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Welcome to another edition of Riot Roundup, where we’re asking our contributors to share the best comics and graphic novels they’ve read over the past quarter. Some are ongoing series, others standalone favorites. Get ready to add to your draw lists!
Now I know what you’re thinking: hey Book Riot, aren’t your Riot Roundups usually quarterly? Why yes, yes they are. So why is this one a six-month summary? Because we all do our best here and sometimes a ball drops. Enjoy this special reading list for readers of all persuasions, and happy reading!
Cheer Up: Love and Pompoms by Crystal Frasier, Val Wis
There’s a special type of graphic novel that shoots a rainbow of joy straight into your heart – think Check, Please; Heartstopper– which I absolutely adore. And Cheer Up is another entry in this “genre”. He’s found family, friends to enemies to lovers, opposites attract between an overachiever and an antisocial curmudgeon, and two teenage girls you’ll want to fiercely protect (even though one of them may bite you in the process), befriend and love .
A Town Within Tillie Walden
Such a small book and it hits so hard! Walden’s short graphic novel is just 56 pages, but in its vivid black and white it tells the story of growing up, finding contentment, living a life well lived, creating space for self and a life that fits you into. There is so much heart in these illustrations. It’s relatable and hopeful, and it filled my heart.
—Leah Rachel von Essen
Thrown Out of Space by Grace Ellis and Hannah Templer
I read this graphic novel while researching Patricia Highsmith’s obsession with snails, and while it didn’t cover much that I wasn’t already aware of, it covered it in a exciting and vibrant way that I found utterly delightful. From the introduction, it is clear that their intention is to tell the story of a complicated woman; Ellis writes in the author’s note: “The protagonist of this story is not a good person. In fact, Patricia Highsmith was a terrible person. This context allows the reader to more fully appreciate the story, to understand that it is, well, complicated. The book covers the period leading up to Pat’s first novel, Strangers on a train, was released, while working as a comic book writer, hating every minute and trying very hard to quit being a lesbian (also hating every minute except the ones she went ahead and was a lesbian from anyway). The book shows one version of the events leading up to Pat’s writing. The Price of Salt or Carol, and the beautiful illustrations guarantee that I’ll end up owning this one in print. That said, I was thrilled with the ebook I borrowed from my library.
—Annika Barranti Klein
Finding a Home Volume 4: The Gardener by Hari Conner
I picked up a copy of Hari Conner’s jaw-dropping conclusion to Hari Conner’s magical slow queer romance by backing their Kickstarter. Unfortunately for you, the hard copy is no longer available and you’ll have to wait until the webcomic finishes coming out next year. Luckily for you, it’s worth the wait. Is it ever worth the wait. Janek is a human leader who slowly returns home after a long absence. Chepi is a fae healer who does research on the road. They meet, start traveling together and slowly, so slowly, fall in love. There’s nothing I don’t like about this book. It’s honest and tender and so, so sweet. Art is pure magic. The characters go through so much trauma learning to trust each other, and witnessing this journey is nothing short of miraculous. I can honestly say that only one other comic I’ve ever read matches the depth and beauty of this one: Saga. Finding a home is something special. Do not wait.
Heartstopper Volumes 1-4 by Alice Oseman
Sometimes you just need comfort food! And that’s exactly what I got with Alice Oseman Heart stroke series, which I devoured in a few days. These sweet books are a celebration of love. It’s impossible not to feel your heart melt as you tear through this love story with excellent supporting characters and eerie, thoughtful portrayal. If you’re feeling down and want to lift your spirits, this series is for you.
—Sarah S. Davis
Messy Roots by Laura Gao
This is a fantastic memoir about growing up as a queer American from Wuhan, Texas. Laura begins her life in Wuhan, surrounded by a large family and above all befriended by two cousins close to her age. But at 4 years old, her parents immigrate to Texas and her life changes radically. Laura Americanizes her name at school to fit in better with her Texas classmates. She internalizes Asian stereotypes at her predominantly white schools and brings this internalized racism with her to college, where other Asian American students confront her about them. As a result, Laura has an identity crisis regarding both her Wuhan heritage and her sexuality. It’s a nuanced and vibrant memoir, covering a lot of ground in less than 300 pages.
The Real Riley Mayes by Rachel Elliott
Riley Mayes is not a fan of fifth grade. None of her classmates have her sense of humor and she would much rather draw than sit in class. When Riley makes new friends, she learns how great it is to be around people who appreciate the weird and wonderful things that make up the real Riley Mayes. I absolutely loved all of the authenticity and heart of this mid-level graphic novel, and loved seeing a queer child from Oklahoma explore her identity and unique self. This book is a treat from start to finish!
Stranger Things and Dungeons & Dragons by Jody Houser, Jim Zub, Diego Galindo, MSASSYK, Nate Piekos
The fifth graphic novel in the Stranger Things series, it’s a look at the more personal side of Dungeons & Dragons (D&D). Things never go well in Hawkins. After the events of Season Three, our group of adventurers have been through so much with few resources to help them manage. Luckily they have D&D. By playing the game together, they are able to process their trauma, connect as friends, and be the heroes they know themselves to be. This story is a delightful look at D&D and how it can be a tool for good besides just being fun. As a fan of Stranger Things and D&D, I fell head over heels in love with this story. It’s such an enjoyable read for nerds everywhere.
Wayne Family Adventures by StarBite, CRC Payne, Kielamel Sibal, Lan Ma and CM Cameron
Is it sad to say that the new episode of WFA every Wednesday is still one of the highlights of my week? DC teaming up with webtoon to put their characters in front of a massive, voracious new audience is one of the smartest moves they’ve made this century, but it wouldn’t have worked if the comic they’ve been with launched was not superb – and it is. Wayne Family Adventures – which has a wider readership than the three traditionally published Batman comics put together – is the Batman family sitcom we always knew we needed. It neatly strips each character down to the bare essentials and uses that deep understanding and perfect character designs to tell little gems of exquisitely paced, laugh-out-loud stories that brilliantly utilize Webtoon’s mobile-optimized scrolling format. If you’ve always wanted to join the Batfamily but never knew where to start, DC finally has you covered.