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

Books from Quarantine: Wonder Woman and Aqualad

DC Ink has two more original YA graphic novels out, and they are getting the cream of the YA crop to write them, pairing them with outstanding artists to illustrate. What a time to be a comic book fan (or new to comic books)!

Wonder Woman: Tempest Tossed, by Laurie Halse Anderson/Illustrated by Leila Del Duca, (June 2020, DC Comics), $16.99, ISBN: 9781401286453

Ages 12+

Easily one of the best Wonder Woman stories I’ve ever read. Diana is the first and only woman on Themyscira to have a birthday (you can read about her origins, both original and updated, here), so her 16th Born Day is a cause for great celebration! The festivities are interrupted when refugees in rafts drift across the barrier separating Themyscira from our world, and Diana, horrified at the sight of people struggling to stay afloat in tumultuous waters, is furious with the Themyscirans who refuse to get involved. She dives into the water and begins helping the strugglers back into the raft, only to discover that the veil has drawn back, obscuring Themyscira once again… and she’s outside of it. Wonder Woman is a teenaged refugee with no way back home and separated from everything she knows and loves. Once the rafts come ashore in Greece, she joins the other refugees as they wait for food, warm clothes, and shelter; she endures the baleful stares and harsh talk from those around her who have no trust in the refugees. Diana is a stranger in a strange and sometimes, unfriendly land. With the help of two kind aid workers named Steve and Trevor, she heads to the United States to formalize her education and become an aid worker herself. And she also discovers a dark underbelly in her new home that demands justice.

This is an incredible Wonder Woman story that strips (most) of her superpowers away and leaves us with the story of a young woman, alone, enduring life as a refugee in our world. With the right care and help, she can make a difference in the world: but how many of our refugees get that chance? A powerful message delivered by Laurie Halse Anderson, with beautiful artwork from comic book artist Leila Del Duca, Tempest Tossed is a strong statement on our attitudes toward refugees, justice, and the state of our world today.

 

You Brought Me the Ocean, by Alex Sanchez/Illustrated by Julie Maroh, (June 2020, DC Comics), $16.99, ISBN: 9781401290818

Ages 12+

Who better to write a story about Aqualad than Rainbow Boys author Alex Sanchez? Jake Hyde is a high school kid living with his widowed mother in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. He is desperate to leave his hometown and study oceanography in Miami. Since his father died, his mother won’t let him near water; it’s at odds with his strong attraction to the ocean, his desire to be near the water. His best friend, Maria, wants him to stay home and go to a local college with her… where they can make a home together in the future… but Jake doesn’t really feel that way about Maria. And then, there’s Kenny Liu, the openly gay and proud swimmer at school. He doesn’t care about the jerks that tease him, and he’ll never let himself be bullied. Jake is drawn to Kenny; as the two spend more time together, Jake realizes that his feelings for Kenny are very, very different than he feels for Maria, and that Kenny feels the same, too. At the same time, Jake discovers that what he thought were birthmarks on his skin are actually something very different, too… something that connects him to his father, who isn’t quite dead after all. Jake is about to learn his origin, but it may not be what he wants to hear.

If you saw the Aquaman movie, you know who Jake is. (Hint: he isn’t related to Aquaman.) Aqualad, in the DC Universe, is a founding member of Teen Titans and has come out as gay in the Young Justice animated show. This story is a coming-out story and origin story, both given the sensitivity necessary when writing this character. Graphic novel author and illustrator Julie Maroh creates soft, almost dreamlike artwork with earthy shades and watery shades to show the difference between Jake’s life in New Mexico and his origins in the water. A gorgeous book and story, perfect for Pride month and beyond. A very fun cameo makes this an all-around win.

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, 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.

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

DC Ink: Top name YA authors and reimagined origin stories. Sign me up!

DC Ink is a fairly new (little over a year) DC Comics imprint, dedicated to middle grade and YA original graphic novels. I only had a sneak peek at Harley Quinn’s upcoming book, Breaking Glass, and haven’t read Mera’s book, Tidebreaker yet, but I received ARCs for both Under the Moon: A Catwoman Tale, and Teen Titans: Raven, and had to dive in.

As with the YA novels in the DC Icons line, every book DC Ink is written by YA royalty, so you just know you’re getting good stuff before you even open the book. They’re illustrated by graphic novel rock stars, so  you’re going to get some phenomenal artwork. Put it all together, and you’ve got a can’t-miss group of graphic novels coming your way. Let’s check ’em out.

Under the Moon: A Catwoman Tale, by Lauren Myracle/Illustrated by Isaac Goodheart, (May 2019, DC Ink), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-4012-8591-3

Ages 13+

We all know Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman, has a multitude of origin stories (the comics, Gotham, Batman Returns, The Dark Knight Rises), but it’s because she’s such a captivating character: authors want to tell ALL the stories, and we want to read them! Selina can be anyone, from anywhere; her fluidity makes her a longtime fan favorite, and in Lauren Myracle’s hands, we get an entirely new Selina: a 14-year-old, living with her mother and her revolving door of awful boyfriends. The current one, Dernell, has been around for a while, and seems to be the absolute worst. He’s verbally and physically abusive, and Selina’s mother won’t say a word against him. When he goes too far in “punishing” Selina one night, she has had enough: she runs away and lives on the streets, stealing what she needs to survive. And she finds that not only is she good at it, but she enjoys it. A group of homeless kids adopts Selina, despite her desire to be a loner; she’s drawn in by Rosie, a selectively mute young girl who bonds with Selina. But Rosie goes missing, and Selina finds herself in an awkward situation as she tries to track Rosie down and keep her safe.

Under the Moon is such a good origin story. The consistent thing about Selina is that she’s always capable, always collected, and always at odds with her desire to be a loner and her desire to help those less fortunate then she is. Her vulnerability is her heart, but you’ll never know it (unless you’re a third party reading her book, amirite?). Bruce Wayne is a supporting character here, and it’s fun to see him and his perfect hair in high school; it’s also nice to see he and Selina verbally spar even back in the day. There’s also an interesting murder mystery subplot, because it’s Gotham City.

The artwork is largely subdued purple-blue and white, with sound effects rendered in yellow for effect. The artwork makes excellent use of movement, perspective, and body language. Grab this one for your YA collections, but use caution if you’re thinking of handing it off to younger readers: there’s domestic violence and profanity in here, so much younger readers will be much better off with Superhero Girls trades.

Lauren Myracle is the author of the New York Times bestselling Internet Girls series, which includes ttyl and ttfn, all of which are written in textspeak. Isaac Goodhart is an illustrator whose graphic novel cred includes Postal and Love is Love. He also has an amazing sketch of Hawkeye and Kate Bishop on his Instagram.

 

Teen Titans: Raven, by Kami Garcia/Illustrated by Gabriel Picolo, (July 2019, DC Ink), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-4012-8623-1

Ages 12+

Teen Titan’s Raven speaks to my wannabe goth girl soul. I love her on the original Teen Titans cartoon from the early 2000s, and I crack up watching her on Teen Titans GO! now. Who else could write this character but Kami “Beautiful Creatures” Garcia, who also speaks to my inner wannabe magic-using goth girl? Raven’s orphaned at age 17 when her foster mom is killed in a car accident. Raven moves in with her foster mom’s sister, who seems to know something about Raven that Raven either can’t remember or doesn’t know. She and her foster sister become fast friends, and a cute guy named Max is interested in her, so things should be settling down for Raven, but weird occurrences start happening. When Raven thinks something, it happens: a mean girl trips and falls, just as Raven wishes she would. She can hear what people are thinking. She’s having nightmares. A sprinkling of good, old school Nawlins voodoo and a Deathstroke appearance make Raven’s origin story A-plus reading.

The artwork is mainly black and white, with some color pages splashed here and there. Raven’s trademark purple and black hair shines off the page, and – Raven fans, are you ready? – she wears adorable narwhal pajama pants at one point. There are little DC winks and nudges throughout, including Raven holding a Wonder Woman doll as a child, and there are some amusing girl power-message tees.

Kami Garcia is a bestselling author and cofounder of YALLFest, the biggest teen book festival in the U.S. Gabriel Picolo is a comics artist who’s worked with Blizzard, BOOM! Studios, and DeviantArt.

Get the Raven book. Get all the DC Ink books. Your readers will be glad you did. And really, you should sit down and read through them, too.