The Tale of One Bad Rat by Bryan Talbot – Helen Potter lived a happy life until she got lost in a nightmare of sexual abuse. Now she’s on a journey that takes her through urban and rural England along the same path that another Potter, Beatrix Potter, once took. Across the decades, two lives touch, and Helen discovers that the strength of two is far greater than one. She becomes the armored knight before her own personal demons in this story of heroism and courage.
Joe the Barbarian by Grant Morrison – One of the hottest writers in the industry, Grant Morrison, brings this Home Alone meets The Lord of the Rings story to life.Joe is an imaginative eleven year-old boy. He can’t fit in at school. He’s the victim of bullies. His dad died overseas in the Iraq war. He also suffers from Type 1 diabetes. One fateful day, his condition causes him to believe he has entered a vivid fantasy world in which he is the lost savior — a fantastic land based on the layout and contents of his home. His desperate attempts to make it out of his bedroom transform into an incredible, epic adventure through a bizarre landscape of submarine pirate dwarves, evil Hell Hounds, Lightning Lords and besieged castles. But is his quest really just an insulindeprived delirium — from which he can die if he doesn’t take his meds — or something much bigger?
African-American Classics 22 by Tom Pomplum (editor) – African-American Classics presents great stories and poems from America”s earliest Black writers, illustrated by contemporary African-American artists. Featured are “Two Americans” by Florence Lewis Bentley, “The Goophered Grapevine” by Charles W. Chesnutt, “Becky” by Jean Toomer, two short plays by Zora Neale Hurston, and six more tales of humor and tragedy. Also featured are eleven poems, including Langston Hughes” “Danse Africaine” and “The Negro,” plus Paul Laurence Dunbar”s “Sympathy” (”I know why the caged bird sings… ”)
Marzi by Marzena Sowa – “I am Marzi, born in 1979, ten years before the end of communism in Poland. My father works at a factory, my mother at a dairy. Social problems are at their height. Empty stores are our daily bread.I’m scared of spiders and the world of adults doesn’t seem like a walk in the park.”
Told from a young girl’s perspective, Marzena Sowa’s memoir of a childhood shaped by politics feels remarkably fresh and immediate. Structured as a series of vignettes that build on one another, MARZI is a compelling and powerful coming-of-age story that portrays the harsh realities of life behind the Iron Curtain while maintaining the everyday wonders and curiosity of childhood. With open and engaging art by Sylvain Savoia, MARZI is a moving and resonant story of an ordinary girl in turbulent, changing times.
Wandering Son, Volume 1 by Shimura Takako — The fifth grade. The threshold to puberty, and the beginning of the end of childhood innocence. Shuichi Nitori and his new friend Yoshino Takatsuki have happy homes, loving families, and are well-liked by their classmates. But they share a secret that further complicates a time of life that is awkward for anyone: Shuichi is a boy who wants to be a girl, and Yoshino is a girl who wants to be a boy. Written and drawn by one of today’s most critically acclaimed creators of manga, Shimura portrays Shuishi and Yoshino’s very private journey with affection, sensitivity, gentle humor, and unmistakable flair and grace. Volume one introduces our two protagonists and the friends and family whose lives intersect with their own. Yoshino is rudely reminded of her sex by immature boys whose budding interest in girls takes clumsily cruel forms. Shuichi’s secret is discovered by Saori, a perceptive and eccentric classmate. And it is Saori who suggests that the fifth graders put on a production of The Rose of Versailles for the farewell ceremony for the sixth graders — with boys playing the roles of women, and girls playing the roles of men.
The Silence of Our Friends by Mark Long and Jim Demonakos – As the civil rights struggle heats up in Texas, two families—one white, one black—find common ground. This semi-autobiographical tale is set in 1967 Texas, against the backdrop of the fight for civil rights. A white family from a notoriously racist neighborhood in the suburbs and a black family from its poorest ward cross Houston’s color line, overcoming humiliation, degradation, and violence to win the freedom of five black college students unjustly charged with the murder of a policeman. The Silence of Our Friends follows events through the point of view of young Mark Long, whose father is a reporter covering the story. Semi-fictionalized, this story has its roots solidly in very real events. With art from the brilliant Nate Powell (Swallow Me Whole) bringing the tale to heart-wrenching life, The Silence of Our Friends is a new and important entry in the body of civil rights literature.
The Last Dragon by Jane Yolen — Master storyteller Jane Yolen (Owl Moon, Sword of the Rightful King) and celebrated fantasy artist Rebecca Guay (Swamp Thing, Magic: The Gathering) weave a textured and lyrical tale of adventure, homelands, and heroism the hard way.Two hundred years ago, humans drove the dragons from the islands of May. Now, the last of the dragons rises to wreak havoc anew — with only a healer’s daughter and a kite-flying would-be hero standing in its way.
Batman: Dark Victory by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale — Once a town controlled by organized crime, Gotham City suddenly finds itself being run by lawless freaks, such as Poison Ivy, Mr. Freeze, and the Joker. Witnessing his city’s dark evolution, the Dark Knight completes his transformation into the city’s greatest defender. He faces multiple threats, including the apparent return of a serial killer called Holiday. Batman’s previous investigation of Holiday’s killings revealed that more than one person was responsible for the murders. So the question remains: who is committing Holiday’s crimes this time? And how many will die before Batman learns the truth?
Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley — Faking his own death and creating an underworld civilization, Bruce Wayne has been keeping his eye on the world above. And as that false Camelot reaches it’s breaking point, it is up to the Dark Knight to emerge from the underground shadows and once again restore order to chaos.
V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd – A powerful story about loss of freedom and individuality, V For Vendettatakes place in a totalitarian England following a devastating war that changed the face of the planet. In a world without political freedom, personal freedom and precious little faith in anything comes a mysterious man in a white porcelain mask who fights political oppressors through terrorism and seemingly absurd acts. It’s a gripping tale of the blurred lines between ideological good and evil
Ghost World by Daniel Clowes – Ghost World is the story of Enid and Rebecca, teenage friends facing the unwelcome prospect of adulthood, and the uncertain future of their complicated relationship. Clowes conjures a balanced semblence, both tender and objective, of their fragile existence, capturing the mundane thrills and hourly tragedies of a waning adolescence, as he follows a tenuous narrative thread through the fragmented lives of these two fully realized young women.
Chew, Volume One: Taster’s Choice by John Layman and Bob Guillory — Tony Chu is a detective with a secret. A weird secret. Tony Chu is Cibopathic, which means he gets psychic impressions from whatever he eats. It also means he’s a hell of a detective, as long as he doesn’t mind nibbling on the corpse of a murder victim to figure out whodunit, and why. He’s been brought on by the Special Crimes Division of the FDA, the most powerful law enforcement agency on the planet, to investigate their strangest, sickest, and most bizarre cases.
Brain Camp by Susan Kim —
Neither artistic, dreamy Jenna nor surly, delinquent Lucas expected to find themselves at an invitation-only summer camp that turns problem children into prodigies. And yet, here they both are at Camp Fielding, settling in with all the other losers and misfits who’ve been shipped off by their parents in a last-ditch effort to produce a child worth bragging about.
But strange disappearances, spooky lights in the woods, and a chilling alteration that turns the dimmest, rowdiest campers into docile zombie Einsteins have Jenna and Lucas feeling more than a little suspicious . . . and a lot afraid.
Green Monk by Brandon Dayton — Green Monk follows the adventures of a Monk cast out of his order, wandering a mythical Russian countryside. His only companion is a magical blade of grass that draws him into a brutal struggle against a terrifying foe.
Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol– Anya, a Russian-born teenager, falls down a well. In this well she meets a ghost, who decides to tag along when Anya is rescued. With her new friend, Anya starts to change from the awkward, struggling teenager into someone popular and liked. Unfortunately, there is more to Anya’s Ghost than the happy imagery and vibrant colors would suggest.
i.d.: Stuff that Happens to Define Us by Kate Scowen and Peter Mitchell– i.d. offers 12 first-person accounts about life’s pivotal moments–those universal experiences from our youth that mar us, mold us, and make us who we are. By turns thoughtful, painful, funny, and fierce, i.d. powerfully demonstrates that what defines us in youth doesn’t have to confine us forever.
Degratias: a Tale of Rwanda by Jean-Philippe Stassen– Degrotias is a work of fiction, but it’s source material is so steeped in fact that it’s difficult not to become emotionally invested in both the story and the events behind it. Degrotias, the title character, is a young man psychologically torn apart by the genocide in Rwanda in the middle of the 1990s. We follow his story through a series of alcohol-induced flashbacks to how life was before the tragedy and how it changed during. Degrotias is not a story for the weak of heart. Though the imagery is never as violent or horrid as the actual events, the implications remain tragic. At the same time, they offer an important illustration into events that many people might have put on blinders to.
Laika by Nick Abadzis– Laika was the abandoned puppy destined to become Earth’s first space traveler. Nick Abadzis blends fiction and fact in the intertwined stories of three compelling lives. Adazis casts light on the story of an engineer of the Soviet space program and the lab technician responsible for Laika’s life, both portrayals of a pivotal moment in modern history. This graphic novel depicts the hidden moments of deep humanity behind the cold hard facts.
Networked: Carbella on the Run by Gerald Jones and Mark Badger — Some alien invasions are loud and bloody…some are quiet and friendly. The blue-skinned girl named Carabella thinks she’s escaping the oppression of her own world, but instead she’s exposing the earth to an invasion so soft and friendly that everyone welcomes it–until Carabella herself sees what’s happening and tries to make someone, anyone see that our websites, our cell phones, and ever our shoes are being used to steal first the privacy and then the freedom of everyone on earth.
Mangaman by Barry Lyga, illustrated by Colleen Doran – Sci-fi adventure meets love story—and East meets West—in Mangaman, an original graphic novel for teens. Ryoko, a manga character from a manga world, falls through the Rip into the “real” world—the western world—and tries to survive as the ultimate outsider at a typical American high school.
Resistance I and Defiance by Carla Jablonski and Leland Purvis – Paul and Marie’s bucolic French country town is almost untouched by the ravages of WWII, but the siblings still live in the shadow of war. Their father is a Prisoner of War, kept hostage by the Germans. When their friend Henri’s parents disappear and Henri goes into hiding because of his Jewish ancestry, Paul and Marie realize they must take a stand. But how can they convince the French Resistance that even children can help in their fight against injustice?
Blankets – Craig Thompson tells his own story with a fictional yet biographical look at falling in love, living with an ever-present shadow of religion, and the perils of childhood. The size of this tome might be intimidating, but it’s a hard story to put down once started, and before long the pages have all turned and all you’re left with is a bittersweet memory. Beautiful images and a touching story make reading Blankets time well spent. –David Stewart
Set to Sea – In Set to Sea, Drew Weing manages to tell the story of a man’s life in fewer words than seems possible. The images are drawn as cartoons, but tell the tale of a poet forced into a life of piracy, completely against his will. Despite the circumstances, the voyage of our nameless protagonist is a touching one, with periods of violence and poetic inspiration than offset one another in striking ways. With Set to Sea, Weing proves that we don’t always need words to understand the voyages of life. –David Stewart
The Zabime Sisters by Aristophane–On the first day of summer vacation, teenaged sisters M’Rose, Elle, and Célina step out into the tropical heat of their island home and continue their headlong tumble toward adulthood. Boys, schoolyard fights, petty thievery, and even illicit alcohol make for a heady mix, as The Zabime Sisters indulge in a little summertime freedom. The dramatic backdrop of a Caribbean island provides a study of contrasts—a world that is both lush and wild, yet strangely small and intimate—which echoes the contrasts of the sisters themselves, who are at once worldly and wonderfully naïve.
Yummy: the Last Days of a Southside Shorty by G. Neri, illustrated by Rondy DuBurke—Some graphic novels choose to portray beautiful imagery and stories, and others do the exact opposite. The story of Yummy, based on a real teenage gang member who haunted the streets of Southside Chicago the middle 1990s, does not tell a touching story, but rather gives a graphic view of just how violent and torrential the life of a child can be. Despite the fact that Yummy’s actions made national news and even found calls for reform, this graphic novel serves as a poignant reminder of what still happens in our own backyard to this day. Yummy is not a work of art, but a lesson in violence.
Americus by MK Reed and Jonathan Hill — Life in the small town of Americus isn’t easy for a bookworm like Neil Barton. It only gets harder when his best friend is sent to military school, forcing Neil to face his freshman year of high school alone. And to make matters worse, local activists are trying to get the town library to ban his favorite series: The Adventures of Apathea Ravenchilde. For the first time in his life, Neil is going to have to stand up and take action. And it just might be the best thing that ever happened to him.
Level Up by Gene Luen Yang – Dennis Ouyang lives in the shadow of his parents’ high expectations.They want him to go to med school and become a doctor. Dennis just wants to play video games—and he might actually be good enough to do it professionally. But four adorable, bossy, and occasionally terrifying angels arrive just in time to lead Dennis back onto the straight and narrow: the path to gastroenterology. It’s all part of the plan, they tell him. But is it? This powerful piece of magical realism brings into sharp relief the conflict many teens face between pursuing their dreams and living their parents’. Partnered with the deceptively simple, cute art of newcomer Thien Pham, Gene Yang has returned to the subject he revolutionized with American Born Chinese. Whimsical and serious by turns, Level Up is a new look at the tale that Yang has made his own: coming of age as an Asian American.
Same Difference by Derek Kirk Kim — Winner of the Eisner, Harvey, and Ignatz awards, this graphic novel is a story about a group of young people navigating adulthood and personal relationships. It is told with such sympathy and perception that the book was immediately hailed as an important new work. Derek’s distinctive voice as an author, coupled with his clear, crisp, expressive art has made this story a classic. And this classic is now back in print, in a deluxe edition from First Second.
“21″: The Story of Roberto Clemente by Wilfred Santiago – A graphic novel biography of Puerto Rico’s greatest baseball star. 21 is an all-ages graphic biography of baseball star Roberto Clemente: No other baseball player dominated the 1960s like him and no other Latin American player achieved his numbers. 21 chronicles his early days growing up in rural Puerto Rico, the highlights of his career (including the 1960s World Series), the prejudice he faced, his private life and his humanitarian mission. Santiago captures the grit of Clemente’s rise from his impoverished childhood, to the majesty of his performance on the field, to his fundamental decency as a human being, in a drawing style that combines realistic attention to detail and expressive cartooning.
The Arctic Marauder by Jacques Tardi — In 1899, “L’Anjou,” a ship navigating the Arctic Ocean from Murmansk, Russia, to Le Havre, France comes across a stunning sight: A ghostly, abandoned vessel perched high atop an iceberg. But exploring this strange apparition is the last thing the sailors will ever do, as their own ship is soon dispatched to Davy Jones’ locker via a mysterious explosion. Enter Jérôme Plumier, whose search for his missing uncle, the inventor Louis-Ferdinand Chapoutier, brings him into contact with the sinister, frigid forces behind this — and soon he too is headed towards the North Pole, where he will content with mad scientists, monsters of the deep, and futuristic submarines and flying machines. Told with brio in hilarious slabs of vintage purple prose, The Arctic Marauder works both as ripping good adventure story and parody of same, and, predating as it does the later and not dissimilar Adèle Blanc-Sec series, is a keystone in Tardi’s oeuvre in his fantastical mode.