Click here to see all of the current Great Graphic Novels nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.
The Way of the Househusband, vol. 1-4 by Kousuke Oono
Publication Date: September 17, 2019; January 21, 2020; May 19, 2020; September 15, 2020
ISBN: 9781974709403, 9781974710447, 9781974713462, 9781974717675
The Way of the Househusband is a slice-of-life, slapstick-comedy manga that follows a former yakuza enforcer as he lives a normal life as a househusband. Tatsu, who was once known as “the Immortal Dragon,” is still an intense and intimidating figure, but he has focused his fervor on mastering the tasks of domestic life. He creates elaborate and adorable bento box lunches for his wife, participates in the activities of the neighborhood ladies’ association, and astounds his former yakuza associates and enemies with his new skills when he encounters them. Each new volume has laugh-out-loud moments and new twists so you never feel like you are just reading the same thing over and over.
Refreshingly, the domestic work itself is not the punchline of the series’ humor. The comedy comes from subverting expectations, and Kousuke Oono’s artwork is particularly well-suited to this. Tatsu’s “househusband” uniform is a good example of the visual incongruity: he consistently wears a dark suit and aviator sunglasses on his scarred, perpetually sneering face and covers the suit with an apron that has a cute cartoon Shiba Inu on it.
The sitcom-like chapters are easily accessible to readers who are new to manga, as well as to dedicated fans of Japanese culture who will enjoy Tatsu committing himself so fully to so many culturally specific domestic activities. Hand this series to fans of quirky comedy manga titles like Skull-Face Bookseller Honda-san or action-comedy manga like Mob Psycho 100.
—Kacy Helwick and Tina Lernø
Relics of Youth, vol. 1 by Matt Nicholas, Chad Rebmann, and Skylar Patridge
Publication Date: March 17, 2020
Nat Rodriguez has recurring dreams about a mysterious island. She locates other teens around the world who are having dreams about the island, and all of them wake up one morning with a strange tattoo that no one else can see. The group sets off to find out why they are drawn to paradise and discover that they are from the bloodlines of the island’s first guardians, each of them having a unique superpower to help defend the fountain of youth from nefarious forces.
Relics of Youth reads like an aged down version of The Wicked + The Divine meets Marvel’s Inhumans—it has that ancient myth-made-modern story with a hint of superpowers mixed in. The six characters that make up the group of teenagers are diverse and distinct from each other. Nicholas and Rebmann have done a nice job developing the personalities of these teenagers in just a few issues. The teens learn about the past of their ancestors and learn about themselves in order to take on the big bad. This is a great story from a smaller press that librarians should welcome to their shelves.
Graphic novel read-alikes include Something Is Killing the Children by James Tynion IV and Family Tree by Jeff Lemire. Recommend this to readers who enjoyed Jonathan Stroud’s Bartimaeus Sequence novels and Angie Sage’s Septimus Heap series or those who crave comic team-ups such as Saladin Ahmed’s Exiles or Marvel’s all-woman A-Force books (by various authors).