Last Pick by Jason Walz
Publication Date: October 9, 2018
Twin teens Sam and Wyatt try to survive on Earth after all able-bodied people ages 16-65 are captured and taken by aliens. The twins’ mission – find their abducted parents by obtaining alien communication hardware they can use to track their parents’ off-world location. When their parents’ location appears to be near their hometown, at Fort Knox, Sam smells a trap. She sacrifices herself to the alien “scoopers” to save her brother, Wyatt. Wyatt then connects with a rebel human group before this first volume
This book is really compelling – after bonding with Sam and Wyatt, readers will not want this volume to end! Last Pick deals with themes of identity and fitting in, as well as the struggle of being different (perhaps neuro-divergent, in the case of Wyatt), that will really resonate with teens. An author’s note at the end of the volume brings a deeper level of meaning as Walz likens the story’s theme of “different as bad” to current societal norms and attitudes regarding immigrants, refugees, and people with special needs. Impressively, the comic does not come across as didactic and the messages are not overt or overwhelming. The all-color artwork is solid, with great, expressive facial expressions and an interesting use of different lettering for the alien dialogue to give them voice. An all-around great, engaging read!
Suggest Last Pick to anyone who enjoys a sci-fi adventure and/or stories about siblings and survival. Recommend to readers who have outgrown Ben Hatke’s work, are up for more brutality than in Space Battle Lunchtime, or who need something to tide them over until the next season of Stranger Things.
–Kristy Kemper Hodge
M.F.K. Book 1 by Nilah Magruder
Publication Date: September 26, 2017
During a major sandstorm, an injured Abbie is taken in by Jaime’s family, which is his grandfather and his aunt, a medic. Abbie has little interest in engaging with her hosts and is eager to get on her way. Meanwhile Jaime’s parents abandoned their remote town of Little Marigold long before, and Jaime as well. Abbie represents something of a mystery and the outside world to cloistered Jaime. Abbie’s reticence reminds Jaime of his town’s general fear of outsiders and continued oppression from the powerful Parasai, who demand tributes from the citizens of Little Marigold. Meanwhile, Jamie learns more about Abbie’s past and some of the secrets she holds closely.
This series opener blends open, cinematic desert scenery with vivid fight scenes and a storyline that promises more adventure ahead. Nilah Magruder’s rich watercolor style and her use of exaggerated facial expressions help give this serious coming of age story a lighter touch. The author’s professional background in children’s books and animation also pays off in the form of visual storytelling that’s easy for readers to navigate and understand.
Hand this volume to fans of coming of age stories inside of richly imagined settings with complex colonial pasts, like The Nameless City by Faith Erin Hicks.
Ms. Marvel Vol 8: Mecca by G. Willow Wilson, Marco Failla and Diego Olortegui
Publication Date: December 26, 2017
Kamala Kahn, New Jersey’s teenage superhero, Ms. Marvel, finds herself fighting against old enemies and old friends when Jersey City’s new mayor starts arresting people with superpowers. While Kamala and her family celebrate the holiday of Eid al-Adah, they find themselves suddenly under siege when her brother Aamir is arrested and detained as a person suspected of having unregistered superpowers. As Kamala fights to free her brother and the other detainees, she starts to wonder if she is really making a difference in her city after all.
Ms. Marvel is at once an inspiring superhero and a normal teenage girl. This volume also showcases Kamala’s vulnerability. Her brother is arrested for a misunderstanding, her community is being persecuted, and her once loyal fan base has turned against her. Instead of feeling like a hero, she instead feels powerless. Using both humor and emotion, Wilson wonderfully captures Kamala’s feelings of self-doubt and weakness, and the ultimate inner strength she finds through the support of her loved ones. Both older and younger teens will relate to Kamala’s feeling of powerlessness in the face of hardship and the strength she finds when she thinks she has none left. The art wonderfully depicts the motion and versatility of Ms. Marvel’s flexibility and size changing powers. It also perfectly captures the emotion of the characters through their expressions and the surrounding coloring.
Fans of Ms. Marvel, All-New, All-Different Avengers, and Champions will enjoy this newest volume of Kamala’s adventures. And Wilson’s depiction of Kamala discovering her identity even while facing crippling self-doubt in the face of persecution, makes this a great read for fans of Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali and The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.