Like Hollywood before it, the American comics industry is defined by the summer event — and these days it’s the summer event that stretches all the way to September, or even the following March.
But it’s not just the biggest and crossover-iest books that Polygon’s comics reporters are looking out for in the second half of this year: It’s old creators returning to familiar superheroic territory. It’s the end of some of the biggest comics series of the past five years. And it’s the beginning of new eras for some of the biggest names in comics.
These are Polygon’s most anticipated comics of the rest of 2019.
Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass
Written by Mariko Tamaki, drawn by Steve Pugh; in comic shops and bookstores today
The heroification of Harley Quinn in the 21st century might be still hard for some to grasp. But there’s no denying that the former “Cupid of Crime” is now one of DC’s most popular characters, period. And with Breaking Glass, an original graphic novel under the DC Kids line for younger readers, DC is banking on that continuing.
Told in a striking mixed-media format by Printa and Caldecott Honor award-winning writer Mariko Tomaki and renowned artist Steve Pugh (The Flintstones), the book sees a 15-year old Harley cast out on her own in Gotham City, alternating between a found family led by drag queen Mama and the deadly sway of the Clown Prince of Crime. No spoilers as to who she chooses, but Tomaki and Pugh offer up a striking new image of one of DC’s most unlikely heroines. —Tom Speelman
The finale of The Wicked + The Divine
Written by Kieron Gillen, drawn by Jamie McKelvie; launching Sept. 4
This summer marks the end of an era, with the final issue of The Wicked + The Divine, Gillen and McKelvie’s mythopoetic, pop-music-coming-of-age epic. The story takes place in a world where 12 gods reincarnate as teenagers every 90 years, gain immense divine power, and die two years later — and it’s nearly impossible to describe the actual plot without spoiling something.
It’s about pop music, it’s about fame, it’s about the power of belief, and it’s about how shitty it is to be a teenager. It’s been running since 2014, with shocking plot twist after shocking plot twist, and soon, it’ll all be definitively over. — Susana Polo
Pretty Deadly: Rat
Written by Kelly Sue DeConnick, drawn by Emma Rios; kicking off Sept. 4
Pretty Deadly is about as good as comics get, bringing out the best in the already significant talents of writer Kelly Sue DeConnick (Bitch Planet, Captain Marvel) and artist (Hexed, Doctor Strange) Emma Rios. At its simplest, the series is a series about grim reapers in the American Old West, but on other levels it’s about the quests for agency in a world that denies it to you, whether you’re a black American soldier in World War I or a woman that Death itself has become infatuated with.
My only problem with it is that it’s published so dang intermittently, with a first six-issue series in 2014 (nominated for four Eisners), and a second in 2016. So I’m happy to have gotten the news that DeConnick and Rios are bringing a third installment to shelves this fall. —SP
Written by Jason Aaron, drawn by Esad Ribić; kicking off Sept. 11
War of the Realms might have been the big operatic finale number to Jason Aaron’s six year run on the Thor mythos — but the four-issue King Thor miniseries is the coda. At the end of time, and All-Father Thor should be enjoying a well-deserved rest with the remnants of humanity and the pantheon that protects them. But instead, Loki’s gotten ahold of the god-killing weapon, All-Black, the Necrosword, and it looks like it’s final, final, final confrontation time.
If Aaron has shown anything in his tenure on Thor, it’s that he knows how to spin the biggest cosmic yarns without losing sight of stakes and emotion, and with Esad Ribić on art, the book will have visuals to match. If you liked War of the Realms, King Thor will be a must-read. —SP
Cats of the Louvre
Written and drawn by Taiyo Matsumoto; in bookstores Sept. 17 and comic shops Sept. 18
If you’re familiar with Taiyo Matsumoto at all, it’s probably because of his past pioneering manga like Tekkonkinkreet or Ping Pong (or their equally trailblazing anime adaptations). His latest to reach US shores, Cats of the Louvre, is about a family of cats who live in the attic of the iconic art museum, and are the only witnesses to what happens at night when the museum closes. With sharper than ever artwork from one of manga’s modern masters and a translation/adaptation by Tekkonkinkreet film director Michael Arias, this is definitely one to check out if you’re tired of shouty manga action boys. —TS
Written and drawn by Raina Telgemeier; in bookstores Sept. 17 and comic shops Sept. 18
If you’re a parent or work with or have been around children at any point in the last 15 years or so, odds are, you’ve known about this book for months. But just in case you don’t, this is the third in Raina Telgemeier’s Eisner-winning, billions-selling series of graphic childhood memoirs, after Smile and Sisters. This time out, the cartoonist — who at one point held the top 4 spots simultaneously on the (sadly still gone) New York Times Best Seller List for GNs — tells of an already-difficult middle-school existence thrown into chaos by what turns out to be more than just a simple stomach bug. Plan to read this now to instantly have a topic of conversation with any child you meet until the end of time. —TS
The Way of the Househusband
Written and drawn by Kousuke Oono; in bookstores Sept. 17 and comic shops Sept. 18
If you follow Manga Twitter, you probably were aware of this Kousuke Oono manga long before Viz ever announced that they’d licensed it. At its heart, this is essentially the same arc as Bruce Willis’ character from The Whole Nine Yards. A Yakuza lieutenant so fierce and hard to kill he’s known only as the “Immortal Dragon” leaves his savage ways behind when he gets married … and becomes a stay-at-home husband. There’s no shortage of slice-of-life manga out there, but the ingredients make this one sound special. —TS
New Mutants: War Children
Written by Chris Claremont, drawn by Bill Sienkiewicz; kicking off Sept. 25
There are many, many X-Men fans out there who credit their love of the characters to one specific series: New Mutants as written by the legendary Chris Claremont. And among those, there are many who will tell you that the absolute peak of the series is when Bill Sienkiewicz drew it.
Both Claremont and Sienkiewicz are returning to the New Mutants this fall, for a story set in the era they first collaborated on the series, with the characters of Magik, Wolfsbane, Cannonball, Cypher, Mirage, Karma, and Sunspot.
Not every creative team can recapture magic more than 30 years old, but regardless, this is a series to watch. —SP
The Batman’s Grave
Written by Warren Ellis, drawn by Bryan Hitch; kicking off Oct. 9
The creative team behind Stormwatch and The Authority is back together, and they’re bringing their talents to bear on the biggest superhero of them all: Batman. The Batman’s Grave, from Warren Ellis (Nextwave, Transmetropolitan) and his collaborator Bryan Hitch (The Ultimates, Justice League), will feature a Batman obsessed with putting himself in the shoes of the victims in the murders he solves, and an Alfred Pennyworth wondering when there’ll be one more grave in the Wayne family plot.
Ellis calls this his “proper, big Batman story,” so expect big things. —SP
Joker/Harley: Criminal Sanity
Written by Kami Garcia, drawn by Mike Mayhew; kicking off Oct. 9
Kami Garcia is a New York Times bestselling author, and her work on Teen Titans: Raven, the first in a series of YA graphic novels, is already quite solid. So I’m excited to see her tackle a book for an adult audience at Black Label, and with Mike Mayhew’s gorgeous painted style to go with it.
Above all, I’m interested to see someone a new take on the very tragic origin story of Dr. Harleen Quinzel — especially one written by a woman. —SP
Superman Smashes the Klan
Written by Gene Luen Yang, drawn by Gurihiru; hitting shelves on Oct. 9
“Clan of the Fiery Cross” is a 1946 Superman radio serial that’s credited with so ridiculing and exposing the Ku Klux Klan that it actually had an effect on the hate organization’s recruitment efforts. Gene Luen Yang and Gurihiru’s Superman Smashes the Klan aims to adapt the story of “Clan of the Fiery Cross” for comics for the first time, and to do it for a kid audience.
Individually, Yang and Gurihiru’s work tops many a best of list, and together they crafted many of the quite nifty Avatar: The Last Airbender graphic novels. The art from Smashes the Klan already looks incredible, and I can’t wait to get my hands on the book. —SP
Written by Jonathan Hickman, drawn by Leinil Francis Yu; kicking off Oct. 16
As we’re all devoured by House of X/Powers of X hysteria, it’s important to remember that the two six-issue miniseries — or one 12-issue miniseries, if you prefer, and I do — are only the prelude to a line-wide relaunch of the X-Men.
That relaunch begins, of course, with a brand new X-Men ongoing series, drawn by Leinil Francis Tu and written by Jonathan Hickman himself. The teamlineup is a conspicuously odd one, seeming to consist entirely of seven members of the Scott Summers/Jean Grey family (Scott, Jean, Scott’s dad, Scott’s brother, and three of their children from three different timelines) and … Wolverine?
What ever Hickman has planned for this X-Men team, and you can bet he has plans, it stands a chance of being just as engaging as House of X/Powers of X. —SP
Black Canary: Ignite
Written by Meg Cabot, drawn by Cara McGee; hitting bookstore shelves on Oct. 29 and comic shops Oct. 23
Also in the DC Kids line, Black Canary: Ignite takes aim at one of the more complex origin stories in the DCU, with Dinah Lance, aka the Black Canary. Uniting the hyper-expressive cartooning of Cara McGee (Dodge City) with the unmistakable voice of YA legend Meg Cabot (The Princess Diaries, Avalon High), the book takes cues from the direction Dinah’s mainstream adult counterpart has gone in recent years and puts its Dinah, aged thirteen, in a rock band. Competing in a Battle of the Bands and also hoping to get into the Gotham City Junior Police Academy to follow in her dad’s footsteps, the teen rocker faces a mysterious man who forces her to dig into the mystery of her mom’s past. —TS
Written by Gerry Duggan, drawn by Matteo Lolli; kicking off on Oct. 23
There are five more new X-Men books launching this fall — Marauders, Excalibur, New Mutants, X-Force, and Fallen Angels — with more promised in a second wave of titles. Possibly you should be paying attention to all of them.
But if I had to point to one in particular, it would be Gerry Duggan and Matteo Lolli’s Marauders, who both House of X/Powers of X writer Jonathan Hickman and X-Men senior editor Jordan D. White say is something of their favorite in the line. What is Marauders about? Well, it’s got Kitty Pryde, Emma Frost, Storm, Pyro, Bishop, and Iceman in it, and they’re… protecting mutants on the international high seas?
If you say you’re not intrigued by that you’re lying. —SP
Vamps: The Complete Collection
Written by Elaine Lee, drawn by Will Simpson; in bookstores Nov. 5 and comic shops on Oct. 30
DC’s vaunted Vertigo label may be no more, but it still has a huge back catalog to draw on and reprint. Case in point: a complete omnibus of Vamps, a ‘90s horror series by Elaine Lee (Starstruck) and Will Simpson (Hellblazer, Animal Man) containing not only the original miniseries but its never-collected sequel miniseries and bonus material.
Around Halloween is an appropriate time for this too, as the plot concerns vampiresses Howler, Screech, Whipsnake, Skeeter and Mink, who hit the road on Harleys in search of a new beginning after killing their male master. Later, they try to make it in Hollywood. While I’ve never read it, it sounds like a blood-soaked cross between La La Land and Thelma & Louise, and that sounds like a good time. —TS
Green Lantern: Blackstars
Written by Grant Morrison, drawn by Xermanico; kicking off Nov. 6
Major events are afoot in the DC Universe’s Green Lantern setting, culminating with this fall’s Green Lantern: Blackstars, a new three-issue series from artist Xermanico (Wonder Woman, Injustice: Gods Among Us) and legendary comics writer Grant Morrison.
According to DC’s hinting, the Blackstars are the advance guard of a creepy space cult, which has somehow replaced the entire Green Lantern Corps as if it never existed at all. Weird and wild? Well, that’s Grant Morrison. You can expect a Hal Jordan story for the ages. —SP
Written by N.K. Jemisin, drawn by Jamal Campbell; kicking off on Nov. 13
N.K. Jemisin is the first author ever to win three successive Hugo awards for Best Novel for three books in the same series, her Broken Earth trilogy. Her writing shows exquisite world building, compelling characters, and drama that’ll pull your heart right out of your chest. Jamal Campbell’s work on Naomi with Brian Bendis has been kicking me in the ass all year. He’s nothing short of incredible, from his expressions, to his character designs, to his page layouts.
If it was just a team-up between these two, I’d already be salivating to see what they do together, but we even known who Far Sector is about: Green Lantern Sojourner “Jo” Mullein, guardian of the City Enduring. The City is a Dyson sphere on the far edge of space, where emotions, the source of all Lanterns’ power, are outlawed, and the series announcement promised “a dizzying game of politics and philosophies as Jo discovers a brewing revolution in the City.” I fully believe Jemisin and Campbell can deliver. —SP
The finale of Squirrel Girl
Written by Ryan North, drawn by Derek Charm; hitting shelves on Nov. 13
I less than five years, Ryan North and Erica Henderson — and later Derek Charm — took a character who was barely more than a joke, and put her in a position to lead not one but two television adaptations. And they did it not by making the character a bigger, more successful joke, but by making her the sweetest, bravest, most compassionate, and most patient superhero on stands today.
And, of course, by keeping the series just as funny.
For her finale, Squirrel Girl is facing off against all of her many enemies, but is aided by all of the even more numerous allies she’s made along the way. It’ll be bittersweet, but I can’t wait to see how North and Charm put a cap on this fabulous series. —SP
The Death of Superman: The Wake
Written by Louise Simonson, drawn by Cat Staggs and others; in comic shops Nov. 20 and bookstores Nov. 26
The Death of Superman is still one of the biggest events in comics history, in some ways representing the apex of the ‘90s “triangle title” era of Superman comics (referring to how each Superman title told one large story every year, with triangles indicating what chapter of that year’s story that month’s issue was).
The legendary Louise Simonson (co-creator of Power Pack and longtime X-Men editor, among other things) was one of the architects of that era, co-creating one of Superman’s four replacements during that era, Steel. With superstar artists Cat Staggs and Laura Braga backing her up, Simonson returns to that era in the print debut of this digital-first comic. Depicting intervals starring Superman and Jerry Olsen before, during and after the Man of Steel’s fateful battle against Doomsday, this story looks to be a worthy inter-quel to one of comics’ key events by one of its architects. —TS
Written and drawn by various; in bookstores Dec. 24 and comic shops Dec. 17
OK, this isn’t technically comics, but it’s worth noting anyway. From 1985-1993, there were 3 editions of a tabletop RPG by Mayfair called DC Heroes, which used a balanced attributes system to put the Justice League together without Superman dominating proceedings. Like any best-selling RPG, there were several supplements. And three of them — a sourcebook and two modules, “Who Watches the Watchmen?” and “Taking Out The Trash” — were based on the legendary miniseries. And, shockingly, they were approved of by Alan Moore, who cooperated with the designers during development.
With the beloved game long out of print, this new Companion is your sole chance to get the only endorsed spinoff by Moore of his and Dave Gibbons’ masterwork, along with other rare material, including an ‘80s issue of The Question that Rorschach guest-starred in. Which is very ironic if you know the connection those two have. —TS
Fantastic Four: Grand Design
Written and drawn by Tom Scioli; in bookstores Dec. 31 and comic shops on Jan. 1, 2020
Following on the heels of Ed Piskor’s incredibly ambitious, wildly successful X-Men: Grand Design trilogy, which condensed decades of the most complicated continuity, bar none, into a single unified narrative, Tom Scioli (Gødland, Transformers vs. GI Joe) does the same for Marvel’s First Family. While this comes out in two issues in October and November, this collected edition is more convenient. Plus, it comes with Stan Lee & Jack Kirby’s Fantastic Four #1, so you’ll have no excuse not to read what’s possibly the best first issue in comics history. —TS
The finale of Doomsday Clock
Written by Geoff Johns, drawn by Gary Frank; launching in 2019 ... hopefully?
When Geoff Johns and Gary Frank announced Doomsday Clock, the series that promised to bring the characters of Watchmen to the main DC Universe and provide an in-canon explanation for how gritty everything got at the beginning of the New 52, they said that they anticipated delays.
But probably not 11-issues-over-22-months delayed. As of this writing, Doomsday Clock #11 is scheduled to hit shelves on Sept. 4, and it seems reasonable (though perhaps not exactly plausible) to expect that we’ll see the final issue of Doomsday Clock, one in which Doctor Manhattan and Superman (presumably) square off and we all get to find out whether the universe ends, before the end of the year. Maybe even in November, so the series can go out exactly two years after it began.
When it was announced, the folks behind Doomsday Clock promised that its finale would spell major changes for the DCU, but the DCU has now moseyed right along through an extra year of its own changes since the series kicked off — including huge changes in the Superman office. It’ll be fascinating to watch Doomsday Clock finally reach the end of its countdown. —SP