2019 So Far … Middle Grade and YA Graphic Novels

It’s 2019 and to say that comics is a perfect industry is … well, yeah I can’t say that.

There is a shining light for the future of comics, however … the book market. Original graphic novels from a wide array of publishers are bringing diverse stories and voices to the middle grade and YA graphic novels table. Here’s a look at the year so far. 

THE SINGING ROCK & OTHER BRAND-NEW FAIRY TALES

Created by Nathaniel Lachenmeyer and Simini Blocker
Published by :01 First Second

This delightful set of fairy tales does something that I have not seen in a long time: it adds to the classic fairy tale mythos. Completely new tales featuring fantastic art, these are the kind of stories that can be revisited often. The “classics” can feel dated, but these stories are a breath of fresh air into the fairy tale genre.

HICOTEA

Created by Lorena Alvarez
Published by Nobrow Press

Prepare to have your mind blown/expanded by Lorena Alvarez’s Nightlights follow up Hicotea. If you read Nightlights, you know Alvarez’s storytelling is phenomenal and Hicotea is no different. This is a visual delight and I cannot recommend this OGN and its predecessor enough.

HILO BOOK 5: THEN EVERYTHING WENT WRONG

Created by Judd Winick
Published by Penguin Random House

Now, book 5 is an interesting place to start any series, but it speaks to a quality series when even the fifth book is approachable and entertaining. This comic has been in heavy reading rotation and my daughter immediately wanted to read more Hilo the second she finished reading this volume.

MERA: TIDEBREAKER

Created by Danielle Paige and Stephen Byrne
Published by DC Comics

DC dives (ha!) into the YA OGN market with a look at the mighty Mera. This story struggles to find an audience (very straightforward to be YA, but content too mature for Middle Grade), despite absolutely stunning art from Stephen Byrne. Heck, Byrne’s art alone is worth the price of admission and I’m all for DC pushing this kind of content forward.

5 WORLDS BOOK 3: THE RED MAZE

Created by Mark Siegel, Alexis Siegel, Xanthe Bouma, Matt Rockefeller, and Boya Sun
Published by Penguin Random House

A new chapter in the 5 Worlds series leads to a very exciting day in my household. My daughter has been locked into this expansive sci-fi/fantasy world since the first volume, and she re-reads the entire beautiful series often. The Red Maze is, in her words, “sooooo good”, and I don’t think I can top that as a defining comment for this comic.

SUPER SONS: THE POLARSHIELD PROJECT

Created by Ridley Pearson and Ile Gonzalez
Published by DC Comics

This one has no issue with finding the audience – Super Sons dials into the Middle Grade market and sits there nicely, introducing readers to the next-gen duo of Jon Kent and (Dam)Ian Wayne. While this one didn’t entertain me, I’m not the target market at 34 years old. 9 year old daughter – she was sold and wants more ASAP.


The balance of 2019 has some exciting titles coming, keep an eye out for these releases:

GUTS

Created by Raina Telgemeier
Published by Scholastic
Release Date: September 17, 2019

Queen Raina is back with a look at anxiety and the effects of stress on, well, guts. The creator of the Smile, Ghosts, Sisters and more is a powerhouse unlike anyone else in comics and new content from her is reason to celebrate.

PUMPKINHEADS

Created by Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks
Published by :01 First Second
Release Date: August 27, 2019

I’m not sure I need to say much more than “look at the creative team”. You put two storytelling forces like Rowell and Hicks together and magic happens.

BEST FRIENDS

Created by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham
Published by :01 First Second
Release Date: August 27, 2019

The sequel to Real Friends is nearly here! Contemporary fans loved the candor of Real Friends and there’s more of that to be found as the story of Shannon continues!

BATMAN: NIGHTWALKER

Created by Marie Lu, Stuart Moore, and Chris Wildgoose
Published by DC Comics
Release Date: October 1, 2019

Moore and Wildgoose adapt Marie Lu’s YA novel Batman: Nightwalker and this is how you do YA comics. Chris Wildgoose’s art is phenomenal and worth the price of admission in its own right, with this story as a whole acting as a great gateway into the world of The Dark Knight.

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