WWACommendations: They Called Us Enemy, Spirit Fingers, Archival Quality, and More

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Happy November! What comics have you been reading lately? I need to catch up on Marauders and Excalibur, and I’ve subscribed to a few new comics on LINE Webtoon which I’ll report back on soon. Every month, WWAC contributors share some of the comics they’ve especially enjoyed lately. Have a comic you can’t stop thinking about? Let us know on Twitter, or think about pitching us! Here’s the latest picks we think you might enjoy:

Wendy Browne: I’ve been reading a lot of X-Men stuff lately for our coverage of HoX/PoX and now the Dawn of X going on at Marvel. I’ve also been reading a lot of what Vault Comics has to offer for my monthly pubwatch. So it’s been nice to switch things up a bit with something quieter and off the beaten path, namely, Archival Quality by Ivy Noelle Weir (a former WWAC contributor!) and Christina “Steenz” Stewart. This is the story of a young woman who struggles with depression and anxiety to the point that it cost her a job at the library — the only job she’s had and the only job she’s ever wanted. She doesn’t aspire to more for her life, but is fortunate enough to find another, similar role at a medical library in a former asylum. Unfortunately, the job comes with a few inconveniences, like ghosts. Soon, Cel becomes convinced that helping the ghost trapped in this library is the key to helping herself deal with her own issues.

This is a touching story that, though told through Cel’s eyes as someone who struggles with mental health concerns, also allows us to learn about what it’s like for those who care about people like Cel and how hard it can be to want to help but not know how as she pushes them further away. The personal nature of Weir’s story, coupled with Steenz’s bright and adorable art (and gorgeous fashion sense!) makes for a story that feels like one great big hug for people who struggle in these ways.

Kat Overland: I’m keeping the spooky season going with Redlands written and colored by Jordie Bellaire, drawn by Vanesa R. Del Rey. The first volume is a bloody introduction to the town of Redlands, Florida — a small town run by racists that soon get usurped by a trio of witches. While the book is very much invested in the stories of women, the witches themselves aren’t necessarily the heroes either; their magic requires blood. Del Rey’s lines and Bellaire’s colors create a beautiful darkness, sharp glances being thrown amidst dark curling shadows. Redlands reads like it has a point, and it’s not interested in holding your hand to get there. If you like ambiguity in your horror mixed in with some very satisfying moments of revenge, get thee hence to this book.

Alenka Figa: My workplace is getting a new book order in right now so I’ve been reading a lot of fiction aimed at tween and elementary-aged readers, but feeling very behind on all the gorgeous indie and self-published comics from the last year. While hunting around for things I’ve missed I stumbled across Skip by Molly Mendoza, and holy crap this book is beautiful and emotional and perfect.

Skip follows Bloom, a human child who is left alone by the lake when their adult caregiver leaves to answer a distress call, and Gloopy, a decidedly not human maybe-child whose error sets back their village’s plans for an important holiday, as they dive between dimensions in search of their respective, tumultuous homes. Both of these lost protagonists take very different emotional approaches to falling endlessly through frightening other worlds. Bloom wears their fear on their sleeve, and tries to be cautious, but is able to reach others through their openness and vulnerability. Gloopy is impulsive because they are unstoppably optimistic, and they both get themselves into trouble and ensure that the hesitant Bloom never gets stuck. Mendoza’s art work is stunning; Skip is a riot of color, with each “world” or dimension blossoming into a new color pallette to indicate its uniqueness and level of danger. My library had a copy and yours might as well.

Emily Lauer: They Called Us Enemy tells the story of George Takei’s experiences in Japanese internment camps as a child, and how those experiences shaped his family interactions, his life, and the nation ever afterwards. The graphic memoir intercuts the narrative of how his parents and siblings and he were moved from their home to a camp, to another camp, and how they coped; with panels that show Takei as an adult giving a Ted Talk about the topic, on Broadway with Lea Salonga in the musical Allegiance, and as a talking head with the Comic Con logo in the background. This interweaving of timelines conveys how Takei has used the fame he gained from his role in Star Trek to bring light to the role of the Japanese internment camps in US history. They Called Us Enemy is itself another way that Takei is using every pop culture medium at his disposal as an activist and advocate.

It’s excellent, partly because Takei himself is such an impressive figure (did you know he met Martin Luther King Jr? I didn’t!) but also because the artist, Harmony Becker, is wonderful.

A page with a four panel layout shows different choices made by Japanese Americans, and contains captions including the conclusion that "they all made difficult choices to demonstrate their patriotism to this country, even when it rejected them."
Page 123 of They Called Us Enemy, written by George Takei and others; art by Harmony Becker, published by Top Shelf Productions (2019)

In this page of the book, where Takei’s narrator voice discusses the different ways in which Japanese Americans showed heroism when confronted with the Japanese internment camps, Becker’s textures and lines create echoes and continuations from one scenario to the next, reinforcing Takei’s points about how these different actions could all be seen as heroic.

I highly recommend They Called Us Enemy.

Draven Katayama: I ended up binge-reading all twelve issues of House of X/Powers of X in one night. Not only was it a pleasant surprise to see Tempus, one of my favorite new X-Men characters of the past decade, but I got totally absorbed in the lore-heavy, black-and-white information pages that are interspersed throughout each issue. They were like going down a Wikipedia rabbit hole where every entry reveals a little bit more about the X-Men’s distant future. If you love X-Men characters and futuristic, somewhat cyberpunk plot elements, give HoX/PoX a try.

I’ve been reading two comics that I checked out because they were recommended by courtneywirthit, the creator of Honey Lemon. The first is Spirit Fingers by Kyoung Chal Han, which you can read for free on LINE Webtoon. It currently has over 141,000 subscribers and 788,000 likes across its many episodes. Spirit Fingers stars Amy Song, an awkward, painfully insecure teen who constantly compares herself to people she thinks are prettier. One day while walking in the city, she meets an art club practicing drawing. She’s invited to join the group by a handsome visual design student, Simon Koo. What especially impressed me about Spirit Fingers were the scenes between Amy and her mom, who is hypercritical of Amy’s appearance and choice of friends. Spirit Fingers has relatable plot points like trying to maintain your old best friendships while joining a new friend group, feeling envious of your ridiculously beautiful new friend who’s close to your crush, and the latent fear of being bullied.

The second comic I’ve been enjoying is Scorching Romance by Hongchi, which has over 273,000 subscribers on LINE Webtoon. It stars Ember Kim, a high school student with a mysterious physical condition: she always feels nearly unbearably hot, even when it’s freezing cold outside. She also has a hot temper to match her body temperature issues, and while her classmates bundle up in coats and scarves and beg her to turn on the classroom heater, she yells at them and tries to stay cool in a button-down and sandals. Ember meets her match when a new boy joins the class: Aspen Cha, who since a traumatic event now always feels freezing cold, so he wears a heavy coat and hat in class and carries a portable heater with him. I’ve only just started this comic, but the premise is cute and intriguing, and the characterizations are a lot of fun.

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Draven Katayama

Draven Katayama

Writer at Sidequest and WWAC; past executive editor of Kollaboration and writer at Newsarama and Comicosity. I'm a huge fan of Life is Strange, The Last of Us, TWICE, Blackpink, and ITZY. My MyDramaList: https://mydramalist.com/profile/loudlysilent Ko-fi: https://ko-fi.com/loudlysilent Tell me about the fandoms you love! @loudlysilent