The American Library Association (ALA) has released its 2009 Great Graphic Novels for Teens list and, although manga dominates, the 53 titles represent a nice sample of styles and genres. No lesbian characters that I know of, but at least we see some strong female leads. Although I’m not familiar with all of the books, here are a few I’m glad to see.
Life Sucks — Jessica Abel, Gabriel Soria and Warren Pleece
Before most of us had ever heard of Edward and Bella, vampire Dave Miller demonstrated how a normal dead guy with a job at a convenience store could win the love of a beautiful Goth mortal named Rosa. I have been a Jessica Abel fan since she had to print Artbabe herself and am always happy when her talent is recognized. (If you haven’t read La Perdida, get thee to the comic store.)Life Sucks is more in the tone of Buffy than True Blood, with a combination of funny and frightening that adds up to a great read. New York magazine kindly provided an excerpt right before the book was published, so you can sample Life Sucks.
Echo: Moon Lake — Terry Moore
The new project from Strangers In Paradise creator Terry Moore took a little while to grab my interest, probably because the setup was a bit complicated. Echo is the story of Julie Martin, a photographer who accidentally witnesses an explosion that turns out to be a test of a high-tech battle suit gone wrong. Bits of the suit fall on Julie and attach to each other, forming a sort of breastplate that can’t be removed.
As if that weren’t enough of a problem, all sorts of shady and strange characters are after the suit — and Julie. Echo: Moon Lake collects the first five issues of the book.
Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite — Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba
Yes, the creator is the same Gerard Way who fronts My Chemical Romance. Who knew? That’s actually the reason I didn’t give Umbrella Academy much thought until it started showing up on “best” lists at the end of 2008. It definitely deserves to be there.
The Umbrella Academy is a group of superheroes who grew up under the guidance of their wealthy mentor, Sir. Reginald Hargreeves. Apocalypse Suite opens as the estranged Academy members gather when their father dies and they realize that they must fulfill his plan to save the world.
These are not your typical superheroes. Rumor’s power, for example, is that every rumor she speaks about comes true. (Just imagine AfterEllen.com if we had that power.) The two female Academy members get equal weight as the males, which is welcome. Sequential Tart has a great review of the book from a woman’s perspective. Umbrella Academy is dark and twisted and clever — and very well written. It’s becoming one of my favorite comics.
Usagi Yojimbo: Tomoe’s Story — Stan Sakai
I’ve read Usagi Yojimbo off and on for years. Sometimes you feel like a rabbit ronin, sometimes you don’t — you know how it is. Tomoe, a long time friend and colleague of Usagi, is a female Samurai who has appeared in Sakai’s work since 1985. The character is based on Tomoe Gozen of Japan, famous for her skill with the Naginata (lance).
This collection focuses on the relationship between Usagi and Tomoe. I’m not sure if this is the best place to jump into Usagi’s story for the first time, but if you like it, you’ll probably like the rest of the series. The last chapter in which the two characters participate in the Chanoyu (tea ceremony) is one of my favorite comic book sequences of all time.