Graphic Novels & Manga

Monstress Vol. 1: Awakening

A dark fantasy that heralds the start of a thrilling new series, Monstress Vol. 1: Awakening by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda is a stunningly beautiful graphic novel that tells a heartrending and epic story. The story utilizes a mix of Asian mythologies and ancient Egyptian motifs to create a rich and layered world that Takeda’s art brings to beautiful life. The world is matriarchal and the bulk of the characters, heroes, villians, and those in between, are powerful and deadly women, often with rich and layered backstories. Monstress imagines a world that is at once completely different from our own, yet still hauntingly familiar. The power of this graphic novel is difficult to convey as both the story and artwork contain multitudes of layers that enrich the story and add complexity. Monstress is a tale of vengeance, redemption, horror, tragedy, friendship, shattered gods, magic, myth, and monsters all braided together into an exquisite graphic novel.

Bera the One-Headed Troll by Eric Orchard

Bera the One-Headed Troll by Eric Orchard is a fun and beautiful graphic novel that will appeal to children who enjoy humor, fantasy, and adventure. Told in a whimsical artistic style utilizing varying shades of brown and black, this story focuses on the impact one person can have through kindness as well as the transformative power of adventure.

When our story starts, Bera has lived a happy, secluded life tending pumpkins for the Troll King on a remote island. That all changes when a human child washes ashore. To keep the baby safe, Bera decides she must leave her island and take it to the human kingdom. On her journey, Bera seeks the help of famous troll heroes and heroines as she battles goblins, trolls with multiple heads, deals with diapers, and fends off the witch Cloote. All in all, Bera the One-Headed Troll is a sweet and often humorous story that will keep readers rooting for our one-headed heroine throughout. Suggested for ages 8 and up.

Darth Vader Vol. 1 by Kieron Gillen

Star Wars Darth Vader: Vol. 1 by Kieron Gillen fills in a necessary gap in the Star Wars canon, and could help fill the time before Star Wars: Rogue One arrives in theaters. Gillen’s Vader is trying to learn the identity of the young pilot who destroyed the Death Star, as well as regain the favor of Emperor Palpatine after failing to stop the Rebel Alliance. As Vader goes on these dual missions, he is forced to hire agents who can act as his public face. Navigating all of these situations and relationships, as well as his personal quest for vengeance against the Rebellion and suspicions about secrets in the Empire, create a world of intrigue and violence for this story to play out. Gillen balances all of these elements superbly and also unleashes Vader, using battle sequences and displays of the Force to remind readers why Vader is one of the most feared individuals in the galaxy.

Inktober Reads!

Calling all artists! It's Inktober, which means it's time to challenge yourself to complete one ink drawing every day for the month of October. This is a great time to improve your drawing skills or to start a new habit. You never know if you might be the next Raina Telgemeier, Lucy Knisley, or Gene Luen Yang. The Ground Floor has drawing pencils, inking pens, and drawing paper. Stop by and create!Image

Need some inspiration? Try one of these amazing graphic novels! Happy Inktober!

El Deafo, Cece Bell

Rat Queen, Vol. 1: Sass and Sorcery by Kurtis Wiebe

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, a dwarf, an elf, a smidgen, and a wizard start a fight in a tavern… no, well, that is how the saga of the mercenary band known as Rat Queens begins. As the title suggests, there is plenty of humor and magic throughout this volume, but the story does not shy from mature themes and there are frequent bouts of intense violence. Rat Queens also flows as though the reader is playing through a classic D&D campaign, and while this could be seen as a hindrance, in fact this allows the story to soar. Wiebe has managed to capture the essence of a D&D campaign and turn it into a rollickingly fun graphic novel. Suggested for mature readers who enjoy D&D and fantasy stories.

After a rather energetic disagreement in a local inn, all of the mercenary bands in the city of Palisade, including the Rat Queens, are assigned a quest as a form of ‘community service.’ What none of them know is that there is a group of assassins waiting for them at their destination. After narrowly surviving this attempt on their lives, and an unexpected (as well as brutal) battle with a troll, the Rat Queens have to figure out who wants to kill them and why. This mystery drives the story and as the unidentified forces opposing the Rat Queens coalesce, readers will be rewarded with an epic showdown.

A fun and novel take on a classic genre, Rat Queens is a brutal romp through a world fantasy readers will find instantly recognizable. Populated with a crew of tough-as-nails, diverse women and driven by excellent storytelling and gorgeous art, Rat Queens: Sass and Sorcery is a story that should not be missed.

Pretty Deadly Vol. 1: The Shrike by Kelly Sue DeConnick

Set within a fantastical Old West world, Pretty Deadly opens with the legend of Death Faced Ginny, Death’s skull-faced daughter, and her quest for vengeance, as told by the young girl Sissy and her blind guardian Fox. However, there is more to the tale than is initially revealed, and as Sissy begins to dig deeper into Ginny’s legend, she triggers a long-simmering prophecy and quest that will shatter everything she thought she knew. While the story does have a slow beginning, the pace and scope increase throughout, revealing secrets, legends, and history that continually heighten the reader’s suspense and investment.

Overall, Pretty Deadly is a maelstrom of storytelling and imagination that will stick with readers long after the final page. This tale deftly weaves together many storytelling traditions that are not often part of graphic novels and emerges the stronger for it. The colors and artwork are perfectly suited to the story and evoke a surreal, yet viscerally real canvas for the story to play out upon. A violent and beautiful epic that is equal parts myth, fantasy, and fairy tale, all swirling together to create a haunting and unforgettable story. Suggested for mature readers who enjoy fractured fairy/folktales, fantasy, westerns, and adventure.

Princeless Volume 1: Save Yourself

Dragons, princesses, and adventure oh my! Welcome to Princeless: Save Yourself by Jeremy Whitley, in which damsels are very much not in distress, but rather rescue themselves, shattering gender stereotypes and poking fun at genre tropes throughout. Whitley has created a smart, incisive, and shockingly funny story that cuts deeply at the traditional conventions of fairy tales and fantasy. Whitley also manages to combat the whitewashing of the fantasy genre in this story as well, telling a diverse adventure tale involving characters of multiple ethnicities. While many stories would be bogged down by all of this stereotype smashing, Whitley’s story soars, enthralling the reader and creating a dynamic story in the vein of Brave and Frozen that will appeal to both male and female readers. While there are instances of mild peril and brief bouts of comic violence, overall this story is one that will delight most readers. Suggested for children ages 9 and up who enjoy fantasy, fairy tales, humor, adventure, and characters who save themselves.

Our story begins, when the heroine, Princess Adrienne Ashe, decides she is tired of waiting to be rescued from her tower by a prince and convinces the dragon guarding her to aide in her escape. Once free, she decides to go on a quest in order to rescue her sisters, who have been squirreled away in towers of their own, accompanied by monstrous guardians. This drive fuels the story, and the subsequent three volumes in the series, but there are many other adventures and mysteries along the way. As our young heroine works toward her goal, she makes friends with a young dwarf blacksmith, Bedelia, who forges her an actually effective suit of armor (after much debate about what counts as armor), and begins to establish a reputation as a warrior. Ever-present in the story though, are the machinations of her father, King Ashe, as he plays his own game and works to track the runaway princess down.

Overall, an outstanding story that blends fantasy, fun, and adventure together into a delightful whole. The colors work together to create a vibrant story and the semi-cartoonish style keeps potentially tense moments light and adds additional humor to already comedic moments. As Comics Alliance said in their review, this is “… the story Disney should’ve been telling for the past twenty years” and one can only hope that Whitley keeps producing these exceptional stories and showing that women can be adventurers, have pet dragons, defy stereotypes, and save themselves.

Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova

Fans of Sisters, Roller Girl, and El Deafo will feel right at home in this story. A coming-of-age tale that deals realistically with bullying, anxiety, school drama, friendship, and forgiveness is hard to find, yet somehow Awkward author Svetlana Chmakova manages just that. This story grapples with the real trials that children face in school and avoids offering easy answers, but instead tackles overcoming anxiety to make friends, find forgiveness, and build bridges. These heavy issues are all balanced by a strong current of drama and humor throughout the story that will keep readers flying through the pages, eager to know what happens next. Suggested for children ages 9 and up who enjoy realistic stories about school.

The story begins with our heroine, Peppi, falling prey to social pressure on her first day of school and participating in the bullying of a fellow student, Jaime. The rest of the story is in many ways driven by her desire to find forgiveness and make things right. As the story progresses throughout the school year, we watch Peppi try to reach out to Jaime and the ways in which anxiety and the social structures of school create barriers to this action. Additionally, anxious and shy Peppi is heavily involved in the art club, while introverted Jaime is in the science club and the competition between the two clubs for a spot in the school fair forms an ever-present backdrop for the story. As these two characters find common ground with one another, their clubs seem to grow farther apart, creating issues not only for them, but also the school. Trying to balance these many issues and still have a good year in school would be hard for anyone, and watching these characters grapple with them is the crux of the story.

The artistic style is strongly reminiscent of anime and the colors create a hazy, dreamlike quality that helps draw readers into the story. Chmakova’s story tackles how it feels to be introverted and anxious, but she is also tackling the issue of separation between science/math and the arts and how this creates a false dichotomy that does not fully embrace the skills and interests of students. Overall, it is amazing for how many issues Chmakova manages to bring to light and it should not be missed, a truly excellent school story for the introvert in us all.

Red's Planet by Eddie Pittman

Fans of Zita the Space Girl will feel right at home in this charming graphic novel. While the bulk of the story takes place in space, featuring aliens, strange planets, and the loss of shoes, it is fundamentally a story about belonging and identity. While there are some scenes of peril that might be too much for more sensitive readers, this graphic novel tells an accessible and interesting story that will appeal to children ages 8 – 12 who enjoy action, adventure, and science fiction.

The story begins with our unnamed heroine, known only as Red, running away from her foster family only to be picked up by the police. However, before the police can take her home they are involved in a high-speed chase with a spaceship. Red ends up being mistakenly kidnapped and taken across the universe. There, she ends up in an auction hosted by an ancient creature known as the Aquilari, who collects rare and valuable artifacts from across the universe, but before the reader can learn more the ship is attacked by space pirates and crashes onto a planet nobody, not even the aliens, is familiar with. On this seemingly desolate desert planet, Red must learn to bond with her traveling companions, avoid the tiny, disproportionately hungry wildlife, and find a way to survive.

Funny and disarming, this story is a lighthearted romp through space. The colors and illustrations are vivid and dynamic, drawing the reader through the story. Pittman has an eye for color and knows how to use the art to enhance and provide comic relief for his text. While the plotting does need to be evened out for the sequel and there are several moments where the story seems to lag, overall Pittman has crafted a story that engages readers and leaves them eager to know what happens next for our stranded heroine.

Nnewts: Escape from the Lizzarks by Doug TenNapel

A war between amphibians and lizards, with humor, magic, and villains with mustaches. All of these elements can be found in NNewts, which introduces readers to a new series featuring a clash between amphibians, the Nnewts, and their scaly counterparts, the Lizzarks. Told in rich and vibrant colors, this graphic novel tells a beautiful, humorous, heart wrenching, and charming story that will appeal to children 9 and up who enjoy tales of adventure and fantasy.

The series opens on a young NNewt, Herk, whose legs are underdeveloped, which forces him to spend his days in the family pond fighting imaginary monsters, until the day the Lizzarks, commanded by the Snake Lord, attack. Herk’s family is killed in the assault and he is forced to flee through underground waterways to escape. These events start Herk’s epic journey as he tries to find those responsible for the death of his family. On this quest, he meets the first Nnewt, Anthigar, in his ruined, watery kingdom and learns what really happened to his legs. Herk also learns that his village was not the only Nnewt settlement and that there are darker, more sinister forces at work and somehow he is at the center of these events. Herk must look within and master new abilities if he is to save himself, the remaining NNewts, and defeat the evil Snake Lord.

Tennapel is grappling with many issues in this story, unabashedly dealing with death, purpose, and identity, but doing so in an accessible way. The artwork heavily relies on varying shades of green, red, purple, and orange to create a vivid and dynamic story that almost leaps off the page. While this tale does feature violence, it never veers too heavily into visual details and intersperses humor throughout to lighten the mood. This series quick space, vibrant colors, and engaging story could also draw in reluctant readers as they follow Herk’s quest. While there are some elements of the plot that need fleshing out, overall this story is excellent and leaves the ready eager to read book two, NNewts: The Rise of Herk, available now. 

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