Graphic Novels: Mini Reviews (Batch #1)

Before I started book blogging, I didn’t read many graphic novels at all, and especially not comic books. That’s because I was a horrible book snob who only wanted to read literary fiction. Little did I know how limited my reading experiences were!

Fortunately, I created this blog to expand my horizons and actively diversify my reading. The results are that I have read more graphic novels just in the last 8 months than I have in the past several years! I’m so proud of myself and also glad that I got over my stupid and stubborn aversion to reading them. Honestly, they are a so fun to read! They’re also a natural ego booster for a slow reader like myself because even I can finish them quickly.

I plan to periodically provide mini-reviews in small batches because I’m kind of obsessed with reviewing and promoting all the diverse literature I personally read. Below are a few of my favorite recent graphic novels. 

All book titles are linked to Goodreads. 


a + e 4EVER – by I. Merey


A + E 4ever by i. merey

This graphic novel, published by Lethe Press, is the very first I have read featuring unapologetically Queer characters.  A + E 4ever is a bold story that explores the complexity of sexuality and sexual identity in a way that would have been eye-opening for me as a teenager. Most of the LGBTQ+ literature I read usually focuses on the first 3 letters of the acronym, with a few ventures into the 4th, but seldom to anything as complex as Merey’s graphic novel.

The story follows Asher Machnik and Eulalie Mason, two Jewish teens with a beautifully complicated relationship that was fascinating to follow. Asher is an androgynous boy who is ridiculed and hated because he refuses to be anything but his authentic self. Eulalie is a tough girl with a soft spot for Asher. She accepts him and openly wants to be with him, but Asher only seeks her company and friendship. The plot itself is pretty typical teenager fare — teenage drama and escapades — but the nuanced depiction of genderqueer life was a refreshing take on an otherwise typical story. I had some issues with some of the sexually explicit content in parts of the novel because I genuinely do not know what to make of graphic depictions of teen sexuality, but other that that I do recommend this graphic novel for teenagers looking to see themselves and the beautifully complex queerness of their lives.

 


The Little Black Fish – illustrated by Bizhan Khodabande

 

The Little Black FishThis delightful graphic novel is a retelling of the classic Persian children’s story of the same name,
written by Iranian teacher and social critic Samad Behrangi. This version was published by Rosarium Publishing, who is doing excellent work for writers of color. The story follows a young fish who feels stifled by the lack of curiosity and sense of adventure in her community. She is naturally inquisitive and adventurous, so this stagnant mentality will simply not do for her. Therefore, she goes on an adventure to explore the world and perhaps discover what lies beyond the stream that has been her world all her life. Along the way, she encounters other creatures who are also convinced their small corner of the world is all there is to see, but the little black fish is determined to seek out new places and experiences. Her journey is symbolic of curiosity and bravery needed to forge a new path in life. It also teaches young readers to question authority and close-mindedness when it stifles one’s ambition. Get this one for the young one in your life. 

 


Blue is the Warmest Color – by Julie Maroh

 

Blue is the warmest colorBefore I even knew the trajectory of the story, what initially drew me in was the art style and color palette. The drawings are subtle, yet memorable and unique, which are important qualities that help bring a story to life in a graphic novel. I am literally wearing different shades of blue as I write this review, so yes, blue is my favorite color. The contrast between dark monotone hues and muted blues was especially pleasing to my eyes. The graphic novel’s aesthetic appeal is A+.

Despite how much I liked the story, I do have to admit that it’s a pretty typical teenage coming out story. Any trope that you can think of in a coming out narrative, you will probably find it here. The protagonist, Clémentine, is a teenager who slowly realizes she’s a lesbian after she falls for an intoxicating woman with blue hair named Emma.  Clémentine must then grapple with what this means for her and for her life going forward. People will reject her, she will know misery, experience homophobia, and self-loathing. Overall, Blue is the Warmest Color is a very sad story, but is also a love story that will easily resonate with young readers especially. It always pains me to see yet another LGBT narrative that highlights the pain our identities bring, but when it’s done so well and realistically, it’s easier to overlook tired tropes. 

 


Bitch Planet, Vol. 1 – by Kelly Sue DeConnick

 

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Read this graphic novel now! It’s a refreshing and scathing critique on the patriarchy that every feminist who is a fan of comic books should promptly buy and read. The story takes places in a futuristic dystopian society in which women who are not submissive or otherwise fail to adhere to the rules set by patriarchal overlords, well, these women are sent to the “Auxiliary Compliance Outpost.” Otherwise known as Bitch Planet. 

The writers provide brilliant satirical commentary throughout the story, but the “in-universe” ads at the end of each comic issue are particularly eerie and unsettling. The cast of characters is also varied and diverse, with women of different ethnicities, ages, and body types being represented. Their character development is excellent because they are allowed complexity and are depicted as uniquely individual. This first volume didn’t dive into the meat of the greater narrative quite yet, but it’s an excellent introduction to what I’m sure will be a fascinating series and an important work of feminist fiction.

 

I’ll end with an example of the “in-universe” ads I was referring to..

Bitch Planet Ad

Do you read graphic novels regularly?

What was the last one you read and loved?

 


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37 thoughts on “Graphic Novels: Mini Reviews (Batch #1)

  1. Naz, you have managed to come up with an entire batch of graphic novels that I haven’t read! *Tips imaginary hat*

    If you’re feeling brave, try Sunstone by Stjepan Sejic – a F/F BDSM relationship that is actually a) very popular, even outside queer and/or BDSM readership and b) quite sweet. If you’re not feeling so brave (it is um… bold…) (or you just feel like reading fantasy instead) then try Death Vigil 1 by Stjepan Sejic – multiple characters, including queer and PoC.

    Anything with Marjorie Liu’s name on it will be impressive – even if you think it won’t be. I love her Dark Wolverine books because she writes Daken – who is both bi-racial and bi-sexual – so well, even though he’s an anti-hero/villain rather than a traditional hero. I know you’re not all that into superheroes – but seriously, if Marjorie Liu’s name is on the cover then it’s going to be something a little different 😉

    Anyway, if you ever want specific graphic novel recs, just ask – even if I haven’t read it, I will know about it! (I’m such a nerd!) 🙂

    1. Ohhh, I’m so proud of myself! 😀
      I just looked up the Sunstone on Goodreads and the review are so positive! I have never read a F/F BDSM graphic novel…and I must admit it’s not the most appealing idea for me x) But I may give it a try. But Death Vigil is definitely right up my alley!!

      Ok, I can see you really like Marjorie Liu’s work. So I will try to read one of her books. She’s the one who wrote Monstress, right? Yeah, I’m reading that one for sure!!!

      1. Yes Marjorie Liu did write Monstress 🙂 (see? she’s amazing!)

        If you want free PDFs of Sunstone & Death Vigil, Stjepan Sejic offers them through his Deviant Art pages to encourage people to read the series, and fund his work and buy print copies when they can. They have the page layouts (and occasional typos) of the web-comics rather than like the print versions, but free is free 😉 DM me if you want the direct links.

        Also try Blood Stain by Stjepan’s wife Linda – so funny, and Linda is such a lovely person 🙂 (OK – I have a slight bias since, after I reviewed Blood Stain, Linda & I talk on Twitter sometimes and act like the coffee-addicted goofballs that we are!)

  2. My most recent graphic novel was Monstress, by Marjorie Liu, and it was incredible! It will almost certainly be one of my top books of the year. I haven’t read The Little Black Fish, but I loved all three of the others.

  3. These look great. I must get a copy of ‘Bitch Planet’, I particularly liked the advert! The last graphic novel I read was ‘Irmina’ by Barbara Yelin, which explores the reasons that contribute to someone becoming a fascist. It was beautifully illustrated and thought-provoking. I highly recommend it.

  4. I adore graphic novels. As you mentioned with a + e 4EVER, I struggle with graphically depicted teen sex, which is why I tend to avoid things like this. But I will definitely look into that graphic novel!

    I really adore Blue is the Warmest Color! I’m so glad you also enjoyed it.

    Have you read Lumberjanes or Nimona by Noelle Stevenson? They are fairly subtle, but they are great at exploring feminism, what it means to define gender, and lesbian sexuality.

    1. I didn’t expect for a+e 4ever to have graphic depictions, but thankfully there wasn’t too much of it.
      Lumberjanes is next! The reviews I’ve read and what I have seen of it convinces me that I will love it. 🙂 Thanks for reminding me.

  5. I loved Bitch Planet too! And I’m with Gwen on Monstress. I love it. It takes place in a matriarchal society that is absolutely medeival. I’m also with Jackie B on Lumberjanes. Its adorable and a good one for younger audiences too.

  6. I keep saying I will try graphic novels, but I haven’t really done it yet, besides the ones I get for the kids. I feel like the pictures will distract me, and I like being able to make up my own pictures in my head. But I love that there are so many good ones out there. I know my son won’t read anything by himself unless it is a graphic novel or comic. I love having more books to choose for him from the library. Even just a few years ago, the pickings were slim.
    His latest read was The Graveyard Book, Volume 1.
    That “in-universe” ad is terrifying!

    1. Graphic novels aren’t for everyone and I get that.
      I think the pictures add a wonderful dimension to the reading experience that I don’t get from books. I think I will always prefer traditional novels to anything else, though.

      Do you think your son will ever warm up to reading books/novels on his own? I hope so! Graphic novels can still be fun, educational, and great reading material in general so I’m glad he’s reading them. The graphic novel selection will continue to grow and keep getting better, which is so encouraging because they could introduce countless young people into the joys of reading regularly.

  7. Nimona is in the picture at the top of this post. That story is so much fun. I haven’t read any of these, but I saw some of the artwork from Blue is the Warmest Color and fell in love with it. I need to get a copy of that book so I can read the story and not just ogle the artwork in the bookstore.

  8. “That’s because I was a horrible book snob who only wanted to read literary fiction.”
    This was so me too!

    A great list to start off to share the graphic novels you have read. I am interested in all of them!

    Whenever I think about graphic novels, I think about the different art forms we use to communicate our stories and our voices. I realized I was so against graphic novels because I was taught anything worth reading and learning about would be in a specific format -> a novel with chapters and things -> within a normalized plot structure and character development. As I grew more aware about the issues of diversity and inclusion in literature / books, I saw value of the different art forms -> poetry, spoken word, infusion of languages (non-English), short stories, novellas, graphic novels -> and how the form a story is in can itself be a resistance to the White cisgender straight able patriarchy we grew up with.

    Anyways, I feel like I am rambling 🙂 Thank you for sharing this list and your mini-reviews!

    1. And thanks for reading. I’ve read several graphic novels already and would like to continue featuring them on my blog.
      Reading different kinds of literature is so important because all forms of media need inclusion and diversity. There is a movement for better representation in almost all forms of media now, so the more we consume and support, the easier it will be to make this change happen.

  9. I’m glad I’m not the only one late to the graphic novel party! I only started reading them this year, really, with the exception of Persepolis. I really need to read The Little Black Fish. I’m interested in anything Persian since my Dad is from Iran. Cool list!

    1. We both started this year! It’s good to know that we still have new and interesting reading experiences ahead of us by opening ourselves up to this style of story telling. The Little Black Fish is delightful, but a very quick read. It’s great for children!!
      Oh, you mentioned Persepolis. I definitely plan to read it this year. I hear it’s great!

  10. This post makes me SO happy! I love seeing people discover comics and graphic novels 😊 I can’t believe I haven’t read Bitch Planet yet! I need to change that ASAP. I have to get to Blue is the Warmest Color too and I just added a + e 4EVER to my TBR.

  11. You’ve added several to my TBR here: the only one I’ve read is Blue. The one aspect which I think sets it apart is the one thing you can’t discuss without spoiling it, but otherwise I do understand your feeling that it is familiar territory (but, yes, the drawings are just gorgeous). Have you seen, or are you planning to see, the film? I haven’t yet, but I’ve heard so many good things that it’s on my TBW list. Thanks for the other rec’s!

  12. Blue is the Warmest Color and Bitch Planet are two often recommended to me. I certainly like the cover of Blue is the Warmest Color.
    The last graphic novel I read and liked was This One Summer, which is about girlhood and family and friendship bonds. It’s drawn using navy blue ink which softens the illustrations a bit. Good story.

  13. I’ve just recently started exploring the genre of graphic novels and comic books. One of my friends lent me a stack to get started with. I must admit I was a book snob and just kind of disregarded this genre but have realized how much of a mistake that is! I sometimes get visually overwhelmed when reading graphic novels because it takes me such a long time to digest what’s going on in each page. I really want to read American Born Chinese soon, have you read it before?

    1. I still consider myself pretty new as well but I’ve read quite a few already and I’m in love! I’m so glad you have seen the light and have left behind your snobbish ways, just like I did.
      Yes, I’ve read American Born Chinese in high school. It was excellent.
      I just bought 4 graphic novels today, btw, so I’m kind of addicted to them. haha

  14. Yay for reading sequential art!! I’ve read only Bitch Planet and Nimona from your pic but really enjoyed both. I haven’t read more of Bitch Planet so far, but somehow I can only see myself read more if they soon go beyond the oppression to show alternatives. I don’t know, it got too much for me and all the violence….but I loved the Lumberjanes so much! Had to make myself stop cuz I was just reading them all! I have to rely on Scribd for comics and Netgalley but yay for RosariumPub being on NG now.

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