Come to Isola for the breathtaking art; stay for the world building. Isola, Vol. 2 continues the story of Rook and Olwyn’s journey to the land of the dead, offering mesmerizing art and further insight into the characters we first met in Vol. 1.
Isola, Vol. 1 launched the reader into a visually captivating story with little direction. In it, the outline of a quest took shape: the tiger is the enchanted queen, Olwyn, accompanied by her young captain of the guard, Rook. Rook hopes to lead them to Isola, an undescribed, unknown place, to break the queen’s enchantment. However, as most quests are, the journey is fraught with enemies and mysterious characters who may or not be friends. Volume 2 continues story, with Rook carefully avoiding the army, who thinks their queen is missing. In their attempt to steer clear of camp, they enter a quarry where they find a superstitious community who’s children are missing. They find that the children have been stolen and turned into animals or animal–human hybrids. As Rook and Olwyn continue their journey, they find more about these troublesome kidnappings. However, in doing so, the line between reality and the supernatural becomes less distinguishable, with both of them experiencing visions and connecting with memories of the past.
The artistic partnership between Karl Kerschl and MSASSYK (Michele Assarasakorn) results in an ongoing sumptuous visual experience for the series. The artists provide characters that are diverse in appearance—with varying skin tones, body shapes, attire, and even haircuts. The story relies heavily on the shape and movement of panels to propel the story forward and create focus on specific moments of the story. When one of the primary characters is an enchanted tiger, dialogue is limited. In addition, many of the panels rely on the onomatopoeia of scratched out symbols to elicit sound. Therefore, the artists make keen use of eye contact and facial expression in all their characters, but especially so for the tiger from of Olwyn. We begin to identify when she is suspicious, afraid, or angry. In this way, the art lends itself to character building.
Much of the character building takes place through insight into feelings, as well as through visions of past memories or supernatural realms. While there is more writing in Vol. 2 than in Vol. 1, there is still not any narrative dialogue to guide the reader in a backstory or any explanation of events. Often, communication takes place through hieroglyphs and sounds, the colors and shapes of which might lend insight into meaning, but not as actual words might. However, Vol. 2 leaves the reader knowing more about the characters’ backstories, and potentially more about their futures. We see a romance building between Rook and Olwyn, one that might be tenuous as secrets of the past come to light.
Responses to this series have been fairly universal: the art is incredible, but the story is not easy to follow. Readers who want a clear plot and consistent, ongoing story development may struggle with this series. Dialogue is sparse, and the transitions between the present, past, and the supernatural are often difficult to distinguish. However, those who focus on the artwork of a piece and love the creation of a new high-fantasy world will be eager to follow this comic. Image rates it T+, but aside from occasional violence, the comic would be appealing to young teens, as well as older teens and adults.
I would recommend investing in this series. I think it will have high circulation for its art alone, even if the story can be found lacking. As mentioned in the NFNT review of Vol. 1, readers who have enjoyed Monstress or Studio Ghibli are likely to enjoy this series as well. I look forward to following the series and following Rook and Olwyn to Isola where they both can confront their dead and each other.
Isola, Vol. 2 By Brenden Fletcher and Karl Kerschl Art by MSASSY and Karl Kerschl ISBN: 9781534313538 Image, 2020 Publisher Age Rating: T+ (15+)
Browse for more like this title NFNT Age Recommendation: Teen (13-16), Older Teen (16-18), Adult (18+) Character Traits: Multiracial Lesbian
Lumberjanes: Campfire Songs is a quick and fun collection of six short stories. They live up to any Lumberjanes fan’s expectations for witty tales of friendship with a good dose of fantasy mixed into each. Jo, April, Mal, Molly and Ripley return in this interesting compilation of distinctive art and writing styles about making true connections with others, whether they be supernatural beings or regular old human beings.
The first narrative has all the girls planning a masquerade dance while simultaneously the forest faeries are planning a party of their own. Next we have a short and sweet underwater adventure with their racoon, Bubbles. Then the girls get stuck inside during a horrible rainstorm, dying of boredom when a litter of adorable green kittens appears! In “Weather Woes”, the girls have to help fix the eYeti’s generator as panic is setting in. Liz Prince’s “Some En-Haunted Evening” gives readers a funny murder mystery story, complete with ghosts. Lastly, we have a sepia-colored short story about scary bears that turn out to be more familiar than the girls initially realize.
Our Roanoke scouts are featured in different art styles in each comic. Six artists created the wonderful panels: Maddi Gonzalez, Brittney Williams, Alexa Bosy, Mari Costa, Kat Leyh and Brooklyn Allen. Each one of these talented individuals makes sure that they stay true to the original design of the series, yet you can see each one’s personal flair in the images. You can see artistic themes through the stories, like all the greens used in the story “Somewhere That’s Green” or the sepia tones used in “A Memory”. This grabs the reader’s attention as it’s clear that there’s a unique tone being set. Lumberjanes fans will love the comic gallery section at the end, which are masterpieces of detail representing not only the stories but the emotions evoked.
An amazing group of creators have come together to contribute to all of these stories, and they are easy to read one after the other. Expect the same type of humorous writing with good morals secretly woven into the stories as you would with any other volume in this series. The introduction and concluding paragraphs are beautifully written about having a realistic lifelong perspective on friendships. Some friends are for life, some aren’t, and some you meet later on, and that’s all perfectly okay! This is a great lesson to learn as young as possible.
Overall, this collection is well written and well put together. And another benefit of adding it to a library collection is that it stands alone, outside of the continuity of the main narrative. The title doesn’t add anything to the complexity of the characters developing or to their relationships with one another in the main narrative. Therefore, this is a great recommendation for both those newer to the series and to devoted fans who are waiting for the next Lumberjanes book to become available. I highly recommend diving into the fun at Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady Types!
Lumberjanes: Campfire Songs By Nicole Andelfinger, Brittney Williams, Seanan McGuire, Mari Costa, Liz Prince, Shannon Watters Art by Maddi Gonzalez, Brittney Williams, Alexa Bosy, Mari Costa, Kat Leyh, Brooklyn Allen ISBN: 9781684155675 BOOM! Box, 2020 Publisher Age Rating: 9-12 Series Reading Order: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lumberjanes (Wikipedia or Goodreads)
Browse for more like this title NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11), Tween (10-13) Character Traits: Black, Multiracial,
Goldie Vance is a sunny, unstoppable force of nature. At sixteen, she has already solved a few mysteries around the Florida resort that her dad manages. She hopes to continue her detective work this summer, but things at the resort seem frustratingly routine and un-mysterious. Luckily, Goldie’s rival-turned-friend Sugar Maple is starring in a movie, and she has invited Goldie’s mom to consult on the film out in Hollywood—and bring Goldie along! Goldie’s girlfriend Diane and best friend Cheryl are also jetting off to Los Angeles for exciting summer internships, so they’ll all be together for what promises to be an excellent summer.
Goldie being Goldie, she has barely arrived when she finds herself witness to a car chase. Putting together some clues from the scene leads her to the office of a tough, standoffish private detective, Adella Avery. Though she initially resists the idea of hiring a teenaged assistant, Avery grudgingly accepts that Goldie has talent and agrees to take her on. Avery is currently investigating a series of big-ticket thefts, and Goldie soon discovers connections between the thefts, Avery’s past, and even Sugar Maple’s new movie! What’s going on? And where will the thieves strike next?
Set in an alternate version of the 1960s—one without segregation, racism, or homophobia—this book is diverse, upbeat, and fun. It has a retro feel to it, though the exact time of the setting is not necessarily obvious. (I had to look it up to be sure.) The outfits and styles of the characters fit the time period, though, as do the diners and movie sets we sometimes see in the backgrounds. The art is poppy and colorful, with expressive characters who are just on the realistic side of cartoonish.
Goldie is a good-hearted and good-humored heroine who overcomes obstacles with smarts and persistence. Avery is prickly, but dedicated, and the complexity of her character is revealed as more of her past comes to light. Diane, Cheryl, and the rest of Goldie’s crew don’t get a lot of page time, but each has her own pursuits and interests in addition to supporting Goldie.
There’s plenty of action in this book, and more than a little crime, but it’s still a lighthearted romp populated almost entirely with people who mean well. No one gets hurt, no one swears, and there is no sexual content that goes beyond a quick kiss. But while the story is kid-friendly, it’s not juvenile or overly simplistic: the dialogue is clever, and some characters’ motivations are complicated.
It is refreshing and heartening to read a story with a richly diverse cast—both in terms of race and LGBTQ+ representation—that does not focus on discrimination or tragedy. Stories of racism, homophobia, and the overcoming thereof are important, but it is also important for people of color and LGBTQ+ readers to see themselves in stories that are not all about oppression, and for readers of all stripes to see diverse characters star in a variety of stories. Goldie is a biracial girl with a girlfriend, and to follow her happy and exciting mystery-solving life offers readers hope and positivity.
While it is part of the Goldie Vance series, this volume stands alone just fine. Hand it to young mystery fans, especially those who like their stories on the gentle side.
Goldie Vance: Larceny in La La Land By Jackie Ball Art by Mollie Rose, Natalia Nesterenko, and Lea Caballero ISBN: 9781684155446 BOOM! Box, 2020 Series Reading Order: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goldie_Vance (Wikipedia or Goodreads)
Browse for more like this title NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11), Tween (10-13) Character Traits: Black, Multiracial, Lesbian, Creator Highlights: LGBTQIA+ Creator
The first half of a haunted house story is usually fraught with a particular danger for the audience—that of boring them to tears. They’ll get a tease of the bogeyman under the bed and in the closet, but nothing scary will actually happen until the midway point and the final act. Until then, the audience must befriend the protagonists, pretend to care about their family drama (New to town? Inherited the mansion on top of the hill? Relocating after a personal tragedy?), and scan each scene in quiet desperation for a visual clue that hints at morbid connective tissue.
None of that snark is meant to suggest that horror needs jump scares and gore aplenty, but this book is “Part One” of a coherent narrative, which should stand as a warning to readers that they will not be getting any satisfying payoffs just yet. The tale of the Blaine family—surviving son Chase returns to the swampy family estate after his brother and sister-in-law’s murders, with niece and nephew in tow-—evolves around grief, anger, regret, and buried secrets. The moody niece Mackenzie and nephew of few words Zach are interesting to watch, with their individual quirks setting them apart while their sibling bond means they understand each other better than anyone else in the story. Chase punches out a racist in a bar as he calls the mixed-race children a racial epithet, but the heart of the story has more to do with Chase’s cryptic past. Upon returning home, his longtime friend Reese appears to help look after the house and kids. Chase is hounded by the belief that he is destructive while his late brother was creative, but there’s something sinister in the walls of the house. Literally—old family heirlooms are hidden in the walls and indicate a creepy mystery to be uncovered in a later book.
The Plot’s biggest strengths are in the quality of the visuals, both as storytelling tools and to behold on their own. Joshua Hixson’s illustrations are a little dim and dirty, which is befitting the bog-like setting and frequent dark or nighttime settings. For all the exposition that takes place to set the stage, there are several wordless sequences that build intrigue and suspense through paneling, Jordan Boyd’s coloring, and Jim Campbell’s lettering. For example, there is a scene of Zach and a dog exploring the bog, which is first drawn zoomed out, with plenty of room around both characters. Something in the water catches Zach’s foot, which causes the dog to bark. The panels become narrower and redder while barking fills the negative space in a large, thick, raw font. Zach is pulled underwater into another zoomed-out panel full of dark, green vegetation, quiet but menacing. These sorts of techniques come up all over the book, including a small, satisfying “Kick!” panel breaking the gutter between two panels of a room before and after its door is kicked open. Other horror sights such as a recurring undead figure would fit into a PG-13 horror movie; language would land it an R rating that few would notice.
On its own, it’s hard to recommend The Plot: Part One for general audiences without knowing what will happen in the upcoming Part Two. The building tension and mystery are effective but are only suggestive. Previews for future issues indicate that the same creative team will stick around, in which case, I definitely recommend Part One for adult and older teen horror collections, with the condition that readers hold tight for Part Two.
The Plot: Part One By Tim Daniel, Michael Moreci Art by Joshua Hixson ISBN: 9781939424549 Vault, 2020 Publisher Age Rating: N/A
Browse for more like this title NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18), Adult (18+) Character Traits: Multiracial,
Snapdragon is a colorful, exuberant tale of witchcraft, love, and animal skeletons from a creator best known for her work on the beloved Lumberjanes series. This delightful middle grade story was tentatively titled Roadkill Witch, and I feel that’s important to share because it’s much more evocative of the creepy but playful tone of the book. And roadkill is the unlikely leitmotif that ties much of the story together.
Preteen Snapdragon meets elderly Jacks, who is rumored to be the town witch, when she bravely climbs to her porch in search of her lost dog, GB (short for Good Boy). It’s during one of the long afternoons alone when her mom is at school or working. Snap knows that the black-clad Jacks collects roadkill in her wagon, and is rumored to bring it home and eat it, so she suspects she might find GB there. GB is with Jacks, but instead of eating him, Jacks has patched him up after he almost became roadkill himself. Snap soon learns that Jacks buries the roadkill, then harvests their bones to make into articulated skeletons that she sells on the Internet. When Snap wonders why Jacks bothers to “mess around” with animal bones, Jacks replies, “I ain’t disrespectin’ these critters. Critters die all the time, but it ought to be for a reason. That’s what even the least of us deserve. But roadkill’s a lousy way to end up. Lotsa folks don’t even notice when they hit somethin’. So I notice ‘em.” Once she articulates their skeletons, “they become something new. And they’re remembered.” It’s this basic goodness and humanism that lights up this story.
After returning to Jacks with a box of baby possums she’s saved from their dead mother, Snap becomes an eager apprentice of animal anatomy and the curious kind of magic Jacks practices. This central plot is only one part of a wider story of growth and love of all kinds, as Snap learns that Jacks has a significant link to her family, and the mysterious “curse” that’s been following them since her grandmother was a young woman. We follow Snap and her friend Louis, who transitions over the course of the book into Lulu, as they watch scary movies and swap clothes, and Snap’s mom as she trains as a firefighter and tentatively steps into a new romance.
The characters in Snapdragon view queer identities as a normal part of life. Although discrimination is present, especially in flashback scenes to the 50s, even Lulu’s older brothers, who constantly tease her, accept her for who she is. They’re just as happy to bedevil a younger sister as a younger brother.
Ultimately, Snapdragon is a love story about two people finding each other after a lifetime apart, and about a girl finding her place in a world of magic, new friends, and fluid identities. The mood is joyful and mysterious, and the bright, humorous artwork takes a loving view of the characters. I’ve never seen an artist make a realistic illustration of a possum look cute, but Leyh does it.
I highly recommend Snapdragon, which will appeal to fans of Shannon Hale, Raina Telgemeier, Jennifer Holm, and Brenna Thummler’s Sheets.
Snapdragon By Kat Leyh ISBN: 9781250171122 First Second Books, 2020 Publisher Age Rating: 10-14
Browse for more like this title NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11) Character Traits: Black, Multiracial Lesbian, Queer Trans, Genderqueer
Bob Marley in Comics, written by Gaet’s with art by Sophie Blitman, is the newest addition to NBM’s biographical graphic novel series. Similar to their previous publication, The Rolling Stones in Comics, Gaet’s details the life and death of the Jamaican musician and his impact in the world of music and world peace. Along with the singer’s biography, short comics depict important moments in Marley’s life, adding visuals to his story.
Born in Jamaica to an English army captain and a black woman; Robert Nesta Marley found music as an escape from the poor neighborhood he lived in. He found friendship with other musical youths, writing music and practicing different beats until his group was finally discovered. As the years go by, Marley finds success the world over with his rebellious, yet peaceful lyrics, his Rastafarian lifestyle, his messages of freedom, and his sexual exploits. For each moment of his life there is a short comic that accompanies it. In addition, readers are treated to a short introduction on the Rastafarian movement and the politics of Jamaica during the 1970s. The book ends with a listing of his studio albums and additional resources for the reader to explore.
This book is not just for Bob Marley fans, but for anyone who want to know more about the musician. Gaet’s and Blitman take readers into Jamaican society, from the slums in Kingston to the birth of reggae, and it’s impact Marley’s life. A variety of comic book artists (including Clement Baloup, Simon Leturgie, Domas, Sarah Williamson, and others) give life to these musical moments, adding visuals with their own comic techniques and color palates. Thanks to artist Efix, readers are introduced to the Rastafarian movement with a ganja smoking Rasta, who speaks directly to the audience while pencil drawn pictures of political figures and the Jamaican landscape are shown in the background. The attempted assassination of Marley, which is illustrated by Moh, is shown using alternating scenes between the attempt and a possible prophetic dream that one band member may have had. Towards the end, readers are given a chance to witness his state funeral, possession and all, with Gil’s soft colors and expansive scenes of mourners. All together the book celebrates Marley’s career, from his humble beginnings to his untimely death.
Bob Marley in Comics will be enjoyed by older music fans and those who have enjoyed the book series “in comics”, from the publishing company NBM Graphic Novels. The variety of artwork will intrigue readers and give them a glimpse into his life and career. It is a great addition to any public library’s graphic novel and biography collection.
Bob Marley in Comics By Gaet’s Art by Sophie Blitman ISBN: 9781681122496 NBM Graphic Novels, 2019
Browse for more like this title NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+) Character Traits: Multiracial
The very first page of Black Stars Above is a large, white box with small, cursive narrative text; so let’s start with the lettering by Hassan Ostmane-Elhaou. This comic is not only a slow-burn horror story by way of historical fiction, but it is also strongly dependent on characters’ journal entries providing the narration. Other textual effects include more standard lettering on spoken dialog, which uses carats to mark whether characters are speaking Michif or French, and white-on-black lettering inside of jagged speech bubbles for noises made by an alien creature. At the midway point of the story, the comic transitions into eight full pages of journal entries, with a couple of sketches included. Ostmane-Elhaou’s use of small, cursive font for journal entries will force readers to slow down as they scan through pages, and the effect this has on purely visual pages cannot be understated.
The second page of Black Stars Above is a wordless, four-panel sequence of some lynx traveling across snowy land; so let’s talk about more of the visual elements of this book. At the brightest of times, the Canadian wilderness is depicted as a gray wilderness with snow storms either taking over the horizon or directly flurrying the panels. A good deal of the comic takes place during dusk or nighttime, with lanterns and moonlight acting as dramatic light sources for the protagonist. Brad Simpson’s coloring is able to find a suitable range of hues for each situation, whether it’s the warm fireplace colors of a cabin, the cold blues and silvers of the snowy dark, or touches and waves of red as the story becomes more disturbing and violent. As mentioned before, the wordless segments of the story feel carefully paced to complement the dense use of text, making this a difficult comic to skim or skip through unless readers want to cheat themselves by “fast forwarding” to the horror reveals. Jenna Cha’s artwork and thoughtful paneling, which considers characters’ movements throughout each scene, deserves full consideration from beginning to end. Her talents include rendering a silhouette in a snowstorm, use of upside-down perspectives to visually suggest transitions that physically occur later, and eldritch creatures given a wintry spin that makes them simultaneously off-putting and kind of cute.
The third and fourth pages see the narrator and lynx meet; so let’s describe the actual story here. Lonnie Nadler’s script can be broken into three acts, each centering on Eulalie Dubois, a young woman on the Canadian frontier who yearns to escape her rural existence. In the first act, she struggles against the constricting expectations of her parents, including her First Nations mother and French father, who plan to marry her off to a nearby suitor. In the second act, Eulalie attempts to deliver a mysterious package on her own, with the hope of earning enough money to buy her independence. In the third act, the senses are assaulted as Eulalie travels to the eponymous black stars and discovers all kinds of freakiness and rituals. Images of cosmic horror that are briefly displayed or hinted at in the first couple of chapters receive thorough payoff in the latter half of the book, like a prestige horror film that plays with themes and setting but doesn’t forget to deliver the bloody goods. Far from schlock or grindhouse thrills, the journey of Black Stars Above could be described in Eulalie’s words as, “delirium walking hand in hand with awe.” People aren’t getting graphically murdered, or at all, but the book’s surreal imagery around madness, alien creatures, and disruption to the natural order is highly suggestive.
Where content warnings are concerned teens and older who know the word “cthulu” will be uniquely excited to follow this book’s immersive bread crumbs into madness. Animals are skinned and gutted, including the sight of an animal fetus dead in the womb. Creatures’ eyes drip black goo, and there is a brief scene of a topless woman. The literary tone that permeates the text, along with the less than accessible cursive font, means a good amount of focus will be required, but will also lead toward immense satisfaction and hope for a sequel in the same vein.
Black Stars Above By Lonnie Nadler Art by Jenna Cha ISBN: 9781939424532 Vault Comics, 2020 Publisher Age Rating: 12+
Browse for more like this title NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18), Adult (18+) Character Traits: First Nations or Indigenous Characters Multiracial, Creator Highlights: BIPOC Creator
The Cardboard Kingdom is an anthology book, with Chad Sell illustrating the stories of neighborhood children and the intersection of their make-believe and personal lives. Each chapter, written by a different author, features a protagonist’s imagined self serving as an outlet for how they feel in their normal life. The roles these children choose for themselves range widely, including heroes and villains, power fantasies alongside supportive roles, and invention taking place next to action. While some of the kids have brief periods of confusion getting into the collective fantasy or figuring out their individual place within the group, eventually all are accepted and lauded for their unique features.
This premise sounds light and fun, and it absolutely is, with Sell’s artwork generally portraying a bright, friendly neighborhood full of potential for play. This is an all-ages affair with easily understood themes, including ones of introspective struggle and frustration. For example, one of the children, a boy, role-plays as an evil queen, complete with boots and large hair. Another kingdom-dweller, a girl, wears a mustache. Each of them has a hurdle to overcome in getting their parents on board with how they play, which depends on communication and empathy.
Wordless sequences invite the reader to identify how characters feel and why they react the way they do, like a slightly more mature Owly. Any difficulty between family members tends to come down to a gap in understanding. In other cases, a child will play rough, want to incorporate animals in a certain way, or base their persona in reaction to their parents’ separation. Each writer’s story comes from a personal place, which results in a cascading emotional rush over the course of the book as one poignant tale bookends another and the group takes on a larger meaning than any given individual. Kids cameo in each other’s stories, and it’s fun to pick out their forms of play in each chapter. Forget DC and Marvel, this is the connected comics universe I want to follow!
The Cardboard Kingdom begs a certain comparison to another kid-friendly paean to creativity and lost afternoons adventuring around the neighborhood: Calvin & Hobbes. Calvin would absolutely get along/playfully wage war with these kids, and they would invite a living, breathing Hobbes into the action without a moment’s hesitation. In this case, instead of the standoffish “No Girls Allowed” treehouse, the level of play is closer to the anything-goes antics of Calvinball, where the rules are made up but anyone can jump in, including diverse skin tones.
There is no content warning for this book, though you will likely need a tissue by the end, whether you recognize yourself in one of the kids or share in the quiet and loud emotional triumphs that will speak to children and adults alike. I cannot imagine anyone with a heart not being affected by the unbridled joy of this book and so recommend it to the highest possible degree… from the children’s shelf. Keep some drawing materials, LEGO, or cardboard of your own on hand for when this book blows up your own creative urges.
The Cardboard Kingdom By Various Authors Art by Chad Sell ISBN: 9781524719371 Knopf Books, 2018 Publisher Age Rating: Grade 4-7
Browse for more like this title NFNT Age Recommendation: Easy Readers (5-9), Middle Grade (7-11), Tween (10-13) Character Traits: Multiracial Queer Genderqueer Creator Highlights: Own Voices, LGBTQIA+ Creator
Anne Ravenhall, a student at an exclusive school for girls, is mostly okay with her life, although she’s nervous about her upcoming mock exams. She has a best friend, even if some of the other girls look down on “Binky” for being a scholarship student. Then a great-aunt she’s never heard of dies and she inherits Ravenhall and a secret legacy.
As Anne explores Ravenhall, talks with the housekeeper Eve, and discovers the many secrets of her great-aunt and Ravenhall itself, she builds new friendships and faces dangers. She discovers a legacy of superhero powers related to birds and, with the help of her friend, seeks out the other girls who inherit the magical stones that contain those powers. But one of the descendants is unhappy with her prophetic powers and hostile to Anne; there is a frightening villain, Mr. Adder, and hints that the adversaries of the original group may still be around. If that wasn’t enough, Anne’s parents are using her legacy as a bargaining chip in their volatile relationship and pressuring Anne to sell Ravenhall.
The art is created in shades of blue and black with clean lines and neatly drawn backgrounds. Most of the characters are white; one girl who inherits powers is black, wealthy, and the leader of the popular “in-group.” The girls joke lightly about not fitting into the original costumes, made for the slimmer body types of the past, and their group presents a variety of body types, hair styles, and presentations of femininity. The motif of birds reappears frequently and the girls are sometimes shadowed by their particular bird as they manifest their powers. The panels are cleanly drawn, making it easy to follow the action, although the limited palette makes it difficult to tell some of the characters apart at times.
There’s nothing inappropriate for younger readers, but the general tenor of the book says middle school to me. There is a hint of romance, drama with friends and parents, and lots of unsupervised time with friends and on the internet.
For readers who want a quick superhero/girl power fantasy with some fun costuming, this is a quick and enjoyable read. It does give readers a feeling of having been dropped into the middle of a story, but this is inevitable with the shorter medium of graphic novels as opposed to a prose book. Although there are many questions about how the original Dissimulation got their powers, the background of the girls, and the future of the new group, enough information is supplied in the book to create an intriguing story even if it doesn’t answer all possible questions. Fans of Faith Erin Hicks’ One Year at Ellsmere (a new edition is being released in 2020) or Gotham Academy will enjoy this quick glimpse into an alternate world.
Conspiracy of Ravens By Leah Moore and John Reppion Art by Sally Jane Thompson ISBN: 9781506708836 Dark Horse, 2018 Publisher Age Rating: 10-13 yrs.
Kismet was the first Muslim superhero in comics. From Algeria, he first appeared in 1944 in Bomber Comics to fight Nazis behind enemy lines in World War II. Created by the pseudonymous Omar Tahan, after four issues, he disappeared from the comics arena as abruptly as he arrived. The character was rediscovered in 2007 by Bostonian academic (and Muslim convert) A. David Lewis, who revitalized and reworked the character to reflect contemporary problems. These problems, unfortunately, are the same issues facing the original Kismet: discrimination, prejudice, ignorance, the newly labeled alt-right, and the upsurge of Nazism. Kismet reappears in Boston, fused with activist Qadar Hussein in a deadly fight, and allied with Qadar’s sister Deena and her friend Rabia. With the death of Qadar, Kismet continues to invest his energies to fighting these unremitting evils. His superpower is his ability to see momentarily and instantaneous into the future, only enough to dodge an attack but not long enough to delve into impending actions.
The city of Boston is an active character in this volume through the contemporary landmarks and activities. Along with the strong and proud Muslim identification of the protagonist, this Boston is filled with citizens that are principally minorities and/or female. This Boston is unapologetically interracial and filled with characters of varied religious and sexual identities coexisting to bring the city alive and operational. There are no stereotypes here. Kismet is a man out of the past, but soon, with the aid of his friends, becomes a fighting force for social and political activism.
I found the illustrations muddy with a distinct partiality to dark backgrounds interspersed with infrequent brilliant splashes of reds and greens. Facial expressions are often hinted at rather than clear and I had difficulty at times differentiating characters. At the same time, however, the story arc was easy to follow and the solid characters rose above the muddiness to deliver a strong picture of today’s American society through the eyes of the past. The graphic novel is action packed and very relevant—public libraries for sure and high schools as well would benefit from having it in their collections.
Kismet: Man of Fate By A. David Lewis Art by Noel Tuazon ISBN: 9781949518009 A Wave Blue World, 2018 Publisher Age Rating: Adult
Browse for more like this title Character Traits: Neurodivergent, Multiracial, Lesbian, Genderqueer