Time to Get Into Comics!

Canada is full of incredible talent and it’s an absolute smorgasbord when it comes to the comic book industry. We produce some of the most talented writers and artists in the industry! Because comics are collaborative, sometimes not everyone on the creative team is Canadian, so for this most excellent list (in my completely biased opinion), I’ll highlight some of my recent favourites for a wide variety of audiences. There’s something for everyone in this list, and I hope that if you’re reading this, that you’ll consider picking up or checking out at least one of them.

If you’ve never read a comic before, they aren’t scary, I promise! Now is a great time to start and learn all about a new medium that blends art and writing together beautifully. If you try comics out digitally, many apps such as hoopla and ComiXology offer Guided View technology which will help navigate you through the page. But with western comics (as opposed to manga), the rule of thumb is always read left to right, top to bottom with the panels as well as the word balloons. You’ll get the hang of it quickly!

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The Montague Twins: The Witch’s Hand, by Nathan Page, by Drew Shannon

This is such an excellent book! Like if you took the best parts of The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew and then added magic to the mix to go along with the mystery. It’s a fun mystery revolving around two twin brothers who solve mysteries together. They believe that their lives otherwise are pretty ordinary until a series of events (magical events) lead them to find out more about their past, their parents, and who and what they’re really capable of.

DUN DUN DUN!

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Book Cover Girl Haven

Girl Haven, by Lilah Sturges and Meaghan Carter

Are fantastical worlds real? Oftentimes we wish they were real and could transport us somewhere new and exciting, but the closest we get to traveling to far-off worlds is in the books we read. Unless you’re Ash and his friends when they find a collection of stories written by Ash’s missing mother. After reading a passage from one of her spell books, they’re transported to her fantasy world where they have to complete a quest in order to return back home. It’s a journey filled with bravery, exploration, and most importantly self-identity as Ash and his friends come to terms with who they really are and the expectations put on them by society and by themselves. It’s a wonderful and much needed tale for a younger generation who more and more are questioning who they are early on.

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Book Cover Shirley and Jamila Save Their Summer

Shirley & Jamila Save Their Summer, by Gillian Goerz

What if you could avoid something that you really didn’t want to do (like summer camp) by making an unlikely friend and spending the summer with them instead? That’s exactly what happens when Jamila meets Shirley and the two come up with a pact to help them respectively avoid science camp and dance camp. It starts as a way for them to have some independence and do things that they want to actually be doing, but Jamila quickly becomes curious about Shirley’s odd behaviour. She eventually learns that Shirley uses her incredible observation skills to help solve small mysteries around the school and neighbourhood. It’s such a fun and heartfelt story that puts weaves themes of friendship, acceptance, and empathy in effortlessly. And as a bonus, it takes place in Toronto too!

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Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me, by Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O'Connell

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me is easily one of the best graphic novels that I’ve ever read. It tells the story of a young woman named Freddy who has to learn what her own self-worth is through the course of her off and on toxic relationship with the title character, Laura Dean. The script by Mariko Tamaki and art by Rosemary Valero-O’Connell are so in sync here that every page will take you aback and give you reason to linger on each panel to take it all in. It’s an impactful, relatable, and utterly wonderful in its execution. Mariko Tamaki is one of the best storytellers out there and this graphic novel is her at the top of her game.

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Book Cover Wayward Kindred

Wayward Kindred, by Various Creators

This is an anthology of short stories putting the focus on monsters living their normal monster lives. Editor Allison O’Toole took the concept of what if we took real-life situations and told those stories with monsters? It showcases a wide range of art styles, genres, and overall really relatable stories, despite the nature of the characters. Besides, aren’t we all a little monstrous at times? This is a follow-up anthology to the successful Wayward Sisters: A Monstrous Anthology which had a similar premise but all the creative teams for all stories were women and non-binary creators.

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Book Cover Barbalien

Barbalien, by Tate Brombal, Gabriel Walta, Jordie Bellaire, Aditya Bidikar

Presented as a superhero comic book from Jeff Lemire’s Black Hammer-verse, Barbalian is a spin-off that is maybe one of the most important comic books in recent memory. For his debut comic book, Tate Brombal uses Barbalien aka Mark Markz to tell a powerful story about identity, love, and finding yourself all amidst the AIDS crisis. Brombal’s story paired with Gabriel Walta’s art, Jordie Bellaire’s superb colours, and Aditya Bidikar’s impactful lettering helps deliver a gut-wrenchingly emotional journey that is sure to resonate with many. While the book from Dark Horse is still being released in single issues, the collected story arc will be available in April.

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One Year at Ellsmere, by Faith Erin Hicks

Faith Erin Hicks has long been one of my favourite comic creators. She has fun ideas, is an excellent storyteller, and has such a way with witty, vibrant dialogue. This book is no exception as we explore the story of a young woman who has earned a place at a prestigious boarding school with a scholarship. She knows she doesn’t fit in, but she’s determined to make it work and use it to launch her life forward. Things don’t go quite as planned, though, and she has to think fast when life throws her curveballs. It’s primarily a coming-of-age story with a focus on friendship, standing up for what’s right, and being true to yourself at all costs.

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Afterlift, by Chip Zdarsky, Jason Loo, and Paris Alleyne

A ride-share driver picks up a passenger and takes them to their destination…their final destination, and winds up in hell. It’s got action-packed car crashes, bounty hunters from hell (literally), and a whole lot of heart. Janice has to dig deep to discover who she is, make peace with her life, and find her way back home. Chip Zdarsky is known for his comedic writing and while Afterlift definitely delivers that, his ability to pack an emotional punch is shown here too. Jason Loo and Paris Alleyne team up for the art and colours, respectfully, and bring the story to life and give it a whole lot of heart.

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Book Cover Fake Blood

Fake Blood, by Whitney Gardner

While this isn’t explicitly new, this book is one of my faves and Gardner has a new book coming out shortly called Long Distance, which you should also definitely check out. Fake Blood is the classic boy meets girl story...You know, the one where the boy develops a crush on the cute girl in his class. And then learns that the girl is into vampires. So the boy decides to try to woo her by pretending to be a vampire to impress her…until boy realizes that girl is actually into vampire slaying. And then boy has to try not to get staked while not blowing his chances with the girl. Classic! And wonderful. It’s a fantastic premise and story for audiences young and old(er).

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About Oh My Gods!:

Oh My Gods!, the first in a new middle grade graphic novel series, reads as if Raina Telgemeier and Rick Riordan teamed up to write a comic, and offers a fresh and funny spin on Greek mythology. When an average girl moves to Mt. Olympus, she discovers her new classmates are gods and mythological creatures are actually real—as if junior high isn't hard enough! 

Karen is just an average thirteen-year-old from New Jersey who loves to play video games with her friends and watch movies with her mom. But when she moves to Greece to live with her eccentric, mysterious father, Zed, suddenly everything she thought about herself—about life—is up in the air.

Starting a new school can be difficult, but starting school at Mt. Olympus Junior High, where students are gods and goddesses, just might take the cake. Especially when fellow classmates start getting turned to stone. Greek mythology . . . a little less myth, a little moreeek! And if Karen’s classmates are immortal beings, who does that make her?

 

 

March 11, 2021
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