Comics/Graphic Novels

Riot Roundup: The Best Comics We Read April-June 2024

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Vanessa Diaz

Managing Editor

Book Riot Managing Editor Vanessa Diaz is a writer and former bookseller from San Diego, CA whose Spanish is even faster than her English. When not reading or writing, she enjoys dreaming up travel itineraries and drinking entirely too much tea. She is a regular co-host on the All the Books podcast who especially loves mysteries, gothic lit, mythology/folklore, and all things witchy. Vanessa can be found on Instagram at @BuenosDiazSD or taking pictures of pretty trees in Portland, OR, where she now resides.

Welcome to the comics edition of Riot Roundup, where we share the best comics and graphic novels that Book Riot staff and contributors read last quarter. All comics content is fair game here: whether it’s a new release, soon-to-be-published, or something that’s been on shelves for years, we just want to share what we’ve read and loved so you’ll read and love it, too.

As usual, we have a mix of comics and graphic novels for different ages covering a wide range of themes. We have a coming-of-age story about a teen in 2000s Toronto and a witchy mystery with curses and queer love. Then there’s a middle grade magic school adventure and a DC comic that does the fifth Robin right. We have a personal history of U.S. women’s soccer and a story of fairy people and their corgis. We apologize for not having directions to that forest, but we hope you find your next comics read from this list.

cover of Age 16, a graphic novel by Rosena Fung

Age 16 by Rosena Fung (July 2, Annick Press)

In this multi-generational coming-of-age graphic novel, we meet Roz, a sixteen-year-old in 2000 Toronto who is struggling to relate to her mother. She’s tired of her mom’s passive-aggressive comments about her body, and everything gets worse when Roz’s grandmother comes to visit from China, putting her mom even more on edge. But then we get a glimpse into Roz’s mom’s life at sixteen in 1972 Hong Kong — and Roz’s grandmother’s life at sixteen in 1954 Guangdong — and we see their family dynamics in a new light. This book punched me right in the gut, and although I was skeptical that I could be personally touched by a book for young readers, I was sobbing by the end. Age 16 is a stunningly layered story about mother-daughter relationships, body image, inherited trauma, and healing together. 

—Susie Dumond

cover of The Boy Wonder, a comic by Juni Ba, and Chris O'Halloran

The Boy Wonder by Juni Ba

Damian Wayne is Bruce Wayne’s son and the fifth Robin. Trained as an assassin until he was 10 years old, Damian struggled to adjust to Batman’s whole “saving people instead of killing them” thing, and he can be haughty, vicious, and a downright brat. I love him to pieces.

Damian hasn’t always been treated very well by comics, particularly in the past couple of years, but Juni Ba’s The Boy Wonder is a breath of fresh air. It revisits Damian’s earliest days in Gotham, showing his struggles to fit in with the Batfamily in a sympathetic and often heartbreaking light. Damian studies each of his older “brothers” (the previous Robins) in turn, trying to learn how to be the son his father wants. The art is more symbolic than realistic — Damian is usually drawn as an impossibly tiny little gremlin shape rather than a believable preteen — which is a brilliant way to depict all the complicated, messy feelings these repressed Bats can’t bring themselves to verbalize. Ba also sidesteps the pitfall other writers have fallen into, of depicting Damian torn between his good (white) Wayne genes and his evil (brown) al Ghul ones — Damian is conflicted, for sure, but Ba’s depiction is far more nuanced than “all the brown people just happen to be evil, the end.” We’re only two issues into this five-issue miniseries, and I can’t wait for the rest.

—Jess Plummer

cover of Dying Inside, a graphic novel by Pete Wentz, Hannah Klein, and Lisa Sterle

Dying Inside by Pete Wentz, Hannah Klein, and Lisa Sterle (Headshell, September 17, 2024)

(TW: suicide) I’m going to be up-front here. This graphic novel starts with a suicide attempt, which may be upsetting to some readers. But I was immediately charmed by the sassy and sarcastic main protagonist despite myself, and when Ash discovers she’s been charmed with a protection spell, the story swiftly evolves into a witchy mystery involving curses, medical malpractice, and queer love. 

—Steph Auteri

Cover of Jupiter Nettle and the Seven Schools of Magic by Sangu Mandanna & Pablo Ballesteros

Jupiter Nettle and the Seven Schools of Magic by Sangu Mandanna & Pablo Ballesteros

This middle grade graphic novel, and the first in a new series, is absolutely adorable! It’s a great substitute for that popular magic school series that I’m not going to mention. Jupiter has always wanted to attend the Seven Schools of Magic. Unfortunately, when she tests to join the school, her magic ability is very low. However, she does pass the Earth Magic test, and the Earth Mage accepts her as his apprentice. His only apprentice. While the other schools have lots of students, she’s the only Earth magic student. Other students look down on Earth magic because it doesn’t require magical ability. The professor is also more than a bit grumpy. Being the Earth magic apprentice involves a lot of sweat and hard work while caring for the magical creatures and garden. When a bully gets under Jupiter’s skin, she leaves the school. However, it turns out the school needs her now more than ever. I LOVED this and cannot wait for book two.

—Margaret Kingsbury

cover of Korgi: The Complete Tale, a graphic novel by Christian Slade

Korgi: The Complete Tale by Christian Slade 

Holy cats, er, dogs, this is the most adorable, delightful thing I have read in a long time! It’s set in a forest of fairy people, where they all live with korgis. (Literally, they’re corgi dogs, like the Queen of England had, but it’s spelled with a ‘k’ because it looks kooler.) But they’re also teeny, like the fairies. The main character is a Korgi named Sprout, who goes adventuring with her fairy friend Ivy. There are weird creatures, fungi, flying machines, magic, danger, and more. And the whole comic is wordless, except for a bit of narration here and there from a frog in a wizard hat. It’s a little bit Bone, a little bit Haru, and a whole lot of adorable puppies. I don’t know how I missed it in its individual trade editions, but I was lucky enough to receive an e-galley of the whole collection, and I am so in love with it; I picked up the finished edition, which weighs almost as much as a corgi.

—Liberty Hardy

cover of The Keeper: Soccer, Me, and the Law that Changed Women’s Lives, a graphic novel by  Kelcey Ervick

The Keeper: Soccer, Me, and the Law that Changed Women’s Lives by Kelcey Ervick (Avery 2022)

For Kelcey Ervick, soccer was life for her as she grew up. She played keeper on an elite national soccer team, finding friendship and confidence in the sport. She and her teammates had no idea about the prior history leading to the formation of the team, notably the impact of Title IX and trailblazers in sport. It’s her own story of regret, as she chose to walk away but also a history of women’s soccer in the US. Told through beautiful drawings, Ervick brings her story to light with meditations on what soccer and literature meant to her.

—Elisa Shoenberger

My Favorite Thing Is Monsters Book Two cover

My Favorite Thing is Monsters Book 2 by Emil Ferris

We finally have the sequel to this celebrated graphic novel, and it was worth the wait. Intricately etched with full, exciting pages and a bold story, it picks up where the last left off: Karen, a young monster, is investigating her neighbor’s murder in the Uptown apartment where she’s grown up. But the secrets she’s discovered aren’t the ones she was looking for, and in this book, she’ll have to fight hard to avoid coming apart at the seams. This bold coming-of-age tale about queerness, difference, family, and the city of Chicago is impactful, emotional, and bold, and I was both overjoyed and very sad to see the story of Karen Reyes come to its conclusion.

—Leah Rachel von Essen

cover of Northranger by Rey by Rey Terciero and Bre Indigo

Northranger by Rey Terciero, Bre Indigo (Illustrator)

This is a gay coming-of-age love story with a horror-obsessed teen set on a ranch that has light spooky vibes, and explores grief, family (including blended), and coming out. It’s a touching graphic novel that teens and adults can enjoy—I certainly spent a lovely afternoon reading it.

—Jamie Canavés 

cover of The Worst Ronin by Maggie Tokuda-Hall

The Worst Ronin by Maggie Tokuda-Hall and Faith Schaffer

Chihiro Ito is sixteen and obsessed with Tatsuo Nakano, a famous samurai and the first girl to be accepted to the renowned samurai school, Keisi Academy. Chihiro has been training with her father who is an esteemed samurai in retirement. He has an existing injury from his samurai days which makes the fact that he has been called back into service even more worrisome. Chihiro is eager to prove herself and volunteers to go in his place, which her parents only allow if she finds a rōnin to accompany her and fight the monster as a team. Chihiro wants to hire her idol, Tatsuo Nakano, and quickly finds that her idol is not at all who she imagined.

Patricia Elzie-Tuttle

For even more of our favorite recent comics reads, check out last quarter’s Riot Roundup. And don’t forget to check out our roundup of the best books we read this quarter, too!