I know I say it can sometimes be tricky sorting through an entire month’s worth of Recent Additions to Comics Plus and selecting just a handful of stand-out titles to highlight in my monthly spotlight, but somehow this time around seemed particularly difficult. There really are just so many new titles that deserve additional attention, and more than a few that (if you’re like me) will legitimately impress if you give them half a chance.

While I’d be hard pressed to hang any sort of central theme on such a wide range of selections, many of these picks deal with shifts in identity, and particularly the razor’s edge that exists between a voluntary and an involuntary change. And what better medium to illustrate stories of evolution than sequential art? Man, I love comics!


With apologies to our Elementary school readers, we’re jumping right into books for teens this month, and speaking of growing up too fast, be sure to check out The Keeper of the Little Folk (Europe Comics), a coming of age story straight out of a (literal) fairy tale that’s sure to be a hit with more or less any crowd. A young girl must take over her suddenly-not-so-crazy grandmother’s role as caretaker of the local fairies of her hometown, a responsibility that naturally her mother dismisses as more of the grandmother’s “nonsense”. It’s a fresh take on a familiar premise, with some really charming characters and a fancifully nuanced world that’s sure to make readers want to return for more.

But for me, the really stand-out title for this age group was Cheer Up: Love and Pompoms (Oni Press), an instant classic that could join other groundbreaking titles like Identity (Zuiker Press) and Gender Queer (Oni Press) in helping to advance understanding of and empathy for the LGBTQIA community. When two estranged friends rekindle their relationship after one’s transition, the bond they form through cheerleading begins to blossom into something more. Adorable, heartwarming, and strikingly poignant, it’s a slice-of-life drama that manages to pull back the veil on what it really means to be an ally, all while managing to remain a cute high-school romance. I can’t recommend this one highly enough.


Perhaps slightly more serious in tone is You can’t just kiss anyone you want (Europe Comics), which explores the tension and strife of life behind the Iron Curtain through the eyes of different characters trapped behind it. A young student whose ill-timed boyhood antics interrupt a propaganda screening; a teacher who must tow the party line while keeping her true lifestyle a secret; a poet unable to publish in his own country and whose very words could condemn him. A seemingly ever-present drab conformity is artfully suffused with a joyfully triumphant spirit. It’s about life lived in the cracks of an oppressive society, and perhaps even how such cracks spread enough to eventually bring down the Wall.

Meanwhile, the book that caught me most off guard this month was Leftstar & the Strange Occurrence (Silver Sprocket). This weird sci-fantasy story is a fun, slow burn and wound up being some kind of surrealist exploration of creativity and the responsibilities that come along with it. As one of those people who will probably always have more unfinished creative projects than finished ones, this book hit me particularly close to home — but in a very satisfying, if bittersweet way. It’s a real achievement in storytelling.


For mature readers, the gloves really come off (emotionally speaking, anyway), starting with a pair of titles from Belgian writer Zidrou, author of the absolutely devastating African Trilogy (Europe Comics) — an absolute must-read — amongst others. My first selection is the oddly titled, yet no less compelling, While the king of Prussia was waging war, who do you think was darning his socks? (Europe Comics), a courageously unflinching examination of one of the truest unsung heroes of our society: the caretaker. We follow the life of an aging mother amid her struggles and triumphs to care for her mentally handicapped adult son. It’s a story that’s chock full of wit, charm, humor, and more than a few real off-color surprises. It’s triumphant while never really taking its foot off the brake of its underlying tragedy; a fantastic and engrossing, if not somewhat uneasy read.

The Whale Library (Europe Comics) is one of those seemingly unassuming books; the fantastical friendship that forms between a postman and one very literate whale is one of those stories about stories that becomes a love letter to the telling of them. Even the art makes you feel like you’re exploring some classic storybook, except this one isn’t for children, so don’t expect a happy ending. Far from it in fact, it has one of those finales that stick with you long after you’ve finished reading; a gut-wrenching (pun intended… sorry) twist which encompasses the horrors of exploitation coupled with wasteful ignorance. It’s a quick read but will have a lasting impact. Give this one a chance.

I also definitely enjoyed The Ballad of Gordon Barleycorn (Scout Comics), which felt like a surreal love letter to some old skool R. Crumb weirdness, and Tears of an Afghan Warlord (Europe Comics) is one of those hard-hitting, eye-opening political exposes, the kind whose nuanced, almost documentarian approach helps the graphic novel transcend mediums once again, this time into the realm of journalism.

Perhaps one of the most successful pieces of storytelling to land on Comics Plus this month was the gripping historical fiction, The Daughters of Salem: How we sent our children to their deaths (Europe Comics). While still clearly a well-researched exploration of life during the Salem Witch Trials, where this series truly excels is in the artistic license taken to fill in the gaps of our historical understanding and put us in the dangerous mindset of people during that time and place. It’s a masterful treatment of this obviously puritanical subject, and like similar treatments of this same source material, captures the spirit of its time while still managing to stay topically relevant. It’s what comics are all about!

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, and browse our curated list of past Rob’s Advisory selections.

Until next month, here are some more honorable mentions that (mostly for space reasons) didn’t quite make my list, but you may also enjoy checking out:

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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).