Introduction

 Another year has come and gone, and the Features Team is proud to share our favorite titles from 2023. We hope you have a chance to revisit some favorites and discover new ones! 

Bea Wolf

Zach Weinersmith

Boulet

Cover Image

Generations of kids have helped build the kingdom that leads to the haven known as Treeheart, a perfect paradise for kids away from adults. But then Grindle, a hater of children, invades their country and starts cleaning house and turning kids into teens. Only the heroic Bea Wolf can stand against Grindle's threat, bearing her brave face against his bold maneuvers. Yes, this is a re-telling of Beowulf set in the modern day, about kids versus adults, and yes it is as delightful as that sounds.

Appeals to

Readers who enjoy tabletop games or adjacent media might enjoy Bea Wolf for the obvious heroic overtones, and the comedy of this comic can appeal to fans of sillier stories. This comic has a pretty wide range of appeal because younger kids might enjoy just looking through the pictures while adults and older kids can appreciate the story and how effectively it adapts the original poem.

Creator Identities:

French |

Main Character Identities:

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

Boys Weekend

Mattie Lubchansky

Cover Image

Sammie is trans femme and has been out to most of her friends and family for a year when she gets an invite to join her closet college friend Adam on his bachelor party trip to El Campo. At this dystopian Las Vegas-like destination, people can indulge their most hedonistic and aggressive desires with little consequences. The worst part, Adam has named Sammie his best man. Since Adam was Sammie's best man at her wedding, she feels as though she needs to be a good sport to return the favor and try to maintain one of her longest friendships. When Sammie arrives in El Campo, she has to endure rude, dismissive, and sometimes downright transphobic comments from the rest of the groomsmen. To top off an already emotionally fraught weekend, it seems like the group is all getting sucked into this weird cult holding a convention at the hotel they're staying at, and Sammie seems to be the only one clear-headed enough to see what's going on.

Appeals to

Everyone who likes their commentary on toxic masculinity with a side of eldritch horror.

Content Notes

Transphobia, Some scenes containing gore

Creator Identities:

Nonbinary, Trans |

Main Character Identities:

Trans |

Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

Brooms

Jasmine Walls

Teo DuVall

Cover Image

In an alternate United States, people of color are forbidden from practicing magic, unless they manage to secure official permission. Yet many secret practitioners enter unsanctioned flying races, where high risks can result in a big reward. Billie Mae and her teammates Loretta and Cheng Kwan enjoy the races' community while having big dreams. When Mattie and Emma, Black-Choctaw girls who have recently accessed their magic, join the Night Storms, they all have a chance to make their dreams come true.

Appeals to

Brooms captivated me with its action-packed story following a tight-knit group ready to defy the oppressive laws that try to keep them down. The fantastic artwork and worldbuilding work together to convey a well-developed setting. There are little decisions, like using Native American sign language and including a sort of afterward for the main story, that make the whole experience immersive. If you are a fan of witchy stories, you don’t want to miss Brooms.

Content Notes

Mistreatment at a residential school; racism; some violence

Creator Identities:

Mexican-American |

Queer |

Main Character Identities:

Black, Chinese-American |

Queer |

Trans |

First Nations or Indigenous |

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

But You Have Friends

Emilia McKenzie

Cover Image

Emilia McKenzie writes about her relationship with her friend C, whom she eventually loses to suicide. Throughout the book, she reflects on her relationship with C, her grief, and all the baggage that comes with loss and grief.

Appeals to

I loved this book for how McKenzie built up the relationship between her and C; she has a knack for showing the little moments that make up a dear friendship and weaves them with her reflection on grappling with the loss. The simple art, which often portrays these little moments and actions, *really* works. If you pick this up, make sure you’re in a place where you can cry freely. I don’t cry much when I read, and I was tearing up!

Content Notes

Suicide; drug overdoses

Creator Identities:

British |

Main Character Identities:

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

Buzzing

Samuel Sattin

Rye Hickman

Cover Image

Sometimes, it's hard for Isaac to hear much outside of the bees getting in his way. They tell him about his crooked face and nose, about bad things that are going to happen to people he loves, and the noise escalates sometimes. It doesn't hurt that his mom treats him like a time bomb and his sister is frustrated at being ignored while mom continually checks in on Isaac. When Micah enters his life things finally start to look brighter again for the first time in a while, but then Isaac's grades slip. He'll have to learn balance and trust to get through this, and so will his mom.

Appeals to

Since a lot of the story centers around the game Swamps & Sorcery (a parody of Dungeons & Dragons), readers who enjoy comics featuring tabletop games like Just Roll With It or Dungeon Club: Roll Call will likely enjoy Buzzing. The themes of learning trust and making friends might appeal to readers of Freestyle, and the art is so wonderful at setting scenes and showing emotion, it could also be a solid choice for readers new to comics.

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

Family Style: Memories of an American from Vietnam

Thien Pham

Cover Image

Pham uses food, both Vietnamese and American, to take the reader through his family's journey from Vietnam to America as refugees. It begins with their boat ride out of the country and continues with the author's finally becoming a citizen in his middle age. In between is the families' struggle to learn English, get steady work, and achieve the American Dream. Along the way, the author struggles with not feeling American enough to fit in when he first arrives here, to not feeling connected enough to his Vietnamese heritage as he matures into an adult completely in America. This graphic memoir is a moving depiction of what it's like to be an immigrant in America.

Appeals to

Fans of American Born Chinese and The Best We Could Do will enjoy this food-focused take on the immigrant experience.

Content Notes

Racism and Xenophobia

Creator Identities:

Vietnamese, Vietnamese American |

Main Character Identities:

Vietnamese, Vietnamese American |

Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

In Limbo

Deb JJ Lee

Cover Image

Deb has struggled to find her place in life, feeling caught between identities and obligations. To complicate matters further, Deb's mother is controlling and volatile, sometimes lashing out physically or emotionally. By the time Deb graduates high school, she's managed to communicate her desire to do art, quit music, and learn her own way, but she's also attempted suicide twice. It takes time and work, but Deb starts to become someone she doesn't hate. In Limbo doesn't give easy answers or a neatly wrapped-up ending, but that's part of what makes it great.

Appeals to

Limited color, and dreamy art paired with heavier topics make In Limbo a solid choice for fans of Tillie Walden's work. How candidly the story handles its complexity and darkness could be a good pick for readers who enjoy graphic nonfiction, like Dancing at the Pity Party or Banned Book Club.

Content Notes

Depictions of physical and emotional abuse by a parent, discussions of depression and suicide

Creator Identities:

Korean-American |

Nonbinary |

Main Character Identities:

Korean-American |

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

Monstrous: A Transracial Adoption Story

Sarah Myer

Cover Image

Korean adoptee Sarah Myer tells their story of self-acceptance as they wrestle with their origins and their identity while dealing with difficult, often racist school and social settings.

Appeals to

Thanks to Myer’s powerful drawings that mix reality and images of their imagination and mental state, I found myself sucked into their story. Myer also frames their story well, tracing a trajectory to a better place and ultimately using their story to share a message of hope. It was a difficult read in parts, but I also appreciated the message and the fact it let me reflect on some of my own experiences.

Content Notes

Racism; homophobia; bullying; mental health struggles

Creator Identities:

Korean-American |

Nonbinary |

Main Character Identities:

Korean-American |

Nonbinary |

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

The Infinity Particle

Wendy Xu

Cover Image

After moving to Mars to study artificial intelligence with her hero Dr. Lin, Clementine meets Kye, a humanoid robot and Dr. Lin’s assistant As Kye and Clem grow closer, they soon have to contend with Dr. Lin's disapproval and possessiveness and Kye's sudden glitches. As Clem and Kye rush to get to the bottom of the glitches, they find so much more than they expected.

Appeals to

The Infinity Particle is a tender and romantic story about two people finding agency together against a backdrop of questions about AI and what it means to be human. The rich setting details brought me into the story, and I adored Xu’s adorable character and robot designs. Readers who enjoy thoughtful and romantic sci-fi stories like Tillie Walden’s On a Sunbeam and Fiona Ostby's Space Story will likely enjoy Infinity Particle.

Content Notes

Egotistical and bullying boss/parental figure; implied death of a child; abusive parent-child relationship

Creator Identities:

Chinese-American |

Main Character Identities:

Assumed Asian |

Recommended by

Megan Rupe

The Ojja-Wojja

Magdalene Visaggio

Jenn St-Onge

Cover Image

Lanie and Val are best friends, and ready to weather any storm for each other, but Val's obsession with all things supernatural leads her to find out about a local myth of the Ojja-Wojja. Naturally, they end up accidentally summoning it, and things are worse than expected. That is, until Val trusts her instincts about this creature and the host it chooses: the super popular Andrea, who used to be friends with them but lately bullies them instead. Horror but also heartwarming, there's a lot to love in The Ojja-Wojja.

Appeals to

This story's mix of small-town legends and the presence of the supernatural is likely a hit with fans of comics like The Hills of Estrella Roja, Another Kind, or All My Friends Are Ghosts. Because the main cast is queer, it's also a great choice for younger readers looking for queer horror and likely finding stories geared toward older audiences that they may not be ready for yet.

Creator Identities:

Queer |

Trans |

Main Character Identities:

Queer |

Trans |

Autistic Spectrum |

Recommended by

Shannan Prukop

There Is No Right Way to Meditate

Yumi Sakugawa

Cover Image

Have you read a book on meditation, or listened to a recorded guided meditation and felt like you still weren't quite "getting it"? You are not alone. Sakugawa responds to the confusion, frustration, and judgment that many people bring with them when first trying to establish a meditation practice with "There Is No Right Way to Meditate" She frames the exercises presented in the book as "offerings and invitations" that allow the reader to explore what a meditation practice might look like for them. With an artsy style and sparing use of color, reading this book feels like a meditation in and of itself.

Appeals to

Anyone who is curious about meditation but feels like self-help books are boring and stuffy.

Creator Identities:

Japanese-American |

Gender Nonconforming, Nonbinary |

Main Character Identities:

Japanese-American |

Gender Nonconforming, Nonbinary |

Recommended by

Tayla Cardillo

  • Megan

    | She/Her

    Features Writer

    Megan earned her MLIS from Simmons College and is currently the evening librarian at Bay State College in Massachusetts. She satisfies her voracious appetite for graphic novels and manga through regular visits to her local public libraries and puts her love of graphic novels to good use by adding to Bay State’s collection whenever possible. Megan maintains a personal blog, Ferret with a Strobe Light, where she discusses awesome books she’s read lately. When not engaged in reading or library work, she likes running, drinking tea, and working on her own stories and art.

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  • Tayla

    | She/Her Branch Librarian

    Features Writer

    Tayla Cardillo (she/her) is the Branch Librarian of the Oaklawn branch of the Cranston Public Library in Cranston, RI. She is also a member of the ALA Graphic Novel and Comic Round Table and the chair of the Rhode Island Library Association Intellectual Freedom Committee. She completed her MLIS at the University of Rhode Island and her B.A. in English at Rhode Island College. Tayla has known that she wanted to be a librarian since she was 17 years old. When not doing library wizardry, she enjoys playing tabletop games and cosplaying.

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  • Shannan

    | She/They Teen Services Librarian, San Antonio Public Library

    Features Writer

    Shannan waffled between English professor and librarian as career choices for all of college; eventually librarian won. She is a Teen Services Librarian with the San Antonio Public Library. When not running TTPRG games for their teens or teaching them how to bake, she's doing what she can to promote comics to anyone who will listen. At home they're likely deep in the middle of their latest cosplay project or watching B movies with her husband, while generally pushing the cats out of the way.

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