A fast-paced genre mashup sure to find a cult following.

THE WITCH OWL PARLIAMENT

From the Clockwork Curandera series , Vol. 1

Mix Fullmetal Alchemist with steampunk in a fictionalized version of 19th-century Mexico, and you have Bowles and Raúl the Third’s new graphic series.

It’s 1865, and Cristina Franco is an apprentice curandera, or healer. The witch owls lay siege to the East Laredo train depot in the Republic of Santander, where she awaits her brother Enrique’s return, and despite the best efforts of her green magic, she is fatally wounded. All is not lost, however, as Enrique has been studying alchemy and engineering while he was away at university. He uses his new skills to bring Cristina back and creates mechanical limbs for her. Yet Cristina struggles with this blasphemy, knowing it will result in her expulsion from her curandera community just as the witch owls are rising to terrorize Santander. The pace is fast and clipped, with little time for worldbuilding; even brief flashback scenes can cause more confusion than clarity. Nevertheless, the combination of steampunk and cyberpunk genres in such a novel setting will appeal to many. Readers lacking a familiarity with the mestizo and Indigenous cultures of Mexico may be inspired to learn more in order to fully appreciate this work. Illustrated in black, red, and, occasionally, green ink on a background that mimics the sepia tones of old paper, the dramatic and expressive artwork and creative use of panels greatly enhance the reading experience.

A fast-paced genre mashup sure to find a cult following. (maps, author's note, sketches) (Graphic fantasy. 13-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-62014-592-0

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Tu Books

Review Posted Online: July 8, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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An exciting look at girl power gone wrong.

SQUAD

New student Becca can hardly believe her luck when Arianna, Marley, and Amanda, who sit at the top of the Piedmont High School hierarchy, pick her to join their exclusive friend group.

She does her best to remain in their favor, taking cues from Marley and Amanda about how to go along with whatever Arianna requires of her. One night, the three girls arrive just in time to rescue Becca from being assaulted at a party, revealing themselves to be man-eating werewolves who target predatory boys. It doesn’t take much to convince Becca to join their ranks and help them enact vigilante justice. There is a price, however: a hunger that must be satisfied by consuming human flesh during the full moon. But the girls assure Becca that with the four of them looking out for each other the risk of discovery is low. The story highlights important topics, including internalized misogyny and codependent friendships. Becca yearns for the support and closeness that the squad offers, and this fuels her willingness to overlook their offenses—from microaggressions to murder—until things get out of control. The color illustrations are reminiscent of classic comics; the familiar normality of the everyday high school scenes portrayed stands in stark contrast to the werewolves’ meting out of justice. Becca is gay and Asian, Amanda is Black, and Marley and Arianna read as White.

An exciting look at girl power gone wrong. (Graphic paranormal. 13-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-294315-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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Equal parts entertaining and thought-provoking.

I AM NOT STARFIRE

Sixteen-year-old Mandy considers herself the anti-Starfire: Unlike her scantily clad superhero mother, she doesn’t have superpowers, can’t fly, and doesn’t even own a bathing suit.

Mandy dyes her hair and dresses in all black to further call out how different they are. Mandy’s best friend, Lincoln, whose parents were born in Vietnam, insightfully summarizes this rift as being down to an intergenerational divide that occurs whether parents and children come from different countries or different planets. Mandy tries to figure out what kind of future she wants for herself as she struggles with teenage insecurities and bullying, her relationship with her mom, and her budding friendship (or is it something more?) with her new class project partner, Claire. Yoshitani’s vibrant and colorful stylized illustrations beautifully meld the various iterations of Starfire and the Titans with the live-action versions of those characters. Together with Tamaki’s punchy writing, this coming-of-age story of identity, family, friendship, and saving the world is skillfully brought to life in a quick but nuanced read. These layers are most strongly displayed as the story draws parallels between cultural differences between the generations as evidenced in how the characters address bullying, body positivity, fatphobia, fetishization and sexualization, and feminism. This title addresses many important concepts briefly, but well, with great pacing, bold art, and concise and snappy dialogue. The cast is broadly diverse in both primary and secondary characters.

Equal parts entertaining and thought-provoking. (Graphic fantasy. 14-16)

Pub Date: July 27, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-77950-126-4

Page Count: 184

Publisher: DC

Review Posted Online: Aug. 11, 2021

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