Fanbase Press’ Holiday Gift Guide 2019: Comics & Books

Amidst the chaos of decorating the house, booking flights, or preparing a holiday feast, deciding on gifts for friends and family is likely to be the last thing on your mind this holiday season. Fanbase Press is here to help with recommendations for the must-read comics and books from the year as suggested by our staff and contributors. Give your friends and family gifts they can enjoy curled up by the fireplace, catching up or rereading their favorite comic series or a good book. Or, perhaps, introduce them to a new title outside of their regular pull lists and give yourself someone to geek out with over your favorite series.




Ophiuchus Trade Paperback
Recommended by LN Conliff
Published by Image Comics
 
There were a lot of great graphic novels in 2019. Picking a favorite was no small task, but when the dust settled, it was Ophiuchus that stuck out in my memory. Ophiuchus, the web series turned graphic novel by Alexis Leriger De La Plante and Natasha Tara Petrovic, is one of those stories that just hit all of the right beats for me: dystopian, but hopeful, epic, and mysterious. It’s the type of graphic novel I could see rereading again and again. If any part of “science fiction fantasy adventure about a team of robots trying to defeat an evil virus with delusions of being a god” sounds compelling to you, then you need Ophiuchus.
 
Price: $12.49 Paperback / $10.99 Digital
Click here to purchase.




By Chance or Providence Trade Paperback
Recommended by LN Conliff
Published by Image Comics
 
Earlier this year, a friend of mine introduced me to Becky Cloonan’s work, and I instantly fell in love. A short while later, I discovered the astounding By Chance or Providence anthology novel that Cloonan released back in 2014. Normally, I’d recommend something a bit more recent, but By Chance or Providence caught my imagination and has stuck with me ever since I first read it back in March. The stories are the sort of classical fantasy that have becoming harder and harder to come by nowadays - with one featuring werewolves, another a haunted castle, and the final story about an evil sea spirit. It may be a little late to drop this recommendation, but if you haven’t read (or hadn’t even heard of) By Chance or Providence, it’s a quick, solid read for any fantasy fan.
 
Price: $10.07 Paperback / $9.57 Digital
Click here to purchase.




Pathfinder Core Rulebook (Second Edition)
Recommended by LN Conliff
Published by Paizo
 
After ten long years of dedicated tweaks and updates, Pathfinder stands proudly as an alternative to D&D’s sometimes barebones model. But, after ten years’ worth of play testing and number crunching, cracks have revealed themselves in the original Pathfinder. Earlier this year, Pathfinder’s 2nd edition finally hit shelves, hoping to take the game in a new direction. While 2e still has a lot of kinks that need to be worked out, it once again found a way to stand apart from other systems. If I had one major regret about my time with tabletop games, it’s that I got into D&D 5e and Pathfinder 1e too late to be part of the conversation surrounding the development. Right now, everyone has an opportunity to get in at the start and shape the future of 2e. Make sure to pick up the Pathfinder Core Rulebook (2e), so you can be a part of gaming history!
 
Price: $59.99 Hardcover / $14.99 Digital
Click here to purchase.




The Art of Point-and-Click Adventure Games
Recommended by Carl Wilson
Publisher: Bitmap Books

Picking this up for my LucasArts fix (Monkey Island, Day of the Tentacle), I read the entirety of the hefty, 460-page, hardback coffee-table book over one weekend. From the silver-foil embossed cover and the luxuriously large double-page screenshots, through to the dozens of interviews with game creators that illuminate an entire genre stretching from the modern era back to the early '80s over hundreds of games, The Art of Point-and-Click Adventure Games is also the art of making beautiful and utterly engrossing books.

There is so much content compared to promotional “Art of” video game books. This is both comprehensive as an overview of the field, covering the genres shifting styles and periods of dominance as technology and tastes evolve, and expansive in how I immediately re-bought old classics such as Bladerunner and the Indiana Jones series of games, and found new ones, such as those made by Telltale Games (The Walking Dead, Batman) – a studio that collapsed in 2018, pointing exactly towards a need for archiving these video game moments.

For a fan of point-and-click adventure games and video game history, this book really is click on verb: ‘Talk to,’ click on character: ‘Reader,’ select dialogue option: ‘Worth buying.’         
       
Cost: $49.99
Click here or here to purchase. 

 


The Wicked + The Divine, Vol. 9: Okay
Recommended by Travis Lakata
Publisher:  Image Comics

The final arc of an amazing creation is available from Image Comics. The Wicked + The Divine represents a dramatic look into what decisions adults might make with god-like powers. The wickedness that spills out onto the pages includes incredible storytelling and art, with the occasional head exploding (literally). This volume collects the final six issues (#40 – 45), and like the entire series, it does not disappoint in throwing twists and turns into the story that flow brilliantly together.

This entire series is a top pick, but if you’ve followed so far, you’ll want to pick up Volume 9. Along with Kieron Gillen’s talented writing, the illustrations from artist Jamie McKelvie and colorist Matt Wilson continue to wow in their final pages of this epic series. The Wicked + The Divine is such a fun ride that clearly illustrates how difficult it is to navigate life, even when you have the ultimate power of a god for the short span of two years. Manipulation and control for power will have you on the edge of your seat until the end. I will miss this series.

Cost: $12.99 (paperback) / $12.49 (digital)




Crowded Vol. 1: Soft Apocalypse
Recommended by Travis Lakata
Publisher: Image Comics

This is my new favorite series. Every single second of this story is crazy and fun in the best possible way. Charlie is trying to avoid being legally assassinated by almost everyone (Yes, that’s right.) in exchange for a huge bounty. Along with exhilarating chases and gunfire, the exchanges between Charlie and her paid bodyguard Vita, even during the calmest moments, are equally priceless. This is a series I absolutely have all of the interest in the world to see continued, because I can’t imagine not seeing such a wild ride come to an end.

Crowded Volume 1 is the type of story you wished you had created, but you can’t stop to think about for a split-second, because you’re hooked onto each panel like it might be the very last one. Yes, I’m afraid that every single panel will be the one that finally ends up seeing one of our two main characters kick the bucket – and then I’ll have to hope that this creative team (Christopher Sebela, Ted Brandt, Ro Stein, Triona Farrell, and Cardinal Rae) comes together for another story! Don’t forget to rate your bodyguard on the “Dfend” app.

Cost: $10.17 (paperback) / $9.99 (digital)




Lifeformed Volume 2: Hearts and Minds
Recommended by Travis Lakata
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

The team of writer Matt Mair Lowery and artist Cassie Anderson continue to excel in their story that revolves around Cleo – a brilliantly awesome character. From Cleo’s story, to wonderfully drawn facial expressions, this young (super) hero comes to the table to fight an alien invasion. Oh, she just happens to be fighting alongside an alien who happens to look like her deceased dad. Like Volume 1, this sequel continues to explore the depths of the main character in such fantastic ways. Cleo is one of the best defined characters ever, as she continues to grow, highlighting her intelligence, emotional maturity, and an ability to adapt to situations that might make anyone curl up and hope for it to go away.

Lifeformed Volume 2 will take you on an incredible journey, whether you’ve read the first volume or not. Of course, I recommend you read the first volume, as you’ll get an even greater understanding of such an emotional journey Cleo takes, further illustrating how well she handles life in the most difficult circumstances imaginable. She is the definition of rock star. If you need further proof, you can check out reviews for both Volume 1 and Volume 2.

Cost: $12.95 (paperback) / $7.99 (digital)




Submerged Vol. 1
Recommended by Travis Lakata
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

If you’re looking for a story that will unexpectedly pull at your heartstrings while giving you a broad look at the damage done from grief and childhood trauma, then Submerged is that story. This is a comic that left me wondering where this fantastical journey was going, and before I knew it, I was thrown smack dab in the middle of dealing with family issues that run deep beneath the surface.

Submerged is a story that’s seemingly impossible to forget about once you’ve finished, because the journey is as significant as the final moments. As a reader, you will understand the full scope of what a character has gone through to try and deal with a situation that doesn’t necessarily have an answer. The main character Elysia has a daunting task of finding her brother on the night of the biggest storm in New York – and despite flooding, water is the least of her concerns on a night that will change her (and your) life forever.

Cost: $11.91 (paperback) / $14.99 (digital)




The Expanse Hardcover Boxed Set by James S.A. Corey

Recommended by Claire Thorne
Publisher:  Hachette Book Group


The Expanse book series by James S.A. Corey (the joint pen name of authors Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck) is an epic science fiction adventure spanning our solar system and beyond.

“Two hundred years after migrating into space, mankind is in turmoil. When Jim Holden, a reluctant ship’s captain, and Joe Miller, a washed-up detective, find themselves involved in the case of a missing girl, what they discover brings our solar system to the brink of civil war, and exposes the greatest conspiracy in human history.” --OrbitBooks.net

And that’s just the beginning. Comprised of eight novels (with one more on the way) and four novellas, this Hugo Award-nominated series was originally adapted for television by the SyFy Network and has recently found a home on Amazon Prime for its upcoming fourth and fifth seasons.

This boxed set of the first three novels in the series (Leviathan Wakes, Caliban's War, and Abaddon's Gate) is available for the first time in hardcover and is a wonderful introduction for newbies to The Expanse series and a perfect collector’s item for the many, many fans of this riveting space saga.

“Interplanetary adventure the way it ought to be written.”--George R.R. Martin

Cost:  $55
Click here to purchase.




To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers
Recommended by Claire Thorne

Becky Chambers broke into the science fiction literary scene with the immensely popular Wayfarer series: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet; A Closed and Common Orbit, and Record of a Spaceborn Few. This debut series garnered Chambers considerable acclaim, including a Hugo Award and nominations for the Arthur C. Clarke Award, the Locus Award, and the Women’s Prize for Fiction, among others.

This year, Chambers returned with a standalone novella, To Be Taught, If Fortunate, that follows the adventures of a crew of humans sent on an extrasolar scientific discovery mission. Told in the form of journal entries from one of the members of this heroic crew, Chambers gives her audience another breathtaking vision of worlds and creatures very, very different from anything humanity has ever experienced and asks us just how far we are willing to transform ourselves in order to survive in such truly alien environments.

To Be Taught, If Fortunate is another masterful glimpse at the many diverse possibilities the universe holds for us.  

Cost:  $17 (Hardcover)
Click here to purchase.




Kid Gloves: Nine Months of Careful Chaos by Lucy Knisley
Recommended by Claire Thorne

Lucy Knisley has spent a considerable portion of her career as a comic creator illustrating her own life in intimate detail. From French Milk to Relish to Something New: Tales of a Makeshift Bride, Knisley takes us on a delightful journey from her food-centric childhood (She is the daughter of a chef and gourmet.) all the way into the adult adventures of love and marriage.

This year, she recounts her harrowing journey to becoming a mother in Kid Gloves: Nine Months of Careful Chaos. This is arguably Knisley’s most personal story so far. No topic is taboo, no emotion out of bounds, as she swings the door wide open on this most private of experiences. Throughout this story, she weaves in bits of science and history, debunking myths and comparing her own reality with the vast universe of “information” about motherhood swirling around us.

Even at its most harrowing and emotional, Kid Gloves is a reminder that every person’s journey into parenthood is a unique and rewarding trip. Knisley navigates the ups and downs with humor, charm, and unflinching honesty. She doesn’t attempt to lay out a definitive route, but instead offers her readers the assurance that they will be able to forge this path for themselves.

Kid Gloves is an obvious recommendation for anyone contemplating parenthood by whatever means, but just as worthwhile reading for anyone with any curiosity about this most human of experiences.  

Cost: $12 (Paperback)
Click here to purchase.




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