In January, I set myself the goal of reading one comic for each day of the month, as I detailed in my previous post on this topic. While I didn’t reach my goal, I still read 25 books, and I wanted to share some brief reviews of my attempt to read 31 comics in 31 days.
Young Adult & Middle Grade
Sanity and Tallulah by Molly Brooks
Sanity and Tallulah is a fun, delightful, and surprising middle grade sci-fi adventure. The art is bubbly but not too cutesy, and the girls 100% reminded me of me and my scientist best friend. While the main plot sticks pretty much to the girls’ attempts to find what’s really happening on Wilnick Station, there are lots of hints about what’s going on in the galaxy at large, and I’m very much looking forward to exploring this world in future volumes.⠀
The PLAIN Janes Vol. 1-3 by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg
I absolutely adored this book, and so I’m going to post a full review later this month.
Norroway Vol. 1 by Kit and Cat Seaton
Norroway is a YA fantasy with an interesting premise that’s well executed. It contains lots of mystery and fantasy, and the authors do interpersonal tension very well. Supposedly, if the Black Bull of Norroway (an actual bull who used to be a man) finds a wife and meets a number of other criteria, his curse will be broken and he’ll turn back into a man. But he’s a total jerk, and not even his family wants to put up with him, so things aren’t looking too good for him!
Korgi by Christian Slade
Filled with myth and magic, Korgi is a story about a girl and her dog told entirely without words. With the exception of a brief into, the story of Ivy and Sprout is shown through gorgeous black and white drawings. It’s a simple story—girl leaves town and finds adventure, but that doesn’t mean it’s boring. Charming and lush, this is a tale that children and adults will enjoy in equal measure. Especially if they’ve ever loved a corgi.
Drama by Raina Telgemeier
Callie is a total theater nerd and part of her middle school drama club. But in addition to trying to make a functional cannon prop for the upcoming performance of “Moon Over Mississippi,” she has to navigate her various crushes, new friendships, school work, and her annoying little brother. And of course… drama ensues! This is an excellent slice-of-life story and a fun glimpse behind the curtain of school play productions that shows exactly why arts programs in schools are so essential.⠀
Science Fiction & Fantasy
Abbott Vol. 1 by Saladin Ahmed, Sami Kivela, and Jason Wordie
Elena Abbott is a bisexual black journalist in 1970s Detroit, where things aren’t always what they seem. When a string of brutal murders tinged with the supernatural shocks the black community, the police don’t care, so it’s up to Abbott to get to the bottom of things and find justice. Abbott is the perfect mix of horror, detective story, and female empowerment. Abbott’s struggles with race, class, and gender are never sugar coated, and she’s certainly a flawed character, but she persists where others might have given up.
Man-Eaters Vol. 1 by Chelsea Cain, Kate Niemczyk, and Lia Miternique
Man-Eaters is a comic about teenage girls who turn into killer cats when they get their periods. I love the concept, but had a few issues with the execution. First, the entire fourth issue is a faux magazine, and it was just a bit much, and interrupted the story flow for me. Second, and more important, was that this book felt very “white feminist” to me (there are basically no characters of color). Even so, I’m curious about what happens next and am willing to give volume two a shot.
Can I Pet Your Werewolf, edited by Kel McDonald and Molly Muldoon
This Kickstarter project features short stories about werewolves and the people who love them. Ranging from the light-hearted and funny to the dead serious, the authors and artists collected here show a range of talent. I skipped a few of the stories because they didn’t catch my interest, but overall this is a solid collection.
We3 by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely
We3 is the story of 3 house pets who have been turned into killing machines meant to replace human soldiers. The dog, cat, and rabbit break out of a government facility in their powered suits, led by the dog, who still remembers what “home” felt like and wants to find it. The ending was not nearly as devastating as I was expecting, and I’m glad I read it. The book blurs the line between animal and human (the animals are more human than most of the humans here), and explores compassion and greed within the context of the military industrial complex. The art, too, is gorgeous, and the paneling is stunning.
Flash Gordon on the Planet Mongo by Alex Raymond
Before I get into what I liked about this comic strip by Alex Raymond, I want to address two things. First, Flash Gordon relies heavily on racist tropes for the villains. Second is the portrayal of Dale as nothing more than Flash’s love interest and the source of his conflict with all the other kings and emperors on the planet Mongo. That being said, I still enjoyed Flash Gordon. It’s briskly plotted and full of breathless action and adventure that pulls you from week to week. Raymond’s art is absolutely gorgeous. While Flash Gordon may not be a literary masterpiece (though I imagine one could argue that it is—I haven’t read enough of it to make that judgement), it is a delightfully fun, quintessential sci-fi action adventure romp.⠀
Wayward Vol. 1 by Jim Zub, Steve Cummings, and John Rauch
Rori Lane is half Irish and half Japanese. After her parents’ tumultuous divorce, she leaves Ireland to live with her mother in Tokyo. As soon as she arrives, she starts having weird experiences. Rori follows the weird experiences and meets a misfit band of fellow weirdos, and together they embark on a journey to get to the bottom of all the monsters that have been appearing. The descriptive copy bills this as a cross between Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Hellboy, and that’s pretty spot-on. A comparison to Vampire Princess Miyu would also not go awry.
We Are Here Forever by Michelle Gish
This adorable comic chronicles the adventures of the puramus, mysterious purple creatures who inhabit the earth long after humans have disappeared (as far as we can tell, they all died). But there’s no time to be sad about the annihilation of the human race, because the puramus are so. stinkin’. cute! Way cuter than humans! And really, are the puramus so different from humans, other than their freakish ability to eat literally ANYTHING and form giant stacks like Disney tsum tsums? No, no they are not. The puramus struggle with the fear of failure, with loneliness, and with boredom, just like us. So is the end of humanity such a bad thing? Not in this reality!⠀
Cyanide and Happiness: A Guide to Parenting by Three Guys with No Kids by Kris Wilson, Rob DenBleyker, and Dave McElfatrick
If you’ve read this popular web comic, you won’t be surprised by the strips in this book. They are dark, disturbing, and a little twisted, but still funny. This collection also included satirical parenting advice, which I honestly could have done without. It was a bit long-winded, and didn’t add much to the book (even though it was a solid half of the book, which made it perhaps not a great choice for reading 31 comics in 31 days).
Social Justice Topics⠀
Woman World by Aminder Dhaliwal
WOMAN WORLD is set in a post-apocalyptic future where a birth defect caused female-only births across the planet. Men died out amid a series of natural disasters and wars, and now women are left with less technology and an uncertain future. The graphic novel follows a small village of women trying their best to remember the past while reinventing the future. I ultimately felt like the book could have gone much deeper, and didn’t.
(h)afrocentric by Juliana Smith, Mike Hampton, and Ronald Nelson
I picked up (H)afrocentric by Juliana Smith and Mike Hampton because I wanted to add more diversity to my reading list. Despite liking the characters and the premise (and even the storylines—the one about Naima becoming a racial translator was downright hilarious, even if I wanted to strangle the white people), parts of the book were confusing. Even with its flaws, this book is worth reading. It shows some of the challenges and hardships people of color face in general, and that students of color face in particular. It tackles gentrification and the “whitening” of black culture, as well as hero worship and the white washing of history.
Maus I: A Survivor’s Tale by Art Spiegelman
Maus I is a true story following the Spiegelman family in Poland leading up to WWII and their internment in Auschwitz. But it also illuminates the fraught relationship between father and son in light of generational trauma. It’s a classic for a reason.
Illegal by Eoin Colfer, Andrew Donkin, and Giovanni Rigano
Illegal is a heartbreaking story of two brothers who try to make the crossing from Africa to Italy in an inflatable boat. The art is beautifully expressive, and does an excellent job of conveying the intense emotions of the brothers and other migrants seeking a better life in Europe.
Batman Rebirth Vol. 1 by Tom King, Mikel Janin, and David Finch
Here, Batman is still the gruff, prickly, moody guy we all know and love, but he also has a lot more compassion and willingness to accept help. It feels like he’s grown as a person, and for a comic book character who’s been around for decades, that’s pretty rare. This volume was emotional and gorgeous. I loved the generous use of full-page and two-page spreads. There were a few in each issue, and far from feeling overused, they were impactful and perfectly highlighted big story moments.
Saga of the Swamp Thing Book 1 by Alan Moore
I don’t really like Alan Moore. Watchmen is one of my least favorite comics. Thankfully, this book is much less wordy (and less skeevy toward the lady folk) than Watchmen. I love the concept of the Swamp Thing, and the classic monster struggle with the question of what humanity is and what it means. The main downside to this book is that we pick up with issue 20 when Moore took over, so we’re smack in the middle of a story. As far as I know, earlier issues aren’t available (this volume is billed as “volume 1”). That makes for a rocky start if you’re coming to the book cold. If you’re a fan of Alan Moore, horror comics, and/or nature-themed comics, definitely give this a try (but maybe start with issue 21, which begins a new story line and is a lot easier to follow).
Under the Moon: A Catwoman Tale by Lauren Myracle and Isaac Goodhart
Between Selena’s abusive stepfather and a mother who doesn’t stand up for her, her life is pretty grim. Eventually, she runs away and is taken in by a group of wayward teens who also happen to be excellent thieves. But their big heist doesn’t go as planned when the vicious Gotham Growler shows up. As a longtime Catwoman fan, I enjoyed this fresh, modern take on the character and hope to see more!
Street Angel Gang & Street Angel Goes to Juvie by Jim Rugg and Brian Maruca
First, let me say that Street Angel is a goddamned delight. A skateboarding teenage ninja who can beat up the burliest of gangs? Sign me up! This series is full of humor and warmth, and lots of girl power. Street Angel herself is a bit of an enigma. She goes on “missions” but always seems to have her own goals. While she exists outside the system, she fights on the side of good and has her own sense of justice.
Codename: Sailor V Vol.1 by Naoko Takeuchi
Sailor Venus has always been my favorite sailor scout, so of course I gobbled this right up, and wish there were more than 2 volumes! For the most part, this is a light-hearted manga, but we do begin to get glimpses of Minako’s inner turmoil as the stories go on. She feels like a real teenager, with real teenager problems, on TOP of being a guardian of love and justice.
The majority of these books are available through Bookshop.org, a new way to buy books online that supports independent bookstores! I’ve compiled them all into a handy list: 31 Comics 31 Days. A few are out of print, and are therefore not available for purchase except through second hand stores. If you choose to purchase any of these titles through Bookshop, I’ll earn a small commission that will help support the bookish work I do!