By JAKE SEXTON
Here in San Diego, July means Comic-Con! And Comic-Con means another column from me about some of the best comics and graphic novels of the past year.
My favorite new series of the year was the bitingly satirical “Crowded” by Christopher Sebela, Ro Stein and Ted Brandt. In a near future where norms and institutions are increasingly eroded by internet “innovation,” a party girl named Charlie discovers that millions of strangers have put a bounty on her head via an anonymous assassination app called Reapr. Any random bystander could turn out to be an assailant, out to kill her to win the hefty prize. To protect herself, Charlie hires a mercenary through an Uber-like app for bodyguards called Dfender, and the two fight to hide and survive. So far, the series has been an exciting mix of intrigue (why does everyone want to kill Charlie?), humor, action, and social critique that hits far too close to home.
Another great science fiction series with something to say is “Skyward” by Joe Henderson and Lee Garbett. On present day Earth, gravity abruptly and radically shifts to almost nothing. Twenty years pass, and there’s an entire generation of people who have only known a free and dangerous world where you can both fly with ease or get too close to the outer atmosphere and die. And while the youth find their way living in the sky, many older people try to cling to their formerly grounded life, with technology and weighted clothing. Who benefits from the new ways, and what would happen if someone found a way to return to the old? Familiar dystopian themes of class warfare collide with the less common ones about generational conflict.
Imagine if every night your body transformed into that of a monster and a violent alternate personality took control. Upon waking as your true self in the morning, you’d learn with horror about “your” nighttime activities and the carnage you had caused. That’s the horrific life of Bruce Banner in the new series “The Immortal Hulk” by Al Ewing and Joe Bennett. No longer the gruff superhero we know from the movies, the Hulk is now a vicious killer and Bruce Banner is a haunted man on the run. Banner spends each day trying to position himself near criminals and abusers before nightfall, in desperate hope that his alter ego’s rampage hurts more villains than innocents. But a reporter has started to pick up Banner’s trail, and these changes made to Hulk seem to be the machinations of a mysterious entity, giving tension and mystery to this ongoing story.
Ed Brubaker and Sam Phillips excel at telling noir-style crime and spy stories, in which desperate and deeply flawed characters make bad decisions that put them into even worse situations. Their latest is “My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies,” about a young woman named Ellie who is enamored of the glamour of drugs, art and celebrity. Ellie has been sentenced to time at a fancy, rural rehab facility, but she has no interest in getting clean. She manipulates and seduces her way towards her own secretive goals, and doesn’t seem to care who she takes down with her.
Of course, you can try out all sorts of graphic novels for free at the library, and they’re usually a quick read. And you can also join our Summer Reading Challenge, where all ages can get prizes for reading books and participating in other fun educational activities. Info at sdcl.org/summer.
— Jake Sexton is librarian at the La Mesa branch of the San Diego County Library. Call the library at 619-469-2151, visit in person at 8074 Allison Ave., or visit online at sdcl.org.