Posted in Graphic Novels, Teen, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

Two more DC original YA graphic novels to put on your TBR: The Oracle Code and Batman: Overdrive

DC Ink is knocking it out of the park with their original graphic novels for the YA audience! The next two coming up star Oracle and The Bat himself.

The Oracle Code, by Marieke Nijkamp/Illustrated by Manuel Preitano, (March 2020, DC Ink), $16.99, ISBN: 9781401290665

Ages 12+

Marieke Nijkamp, whose book, This Is Where It Ends is still one of the most intense books I’ve ever read, brings her intensity to a creepy mystery in the Bat-Family universe. The Oracle Code centers on Barbara Gordon, (later known as Batgirl), hacker and daredevil daughter of Gotham’s own James Gordon. Deftly creating her own entry in the DC Otherworlds universe by having Barbara’s gunshot paralysis occur while witnessing a police chase a suspect – as opposed to being shot, point blank, by the Joker, as was established in the 1988 graphic novel, Batman: The Killing Joke – we get a younger, Barbara whose personality is still in adolescent flux, and will be formed by the events she experiences in The Oracle Code. Barbara enters the Arkham Center for Independence, delivered by her father, to learn how to navigate her new normal and undergo physical, mental, and emotional rehabilitation. Barbara is slow to come around, and we feel her anger and her despondence as powerfully as we feel her sense of loss. When she meets a fellow patient who insists her brother is also at Arkham, Barbara thinks, at first, that the girl is dealing with her own loss: until her gut tells her otherwise. Barbara opens up her own investigation, which could put her at even greater risk.

I loved The Oracle Code. Big shoutout to one of my favorite colorists, Jordie Bellaire, for creating a somber, almost sinister mood with Manuel Preitano’s fantastic artwork. The story builds as we wonder who’s reliable and who isn’t, and Barbara doesn’t escape judgement here, either. Seeing Barbara reclaim her agency is an incredible thing; readers will appreciate her frustration as she is blown off and questioned time and again. Another home run for DC Ink and for Marieke Nijkamp.

Batman: Overdrive, by Shea Fontana/Illustrated by Marcelo Di Chiara, (Feb. 2020, DC Ink), $9.99, ISBN: 9781401283568

Ages 10+

DC Superhero Girls writer and illustrator Shea Fontana and Marcelo Di Chiara turn their powers to a pre-Batman Bruce Wayne in Batman: Overdrive! Bruce Wayne, angry and struggling to come to terms with his parents’ deaths, turns his skills to detective work and automotive work: he decides to rebuild his dad’s first car. There’s an interesting new spin on his origin with Catwoman as the teen Bruce makes two new friends; Selina Kyle and Mateo Diaz, and we see young Bruce laying the foundation for the man who will become Batman.

Overdrive gives us a Bruce Wayne fraught with conflict. Alfred isn’t in his confidence yet; he pushes back and argues with him at every turn. He’s working through his anger and learning to trust here, and framed within the story of his father’s car, Batman: Overdrive is a solid Batman origin story. This skews toward a slightly younger audience in both writing and artwork; middle schoolers will enjoy this as much as a teen audience. Frustration with parents and a strong desire for freedom will resonate with all readers.


Posted in Graphic Novels, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

DC’s new YA graphic novels star Wonder Woman and Batgirl

DC Comics has been putting out consistently good original graphic novels under their DC Ink imprint.  They’ve hired top-name YA talent, like Lauren Myracle (Catwoman), Mariko Tamaki (Harley Quinn), Kami Garcia (Raven), Danielle Paige (Mera) and Marie Lu (Batman) to tell a more human story for each of these super-teens. When I received copies of Louise Simonson’s upcoming graphic adaptation of Leigh Bardugo’s Warbringer and Sarah Kuhn’s Shadow of the Batgirl, I squealed.

Wonder Woman: Warbringer, by Leigh Bardugo/Adapted by Louise Simonson/Illustrated by Kit Seaton, (Jan. 2020, DC Ink), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-4012-8255-4

Ages 12+

Before she was Wonder Woman, she was Diana, daughter of Hippolyta and the only inhabitant of Themiscyra to have been created, molded, given life at the behest of her mother and granted by the gods. This vision of Themyscira is more like a Valhalla for fallen female warriors: the way in is to die in battle. Because Diana’s existence differs from other residents of the island, she constantly feels she must prove herself to her Amazon sisters. The chance comes during a race – which she becomes diverted from when she sees a sinking ship and one survivor flailing in the water. The ship, from the world of Man, should not be there, but Diana can’t stand to let anyone die. She rescues a young woman named Alia Keralis, hiding her away until she can figure out what to do. But Themyscira reacts to Alia’s presence, and after consulting with the Oracle, Diana learns that Alia is a Warbringer – a descendant of Helen of Troy, and doomed to bring war, bloodshed, and misery wherever she goes – decides to bring Alia back to her world. When Diana and Alia arrive in modern-day New York, they find themselves in the middle of a struggle between factions who want the Warbringer for themselves, whether to end her line or possess her power.

Louise Simonson is a comic book legend, with Marvel and DC titles to her credit. Here, she masterfully adapts Leigh Bardugo’s novel to graphic format, focusing on Diana’s relationships: with the Amazons, with her mother, with Alia; each one fraught with tension. Diana learns to navigate these relationships while unraveling an ancient mystery in order to save the world. Literally. Kit Seaton’s artwork gives us mythic monsters, urban living, and sprawling Themyscira. There are moments where Diana’s innocence about the modern world of Man is played for laughs, like when she goes back at a guy making comments on the subway. Alia and her brother are biracial; Alia’s best friend, Nim, is Southeast Asian and bisexual.

Like the other DC Ink books, this one is a good add to your YA original graphic novels.


Shadow of the Batgirl: A Cassandra Cain Graphic Novel, by Sarah Kuhn/Illustrated by Nicole Goux, Feb. 2020, DC Ink), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-4012-8978-2

Ages 12+

Cassandra Cain, teen assassin, is on the streets hunting her latest prey. But the dying pleas with Cain to relay a message to his daughter strikes a chord, and she goes on the run, hiding out in… a library! She sits in on a Batgirl storytime talk, delivered by my favorite comic book librarian, a wheelchair-bound Barbara Gordon, and finds herself enamored with Batgirl. Never taught to speak by her father, crime lord David Cain, she finds refuge with a local restaurant owner, Jackie Yoneyama, and eventually, Barbara Gordon herself. As Cassandra begins opening up to the two women, she also learns to speak, read, and write, and discovers that her father is wreaking havoc in Gotham City in his quest to gain control over the world’s assassins. It’s time for someone new to assume the Batgirl mantle, and Barbara knows the Cassandra has what it takes.

I am psyched that we get a Batgirl story that stars two different Batgirls! Barbara Gordon is more of an mentor/guiding force here; readers familiar with Batgirl’s history will know she’s in a wheelchair after the events of The Killing Joke. If you don’t know, it’s fine; it has no bearing on this story. Barbara has to pass on the cape and cowl, and Cassandra – an Asian-American girl who knows how to fight, and has a strong inner morality that steers her away from her cruel father. Sarah Kuhn can write great comic moments, and there a few in here, to lighten the storyline. The artwork is more colorful than I’ve seen in other DC Ink books, which tend toward two-color, with extra color for emphasis; here, we get some warm oranges when Cassandra is in the presence of Barbara and Jackie; colors tend toward cooler blues and purples when she’s struggling with her thoughts or shades of rose for other character’s memories. I loved Shadow of the Batgirl. Sarah Kuhn knows how to give readers a great superheroine origin.