Betty and Veronica by Adam Hughes
Publication Date: November 28, 2017
The Archieverse puts the best friendship of America’s sweethearts, Betty and Veronica, to the test in this mini series. When Pop’s Chocklit Shoppe is forced to go out of business in favor of corporate coffee chain, Kweekwegs, the two friends find themselves on opposite sides of a battle neither is willing to lose. With only three issues, the volume is bolstered by Issue 12 of Jughead.
While Jughead’s dog, Hot Dog, is the story’s primary narrator, and a few too many girl-fight tropes are employed, the art and color pallette are a pleasantly atypical addition to the current Archie canon. Plus, Hughes’ snappy and fun volume easily passes the Bechdel test. These two friends fight over issues, not boys. In addition, José Villarrubia’s coloring adds a nuance and sophistication to their conflict. Betty, whose grass-roots, can-do optimism puts her on the side of small local business, is always in blue. Ronnie, in red on the other hand, appears ready and willing to use her father’s money and influence to support big business. In subtle ways, their stalemate echos our own country’s embattled political climate. It’s only with the resolution and final page that the two girls wear the other color, a red hat for Betty and blue earmuffs for Veronica. Perhaps we can learn a thing or two from Betty and Ronnie.
Hand this title to fans of Faith, and Kelly Thompson’s Kate Bishop as well as teens already reading Archie titles or watching the TV series Riverdale. They may enjoy seeing another side of these BFFs.
Sleepless by Sarah Vaughn, illustrated by Leila del Duca
Publication Date: July 10, 2018
Lady Poppy’s life is in danger as her uncle is crowned king of Harbeny, bringing with him his disagreeable daughter, and his nephew, Helder. She is thrust into a precarious position at court now that her father is dead; he was the prior king of Harbeny, and her mother was his consort, not the queen. Poppy’s only protector is Cyrenic, a Sleepless knight—sworn never to sleep so he may protect Poppy.
When assassins from the new royal family’s country infiltrate the castle, both Poppy and Cyrenic on are high alert. Run-ins with the assassins lead them to believe Lord Helder is behind the attempts. Meanwhile, Cyrenic is seeing and hearing things that aren’t there—signs that his mind is “drifting” after eight Sleepless years. It’s out of desperation that he decides to end his service to Poppy by killing Helder. To stop Cyrenic’s mad plan, Poppy releases him from being Sleepless, taking an unprecedented risk.
A huge draw for this title is its Art Nouveau style accompanying the fairytale-like fantasy story. This style permeates the volume, lending the scenes a sense of enchantment. The main characters, Poppy and Cyrenic, are very likeable, ship-able, and interesting. There’s a lot of tension in their relationship, as it’s not clear what the one means to the other. Are they lady and servant, friends, potential lovers? And, it’s refreshing to have a person of color as the leading lady.
This is a multifaceted tale of court intrigue with fascinating characters who are torn between meeting courtly expectations and finding their own places in the world. Recommend to those who enjoyed Princess Princess Ever After, The Prince and the Dressmaker, and Game of Thrones.
—Kristy Kemper Hodge
Ms. Marvel, vol. 9: Teenage Wasteland by G. Willow Wilson and Nico Leon
Publication Date: July 31, 2018
Ms. Marvel is nowhere to be found and when one of her old nemesis returns, Jersey city is in chaos. Without their hometown hero to protect the city, Kamala’s friends Gabe, Mike, Nakia, and Zoe take on the Ms. Marvel mantle in her absence. But even with the help of Red Dagger, when the danger level escalates, the interim Ms. Marvels must call for backup to help save their city. Though Kamala needs a break from the responsibility she has both to her city and her friends, she cannot escape forever.It is the return of Bruno from Wakanda and her growing romantic feelings for Red Dagger however, that has Kamala much more concerned than the return of her evil nemeses.
This volume does an excellent job of portraying the challenges and balances needed in friendship, especially as a teenager struggling with romantic feelings for friends, both old and new. Even though Kamala needs to take a step back from her life for a bit, her friends are there to take on that burden for her when she needs it. She in turn is there to support them as well. And when romantic entanglements begin to feel overwhelming, the friends are there to help each other work through their complicated feelings. The arwork supports the story, and the rich colors add to the drama. Recommended for teens who are fans of Ms. Marvel or those who enjoy stories of high school friendships in a superhero world, such as Valiant High by Daniel Kibblesmith or Supergirl, vol .1: Being Super by Mariko Tamaki.
Green Lantern: Earth One, vol. 1 by Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman
Publication Date: March 20, 2018
Following in the footsteps of DC’s other Earth One reboots, Becko and Hardman breathe new life into the classic character, Green Lantern, beginning with Harold (Hal) Jordan’s origins. An astronaut by training, Hal spends his days mining asteroids for Ferris Galactic. When his colleague is destroyed while uncovering a green lantern, he is both saved and banished by it. With the help of Green Lantern Kilowog, Hal learns the power and history of his ring. Together, they journey to vast new worlds in search of other Green Lanterns in hopes of saving them all from the Manhunter machines designed to destroy them.
Beginning this new rendition with Hal’s off-world stint immediately broadens the scope of Green Lantern mythos. This Hal has spent more time off Earth than on it, and, as such, he becomes a superhuman trapped in outer space. In this landscape, everything but his humanity is foreign. It is his humility, not the ring, that make Earth One’s Hal a true hero, as when he passes leadership to another (female) Green Lantern. Hal Jordan is still doing what he does best though—assembling a new group of Green Lanterns and taking down baddies with skill and brains. Hardman’s artwork consistently strengthens the story—especially his ever expressive facial close ups. Coupled with Boyd’s coloring, pages often glow.
Easily accessible for new readers, this title allows the Green Lantern to have a level of vitality and confidence the original is too burdened to fully maintain. Teens already familiar with Green Lantern will certainly enjoy this new take, as will fans of Star Wars, Descender, Guardians of the Galaxy and other science fiction epics.
—Silence Bourn and Kate Covintree
Home After Dark by David Small
Publication Date: September 11, 2018
After Russell and his father are abandoned by his mother, they move to a small town in Northern California. Russell’s father starts working at San Quentin State Prison and spends all his spare time drinking. Russell makes some friends in the neighborhood and at school, but one is an outcast and the others bully him. When Russell’s dad disappears, he is left to fend for himself until the generous Mah family takes him in.
This graphic novel really shows the struggles of adolescence in small town America. Although it is set in the 1950s, it resonants for teens today that have similar problems; absentee parents, bullying, isolation, loneliness, discovering who they are, trying to fit in, etc… It’s a dark story, but there are moments of kindness that promise a better life. The drawings are sparse and the text is limited, creating an emotional landscape for the story. Overall it’s a memorable story about growing up and feeling hopeless, but wanting to be a better person.
Although it’s not a memoir like Small’s previous work, Stitches, it could easily be mistaken for one and his fans will not be disappointed. Readers not already familiar with Small, but who are drawn to family dramas and coming-of-age stories will want to read this title.
Batman and the Justice League, vol. 1 by Shiori Teshirogi
Publication Date: October 23, 2018
Rui Aramiya comes to Gotham from Japan in search of his missing parents, only to find crime at an all-time high due to the widespread distribution of the Joker’s Gaia Juice. Joker claims it allows him to steal memories and information from Gotham’s citizens. Gaia Juice is made by channeling energy from the Earth’s ley lines through a kidnapped Japanese goddess.
The Aramiya’s disappearance is tied to the Joker’s Gaia Juice production. As Rui and Batman investigate, Superman/Clark Kent also heads to Gotham to investigate the ley line activity. Lex Luthor arrives on scene and the plot thickens; it seems he is involved with the Joker’s schemes. Batman and Superman team up against the Joker and Lex Luthor, and, in the meantime, the next volume is set up when Aquaman’s evil brother, Ocean Master, escapes from prison to confront Batman.
This volume perfectly pairs the strengths of the manga art style—dramatic action scenes, highly expressive facial and body language—with the high drama typical of traditional superhero comic storylines. This pairing is especially effective in a story featuring DC’s ultimate hero-villain OTP—the Joker and Batman. Such a skilled crossover between the manga art and traditional superhero comics, makes both comic styles much more accessible to readers who prefer one over the other. Manga readers will have an excellent new way to experience traditional American superhero comics, and hardcore DC fans can explore the manga style with a new story featuring favorite characters.
Recommend this title to anyone who loves a “good vs evil” plotline, who enjoys shonen hero
stories, and any manga or DC reader ready to explore a new style of comics.
—Kristy Kemper Hodge