Riot Roundup: The Best Comics We Read January-March 2023
One of the best experiences for any reader is the chance to corner someone and passionately recommend our recent favorite read. In order to spare our friends and family from having to endure this for the hundredth time, we do quarterly Comics Riot Roundups, where we can recommend our favorite comics and graphic novels that we’ve read recently — to a willing audience.
These are the comics we’ve read and loved recently, including both new releases and backlist titles. Book Rioters read in a big range of genres, so you can expect superhero comics, graphic nonfiction, a YA fantasy graphic novel, and lots more. But despite how much Book Riot writers collectively read, we can’t get to everything, tragically, so let us know on social media which comics and graphic novels you’ve read recently and recommend!
Batman: Beyond the White Knight by Sean Murphy
Sean Murphy does it again with his Elseworlds take on Batman: Beyond. Following a dozen years after Curse of the White Knight, Bruce is in jail. But when a young man takes control of Bruce’s very experimental and very dangerous Beyond armor, Bruce “Don’t Call Me Batman” Wayne breaks out of prison to shut it down. Murphy has been upending the traditional Batman stories since day one, and it continues in this great future story.
—Chris M. Arnone
Catwoman by Tini Howard and Nico Leon
The minute Tini Howard took over Catwoman, I knew something electric was happening. After a few years of mourning her marriage-that-wasn’t to Batman, Selina Kyle was finally having fun again: Heists! Road trips! Love affairs! Roller derby with Harley Quinn! Every issue of Howard’s run has been pure, joyful action with Selina as the brilliant center of a cast of mostly queer underdogs — sorry, undercats — while still retaining the moral complexity and toughness that make Catwoman such an enduring character. Nico Leon’s art keeps the action moving smoothly while also making every character as gorgeous as they’ve ever been. Start their run with Catwoman: Dangerous Liaisons, and enjoy.
Cosmoknights Book Two by Hannah Templer
I’ll be the first to admit I’m weak for space gays, but this sequel to Cosmoknights was everything I ever could’ve wanted and more. This medieval-inspired futuristic world is just so stunningly depicted by Templer, and I loved seeing how Pan and her friends adapted to having new companions aboard the ship. Also space pirates! And Tara! And the whole gang reckoning with rescuing a princess who didn’t want to be rescued. I’m just so in love with this world and these characters. Keep the space gays coming!
Flung Out of Space by Grace Ellis and Hannah Templer
Patricia Highsmith plays a huge role in queer literary history, but she was far from perfect, or even simply being a good person. This graphic biography takes an unflinching look at her career and complicated personal life, presenting her as a kind of antihero at a crossroads. I love how Grace Ellis and Hannah Templer framed her story and showed her weaknesses without intentionally villainizing her. This is a great example of how comics can give us a uniquely creative window into history.
The Last Halloween: Children by Abby Howard
This has got everything you could possibly want. Halloween, a cute little girl main character, monsters, and did I mention Halloween? Basically, a young girl finds herself stuck at home on Halloween, but things go from bad to worse when a monster tries to kill her. She escapes only to stumble into a group of friendlier monsters who tell her that every human has their own personal monster. If the monster kills the human, they live forever. Something that kept the delicate balance of monsters and humans has been unstuck so the monsters are having a field day. Can Mona and her new found weird friends save the planet? I love how spirited Mona is; unlike a lot of protagonists in her situation, she is aware how she’s a 10-year-old girl with such a weighty task. I can’t wait for Volume 2+. Also, it’s from Iron Circus, so a bonus for awesome independent comic book press!
The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen
I am a sucker for good coming out stories and for fairy tales, so imagine my joy at finding this delightful graphic novel that encompasses both of these things. A young boy struggles with how to come out to his immigrant mother, even as she struggles with missing her own family back home. They are able to connect through storytelling, and by reading fairy tales to each other, they are able to talk about the hard stuff. This was such a moving and beautiful story, and I am already looking for every comic Trung Le Nguyen has had a hand in creating.
Mimosa by Archie Bongiovanni
This graphic novel about a group of queer friends in their 30s navigating parenthood, breakups, dating, work, money, friendship, aging, and burn-out is one of the most visceral depictions of what it feels like to be a queer thirty-something that I’ve ever read. The characters are flawed and trying; they hurt each other; they make mistakes that they sometimes fix and and sometimes don’t. They are all so caught up in their own worlds that they sometimes forget that they’re not alone. There is nothing easy or fluffy or heartwarming about this book. It’s real, it’s honest, it’s a little sad and a lot funny. It doesn’t sugarcoat queer life, but tells it like it is. I loved every moment of it.
Ms Marvel: Kamala Khan by G. Willow Wilson, illustrated by Adrian Alphona, Jake Wyatt, and Nico Leon
To start my year off right, I began 2023 by blazing through the first four collected volumes of the 2014 Ms Marvel, and gosh. What a joy! The stories are a tribute to New Jersey, my home state, a vivid coming-of-age story, and does teens actual justice. Kamala is a star, and Wilson’s writing is superb. But my favorite part was the art by Adrian Alphona, who adds easter eggs in the backgrounds of his scenes, scattering little fun clues and mini-storylines for the reader to find, adding an extra dimension to this already excellent series.
—Leah Rachel von Essen
Shadow of the Batgirl by Sarah Kuhn & Nicole Goux
This YA graphic novel providing Chinese American Cassandra Cain’s origin story as Batgirl is so much fun and has so many heartwarming moments. As a child, Cass’s supervillain father trained her to be a living weapon. When she escapes the abuse, she finds refuge in Gotham City’s public library, where she befriends former Batgirl and wheelchair user Barbara Gordon and talkative teen bookworm Erik, who especially loves romances. Elderly restaurant owner Jackie Fujikawa Yoneyama helps her find food, and Cass, Jackie, and Barbara form a squad against rising crime in Gotham. Meanwhile, Cass’s father isn’t about to let his most deadly weapon escape. I adored the intergenerational friendship and burgeoning romance in this superhero comic.
White Savior by Eric Nguyen and Scott Burman
From the very first page, really from the title, you know this series is going to skewer the old “white savior” trope. And that’s exactly what it does. While the humor is a bit heavy-handed at times, the unusual blend of samurai action, coming-of-age, and Asian American diaspora story is inventive and fun. Once you get past an uneven first issue, this series really finds its groove and is worth a read.
—Chris M. Arnone