Great Graphic Novels For Teens Top Ten 2012 (Part 3 of 3)

Welcome to The Hub’s third and final installment of Great Graphic Novels for Teens Top Ten 2012! In our previous post, we had a look at media, kung fu, and a new version of the classic superhero, Thor. Today, we are focusing on an even more unlikely collection of subjects ranging from historical fiction to surreal crime fighting to post-apocalyptic survival to transgender adolescents.

If I could describe Kaoru Mori’s style in one word it would be “meticulous.” Her artwork is gorgeous and painstakingly drawn with splendid detail, but her stories are just as finely crafted. A Bride’s Story is Mori’s latest series, and her skills as an artist and storyteller landed the first volume solidly on the Top Ten list. Set in Central Asia during the 19th Century, A Bride’s Story centers on Amir, a twenty-year-old horsewoman from a nomadic tribe who has been betrothed to a boy much younger than herself. While the premise certainly lends itself to some lighthearted humor, the story takes more than one serious turn. Readers will find themselves delighted by well-drawn cast of characters, especially the highly spirited Amir.  An excellent choice for manga readers ready for something with a little more depth.

Without a doubt, Axe Cop Volume 1 has got to be one of the weirdest books I’ve ever read. Originally developed as a web comic, Axe Cop is the brainchild of cartoonist Ethan Nicholle and his five-year-old brother, Malachai Nicholle. Axe Cop is beloved by many, and for good reason: Malachai’s imagination drives the story relentlessly from one illogical conclusion to the next. Just when you think things couldn’t get any more bizarre than a flute-playing cop that turns into a T-Rex after being tainted with dinosaur blood, and then he and Axe Cop get a job at a fruit stand and … well, you’ll just have to read the story to find out what happens next. While it might be easy to dismiss Axe Cop as an amusing gimmick, it would be a disservice. This title pushes the boundary of the format through its collaboration and truly unique story creation. I guarantee you there is nothing else out there like it.

Brian Ralph’s Daybreak is another book that earned its spot on the Top Ten list because of its masterful use of an unusual storytelling technique. Told entirely through second person narrative, it follows an unnamed and unseen person (you) through a barren landscape filled with an unnamed threat. What makes this particular story so effective is what Ralph doesn’t tell the reader. We have no idea what happened, how we got here, or what will happen to us. We only know that we are alive for the moment but “they” are coming, and this is what makes this title so incredibly unsettling. By placing the reader in such a vulnerable position, Ralph creates a very visceral reading experience tinged with unease and anxiety.

Shimura Takako’s Wandering Son Volume 1 rounds out the Top Ten list for 2012 with a sensitive look at two fifth grade students struggling with gender identity: Shuichi Natori is a boy who wants to be a girl, and Yoshino Takatsuki is a girl who wants to be a boy. This is a complex and sensitive subject, but Takako handles it very gently, allowing the story to unfold in a way that is not only natural but sympathetic. Takako’s artwork is spare and evocative, supporting the story but never getting in the way of its telling. This one is for teens who like contemporary stories about real world problems.

And that concludes our overview of the 2012 Great Graphic Novels for Teens Top Ten! Even if you don’t consider yourself a fan of graphic novels, these ten titles are exemplary examples of the genre and are well worth exploring.

— Summer Hayes, currently reading a big ol’ stack of graphic novels and The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater