Just last week, Gwen and I discussed our picks for the Best Comics of 2015 for Young Readers over at The Comics Alternative. In the interests of time, we picked only a few titles each, but I think it’s safe to say we both could’ve included many, many more books. So here are my Top 15 Comics for Young Readers published in 2015 (in no particular order) and just for fun, a few published before 2015. Enjoy! (* = titles mentioned on the podcast)
Update: suggested ages at the end of each entry are just that: suggestions. Please check out reviews and if possible, see sample pages on Amazon or from the publishers’ websites.
The Last Man series (2013/2015) Bastien Vivès, Michaël Sanlaville, Balak (First Second)
I’m so glad First Second is publishing this series, translated from the French. These books are probably better suited to teens than younger readers. You can read my thoughts on the first book here. (teens and up)
Last of the Sandwalkers (2015) Jay Hosler (First Second)
I’m always excited about comics that might get kids interested in science and Jay Hosler’s story about the adventures of a group of beetles does just that. Last of the Sandwalkers is a really fun book and I had the great pleasure of meeting Hosler – a really fun guy – this year at SPX. You can read more about the book here. (ages 10 and up)
*Lost in NYC: A Subway Adventure (2015) Nadja Spiegelman, Sergio Garcia Sanchez (TOON Books)
TOON Books has been putting out some amazing titles for young readers and Lost in NYC: A Subway Adventure is one of their best. You don’t have to live in New York City to enjoy this book. More about it here. (ages 8 and up)
*Lumberjanes Vol. 1 (2015) Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Brooke A. Allen, Shannon Watters, Maarta Laiho (BOOM! Studios)
What the junk? This is a really fun title that our library has in the YA section but could just as easily be enjoyed by younger readers. Lumberjanes is part Indiana Jones, part Adventure Time, part scouting adventure (complete with handbook). I really enjoyed the stories, the characters, the action and especially the outstanding job of colors by Maarta Laiho. I look forward to more Lumberjanes stories. You should, too. (ages 12 and up)
Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland (2015) Eric Shanower, Gabriel Rodriguez (IDW)
I’ll admit it: I had my doubts. I’m a big fan of the original iconic Windsor McKay comics from over 100 years ago and figured this new incarnation would be a huge disappointment. I’m glad to say I was wrong. Derek and I discussed this book earlier this year at The Comics Alternative. (ages 8 and up)
*Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: The Underground Abductor (2015) Nathan Hale (Harry N. Abrams)
Wow, Nathan Hale has done it again, giving readers a graphic novel treatment of a historical event that is engaging, entertaining, and often humorous, while never backing away from the power and frequent unpleasantness of the subject matter. This time Hale tackles the Underground Railroad and Harriet Tubman’s pivotal role in securing the freedom of many slaves. I don’t know how Hale does it, but I hope he never stops. (ages 10 and up)
*The Kurdles (2015) Robert Goodin (Fantagraphics)
The Kurdles may be an all-ages comic, and although it may not connect with all kids, for those with an appreciation for the strange, weird, and slightly twisted, it’s going to be a big hit. Take a closer look at that cover. Sure, we’ve got an owl carrying a cute stuffed bear through the woods, but it’s also raining and the bear’s carrying that stick for a reason.
Sally is the teddy bear in question and she’s having a rough day. Her owner, a brat of a little girl throwing a tantrum, has also thrown Sally out of the car. Trying to get home, Sally discovers a strange group of animal characters in a place called Kurdleton, characters who would normally be glad to help Sally, but they’ve got their own problems, the biggest being that their house is growing hair. And eyes. And a mouth.
The Kurdles is highly imaginative, vibrant and colorful without being too cute or sentimental. The artwork is clear and wonderfully rendered, the story expertly told and paced. Again, The Kurdles probably won’t be for every young reader, but it might be just the thing for kids looking for something a bit different. (ages 8 and up)
*Sunny Side Up (2015) Jennifer L. Holm, Matthew Holm (Scholastic/GRAPHIX)
In addition to her prose novels for young readers, Jennifer Holm has collaborated with her brother Matthew Holm on two graphic novel series, Babymouse and Squish. Although there’s plenty of humor in Sunny Side Up, the Holm siblings have created a book that’s far more than just a light comedy.
Sunny Side Up tells the story a young girl named Sunny visiting her grandfather in Florida in the summer of 1976. This is not a typical summertime vacation for Sunny. Something has happened at home that’s caused Sunny to be with her grandfather, which I won’t get into, but I will tell you that you’ll have a great time with this fun, touching graphic novel. This is another book that Gwen and I discussed on our first Young Readers episode of The Comics Alternative. (ages 10 and up)
*March, Book Two (2015) John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell (Top Shelf)
This second installment of this trilogy is much more action-oriented than the first, showing the tumultuous events leading up to the March on Washington and gives us a clearer picture not only of Congressman Lewis, but also many other figures in the Civil Rights Movement. (teens and up)
Little Robot (2015) Ben Hatke (First Second)
Ben Hatke is a wonder. So is his new book Little Robot, the story of a young girl and a robot who accidentally find each other and true friendship. Hatke’s Zita the Spacegirl series also included robots and other mechanized characters, and while Little Robot lacks the outer space setting, the book is just as thrilling and satisfying. Gwen and I discussed the book on the October show of the Young Readers edition of The Comics Alternative Podcast. (ages 6 and up)
*Hereville: How Mirka Caught a Fish (2015) Barry Deutsch (Amulet/Abrams)
In the series’ first book, Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword, we meet Mirka, an 11-year-old Orthodox Jewish girl, in a wonderful, imaginative tale of fantasy, adventure, and culture. The second book, How Mirka Met a Meteorite, provides even more adventures as Mirka unknowingly is responsible for a troll’s sending a meteor to Hereville, creating a duplicate Mirka. In the third book, How Mirka Caught a Fish, Mirka experiences time travel, a magic fish, and bad babysitting techniques.
Gwen and I discussed all three of these marvelous books on the Young Readers edition of The Comics Alternative podcast awhile back and even more recently placed How Mirka Caught a Fish on our Best of 2015 lists. These are wonderful books that keep getting better and better. If you haven’t read them, you should. Right now! (ages 10 and up)
*Secret Coders (2015) Gene Luen Yang, Mike Holmes (First Second)
Stately Academy is a school filled with mysteries and puzzles, all of which will delight young (and not-so-young) readers. Hopper is a young girl going to a new school, having a tough time adjusting and making friends until she discovers a big mystery (and several little mysteries) to be solved. Secret Coders invites readers to figure out the solutions as they go. This is a really fun book and promises to be a very fun series. Another title from our Best of 2015 Young Readers podcast. (ages 10 and up)
*Astro Boy Omnibus 1 (2015) Osamu Tezuka (Dark Horse)
Tezuka remains a phenomenon in Japan and should be everywhere. Astro Boy – the first manga to be adapted for animation many years ago – is pure, joyous fun. Not only are these stories about a robot boy entertaining, they also contain underlying issues of depth. Tezuka’s artwork is absolutely brilliant in its execution with a very approachable style. If you’ve never read manga before, have no fear – you’ll enjoy this. (ages 10 and up)
*Oyster War (2015) Ben Towle (Oni Press)
It just doesn’t get much better than this: pirates on the Chesapeake Bay in the 19th century, fighting, adventure… But this is far from your typical pirate adventure. These pirates are all about disrupting the oyster trade for themselves, but they’re really after something that could give them unlimited power.
It’s all here: an engaging story, wonderful characters filled with life, gorgeous artwork and spectacular coloring. Towle’s hardcover print edition of his webcomic is a beautiful package in itself, resembling an oversized European comics album. A really handsome book that readers of just about any age will enjoy. (ages 8 and up)
*Roller Girl (2015) Victoria Jamieson (Dial Books)
12-year-old Astrid and her friend Nicole have always done everything together, but when Astrid begins to develop a love for roller derby, Nicole isn’t interested. In fact, it seems that no one else is interested and that Astrid isn’t even good at roller skating!
Roller Girl is a wonderful story of friendship, sports, and pursuing a passion that the people around you don’t understand. Fans of Raina Telegemeier will definitely want to read this book. (ages 10 and up)
Not Published in 2015
Amulet, Vol. 1: The Stonekeeper (2008) Kazu Kibuishi (Scholatic/GRAPHIX) (ages 10 and up)
Jellaby (2008) Kean Soo (Hyperion Books) (ages 8 and up)
G-Man Vol. 1: Learning to Fly (2009) Chris Giarrusso (Image) (ages 8 and up)
Finding Gossamyr, Vol. 1 (2012) David A. Rodriguez (Th3rd World Studios) (ages 12 and up)
Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1: No Normal (2014) G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona (Marvel) (teens and up)
The Dumbest Idea Ever (2014) Jimmy Gownley (Scholastic/GRAPHIX) (ages 12 and up)