My Favorite Graphic Novels of January 2024

Below you’ll find my favorite graphic novels or collected editions released in January 2024. Generally, I’m looking to keep the selections to collections released for the first-time, but I’ll make some special exceptions for Omnibus or Deluxe Editions. I’ve ordered the selections in relative preference, in ascending order.

Please keep in mind this is *not* the same thing as my favorite single issue comics of the month, although while I’m thinking about it that list includes the following this month:

Ultimate Spider-Man #1

Rise of the Powers of X #1

Resurrection of Magneto #1

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Don’t hesitate to let me know any of your favorites I may have missed via dave@comicbookherald.com!

TMNT / Usagi Yojimbo: Wherewhen

At the end of the day, I just like Stan Sakai comics. There’s a remarkable – like, generational talent level – consistency to Sakai’s work on Usagi Yojimbo, which Sakai’s been writing/drawing in various forms since 1984. I can barely go 2 straight days stretching before bed, and this guy’s out here cartooning for 40 straight years.

Sakai’s Usagi has a nice history crossing over with the more popular Turtles, and it’s a perfect blend of nostalgic bliss and cartooning mastery when the duo gets together for 2023’s TMNT / Usagi Yojimbo: Wherewhen. The 5-issue mini is far from revolutionary, but if you’ve read one of Sakai’s wonderful modern Usagi tales published via IDW recently, you know exactly what you’re in for. Sakai leans more heavily on the Usagi side of the crossover (no surprise there), but the classic “Turtles in Time” approach works seamlessly. There’s also a surprising willingness to commit to seemingly consequential narrative beats, with Usagi mainstays seemingly taken out in action against the Star-Nosed Mole ninjas and Dr. WhereWhen.

Wild’s End Compendium

This one’s not “new,” but it is the first collection of all three Wild’s End 6 issue books from Dan Abnett and I.N.J. Culbard, and it prompted me to dig into this excellent work. Despite hearing Wild’s End recommended from David Harper (SKTCHD) several times, I remained decidedly on the fence about letting another anthropomorphic animal book back into my heart. WE3 will scar you like that. As it turns out, Wild’s End is a delight, and although there’s an emotional fulcrum and no shortage of fatality, it’s paced and blended so expertly as to instantly hook me on the whole world.

This is the most I’ve enjoyed post-Guardians Dan Abnett work, and Culbard is a perfect choice to bring this (War of the) World of rogue foxes, rambunctious pigs, nervous cats, and stodgy old war dogs to life. An alien invasion falls on the heads of a quiet old English town, and it’s up to these animal characters to get to the bottom of it and survive. Well worth the potential tears.

Jonna and the Unpossible Monsters

What if Jeff Smith adapted Jack Kirby’s Kamandi as drawn by one of the best storytellers in the modern age? Jonna and the Unpossible Monsters from Chris and Laura Samnee, with Matt Wilson colors, is an instant all-ages classic. Admittedly, I didn’t see it reading the series via digital review copies as it was released month-to-month. But that changed completely after I grabbed the oversized Deluxe Edition at my local library. There’s a real beauty to experiencing the Samnee’s work all at once in full-size (in package produced so well it even smells good), and it allowed me to see the familial heart that makes this book a must-add to any quality all-ages collection.

Barbaric Vol. 3: Hell to Pay

The first volume of Barbaric was one of my favorite works of 2021, but I haven’t kept up, despite appreciation for both Michael Moreci and Nathan Gooden. Something strange has been happening with the consistency of Vault Comics post-pandemic, to the point that I barely read anything from them until it hits collection. Regardless, Barbaric was well worth a revisit, as Moreci and Gooden are still delivering my favorite sword-and-sorcery book this side of Monstress, a modernized comedy-action that finally solves my quest for “What if I actually liked Conan?” There’s only 3 collections, about 4-5 issues a pop, and they’re all well worth it.

In Utero

I was on the fence about trying In Utero, but the pull quote from Jeff Lemire on the back cover calling Chris Gooch “his new favorite cartoonist” convinced me. I’m glad because Gooch’s In Utero is “best of the year” stuff, a masterfully in control, tense, creeping sci-fi, with enough youthful lightness to keep from sinking into the monstrous muck. The graphic novel takes place a decade after a mysterious massive explosion shook Australia, in a dilapidated old shopping mall now overrun with… well, something mysterious! It’s a heartfelt and earnest story with expert creative design and tonal control. Gooch is an artist I’ll be following into the future.

Tokyo These Days – Taiyu Matsumoto

Honestly, all I needed to know was Viz Signature was releasing a new series from Taiyo Matsumoto (thanks to Ritesh Babu for that nudge!). I’m a manga noob sure, but Matsumoto is one of the artists I’m most caught up on, having read both Tekkon Kinkreet and Ping Pong within the last year.

This is “Inside Manga” from a celebrated master, a slice of life manga about a lifer who retires from his job editing manga, and the writers, artists, editors and “jobbers” that surround him. The work begins as a character study taking us behind the curtain of who comics are made but evolves into both an inspirational reflection on artistry, aging, and how we choose to spend our days. This could easily go down as another all-time classic, but with only volume 1 released in English, I’ll have to eagerly wait and see.

Lunar New Year Love Story

A new First Second graphic novel from Gene Luen Yang (American Born Chinese, Dragon Hoops, Shang-Chi) is one of those “pencil it onto everyone’s best of the year list” books, so it’s no surprise that this near-perfect teen rom-com with LeUyen Pham is a preposterously well-constructed read. Yang’s ability to capture teenage emotion and dialog only continues to grow, but for me, it’s Pham who stole the show with a deeply versatile style. Pham’s supernatural St. Valentine is the wonderfully gothic old horror spirit, while her Lion Dancing (a Vietnamese and Korean cultural element this book taught me about for the first time) is pure Kirby monster energy. Pham utilizes a unique tactile approach where images are frayed at the edges, where uncolored slots of white seem to reveal the page beneath – it’s the kind of AI-assassinating artistic effect that subtly iterates, yes, a real person made this with their own two hands.

You’re going to hear about Lunar New Year Love Story this year. The only question is do you read it now, or wait for the best-of accolades at year end?

Dave: Dave is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Comic Book Herald, and also the Boss of assigning himself fancy titles. He's a long-time comic book fan, and can be seen most evenings in Batman pajama pants. Contact Dave @comicbookherald on Twitter or via email at dave@comicbookherald.com.
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