Three Books By and About Ladies + Happy 200th Post!
Two hundred posts, ladies and gentlemen! When we started this project way back in 2012, who knew it would keep going for so long? But here we are, and things are only getting bigger and better! We've got some exciting things coming up in 2016, so keep your eyes glued to this space. And what better way to celebrate 200 than getting back to our roots and reviewing some comics by and about ladies? (or at least girls - most of the protagonists here are between the ages of 12 and 16. Proto-ladies.) I've got three books for you that not only fit the bill, they're also great reminders of the importance of love and friendship, which are what power this blog! Well, love, friendship, and Wordpress power this blog, but you get the idea. Two of these books are about bands of friends, much like the Ladies, while the last is about a somewhat more intimate (though totally platonic) duo.
Crystal Cadets by Anne Toole, art by Katie O'Neill Published by Roar Comics Crystal Cadets is your quintessential "magical girl" story - a band of pre-teen girls have mysterious powers and abilities granted to them by gems they inherit from their mothers. The story follows Zoe, an awkward young girl, as she learns that she's a part of this strange world when her adoptive parents give her a crystal left to her by her birth mother. She's one of the Crystal Cadets, a band of girls sworn to protect the earth from the powers of The Darkness. Each cadet has a different gemstone, and each stone has slightly different powers, though each also comes with the ability to manifest an animal companion. Just as Zoe learns about her mysterious lineage, however, the Darkness takes over her parents. Can she and the other Cadets figure out how to defeat the Darkness in time to save them?
The art is cute and colorful, and the story is fun and fast-paced, but almost too much so for an adult reader. I kept wanting a little more background, a little more breathing room in the story. There are also some attempts at moral lessons - the Darkness feeds off of pettiness and bad behavior - that clearly mark this as being for kids. That said, they aren't BAD messages to impart, and it's fun to remember being a kid that age, pretending to have these sorts of adventures. Little me would have LOVED this book.
Recommended age:Pre-teen. You could probably give this to a kid as young as 7 or 8, provided they're a good reader, and I think interest would wane after about 12.
You might like it if: You love gemstones, Sailor Moon, and girl power.
Bonus features: A diverse cast of characters, who I hope all get more deeply explored back stories as the series continues, and a creative team that is nearly entirely made up of women.
Lumberjanes by Shannon Watters, Noelle Stevenson, and Grace Ellis Published by Boom! Studios
The girls in Roanoke Cabin at Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet's Camp for Hardcore Lady Types - Jo, April, Molly, Mal and Ripley - aren't your typical campers. Weird happenings seem to follow them. There's that old woman who turned into a bear, for instance. And those creepy three-eyed foxes who keep popping up everywhere. Don't even get me started on the raptors in the outhouse...
This book is easy, breezy fun, but there are some deeper themes running throughout about acceptance and how to be yourself. At first glance, each camper seems to be a stereotype - Jo is tomboyish and smart, April is the tiny, pretty Queen Bee, Mal is the tough punk. But as the story progresses, these stereotypes are turned on their heads. April is a tough brawler! Mal is artistic and sensitive. There are more examples, but some are suprises and I don't want to spoil the story.
The central mystery is fun and references Greek myths, so I was tickled pink, and like Crystal Cadets, the cast is quite diverse. Lumberjanes takes representation a good deal further than Crystal Cadets, however, with a (age-appropriate) romance between two of the girls, and several characters who don't fit neatly into the gender binary. This is handled quite deftly, however, and never feels shoe-horned in to prove a point. Slightly more awkward but rather fun are the constant exclamations referencing feminist heroes - phrases like "Oh my Bessie Coleman" and "What the Joan Jett?" don't totally roll off the tongue, but with any luck they'll get younger readers to Google these icons.
Recommended age: Pre-teen to adult. There's no content that would be inappropriate for younger readers, but the reading level is solidly middle-grade.
You might like it if: You're a summer camp refugee, Greek mythology fan, or ardent feminist.
Bonus features: The opening page for each chapter of the trades are pages from the Lumberjane Scout Handbook, describing the many badges scouts can earn, along with the values they're meant to learn along the way. The end pages have more of a scrapbook feel, with photos of the girls' adventures and mix-tape track lists.
Nimona by Noelle Stevenson Published by Harper Collins
Lord Ballister Blackheart is a supervillain - he's a scientific genius who uses his inventions to interrupt the social order and defy the government. So obviously, he's a bad guy, right? The problem is, things aren't always what they seem...
Nimona is an incredibly fun mash up of fantasy and science fiction tropes. It's also one of the most poignant comics I've read in a while. Lord Ballister's enemy is the Institute, the group that trains heroes, conducts experiments, and is the secret power behind the throne. They've turned his former best friend, Ambrosius Goldenloin, into his greatest nemesis, and Ballister's used to going it alone. So when Nimona enters Lord Ballister's life - a spunky, shapeshifting teenaged force of destruction - his whole world is turned upside down.
The story is one of sacrifice, redemption, and true friendship. It's also incredibly funny - Nimona's constant schemes to make Ballister into the supervillain she thought he'd be cracked me up. Once again, it's hard to write too much without giving away the twist - and since it actually did manage to surprise me, I'm loathe to do so. Just go read it, already!
Recommended age: 12 and up - I think this story is a bit better suited to an older crowd.
You might like it if: You like fantasy, science fiction, true friendship, or sharks.
Bonus features: Nimona herself! Besides being a shapeshifter with a wicked sense of humor, Nimona's default shape is a short, zaftig red head with flamboyant hair. How can you not love that? Okay, it's also got a non-traditional romance at its heart, and some very cool monster design.
Happy 200th post, everyone! We hope you'll stick around for 200 more. And hey, if there's something you want us to write about or do - tell us in the comments!