Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2021) Nominees Round Up, December 3 Edition

Click here to see all of the current Great Graphic Novels nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.

The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen Book Cover
The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen

The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen
Random House Graphic / Penguin Random House
Publication Date: October 13, 2020 
ISBN: 9781984851598 

Tiến enjoys reading fairy tales aloud with his mother. These enchanted tales—full of hope, wonder, and love—help build a bridge between Tiến and his parents. However, Tiến has a secret that he keeps from his parents, who are both Vietnamese refugees and struggling with their English. He is not sure how to tell them that he is gay. Even more, he is not sure how to say it in Vietnamese or if they will accept him. Will Tiến get his fairy tale happy ending or a tragic conclusion? 

The Magic Fish interweaves three visually stunning stories and cleverly separates them in different colors. The book focuses on Tiến’s story, his mother’s past, and fairy tales read out loud by Tiến and his mother. The readers will get a unique view of his mother’s experience as an immigrant and a glimpse of what it is like to be a child of immigrants. Author Trung Le Nguyen skillfully tackles the complexity of family ties and how stories can help build connections and understanding between people.  

Recommend this to readers of Gayle Forman’s The Art of Blending In and fans of graphic novels American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang and Illegal by Eoin Colfer.

Shaira Rock

Life is Strange by Emma Vieceli, Claudia Leonardi, Andrea Izzo Book Cover
Life is Strange by Emma Vieceli and Claudia Leonardi

Life Is Strange, vol. 2-3 by Emma Vieceli and Claudia Leonardi 
Titan Comics / Titan Books
Publication Date: November 19, 2019; March 18, 2020 
ISBN: 9781787730885, 9781787732070 

Life Is Strange volumes 2 and 3 return to the story of Max Caulfield and her ability to travel through alternate timelines. In her new timeline, Max aches seeing Chloe dating Rachel and seeks a place where she can belong. Max crosses paths with Tristan, a boy who can turn invisible and time travel as well. Max tells Rachel and Chloe the truth about how she reentered their lives. Max weighs making a sacrifice to get back what she’s lost. 

Although based on a video game, knowledge of the Life Is Strange video game is not required to enjoy this story. In fact, each volume contains a thorough recap of what has happened so far to catch up readers who may have missed part of the story. The point where Max tells Chloe and Rachel about her past is a real chef’s kiss moment. The queer love triangle is excellently written, the main characters are fleshed out to read like they could be real people, and colorist Andrea Izzo does an incredible job bringing Max, Chloe, and Rachel’s story to life with her masterful palette. Give this book to readers who may not typically like science fiction. They will be sucked right in and want more.

Fans of the Life Is Strange comics might enjoy Kiss Number 8 by Colleen AF Venable and the trippy, queer sci-fi of Rabbit & Robot by Andrew Smith. Readers might also enjoy the Hulu series Future Man.

—Christine Pyles 

Young Justice by Brian Michael Bendis Book Cover
Young Justice by Brian Michael Bendis, Patrick Gleason, John Timms, André Lima Araújo, and Nick Derington

Young Justice, vol. 1–2 by Brian Michael Bendis, Patrick Gleason, John Timms, André Lima Araújo, and Nick Derington
Wonder Comics / DC Comics
Publication Date: October 1, 2019; June 2, 2020
ISBN: 9781401292539, 978177900380

In volume 1, Young Justice alums Tim Drake (Robin), Cassie Sandsmark (Wonder Girl), and Bart Allen (Impulse) all happen to be in Metropolis when the city is attacked by the inhabitants of an alternate dimension called Gemworld who are looking to battle Superman. New characters Jinny Hex (descendant of Jonah Hex) and Kelli Quintanta (codename Teen Lantern) get involved in the fight, and all five are pulled into the Gemworld where they join forces in a battle against the Dark Lord Opal with Amethyst, a warrior princess of Gemworld, and Conner Kent (Superboy) who had been marooned in that dimension for some time already. Volume 2 finds the team set adrift in the multiverse, trying to find their way back home.

Young Justice is a strong superhero team comic and is the flagship title under Brian Michael Bendis’s teen-focused Wonder Comics imprint. The series is action-packed and funny with excellent pacing. Each character is given a similar amount of page time, and they are fleshed out with individual motivations and backstories that are doled out in strategically placed flashbacks. 

There is renewed interest in Young Justice since the TV series (which originally aired from 2010–2013) was revived in 2019. Other recent comic read-alikes include Wonder Twins by Mark Russell and New Mutants by Jonathan Hickman.

—Kacy Helwick

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Great Graphic Novels for Teens

Great Graphic Novels for Teens Blogging Team @ YALSA's The Hub.