These comics are some of the most immersive, complex, and thought-provoking I’ve come across in the past few months. From graphic memoirs and personal stories of loss and redemption to urban fantasies and first loves, this group of comics are the most immersive, complex, and thought-provoking I’ve come across in the past few months. —Alison Walker, curator, Amazon Books stores
Blackbird Volume 1 by Sam Humphries, Jen Bartel, Triona Farrell, Jodi Wynne, Dylan Todd, Jim Gibbons, and Paul Reinwand
There’s something electric about Blackbird. It’s a comic book with a great story, vibrant art, as well as killer layouts, colors, and lettering. Nina desperately wants to leave her not-so-awesome life behind her and become a Paragon, one of the powerful magic users who rule Los Angeles in secretive cabals. When Nina was a girl, she encountered a magical being, and she has spent most of her life researching magic, cabals, and Paragons, to prove to herself that they’re real. Magic is the answer for Nina—the key to escaping her life and becoming something more. Once she finds magic, everything will change. Luckily for Nina, she doesn’t have to wait too long before she’s swept up into a world of mystery, intrigue, and (of course) magic.
Jen Bartel’s illustrations are filled with energy and perfectly suited to a magical version of Los Angeles, as are the saturated colors from colorist Triona Farrell. Blackbird is a sumptuous feast for anyone who’s been yearning for an urban fantasy world like no other. (May 14)
They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott, and Harmony Becker
George Takei is more than an actor: He’s an activist, author, and cultural force. In his graphic memoir, They Called Us Enemy, Takei writes about his family during their incarceration in two American concentration camps during World War II. This is a deeply moving graphic novel due, in large part, to the great care Takei and his co-authors take in making They Called Us Enemy a personal story first and foremost, especially in their thoughtful portrayal of Takei’s mother and father. The illustrations are straightforward and emotive, adding to the memoir’s narrative layers.
Although the book focuses on the struggles of Takei’s family in the Rohwer and Tule Lake camps, this is also a book about politics and history. Takei does a superb job of blending narrative with historical detail and drawing parallels to today’s political climate, while making a compelling case for democracy. (July 16)
Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me by Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O’Connell
High school is hard. Relationships in high school? Even harder. Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me opens with Freddy asking advice columnist Anna Vice why her girlfriend of a year keeps breaking up with her. Freddy seeks the advice of her friends, who try to be supportive, but it’s difficult for anyone (much less Freddy herself) to understand why she keeps going back to someone so manipulative. After the advice from friends, the aforementioned columnist, and a psychic, Freddy finally realizes that in order to become her own person, she must break up with Laura Dean, once and for all.
The story is complicated, just like relationships themselves, but through it all Tamaki asks big questions about toxic relationships and self-worth. Valero-O’Connells illustrations are stunningly detailed and nuanced, with pink highlighting that keeps the art fresh and interesting. (May 7)
Waves by Ingrid Chabbert, Carole Maurel, Edward Gauvin, and Deron Bennett
Waves is a deeply personal graphic novel that tells the story of a woman’s grief after pregnancy loss. Based on the author’s own experiences trying to conceive, Chabbert’s work captures the immediacy and rawness of grief, but also focuses on the possibility and hope of healing.
Readers follow a couple’s joy as they become pregnant after having struggled to conceive, their grief as they experience miscarriage, and their slow and determined process to heal. Rather than focus on particulars, Chabbert and Maurel are adept at guiding the reader through the grieving process and focus on the wrenching emotional journey of confronting anguish and turning those emotions into a site for creativity. Maurel’s art is subtle, but gives Chabbert’s story added depth through her innovative use of colors and tone.
Waves is raw and emotional—and how could it not be, given its subject matter?—but it’s one of the most beautiful comics I’ve encountered this year. (May 14)
Alison Walker was born in the town made famous by Buck Owens and spent 10 years as an English professor before joining Amazon Books as a curator for Amazon’s growing network of brick-and-mortar stores. When she’s not reading comics, science fiction, and romance, you can probably find her watching birds, singing her heart out, or out thrifting with her family.
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