3 Wonderful (and Sometimes Weird) New Graphic Novels

Editor on April 03, 2019
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Spring is definitely in the air. Here in Seattle, it means we emerge from the indoors and settle in patches of sunlight with our comics. The comics below helped to get me through the long winter months—through a few snow days and stormy nights—but I’m pulling them out again to read during sunny weekend afternoons. —Alison Walker

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Submerged Vol. 1 by Vita Ayala, Lisa Sterle, Stelladia, and Rachel Deering

I’m a sucker for stories that lean heavily on myths and fairy tales but interact with them in fresh ways. Submerged is the perfect blend of new and old—a retelling of the Orpheus myth set in the flooding subways of New York City during a catastrophic storm. The night of the storm, Elysia Puente gets a frantic phone call from her brother, Angel, begging her to help him. In spite of the impending deluge, she rushes to help, finds his phone in front of an abandoned subway station, and goes in after him. The deeper Ellie goes in the subway, the stranger things get. From meeting three not-quite-human strangers with a menacing dog to a ferryman who takes her even farther underground, it soon becomes clear to Ellie that she’ll have to relive echoes of her past to find her future. Ayala’s compelling narrative and Sterle’s emotive art pair seamlessly together in this comic, but the real standout is Stelladia’s coloring, which takes the reader from the subway platform to the underworld and back again, visually unifying Elysia’s journey. Submerged is a compelling urban fantasy for lovers of Gaiman’s Sandman and one that I’ll be recommending widely.

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Man-Eaters Volume 1 by Chelsea Cain, Kate Niemczyk, Rachelle Rosenberg, Joe Caramagna, and Lia Miternique

This comic is one of the most incisive (and hilarious) satires I’ve ever read. Man-Eaters is set in a world where a mutation has caused toxoplasmosis, a common parasite found in cat feces, to mutate and cause a small subset of girls to turn into killer wild cats when they get their first period. In this world, periods must be stopped at all costs so the deadly rampages end. Enter Maude. She’s like any other 12-year-old girl, except her father is a homicide detective and her mother works for SCAT (a special task force that hunts down marauding wild cats). Maude has just gotten her first period and must keep it a secret at all costs. The world-building in this comic is complex and expertly done: There are fake Time magazine covers, supplements sponsored by Men & Boys, and amazing advertisements featuring Estro-Clean, an anti-estrogen spray that’s designed “to protect what matters most: BOYS!” Rarely have I read a comic that has so carefully crafted a complete visual world. Man-Eaters manages to excel at this background material as well as in telling Maude’s very personal story. Like Bitch Planet, this comic is both a cautionary tale and a fierce feminist thought experiment made even more awesome by the narrative risks taken by the creative team.

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Bloom by Kevin Panetta and Savanna Ganucheau

Ari Kyrkos wants to move to the big city, and he’s almost there. Just one more summer at his parents’ bakery and he can escape for good. Hector Galeai, aspiring baker, finds Ari’s flyer seeking help at the bakery and immediately knows he’s the perfect candidate for the job. Bloom’s combination of a coming-of-age story with a meet-cute romance set in a bakery hooked me after the first few panels. The depths of emotion Ganucheau is able to communicate with Ari's and Hector’s facial expressions is wonderful, and Panetta’s storyline wraps itself around the reader’s heart. In one of the most evocative scenes, Ari and Hector watch Ari’s parents make phyllo dough; the parents are completely in sync as they stretch the dough paper thin, their love for baking and each other coming together perfectly. This is a comic full of quiet moments, best read on a sunny spring afternoon with a piece of baklava close at hand.

Alison Walker is the comics curator at Amazon Books—Amazon’s chain of brick-and-mortar bookstores.


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