The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, Illustrated by Renee Nault
Nan A. Talese/Doubleday / Penguin Random House
Publication Date: March 26, 2019
In a dystopian near-future, fertile women are enslaved for their reproductive abilities by wealthy families in the newly formed Republic of Gilead. One such woman, named June but now called Offred, clings to her memories of her previous life in rebellion and finds ways to keep her own identity alive within the oppressive structure of her new life.
The Handmaid’s Tale has had a resurgence of popularity with its recent TV adaptation, and the new graphic novel format makes it accessible to new readers. The art is engaging and striking, despite minor inconsistencies with the source material. The artist uses vivid colors to amplify the emotional context of the story, and the subject matter is increasingly relevant to the society in which American teens must live.
Teens who enjoy stories about dystopian futures such as P. Craig Russell’s adaptation of Lowry’s The Giver and Scott Westerfeld’s Spill Zone and fans of horror artists such as Emily Carroll (author of Through the Woods and adapter of Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak) will find much to enjoy in this dark tale.
Skyward, vol. 2: Here There Be Dragonflies by Joe Henderson, illustrated by Lee Garbett
Publication Date: March 5, 2019
After the commotion Willa caused in Chicago, she is considered a fugitive and on the run. Her friend Edison is with her on a train as she follows her father’s last words to get to Kansas City and fix the world. Unfortunately, Roger Barrow knows she is there and stops the train. As Edison explains, since the low-gravity happened, insects have survived by growing to massive sizes and feeding on humans, so exiting the train between cities is not an option. But…a few big bugs don’t scare Willa and she exits anyway, only to find herself rescued by Lucas, a sword wielding, butterfly riding man. Lucas is not the hero that Willa and Edison believe though and now they must split up to save Chicago from Lucas and get to Kansas City to finish what they started before Barrow can stop them.
The impressive world building, great storyline and beautiful artwork continue in volume two of this excellent series. The diverse characters, Willa is African American and Edison has a physical disability, make the story even more accessible. Plus Edison’s disability plays a key role in his feelings about low-gravity and “fixing” the world, since he will be wheelchair bound if gravity is back to normal. Henderson proves yet again the extent of thought that went into creating a low-gravity world, from Edison’s wariness, to the way the train works, to the massive, man-eating insects. Reader’s will be anxious to read volume three.
Giant Days: Early Registration by John Allison
Publication Date: December 18, 2018
Giant Days: Early Registration is a bonus collection in the Giant Days graphic novel series. In this volume, readers get to see Daisy, Esther and Susan move into their freshman dorm at university. The comics move through vignettes of how popular girls try to force Esther to be their friend, how Susan and Daisy decide to join an Indie Society, and how Esther almost joins a cult, all the while having each other’s backs through these hijinks and shenanigans.
Existing readers may note the slightly different art style depicted in this volume of Giant Days, which happen to be the original self-published comics. The humor, the budding relationships and friendships between characters is deliciously nostalgic and laugh out loud funny. Allison is known for his witty writing, which is fully on display in this volume of Giant Days. He also does an excellent job of creating strong and engaging female characters.
This title is readable as a prequel, prior to starting the series, or a great flashback to how the friendships between Daisy, Esther, Susan, Ed and McGraw began. Readers interested in graphic series that also highlight female friendship and strong female characters should try Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson and Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughan.
Blackbird, Vol. 1 by Sam Humphries and Jen Bartel
Publication Date: May 8, 2019
Nina Rodriguez is convinced that the world is inhabited by shadowy magical people called Paragons. When a magical beast kidnaps her sister, Nina is proven right but at too high of a cost. Assisted by a spellbound cat and a handsome, mysterious stranger, Nina embarks on a quest to rescue her sister but she quickly finds herself in dangerous waters amidst rivaling Paragon cabals. As Nina unearths old secrets, she’ll find herself tested and questioning everything she thought she once knew.
Blackbird features a fast-paced story that interlaces mystery and fantasy within a contemporary Los Angeles setting. The vivid art style and glowing, saturated colors offer strong visual appeal that will engage readers. Nina, though flawed, is an interesting, relatable character, and her path to self-discovery will resonate.
Blackbird’s ingress into the nexus of beauty and power is reminiscent of the popular series The Wicked + the Divine and will appeal to a similar audience. Fans of the Divergent trilogy and the CW’s Riverdale will also find enjoyable parallels in Blackbird’s depiction of clashing cabals and clandestine family secrets.