The back matter of Under the Moon: A Catwoman Tale begins with three pages of resources for suicide prevention, domestic violence, self-harm, and animal cruelty. That should give you a window into what you’re getting yourself into with the first volume of DC’s new Catwoman series, written by Lauren Myracle and illustrated by Isaac Goodhart.
The opening scenes are hard to read—child abuse, emotional abuse, and then that animal cruelty scene. (Mild spoiler alert: what you think is going to happen to the kitten happens to the kitten.) I had to put the book down for a day and reflect. But then I got back to it and ended up enjoying it, though I would really like to see Selina and some of the other children in this story get some help for their trauma. I guess it’s a bit of a dud as a superhero comic if the climax to the story is that everyone finds a really great therapist and starts weekly sessions?
Although there is some forward plot development, this first volume mostly introduces us to Selina and sketches in her background, establishes her relationship with Bruce Wayne, and connects her with a small group of fellow misfits, one of whom teaches her parkour.
Charlotte Before Jane Eyre is a portrait of the artist as a young woman. We get to know Charlotte Bronte before she has the idea for Jane Eyre and begins writing her most famous novel. Glynnis Fawkes blends Charlotte’s own words from her letters and juvenilia with imagined dialogue to create a vivid picture of a family obsessed with storytelling and writing. I couldn’t stop reading biographies of the Brontes when I was in my 20s, and this book reminded me of all that I found so fascinating about them. I liked the monochromatic color palette and art style as well.
Dear Justice League surprised me with its premise—DC superheroes answer fan mail and emails—and its clever storytelling. Each fan question leads a hero on a different quest or down a different memory lane. What’s most fun about this collection is how each super hero reveals himself or herself to be all too human, capable of making silly mistakes, getting into trouble, and needing a do-over. Though each story works individually as a short, there is a plot line that runs through all of the stories as well, tying them together. The other DC comics for kids that I’ve read have been really, really kidsy. But this one has appeal for all readers.
Clyde is a scowly little bear who thinks mean thoughts and performs mean deeds. I think his determination to be a bad guy is supposed to be funny, but I found that this story lacked heart. There is probably some kid appeal given that there are farts, boogers, and an unexpectedly pugilistic rainbow butterfly. Not for me, though I appreciated the uncluttered panels.
I liked The Secret Spiral of Swamp Kid more than I thought I would. It’s silly good fun about a kid who’s trying to figure out his origin story and knows only that it’s got to be a mix of swamp and science. He keeps a diary of his daily discoveries. The art is colorful and detailed. Is it a graphic novel? I would call it an illustrated novel instead. The art is there for comic and visual effect but only rarely tells the story sequentially.
Wait, What? mixes comic panels with informational writing to answer teens’ questions about gender, sexuality, body image, and consent, among other topics. The diverse group of friends featured in the comic panels ask every possible question about their bodies, their feelings, and their worries about sexuality. It’s sex ed that manages to be inclusive, comforting, encouraging, and even occasionally hilarious.
If you like vivid—VERY VIVID—images of dinosaurs fighting and eating each other, Cretaceous is going to be your jam. It’s 160 wordless pages of dinosaurs on the hunt for each other, battling for dominance and dinner. Blood is spilled and splattered often.
It’s hard to believe there are already so many volumes of Dana Simpson’s darling series about Phoebe and Her Unicorn. I read the first two and worried that I would have missed too much coming into number 9 without having read numbers 3-8. But no. Much like a Calvin and Hobbes comic collection, this series is one you can dip in and out of as you please, or as your Cybils judging demands. Unicorn Bowling is everything you expect from the series—adventure, humor, unicorn life lessons from Marigold Heavenly Nostrils herself.