Super Trash Clash

It is the Golden Age of Console Gaming and Dul is an avid gamer. Her games keep her company when her mom is at work, which seems to be most of the time now, given how tight money is. Dul appreciates everything her mother does for her, but there is one gift she wants more than any other for her birthday—Encounter Champions 2. The hottest fighting game of the year!

Fortunately, Dul’s mom knows how to take a hint, and saw all the gaming magazines she left around their apartment folded to a certain advertisement. Unfortunately, she looked at the wrong advertisement! This is how Dul wound up with a copy of Super Trash Clash, a game widely dismissed by game reviewers everywhere as being so poorly programmed that it hardly matters that the game itself is boring because you’ll barely be able to play it.

Despite this, Dul is ready to suffer in silence, until she’s given a chance to trade Super Trash Clash to her best friend’s cousin for a copy of Encounter Champions 2. (He’s already bored with it and wants a real challenge.) It seems like the bargain of a lifetime, until Dul’s mom (who is just savvy enough to tell one game from another) starts asking her about what happened to her new present. This begins an epic quest to recover the worst game ever made.

Super Trash Clash reminds me of many wonderful things. Mostly it reminds me of my childhood, which was spent pouring over Nintendo Power and GamePro magazines for news of upcoming games before making the weekly trek down to the local video store to see what new cartridges they might have ready to rent. It also reminds me of my mother, who endured far more rants about the virtues of Maniac Mansion on the NES compared to the PC version than anyone ever should have.

Mexican comic creator Edgar Camacho spins a fantastic story told in flashback, as an older Del stumbles across a copy of the so-called worst game ever and buys it, taking it home to play as she thinks about why the game means so much to her—even if it is terrible. The effect is something like A Christmas Story, but for those elder Millennials and Gen Xers who argued in the schoolyards regarding the virtues of NES vs. Sega.

Camacho’s artwork invites comparison to Bryan Lee O’Malley’s work on the Scott Pilgrim series. There is a streamlined simplicity to Camacho’s art that defies convention. Yet his backgrounds are as oddly complex and vividly detailed as his characters are simple. The colors are muted, adding to the nostalgic charm of the story.

Super Trash Clash is recommended for audiences 13 and up and I think that’s a fair rating. There’s nothing more objectionable than a curse word here and there and a child lying to a parent. For the record, Dul does spend most of the story suffering for that choice while trying to make things right. Younger kids might be able to process the story, but older audiences will have a better chance of appreciating the message that one person’s trash (clash) is another person’s treasured memory.

Super Trash Clash
By Edgar Camacho
Top Shelf, 2022
ISBN: 9781603095167

Publisher Age Rating: 13+

NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16)
Creator Representation:  Mexican

Doughnuts and Doom

The witch Margot and aspiring rock musician Elena are each going through a rough patch in their lives, with the former failing yet another spell license exam, and the latter struggling to get her band off the ground. Tensions are already running high as the two meet at the local doughnut shop, culminating in Margot unknowingly cursing one of Elena’s pastries. After Elena experiences an onstage accident gone viral, Margot seeks to remedy her mistake, but will it be enough to stop a doom of her own making?

Balazs Lorinczi’s debut graphic novel, Doughnuts and Doom, is a sweet treat of a story as we see the growth of Margot and Elena’s relationship, going from initially hostile to stalwartly supportive. Though they get off to a rocky start, the two eventually bond close enough to help the other through their toughest moments, whether that be Elena getting Margot through her performance anxiety or Margot standing with Elena as she faces an almost debilitating fear of failure. The connection they share through their similar conflicts of striving for success and constantly being tested on their abilities allows them to empathize more deeply with each other, something Lorinczi manages to convey in the story’s subtler moments. However, the short page length and fast pace make it a challenge for the comic to leave a lasting impression. While Margot and Elena’s dynamic is a highlight, it feels like there could have been more exploration or depth to it, something to make it stand out among the other entries in the paranormal romance genre. Character motivations also stand as being somewhat surface level, while others tend to be more vague or unaddressed, making it a bit harder to fully connect with their struggles.

In terms of world building, Lorinczi takes a laxer approach as witches and other supernatural beings are accepted and regulated figures in society, though there is not much explanation on how they function within it. Still, bits of exposition are transmitted through everyday conversation, leaving readers with enough detail to understand the world without completely breaking immersion. This falls in line with Doughnuts and Doom’s simple, relaxed tone, choosing to spend more time with how the characters interact and develop rather than fleshing out the setting. Overall, the graphic novel is one that is easy to relax to, the witchy, rock n’ roll vibes only adding more to the chill, low key atmosphere.

The cool blue color palette also feeds into the laid-back nature of the comic, which incorporates a shock of pastel pink whenever Margot uses magic. Lorinczi’s choice in contrasting the two colors creates memorable and visually distinct scenes, as the extra bit of color never fails to pop right off the page. Character designs hold a charming, alternative quality that reminds me of posters for lesser known rock groups, which, of course, is apt. Lorinczi instills so much personality in the main characters’ looks alone that it doesn’t take long for them to become endearing, as Margot’s down-to-earth appearance pairs well with Elena’s wilder style and effectively contributes to the balance of the comic’s magical and musical sides.

Doughnuts and Doom will definitely call to readers who enjoy a soft, queer paranormal romance similar to Mooncakes and Moonstruck, while also displaying an engaging sense of humor à la Fangs. The book markets itself as a “enemies-to-lovers” romance, which may not be entirely accurate, as Margot and Elena’s antagonistic moments are regulated to mostly one scene, and even then do not come from a place of working against each other, so that’s something to be aware of when suggesting the title to readers looking for certain themes.

The book has a suggested audience of 13-17 year olds, which is appropriate as, aside from the odd swear word, there is no content that would be unsuitable for younger audiences and they would have the most to benefit from seeing a depiction of a healthy, close, and supportive friendship turned relationship. Librarians and educators looking to include diverse art styles and portrayals of romantic relationships into their graphic novel collections should consider purchasing this title.

Doughnuts and Doom Vol.
By Balazs Lorinczi
Top Shelf, 2022
ISBN: 9781603095136

Publisher Age Rating: 13-17

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