Sunday, July 21, 2024

Engrossing Fantasy Graphic Novels to Take You on a Journey

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I’ve spent a lot of this year reading graphic novels from writers all over and have especially enjoyed the fantastical settings and stories that transport the reader to new worlds or worlds so like yet unlike our own. Check out some of them below!

Lunar Boy

From twins Jes and Cin Wibowo, Lunar Boy is a truly heartwarming coming-of-age story about Indu, a young boy from the moon. Adopted by a woman who was exploring his moon, he’s now living on Earth in a blended family. Too bad he’s having major struggles adapting to his new world and since his mom is so busy, he can’t even talk to her.

In a moment of sadness and loneliness, he calls out to the mon, begging them to take him back. Of course as the day he’ll go “home” gets nearer, Indu finds himself having second thoughts.

I absolutely loved this graphic novel, and the art was so perfect for the story. In a four tweet thread before the release, they explain that they wanted their first book to be hopeful, but also didn’t want to ignore the reality of the world that Queer Indonesians experiences. Thus, Lunar Boy is a wish for a distant sci-fi future where things are better, and they absolutely delivered.

The story might be about Indu but there’s multiple subplots masterfully weaved throughout, including stories about other queer Muslims and the experiences of trans Muslim Indonesians especially.

This is a must read and I hope we get more graphic novels about queer Muslims!

Anzu and the Realm of Darkness

5 Worlds meets Spirited Away in this tale of a girl fighting her way back home after getting trapped in the spirit world. in Anzu and the Realm of Darkness, Mai K. Nguyen effortlessly combines all the best tropes with a gorgeous illustrative style depicts the growth that can happen when a kid is pushed to their limit.

Having just moved to a new town during Obon, when families remember and celebrate their ancestors, Anzu is not feeling it or the holiday. Ever since her obaachan passed, she doesn’t want to celebrate.

Avoiding holiday festivities leads her to following after a stray dog, who of course was not a stray dog, and finds herself in the Shinto Underworld. Oh no! Getting home is going to be super difficult and she must face Queen Izanami of Yomi, break a curse, free the spirits of other lost children, and reach the gate home before sunrise, or be stuck forever.

two pages of panels from Anzu and the Realm of Darkness, showing her surprised at seeing mythical creatures
Her shocked faces are so gooood.

I particularly loved the illustrations by Nguyen. When Queen Izanami shows her real face, it is genuinely scary! The Gatekeeper (that stray dog) is also an absolute delight and it’s wonderful seeing his character arc develop alongside Anzu, who definitely did not sign up for this no good day.

Squire

So I’m years late to Squire but it lives up to every bit of the hype. Written by Nadia Shammas and Sara Alfageeh and illustrated by the latter, this young adult graphic novel is set in an alt history Middle East and North Africa.

Aiza hides her true background as a girl from the conquered lands and trains to become a knight for the war-torn Bayt-Sajji empire. Becoming a Knight is the highest military honor, and more importantly, her only full path to citizenship.

Enlisting into the competitive Squire training program should be a dream come true, but nothing is ever as it truly seems. Navigating friendships, rivalries, and rigorous training, Aiza realizes that the greater good might not include her and all the recruits are in more danger than she ever imagined.

a page from graphic novels Squire showing Aiza sparring with another character
Movement is drawn so well in this graphic novel.

It’s no spoiler to say that this novel deftly tackles the issues of military encroachment on every form of life and the impact of colonization on colonized peoples.

Brooms

Written by Jasmine Walls and illustrated by Teo DuVall, Brooms is both my favorite graphic novel of the year, and one of my best reads this year. Set in a 1930s Mississippi where witches race on broomsticks, but of course the government doesn’t want them to and only wants to train those with magic in Latin (ew).

The novel follows Billie Mae, captain of the Night Storms racing team, her best friend and second-in-command Loretta, Cheng-Kwan who also races with them, and Luella (in love with Billie Mae). Luella’s magic was sealed away but she’s been teaching her cousins Mattie and Emma (who are Choctaw and Black) magic.

All of them have reasons for trying to make money from winning the racing competitions, from moving to a state that will allow Black folks to legally use magic and race, or move to a state where they can be their true selves. Of course Mattie and Emma just want to stay away from the government officials who will send them to boarding school.

Characters in Brooms using sign language and speech to discuss why Billie races, even with the fear of being caught.

Pitched as a queer, witchy Fast and Furious, I found Brooms incredibly compelling and the balance of the intertwined stories and the art of the actual races was solid.

I also loved how Walls and DuVall worked with the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians to include Indian Sign Language correctly! If you like witchy stories that actually do something with the magic, this is the graphic novel for you!

Images courtesy of their respective owners

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