Click here to see all of the current Great Graphic Novels nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.
Ascender, vol. 1: The Haunted Galaxy by Jeff Lemire, illustrated by Dustin Nguyen
Publication Date: October 29, 2019
Picking up 10 years after the events of the Descender series, Andy and his daughter, Mila are living as outsiders on the planet Sampson. Instead of machines ruling the universe, now it’s magic from the vampire queen, known only as Mother. Mother has outlawed all technology and will destroy any tech and it’s owners she and her militia find. The UGC rebels still exist and Mother is determined to find them, especially after finding out that they too have magic now through a nameless mage. One afternoon in the forest, Bandit, Andy’s old robot dog, crash lands on Sampson, much to the surprise and delight of Andy (and Mila…who has never seen a robot before). Bandit’s arrival sets the militia after Andy and Mila and they must get off-planet as fast as possible, but where will they go and how will they get there?
The beautiful, watercolor artwork by Eisner award-winning artist, Nguyen makes this graphic novel stand out, just as it did in the Descender series. The reader is transported back to that world, but under very different circumstances. While knowledge of the Descender series is helpful for the understanding of the world, new readers can also enjoy this series, though they will definitely be inspired to go back and read the original volumes. Ascender is clearly the beginning of an epic quest one can only hope will find Andy reunited with Tim-22.
Hawking by Jim Ottaviani, Leland Myrick, and Aaron Polk
Publication Date: July 2, 2019
Stephen Hawking was famously born on the 300th anniversary of Galileo’s death and died on Albert Einstein’s birthday. During his life he became the most well-known scientist of his generation. Ottaviani and Myrick make Hawking’s scientific life the focus of their graphic biography Hawking. Background information on Hawking’s personal life and the field of cosmology are included to serve that purpose. Readers will appreciate how his marriages and the progression of his illness are shown more through the artwork and design elements than in the text, which enables the illustrations and text to work seamlessly together while also focusing on his career. The illustrations also go far in helping readers understand complex math and physics concepts, and older teens with an interest in physics and cosmology will find this book engrossing. Hawking pairs well with other graphic nonfiction like Ottaviana and Myrick’s Feynman and Jonathan Fetter-Vorm’s Trinity.
Simon & Louise by Max de Radigues
Publication Date: August 6, 2019
School is out for the summer! That means Louise will be on a family vacation in Montpellier for two months, leaving her boyfriend Simon home alone. Within a day, Louise has changed her social media status to “single” and Simon is confused and heartbroken. Louise tells him her Dad forbids the relationship, but Simon refuses to accept that and leaves home to hitchhike to the beach town 350 miles away to win Louise back. Along the way, he loses his belongings and meets some interesting (and dangerous) people. Meanwhile, Louise is enjoying her vacation, except for the boys that her cousin has forced her to spend time with.
Even though this title is translated from the French and takes place in locations unfamiliar to an American audience, the themes are universal. It’s two teenagers trying to make sense of their feelings for each other, while also discovering more about themselves. Told from different perspectives, the audience can see the miscommunication and struggles of the individual characters. It’s a very sweet story with (mostly) likable characters and bright, cute artwork.
This graphic novel fits in perfectly with other light romances and self-discovery stories, such as The Prince and the Dressmaker, Bloom, and Pumpkinheads.