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
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
This 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
Before 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
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..
Do you read graphic novels regularly?
What was the last one you read and loved?
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