15 Returning Faces for Graphic Novels Shelves | Series Update

A lot of returning faces are headed for the graphic novel shelves, but some of them may still be brand-new to your patrons. Our reviews evaluate each title on its own merits, including a verdict advising whether the title functions as a fresh start or is strictly a continuation.


A lot of returning faces are headed for the graphic novel shelves, but some of them may still be brand-new to your patrons. Which new sequels can be devoured immediately, and which ones work best from book one? Our reviews evaluate each title on its own merits, including a verdict advising whether the title functions as a fresh start or is strictly a continuation.

Abdo, Dan & Jason Patterson. Barb and the Ghost Blade. illus. by Dan Abdo & Jason Patterson. 256p. (Barb the Last Berzerker: Bk. 2). S. & S. May 2022. Tr $13.99. ISBN 9781534485747.
Gr 3-7 –Barb and her fellow “zerks” (berserkers) have a lot of searching and battling to do if they are ever going to stop the shadowy Witch Head from summoning an army and destroying the land of Bailiwick. They will need more than swords and sorcery to fight the monsters on the way to and through the monster capital Maug Horn. Barb’s stake in the quest gets extra personal when her mother reaches out to her in a dream. Her berserker mode gets her out of some tight scrapes, as does her yeti sidekick. Training from an adult barbarian helps her level up as a warrior, though her wits and heart are no less important to surviving each trial before her. VERDICT Barb’s epic adventure combines the charming gags and story reversals of a Lewis Trondheim comic with the earnest boldness of Barry Deutsch’s “Hereville” series. Start at book one.

Battersby, Katherine. Party Animals. illus. by Katherine Battersby. 116p. (Cranky Chicken: Bk. 2). S. & S./Margaret K. McElderry. Jun. 2022. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9781534470217.
Gr 1-3 –Cranky Chicken, also known as a hangry Crankenstein, can still enjoy a good day with good friend Speedy the worm. Whether it’s Cranky’s birthday, a bus ride, or a day at the beach, Cranky has several (not insignificant) reasons to feel annoyed. However, Speedy is a resourceful friend, able to see the glass half full, and eventually, through sharing time together, convinces Cranky that some experiences can be enjoyable. The contrast between what Cranky knows to be unpleasant and Speedy imagines to be fun is demonstrated visually. Cranky’s lists of dislikes tend to occupy straight, organized panels, while Speedy’s flights of fancy defy boundaries. Battersby uses a variety of layouts and color combinations, as well as resident animals in each scene, to make each page distinct and attractive. VERDICT Cranky and Speedy’s outlooks will resonate with readers no matter which side of the bed they get up from. A great starting point.

Bitt, Nate. Robot Battle. illus. by Glass House Graphics. 144p. (Arcade World: Bk. 3). S. & S./Little Simon. May 2022. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781665904711; pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781665904704.
Gr 2-4 –Arcade World’s games continue to rule Normal City while Travis and Journey bring on a new player in this third series entry. Devonte, who is Black, draws suspicion from Journey and forms a quick friendship with Travis, but he has a secret tie to Arcade World. The invading video game theme this time involves robots from the future that the players battle from the cockpits of anime-inspired giant mecha. Journey’s suspicion over Devonte also serves as a window into how the continuous mischief of Arcade World is affecting the book’s stars. Robot action includes some humor over complicated controls as well as mecha flatulence. By the end, all three leads are heroic and even self-sacrificing in order to save one another. VERDICT The cast, themes, and style of the series expand without losing the friendship at its core. This series is best experienced from the beginning.

Deas, Mike & Nancy Deas. Hermit Hill. illus. by Mike & Nancy Deas. 192p. (Sueño Bay Adventures: Bk. 3). Orca. May 2022. pap. $14.95. ISBN 9781459831490.
Gr 3-7 –Sleeves is lonely at home and school, but a swarm of magical sprites lets him feel like a king for a day. His big sister, Jenna, is building a go-kart with friends, but she tends to dismiss him. With both parents out of the house all day, the runny-nosed Sleeves attaches to glowing, hoarding “hivers” that enjoy his company and make him feel wanted. A subplot involving a mysterious hermit character could leave readers pondering, but everything comes together in a thrilling, joyous conclusion. Deas’s expressive artwork includes the colorful landscapes and flora of Sueño Bay’s forests, from bright greens and yellows in the daytime to subdued blues and grays at night and in the rain. Atmospheric, wordless pages pack a huge punch in this book’s emotional communication. VERDICT The side effects of loneliness result in magic and danger in this satisfying, relatively self-contained third entry in the “Sueño Bay Adventures” series.

Durkin, Frances. A Greek Adventure. illus. by Grace Cooke. 88p. (Histronauts). Jolly Fish. Sept. 2022. pap. $11.99. ISBN 9781631636783.
Gr 2-6 –The Histronauts Luna, her cat Hero, Nani, and Newton take a trip through ancient Greece in this scenic guide packed with trivia and projects. The protagonists are point-of-view characters, with each section formatted to include comics-style introductions to significant locations, prose panels of facts and trivia, and a related activity or game. The comics portions are effective at demonstrating social norms. The book excels at tying Greek life to hands-on activities. Topics include theater, sports, games, government, houses, family life, food, alphabet, philosophy, weaving, pottery, education, mythology, and oral tradition. Readers learn how to make a mask; decorate a skyphos pot; prepare sesame, honey, and lentil foods; build a water-based timer; play the board game petteia; and weave yarn. VERDICT Somewhat of a time travel story but more of a standalone interactive travelogue that might turn young readers from fans of mythology into budding experts on Greek history and culture.

Fairgray, Richard. Have You Seen the Darkness? illus. by Richard Fairgray. 192p (Black Sand Beach: Bk. 3). Pixel+Ink. Jun. 2022. Tr $22.99. ISBN 9781645950912; pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781645950929.
Gr 3-7 –Dash and his friends use their brains to outsmart face-stealing monsters at Black Sand Beach. His dad, stepmom, and a dedicated monster hunter try to help, too. ­Humor brings everyone to life, as when Andy launches a cookie into his own mouth with a slingshot. Lighthearted touches make the creepy scenes even darker by contrast, which is especially true during two sequences that take place in an all-black nightmare setting. Fairgray’s use of perspective and detail lends power to the monsters, whether they crash through the foreground or slither a tentacle along the background. Body language and small gestures, like flicking a pencil into the ocean, carry a lot of weight. A sci-fi gadget the kids invent is used in creative ways. Stylized chapter pages that are repeated in reverse and negative colors maintain an unnerving atmosphere throughout. VERDICT The horrors become darker and more dangerous, but there are still chuckles to be found. Will work best starting from the first book.

Henry, Will. Are We Lost Yet?: Another Wallace the Brave Collection. illus. by Will Henry. 176p. (Wallace the Brave: Bk. 4). Andrews McMeel. May 2022. pap. $11.99. ISBN 9781524874728.
Gr 3-7 –Wallace and the neighborhood kids make their own fun in this nostalgic, outdoorsy slice of life. The setting for these brief episodes spans summer and autumn, complete with scenes during school and Halloween. Creative lettering controls the rhythm and pitch of dialogue that happens to be hilariously placed in each panel. Word balloons shrink, expand, stretch around, and change color. Overactive imaginations, discrete and blown-up sound effects, and messy games speak to the chaos of childhood. Kids look up toward a launched kickball for a full, silent panel before it bonks one of them in the head in the next. Getting in trouble for tossing a portly pumpkin off the roof of a school doesn’t mean they can’t smile about how fun it felt. Parents’ attempts to maintain order lead to their own dry humor. VERDICT Henry’s comedic timing and attention to detail on every page maximizes laughs for new and returning readers alike.

Holub, Joan & Suzanne Williams. Persephone the Phony Graphic Novel. adapt. by David Campiti. illus. by Glass House Graphics. 192p. (Goddess Girls Graphic Novel: Bk. 2). Aladdin. Feb. 2022. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781534473904; pap. $10.99. ISBN 9781534473898.
Gr 3-7 –Persephone learns to speak up for herself to her fellow immortal classmates and protective “chariot mother,” Demeter. After a prologue in which Demeter tells a very young Persephone to “go along to get along” in terms of playing games to make friends, tween Persephone has taken that advice to the extreme. She accepts whatever label her friends at Mount Olympus Academy apply to her, whether it’s assuming her interest in knitting or influencing her clothing and makeup. Hades, treated as an outcast, appreciates Persephone for who she really is, but her friends and Demeter interfere with their friendship. The cast is mostly white, though Persephone’s friend Artemis is Black. The use of the Greek pantheon, complete with mythological settings and creatures, meshes well with messages of self-confidence and autonomy. VERDICT Readers will learn assertiveness during Persephone’s journey from Olympus through the underworld and back in this self-contained story.

Holub, Joan & Suzanne Williams. Poseidon and the Sea of Fury Graphic Novel. adapt. by David Campiti. illus. by Glass House Graphics. 144p. (Heroes in Training Graphic Novel: Bk. 2). Aladdin. Feb. 2022. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781534481183; pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781534481176.
Gr 2-6 –The oracle Pythia’s flashback sets the stage for Cronus and his Titans’s battle against the gods. From there, young Poseidon, Zeus, and Hera are introduced mid-chase on the run from half-giants, and the story races forward at a breakneck pace. Zeus steals the show with his lightning powers and talking charm Chip who dispenses advice in pig latin. However, once they are sailing over a boiling ocean, dealing with sirens, sea monsters, and storms, Poseidon’s aquatic talents take center stage. The illustrations excel at giant splashes (pun intended) that make each set piece stand out. Hera contributes little to the adventure and is replaced by Hades midway through the story. An open cliff-hanger promises more mythological obstacles for our trio, as well as a follow-up with Hera. VERDICT Hand this to young readers who feel George O’Connor’s take on Greek mythology is too slow. Works on its own.

Knetzger, Laura. Bug Boys: Adventures and Daydreams. illus. by Laura Knetzger. 288p. (Bug Boys: Bk. 3). Random. May 2022. Tr $13.99. ISBN 9780593309520.
Gr 2-6 –Rhino-B and Stag-B visit fantastical venues both real and imagined in the most expansive volume yet of the “Bug Boys” series. The central bugs remain as curious, friendly, and in touch with their feelings and senses as ever, while their world is enormous and rich with detail above and below ground. They trade versions of a similar hero story with a dragonfly friend, with details shifting to fit the personality of each storyteller. Three separate aquatic communities are visited in a chapter stuffed with unique environmental features that startle the bug boys (and readers, no doubt) with their beauty and novelty. Another journey, this time underground, leads to the bug boys feeling grateful that they still have each other to lend perspective and company. “Our world got a lot bigger today. And it’s a nice feeling,” they say. Readers will agree. VERDICT The variety of warm personalities, as well as baked goods, create welcome bug-size tours of a world worth exploring repeatedly for new and returning readers.

Knisley, Lucy. Apple Crush. illus. by Lucy Knisley. 208p. (Peapod Farm: Bk. 2). Random. May 2022. Tr $20.99. ISBN 9780593125380; pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781984896872.
Gr 3-7 –Jen’s life is split between the environments of her mom’s farm and her dad’s residence in the city. Mom and her boyfriend have an outdoorsy lifestyle full of chores and hands-on learning. Dad’s life in the city is more about experiences and consumption (and the local bodega cat). Wherever she is, Jen leans on her dual loves of dragon fiction and illustration, especially now that her stepsister Andy has fallen for the new neighbor, Eddie. Between getting teased at a new school for her tastes and enduring all the couples around her at home, Jen struggles to belong. Knisley’s use of facial expressions and juxtaposition expertly signals tween characters’ unspoken feelings during awkward interactions. The story is packed with empathy for each character’s point of view. Readers will also pick up details about farming mushrooms, as well as making apple cider and apple cider donuts. VERDICT Readers looking for budding romance (or avoiding it altogether) will find characters to cheer in this autumn-themed follow-up that’s fine for new readers.

Pizzoli, Greg. Baloney and Friends: Dream Big! illus. by Greg Pizzoli. 96p. (Baloney & Friends: Bk. 3). Little, Brown. Feb. 2022. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9780316218559.
Gr 1-3 –This variety show of an early reader comics is big on laughs across all four of its leads. Each comic plays on their different personalities. In one story, Bizz is the only character not upset at negative reviews of their last book. In another, the cranky Krabbit makes a series of unfair money trades with the trusting Peanut that later backfire. The point of view shifts according to each story, especially when Bizz the bee’s relatively tiny face takes up entire panels. Everyone earns a laugh, as in the football story where all four leads cheer for a touchdown after Krabbit rants about sports. A particularly sweet story has to do with combining painted portraits in order to “complete” them. The resulting range of art styles is a nice touch from Pizzoli. The back matter includes a guide to folding and cutting a sheet of paper to make a mini book. VERDICT Early readers’ laughs will be as big as Baloney and his friends’ dreams from one scene to the next in this newbie-friendly variety show.

Platt, Jason. Middle School Misadventures: Dance Disaster. illus. by Jason Platt. 240p. (Middle School Misadventures: Bk. 3). Little, Brown. Apr. 2022. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9780759556621; pap. $12.99. ISBN 9780759556638.
Gr 4-8 –Newell’s life is turned upside down by the seemingly innocuous announcement of a school dance. A related jinx seems to curse every day leading up to the dance. Newell’s resistance to changes such as friends asking each other out to the dance and his newly dating father might be affecting his attitude, too. Platt specializes in the tween perspective, including insecurity around others dating and seeing teenagers as unrelatable zombies. Seemingly ordinary events in Newell’s life take on the visual and narrative significance of tall tales, from an epic bike jump to someone slipping in the cafeteria. Friends and schoolmates form a valuable supporting cast who don’t always understand him but are generally wholesome influences. The fairly tame subject matter is elevated by solid cartooning, such as when Newell sneaks around the edges of panels as he monologues about dodging his jinx. ­VERDICT Tweens will find themselves effortlessly involved in this mostly stand-alone story of a young man who must learn to accept change and find his own role within it.

Simpson, Dana. Unicorn Selfies: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure. illus. by Dana Simpson. 176p. (Phoebe and Her Unicorn: Bk. 15). Andrews McMeel. May 2022. pap. $11.99. ISBN 9781524871581.
Gr 3-7 –Phoebe and Marigold’s friendship is sparklier than ever, though Marigold’s sparkling family may have something to do with that. Across the mini-plots that occur through this latest set of four-panel punchlines, the two friends engage in the sort of gentle ribbing that is only possible over time. Establishing a clubhouse, doodling on class work, and reacting to internet opinions are all fodder for the pair’s sharp wits and Marigold’s magic powers. In the end, each topic circles back to the differences between humans and unicorns, which always leads to either a humorous or thoughtful reflection. Readers may find themselves looking for more information about computer pioneer Grace Hopper and U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes afterward. A glossary in the back provides definitions for potentially unfamiliar vocabulary. VERDICT The series’s central duo continue to share laughter, heartwarming friendship, and plenty new ideas for readers to think about. Best for familiar readers.

Smith, Zach. Eye of the Baloney Storm. illus. by Zach Smith. 224p. (Dolphin Girl: Bk. 2). Pixel+Ink. Jan. 2022. Tr $22.99. ISBN 9781645950196; pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781645950202.
Gr 3-7 –Dolphin Girl attempts to upstage a new, beloved superhero; save the Pizza Paradise hideout; and rescue the town from a deluge of bologna. She and sidekick Otter Boy look for dirt on the ever-popular Wonder Friend, only to discover more of his talents and accidentally sabotage his powers. Returning readers might have a head start on everyone else in making sense of the chaotic story. How many comics do you know that hinge on whether a middle-aged man dressed as a dugong can defeat an eyepatch-wearing villain dressed as a cow in a golf match while it’s raining bologna? Smith’s sense of humor begs for hilarious voice acting, whether out loud or in readers’ heads. The visual punchlines land too, such as when the heroes completely miss their triumphant high-five, or when a man’s head pops in disbelief then grows back over the course of a page. VERDICT Madcap absurdity drives several jokes per page that will feel like home to young “Bob’s Burgers” fans. Starting at the beginning is in order.

Thomas Maluck, Richland Lib., SC

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