Of all the autumns in your life, the 18th may be the most memorable: Mine involved my first long-term boyfriend, my first professional film credit, and my first address that was not my parents'. By the time November rolled around, I still didn’t know who I was, exactly, but I knew I wasn’t the kid I’d been all my life. The graphic novel Pumpkin Heads by Faith Erin Hicks perfectly captures that moment in a person’s life. It came out last year, but it’s the right title to revisit every September/October.
And while this was a quieter-than-usual week for new comic book issues, there are a few gems to pick up:
These recommendations come in collaboration with our friends at Phoenix Comics, where all of these books (and more!) are available to grab.
John Hughes fans will love this evergreen story of two teenagers working at a pumpkin patch in Nebraska and preparing to say goodbye before one jets off to college. Josiah’s got his eyes set on a cute girl he’s afraid to talk to; Deja wants them to end their autumn on a note of victory, so she pushes him to take the plunge and declare his affection for the mysterious crush. As is always the case with teen angst, everything’s complicated and everyone has a lot of feelings.
Ultimately, Pumpkin Heads is a small story; it takes place over one night (a nice touch is how you can see night fall over the course of the entire book), and the stakes of teen love are (forgive me, teens) relatively low. There’s no planet to save in this comic, no great philosophical questions to unravel. But to the characters at the heart of the story, no story could be larger than mysteries of the heart and looming adulthood as they delve into a night they’ll likely remember for the rest of their lives.
Life is full of surprises for Alexia, whose dad seemed like the world’s greatest superhero until he died and left behind a treasure trove of secrets—including a secret second daughter. This glorious hardcover collects the online fan-favorite into a single beautiful volume, and while there are superheroes littered throughout, it’s actually a family drama with a timely theme of dismantling systems of injustice that you never knew were there until it was too late.
I’m a sucker for a book about powerful women, and the heroines of Blackhand & Ironhead are great fun to spend time with—though they don't see it that way, as they continually butt heads over their ideas of right and wrong. Though the characters are initially at each others’ throats, you will probably not be surprised to learn that circumstances force them to work together, and it’s a pure delight to see these bickering siblings team up against evil and still, occasionally, together. When’s the last time you saw a buddy crime-fighting story about sisters?
Issue 1 of An Unkindness of Ravens commits an unkindness upon itself by saving its strongest punch for the final page—a reveal that perhaps might have benefitted from being placed midway through the issue so there could be at least a little time to explore it. Nevertheless! This is a wonderful October-appropriate story about a teenage coven of witches whose forebears survived the Salem trials, and who now wreak havoc upon the local high school's social order.
Fans of Buffy, Sabrina, and Mean Girls will be pleased by the entire scenario as introduced through new-girl Wilma. She’s just arrived in town and is dismayed to discover that she bears an uncanny resemblance to a recently-vanished witch, which provides a tasty fondant of the fantastic over the well-baked cake of teenage anxiety. Issue 1 is very much a setup-story, but the story that it sets up will occupy your thoughts until the next issue drops on October 28.
I try to be careful with my reviews of spandex books since some can require more cross-referencing and background knowledge than the average Ph.D. But this book requires only a passing familiarity with She-Hulk’s whole deal (she’s a hulk and she’s a woman, that’s basically all you need going in), and its fun action mixed with a meditation on death could be a good entry point to the She-Hulk story.
(If you want to connect this story with others, Phoenix’s Nick recommends Donny Cates’ Thor or Jason Aaron’s Avengers.)
She-Hulk is dead, or at least Jennifer Walters was dead before she was brought back to life with a blood transfusion from Bruce Banner. Now she cannot be killed, which just compounds the body-horror of turning into a monster whenever you’re mad. Jennifer is essentially trapped in a body she doesn’t want and a life that can’t end, which brings a chilling twist to her story. Sure, it's not as lighthearted and whimsical as Pumpkin Heads, but oddly both feel appropriate for the coming chill of October.