For many in the United States, there are huge portions of national history that remain obscure, if not forgotten entirely. Thankfully, there are educators and creators working to fix that problem.
Ten Speed Graphic brings us Sí, Se Puede: The Latino Heroes Who Changed the United States. The comic opens with a set of guests arriving at an immersive museum experience dedicated to preserving Latino history. They are immediately welcomed by Camilo, who serves as guide to these characters and the reader through centuries of Latino history. From the early Aztec and Mayan empires right up until the modern day, the book covers politics, sports, entertainment, science, social movements—a whole range of places in society where Latinos have left their mark. Along this journey, the immersive nature of the museum drops the characters into vibrant recreations of key moments with a readily accessible mix of factual information and natural dialogue about the process of learning a history so often overlooked.
Written by Julio Anta, the book is upfront that its primary purpose is one of celebration. From broad cultural achievements to specific individuals who have shaped the nation, the book is brimming with cultural pride for the rich heritage it describes. Even with its primary focus being educational, the text never feels like a dry recitation of facts. The information is direct, but its delivery is bursting with energy befitting a celebration of Latino culture. In broad strokes, it’s a familiar style for other educational materials aimed at youth, though never so juvenile in tone that older teens or adults will be put off.
The book touches lightly on some of the terrible hardships and atrocities faced by Latino communities of the past and present, but these are not dwelled on, as Anta keeps the primary focus on the success and endurance of these historical figures. It’s a complex topic to distill down to a single volume. The text does touch on useful and sometimes uncomfortable considerations when discussing such a broad group of people—debates about terminology, colonialism, colorism, and often conflicting worldviews that have complicated the Latino journey throughout time. The book is not a complex examination of the figures it highlights, nor does it claim to be. It is not intended to be the final word on any of the subject matter it illuminates. Rather, it feels as though Anta positions the text as a first step, to ignite pride in Latino history and encourage the curiosity to dive deeper.
Yasmín Flores Montañez provides the illustrations throughout the volume, and each page of art captures a colorful palate of diverse people and rich history. Balancing moments of triumph with the multitude hardships Latinos have had to overcome, the visuals keep pace with the shifting tone of the writing, propelling the reader along with the museum guide and guests. Emotions and action are clear, the art is a pleasure to look over, and the representations of individuals across the pages show a full spectrum of skin colors, body types, ages, and genders. Through each chapter, Montañez matches the pride and energy of the writing, bringing these chapters of history to life in dramatic fashion.
Whether Latino or not, any reader seeking more familiarity with Latino heritage or forgotten moments of history will find plenty to enjoy here. The cultural pride is evident as each new story unfolds and it is both enlightening and emotional to gain insight into this wide range of figures who have changed modern life in sometimes subtle and sometimes dramatic ways—figures whose names are unknown by far too many. There is plenty more depth that could be provided about the information presented here, but Anta and Montañez succeed in their primary goal: to celebrate the tapestry of Latino history and welcome readers into a better understanding of the threads that make up the whole. The volume ends with an index of topics and a list of additional resources for anyone wishing to dive deeper, while the finale of the narrative seeks to empower Latino readers to embrace the strength of their own heritage.
As an entry point into the subject, as a work of graphic nonfiction, and as a celebration of the proud history of a rich ethnic heritage, Sí, Se Puede is a work well worth adding to any collection and can hopefully serve as a jumping-off point for further conversation, learning, and celebration of the vital diversity that has shaped the United States since its founding.
Sí, Se Puede: The Latino Heroes Who Changed the United States By Julio Anta Art by Yasmín Flores Montañez Ten Speed Press, 2023 ISBN: 9781984860910
NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16) Creator Representation: Colombian, Cuban, Puerto Rican Character Representation: Black, Latinx, Queer, Genderqueer, Trans
It’s always difficult when your vision doesn’t translate to reality the way you hope it will. This is what Lika deals with in artist and author Lawrence Lindell’s delightful Blackward. Lika and her pals Lala, Tony, and Amor (they/them) have a club called The Section, “a group for Black folx who a little bit ‘other’”. They want to attract newcomers and establish a community for Black people who feel like they don’t fit in anywhere else. Lika’s vision is a safe space that celebrates differences, but it’s hard to get the word out and it’s discouraging to face down the trolls. As the leader of The Section, Lika relies upon the mentorship of bookstore owner Mr. Marcus and the support of Lala, Tony, and Amor to realize her vision. It’s wonderful to see how The Section succeeds despite obstacles.
Blackward is full of heart. Lindell offers serious themes alongside a playful sense of humor. The bold color palette and dynamic cartoon style make every page pop. The book brings up concepts such as acceptance versus judgment; inclusion versus othering; individual struggles, teamwork, and community-building; being Black and queer; and even just being Black and different. The terrific sense of humor sparkles in interactions between the elder Mr. Marcus and the four young friends, Amor’s revulsion towards children, and the over-the-top White ally who gets it all wrong.
The art is pure fun. From the first pages that depict each character’s house and bedroom in a bright rainbow of hues, I looked forward to a joyful reading experience. Black, toothy speech bubbles chomp into Lala’s dialogue when a toxic instigator interrupts her. On date night, Lindell illustrates the characters getting ready as a silhouetted superhero transformation. The lettering also changes to suit the tone of the panel, using color, style, and positioning to accentuate various moods. Each chapter opens with a word in four different languages. For example, Community, Comunidad, Jumiya, and Communauté are in English, Spanish, Swahili, and French respectively, and the colors of the words correspond to Lika, Amor, Tony, and Lala.
I highly recommend Blackward for all public libraries. Anyone who has felt like a misfit will appreciate it, though I think it will resonate most deeply with Black nerds. Put this book in the hands of older teens and adults who love cartoony art and relish being their quirky and authentic selves.
Blackward By Lawrence Lindell Drawn & Quarterly, 2023 ISBN: 9781770466784
Publisher Age Range: 14+ NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18) Creator Representation: Black Character Representation: Black, Bisexual, Queer, Nonbinary, ADHD, Anxiety, Depression
A massive blizzard, a missing plane, a group huddled together to weather the storm—and the thing that has begun hunting them.
From Boom! Studios and the creative team of Jeremy Haun and Jason Hurley with Jesús Hervás and Lea Caballero comes The Approach, a horror story about surviving the unimaginable when there is nowhere to run. The story opens with Mac, Abi, and the rest of the employees at a rural airport on the verge of shutting down in the face of an onslaught of winter weather. Things are difficult enough when they receive a diverted passenger plane looking for shelter, but the trouble truly begins when a second, smaller plane crashes on site, leaving no survivors.
Only, that is not entirely true. The smaller plane has been missing for 27 years, and one of the bodies pulled from the wreckage soon disappears. Cut off from help and struggling against weather that only promises to get worse, Mac, Abi, and the others soon realize that something on the plane was not human. As it begins to hunt and begins to grow into something truly terrifying, it will take all that the survivors have to escape. While tensions are already high, someone may know more than they let on about the creature, and no amount of heroism guarantees that everyone will make it out alive.
Haun and Hurley have established themselves in horror comics at this point, so it’s no surprise that The Approach aims to deliver some flawed characters facing something truly horrific on the path to survival. Comparisons to movies like Alien and The Thing are inevitable in this sort of sci-fi horror narrative. Though The Approach offers plenty of familiar plot beats and set pieces, it isn’t just a copy-paste of other similar stories. Haun and Hurley set up the key character relationships early on. Some are friendly, others less-so. Mac struggles with pills and a history he’d rather forget. Others are desperate to leave their rural landscape behind in search of better opportunities. None are equipped for the monster headed their way, and the writing delivers some tender moments even after the violence starts. Overall, however, The Approach opts to focus on creature horror and survival over some of its deeper themes and subplots. The result is a story that doesn’t offer a huge amount to latch onto emotionally and also doesn’t do anything wildly unexpected within the genre its embracing.
That being said, Haun and Hurley are a pair of writers willing to aim big, and with Hervás and Caballero providing the art for this story, readers looking for a healthy dose of monster horror will not be disappointed. The barren landscape buried in snow is evident from the opening panels, as are the harsh lines and grim tone that suffuse the book. As events escalate, the artists showcase a diverse cast through dramatic moments of terror and silence while also embracing the visceral violence and horror of a monster that refuses to be contained. It’s a naturally cinematic story, and the creators don’t miss their opportunities to deliver dramatic panels and shocking moments as the fight for survival only goes from bad to worse.
Boom! doesn’t list a specific age rating for this title, but with scattered language, partial nudity, and graphic creature violence, it’s aimed solidly at adult readers with some crossover to older teens who can handle the gore. All of this considered, The Approach is not a required purchase, but if your readership craves more horror options or is a fan of past work from members of this creative team, this book is worth considering. It’s not about to redefine the genre, but if readers want to settle in to a tense story featuring a hideous creature and plenty of horror action and suspense, The Approach has plenty to offer.
The Approach By Jeremy Haun, Jason Hurley Art by Jesús Hervás, Lea Caballero BOOM! Studios, 2023 ISBN: 9781684159086
Publisher Age Rating: 17+ NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+)
Life isn’t easy for an ex-con. It is even worse when you’re an ex-supervillain in Twilight City.
Frankie “Playtime” Follis was a prodigy, pushed into villainy by her mother after she manifested the power to make any toy into a weapon. Now, fresh out of prison, she’s unable to find any work beyond making drinks at a seedy bar catering to the low-level supervillains she’s meant to be avoiding as part of her parole. Still, Frankie keeps to the code of honor the blue-collar baddies abide by, though she wants nothing more than to rebuild her life and win back custody of her daughter, Maggie.
Unfortunately, Frankie is pulled back into the life after the archvillain called The Stickman kills Kid Dusk, the sidekick of Twilight City’s protector, The Insomniac. This makes the stalwart hero snap, sending him on a violent killing spree targeting every villain in town while searching for Stickman. With Insomniac’s fellow heroes covering up his crimes, it falls to Frankie and a rag-tag group of has-beens and henchmen to bring Stickman to justice while Twilight City is still standing.
Minor Threats is not a wholly original story. Much as Watchmen put a mature spin on the classic heroes of Charlton Comics, Minor Threats is a dark and darkly hilarious Batman story that DC Comics would never dare publish. Most of the characters are clearly parodies of Batman, Robin, Joker, Riddler and more. Yet there are some original ideas, such as Scalpel, a supervillain surgeon who makes her living offering off-the-books medical care to costumed criminals… for a percentage of their earnings, of course.
Writers Patton Oswalt and Jordan Blum make every joke one would expect regarding the silliness of costumed criminals, boy wonders and how many masked heroes need psychiatric help. Thankfully, Minor Threats proves to be far more than a collective of gags about popular superheroes and genre conventions. Oswalt and Blum bring true pathos to the five supervillains forced to become reluctant (not quite) heroes, developing them into full characters rather than cardboard cliches.
The five leads’ origin stories tackle a variety of serious issues, ranging from abusive parents to coming out of the closet to embrace true love. The effect is not unlike the duo’s previous writing for the MODOK animated series or The Venture Bros. Serious emotions mix with dark comedy to tell a truly original tale.
The artwork by Scott Hepburn is equally well done. Much like Dave Gibbons on Watchmen, Hepburn draws Minor Threats like a traditional comic book. This only adds to the visual dissonance as the action goes at right angles to every expectation of a typical superhero story.
Dark Horse Comics rates Minor Threats as appropriate for ages 14 and up. I believe that to be a fair assessment of the book’s content. There is a fair bit of violence and some disturbing scenes of children dying and parents being killed in front of their kids, as well as a bit of adult language. There is no nudity or sexual content, making this safe for most teen audiences.
Minor Threats A Quick End To A Long Beginning Vol. 01 By Patton Oswalt, Jordan Blum, , Art by Scott Hepburn, Ian Hrring, Nate Piekos, Dark Horse, 2023 ISBN: 9781506729992
Publisher Age Rating: 14+
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16)
Character Representation: Black, Gay, Neurodivergent, Ambiguous Mental Illness
A dare. A house rumored to be cursed. A doorway that leads… elsewhere. Six classmates. And the things that came back with them from the other side.
Daniel and Emily are tentative friends, both outsiders from the cool crowd at their school. As the story opens, a run-in with four of the popular kids raises tensions and the story soon reveals that each of the six has more going on at home than meets the eye. But it’s Halloween season, a time for fun and thrills. By chance, the six meet up at a ruined home that is the subject of dark rumors and vague fear among the citizens. Trash talking turns to challenges and the six step across that threshold in an effort to prove they are not afraid. But the door is a portal and what they find on the other side is the stuff of nightmares.
Dropped back into reality a short time later, each teenager finds themselves changed. Struggling to understand surprising new abilities and reckoning with the changes to their interpersonal dynamics, the experience is hard enough to process on its own. But something came back with them—something that has its sights set on one of their own, and it doesn’t plan to stop there. From rivals to allies, the lives of their town will soon rest in the hands of these six teens struggling to find their own places in the world.
From Seismic Press and AfterShock Comics, The Darkness We Brought Back is written by Alex Segura and Rex Ogle with art from Joe Eisma and Manuel Puppo. It’s an exciting premise billed as The Chronicles of Narnia meets Stranger Things. Unfortunately, superficial writing and flat characters leave the premise always struggling to find its footing, even until the very last pages. Each of the characters feels plucked from a standard YA school drama and the dialogue is always delivered in the most obvious terms. The plentiful conflicts and disagreements never offer any depth or carry any substantial weight. The insights we gain into these characters’ lives are only the most basic, and even character growth and shifting relationships happen largely in the margins of the story. From a group of young people grappling with coming of age, to a literal fight against a creature from another realm, the story feels largely like an outline of story beats committed to paper before having the chance to be fleshed out in any meaningful way.
The art, at least, is clean and easy to view, reminiscent at times of Paper Girls though with a wider color palate and a style seemingly aimed at a slightly younger readership. Eisma brings us through the bustling hallways of a school, across the threshold of a house barely left standing, into nightmare realms of another existence, and back again. For both the paranormal and the everyday, the art focuses the character emotions as well as the paranormal action that thrusts the story forward. All in all, the visuals are perfectly serviceable for the story being delivered.
AfterShock gives The Darkness We Brought Back an age rating of 13+ and this feels like a perfectly suitable age recommendation. There’s some language, violence, and frightening images throughout, as well as some more intense sequences over the course of the story, but none of this content is particularly lingered on or delivered in graphic detail.
In the end, this title lays out a stronger premise than it delivers. There are so many dynamics at play here that could have gone deeper, allowing the story to be more than a rehash of so many other YA dramas. However, if you have a readership starving for more paranormal YA content in the vein of Stranger Things, this title might be enough to meet that need, at least temporarily. If not, then consider spending your money elsewhere.
The Darkness We Brought Back By Alex Segura, Rex Ogle Art by Joe Eisma Seismic Press, 2023 ISBN: 9781956731279
Publisher Age Rating: 13+ NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16)
Garvey’s Choice joins a long line of books adapted as a graphic novel. The original Garvey’s Choice is a novel in verse by Nikki Grimes. Garvey struggles to connect with his dad, who expects him to be someone who he is not. It is told in a series of poems in the Japanese Tanka style. The book which came out in 2016 has been popular with middle grade readers, for good reason. It’s a heartwarming story about finding your voice, and the poetry of Nikki Grimes is poignant and deep while using few words.. I am a huge fan of her writing, and was excited to read this book.
Garvey is a young black boy in a larger body. He loves science fiction, space, and reading, however, his father wants him to play sports. The relationship between father and son is strained. They have a difficult time relating to each other, and in general Garvey struggles with feelings of isolation and loneliness. Over the course of the book, Garvey finds his voice through music, with his friends, and eventually with his family.
The Tanka style is discussed in an author note at the end of both the original book and the graphic novel. It is a format that originated in Japan. Each poem is five lines long, with specific syllable patterns, however, Grimes does not follow the syllable counts exactly. The poetry style which focuses on mood and emotion, fits Garvey’s character arc on his journey to find himself.
Theodore Taylor III illustrates the graphic novel in a bright cartoonish style, similar to that of Jerry Craft’s New Kid. The graphic novel illustrates the characters, plot, and poetic metaphors from the original book, but doesn’t necessarily add much depth to the mood or themes. The best parts of the graphic novel are from the poetry text. And while, I do not think the illustrated format adds much to the story, I do think it is a great purchase for elementary collections, because of the illustrations. Poetry can be an intimidating format for some readers. In condensing text to verse, some context must be implied rather than stated, which can be confusing for some. By illustrating the entire text through the graphic novel format, that context is no longer implied but clearly shown, which can provide a strong scaffold for some readers.
The graphic novel text is fairly similar to Grime’s original verse. There are times that the wording of the poems is adjusted, and they switch up the order of some poems, but for the most part, the text of the graphic novel is very consistent with the book. Lines from the poems are turned into speech bubbles or as narration on the page. Some of the poems are told over the course of a two-page spread, sometimes multiple poems share the spread, but most are confined to one page. The illustrated metaphors add weight to Garvey’s emotional journey.
Notably, a large part of the novel explores Garvey’s relationship with his weight, which is also a source of contention with his dad. But Garvey isn’t illustrated with a body size that is noticeably larger than other characters. He is round, but so is everyone else. I think this is a missed opportunity for body representation.
While not perfect, I think the graphic novel Garvey’s Choice is a strong purchase for elementary collections, especially if novels in verse or books by Grimes are used in the curriculum. In such cases, this graphic novel adaptation could be a good supplement. Either way, Garvey’s Choice is an excellent book and story, whether you read it in the original format or as a graphic novel.
Garvey’s Choice Vol. By Nikki Grimes Art by Theodore Taylor III Wordsong, Astra Publishing House, 2023 ISBN: 9781662660085
Publisher Age Rating: 9-12
NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11) Creator Representation: Black, Character Representation: Black,
It is spring of eighth grade, time for a Riverdale Academy Day School tradition: a school trip to somewhere exciting and educational. For Jordan and his friends, that just happens to mean a trip to Paris. School Trip is the third installment of Jerry Craft’s graphic novels about Jordan, who readers first met in the Newbery and Coretta Scott King Award winning New Kid, and an excellent addition to the collection.
At the cusp of a new stage in his life, Jordan finally feels a part of the RAD community and can’t wait to travel overseas with his classmates and teachers. He never gets to see kids like him, other young Black kids from New York City, traveling the world and experiencing different cultures. This is his chance to be the main character and blaze a path. But there’s more than just the trip on his mind. Eighth grade will be over before he knows it and he’ll have to decide between RAD, where he’s no longer the new kid, or art school, the place that could help make his dreams come true. He knows what his parents want him to do and where his friends will be but hasn’t quite come to realize the best path for himself.
A prank causes some unexpected changes to the RAD trip to Paris, but the group makes the best of the situation. Along the way, the classmates learn more about each other, sometimes resulting in conflicts amongst the characters. Craft’s masterful storytelling gives these arguments and discussions depth, without seeming unrealistic for a bunch of eighth graders.
The trip exposes each student’s prejudices, fears, and unrealized ideas about themselves and their peers. Readers will see characters like themselves reflected back at them and School Trip gives them the space to discuss similar things happening in their lives. Witnessing Jordan and Ramon, amongst others, sticking up for themselves against unaware bully Andy may even give readers confidence to do something similar.
The introduction of the Thumbs-Downers in the story gives a realistic explanation to why negative, hateful people always speak the loudest and get the most attention. A two page spread between Drew, the focus of Craft’s Class Act, and Andy is particularly visually striking as a follow up to this idea. Andy is a Thumbs-Downer but he’s much more than that and must recognize his own privilege. This scene could, and should, cause reflection in young readers as they consider their own racial, socioeconomic, and religious backgrounds.
As with Craft’s previous books, it is recommended readers keep an eye out for easter eggs throughout School Trip, especially anyone who reads lots of graphic novels. There’s even some aimed at older readers! Craft does a great job of setting his characters in very specific places without the cities and backgrounds becoming the main focus. Your eye is always drawn to the characters and their stories.
School Trip belongs on every library’s and classroom’s shelves, alongside its predecessors. Craft’s fondness and appreciation for these characters is evident throughout the book, something that readers of all ages will find themselves feeling as they follow along with Jordan, his family, and his classmates.
School Trip By Jerry Craft Quill Tree, 2023 ISBN: 9780062885531
Rivers of London is a supernatural horror series that I have been aware of for some time, but never had the chance to read. I recognized the name of the author, Ben Aaronovitch, from Doctor Who and recalled him as the writer of one of the best episodes of all time, “Remembrance of the Daleks.” I finally took the plunge with the graphic novel Deadly Ever After. Unfortunately, Deadly Ever After proved as big a disappointment to me as Dynamite Comics’ adaptations of the Dresden Files.
The Rivers of London series (aka the Peter Grant or PC Grant series) is set in an alternate London where magic is real and a special department called the Folly protect ordinary people from the supernatural. Most of the Rivers of London stories center around newbie wizard Peter Grant as he investigates various crimes and copes with the many gods and monsters that secretly populate London. Deadly Ever After is an entirely different story.
Deadly Ever After centers around two young river goddesses, Chelsea and Olympia, who are easily bored and would rather spend their days smoking weed and hanging out than doing whatever it is respectable goddesses are meant to spend their days doing. Their showing off to a random mortal winds up unleashing a vengeful spirit who was kidnapped by fairies centuries earlier and has returned to an unfamiliar London even more cynical than the one they left behind. This leads to the twins trying desperately to cover up their crime before their mother or the Folly get involved, as the spirit starts trying to make fairy tales come true in order to prove the power of stories and that fairies are real.
The idea of supernatural creatures reenacting fairy tales is one of the most played out tropes in modern fantasy and Deadly Ever After does nothing to change the formula. Any fan of the genre will immediately see where the story is going the minute a little girl in a red hoodie runs out of the woods screaming about something attacking her grandmother. This might be tolerable were the narration of the book not offering a metatextual commentary on the cliches, literally describing Chelsea and Olympia as “feeling like they were in their own detective comic about glamorous teen Londoners.”
The artwork is similarly lackluster. Jose Maria Beroy’s artwork is competent and they have a firm grasp of anatomy. Unfortunately, the artwork doesn’t fit the dark theme of the story, being too posed and static. The bright colors and light inks don’t help matters.
The damnable thing is that Deadly Ever After might cut the mustard as a young adult comic aimed at an audience that is less familiar with this sort of story than the average urban fantasy fan. Unfortunately, the blood and violence are intense enough and the language adult enough to make this book unsuitable for any audience younger than an OT/16+. I fear anyone old enough to handle the content is likely to find the two protagonists insufferably selfish and annoying. I may give Rivers ofLondon another shot, but this volume gave me a very poor impression of the series.
Rivers of London, vol. 10: Deadly Ever After By Celeste Bronfamn, Ben Aaronovitch, Andrew Cartmel, Art by Jose Beroy Titan, 2023 ISBN: 9781787738591
Related media: Book to Comic
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18) Character Representation: Black
Love comes in all shapes and sizes, whether it’s between adventurous pirates, burgeoning demon hunters, smooth spies, or even your average couple trying to make it all work. Young Men in Love, edited by Joe Glass and Matt Miner, showcases all these relationships and more, containing twenty stories from queer creators devoted to exploring the romantic hurdles and queer joy of male/masculine couples. This graphic novel boasts a variety of genres: fantasy, sci-fi, paranormal romance, contemporary slice of life, etc., ensuring that each reader will be able to find at least a story or two to enjoy.
Typical of most anthologies, not every story is going to be as hard hitting as the next one. With an average length of four to eight pages, there are some that struggle to break beyond their concept, leaving the reader more with an idea rather than a fleshed out narrative. The majority of contributors, however, manage to pace their stories so that, though we may not spend much time with these characters, they still leave a great amount of impact. Despite the varying appeal of each story, there is an admirable amount of honesty, vulnerability, and love interwoven within them all. An immense sense of pride lives in these pages that comes from an unwavering self-acceptance and the ability to love openly without shame or fear. Moments of loneliness, depression, and doubt play roles in multiple stories, but they always come around to love in the end, whether it comes from a partner or within themselves.
Given the graphic novel’s notable range in terms of content and themes, there are several stories that display aspects of queerness that are rarely discussed in the community. Ned Barnett and Ian Bisbal’s “Another Name” deals with a trans man realizing his identity and coming out to his partner in what was once a heterosexual relationship, highlighting the fears and anxiety that may come with such a discovery. “Act of Grace,” written by Anthony Oliveira and illustrated by Nick Robles, follows a teen expressing religious guilt to his priest, afraid of how his feelings for a boy may conflict with his Catholic upbringing. Editor Joe Glass, along with Auguste Kanakis, throw in a moving inclusion in “Love Yourself,” which has a character experience the fetishization of plus sized men in the community and how validation and love for someone comes from appreciating and celebrating the whole of them rather than a singular aspect. These are all facets to the queer experience that I have seen firsthand, but seldom are they reflected in media tailored to those they are meant to represent. Seeing these conflicts approached and resolved with such depth and respect allows the reader a touch of hope and comfort, even if they may not entirely relate to it.
Intent on including as many voices and experiences as possible, Young Men in Love also gives a tremendous amount of diverse representation in terms of ethnicity and body type. It shies away from solely depicting the stereotypical skinny, white, gay man, as there are several stories with black, brown, and plus-sized protagonists. What’s so refreshing about these depictions is that, aside from “Another Name” and “Love Yourself,” none of the stories make the characters’ backgrounds the focal point of their conflict. They exist as people foremost, without their identities being a source of added trauma.
As there is a separate artist accompanying each installment, there is a vast variety in art styles, ranging from charmingly cartoonish to engagingly realistic. I will forever throw praise onto Nick Robles, who puts so much life into his textures and instills a healthy dose of emotion and drama into “Act of Grace” through his use of lighting and character expressions. There is something Leyendecker-esque about his style where he captures the male form exceptionally well, making it the perfect fit for this collection. I also really appreciated the yellow tinge given to the palette and borders of Paul Allor and Lane Lloyd’s “The Way Home,” producing a nostalgic effect reminiscent of those old comics that had probably been left in the basement for too long. Overall, there is a vibrant rainbow of color throughout the graphic novel, as the reader is treated to vibrant pastels to moody, atmospheric shadows. Each story, as a result, becomes visually distinct and memorable, even if its content may not have lived up to the one that preceded it. None of the art in this graphic novel disappoints, which brings a certain coherence to all the differing perspectives within.
For fans of uplifting romantic stories with happy endings or layered depictions of queer experiences, Young Men in Love will hit that emotional, sappy spot in spades. As a romance comic, the content is fairly clean, with nothing going further than the occasional cuddle or kiss. The featured protagonists range from being young teens to full adults, so it may appeal most to readers fourteen and up. Librarians and educators looking to obtain graphic novels with positive and varied queer representation from queer creators should consider purchasing this title.
Young Men in Love Vol. By Joe Glass, Matt Miner A Wave Blue World, 2022 ISBN: 9781949518207
Publisher Age Rating: 13+ NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16) Creator Representation: Black, Brazilian, British, Canadian, Greek, Latinx, Malaysian, Mexican-American, Bisexual, Gay, Queer, Nonbinary, Trans Character Representation: Black, British, East Asian, Latinx, Gay, Queer, Nonbinary, Trans, Catholic
“It’s going to come at you fast, and you’re going to freeze.” For Kit Hobbs, fighting monsters is the family business. But facing unexpected responsibilities she didn’t want is only the beginning. It’s salvaging her family that’s truly going to be the challenge.
In a world where monstrous kaiju regularly attack cities, Nexus Command oversees a network of city defenders known as Titans, gigantic robots with human pilots who serve as the only line of defense between the kaiju and human civilization. When Kit’s father lost the use of his legs piloting a Titan, the job fell to his son—leaving Kit feeling discarded as second best and estranged from her family. However, when addiction and depression make Kit’s brother more of a liability than an asset, she is called back home, both to look after her brother and take his seat in the Titan for as long as she’s needed.
Remembering her training and fighting kaiju is hard enough, but there’s an unidentified Titan making appearances in Kit’s city, picking fights and disappearing without a trace, a Titan with no pilot. It’s one more problem to solve even as Kit fights for her life every time she climbs into the pilot’s seat. And that’s not even the biggest issue facing her. Family legacy is a heavy thing. The demands of the job haunt her parents, causing rifts between them and their children. The pressure and never-ending expectations drove Kit’s brother to the bottle and kept Kit from her family for years. And now, returning home and reopening old wounds is straining Kit’s relationship with her partner. Hoping for redemption is easy. Finding it is hard. And if Kit manages to survive the threats encroaching on her city, there are still years of trauma left to confront on the way to something resembling a happy ending.
Written by Tres Dan, We Ride Titans from Vault Comics searches for a balance between kaiju vs. mecha action and emotionally grounded family drama. The limited series delivers on its promise in the opening pages as Kit’s brother teeters on the edge of success and calamity in a fight against the newest monster. As the story continues, the action is intriguing, but it is the family moments which carry the most weight. The comic’s examination of family trauma and healing is strikingly relatable and delivered with empathy and nuance from all the various members of the family. With only 5 issues, the story does end up feeling rushed in places, especially the drama of the larger kaiju/Titan conflict. However, given the amount of space these creators have to work with, they do serve up some bold mecha action alongside strikingly tender family moments grounded in flawed characters who are worth spending time with.
Bringing the action and emotion to life, Sebastian Piriz captures the epic scale of the physical conflicts as well as the intimate moments of conversation, hurt, and beauty that continue to shape the lives of the characters. The action sequences are occasionally difficult to follow, but the range of gross monsters is fun to watch as they rampage across the page, and Piriz conveys the very human lives of these characters in engaging detail. In facial expressions and dynamic paneling, Piriz and the other artists work to convey the depth of the story with each new twist of the plot.
Vault does not provide a specific age rating for this title, but with sci-fi violence, strong language, and thematic elements, it’s a story aimed at older teens and adults. The creators organically include a good range of diversity in terms of race, sexuality, and disability, and the main setup of Titans fighting kaiju across cities is sure to have appeal to fans of anime and science fiction. With everything else this title does well, its greatest strength really is the character relationships and examination of family at the story’s center. For We Ride Titans, its greatest flaw is its brevity, but as it delivers on its epic premise and grounds everything in its characters and their complicated lives, there’s plenty here to enjoy for a wide range of readers.
We Ride Titans By Tres Dean Art by Sebastian Piriz Vault, 2022 ISBN: 9781638491187
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18) Creator Representation: Argentinian Character Representation: Black, Lesbian, Mobility Impairment, Addiction