Click here to see all of the current Great Graphic Novels nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.
Making Friends: Back to the Drawing Board by Kristen Gudsnuk
Publication Date: July 30, 2019
In 2018’s Making Friends, seventh-grader Dany discovers a magical notebook among her late aunt’s things that brings whatever is drawn in them to life, including friends, magical rings, and an evil (but good-looking) disembodied head. Making Friends: Back to the Drawing Board takes place soon after the events of the first one, with the gym at Melton Middle School, the location of the final showdown, still a hazard zone. And Dany still struggles with friendships, particularly with Cara, who she describes as “Madison and Aleesha’s friend (not mine).” When Cara tells Dany she’s annoying, Dany actually pays her to pretend to be her friend, but it doesn’t really help. Agonizing over going back to school, Dany decides to create a clone to do it for her. Cloney lives inside of a “pikkiball” (essentially a pokeball) in an amazing room that recalls I Dream of Jeannie, and Dany can stay inside the pikkiball, playing video games and watching Cloney live her life for her. Things become even more complicated when Cloney and Dany break a bottle in the basement while digging out her sister’s old math tests and unleash a magic dog on the town.
This book is funny and wacky, with humor that works on multiple levels. Dany’s trick for getting ready for school—to use her amulet to transform into her shimmering alter ego and then change her costume for school clothes—is hilarious even if you don’t get the reference to Sailor Moon. The artwork is bright and expressive, with lots of great gags in the background. It also tackles real middle school issues around friendship, self-esteem, and responsibility, as in the moment where Dany, watching Cloney interact with their friends in the cafeteria, realizes with a gut punch that she is annoying. Fans of the first book with love this one. It’s also recommended for fans of Sailor Moon, Pokemon, and Victoria Jamieson’s Roller Girl and All’s Faire in Middle School.
Last Pick: Born to Run by Jason Walz
Publication Date: October 8, 2019
Teenage twins Sam and Wyatt were leading the resistance against the aliens that took most of the population between the ages 16-65, leaving only the old, the young, and the undesirables on Earth. But now Sam has been taken too. It’s up to Wyatt to lead the revolution on his own, directing the other kids and other people with disabilities that have banded together to fight the aliens. Meanwhile, Sam has been taken to the alien’s planet along with many other humans, who are being used to wipe out the last of the native population. Along with her partner Mia, she must start her own uprising from the distant planet to rebel against the incessant colonialism of their alien captors.
In this second volume, the rebellion against the aliens starts to come together on two different fronts. Despite Wyatt’s fears of being the leader of Earth’s rebellion without Sam, he becomes a strong and trusted figure-head that his band of older, younger, and disabled soldiers look-up to. Rather than being a liability, his autism allows him to think about things in a way that takes Earth’s rebellion to the next level. Sam likewise, is out of her element and has to learn to trust others instead of just charging head-first into danger. Her growing feelings for Mia also serve to complicate the ever-increasing rebellion taking place on the distant planet.
Though the two stories are largely separate in this volume, taken together they amplify what Walz showcased in the first volume—the celebration of the outsiders, the underdogs, the overlooked ones deemed as useless. The video-game style illustrations highlight the action of the series and perfectly capture the emotions of the characters, such as Wyatt’s ease with machines and struggles with giving an inspiring speech to his fellow rebels. Hand to readers looking for action-packed alien-fighting adventure stories such as Mech Cadet Yu by Greg Pak and Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card.
Ignited, vol. 1: Triggered by Mark Waid and Kwanza Osalyefo
Publication Date: October 15, 2019
The lives of six teenagers are changed when a school shooter targets their high school. Now the power to restore order is literally in their hands. It’s the first day back at Phoenix Academy High—but this year, there’s no excitement in the air, as returning students and faculty are haunted by memories of last year’s horrific attack. So many friends and colleagues were lost, and some of those who survived underwent changes—they IGNITED, gaining supernatural abilities they barely understand. How will they use their powers to stand up for their fellow students as parents and teachers argue over the appropriate response to this tragedy?
This title is topical, angry, and full of appeal for teen audiences. Ignited doesn’t shy away from the contemporary political realities that come to bear on the all-too-common occurrence of school shootings, and while it has a definite point of view, it gives time to multiple reactions and employs the idea of mutations/powers to empower voices that are too often silenced.
This is an excellent choice for fans of Marvel’s Cloak and Dagger and Runaways, as well as recent school shooter aftermath titles like Violent Ends and Silent Alarm.
New Super-Man and the Justice League of China by Gene Luen Yang
Publication Date: February 12, 2019
New Super-Man and the Justice League of China is the final volume of the series, previously called New Super-Man, written by Gene Luen Yang. In this volume, Shanghai’s ace reporter Laney Lan, who has been reporting on the mighty Justice League of China since the beginning, faces turmoil in her own family. Laney’s commitment to reporting the truth is tested like never before while members of the Justice League must confront their fears in order to beat the big bad.
This book would be a good recommendation for patrons who are looking for something a little different from the standard comics fare. The more diverse twist on the Justice League is welcomed. Yang writes witty and natural-sounding dialogue and the villain is actually pretty scary. Despite DC’s cancellation of this book, some fans remain hopeful that the characters will appear in future storylines.
Great for readers that enjoy gender or culture swapped versions of characters such as Jason Aaron’s The Mighty Thor and G. Willow Wilson’s New York Times Best-Selling series Ms. Marvel.
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