Click here to see all of the current Great Graphic Novels nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.
Blank Canvas: My So-Called Artist’s Journey Vol. 1 by Akiko Higashimura
Seven Seas Entertainment
Publication Date: May 21, 2019
An autobiographical tale of the author’s journey to becoming a full-fledged mangaka. Akiko dreams of becoming a popular mangaka, maybe before she even finishes high school! Although Akiko thinks very highly of her current skill level, her new teacher shows her that she has a long way to go and a lot to learn before she can reach her goal. Will it be a straight path to success or will she have to rethink her plans as she finds her way?
The artwork in the title is really great, and the process of how Akiko got there is equally as enthralling. One doesn’t need to be an artist to feel all the feels of growing up and figuring out what you want to do with your life. You will laugh out loud and cheer along as she makes her artists journey.
Give to Manga fans who like their slice of life mixed with lots of humor. Readers who enjoy artist bios such as Malaka Gharib’s I Was Their American Dream and Relish by Lucy Knisley will love this book as well.
Stargazing by Jen Wang
Publication Date: September 10, 2019
Christine Hong is a normal middle school girl—good grades, music lessons, helpful and polite in her family’s Chinese American community. Moon Li, the new girl who moves into the Hongs’ rental property with her mother, is a quirky artsy misfit with a K-pop obsession and anger management issues. Despite their differences, Christine and Moon become fast friends, bonding over music and food and field trips to the planetarium and a dance routine for the talent show. But then Christine’s parents pressure her to study harder, and Moon’s enthusiasm wins her more popularity at school. Christine feels left out, jealous, and conflicted—and then Moon is hospitalized, and their newly-blossoming friendship threatens to fall apart completely.
Jen Wang is right up there with Jeff Kinney, Raina Telgemeier, Svetlana Chmakova, Victoria Jamieson, and Shannon Hale when it comes to exploring middle school realness—the anxiety of wanting to both stand out and fit in, managing the often-conflicting identities of good student and fun friend, the heartbreak of making mistakes and having no idea how to make it right again. Wang shows readers a diverse Chinese American community through her cozy art with its warm, inviting colors and expressive faces. Stargazing is ideal for the younger members of the young adult audience, reflecting their world back at them with love and care.
Ironheart, Vol. 1: Those with Courage by Eve L. Ewing, Kevin Libranda, Luciano Vecchio, and G Geoffo
Publication Date: July 10, 2019
After losing her stepfather and her best friend in a drive-by shooting, Riri Williams struggles to balance her personal life and career in Chicago while donning the superhero mantle of Ironheart (aided by faithful A.I. system N.A.T.A.L.I.E.). As Ironheart, Riri saves a group of world leaders taken hostage by villain Clayton Cole (aka Clash) who slips her a peculiar token. Soon, she’s racing to uncover the mystery of the token and the strange disappearance of an old friend. But standing in her way is Midnight’s Fire, a villain intent on swaying her to his side. Riri must use her strength and intelligence to defeat Midnight’s Fire and expose the shadowy organization responsible for a rash of recent kidnappings.
Riri is a powerful character with great qualities like loyalty, dedication, kindness, and humor. Teens will find her a relatable role model that is full of depth and humanity. Her struggles with bereavement and her strength in the face of difficult decisions will resonate with many readers. The story features plenty of action and exciting, supercharged fight scenes. The art is bright and playful, with a thoughtful eye to composition and design. Although the tie-in to Asian mysticism is a stale trope, Midnight’s Fire is an interesting character that offers some complexity above the standard villain fare.
Fans of Iron Man will find Riri a worthy successor, clever and valiant. Ironheart is another fantastic addition to Marvel’s teen-led superhero series such as Ms. Marvel and Shuri.