Scorching temperatures and soaring prices at the gas pump may make staying close to home sound like a sweet option this summer. Luckily, a bumper crop of superhero stories and graphic flights of fancy are available this year to entertain you throughout 2008’s hottest months.

And no, we’re not talking about the big-screen comic book flicks like Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Hancock, and The Dark Knight. Those films may tempt your comic book sweet tooth, but they won’t satisfy it. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to indulge your passion for sequential art and superheroics — including offerings featuring Marvel heavyweights like Iron Man, Hulk, and Batman as well as artier fare from France and a curious tale about a philosophical feline. Here are some wicked good options to consider:

Ultimate Hulk vs. Iron Man: Ultimate Human

By Warren Ellis and Cary Nord

Marvel, 104 pages, $20

When Bruce Banner hits rock bottom, he seeks out Tony Stark and asks a simple favor: help me fix this. The two scientists — one rich, famous, and well-loved and the other penniless, despised, and cast out on the streets — combine their intellects in an attempt to rid the world of the rampaging Hulk that Banner becomes whenever his temper fares. Action aplenty, an ultimate technology versus ultimate biology showdown, and some sizzling storytelling await.


By J. Michael Straczynski and Olivier Coipel

Marvel, 160 pages, $20

This hardcover edition, collecting issues 1-6 of the red-hot monthly title, tells the tale of the return of Marvel’s favorite God of Thunder. After returning from Ragnarok, Thor swings his mighty hammer and raises a new Asgard, home of the gods, which just so happens to be above an Oklahoma farm field. An even balance of camp fun and serious superhero action makes this a great starting point for new and old Thor fans alike.

Sky Doll

By Barbara Canepa and Alessandro Barbucci
Marvel/Soleil, 64 pages, $6

The sequential-art format is taken very seriously in Europe — so much so that every year, in Angoulême, a picturesque town in France, the premiere international comics festival takes place, recognizing those writers and artists who raise the bar for future generations.

But for English-speaking fans in the United States, many of the finest European comic books have remained terra incognito. Now, a partnership between Marvel Comics and French publisher Soleil is bringing a handful of these, in translation, to a comic book store near you.

Sky Doll, a science-fiction story of a pleasure robot who decides to kick her master to the curb and exert her own free will, is the first of what will hopefully be a long line of monthly books.

All-Star Batman & Robin, the Boy Wonder, Volume 1

By Frank Miller and Jim Lee

DC, 240 pages, $25

This hard-hitting take on the early years of Batman, as he recruits a young circus star to become his sidekick Robin, is already a fan favorite. The top notch artwork, bone-snapping fight scenes, dames with legs to die for, and tough guy talk aplenty might have something to do with that as well. This installment will be released on July 8.

The Rabbi’s Cat 2

By Joann Sfar

Pantheon, 144 pages, $23

The cat — who once asked his master why, if he studied the Torah well, should being a cat prevent him from having a Bar Mitzvah and becoming a Jew — is back. This disarmingly witty and philosophical sequel finds the multilingual feline wandering 1930s Africa with Malka of the Lions, the rabbi’s well-traveled cousin. A lavishly illustrated tale of the legitimacy of asking questions, voicing doubts, and walking a very personal path in search of truth.

Y: The Last Man,
Volume 10: Whys and Wherefores

By Brian K. Vaughan, Pia Guerra, and Jose Marzan

Vertigo, 168 pages, $15

Being the last surviving male on the planet sounds like an interesting proposition until you get into the nitty-gritty of what might actually happen in such a world. This volume wraps up the saga of Yorick and his monkey, Ampersand, in the essentially all-female planet of the future. One of the best-written sagas of “what would happen if” will be released July 1.

Life Sucks

By Jessica Abel, Gabriel Soria, and Warren Pleece

First Second Books, 192 pages, $20

Life indeed sucks for poor Dave. Working the late shift at a 24-hour convenience store in L.A. would be bad enough on its own — imagine being a fledgling vampire beholden to a master who owns the store. Kind of makes asking for a raise a dicey proposition and quitting out of the question. Add to that Dave’s yearning to remain an undead vegetarian, a surfer-dude vampire buddy, a hot Goth girl all too eager to slip into the world of the night, and you have a bittersweet and quirky look at vampires in the real world.

The Absolute Sandman,
Volume 3

By Neil Gaiman and various artists

Vertigo, 616 pages, $99

The price on this archival quality beauty will probably dissuade you from lugging it to the beach to page through between dips in the water. This is a must-own treasure, however, for comic book and literary fantasy/horror fans alike. Gorgeously illustrated and powerfully written, these tales of Dream of the Endless will keep your imagination soaring long into the night.

Love Best of Charleston?

Help the Charleston City Paper keep Best of Charleston going every year with a donation. Or sign up to become a member of the Charleston City Paper club.