Posted in Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

DC Original Graphic Novel Rundown

There’s a new batch of DC original graphic novels coming up, and trust and believe these will be on my shelves (and if my Kiddo has anything to say about it, my home shelves are included).

Shazam! Thundercrack, by Yehudi Mercado, (Feb. 2023, DC Comics), $9.99, ISBN: 9781779505026

Ages 8-12

Yehudi Mercado is the perfect author/illustrator to bring this fun Shazam tale to comic book life. Beginning with Billy Batson’s arrival at his new foster family home and bonding with his new foster brother, Freddy, the main plot kicks in pretty quickly: as Billy and Freddy tests the limits of Billy’s power when he’s Shazam, they realize that even when he’s in Billy’s form, he’s got some power moves – and that leads him to join the school football team. The only thing is, Billy isn’t much of a team player. He just doesn’t have that kind of trust in others, so when the chips are down for the team, why should Billy come through? Maybe because a rival school is using biotech experimentation that makes them very, very dangerous? Maybe because Billy’s foster dad drops some wisdom on Billy? Thundercrack is fun, easy reading that captures the light spirit of the 2019 movie (and the upcoming movie, Fury of the Gods). Mercado is at the top of his game when he’s writing everyday family comedy that balances with a pathos that understands each character’s backstory. Having the story take place within the DCU timeline has a nice link for readers who are versed in the cinematic universe; Freddy is a strong Number 1 to Billy and has his own spirited journey in the story, with vlog entries and commentary running through the story. Add this one to your middle grade graphic novel collections – kids aren’t getting nearly enough Shazam! in their comic book diets.

 

Bruce Wayne: Not Super, by Stuart Gibbs/Illustrated by Berat Pekmezci, (March 2023, DC Comics), $12.99, ISBN: 9781779507679

Ages 8-12

Another middle grade luminary takes the reins for this Bruce Wayne-Before-Batman story. Batman: Not Super is all about Bruce Wayne, who attends a super-special school. No, really, all the students have superpowers except for Bruce, who’s only there because his parents paid for the school to be built before they passed away. He’s rubbing shoulders with superhero elite here, but he’s not the most popular kid in school; he hangs out with an 11-year-old named Dick Grayson, whose gymnastic abilities got him into the school. He’s bullied by Clark Kent, who uses his x-ray vision to see through Bruce’s clothes and tell everyone what underwear he’s wearing that day. Things change when bully Jack Napier steals Dick’s ice cream money, though: Bruce has found his mission, and it’s to be a vigilante! Now, to just figure out how to get around his guardian, Alfred, who won’t let Bruce undertake any dangerous missions. Even when Dick overhears Jack telling Bane that they’re going to rob all the lockers while everyone is at the big game. Fast-paced dialogue and swiftly moving action come together with jokes and humor. Pekmezci’s artwork is a feast for superhero-loving eyes as the DC Middle School Universe unfolds in front of them: Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy are canoodling by the lockers; Penguin and Selina Kyle are here; Arthur Curry is more AquaKid than Aquaman, but he’s talking to the fish in the school fish tank, and Wonder Girl Donna Troy is Diana Prince’s younger sister. Sharp-eyed comics fans will catch some deep cuts, like Polka Dot Man, and comics fans of a *cough* certain age will appreciate the Bat Shark Repellent joke that finds its way into most Bat-humor. Bruce Wayne: Not Super is another home run for middle graders. Put this one on your shelves.

 

Teen Titans: Robin, by Kami Garcia/Illustrated by Gabriel Picolo, (March 2023, DC Comics), $16.99, ISBN: 9781779512246

Ages 13-17

The third in the Teen Titans series from Kami Garcia and Gabriel Picolo, Teen Titans: Robin is the fourth Teen Titans story that includes Raven, Beast Boy, and Beast Boy Loves Raven. Joined by Damian Wayne and Max Navarro, the group is on the run from Slade Wilson and H.I.V.E.; Dick Grayson leaves Gotham to find his younger brother, Damian. Damian resists getting to know his adopted brother, feeling like his father, Bruce, attempted to replace him, but Grayson just wants to get to know his brother and keep him and his friends safe. With equal emphasis on character growth, developing relationships, and action, this is a great addition to the series. Picolo does so much storytelling through his color changes and shading; he takes each color that readers and viewers familiar with the Titans will recognize and makes them part of the story, leaving Slade Wilson’s story gray and desolate. This one’s for the middle and high schoolers, but upper grade elementary schoolers may be interested, too.

I’ve been such a fan of these YA and middle grade books since they launched a few years ago. By bringing original graphic novels to kids and finding authors and illustrators that are standout names, they’re investing brand new generations of readers into comics and graphic novels.

Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Teen, Tween Reads, Uncategorized, Young Adult/New Adult

Two more original DC graphic novels! Gotham High and My Video Game Ate My Homework

I missed the boat on this one when they pubbed on April 7th, but now, you have no excuse: two more DC original graphic novels have been out for a month now, and I am about to rave them. I picked up these advance copies at ALA Midwinter earlier this year, and had the best conversation with the folks at the DC Booth. I hope you’re all safe and sound, if you’re reading this, and trust me, I’m working my way through the stack o’graphic novels you were kind enough to send me home with.

Gotham High, by Melissa de la Cruz/Illustrated by Thomas Pitilli, (April 2020, DC Comics), $16.99, ISBN: 9781401286248

Ages 12-17

Melissa de la Cruz is a YA powerhouse: my middle graders can’t get enough of her Descendents novels, and my teens and YA readers devour her Alex and Eliza books. She can navigate complicated relationships between her characters, and who gets more complicated than the Joker, Catwoman, and Batman? Right? Gotham High is a YA take on Bruce, Selina, and Jack as teens – no capes, no superpowers, just the baggage they already come with (SO much baggage). Bruce is 17, just kicked out of boarding school, and has too many ghosts, in the form of memories, inhabiting stately Wayne Manor. Selina Kyle used to be the girl next door, now a Gotham High student that hangs out with Jack Napier, class clown with a heck of a mean streak. Bruce falls in with the two, and finds himself involved in a love triangle of sorts. But a kidnapping rocks Gotham High, and Bruce is thrust into the role of detective to get to the bottom of things.

Taking away the capes, gadgets, and makeup, Melissa de la Cruz gives us three incredibly complex, flawed characters, and brings us into their contentious friendship. She gives us chilling moments and dread realizations about the people each character will eventually become – with or without a costume. She makes them easily relatable and recognizable, and artist Thomas Pitilli gives us realistic characters with his artwork, with all the rah-rah high school spirit we expect to find in a high school hallway to the anger always simmering below the surface for each character. He captures the spirit of high school, in all its internal chaos, with style.

 

My Video Game Ate My Homework, by Dustin Hansen, (Apr. 2020, DC Comics), $9.99, ISBN: 9781401293260

Ages 8-12

This is a fandom-filled graphic novel that kids and grownups alike will love Dewey is a 13-year-old kid on the verge of flunking science when he and his friends gets sucked into a video game adventure that presents them with challenges, fights with digital monsters, and puzzles to solve. Loaded with sight gags and wink-nudges to video games, con life, and overall fandom, kids (and big kids, like me) will see themselves in Dewey and Co.

The book encourages readers to problem solve and emphasizes the importance of cooperation and teamwork. The cartoony-realistic style and fantasy monsters are so much fun – perfect story to introduce if you have Dungeons & Dragons fledgling fans. If you have Secret Coders readers, give them this book, which will continue challenging their problem-solving skills and captivating them with a fun storyline.

Dustin Hansen’s also written the Microsaurs series, which never stays on my library shelves. (Which means I probably need to order them for my kid, because he would LOVE them.) I got to talk to him at Midwinter, and he’s one of the nicest people ever.

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 Fiction, Fiction, Humor, Intermediate, Middle Grade

A Dark Knight bedtime parody: Goodnight Batcave

batcaveGoodnight Batcave, by Dave Croatto/Illustrated by Tom Richmond, (Oct. 2016, MAD Magazine), $14.99, ISBN: 9781401270100

Recommended for ages 5+

“In the great gray cave, there were a lot of bats, and souvenirs saved…”

Margaret Wise Brown could never have seen this coming: her sweet bedtime story has been turned into seemingly countless tongue-in-cheek retellings, including Goodnight iPad and Goodnight Goon. Goodnight Batcave is MAD Magazine’s take on the sleepytime classic and takes readers inside Batman’s inner sanctum, The Batcave. Batman’s wiped out and ready for bed, but his rogues gallery – including both fan favorites and old reliables, from Joker to Bane – just won’t behave and decide to attack the Batcave, maybe in the hopes of catching Bats unawares for the night? Using Goodnight Moon‘s familiar rhythm, Dave Croatto hilariously inserts Batman references that any fan worth their Bat-insignia pajamas will love. Bats flips and whips, knocks out knaves and bowls Penguins down the stairs. At the end of the night, Alfred is there, as always, to send Master Bruce off to sleep.

Tom Richmond’s art is classic MAD style, with exaggerated facial expressions and a superhero chin that you could land a Bat-Plane on. There are fantastic little references and Easter eggs for fans, including a nice showing by Ace, the Bat-Hound, and a quietly, ever-present Bat-mite, who snuggles up to Bats when their shift is finally over. The giant penny and T-Rex are there, and – this is MAD, after all – Alfred E. Neuman makes a cameo.

Younger Bat-fans will get a kick out of the fun take on a Bat-time story, and grown-up Batfans will love having this one on their bookshelves alongside favorite graphic novels and trade paperbacks.

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade

Batman’s Backstory: Gotham’s Guardian

batmanBatman: Gotham City’s Guardian, by Matthew Manning/Illustrated by Steven Gordon (Jan. 2016, Scholastic), $5.99, ISBN: 9780545868167

Recommended for ages 7-10

What would a series of DC Backstories be without the Dark Knight? Scholastic’s Batman: Gotham City’s Guardian gives readers a quick history of Batman, his friends and foes, and origin.

Gotham City’s Guardian follows the style set by the previous Backstories: we have a foreword by Batman, leading into his origin story; a roll call of friends, foes, and family, including a breakdown of the four sidekicks who have worn the Robin mask; a chronology of the characters’ origins; a short biography in chapters; timelines; glossaries; fast facts, and indexes.

Readers learn how small-time mugger Joe Chill created an icon during a robbery gone wrong in Gotham’s infamous Crime Alley; how a young Bruce Wayne traveled the world, learning from experts in martial arts, investigation, even acting, so he could gain the skills he needed to avenge his parents; how he embraced the image of the bat, and how he eschews firearms because of the devastation they brought to his life at such a young age. The guide is comprehensive, covering such major events as Batman’s back being broken at the hands of supervillain Bane and the Joker’s murder of Jason Todd’s Robin. Heavily illustrated, we also have fun touches like Bruce Wayne’s own drawings, newspaper clippings, and schematics for such gadgets as Batman’s utility belt and several important vehicles.

Get the full set in time for the movie (only 3 weeks away now!) and get your kidlings caught up on the real origin stories for Bats, Supes, and Wondy!

Posted in Fiction, Humor, Intermediate

Are you ready for The Study Hall of Justice?

Young Bruce Wayne is excited to be accepted into the Ducard Academy in Gotham City, a prep school for gifted middle school students. Almost immediately, though, Bruce feels like something is off. The kids aren’t that friendly. The teachers encourage the kids to behave badly; even reward them for it! He teams up with two other misfit students – a farmboy named Clark Kent and an exchange student named Diana Prince – to figure out what’s really going on at Ducard Academy.

studyhall

Study Hall of Justice (DC Comics Secret Hero Society #1), by Derek Fridolfs/Illustrated by Dustin Nguyen (Jan. 2016, Scholastic), $12.99, ISBN: 9780545825016

Told using Bruce Wayne’s online journal, texts and messages between Bruce, Clark, and Diana, other digital media, Study Hall of Justice is a great way to create a new chapter book series to introduce younger readers to some of our most famous superheroes. The storytelling is fun, light, and fast-paced, and uses communication methods kids use nowadays. I’m a big fan of the superhero chapter book to get kids reading, and this series looks like a good one for intermediate readers.

There’s a great pedigree attached to this series, too – the writer and artist behind the DC comic, Lil’ Gotham, is at the controls for this first book in the DC Secret Society.

lilgotham_cover_rvsdSeriously, how cute is Lil’ Gotham?

I’m looking forward to more books in this series, and you should, too. The book is due out in just shy of two weeks, so you won’t have long to wait!

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Fiction, Middle Grade

The Joker’s Dozen: A Batman Choose Your Own Adventure!

cover52077-mediumThe Joker’s Dozen, by Laurie S. Sutton/illus. by Ethen Beavers (2015, Capstone) $6.95, ISBN: 9781434297112

Recommended for ages 7-12

The Joker is back! This time, he’s turning the good people of Gotham City into giggling thieves! It’s up to you to help Batman this time- is he outnumbered, or are the odds pretty evenly matched? What weapon should he use? Will he save the city, or will Joker have the last laugh? You make the call, you choose the adventure!

This is a pretty quick and easy read for young readers who are comfortable with chapter books. Unlike traditional Choose Your Own Adventure Books, these are really just different scenarios, not really affected by the choices you make. Which, for a younger reader, is probably the best way to go. With 12 different endings, this will be a book that kids will get a different experience with time and again- there are a multitude of different choices and stories readers can create!

This is a fun book to have handy for the kid who’s always bored. (You know the kid.) There’s some great Batman artwork from DC comic artist Ethen Beavers, with fast-paced storytelling and a sense of control over the story. For only $6.95, expect this book to see some action, in your home, classroom, or library.

Posted in Fiction, Tween Reads

Catwoman’s Nine Lives is great fun for intermediate readers!

batmanCatwoman’s Nine Lives, by Matthew K. Manning (Capstone, August 2014). $5.95, ISBN: 9781434291363

Recommended for ages 7-12

Catwoman’s at it again. After giving Batman the slip during a chase, she comes home to find Penguin waiting for her, with a proposal – steal the Ventriloquist’s Dummy, Scarface. It will render him helpless and eliminate the competition he poses to Penguin. Never able to turn down the chance for a good score, Catwoman accepts, and touches off a war! The Ventriloquist wants revenge against Penguin, and Penguin has no intention of backing down. Will Catwoman turn to Batman for help, or will she allow a bloody crime war to rage unchecked?

This book is a fun read; a great combination of chapter book and graphic novel, it will hold readers’ interests with the fast-paced action and Luciano Vecchio’s intense art. Vecchio is well-versed in DC artwork, handling art duties on Beware the Batman, Young Justice, and the Green Lantern Animated Series. Matthew K. Manning, the Bat-scribe here, is a well-known comic writer whose work I really like; here, he doesn’t talk down or over his audience. He’s right where the kids need him to be, and, with Vecchio, creates a fun adventure.

Enhanced content, including comics terms and a glossary of words used in the story, and discussion questions, means this book will be one of the hottest book on the shelves at school libraries. The book can easily be applied to Common Core lessons, including discussions of sequences of events for younger readers and ambiguous morality for more intermediate audiences.

Capstone’s Capstone Kids website is a great resource, with activities and character bios for all their properties, including sections on the DC Superheroes and Super Pets.

The book will be published on August 1, but in the meantime, there are more Capstone DC titles – hit your libraries and bookstores to find some! They’re a great way to ease kids into summer reading!