David, our outreach librarian, has been reading a lot of new graphic novels during this unusual time. Below are some of his recent favorites which will be available to request from our catalog once the libraries begin to reopen.
Brown, Lisa. The Phantom Twin. First Second, 2020.
This fictional story, set in a turn-of-the-century sideshow focuses on Isabel who used to be a conjoined twin. Jane, her sister, dies after an ambitious surgeon separates them. Strangely enough, Isabel still sees and communicates with Jane even after her death. She tries to build a new life and create a new act in the sideshow. Although now, she is not sure who to trust. She finds solace in a kind tattoo artist but questions his intentions. Despite the heavy subject matter, the story is handled with a light tone and the drawings are whimsical. This book will appeal to young adults with a curiosity about fitting it in despite their differences.
Cody, Mathew and Yoshitani, Yoshi. Zatanna and the House of Secrets. DC Comics, 2020.
DCs new graphic novel series for kids reimagines many characters from the DC Universe as teenagers. In this fantastical entry, Zatanna is a middle-schooler with a single father. After dealing with some social pressures at school, she comes home to realize that things are far stranger than they appear. Her house is nearly as old as time and her father is a powerful magician. She realizes she is able to communicate with her dead mother and that only she holds the key to the house’s secrets. Add to this an origami shine and a talking rabbit and what you have here is an exciting adventure story. I love the colorful artwork by Yoshitani. It’s a unique style in that is completely non-line based and looks quite different than most other comics. I also like that you could read and enjoy this book without the need to know about the history of any of these characters. Even though it is a DC book, it has nothing to do with superheroes.
Fontana, Shea and Dichiara, Marcelo. Batman Overdrive. DC Comics, 2020.
This is another fun DC Kids graphic novel where we see Bruce Wayne as a young teen prior to becoming Batman. In this reimagining, Bruce is a bit of a gear-head who gets the bug to fix up his deceased father’s 66 Crusader. It will eventually become the Batmobile. Along the way, he meets a young thief. This turns out to be Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman. However, this story has little to do with super-heroics. The main part of the story deals with Bruce’s relationship with his pseudo-adopted parent, Alfred, the butler. He also befriends a whiz kid, Mateo Diaz, who not only helps him build a car, but becomes his assistant in his first stint in fighting crime as a masked vigilante. This is an enjoyable tale for those that like their comics fast and furious.
Jusay, Jeremy. The Strange Ones. Gallery 13, 2020.
This is a nostalgic story set in Manhattan during the mid 1990s that focuses on the relationship of two teenage outsiders who find a bond through alternative music. Angeline and Franck go to concerts together, watch the Rocky Horror Picture Show and are generally oddballs. Their relationship is not romantic, but they have a genuine connection. When Franck suddenly dies, Angeline reconnects with Franck’s past through his old friends. It is a very personal and heartfelt tale that will appeal to fans of realistic young adult fiction. The black and white art is reminiscent of some of the best zines of the 1990s, like Tomine’s Optic Nerve, but it also has a neatness and precision which sets in it in a class by itself.
Knisley, Lucy. Stepping Stones. Random House Graphic, 2020.
This is a middle grade quasi-autobiographical graphic novella that I’m sure would appeal to fan of Raina Telgemeier. I’d say that Knisley has an even more organic and natural cartooning style than Raina. It’s drawn in pencil and the coloring is really well done – gradients and slight texturing really add to the summer mood. The story itself is brief and breezy. Jen, who has moved to Peapod Farm, with her mother, misses city life. She must adjust to living on the farm with her mother’s new boyfriend and his two daughters. She struggles with working at the farmer’s market and finding a way that her particular talents can be of use. Reader’s will notice and relate to Jen’s insecurities. She is a real character that one can identify with, obviously based on the author’s own experiences.