The Many Deaths of Laila Starr

TThe Many Deaths of Laila Starrhe God of Death explores the meaning of life in The Many Deaths of Laila Starr, a beautiful and rich comic written by Ram V and illustrated by Filipe Andrade.

The story opens in the chaos of life and death. In a hospital in Mumbai the young baby Darius is born, and Laila Starr, an orphan girl, dies from injuries after a fall.

Amidst this chaos, the God of Death is called to the corporate office of the Purveyor of All Goodness. It seems the newborn, Darius, will one day invent immortality. Death is fired. Her services are no longer necessary.  Feeling scorned, Death returns to earth in the mortal body of recently deceased Laila Starr.

The Many Deaths of Laila Starr was recently published as a trade volume of 5 single issues originally published in 2021. In each of the 5 issues, Death is reincarnated in the body of Laila Starr. During each reincarnation, she finds herself by Darius’s side as he navigates life after the death of a loved one. Unfortunate accidents haunt Death, and her stays on earth are never long. However, the God of Life takes pity on his friend, reincarnating her after each death. Death gives Life meaning, and he does what he can to aide her on her journey..

The concept of the comic is fascinating—filled with deep subtext and meaning. Death, threatened by immortality, desperately tries to remain relevant, and in the process, experiences the human cost of death. The art by Filepe Andrade brings magical realism to Mumbai with a pallet saturated with warm tones. The illustrations capture the chaotic and beautiful realities of life and mirrors the lyrical text it accompanies.

The text blew me away. It is filled with poignant observations about the cycle of life. Over the course of the comic, both Death and Darius grasp for deeper understanding of life lost to death and the lives death leaves behind. The magnitude and our understanding of death evolves as we age. Over the course of the series, Darius grows from a child to an old man, and his experiences with the death of those around him affect both him and Laila Starr in meaningful and different ways.  The lyrical text beautifully captures the rich complexity. For instance, the third issue is narrated by a cigarette in text boxes partially outlined in a cloud of smoke.  While musing on the burning embers of a fragile life, it observes three teens “engrossed in the great rituals of youth. Writing their own dreams onto peeling walls. And negotiating vulnerabilities with the unspoken language of laughter, confessions, and stolen cigarettes.” These words by V paired with illustrations from Andrade beautifully explore the intricate balance between life and death.

Over the course of the last month, I picked up this book a number of times, and each new reading brought greater appreciation as I explored the depth of the illustrations and text.

I am excited to put this into the hands of my students, especially those who love philosophical explorations and beautiful stories. And it is sure to sway those who are hesitant to appreciate the literary value of the comic format. While the book is intended for an adult audience, I know that many high school students and teens, who are on the precipice of exploring life on their own, will also appreciate The Many Deaths of Laila Starr.

The Many Deaths of Laila Starr 
By Ram V
Art by Filipe Andrade
BOOM! Studios, 2022
ISBN: 9781684158058

NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)
Creator Representation:  Indian,  Character Representation: Indian,

ORCS!

ORCS!Whoever knew a quest with orcs could be so much fun! Forget elves and dwarves, these oft-villainized mythical beings are armed and ready for action, no matter what is thrown at them. Written and illustrated by Christine Larsen, ORCS! will have young readers entertained with the protagonists’ laugh out loud antics and adventurous spirits, along with the many other weird creatures that exist in their world.

Bog and his team of loyal orcs are banished from their home after a prank with a few vicious squirrels gets out of hand. Luckily, he has a plan to get them all back home: a quest for fortune through the Eerieasallhel Forest. But it becomes easier said than done when the gang are kidnapped by trolls, nibbled by gnomes, and stalked by a group of wardens. Meanwhile, the local orc witch is busy at her craft and entertaining the youngsters with the tales of Drod One-Eye, legendary orc warrior known for her fierce fighting skills and travels.

Christine Larsen has given a fresh new take on the life of orcs. They are still a dangerous bunch prone to rude behavior and violence but, just like any other mythical creature, they have their own stories and traditions that they follow. The stories of Drod One-Eye are very similar to any heroic tale with magical fellowships and earth shattering battles. The community is made up of adults caring for the tribe’s young ones and crews that are made up of both male and female orcs. Larsen also includes some fantasy satire and humorous word play in her story (just say Eerieasallhel out loud slowly) along with her unique array of characters. The world she has created includes vast landscapes of deserts, forests, and mountain ranges, perfect for any fans of magical quests. Her orcs vary in size and color, along with personalities. Most of the story’s action scenes span two pages with panel after panel of fights and magical sequences.

For elementary and middle school readers who enjoy some humor with their fantasy adventure, Larsen’s ORCS! is a great choice. Public and school libraries should consider this title in their collections. Players of fantasy games such as World of Warcraft and Dungeon and Dragons will appreciate the small nods to the tropes of magical quests, along with the array of magical characters that populate the graphic novel’s world.

ORCS!
By Christine Larsen
BOOM! KaBOOM!, 2021
ISBN: 9781684156719

NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11), Tween (10-13)

Peanuts: Scotland Bound, Charlie Brown

In Peanuts: Scotland Bound, Charlie Brown, Charlie Brown is back and travels across the pond to Scotland for an unforgettable and humorous adventure to the green pastures of Edinburgh, Scotland. The graphic novel is based on an unproduced feature-length special of Charles Schulz.

This  is an enjoyable adventure. The Peanuts characters are portrayed just the way we remember them. It opens with Lucy giving one her ‘therapy sessions” in her iconic booth. She is surprised to see Charlie Brown whistling, since this is out of character to his usually melancholic nature. He is happy because he has received a letter from his pen-pal, Morag. She wishes for Charlie Brown to visit Scotland and attend their International Music Festival. The gang decides to raise money for a trip to Scotland by hosting a carnival. The carnival is a success and the gang embarks on their Scottish adventure. 

On the plane trip, Charlie Brown is saddened to find that Morag has not one, but thirty pen-pals! However, a host family takes them in. They are taken to a traditional Edinburgh house by a young girl named Nell. Nell takes them on adventures through the city. All the usual tropes and sights and sounds of Scotland are mentioned. The gang visits many historical sites such as olde town theater and St. Andrews, and the site of the battle of Culloden.

Illustrator Robert Pope does an excellent job illustrating humor and movement. In one scene, we see Charlie Brown question out loud whether he should learn how to play the bagpipes. We see Linus throw his hands up in the air and express his dismay. This is typical of Linus’ dramatic nature—‘being the voice of reason’. The colors are vibrant and reflect the liveliness of the characters and their long journey. Snoopy, the lovable beagle, is decked out in Scottish gear such as a traditional Tam o’shanter cap and even brings along golf clubs. 

On Nell’s family farm they even see sheep and ‘Coos’ (how the Scottish pronounce cows). The ‘Coos’ are big brown shaggy cows, with wagging tongues. They are adorable and add humor to this adorable adventure. In one comical scene, we witness the Peanuts riding in a boat and freak out after thinking they see the traditional Scottish mythological creature Nessie. They all are capsized out of the boat and we see the many dramatic expressions of the characters. It is even funnier when they discover a large ‘coo’ hiding in the bushes. 

Author Jason Cooper does a good job incorporating the humor and personality of the characters that we love. He stays loyal to Charle Schulz’s characters and that’s important for Peanuts fans of all ages. 

This is a fun read that will leave Peanuts fans wanting more. We see the Peanuts gang in a new environment. The loving nature of Peanuts is enduring, and this comic will appeal to new generations of fans.

Peanuts: Scotland Bound, Charlie Brown
By Charles Schultz, Jason Cooper
Art by  Robert Pope
BOOM! KaBOOM!, 2021
ISBN: 9781684156818

NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11)

Hotel Dare

Hotel Dare tells us that family are the ones you fight for. The story comes out swinging, with newly adopted Charlotte explaining she beat up a kid at school because he was saying things about her family. As eldest sister Olive points out, everything the kid said is true, the siblings don’t look alike at all and Olive is queer. Still, it’s this fighting nature, and the notion that how you protect your family won’t always be popular with them, that holds the story together. Hotel Dare offers a number of ways for families to fall apart, from the space pirate Mila being exiled from their world for who they love, to Mamá Lupe neglecting her son while she lookes for her lost husband in the magical worlds. Amidst strife there’s always the hope for love triumphing.

Olive, Darwin, and Charlotte are spending their summer with their abuela in Mexico at the Hotel Dare. It looms on the first page in a splash of boxy house shapes cobbled together and teetering at the highest levels, connected by rope ladders. Olive has an ulterior motive to their trip: to discover why it is their father and Mamá Lupe are estranged, what fight it was that separated them. Mamá Lupe makes it clear they’re there to help her clean and fix up the hotel, but softens her expectations with conchas, hot chocolate, and several days of the siblings lounging around the house. 

Once the work gets underway, they split up to clean three separate rooms and simultaneously discover three closets leading to three different fantasy worlds. Olive is in a wizarding world where she finds herself comforting Brad, a muscled apprentice with chiseled features and long flowing blond locks crushed by his hideous inability to grow a beard, the most important status symbol of his world. Darwin, who almost never speaks in the real world, is drawn into a world of cotton candy colors and fluff juxtaposed with dark black glass. A fuzzy floating creature befriends him. Charlotte finds a world of space pirates and opportunities to put her tinkering abilities to good use. None of the worlds are quite what they appear and the siblings find out many family secrets as they begin to understand everything Mamá Lupe has been hiding in the Hotel Dare.

Terry Blas’s writing in Hotel Dare spins out character development and action in well measured doses. We never find out much about the siblings’ pasts, beyond Charlotte and Darwin having come from orphanages. What’s important is how they act now in preserving or stressing their family. The worlds they end up in tell us more about their inner struggles and identities. Mamá Lupe’s past is fully developed, a beautiful homage to a love of fantasy stories and Mexican history and mythology. Not to mention Mamá Lupe has led a pretty badass adventure-packed life in the many worlds. Blas weaves themes of isolation, gender, justice, and bigotry into the story. There’s a lot of the plot I’m leaving out so you’ll get to enjoy it unfolding, you’ll just have to trust me. The only weakness in the book is that it ends much too soon. You will feel like there should be a sequel before you realize that the resolution is already there, you just didn’t get to experience the fallout and emotional work still to come for the characters. You want more time with the characters. The kind of longing only great books can bring. 

Claudia Aguirre’s art is dynamic and busy, colors and shapes often crammed in like the erratic rooflines of the Hotel Dare. Sometimes the panels slant and crash under the action. The faces are cartoonish with crystal clear emotions, touching on the human core of the fantasy story. Color palettes and background art styles create the character of the different worlds, cool toned soaring fantasy for the wizard world, soft warm colors and childish shapes for Darwin’s world and geometric metallic settings for the space pirates. These divisions are necessary to help the reader navigate the story as it frequently switches between the different worlds. In every world, even ours, there’s always a sense of something glowing that makes Hotel Dare feel alive in your hands. 

I’m reaching back a bit for this review; Hotel Dare was published three years ago. It’s an often overlooked gem that features a Latinx cast, LGBTQ issues, and the kind of fantasy multiple dimension world building that never goes out of style. I breathlessly tore through the advance reader copy, pushed it in booktalks, and for years have worn a pin on my lanyard like the mysterious one discovered in Mamá Lupe’s office. If you missed it, I hope you’ll take a second look for your collections and programming. Hotel Dare has a place in any children’s collection. There are no content issues, but upper elementary and tween students will get more from the nuances of the family dynamics. Hand it to kids reading 5 Worlds, Star Scouts, and Lumberjanes. Chapter book fans of Dragons in a Bag and visitors to Narnia, Neverland, and other magical portals will also find a lot to love. 

Hotel Dare 
By Terry Blas
Art by  Claudia Aguirre
BOOM! KaBOOM!, 2019
ISBN: 9781684152056

Publisher Age Rating: 9-11

NFNT Age Recommendation: Tween (10-13)
Creator Representation: Mexican-American, Queer
Character Representation: Mexican-American, Queer

Seven Secrets, Vol. 2

Seven Secrets, Vol. 1 introduced readers to the Order, a clandestine organization responsible for guarding the magical artifacts known as the Seven Secrets. Readers also explored the Order through Caspar, the Order’s newest recruit whose parents are two of the Order’s most respected and capable members. Vol. 1 ended with the Seekers, who seek to destroy the Order, closing in, and Seven Secrets, Vol. 2 ups the stakes by not only cranking up the action scenes, but by developing the characters readers thought they knew.

Volume two begins not in the world we know, but in the Fae Realm. It is in this world that Caspar not only learns more about his upbringing, but discovers that he may just be the secret weapon the Order needs to turn the tide of battle. However, the Seekers are eager to press their advantage, especially since there is a traitor in the midst of the Order, one who developed a deep hatred of the organization and will gladly use his knowledge to help bring down the Order.

Tom Taylor’s story takes advantage of the fact that most of the series’ mythology was introduced in volume one. In volume two, he’s able to insert more action as well as give characters specific scenes to flesh them out. This is especially true with the scenes with Eva and Caspar, mother and son. Not able to raise Caspar herself, these moments where the two reconnect give the story some welcome emotional heft, but there are more characters who have a chance to shine. As the traitor in the Order is revealed, Taylor does such a great job exploring that traitor’s motivations, they become more of an antihero instead of a straight-up villain. These moments of character building keep the series from becoming simply action scenes and eye candy.

Daniele Di Nucolo, however, doesn’t skimp on the action or the set pieces. After depicting gorgeously sprawling but real-world locations, Di Nucolo can explore a more fantastical side to the worlds he creates. The Fae Realm as depicted by Di Nucolo is one where unicorns can frolic but not connected to our world’s concept of gravity or time. Magic is also brought in as a weapon that can be more powerful than the largest guns in either sides’ respective arsenals. Fans of volume one will be delighted to know that there is no drop in the quality of the gun and sword fights Di Nucolo depicts but this book. Hopefully, when volume three comes out, it will continue to show the artist challenging himself.

Seven Secrets is still as bright and loud as a Saturday morning cartoon or the sugary cereal that was supposedly part of a nutritious breakfast, but it also allows for emotional beats and chances for characters to do more than stab and shoot. With the world and the basic plot already established, volume two can take some risks in incorporating more genre blending as well as a generous sprinkling of more down-to-earth moments. If your patrons loved volume one, librarians should look into Seven Secrets, Vol. 2, which delivers what they loved about the first volume, but includes enough new elements to keep it fresh and interesting.

Seven Secrets, Vol. 2
By Tom Taylor
Art by  Daniele De Nicuolo
BOOM! Studios, 2021
ISBN: 9781684157396

NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)

Specter Inspectors

Cape Grace is one of the most haunted towns in America, what with its records of mysterious disappearances, cult activity, and unnerving spirit sightings, making it the perfect destination for the next episode of Specter Inspectors. Paranormal enthusiast, Noa, her younger sibling, Gus, best friend and secret crush, Astrid, and their camera operator, Ko, journey to the small town to prove that ghosts exist. However, when Astrid suddenly becomes possessed, the gang soon stumble upon forces far beyond their understanding. To save their friend they must uncover the town’s dark history, which holds more sinister secrets than the odd ghost or two. Coming off as a queer Scooby-Doo for a new age, Specter Inspectors delivers an engaging, fast-paced, and, at times, emotionally compelling tale all wrapped up in an eerily atmospheric style that perfectly sets the mood for spooky shenanigans.

Authors Bowen McCurdy and Kaitlyn Musto hit all the narrative beats one expects to find in this kind of story: investigating a decrepit, creepy building, ensuing supernatural hijinks, at least one trip to the local library, and ultimately coming toe-to-toe with an otherworldly entity. Despite the typical formula, the writing and characters are what keep the story fresh and interesting. There is never a dull moment, as our inspectors are thrust from one ghoulish encounter to another, while still having more grounded, character-developing moments. When writing a story with an ensemble cast, there is always the risk of alienating and setting aside certain characters, leading to an unbalanced focus. Thankfully, McCurdy and Musto avoid this issue, giving everyone their chance to become endearing and relatable to the readers. The dynamics of the group are expertly in-sync, with Noa as the enthusiastic true believer, Astrid the skeptic, Ko the scaredy-cat, and Gus the sarcastic younger sibling doubling as the voice of reason. These archetypes gel well together, enriching each interaction with personality and occasional humor. There were one or two scenes that got a good snort out of me, mostly due to great comedic timing paired with the wonderfully expressive faces of the characters.

McCurdy also serves as the comic’s artist, utilizing colors that bring out the evocative qualities of the illustrations, especially in the opening establishing panels of Cape Grace, which is awash with varying shades of an ominous green. In the first few pages alone, McCurdy instantly draws readers into the paranormal vibes that constantly linger around the setting, heightened by the appropriately ghastly appearance of the old town hall and the overall feeling of barrenness around the town. Though a few residents appear every now and then, there is an emptiness to Cape Grace with each deserted street and building, depicting the environments as somewhat foreboding and isolating. McCurdy excels at giving Cape Grace that lovely “small town spooky” aesthetic, though is also capable of creating beautiful scenes, like a firefly-lit night by a lake covered in deep blues, somehow seeming so far away from the constantly emerald lit town, but still a part of it. The range of colors, expressions, and designs both in setting and characters truly elevate the effectiveness of the emotional impact of the story, whether when it is trying to send a shiver down our spines or endearing us to a romance that lies just beneath the horror.

One blurb on the back of the comic states that you will “show up for the ghosts, stay for the queer romance” and I could not say it any better myself. Noa and Astrid’s relationship, giving sapphic romance representation, blossoms so wonderfully on the page, starting from awkward attempts at flirting to genuine displays of admiration, affection, and concern for the others’ wellbeing. I am always so excited to see more LGBTQ+ relationships in horror media and it is wonderful to see that this representation is being more normalized across multiple genres. Other representation includes Gus, who is non-binary and uses they/them pronouns.

Marketed as a horror title, Specter Inspectors skews towards the lighter side of the genre, without depending on blood or gore for its few scares. This makes it ideal for those that enjoy paranormal stories that are short on true terror, but compensate it with likable main characters, elements of mystery, and an unearthly ambiance. There is a touch of unsettling imagery towards the end and talk of possessions and cult behavior throughout, so it would be best for ages 13 and up. Those that are looking to acquire stories with positive LGBTQ+ representation across various genres, as well as add to a collection that has a high circulation of paranormal/horror materials, should consider purchasing this title.


Specter Inspectors
By Bowen McCurdy, Kaitlyn Musto
Art by Bowen McCurdy
BOOM! Box, 2021
ISBN: 9781684157402

NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16)
Creator Representation: Queer
Character Representation: Queer, Nonbinary

Magic, vol. 1

Magic is a tie in comic to the popular collectible trading card game Magic the Gathering and assumes some familiarity with the story and characters that have appeared in the game. In terms of storyline, this takes place sometime after the “War of the Spark” expansion, but I am unsure of the exact placement. The first caption reads, “The multiverse is vast, and the planes of existence innumerable,” which gives an idea of the scope covered here. The focus narrows from there to the plane of Ravnica which is a gigantic city, but it’s still an intimidating opening.

A mysterious group sets off explosions around the city of Ravnica, following up with assassination attempts on three guildmasters who are also planeswalkers (people who can travel between worlds). The three main characters: Vraska, Kaya, and Ral attempt to find out who is behind the attacks and end up embroiled in a wide ranging conspiracy. Along the way they work with other planeswalkers, butt heads with other guildmasters, and explore the many worlds they can travel to. There is a focus on exploring the world of Ravnica, as that is where the bulk of the action takes place.

The artwork is detailed and vibrant, very similar to the artwork typically found on Magic cards, but with some variations that differentiate from the game’s style. Some breaks from traditional layout and gutter style can be hard to follow. For example, early in the book the gutters are replaced with lightning effects for one page, but those same bolts can be found in the panel art, making it hard to tell what’s part of the story and what is meant to break up the sequence. There is a lot of fun to be had in the backgrounds. The main character’s ability to travel to different dimensions leads to a wide variety of locations, each with a distinctive environment.

McKay repeats place names and key pieces of vocabulary early on, which can be useful to the unfamiliar reader. Thankfully, voices of the main characters are distinguishable from each other. For example Vraska, the gorgon, is written as somewhat haughty while Kaya, the assassin, is more casual and modern. Some characters are introduced without much description, such as Jace Beleren, who is described as “the mind mage”. No further explanation of him being a planeswalker similar to the main characters is given, or a reason why he is so important to protect later on in the story. There are short descriptions of the various locales, but for more information the reader would have to turn to the game itself.

The publisher, Boom! Comics does not list a suggested age range for Magic, but I would place it firmly in teen. There are flashes of violence and death throughout, but very little in the way of adult language or sexual content. The concepts of various fantasy worlds that can be explored is a bit too complex for younger readers. This places the comic in the same suggested age bracket as the card game.

I would recommend this for public libraries with a strong fantasy or gaming population. If you have other tie-in works in your collection, or have a few Dungeons and Dragons groups using your space, this would be a welcome addition to your shelf.


Magic, vol. 1
By Jed MacKay
Art by Ig Guara
BOOM! Studios, 2021
ISBN: 9781684157358

Related media: Game to Comic

NFNT Age Recommendation: Teen (13-16)

BRZRKR

We’re all probably familiar with some version of the story of an immortal warrior fighting across the ages. With BRZRKR, that story is given a fresh twist—what if the immortal warrior was Keanu Reeves?

Okay, to be fair, it’s not actually Keanu Reeves. It just looks exactly like him—and was created by him. BRZRKR opens on the man known only as Unute assisting with a military action in an unnamed country seemingly in South America. As this immortal tears through enemy soldiers—including killing one man with another man’s rib—the tone of the book quickly becomes clear. In his 80,000 years of life, Unute has served the causes of many warring societies. The United States is simply the next power happy to use him as a weapon. With volume 1, the comic weaves together three central threads. We have Unute’s violent missions around the globe as a black-ops tool of the US military who clearly want to harness his power in any way they can. In between missions, Unute recounts his early life as the defender of his tribe—a gift from unnamed gods who was created with bloodlust and eternal life. And finally we have Diana, the government doctor studying Unute who also promises that she wants to help him achieve his only goal—mortality.

Co-written by Keanu Reeves and Matt Kindt, BRZRKR understands its own relative simplicity. It’s an action story, and rather than overly-complicating the plot, the writers allow Unute plenty of time to punch through people’s heads and rip out their hearts in dramatic fashion. However, amidst the violence, they find a very human core in a man who is not entirely human. After 80,000 years, Unute is tired. He has been tired for a long time. Viewed for his entire life as a tool rather than a person and haunted by the trail of death spread behind him, the man at the center of the story has the ability to fight everything but his own bitter fate. In between missions, it is the grim moments of humanity which ground the story in something more meaningful. Amidst the death, BRZRKR is a story about humanity’s violent quest for power across history, and one man’s flickering desire to be valued as an individual, rather than a weapon, regardless of what he was born to do.

Illustrated by Ron Garney, and with a full palate of matte colors from Bill Crabtree, BRZRKR showcases Unute’s superhuman killing ability in graphic detail. Blood sprays as he tears apart both people and animals with his bare hands. And though he cannot be killed, though he heals quickly, Unute is not immune to damage. He has died before, and as he is called into action again and again, he sustains his own brutal injuries—even if they do quickly fade. For all that the writers shape this story, Garney and Crabtree bring it to life in gruesome detail, capturing the epic scope and violence of Unute’s past, the supernatural origins of his abilities, and the weary man behind those death-filled eyes. Art and writing work together to capture the full depth and each dramatic turn of Unute’s journey across the millennia.

Boom! Studios assigns BRZRKR a mature rating, and the comic confidently earns that designation within the first few pages. Violence is the main reason for the rating, along with brief instances of nudity. The content definitely isn’t for the squeamish, but for any fans of action-adventure stories, military comics with a bit of intrigue, or Keanu Reeves himself, there’s a whole lot here to appreciate. If your readers appreciate titles such as Southern Bastards or The Old Guard, this is definitely a worthy addition to your collection. BRZRKR begins with plenty of familiar elements, but with a strong creative team and a confidence in its own story, the comic manages to feel fresh, building a meaningful narrative at the center of all the action. Keanu Reeves isn’t just cashing in on his star power here. He, along with Kindt and the others, have delivered the opening sequence of a saga that promises plenty of thrills still to come. I, for one, look forward to seeing what this team has in store next.


BRZRKR, Vol. 1
By Keanu Reeves, Matt Kindt
Art by Ron Garney
BOOM! Studios, 2021
ISBN: 9781684156856
Publisher Age Rating: M

NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+)

The Last Witch: Fear and Fire

Be wary on Imbolc Day, when the witch, Cailleach, roams the woods, looking for children to feast upon. At least, that is the legend told in Saoirse’s village, warning anyone who dares to venture to the witch’s tower. Eager to prove herself, Saoirse, along with her brother, Brahm, goes to see if there is any truth to the old stories, only to fall right into the Cailleach’s clutches. From that point on, everything Saoirse knows and loves will change forever, as she discovers the meaning behind a mysterious mark on her shoulder, a dire threat to the world of apocalyptic proportions, and her own latent magic that may be more than she is ready to master. In this first installment of a new, action-packed fantasy series, The Last Witch: Fear & Fire begins a tale steeped in Irish lore and history, one that examines the responsibility of having power and the dangers of its corrupting influence.

When taking in the comic’s immaculate and engaging artwork, it would be difficult to imagine this story told through any other style. V.V. Glass’ illustrations perfectly match each tone and setting, such as the dark and foreboding witch’s tower in the wintery woods, the dynamic expressions of the characters as they endure both great hardships and welcoming moments of mirth, or the truly epic displays of Saoirse’s magic. The full-page panels that capture the might of these powers are consistently stunning and excel in showcasing both the great beauty and dangers of the magic in this world. Glass’ character designs also assist in highlighting the more gruesome aspects of the comic, particularly in the designs of Saoirse’s witchy adversaries. Black Annis, the witch Saoirse and Brahm mistake for the Cailleach, wears an intimidating smile of needlelike teeth, along with a forked tongue and slitted eyes, a figure that feels as if she had stepped right out of a cautionary fairy tale. There is also the Badb, who wields air magic through her constantly shifting faces, some more frightful than the others. Though eerie at times, the style of the comic adapts easily to whatever mood the text conveys, whether it be light-hearted, mysterious, or simply magical, resulting in a satisfying narrative harmony.

For this first volume, the fast pace of the story manages to include a great deal of plot progression and worldbuilding without doubling down on staggering exposition or giving away too many answers at once. Though the reader learns a great deal by the volume’s conclusion, there are still more unknown elements at play, enticing readers to continue with Saoirse’s journey. Saoirse is a character that is easy to fall in love with: headstrong and determined with a touch of recklessness, but also holds an admirable responsibility to her loved ones. Her external conflict with confronting malevolent witches is paired nicely with the internal battle of controlling her ever-growing magic, ultimately coming to a point where she fears what she is truly capable of. With this comic being only the beginning of the story, it sets up an intrigue in how these feelings will develop and affect Saoirse down the road.

Truthfully, it is the darker, more complex aspects of the comic that give it a sense of identity. Imagine a cross of Avatar the Last Airbender, a Cartoon Saloon production (the studio behind The Song of the Sea and Wolfwalkers), with a healthy dash of a Brothers Grimm fairy tale. As a result, you will get an enchanting yet perilous tale sure to appeal to those who flock to stories of grand, culturally-inspired adventures with an edge.

While the story does not contain explicit moments of gore, there are several gruesome moments that may unnerve younger readers, such as one instance of child-eating and a good amount of off panel deaths. Taking this into account, The Last Witch: Fear & Fire is most suitable for readers 13 and up and will fit in nicely in young adult or teen graphic novel collections that have a good circulation of epic fantasy stories or strive to diversify their collections with materials featuring strong, predominantly female casts.


The Last Witch: Fear & Fire
By Conor McCreery
Art by V.V. Glass
BOOM! Box, 2021
ISBN: 9781684156214
Publisher Age Rating: 14-17

NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16)
Creator Representation: British, Canadian, Nonbinary
Character Representation: Irish

Mighty Morphin Volume 2

There’s a new Green Ranger in town, and he’s not playing by Zordon and the other rangers’ rules. 

Following the ending of both flagship Power Ranger comics, Boom! relaunches with Mighty Morphin and Power Rangers. The latter series focuses on the Omega Rangers: Trini, Zack, and Jason and their adventures in space, while this volume and its predecessor focuses on the second generation of the tv show team from the 90s. Tommy has become the White Ranger and leads the team of Kimberly, Billy, Aisha, Rocky, and Adam against Lord Zedd and his foes. However, someone has joined the rangers in the field in a redesigned version of Tommy’s old green suit. Who is this ranger, and why are they not working side-by-side with our team of heroes?

Writer Ryan Parrott has been penning the rangers for almost five years now and has taken over both of the Boom! titles in the new launch. Because of this, threads planted years ago in Saban’s Go Go Power Rangers and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers pay off with a major character reveal at the end of volume one. Parrott also has justifications for character developments that happened in the show, such as Billy’s increased isolationism from the rest of the other rangers. Lastly, the voice for the Green Ranger is refreshing as they have a great insight on why the rangers need to be more open to the people of Angel Grove. Volume 2 delves into the Green Ranger’s motivations more closely, after the big identity reveal closing out the first volume.

Artist Marco Renna’s more futuristic depiction of Angel Grove and scenes in Zordon’s past give a science fiction bend to the title not seen since the rangers visited space early in the first run. It’s hard to take over a comic that has been running for four years, but Renna has taken the characters and made them his own. His Zordon, for example, emotes a lot more than previous iterations and can do so with a tilt of his head.

This new series pairs well with its sister title Power Rangers to make for a decent sized collection for libraries. As Higgins pens both titles, the series would be shelved next to each other in any library using author’s names for organization. To separate from the previous comics, BOOM! calls this the ‘Unlimited Power’ era of the rangers. 

Further, while there are ties to events in past comics, I feel they do a decent enough recap that you do not have to purchase the backlog if you can’t afford it. That being said, Parrott worked well with writer Kyle Higgins on the first generation of BOOM! Rangers, so if you have the budget look into some of their other works.


Mighty Morphin, vol. 2
By Ryan Parrott
Art by Marco Renna
BOOM! Studios, 2021
ISBN: 9781684157020

NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16)
Series ISBNs and Order: Volume 1 ISBN: 9781684156702
Related media: TV to Comic