August 19, 2017

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10 Graphic Novels That Are Not Quite of This World

Magic will be in the air this fall, as the latest graphic novels run the gamut from a teenage girl fighting H.P. Lovecraft’s Chthulhu to fairy-tale princesses taking over the kingdom to a boy falling in love with a ghost. But there’s some gritty reality as well, with nonfiction books about war and video games (are they so far apart, really?) and fictional stories of teens dealing with epilepsy and the search for authenticity in the world of anime fandom. Good times!

ATA, Iasmin Omar. Mis(h)adra. illus. by author. 272p. Studio 13. Oct. 2017. ISBN 9781501162107.

Gr 11 Up–Ata takes on a topic that is seldom discussed in comics or elsewhere: epilepsy. Isaac is an Arab American college student who is trying to live a normal life despite his frequent seizures (often triggered by stress and lack of sleep), doctors who don’t listen, drugs that don’t work, and a father who keeps “forgetting” that Isaac has a medical condition. There’s a startling bit of violence in the beginning, when Isaac tears his eye out, and he contemplates suicide toward the end, but overall this is a hopeful book, as he meets a friend who not only is supportive but also shares her own struggle with a medical condition. The art style is manga-influenced, but Ata brings in some intriguing original imagery, depicting the disease as flying daggers with eyes and strings of beads that wrap themselves around Isaac.

CHANANI, Nidhi. Pashmina. illus. by author. 176p. First Second. Oct. 2017. ISBN 9781626720879.

Gr 5-9–Priyanka is a teenager whose quest for self-knowledge includes her curiosity about India—her mother emigrated from there, and Pri has Indian friends and celebrates Indian holidays. But her mother refuses to talk about the country or why she left. When Pri wraps herself in a special pashmina shawl, though, she has visions of the country—visions of beauty, although a shadow flits around the edges. Those experiences give her the courage to visit her relatives in India—but what she finds is very different from the pretty pictures in her mind.

CHWAST, Seymour. At War with War. illus. by author. 88p. Seven Stories. Oct. 2017. ISBN 9781609807795.

Gr 10 Up–Not really a story but an illustrated time line of 5,000 years of invasions, attacks, and other types of war, Chwast’s work takes a broad view of history and the idea that someone, somewhere, is always at war—and as likely to be losing as winning. (The title also includes an excerpt from Sun-Tzu’s The Art of War.) Chwast simply lists the wars, with years, and does a simple line drawing of one on each page. His style is rough, with images sometimes resembling woodcuts, and often fits in with the era of the particular battle he is drawing. This is not so much a book to read straight through as to have around to provide context when studying history and other subjects.

DAWSON, Delilah. Ladycastle. illus. by Ashley A. Woods. 112p. BOOM! Studios. Oct. 2017. ISBN 9781684150328.

Gr 7 Up–This story has a fairy-tale setting but a modern sensibility: Princess Aeve is locked in a tower, her sister Gwyneff wishes she could be a knight, and the other women of the kingdom are doing their best to get by while all of the men are off fighting (and looking for a husband for Aeve). Then all but one of the men are wiped out, and a magic sword chooses the blacksmith’s wife, Merinor, as the new king. Despite the protestations of the one remaining guy, the women promptly set out to rearrange things their way—but they can’t ignore the danger that looms over them all.

DORKIN, Evan & Sarah Dwyer. Calla Chthulhu. illus. by Erin Humiston, Mario A. Gonzalez, & Bill Mudron. 256p. Dark Horse. Aug 2017. ISBN 9781506702933.

Gr 10 Up–H.P. Lovecraft meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer in this story of a teenage girl who is a descendant of the Great Old Ones and is continually fighting supernatural creatures—and human monsters—as well as her uncle, the King in Yellow. There’s plenty of action, but Calla also must deal with her heritage—and keep the dreaded sleeping deity from awakening. Dorkin is the cocreator (with Jill Thompson) of Beasts of Burden.

HENNESSEY, Jonathan. The Comic Book Story of Video Games. illus. by Jack Mcgowan. 192p. Crown/Ten Speed. Oct. 2017. ISBN 9780399578908.

Gr 9 Up–Like many nonfiction graphic novels, this book falls into the trap of having lots of narrative boxes and not much dialogue. It has plenty of redeeming features, though, as Hennessey mixes interesting random facts with mini-portraits of the characters, both famous and unknown, who created the video game industry. At the same time, he clearly and economically depicts the history of computers and the politics of the times, so that everything is seen in context. The result is a highly entertaining book that will resonate with gamers and nongamers alike.

LOWERY, Mike. Random Illustrated Facts: A Collection of Curious, Weird, and Totally Not Boring Things To Know. 208p. Workman. Oct. 2017. ISBN 9780761189954.

Gr 6 Up–These facts aren’t entirely random—they are arranged somewhat thematically, with chapters on broad topics such as history or science, and spreads on specific subjects such as rabbits or hot-air balloons. Beyond that, though, the facts presented are both delightful and completely unrelated to one another. It’s a true trivia book and very entertaining to read either in short bites or as a single binge.

SHAW, Dash. Cosplayers: Perfect Collection. 140p. Fantagraphics. Sept. 2017. ISBN 9781683960409.

Gr 10 Up–A cosplayer and her friend set up impromptu shoots involving real people and turn them into stories they upload to YouTube. That’s the starting premise of this collection of interlocking short stories about anime fans, media, authenticity, and the awkwardness of teenage life. Shaw is unusual in that his tales involve anime and manga tropes but he does not draw them in an obviously manga-influenced style. This is a new, expanded paperback edition of a collection that came out in hardback last year, and it includes the piece that became the basis for the animated film My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea.

SMITH, Kirsten & Kurt Lustgarten. Misfit City. illus. by Naomi Franquiz. 112p. BOOM! Box. Dec. 2017. ISBN 9781684150274.

Gr 6 Up–The town of Cannon Cove had its one moment of glory in the 1980s, when the cult film The Gloomies was set there. Now it’s a sleepy backwater except for the occasional intrusions of annoying fans. When one of Wilder’s friends is bequeathed a mysterious chest that contains what looks like a treasure map, she sees a great opportunity—if she can convince them to go along. This is a nice mystery/adventure story with a witty, self-aware cast of young women.

TAPALANSKY, Nick. Cast No Shadow. illus. by Anissa Espinosa. 224p. First Second. Oct. 2017. ISBN 9781596438774.

Gr 7 Up–Here’s a ghost story with a twist: teenage boy falls in love with teenage girl, but both have a serious quirk. He doesn’t cast a shadow, and she’s a ghost. Greg, the lead character, has lived in the same town all his life, but this new friendship surfaces some old secrets about the past, and that in turn puts a wedge between the two of them.

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Brigid Alverson About Brigid Alverson

Brigid Alverson, the editor of the Good Comics for Kids blog, has been reading comics since she was 4. She has an MFA in printmaking and has worked as a book editor and a newspaper reporter; now she is assistant to the mayor of Melrose, Massachusetts. In addition to editing GC4K, she writes about comics and graphic novels at MangaBlog, SLJTeen, Publishers Weekly Comics World, Comic Book Resources, MTV Geek, and Good E-Reader.com. Brigid is married to a physicist and has two daughters in college, which is why she writes so much. She was a judge for the 2012 Eisner Awards.

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