, Roc Upchurch is incredible. Page after page of Rat Queens is filled with bright, fun art, expressive and very diverse characters, and tons of wonderful (and sometimes creepy) fantasy monsters you’d expect from the genre.

Recommended for fans of fantasy games like Dungeons & Dragons or Pathfinder, raunchy comedies, and female-led action stories, Rat Queens will make you laugh, make you cry, and make you cheer for the gang of lovable mercenaries since Firefly.

Rat Queens is available in two trade paperbacks with Volume 1 at an introductory price of $9.99 and Volume 2 for $14.99. It can be purchased at bookstores, comic book shops, ComiXology, or on the Image Comics website.


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