Twelve Comics and Graphic Novels You Should Read Immediately

Kazia here! So this weekend I spent some quality time at the Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo, a small, free, fantastic show in Cambridge with over a hundred exhibitors and some truly excellent panels. I spent most of my summer reading comics and graphic novels, so it was exciting to get to spend time with a community I’m slowly learning more about.

On that note, I thought I’d share some comics and graphic novels that I’ve read and adored recently. In past posts we’ve mentioned Lumberjanes, Hawkeye, and This One Summer, all of which are terribly difficult to not feature again here, but they say that variety is the spice of life, so:

1. Through the Woods: Holy Halloween, Batman! This book is so, so good. From the textured cover to the very last page, Emily Carroll delivers a terrifying, haunting set of five gorgeous comics. Only one of the five is an adaptation from one of her webcomics (His Face All Red), and if you’re looking to sample her work, I can’t recommend it enough in its webcomic form. The rest of the book is just as exquisite.

2. Ms. Marvel, issues 1-8: Kamala Khan struggles with her desire to both respect her parents and gain more independence, but this balance only gets trickier when she develops superpowers. Stepping into the shoes of Carol Danvers (formerly Ms. Marvel, now Captain Marvel), Kamala kicks butt, saves folks, and teams up with (and majorly fangirls over) Wolverine. Could you ask for much more?

(Source: http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/marvel-comics-introduces-female-muslim-superhero.aspx?pageID=517&nID=57446&NewsCatID=381)
(Source: http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/marvel-comics-introduces-female-muslim-superhero.aspx?pageID=517&nID=57446&NewsCatID=381)

3. Sisters: Raina Telgemeier’s companion to Smile, Sisters tells the story of her family’s road trip (sans dad) to a family reunion the summer before Raina enters high school. As the road trip progresses, Raina flashes back over her relationship with her little sister Amara. Sisters perfectly encapsulates childhood sisterly love-hate relationships and broader family tensions, all while maintaining the heartwarming lightness for which Telgemeier’s graphic novels are so beloved.

4. Relish: Lucy Knisley’s food-based memoir looks back at important moments from her childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood through the lens of food: what she was eating or cooking and how those dishes corresponded to her emotional state and community. If it sounds pretentious, it certainly doesn’t feel it. It’s a truly lovely read. Plus, there are bonus recipes interspersed throughout the memoir with illustrated instructions.

5. Boxers (and Saints): Gene Luen Yang’s pair of historical graphic novels follow two individuals involved in the Boxer Rebellion: Little Bao, the leader of the Society of the Righteous and Harmonious Fist (Boxers), and Vibiana, a converted Christian (Saints). Both have visions of past leaders who reflect and shape their ideologies as their struggles come to a head: Little Bao sees and embodies Ch’in Shih-huang, the first emperor of China, while Vibiana draws inspiration from her visions of Joan of Arc. Their stories interweave and become interdependent throughout the two graphic novels. While I found much of the content about the lady characters to be troubling and I strongly preferred Boxers, I’m still puzzling out whether this is intentional by Yang or if this is my personal preference. Either way, both Boxers & Saints provide a careful and emotional look at the personal tolls of a violent conflict.

6. Saga, volume 1: Written by Brian K. Vaughan and drawn by Fiona Staples, Saga tells the story of Alana and Marko, soldiers from opposite sides of a destructive interplanetary war. When the story opens they have fallen in love and are on the run from their respective armies, Alana having just given birth to their baby – who turns out to be the narrator of the story. This epic includes but is not limited to: robot royalty, a spider-woman bounty hunter, a forest of rocket-ship trees, spunky ghosts, and a lie-detector cat. Note: this has adult content, so reader discretion advised!

7. Tomboy: Liz Prince’s new memoir wrestles with her personal experience coming of age with a gender identity that does not fit societal expectations. Thoughtful and heartwarming, Liz details how her tomboy identity shaped her understanding of gender and her relationships with friends and boyfriends. Spare black-and-white line drawings compliment the intimate, personal story – definitely a must-read!

8. Princeless, Book 1: Save Yourself: While perhaps a little overt in its ideological push, Princeless is a much-needed comic that plays with the fairy tale genre in fun and progressive ways. The first volume of Princeless, which collects the first four issues of the comic, tells the story of Princess Adrienne, joined by her guard dragon Sparky and her friend Bedelia, who rebelliously quests to free herself and her sisters from their tower-waiting fate. Jeremy Whitley and M. Goodwin aren’t afraid to address tired sexist and racist tropes head-on.

9. March: Book One: Collaborating with Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell, Congressman John Lewis recounts his experience growing up in the south and his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement. A slim but powerful volume, this is a moving first act in the memoir of an important figure peacefully fighting for justice.

(Source: http://www.topshelfcomix.com/catalog/march/760)
(Source: http://www.topshelfcomix.com/catalog/march/760)

10. The Adventures of Superhero Girl: Superhero Girl is struggling between balancing the job for which she has a calling (superheroing!) and making money. The Adventures of Superhero Girl is lighthearted and endearing, and her attempts to balance valuable work with general adulting and feeling valued by others is one with which many a young adult can identify.

You can read it all online here, but I totally recommend it in book form.

11. Captain Marvel, Volume 1: In Pursuit of Flight

Aviators. Avengers. Aliens. WASPs. NASA. Time travel. Enough said.

12. Nimona: Noelle Stevenson’s webcomic just ended last week, and although it won’t be released in bound form until next May, now is the perfect time to read the completed story for free on the interwebs! In case you weren’t convinced by sneaky mentions of Noelle Stevenson in every blog post thus far, you should be aware that two of the main characters are named Lord Ballister Blackheart and Sir Ambrosious Goldenloin. They may have totally dated and then gotten super angsty, and by may have, I mean they totally did. And if that wasn’t enough convincing, there is science and explosions and identity crises and shapeshifting.

Happy reading!

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