We asked our contributors to share the best comic book, graphic novel, or webcomic that they read in the last few months. From memoirs to classic horror manga, there’s something here for all tastes!
The Adventure Zone: Petals to the Metal by Clint McElroy, Griffin McElroy, Travis McElroy, Justin McElroy, and Carey Pietsch
I previously mentioned how much I was anticipating this one. So. Petals to the Metal is the third book in the Adventure Zone graphic novel series. This series is based on a popular podcast, which is in turn based on Dungeons & Dragons, the tabletop roleplaying game. (Whew!) In this third installment, our merry band of adventurers is attempting to apprehend a master thief and reclaim an ancient relic (as per usual). This time, however, the only way to win back the relic is to engage in a high-stakes battlewagon race. I’ll be honest: This one started out slow for me. But it ended up reaching those heights of ridiculous I’ve come to expect from this series…and then surpassing them. And amidst all of the ridiculous and all of the explosions, there’s also a complicated love story that made me cry. So basically: ALL the feels. Get on it.
Almost American Girl by Robin Ha
This sweet and poignant graphic memoir spoke to me on many levels. As a single mom, I often look for stories that touch upon the experiences of single parent homes. Being a single parent has been the most exhausting yet rewarding experience of my life, and I crave these relatable stories that help me feel less alone. Robin Ha’s memoir Almost American Girl takes us on a journey of her life as the daughter of a single mother. Beginning in her early years in Seoul, Korea, Robin eventually moves with her mother to the U.S. as a teenager. Robin describes the judgements she faces growing up in a single parent household with both heartache and strength. The love she and her mother have for each other is incredibly touching. Despite the isolation and grief Robin copes with after moving to a new country, her strength and resilience seeped through the pages, giving me strength in return. If you like her memoir, also check out her fabulous graphic novel cookbook, Cook Korean!: A Comic Book With Recipes.
The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir by Thi Bui
When I picked up The Best We Could Do to read, I thought that maybe I would read the first chapter, and then go do some chores around my apartment, and come back later. Two hours later I closed the book having read it cover to cover and just sat for a long time thinking. The post book haze was so real for this one, and I loved it. We follow a family through generations living and leaving Vietnam. Written by Thi Bui, based on her childhood memories and stories from her parents, she weaves an incredible story about war, famine, and refugee camps. A landmark of a book that will stick with me for a long time.
CosmoKnights by Hannah Templer
I didn’t know how much I needed this comic in my life until I read about this ragtag gang of space gays taking on the patriarchy and fell in love. This vision of the future with space princesses and robot jousts is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. It’s one of those comics I could read again and again. Sign me up for literally all the volumes Hannah Templer wants to write because I am here for the ride.
Given (Vol. 1–3), Natsuki Kizu
Uenoyama has lost his passion for music, going through the motions leading up to his band’s first show because he’s promised bassist Haruki and drummer Akihiko he will. Then, one day, Uenoyama finds new student Mafuyu already hiding out in his napping spot on the school stairwell. Mafuya isn’t great with the guitar he’s holding but when he sings, Uenoyama knows he’s found what the band has been missing and, he admits more reluctantly, something he’s been lacking as well: love. Mafuyu has a tragedy in his past that makes him terrified to accept what Uenoyama is trying, extremely awkwardly, to give. Meanwhile, Haruki is trying desperately to hide his crush on Akihiko, who’s doing a complicated dance between his friend and bandmate and his roommate, a virtuoso violinist Akihiko can’t seem to let go of. Oh the drama! I am totally addicted.
Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera and Celia Moscote (BOOM! Studios, November 25, 2020)
Recently empowered by a vagina-lovin’ feminist book called Raging Flower, Juliet Milagros Palante decides to leave the Bronx and fly off to Portland, Oregon and intern for the book’s author. When she comes out to her mother during a goodbye dinner, it doesn’t go as well as she’d hoped and what follows is a complicated summer. Juliet struggles to come to terms with a new city and a new perspective— balancing being out as a lesbian with understanding her gay identity. There is a lot of very relevant explorations of concepts relating to intersectionality in feminism and queer culture as well. And, while at times the Portlanders can be eye-rollingly earnest, the story overall is sweet and a lot of baby queers will definitely see themselves in Juliet’s experiences. Plus, the art by Celia Moscote is vivid and gorgeous, and I loved the sunset-colored palette used throughout.
Lois Lane and the Friendship Challenge by Grace Ellis, Brittney Williams, Caitlin Quirk, and Ariana Maher
There’s nothing better than a middle grade–geared and super fun graphic novel, and this one is no exception. Lois Lane and the Friendship Challenge follows a young Lois Lane on the first day of summer break when she’s trying to promote her video channel Lois! Camera! Action!. She comes up with a #FriendshipChallenge, even though her bestie Kristen Li isn’t that much into social media, in hopes that will change her views of social networking. She decides that the annual neighborhood bike race is the perfect backdrop for the challenge. Then fireworks go missing, and Lois’s investigative heart makes her double down on her efforts to go viral, causing a strain in her relationship with Kristen. With a new girl coming into the picture trying to take Kristen’s attention away, and with Kristen heading to sleepaway camp soon, will Lois be able to fulfill her summer dreams without losing her best friend? This story was a cute tale, full of friendship lessons, candy-colored art and definitely a breezy and enjoyable read that I recommend to DC fans that are young at heart.
—Aurora Lydia Dominguez
Omni Vol. 1: The Doctor Is In by Devin Grayson and Alitha E Martinez
Not only is this a beautiful comic, the story draws you in from the very beginning. This story is set in Africa where war is ongoing and the doctors are risking their lives to try to keep as many people healthy. They are bombarded with patients who clearly need medical attention but Dr. Cecelia Cobbina is sharp as she is precise. Dr. Cobbina has these superpowers that allow her to think at unnatural speeds. Her superpower is her hyper intelligence and the ability to solve complex problems. The more stressed Dr. Cobbina is, the more heightened her senses are. You get to meet one of her peers named Mae and they are perfect together. They work as a team to solve complex issues however, their relationship has a lot of sapphic undertones to it. Without giving too much away, their journey takes them on a path of questioning why they have these powers. I love it because it blends sci-fi with social justice together without it feeling corny.
Sailor Moon by Naoko Takeuchi
2020 has been, in a word, bleak. In a time where everything seems hopeless and some of the old childhood favorites I used to turn to have become too problematic for me to overlook, Sailor Moon has been there for me. This is a manga series that champions female friendship, love, and compassion. It’s a series that features powerful and complicated queer characters. And, I cannot stress this enough, it’s a series with adorable talking cats. Returning to the Sailor Moon series nearly 20 years after its initial release, I’ve been relieved to discover the manga does more than just hold up. It’s exactly what I needed to get me through this year.
Solutions and Other Problems by Allie Brosh
Solutions and Other Problems is so potent. It is, at times, the view inside my own brain. But also not. Allie Brosh had a lot of terrible life experiences in the seven years between her first book, Hyperbole and a Half, and this one. She lays it all bare, alongside some fun comics about being a weird kid and having dumb dogs. But the devastation is present through all 500+ pages.
Teen Titans: Beast Boy by Kami Garcia and Gabriel Picolo
Gar Logan is an ordinary high schooler, albeit maybe a little shorter and scrawnier than most boys his age, and desperate to be cool. When he realizes that the supplement his parents have been making him take for most of his life might have something to do with his size, he stops taking it, and suddenly finds himself bigger, stronger, faster, and just generally cooler. But his newfound popularity isn’t everything, especially when his new abilities turn weirder, and especially with the mysterious Slade Wilson lurking around with an agenda of his own. This is a softer, more thoughtful Gar than the animated Teen Titans and Teen Titans Go! versions that inspired him, or even than the main DCU version of the character, but he’s still recognizably the same good-natured jokester fans know and love, if slightly less green than usual. Picolo’s art is endlessly charming, and I am chomping at the bit for the third installment of this series, Teen Titans: Beast Boy Loves Raven, out next year (Teen Titans: Raven preceded this one, but you can read either solo book without the other).
Uzumaki by Junji Ito
This is the most nauseating comic I’ve ever read…and I mean that in a good way. This classic of horror manga is set in a town where strange things are afoot. Spiral patterns start to appear all over, leading with an increasing sense of dread to obsession, violence, and images that will have you crying out for eye bleach. Junji Ito is very successful at crafting indelibly horrifying scenes; try not to read this one just before a meal.
What We Don’t Talk About by Charlot Kristensen
Charlot Kristensen’s stunning debut graphic novel follows a young Black Zimbabwean girl as she spends a weekend visiting her white British boyfriend’s family home in the countryside. It features some of the most stunning and evocative artwork I have seen in a graphic novel, while also grappling with the difficult realities of an interracial relationship.