Blade Runner 2019: Volumes 1-3

The original Blade Runner was not a big hit when it was originally released in 1982, yet it has gone on to become a classic of science fiction cinema and inspire a sequel, Blade Runner 2049. While not directly adapting the Philip K. Dick story Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, Blade Runner encapsulated the themes of Dick’s dystopian world, where the best of humanity reached the stars, only to poison the Earth and abandon the poor and the sick to a slow death on a dying world. Yet even that existence is preferable to the life of slavery forced on replicants; artificially made beings virtually indistinguishable from real humans.

Titan Comics’ Blade Runner 2019 is the first original graphic novel series set in the world of Blade Runner. Beyond being officially endorsed as canon to the films, the series is co-written by Michael Green, who co-wrote the script for Blade Runner 2049. That alone ensures a higher level of quality than one might normally expect from a film tie-in comic, even when that writer is an Oscar Nominee for his work on the film Logan. Green is an experienced comic book writer, as is his co-author, Mike Johnson, with whom he previously collaborated on DC Comics’ New 52 Supergirl series. This makes them an ideal team for adapting the world of Blade Runner into a comic book format.

Set in Los Angeles during the same time as Blade Runner, but with none of the film’s characters making an appearance apart from replicant magnate Dr. Eldon Tyrel, the first volume of Blade Runner 2019 quickly introduces us to Aahna “Ash” Ashina. Ash is widely considered to be the best of the LAPD’s Blade Runners; special detectives tasked with hunting down replicants who go into hiding on Earth. However, a lack of replicants to hunt and pressure from City Hall sees Ash temporarily reassigned to investigate the disappearance of Isobel and Cleo Selwyn, the wife and daughter of billionaire Alexander Selwyn. It soon becomes apparent that Ash’s assignment was due to more than a rich man demanding the best detective available, and Ash soon finds herself fighting to protect Cleo from an unexpected threat.

Green and Johnson’s scripts perfectly capture the themes of the original films and the reoccurring idea that the replicants and other artificial beings are more compassionate and noble than the fiendish organics that created them. Ash is a prime example of this, starting out with no sense of sympathy for replicants and unspoken envy of them, given her own dark secret. As a child, Ash was denied the right to follow her mother into the stars due to an unspecified spinal condition that renders her unable to walk without the aid of an implant that requires constant recharging. This makes Ash ironically dependent on the same technology she hates and leaves her needing to hide the truth of her disability from her coworkers in the same way replicants must hide from society.

The artwork flawlessly replicates the neo-noir theme of the films. Artist Andres Guinaldo boasts a gritty aesthetic that offers a detail-driven view of the future. The colors of Marco Lesko perfectly complete the pictures, with vivid reds highlighting moments of action and contrast with the cool blues and greens that dominate the larger narrative. Lesko also manages the neat trick of hiding neon shades in the background that hint at the splendor of the city center, even as the action largely takes place in the dimly lit shadows of the mean streets. Fans of the movies will be pleased, but the comics serve as a wonderful introduction to the setting for those who have not seen the films.

All three volumes of Blade Runner 2019 are rated 15+. I consider that to be a fair assessment. There’s no overt nudity in the artwork, apart from one cover depicting an exotic dancer in the middle distance, though there are several shots of Ash’s bare back that serve only to showcase her implant. Of larger concern is the book’s violent content and some detailed and disturbing images of people being shot and blood being shed. There is nothing that would be inappropriate for older teens, however, and indeed the comics are more restrained in what they show than the films.


Blade Runner 2019: Volumes 1-3
By Michael Green, Mike Johnson, and Andres Guinaldo
Titan Comics, 2019
Vol 1 ISBN: 9781787731615
Vol 2 ISBN: 9781787731929
Vol 3 ISBN: 9781787731936
Publisher Age Rating:  15+ Only
Related media:  Movie to Comic

NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16)
Character Representation: Indian American, Prosthesis, Wheelchair User,

The Omniscients, vol 1: Phenomena

One otherwise ordinary day, five teenagers suddenly find themselves with the ability to mentally access all recorded public knowledge. Research studies, the entire Internet, every book and movie ever made… it’s all in their heads.

Four of the teens reveal their powers immediately and become media sensations before being whisked away to a safe house by the FBI. It seems great: they have a fancy villa to themselves, they’re world-famous, and they’ll never have to go back to school. But the fifth teen hangs back, not trusting the authorities. She’s right not to: some members of the FBI have sinister plans for these teens, and a secret organization is also desperate to get its hands on them. Will all the world’s recorded knowledge be enough to keep “the omniscients” safe? And how did they come to have this power, anyway?

Despite the series title, the teens aren’t actually omniscient. Most of them can only pull up information that is public knowledge, meaning their ability is not that much more useful than having a smartphone. One, however, can access information that is more private, like police reports, while another can see events in the recent past, even if they have not been recorded. The boundaries of their powers and the differences between them are a little fuzzy, with the teens not trying to parse or explain them until very late in the book. Still, their abilities have interesting implications, from telling them the locations of security cameras to effectively spoiling the ending of every book and movie in existence.

While they all live in America, the five teens hail from very different families and situations, as well as different races. One is the child of successful lawyers; one is an undocumented immigrant separated from his parents; one is the overworked and underappreciated daughter of a family struggling on the edge of poverty. These differences shape how they react to their new abilities and changing situations.

No single character emerges as the main protagonist of this story, though Jessica, the skeptical girl who does not rush to reveal her powers and join the other four, gets more solo page time than the rest. The book jumps between points of view, including not just the titular “omniscients,” but FBI agents and members of the secret organization that is after the teens. There are also brief, intriguing glimpses of an anonymous person who may be connected to how the teens got their abilities.

This volume has virtually no violence. Any tense situations are all comfortably resolved by the end (though there are hints that the mystery of these new powers will continue to be explored). There is no nudity or sexuality unless you count a couple of random guys hitting on Jessica. No romance, either—perhaps surprising for a story where a group of teens is thrown together with danger, superpowers, and little supervision. The complexity—and things like the FBI alluding to preparing “a little Guantanamo” for the teens—push this toward teen, rather than kid, territory. At the same time, there is some clumsy exposition, with characters explaining things to people who would already know them.

The art is detailed, clear, and expressive. The characters are realistic, and their poses, expressions, and movement feel natural, but with a slight comic-book exaggeration for emphasis. They are all distinct and easy to recognize. The backgrounds are fittingly realistic, detailed without being cluttered, and good use is made of color to add to the mood of various scenes and settings.

This is a mostly gentle story of five teens brought together by the strange power that changed their lives. They aren’t exactly superheroes; as of yet, they aren’t fighting crime, just trying to figure out their own circumstances. Fans of supernatural stories with relatable, good-hearted protagonists—and nothing too scary—might enjoy this volume.


The Omniscients, vol 1: Phenomena
By Vincent Dugomier
Art by Renata Castellani, Benoît Bekaert,
Europe Comics, 2020
ISBN: 9791032811191

NFNT Age Recommendation: Teen (13-16), Tween (10-13)
Creator Representation: Belgian, Italian
Character Representation: African-American, Latinx

Flamer

The front cover of Flamer has a lofty quote from Jarrett J. Krosoczka: “This book will save lives.” It may seem like an overstatement, but when one finishes reading Flamer, they will invariably agree. Flamer may be a devastating read, but it provides a much-needed update to Dan Savage and Terry Miller’s It Gets Better Project that feels current in spite of its mid-1990s setting.

Aiden Navarro is spending his summer earning badges at Boy Scout camp. In the fall, he’ll start at public school, choosing not to return to the Catholic school he’s attended—and where he’s been relentlessly bullied—for years. Aiden is chubby, Filipino, and effeminate, all qualities that render him an easy target for the aggressively masculine white boys at his school (and, for that matter, at Boy Scout camp). Unfortunately, Aiden’s home life is difficult as well. His father is verbally abusive, and his mother leans heavily on Aiden for emotional support after their fights. At its best, Boy Scout camp provides Aiden a refuge, a space where he and fellow campers are free to rank their favorite X-Men characters and where friends value his thoughtful perspectives about how to treat their girlfriends with dignity. At its worst, though, Boy Scout camp is a hotbed of daily micro and macro-aggressions. One camper targets Aiden with a relentless stream of racist comments, and another holds Aiden down to pull out his ponytail, ripping out some of his hair in the process.

In spite of his discomfort with the homophobic jokes other campers make, Aiden is convinced he’s not gay. After all, as he puts it, “Gay boys like other boys. I HATE boys.” But after daydreaming that he is Jean Grey to his bunkmate Elias’s Cyclops and experiencing a handful of other clues—like an accidental erection in the boys’ shower—he begins to suspect he is different from his girl-obsessed peers. He writes to his BFF Violet to express his concerns. After a particularly embarrassing moment with Elias, and suspecting that Violet’s lack of response to his letter means she’s ashamed of him, Aiden reaches a breaking point. He contemplates suicide and is confronted by a humanoid manifestation of the fire inside him; a flame, often used as a pejorative for queerness, is literally his savior. This powerful moment is likely to resonate with anyone who has tried to push away an aspect of their identity only to realize it is integral to who they are.

Curato’s art, in colored pencil and ink wash, is predominantly drawn in thick, pastel-like black and white lines. Curato uses fiery spot colors to indicate particularly emotional moments, such as scenes where Aiden is being bullied or where Aiden feels conflicted about his Catholic background. There are three particularly powerful panels of artwork I’d like to highlight. In one, Aiden is sinking into a deep pool of water created by his mother’s tears. Another is reminiscent of the Rider-Waite tarot deck’s Nine of Swords: Aiden is covering his eyes in his bed in one corner of the full-page spread, while the walls around him are scrawled with his own negative self-talk. The third depicts Aiden, saved by the fire inside him, reborn as a phoenix in flames.

Curato includes a handful of practical resources alongside the narrative. Since the story takes place at summer camp, Curato seizes the opportunity to teach the reader about aspects of camping, such as different knot shapes, orienteering, hemp bracelet stitches, and how to find and use good firewood. Additionally, after Curato’s afterword, in which he details how Aiden’s story is similar to his own experiences, he shares information for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the TrevorLifeline. 

Flamer doesn’t sugarcoat its subject material, so readers who enjoyed the similar handling of tough subjects for tweens in Tillie Walden’s Spinning and Kacen Callender’s King and the Dragonflies are sure to love this book. With its soft-edged illustrations and frequent daydream sequences, Flamer retains an otherworldly quality even while grounded in the real world’s brutalities. This truly intersectional queer graphic novel is a must-have for all libraries serving teens and adults.


Flamer
By Mike Curato
Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, 2020
ISBN: 9781627796415
Publisher Age Rating:  14-18

Title Details and Representatio
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16)
Creator Representation: Filipino-American, Gay,
Character Representation: Filipino-American, Gay, Catholic

Moriarty the Patriot, Vol. 2

In volume two of Ryoksuke Takeuchi and Hikaru Miyoshi’s Sherlock Holmes-inspired manga, Moriarty the Patriot, the famous consulting detective doesn’t appear until the second act. And when he does, he’s not a match for the brilliant professor Moriarty—at least not yet.

The manga’s second book continues its elaborate choreography as William James Moriarty, aided by his two brothers, work on setting the stage for their ultimate goal of taking down the British aristocracy. The manga has switched Professor Moriarty from villain to anti-hero as he and his associates pursue untouchable, well-connected (and aristocratic) criminals, from former East India Company opium dealers to kidnappers, and murderous members of the Peerage.

While it may seem very disconnected from the classic Holmes’ stories, Moriarty the Patriot is well-researched and is respectful of Doyle’s canon. Moriarty’s brothers either appear directly or are mentioned in Doyle’s books, as are his cohorts, Sebastian Moran and Fred Pollack (who have assisted in all of the manga’s capers so far.) Although writer Takeushi may take liberties with the some character details, there is much to be admired in the way the original material is interpreted and the way it gives credence to Moriarty’s motivation. 

Moriarty plans with mathematical precision. He realizes that to bring the crimes of the nobility to light, he will need to stage the exposure on a grand scale. And it appears as if Sherlock Holmes will be one of the most valuable players in this set piece. Acts two and three take place on a titanic (small T) ocean liner called the Noahtic, where Moriarty manipulates a villainous lord into committing murder in front of hundreds of passengers, thus proving to Moriarty that he needs vast public exposure to get commoners to see the true evil in the aristocracy.

The final act in the manga is called “A Study in S.” But it doesn’t play out exactly like A Study in Scarlet. This case (where we are also introduced to Dr. John Watson) is really just Sherlock Holmes’ audition as the detective Moriarty needs to set up his grand plan.

This is a well-written manga with a lot of moving plot points that are being woven together, giving the reader just enough information to anticipate what’s coming, but not to see the entire picture–which is what a good mystery should do. There should be plenty of twists down the road in the series.

The artwork is typical bishonen (pretty boys). All the characters are attractive and the action flows easily within and outside of the panels. 

It’s a solid second outing for the series and it should certainly keep readers coming back for more. Recommended for detective mystery fans, especially those of Sherlock Holmes (although he doesn’t always come through as well as some fans may wish). This is a good series for any YA or adult manga collection, with some darker plot points and some bloodshed but nothing that might be inappropriate for teens. 

The series has an anime adaptation, the second part of which will air in April of 2021, which may continue to increase its popularity with manga readers.


Moriatry the Patriot, Vol. 2
By Ryosuke Takeushi
Art by Hikaru Miyoshi
ISBN: 9781974719358
Viz Media, 2021
Publisher Age Rating: Older Teens
Series ISBNS and Order

Title Details and Representation
NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18)
Character Traits: British
Creator Highlights: Japanese
Related to…: Book to Comic

Ask the Comics Librarians: Is Fangirl Manga?


I have had two different library-centric discussions about what to do with the new release of Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell, adapted by Sam Maggs, and with art by Gabi Nam.  The title is published by VIZ, one of the most well-known manga publishers, and is part of their new effort to publish manga-style comics sourced from creators outside of Japan.  VIZ dubs the line VIZ Originals, and all of the press and title descriptions call Fangirl manga.  So what’s a librarian to do? For the purposes of shelving, is it best designated as manga or as a graphic novel?

As always when considering classification, I keep our patrons in front of mind. What do they think about a title like Fangirl?  Is it most important for fans of the original novel to find it?  Does it fit in well with the expectations of our manga readers?  Where might it best find new readers who don’t know the source material?

With the understanding that every library will have to think through this decision on their own, here’s how I thought through where to shelve Fangirl in our teen comics section.

Consider your Fangirl readers

Rainbow Rowell fans may well love to re-read the novel in comics format, so think about where they would think to look for the title.  Would they look in your graphic novel section?  Would they look in your manga section?  How likely are non-manga readers to crossover to the manga section in search of titles?

In my library, we have divided all of our graphic collections into three major shelving categories: graphic, manga, and super. The goal of these sections is to help readers more easily browse our graphic novels, Japanese manga, and superhero titles, and all of our various comics readers have responded very positively to this setup.  

For our patrons, it feels more likely that readers of the original series would browse and find it in our graphic section. They would expect an adaptation of a US novel in that section rather than in our manga section.

Consider your graphic readers

We have a significant number of comics readers who will not venture over to our manga shelves.  Whatever their hesitation, they tend not to venture into those shelves of series and stick to our graphic section.  Those readers look for titles that are grounded in realism and are teen versions of the younger slice-of-life favorites from creators like Raina Telgemeier, Faith Erin Hicks, and Victoria Jamieson.

To that end, the story of Fangirl will appeal to our typical graphic browsers, so I feel confident that those readers will be happy to find the title in our graphic section.

Consider your manga readers

Would your usual manga readers think of Fangirl as manga?  As a manga reader myself, I have a fan’s sense of what makes manga appealing to US readers. Fangirl presents as a manga in terms of the art style and the trim size of the volume, though it also reads left to right.

Japanese manga’s appeal, however, is not just defined by the art style. The enjoyment of manga includes making your way through a different culture’s pacing, editing, cultural references, and jokes. Part of the appeal of reading manga as a US reader is experiencing stories created by Japanese artists for Japanese readers. We are not the target audience, and that’s part of the fun of learning through reading. In this sense, Fangirl doesn’t quite fit into why manga usually appeals to its US fans. The intended audience is US readers, so the story, pacing, sense of humor, etc. may be less appealing to your usual manga readers.

Will it get lost on the shelves?

Previously, with titles all shelved together, stand-alone volumes would be lost in a sea of manga and superhero series.  Given that Fangirl will be only a few volumes as a series, it should be more findable through browsing the graphic novel shelves.

Thus, in the end, we decided to shelve it in our graphic section.

As more VIZ originals are published, I’ll be curious to see how this line expands and varies.  We may come to different decisions depending on how closely aligned with manga’s many facets these titles are.  

For Fangirl, though, I know the most interested readers will find it, and that’s always my goal.

Have a question about comics, graphic novels, manga, and libraries?

Send us a question through this form. We may use it in a future column!

Displacement


Kiku is on vacation in San Francisco when suddenly she finds herself displaced to the 1940s Japanese-American internment camp that her late grandmother, Ernestina, was forcibly relocated to during World War II.

These displacements keep occurring until Kiku finds herself “stuck” back in time. Living alongside her young grandmother and other Japanese-American citizens in internment camps, Kiku gets the education she never received in history class. She witnesses the lives of Japanese-Americans who were denied their civil liberties and suffered greatly, but managed to cultivate community and commit acts of resistance in order to survive.

Kiku Hughes weaves a riveting, bittersweet tale that highlights the intergenerational impact and power of memory.

This title has not (yet) been reviewed by our staff, but it is a title that we highly recommend for the majority of libraries building collections for this age range.


Displacement
By Kiku Hughes
First Second, 2020
ISBN: 9781250193537
NFNT Age Recommendation: Teen (13-16)



With a dog and a cat, every day is fun

Matsumoto’s Twitter cartoons about her dog and cat are collected here in a slim volume. The two animals featured are the exuberant, loving, excitable Inu-Kun, a small poodle, and the cool, deliberate Neko-Sama, a white cat with black markings.

Each vignette is only a few pages long and they are divided by black and white photographs of the animals and shorter comic strips about their antics. The stories often start with Matsumoto’s feelings, or an idea she has had, then show the varying reactions of the two animals. There are also funny stories about how people feel about animals, and some more reflective stories about Matsumoto’s childhood and previous pets, and her grief at their loss.

Inu is most often shown with a curly top-knot and fluffy ears, eyes sparkling, as he leaps and barks and loves every minute of life. Neko is a stolid bundle of fur, glaring with narrowed eyes at his owner, as he refuses to be drawn into her silliness but can’t resist trying out the toys and treats she brings. Neko is a cynical and suspicious cat, but he always makes sure his owner is happy in his own grumpy way.

Although there’s nothing wildly inappropriate for younger readers here, it’s very much from the perspective of a young adult starting to live on their own. In one vignette Matsumoto comes home drunk, but just ends up playing silly games with her pets. Another, more troubling episode has her calling a psychic when she’s lonely and being told she’s the reincarnation of an indigenous Peruvian llama herder. At one point, the psychic says “You are a girl with black hair and swarthy skin.” It’s played for laughs but seemed to me to show both ignorance and insensitivity to another culture.

This new series doesn’t have the depth and staying power of similar titles like Chi’s Sweet Home, but if you have a lot of teens who love quick animal comics and beg for Pusheen and similar pop culture cats, they’ll probably appreciate this light-hearted manga.


With a dog and a cat, every day is fun 1
By Hidekichi Matsumoto
ISBN: 9781949980554
Kodansha, 2020
Publisher Age Rating:
Series ISBNS and Order

Title Details and Representation
NFNT Age Recommendation: Teen (13-16)

A Girl Called Echo: Pemmican Wars

This review is on the first three of four volumes of a visually poignant and enthralling graphic novel series about the Métis people of western Canada. The fourth and final volume, The Road Allowance Era, is forthcoming in April 2021. Contrasting the critical Canadian historical events with contemporary Echo’s current story, the series reveals how past governmental policies have shaped the current day experiences of a people.

Echo Desjardins, a thirteen-year-old Métis girl discovers that she has the magical ability to time travel back and forth to witness important events in Canadian Métis history. For readers outside of Canada, the Métis  have a distinct collective identity, with customs and culture, that are unique from Indigenous or European roots. Their roles in Western Canadian history have been contentious and distinctive, and often persists to be misconstrued and ignored today.  Echo’s magic allows her, and the reader, to more fully understand critical events of 19th century Canadian history and their repercussions through the individual entries in the series:  The Pemmican Wars, the Red River Resistance, and the Northwest Resistance.

Echo, an extremely quiet and reserved teen, is in a new foster home, missing her mother, and attending a new school when she first slips through time, and back, while attending her social studies class. These vivid and active time slips offer insight and augment her knowledge about her own family background, heritage, and history.  Present day Echo is mostly silent as is a large portion of the graphic novel series, superbly written by Katherena Vermette, an award-winning Métis poet and writer and effectively and brilliantly illustrated by Scott B. Henderson and coloured by Donovan Yaciuk. Their combined understanding of the issues, landscape, and people of the area bring an added vitality and realism to the series. Much of the story arc is delivered by narration boxes augmented by brief dialogue amongst characters mostly in the historical sections of the story. Poignant images throughout the series are those of “Mom’s play list” that Echo constantly listens to when not attending classes. The importance of the music and the connection with her mother are echoed (pardon the pun) in all the cover illustrations where her earbuds are resolutely visible as part of her personality.

In the first volume, Echo, a troubled and lonely teen, finds herself, without warning, transported out of her Winnipeg, Manitoba social studies classroom into a buffalo hunt in 1814 in the Qu’Appelle Valley, Saskatchewan during The Pemmican Wars. [1] During the following few weeks, Echo finds herself transported back and forth in time to visit the old fur-trade routes and a Métis camp where she is befriended by a young girl. Oddly enough, the fact that Echo remains in her contemporary clothing does not seem to evoke notice or comment by anyone in the historical segments. The volume concludes with Echo sharing her new found knowledge with her mother as she visits with her in her group home.  I was enchanted by the school library sequences in this volume and the selection of books that Echo selects to read.

Echo’s story is continued in volume 2 when she travels between her contemporary life and a Métis community in 1869 during the Red River Resistance.[2]  Her contemporary life seems to be settling down as Echo adjusts to the school, the foster home, the visits with her mother, and the continual discovery of her Métis heritage and history. A delightful humourous aside occurs in a illustration of the bake sale sign up sheet where Echo signs her name below that of Katherena Vermette (page 14). Echo shares her time slip adventures with Benjamin, a young Métis man she meets when first transported into this historical era. The volume concludes with Echo in tears as she witnesses her new friends being forced to leave their land.

The third volume begins with Echo’s mother coming to stay with her in the foster home. Echo’s historical travels take her to 1885, to the Northwest Resistance.[3] Riel has returned from exile to resist encroaching forces to ensure his people’s rights. Amongst the chaos Echo meets Josephine, Benjamin’s daughter. She also discovers, in conversations with her mother, a treasury of family photographs and her family tree. Benjamin is her grandmother’s great grandfather who lived to be 102, living through both resistances. The series will conclude with Volume 4, The Road Allowance Era.

Through the insight of major past events, Echo develops her own strength and sense of belonging. She is no longer the lost and lonely individual that related more to the playlist on her iPhone than the people around her. I eagerly await to see how it all comes together by the end of volume 4. I have included footnotes for readers who may not be aware of the struggles of the Métis people and much of their history is largely unknown.

The vibrant colour palate, the realistic illustrations, and the creative panel layout add to the vivacity of the history and the tales being told. Effective depiction of body language and facial features plus the historical accuracy of the writing and art make this series a highly recommended purchase for middle school, high school, public library, and academic library collections. Each volume includes a brief time line of the historical era explored in that volume plus additional material such as a recipe for pemmican, brief introductions to admirable historical characters, and maps.

[1] The Pemmican War was a series of armed confrontations during the North American fur trade between the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) and the North West Company (NWC) in the years following the establishment of the Red River Colony in 1812. It ended in 1821 when the NWC merged with the HBC. Unlike the Hudson’s Bay Company, which imported most of its provisions from England, the NWC relied heavily upon locally procured pemmican, the majority of which was purchased from the local Métis. Pemmican was made of dried buffalo meat pounded into a powder and mixed with melted buffalo fat.

[2] The Red River Rebellion (or the Red River Resistance, Red River uprising, or First Riel Rebellion) was the sequence of events that led up to the 1869 establishment of a provisional government by the Métis leader Louis Riel at the Red River Colony, in what is now Manitoba.

[3] The North-West Rebellion of 1885 was a rebellion by the Métis led by Louis Riel against the Canadian government. Many Métis felt that Canada was not protecting their rights, their land, and their survival as a distinct people. During the rebellion, Riel was captured, put on trial, and convicted of treason. Despite many pleas across Canada for clemency, he was hanged. Riel became a heroic martyr to the Métis and Francophone Canada.


A Girl Called Echo: Pemmican Wars
By Katherena Vermette
Art by Scott B. Henderson and Donovan Yaciuk

VolumeISBN
19781553796787
29781553797470
39781553798316

Highwater Press, 2017
Publisher Age Rating: Teen
Series ISBNS and Order

Title Details and Representation
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Middle Grade (7-11), Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16)
Character Traits: First Nations or Indigenous
Creator Highlights: Metis
Related to…: Book to Comic

Moonstruck, vol. 3: Troubled Waters

Werewolf barista Julie and her girlfriend Selena are on the rocks. Maybe they can get some bonding time in at the annual Mermaid Festival! Except when they meet up with a close friend of Selena’s, Julie feels awkward. And a beautiful stranger is following Julie around and… flirting with her? Awkward again. Worse, Julie’s prophetic friend Cassie pops in to tell her that she needs to break up with Selena or find herself in danger. Yikes!

Meanwhile, in a series of humorous, wacky asides, Chet; a centaur; and their partner, Manuel, navigate an internship with NewPals (a virtual pet company that is a pastiche of Neopets). While we don’t actually see their adventures, the comic includes periodic “NewPals Super Fun Pages”–illustrated worksheets such as word searches or crossword puzzles–that hint as to what is going on with that internship. Hint: it’s not what Chet and Manuel expected.

Like the first two volumes, this is a diverse, inclusive book. Julie is fat, Latina, and queer, and Selena is fat, Black, and queer, while Chet is nonbinary. None of these identities is ever the focus of questioning or discrimination. Indeed, the only part of her that protagonist Julie feels insecure about is the werewolf part.

Beyond its array of real-world identities, the Moonstruck comics feature a huge selection of different fantastical creatures. There are shapeshifters, minotaurs, fairies, and more; with this volume adding mermaids to the mix. The creators have come up with some fun and interesting accommodations to make suprernatural town of Blitheton accessible to all of its residents; including the water-filled wheelchair that Skyla the mermaid uses to move around on land.

While it still has fluff and humor, this volume turns up the angst compared to the first two. Julie and Selena have been wrangling relationship issues for awhile now, and Julie has been struggling with embarrassment and shame about her werewolf identity. Both of these get worse in volume three, and we finally get a glimpse of why Julie hates being a werewolf even though (A) Moonstruck’s werewolves do not lose control when they transform, so it’s not particularly dangerous, and (B) practically everyone in Blitheton is a supernatural creature.

The art continues to be cute and colorful, it’s palette slightly more saturated than what might be called pastel. The characters are distinct and easily recognized, as well as highly expressive. Most are a little roly-poly, with rounded edges that make them look soft and cute. Every so often, we get an excerpt from Julie’s favorite book series, Pleasant Mountain Sisters (Sweet Valley Twins, anyone?). These comics, drawn by Claudia Aguirre, feature a totally different art style, with bolder colors and more screen tones–and an all-human cast. Julie’s dream is to become a writer for this book series, and her love of this very “normal” world with no supernatural creatures in it recalls her desire to be a human and not a werewolf. This volume also includes some fun extras at the back, like fanart and character concept drawings.

Moonstruck continues to offer a largely sweet and gentle supernatural world, but this volume expands on the emotional turmoil of those incredibly soft and cuddly-looking werewolves. Hand it to fans of good-hearted, inclusive fantasy stories like Lumberjanes.


Moonstruck, Vol. 3: Troubled Waters 
By Grace Ellis
Art by Shae Beagle and Claudia Aguirre
ISBN: 9781534314931
Image Comics, 2020
Publisher Age Rating: Teen
Series ISBNS and Order

Title Details and Representation
NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16)
Character Traits: Black, Latinx, Queer
Creator Highlights: Lesbian

Ride Your Wave

In Ride Your Wave, a surfer girl in a seaside town falls in love with a young firefighter. Having chosen to attend college near the ocean to indulge in her favorite pastime, Hinako is a carefree soul. She meets Minato when he rescues her from a fire in her apartment building. Minato is less carefree. He chose his career because of his strong convictions about helping others.

Sparks fly between these two different personalities and Hinako convinces a very reluctant Minato (who nearly drowned as a child) to try surfing. While attempting to surf a strong winter storm, Minato ends up trying to save a drowning jet skier and loses his own life.

Distraught over her guilt and loss, Hinako moves away from the ocean and falls into a depression until one day, while singing the couple’s favorite song, Minato appears in her water glass. From then on, she discovers that she can conjure Minato in any amount of water by singing that song.

The poignancy of the romance—the pair can longer physically touch, and nobody else can see him, has consequences for the other people Minato left behind; especially his coworker and friend, Wasabi and his little sister, Yoko.

The film’s themes of loss, grief, and moving on are told in a polished, beautifully detailed anime style by experienced and award-winning director, Makaaski Yuasa (Night is Short, Walk on Girl, Keep Your Hands of Eizuouken!, Devilman Crybaby). Although the themes are sad, and the emotional effect of this story is high, it is broken up by some sweetly written comedic scenes which lighten the mood.

Animation studio Science SARU deftly handles the gorgeous setting and characters. Movement is fluid and natural with extraordinary detail. The musical score matches the mood, including the theme song, “Brand New Story.”

Ride Your Wave is on a shortlist of possible Oscar nominations for 2021, along with two other high quality theatrical anime releases, A Whisker Away and Demon Slayer Mugen Train. Ride Your Wave was another theatrical victim of COVID-19 and has only been released on DVD in the US.

This film is for fans of Your Name and Fireworks and definitely belongs in any teen anime collection. It has wide appeal for adult anime fans as well. The DVD is unrated, but I would give it a solid PG rating, mostly for some kissing, mild profanity and alcohol use.

The film is getting a light novel and manga adaptation from Seven Seas Entertainment later this year.


Ride Your Wave
By Masaaki Yuasa
GKID Films, 2019
Publisher Age Rating: Not Rated
Series ISBNS and Order

Title Details and Representation
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16)
Character Traits: Japanese
Creator Highlights: Japanese