Click here to see all of the current Great Graphic Novels nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.
The Avant-Guards, vol. 1 by Carly Usdin and Noah Hayes
Publication Date: September 3, 2019
When Charlie transfers to The Georgia O’Keefe College for Arts and Subtle Dramatics, she thought she was done with basketball and the pressures of college athletics. Struggling to fit in and feel comfortable in a strange new environment, the last thing she wants is the added pressures of basketball on top of everything else. She doesn’t count on Liv, the passionate and exuberant basketball player determined to start a women’s league at O’Keefe. With Liv’s drive and help from the other quirky yet welcoming members of the team, Charlie realizes that this squad might not stress her out like the previous team she fled in the past. Also, She may have found the kind of friends she was looking for—and maybe even a new girlfriend.
Quirky and funny, with lovable, relatable characters, The Avant-Guards is a celebration of the underdogs. The women of the team defy traditional stereotypes and prove just because someone is artsy doesn’t mean they can’t also be athletic. Charlie’s laid-back demeanor with Liv’s over-the-top drive make them perfect opposites for each other and will have readers rooting for their budding romance. The bright, vibrant artwork perfectly matches the story’s quirky exuberance. Hand to fans of underdog sports stories highlighting diversity and LGBTQ+ characters, such as Fence by C.S. Pacat and Dodge City by Josh Trujillo.
Frankenstein: Junji Ito Story Collection by Junji Ito
Publication Date: October 16, 2018
Master of horror manga, Junji Ito, takes on a classic to kick off this collection of stories. His version of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is a traditional take on the story and makes up the bulk of this book. Following the classic tale, is a series of stories about lonely high schooler Oshikiri, who lives alone in a giant haunted house while attending school. He experiences hallucinations, helps a friend “escape” from the throngs of girls that like him and finds out his house is a portal to an alternate universe. The final two stories are an ode to the author’s family dog, Non-non (but with a horror spin of course).
This story collection in particular is perfect for teens with Frankenstein being classic teen literature and most of the remaining stories revolving around a high school student and his lonely existence at school and home. As usual, the creep factor is very high with all of the stories which will thrill fans of the genre.
This collection will not disappoint fans of Ito’s other books or manga and graphic novels with high levels of creepiness, like Emily Carroll’s Through the Woods or Brian Coldrick’s Behind You: One-Shot Horror Stories.
Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass by Mariko Tamaki
Publication Date: September 3, 2019
Fifteen-year-old Harleen Quinzel is sent to live in Gotham City while her mom works on a cruise ship. When Gotham’s best drag queen, Mama, takes her in, Harley finds a home and makes a new best friend, Ivy, at Gotham High. But soon Mama’s drag cabaret becomes the next victim in a wave of gentrification that’s taking over the neighborhood. Harley gets mad. She decides to act, but must choose between activist Ivy, who’s campaigning to save the neighborhood, or her new anarchist friend Joker, who plans to take down Gotham one corporation at a time.
This rebooted origin story for Harley Quinn has a lot to say about gentrification, found families, privilege, and community. Harley’s impulse control and judgment issues, especially with respect to the Joker, make a lot more sense with a teenage version of the character. Tamaki’s character building, at least for Ivy and Harley, is strong, and the story is reasonably compelling and has definite teen appeal.
A good title for fans of the character and the recent Suicide Squad film, as well as fans of ‘villain’ origin stories like Young Elites.