Graphic Novel Discoveries
In addition to thoroughly enjoying Ms. Marvel and Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, I’ve been working on expanding my knowledge of graphic novels, superheroic and otherwise. I think my favorite part, even better than getting to revel in the lovely colors, is getting to discover adventurous, smart, heroines, and the adventures that unfold over collected issues. But the best part of all might be the fact that I’ve been checking these out of the library! And then getting to return them to the library where I work, and make them part of shelf displays. (It counts as collection development, not fangirling! I promise.)
I’m dividing these vaguely between All-Ages and Teen and Up, but it’s probably a much more fluid, malleable definition where handing these to actual teens and kids is concerned. There might be a bit more intensity of tempo and emotions in the teen-wards end of the scale? Your mileage, and etc.
All Ages Comics
Foiled by Jane Yolen (art by Mike Cavallaro). A high school fencer in New York, and she gets a magic blade that means that she can see faeries and goblins, and gain entry into a magical realm, to be given a quest as the Defender. Her combat skills, her problem-solving skills, and even her friendships are part of how she saves the day. And the art is terrific fun. I understand that Jane Yolen did not actually write this, and its sequel, Curses: Foiled Again! specifically for me. However, it is pretty much perfect.
Princeless by Jeremy Whitley (writer) and Mia Goodwin (illustrator) is the story of Princess Adrienne, who gets fed up with waiting around to be rescued from her tower. Not only does she rescue herself, she teams up with her guardian dragon, Sparky, and her new friend Bedelia, to try to save her other sisters. I love this series for the adventures and friendship, and for the well-developed folklore that goes on within the series. Started with Volume 1: Save Yourself, and it’s still good in subsequent volumes. Did I mention the dragon? There’s a dragon!
Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur: BFFs by Amy Reeder and Brandon Montclare (writers) and Natasha Bustos (illustrator.) Lunella Lafayette is a ferociously smart preteen girl, grappling with worries that she’s a mutant, as well as smart and still trying to have a semblance of a normal life. There is also a dinosaur, teleported from another time. Everything about this is charming, warm, adventurous, and completely magnificent. The second volume, which I haven’t read yet, is called Cosmic Cooties. I have it on my holds list, and I’m completely confident it will be just as good.
Goldie Vance by Hope Larson and Brittany Wilson doesn’t have any supernatural aspects. It’s historical fiction, set in the 50’s, in Palm Springs, where Goldie and her dad both work in a big, posh hotel. Goldie’s more than a little obsessed with the beautiful, fast cars she parks in the valet service. Goldie also works with a detective to solve the mysteries and inquiries of the hotel’s well-to-do guests. Some of the cover copy on this book references Nancy Drew- I can see that in the time period aesthetic, some of the cast of characters, and the kinds of mysteries on offer. But, for all the 50’s and early 60’s are meticulously created in art and characterization… I think there’s an excellent modern take going on here.
Teen and Up Comics
All right. I’m just going to own up to the fact that this is a Noelle Stephenson lovefest.
And that the designation of these as not-all-ages is basically artificial. But, monsters? And jokes about bears and feminist icons and the 24-hour-news cycle? So I don’t know.
Lumberjanes. How I love Lumberjanes. A goofy, ensemble cast of campers at an all-girls’ camp. Merit badges in feminist awesomeness. Everyone working to support and respect each other’s quirks and wonderfulness. Also possibly ancient curses, bears, ghosts, canoe trips, camping and vendettas from the past. And first kisses. If I’d gone to a camp even remotely like this, I would have learned to like camping.
And then there’s Nimona
The cover looks pretty much like a solid, imaginative fantasy adventure. Which this is: there’s a scientist mastermind, a corrupt government, some shapeshifting, some magic… But this set of panels is my litmus test for whether the combination of fantasy, snark, pop culture humor and weird, skewed warmth, will work for a potential reader.
If you are here for the shapeshifting shark and their developing friendship, you are about to be a huge fan of this entire comic. Trust me.
Looking over these comics, I’m trying to do librarian-style readers’ advisory on myself, and figure out what appeal factors these all have in common. Some commonalities: adventurous women and girls, a generally positive outlook, humor and puns, interesting problem-solving, some tensions and conflicts but nothing too harrowing. And it’s safe to say these will work in a similar sweet spot for fans of Squirrel Girl and Ms. Marvel.