Here are some of the best sci-fi graphic novels and series from today’s sophisticated comics writers and artists.
Powers: Volume One: The Definitive Hardcover Collection
Brian Michael Bendis
The award-winning Powers series features detectives Christian Walker and Deena Pilgrim, who pursue cases involving people with superpowers. They’re the right partners for the job, since Christian was a superhero named Diamond until he lost his powers and Deena has accidentally gained powers, which she must keep secret.
The Beast Trilogy, Chapters 1 & 2
Multiple award-winning artist Enki Bilal explores both the experience of the war that broke up his native country, Yugoslavia, and the growing threat of terrorism in a story set in 2023. Nike, a memory expert, uses his gift to foil the machinations of the terrorist Obscurantis Order and the equally unscrupulous government organization that combats it.
The Nikopol Trilogy
The distinguished Yugoslavian-born artist Bilal wrote and illustrated the adventures of Alcide Nikopol, who wakes in 2023 from a state of suspended animation after orbiting Earth for 30 years. Nikopol finds that Earth has suffered two nuclear wars and that the Egyptian gods have also reawakened, intent on ruling human life.
Follow the exploits of the Marvel superheroes, beginning with the 1939 Human Torch, from the perspective of an ordinary human being—New York City photojournalist Phil Sheldon. This 10th anniversary edition includes 200 pages of additional material by writer Kurt Busiek and artist Alex Ross, both of whom launched their now-legendary careers with Marvels.
This warm, funny, highly praised series follows the adventures of Ronald Lithgow, a political speechwriter whose brain was transplanted into an alien body consisting of 1,000 pounds of stone-like substance. After escaping from the aliens, Concrete adopts a cyborg cover and uses his new power for good—but longs for the touch of a human hand.
DC: The New Frontier
The New Frontier is the Silver Age of the DC Universe, when newcomers such as The Flash and Green Lantern joined the Golden Age superheroes in the 1950s. Cooke—s stories set the “keepers of the flame”—Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman—and their heirs in a realistic Cold War setting with interesting results.
Shadowland collects stories about the Ledickers, a carnival family, written over the past 20 years by veteran comics writer/artist Kim Deitch. The family’s adventures begin a century before the present when seven-year-old Al discovers a crashed scout ship from a vessel manned by “the Grey Ones,” aliens obsessed with vintage American pop culture.
Sci fi comics master Warren Ellis presents the Global Frequency, a worldwide organization of operatives with specialized talents who combat menaces ranging from terrorists to a cyborg warrior. Ellis worked with a different artist for each story in this maxiseries.
The long-lost Space Shuttle Venture, the last of its kind, returns to Earth manned only by a catatonic pilot. A team of scientists gathers to solve the mystery, and perhaps change the future of humankind.
Planetary: All Over the World, and Other Stories
Planetary: Crossing Worlds
A team of super-powered “Archaeologists of the Unknown” investigates evidence of superhuman activity on Earth, some of which extends back centuries. In the crossover tales collected in Crossing Worlds, they mix it up with Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, and another Ellis superhero team, The Authority.
2,000 years after the world as we know it has been destroyed, only the genetically engineered Mappers can provide transport through Earth’s broken land masses. The first story in this series details Rocketo Garrison’s childhood and training as a Mapper and his Journey to the Hidden Sea, a legendary land of dangers, treasure, and secrets about ancient mysteries.
The creator of the classic Sandman series spins a delightful, beautifully illustrated tale in which Marvel superheroes appear in 1602. Peter “Parquah,” “Carlos Javier,” and the X-men mutants (“witchbreed”) find interesting roles for themselves and their powers in the Elizabethan period.
The Incal: The Epic Conspiracy
The Incal: The Epic Journey
Two extraordinary talents joined forces to create the Incal series. Illustrator Moebius (Jean Giraud) is best known for his landmark designs for the films Blade Runner, Alien, and the Fifth Element, but first he influenced a generation with The Incal. Jodorowsky is a filmmaker, comics writer, composer, psychotherapist, actor, director, producer, and one of the leading researchers of the Tarot - all the Incal characters are based on Tarot figures. The epic details the adventures and misadventures of John Difool (“The Fool”), a detective in a dystopian far future to whom an alien gives the ancient crystal called The Incal, thus pitting him against the galaxy’s superwarrior, the Metabaron.
This installment in the “Jodoverse” reveals the lineage of the Metabaron, supreme warrior, bounty hunter, and part cyborg of the far-future dystopia created by Jodorowsky and Moebius in The Incal. Embellished by the lavish, fully painted art of Juan Gimenez, the Metabarons series explores the origins and customs of the race and recounts the struggles of successive generations.
Local writer/artist David Mack’s futuristic series recounts the exploits of the beautiful but scarred Kabuki, an agent for an organization that polices the interlocked realms of business, organized crime, and politics in Japan. Deeply affected by the death of her mother, Kabuki embarks on a quest to come to terms with her family, history, culture, and identity, even if her personal crusade brings her in direct conflict with the powers she serves.
Sophie Bangs, a college student in a futuristic New York, receives a mysterious warning to stop researching the mythical warrior woman Promethea. At the risk of her life, Sophie discovers a secret behind the myth - and is transformed into Promethea. Or, as she soon learns, the most recent in a long line of Prometheas who must struggle against an ancient enemy.
One of the pioneers of more complex superhero tales (Watchmen, 1987), Moore created a personal legacy with this series, collaborating with his daughter and son-in-law to introduce U.S. audiences to the British superheroes of his youth—Captain Hurricane, Robot Archie, the Steel Claw, and the Spider.
Ghost in the Shell
This classic cyberpunk manga takes place in 2029 in a world dependent upon cyborgs, a setting that the acclaimed Shirow uses to explore the relationship between technology, personality, and the “ghost” - human spirituality. Beautiful cyborg super-agent Major Motoko Kusanagi hunts terrorists and cybercriminals, including “ghost hackers” who exploit the human/machine interface by re-programming people into puppets.
Phoenix: A Tale of the Future
Manga innovator Tezuka (“the father of anime”) considered this 1960s work, just recently published in English, to be his masterpiece. Beginning in the far future, the complex, interlocking stories relate the adventures of young space patrolman Yamanobe, who is granted eternal life by the mysterious Phoenix following the advent of a nuclear winter.
Brian K. Vaughan
Civil engineer Mitchell Hundred became the first real American superhero after acquiring amazing powers through a bizarre accident. But Mitchell decides to retire from masked crime-fighting and run for mayor of New York City so he can change things for the better, not just preserve the status quo. Unfortunately, once he wins by a landslide, he must contend with political and bureaucratic problems as well as colorful villains.
Y: The Last Man
Brian K. Vaughan
Escape artist Yorick Brown and his pet monkey are the sole survivors of a plague that instantly killed every other mammal with a Y chromosome. Yorick sets off to find his girlfriend in Australia—admirable, under the circumstances—and unravel the mystery of the plague, evading dangers that would destroy not only him, but also, of course, the future of the human race.