Click here to see all of the current Great Graphic Novels nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.
Heavy Vinyl, vol. 2: Y2K-0! by Carly Usdin and Nina Vakueva
BOOM! Box / BOOM! Studios
Publication Date: March 25, 2020
It’s 1999 in New Jersey. Seventeen-year-old Sam is working at Vinyl Destination, a record store where she and her coworkers sell music, play in a band, and operate a fight club. When her coworker Kennedy discovers that someone is attaching a virus to music downloaded off “Snapster” and burned to CDs, the crew is on the case. They’re sure music executive Rick Blaze is behind it and that it is somehow connected to the Y2K turnover. Luckily, they’ve won a battle of the bands contest to open the New Year’s Eve show at Time Square, giving them just the right setting to save the day.
While the plot is a bit ridiculous and the late ‘90s setting silly and incongruous (in one scene Dolores pulls out a Tamagotchi like it’s 1996), the book succeeds as a fun send up to ‘90s nostalgia popular right now. There is some nice character work about growing up as well, as Sam worries about her relationship with Maggie becoming physical and Kennedy deals with her boyfriend moving away to college. This kind of light touch and music mystery makes this book feel like a bigger, queerer Josie and the Pussycats. The bright, realistic artwork adds to this sensibility.
Recommend this to readers enjoying The Avant-Guards, also by Carly Usdin, and Moonstruck by Grace Ellis.
Wonder Twins vol. 2: The Fall and Rise of the Wonder Twins by Mark Russell and Stephen Byrne
Wonder Comics / DC Comics
Publication Date: August 11, 2020
Zan and Jayna return in a second, and final, volume of Wonder Twins. They’ve defeated their enemies and saved the world, but nothing has actually been fixed. The always optimistic Zan is doing fine soaking up the attention at school, but Jayna is having more trouble dealing with the guilt of sending her best friend to jail for her supervillainy in volume one.
While the series is comedic, it never shies away from including serious content. The twins relay their planet’s history with xenophobia, protect refugees, and try to right the wrongs that occurred in the first half of their series. Superman plays an important role as a mentor to Jayna and provides some inspiring advice for dealing with adversity.
Zan and Jayna’s time in their own comic is done for now, but they do go on to appear in the Wonder Comics flagship title Young Justice. Fans of My Hero Academia might also enjoy the action and superhero dilemmas explored in this title.
Catherine’s War by Julia Billet and Claire Fauvel
HarperAlley / HarperCollins
Publication Date: January 21, 2020
Based on a true World War II survival story, Catherine’s War follows Rachel Cohen, an amateur photographer determined to capture her memories through the lens of her camera. When she’s not worried about the war, Rachel values her friends and her stay at the Sèvres Children’s Home. As France buckles under the pressure of the Nazi command, Rachel is forced to change her name and go into hiding to protect herself. While on the run, she is drawn to photography and begins preserving not only her experiences, but those of all of the people she has met, through film.
Catherine’s War is a beautiful survival tale of a young girl’s coming of age in the middle of a war as she attempts to discover her place in the world. It takes a softer look at the war to allow readers to better appreciate Rachel’s journey. The art is stunningly clear and sharp with its use of watercolors. Readers will be amazed at Rachel’s capacity to find beauty in her chaotic world.
Recommend this to fans of Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, and The Diary of Anne Frank.