It’s a point of personal pride to watch the Comics Plus catalog grow deeper and stronger with each passing month, particularly using our Age-Appropriate Guidelines to ensure we’re fulfilling our promise to all librarians to offer age-appropriate selections for every reader. During the age review process I’m always finding a handful of new titles for readers of different ages and interests for our curated Recent Additions list, and what follows are my picks from some of the best titles added to Comics Plus in the past month or so.
This month’s selections happened to have lots of titles featuring interesting female and/or LGBTQ characters, as well as plenty of high-concept storylines sure to have you nodding your head approvingly as they take shape in your mind. See if you can spot the themes as we explore a bit…
It’s just a working theory, but I remain convinced a title’s circulation numbers are mathematically proportional to its baseline level of cuteness. If you remember last month’s recommendation of Milk & Mocha (Andrews McMeel), that book has dominated our Popular list since its release… but the bunnies and kitties of the newly released Pocket Peaches (Andrews McMeel) threatens to “out cute” even those adorable bears. Simple and accessible enough for beginning or emerging readers (it even features a dyslexia friendly font!), the anxiety around making new friends echoes all the way up to adulthood. This is another shining jewel in our ever-expanding crown of cuteness!
Comics have always had the potential to be one of the best forms of “edutainment” available, especially for younger readers. There’s nothing quite like the enjoyment which comes from the realization that you’ve been “tricked” into learning something new, and we had another great example appear this month.
The educator/adventurers from the Trackers outdoor camps created The Adventures of Captain Nick and the Explorer Society (Dark Horse), a sci-fi comic book that feels like it fell out of a Saturday morning cartoon lineup from the 1980s (complete with time travel adventures and dinosaur pals!) to get readers excited about real science — like archaeology, paleontology, and robotics. If that doesn’t sound compelling enough, even the most reluctant reader can still be enticed into trying out Hyperspace Stories (Dark Horse), an anthology of Star Wars tales which sports a common through-line that ties the histories of Padme, Leia, and Rey together in a way any sci-fi fan can enjoy.
The new sci-fi mystery manga Glitch (Yen Press) definitely deserves a look. Its weirdly cool design sense and bizarre otherworldly creatures are oddly appealing, but advancing the treatment of characters’ identities to the point where it’s not a point of conflict for the story is really refreshing to see. If you prefer your sci-fi manga a bit more over-the-top, then check out Henshin (Saturday AM), a total homage to kaiju stories like Evangelion or Power Rangers, interspersed with the trials of the modern gay romance-seeker, which makes for a really fun read.
And if that weren’t enough, there are not one but two new cute fantasy tales about young witches falling in love: The Witches’ Marriage (Yen Press) and the super-sweet Harry Potter/Master Chef mash-up Basil and Oregano (Dark Horse).
Once again, it’s hard to narrow down which YA books to actually talk about, but I definitely want to start by highlighting some of the great art that’s recently been added to Comics Plus.
It got an honorable mention last month, but there are more than a handful of pages within the stylish and eerily charming “supernatural roommate” drama Night Cry (Europe Comics), that if you told me they were done by Mike Mignola (Hellboy), I’d have believed you. With literally featureless characters that serve more as blank canvases the reader can project onto, it’s one of those surreally paced narratives with a payoff “twist ending” that may still leave you scratching your head… but in the best way. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t also highlight The Monstrous Dreams of Mr. Providence (Europe Comics) a complete love letter for all things Lovecraft, which while primarily a black & white book, makes judiciously masterful use of color over linework that feels more reminiscent of a Gustav Doré etching (with a little Edward Gorey thrown in for good measure) than you might expect to find in a comic book. The end result is both surreal and wonderful.
And of course, it’s also a treat for us to have a volume of the never-before-seen in the US graphic novel from the “Godfather of Manga” himself, Osamu Tezuka, whose engaging One Hundred Tales (Ablaze Publishing) showcases the manga-ka’s blending of the devilish story of Faust with Japanese folklore to give us a one-of-a-kind comedic (yet bittersweet) samurai adventure the likes of which only the master could deliver.
For mature readers, there’s a lot to be excited about too. First off, artist extraordinaire Jae Lee’s recent return to indie comics with a vision of an alternate world of religious u/dystopia in Seven Sons (Image Comics), which ends up being downright unsettling from many perspectives. It’s a beautifully lush thrill ride that is both delicate and complex as it twists down some of the darkest alleyways of man’s lust for power and control… and the nature of faith itself. Perhaps darker still is cerebral cyber-noir cat-and-mouse thriller, Past Tense (Dark Horse), where voyeuristic virtual guided tours of famous events cross with an uncaptured serial killer’s desire to relive his past crimes… and the terrible danger those who would seek to profit from that information find themselves in.
But, perhaps my favorite series to arrive last month was probably the darkest of the bunch, Chip Zdarsky’s Stillwater (Image Comics), a grim exploration of what terrible lengths people might go to to keep a genuine miracle secret from the rest of the world… and what happens when, after sharing in it, you’re now suddenly expected to keep that secret too. Seriously, saying anything more risks spoiling the big reveals, but suffice to say this is the sort of premise that’s just begging to be turned into your next favorite binge-worthy adult drama series. And finally, be sure to experience a different sort of dark altogether by drinking in the melancholic watercolors which suffuse the pages of The Two Lives of Penelope (Europe Comics), art which beautifully complements what might be one of the most heart-wrenching and painfully truthful depictions of motherhood I can ever remember seeing in comics.
Honestly, that’s just a small sample of the great comics and manga recently added to Comics Plus. With literally thousands of titles to choose from, I could keep writing forever! Be sure to check in every month for more highlights from our recent additions. Until then, here are some more honorable mentions for older readers that (mostly for space reasons) didn’t quite make my list, but you may also enjoy checking out:
- Dead Mall (Dark Horse)
- Minor Threats Volume 1: A Quick End To A Long Beginning (Dark Horse)
- Stevenson, The Pirate Within (Europe Comics)
- Night and Dana (Lerner Publishing)
- Of Thunder & Lightning (Silver Sprocket)
- Matchmaker (Silver Sprocket)
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Rob Randle is the Production Director for LibraryPass, and has worked in and around the comic book industry in various capacities, including as a book reviewer for the NY Journal of Books, and a judge for various comic book industry awards—the 2006 Eisner Awards, among others. Before joining LibraryPass, he had been the Director of Publishing for iVerse Media LLC since 2010, and prior to that was a purchasing manager for Diamond Comic Distributors where he helped to manage the monthly Previews catalog for close to a decade starting in 2002. Additionally, Rob occasionally does freelance work as a comics creator, and is the author of the critically acclaimed graphic novel Serial Artist. Rob holds a B.A. of Illustration from the Maryland Institute, College of Art (MICA).