Click here to see all of the current Great Graphic Novels nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.
Daytime Shooting Star, vol. 1 by Mika Yamamori
Publication Date: July 2019
When Suzume’s parents move to Bangladesh for work, she is sent to live with her uncle in Tokyo. Having grown up in a small town where she knows everyone, Suzume is overwhelmed by the crowds and frustrated that no one can help give her directions to her uncle’s home. Then, like one other time in her life, she sees a daytime shooting star and faints. She is helped by a handsome young man who turns out to be her uncle’s friend… and her homeroom teacher Mr. Shishio. As Suzume struggles to make new friends, Mr. Shishio provides advice and guidance, and she develops a crush on him. She also befriends Mamura, a cute, well-liked but shy boy in her class, which causes jealousy among her classmates.
This is a really cute manga about adjusting to life in a big city and learning how to make friends for the first time. The romance plotlines are relatable and also handled tastefully—the teacher/student trope is a hard line to walk, and so far this one does it well. You also see hints of romantic feelings developing between Mamura and Suzume. Recommended for fans of shojo manga such as Strobe Edge.
Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu
Publication Date: October 15, 2019
Nova is a witch, completing her witchhood apprenticeship at home with her grandermothers. Living in a small, peaceful town, her tasks as a witch aren’t too difficult for her. However, when her non-binary werewolf childhood best friend, Tam, shows up unexpectedly in town again, they bring a wolf-seeking demon with them. Tam has been on their own for a year, and when Nova discovers they are in need of a place to stay, she and her grandmothers gladly take them into their home. Though Tam does not want to put Nova and her family in danger, they quickly discover they need their help in defeating the demon—and those trying to control the demon—from following them. Meanwhile, Nova discovers she will do just about anything to protect Tam and keep them back in her life.
Mooncakes is a delightfully sweet story of finding love, family and belonging. Both Nova and Tam feel isolated—Nova because she lost both of her parents and is a hard-of-hearing witch, and Tam because they ran away from home to escape their step-father and are a non-binary werewolf. In reconnecting with each other, not only do they reunite with a person they loved and missed dearly, but they find a sense of belonging they both have not had in a long time. The representation of Asian culture, disabilities, and queer characters is beautifully interspersed through the story as part of the characters’ identities without being didactic.
The story would not convey all the beauty and magic of this world without Wendy Xu’s illustrations. From the small details such as Tam’s slightly elongated ears and protruding canine teeth to the larger sequences showcasing the whispery light of magic spells and the wavy rainbow-hued plain of shared consciousness, each warm and whimsical panel bring the story’s magic to life.
Hand to readers looking for sweet fantasy stories highlighting diverse characters, such as the Witch Boy series by Molly Knox Osterag, and the Nameless City series Faith Erin Hicks.
Blackwood by Evan Dorkin
Dark Horse Comics
Publication Date: December 24, 2018
Evan Dorkin, the writer behind the beloved Milk and Cheese, is back with Blackwood, a four-issue horror-comedy miniseries. This story is centered on four new college students as they begin their studies at Blackwood College to hone their supernatural powers. They have to make do with their beginner powers when dorm ghosts, the undead dean’s curse, a two-head mummy chimpanzee, a swarm of mutant insects, and more invade Blackwood.
Veronica and Andy Fish’s art is gross just the way teens like it. It is a throwback to 80s and 90s comics and has a vintage flair. This book is perfect for Harry Potter super fans—it has been billed as Harry Potter goes to college. Readers who enjoy Gina Damico’s YA novels, especially Wax, will love this graphic novel as will fans of Taika Waititi’s 2014 film What We Do in the Shadows.