What comics have you been reading lately? Every month, WWAC contributors share some of the comics we’ve especially enjoyed recently. Is there a comic you just can’t get enough of? Tell us about it on Twitter!
Louis Skye: I recently read Maia Kobabe’s excellent debut graphic novel Gender Queer. This book is a deeply intimate portrayal of Kobabe’s struggle with er identity and the eventual realization that e is gender queer, but also that that knowledge doesn’t help er to navigate the world any easier.
I was surprised by how intimate this book turned out to be. Kobabe lays erself bare here — which is so moving. When people talk about writing one’s lived experience, it’s books like Gender Queer that they mean. This story could not have been told accurately by someone on the outside. This aspect of the book was discussed at length at the Personal Stories panel at ComicCon@Home, one of the most memorable but hardest hitting panels at the con, in my opinion.
Though this book is a tough read at times, that’s testament to Kobabe’s powerful hold on narrative flow.
Emily Lauer: I recently read through the completed Webtoon, HoverGirls, by GDBee! It tells the story of two cousins who travel to a big coastal city and get caught in a freak storm, after which they seem to have superpowers. The cousins are great characters, one alarmingly perky with dreams of starting a fashion line as well as becoming a plus-size top model, the other a sleek and competent bucket of rage, and they love each other. As the story goes along, their backstories are revealed slowly and casually even as the explanation for their strange powers is discovered and met. The art has a lot of glow and a lot of water, gorgeously rendered, and the clothes and hair are impressive, too. I was also impressed by the pacing, since binging a finished serialized text doesn’t always go well. This one did! And I enthusiastically recommend it to people who like “where did these powers come from?” stories as well as odd couple friend stories.
Alenka Figa: I am back on my Peow Studio bullshit, and read Ripples by Wai Wai Pang. Ripples follows detectives Kylie and Pan as they investigate the case of a missing boy. Luke Phelps, age 13, was reported missing by his parents after his school called home, asking about his absence. Over the course of the story, it becomes clear that Luke’s friends were somehow involved — and are perhaps less “friends” and more “bullies.” His disappearance seems like it might have a straightforward explanation, but the story is full of surprises.
— charlotte geater (@tambourine) May 9, 2017
Ripples, similarly, is not a straightforward narrative. The comic is drawn entirely in gray pencil, and traditional comic panels segue smoothly into pages from Detective Pan’s notes. Pan is meticulous, and takes care to illustrate diagrams of mundane everyday things as well as clues for the case. Maps of the police department’s parking lot, quick sketches of passersby she sees outside the car window on the way to the Phelps house, and turn-around profiles of Luke’s parents all contribute to the narrative. Pan’s notes, all drawn on lined paper, make the story feel very precise and commonplace — until the teens show up. The more the detectives learn about the teens, and Luke’s story, the more an eerie sense of strangeness seeps in. Ripples is a fascinating mix of horror, bizarro speculative fiction and, of course, noir. I really enjoyed it!
I also read One! Hundred! Demons! by Lynda Barry, a series of autobiographical comic strips that arose out of an artistic and therapeutic practice originally designed by a sixteenth century Zen monk. Barry’s comics feel so natural, humorous and engaging. Reading her work makes me feel like she’s sitting next to me, telling stories and laughing along. However, One! Hundred! Demons! digs deep and, over the breadth of the comic, discusses growing up in a violent home and other traumas. I got the sense that this was Barry’s way of working through these issues — or perhaps working with them. Reading a work like this from an older cartoonist reminded me that trauma isn’t something we can simply shed or cast off. They stay with us a long time, and embed themselves in all sorts of behaviors and habits. One! Hundred! Demons! is a powerful comic that lets Barry look at her difficult past alongside all the silly, dated, humorous, angsty-teen-ness of her past. I loved it.
Draven Katayama: Skate!!! Fire 100 by @mallowboo and @diggymungo is a comic on Webtoon about a group of friends who’ve formed a longboarding team. They live in a town called Juniper which lies in the shadow of Mt. Juniper, a dormant volcano. One day, Etna, the team captain, and her four teammates meet a stranger wearing a mysterious mask, who quickly flees on a skateboard. They follow the stranger, who leads them to a river of lava that’s flowing up — not down — Mt. Juniper. It turns out the skateboarding stranger is one of three magical, possibly non-human figures who have been watching the team. At the core of the story is a skate jam which used to be held annually but hasn’t happened in several years due to the dwindling of Juniper’s skate community.
Catch some air with Etna and her Fire 100 crew 🌋The newest #WEBTOON Original series is out now!
— WEBTOON (@webtoon) July 20, 2019
Skate!!! Fire 100 reads like a show I would easily get addicted to. It’s a feel-good story about friends who are genuinely supportive of each other and have a shared passion for skateboarding. Unlike many comics on Webtoon, romance isn’t a main focus. Its magical realism feels naturally integrated into a familiar small town setting. Despite the supernatural things that are happening around them, some of the most tense moments are when they meet a rival longboarding team whose captain rides a motorized longboard. The art style is colorful and dynamic; one of my favorite panels shows a character looking over a long cliff-like drop-off, and I also love how all of the longboards are drawn with such attention to detail. If you want to escape into a story that blends mystery, an urgent mission to save a small town, and longboarding kids having the most exciting summer of their lives, Skate!!! Fire 100 is a delightful read.