Casa Nostra by Chris Sarracini and Nick Kilislian
Publication Date: December 26, 2017
In 1933, Claire owns a safe house which offers mobsters a place to hide from the authorities. In return, she asks only for payment and for the men to follow her rules. By her side are her three friends: Sharleen, the daughter of a field medic who performs plastic surgery for criminals; Annabelle, Claire’s adopted daughter; and Rosa who spent five years in prison for a crime she won’t discuss. When the Syndicate orders Claire to take in Rizzo, Al Capone’s golden boy who is wanted for a series of brutal murders, she must skillfully navigate a man’s world in order to get revenge and save innocent women from Rizzo’s sadistic killing spree.
Not for the faint of heart, Casa Nostra offers a modern day twist on the femme fatale as the hero of her own story. Claire is smart, daring and knows how to work around the limitations of being a women in a male dominated world. The artwork is dramatic and beautifully dark, and the visual portrayal of Claire and her friends as pin-ups reminiscent of iconic characters such as Jessica Rabbit is an effective juxtaposition to their actual ability to dominate in a male environment. As expected of a mobster crime story, there are a plethora of scenes involving violence, and while the cartoon-like quality of the illustrations helps tone down the graphic content visually, the darkness of this story makes it better suited for mature readers.
Heavy Vinyl, Vol. 1 by Carly Usdin
Publication Date: April 24, 2018
Set in the late 90s, Chris, the newest employee of Vinyl Destination record store, is trying to fit in with the other employees. Maggie is the “cutest” and is open to all types of music, Dolores is goth and doesn’t like Chris, Kennedy knows everything about music, and Irene is the very cool boss. When Chris’ favorite singer, Rosie Riot, goes missing, a secret is revealed to Chris: the record store crew is actually a part of an underground group that fights crime… and the patriarchy. While the club allows Chris to get to know the girls on a deeper level, and allows her to get closer to Maggie, she’s not sure this is where she belongs.
Chris’s need to fit in and gain her peers’ acceptance will be relatable to any young adult. The story and dialogue is witty, fun, and fast-paced. The mystery element helps the plot along and engages the reader until the very end. Vakueva’s character designs are just as unique and diverse as their personalities.
Readers of Snotgirl by Bryan Lee O’Malley and Motor Crush by Brenden Fletcher will love this story about strong female characters. Also, fans of music and 90s nostalgia will enjoy these elements to the story.
Black AF: America’s Sweetheart by Kwanza Osajyefo
Black Mask Comics
Publication Date: February 13, 2018
“Good Girl” Eli Franklin is a black girl with superpowers adopted by a white family. Her family would like her to keep her “empowered” status a secret for her own protection. During a fight, she encounters “X,” another empowered black man who encourages her to join up with other empowered black people. Good Girl demurs and returns to her family’s protection and approval.
This isn’t the only conflict Good Girl faces: she is also besieged by negative portrayals in the media during her attempts to do good for the world. Her dad is constantly giving updates on her approval numbers, including complaints in racial bias in whom she chooses to save. By the end of the volume, it is clear that Good Girl’s journey is far from over and her decisions about who will help her help others are far from other.
These contemporary issues, combined with a colorful, block style make this graphic novel an easy entry point for readers new to the superhero genre. Readers need not have background on the other comics in Osajyefo’s Black series to enjoy this volume. Hand this one to readers who are looking for a story that covers similar social issues as the Black Panther movie.