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In the summer of 2019, I read Wanderers (an amazing book) when it was still fiction.  In it, Chuck Wendig weaves a sprawling story filled with plagues and politics that was eerily prescient for the events that would hit us in 2020.  Thankfully, I was able to enjoy this book from the safety of precedented times. I’m never sure I can responsibility recommend it during The Unprecedence.

But maybe I still can. Since the pandemic began, many folks have flocked to apocalypse and plague fiction.  Some surely sought it out for solace (the fictional folks have it worse than us, right?  RIGHT?).  Others sought it out for the pain, much like when we push on a bruise to see if it still hurts.  Perhaps still others searched for answers in the fiction; maybe there are some helpful hints to be mined to help survive the reality we’re living in. There are likely many reasons I can’t even fathom because fear and trauma makes us humans unpredictable.

Whatever the reason(s), these stories have continued to be very popular, in a time when it feels like we’re living through our own version of the Apocalypse.  For those looking for stories of the END of things, for stories of the After-times, for stories of humans fucking everything up, comics offer us many Apocalypses to explore (not even including the actual Marvel character of Apocalypse. If you are looking for him, the X-men comics are the place to go).  Here are some of my recent favorites:

Marvel’s Dark Ages is a new limited series about what happens when the Marvel Universe is unmade.   There is an enemy buried with the earth.  An enemy that that the Avengers, the X-men, and every other superhero known on Earth cannot defeat. Not Thor, not Iron Man, not Dr. Strange, not even Wanda. The heroes have incredibly and thoroughly lost.  And as a result, the Earth is left dark.  What now? I adored the first issue of this comic and can’t wait to see where it goes.

What happens if fictional superheroes and villains come to life and battle it out in the real world?  In Cross Over, what happens is total destruction.  That is, until a superhero creates a dome over the city of Denver, Colorado.  Anyone outside or inside are trapped.  The dome keeps people out and supers in.  Or does it?  This comic is extremely meta and very funny.

Eve grew up in a virtual reality simulation, unaware that she was really trapped in a pod until it was her turn to save the world.  When it finally is her time, she wakes up to a planet of zombies and a flooded landscape.  Alone except for her robot protector (disguised as a teddy bear) she must find the clues to save the world and the few remaining people left. This comic keeps you guessing and has a lot of important (timely) messages about environmental issues.

In Bubble, based on the podcast of the same name, Earth overrun with aliens.  Humans live in Fairhaven, a bubble set up to keep them isolated from the monsters.  But the monsters still get in, with concerning (and surprising) regularity.  So monster-hunters are in high demand.  Kids who grew up outside the bubble are enlisted to use their hard-earned survival skills to help the community.  They sign up for an Uber-esque social media app.  Hilariously funny and a great social commentary about social media, capitalism and government corruption.

In We Live the Earth is overrun by a group of genetically-modified, psychedelically-colored animals.  Humans can’t survive anymore and their extinction is a matter of time.   A select group of children are given a bracelet that allows them access to the ships escaping the Earth.  But they need to make it safely to the extraction point.  Tala needs to get her brother Hototo there no matter what (and there is a lot of What to be dealt with).  The art is this comic is beautiful, vibrant, and creepy. 

In Skyward the Earth has lost a significant portion of its gravity.  The rich have figured out ways around this using their money and their power, while the poor must squeak by as best they can.  There is a real danger of flying off into the atmosphere, but Willa doesn’t care.  She’s fearless and reckless and fierce.  She has never really known gravity.  But then she stumbles upon some inconvenient truths about how the low-gravity happened and how it (maybe?) can be fixed.  So she has to leave her home and survive obstacles (like giant bugs) to find the truth.   Giant bugs. I’m not sure what else I need to say.

Like in many other dystopian stories, in Origins humans have created their own extinction; human technology evolved into a tech-virus that kills or corrupts all living beings and replaces them with a networked AI.  It’s been 1,000 years and the only survivors are androids and one human – David.  But who is he and why is he the only one left? Even he doesn’t know, but he needs to find out before the AI finds him.  The art in this comic is as unnerving as the story. 

The Unfortunates were born without any luck into a world of chaos created by the powers of Good Luck and Bad Luck.  In their world Luck is a resource that can be measured and hoarded and distributed.  But the Unfortunates never have any Luck. These five kids have been training for years so that they can be unleashed directly into the chaos to restore everything to normal.  Except without luck, there is quantifiably no chance they will succeed.  But they try anyway. After having read issue #3, I’m still not sure I know what’s going on, but I’m invested. Artie and his Unfortunate friends are the ultimate underdogs. They literally can’t win.

What to do if the entire MULTIVERSE is at stake? Well, in Commanders in Crisis, you steal the best of the best from other multiverses to help. Until they figure out that something weird is afoot and they stop helping. And what if Empathy itself is murdered, what then? This comic will make your head spin a bit, but in a good way.  Like a glass to many of champagne. It’s silly, it’s raunchy, it’s sexy it’s snarky. Thoroughly enjoyable.

For those of us who are crowd-averse introverts, or those of us still lurking on the sidelines because of the pandemic, Pride may look a little quieter this year. And that’s ok, there are still many ways to celebrate besides parades and parties. In my experience, the best way to be with people without actually being with people is definitely to indulge in some really good books. So whether you are a proud member of the community or a supportive ally, here is a list of 30 LGBTQIA+ books to celebrate Pride Month.

Comics and Graphic Novels

  • Joyride (volumes 1-3) by Jackson Lanzing (teen)
  • Valor (volumes 1&2) by Fairylogue Press (teen)
  • Cosmoknights by Hannah Templer (teen)
  • Paper Girls (volumes 1-6) by Brian K. Vaughan (teen)
  • Fence (volumes 1-3) by C.S. Pacat (teen)
  • Always Human by Ari North (teen)
  • Isola (volumes 1&2) by Brenden Fletcher (*adult*)
  • Commanders in Crisis (volume 1) by Steve Orlando (*adult*)
  • Heathen (volumes 1-3) by Natasha Alterici (*adult*)

Memoirs and Essays

  • Leaving Isn’t the Hardest Thing by Lauren Hough
  • One Life by Megan Rapinoe
  • We are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby
  • Here For It by R. Eric Thomas
  • Tomboyland by Melissa Faliveno

Young Adult Fiction

  • Cemetery boys by Aiden Thomas
  • Aristotle And Dante Discover The Secrets Of The Universe (series) by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
  • Call Down The Hawk (series) by Maggie Stiefvater
  • Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust
  • Every Heart a Doorway Every Heart A Doorway (series) by Seanan McGuire
  • Shades of Magic (series) by V.E. Scwab

Adult Fiction

  • Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente
  • The Sleeper And The Spindle by Neil Gaiman
  • The Ruthless Lady’s Guide To Wizardry by C. M. Waggoner
  • This Is How You Lose The Time War by Amal El-Mohtar, Max Gladstone
  • The Song Of Achilles by Madeline Miller
  • Magic For Liars by Sarah Gailey

Middle Grade Fiction

  • The Tea Dragon Society (series) by K. O’Neill
  • Cattywampus by Ash Van Otterloo
  • Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger
  • Princess Princess Ever After by K. O’Neill

When I was a girl, growing up in the 1980’s, I was definitely not encouraged to read comics. To be fair, even many boys (then, as now) were often discouraged from reading them.  It wasn’t considered “real” reading (spoiler alert:  it is ).  Thankfully that idea is finally changing (however slowly).  It wasn’t until I was in my 20’s, at the insistence of our very own Jesse, that I went to a comic book shop for the first time.  Even with the moral support, it was hard not to be overwhelmed.  Without a lifetime of comic reading under my belt, I felt like they were speaking a language I couldn’t decipher.  And even in the early aughts, there wasn’t a crowd of women in the shop.  I latched onto the Origin limited series, since I was a huge fan of Wolverine, but nothing else ever stuck with me.

It wasn’t until my daughter was old enough to read that it finally clicked for me.  Again, thanks to Jesse, who, when asked for recommendations, sent me graphic novels for both my kids from his bookstore.  They loved them.  I loved them.  We wanted more.  Fortunately, our new interest coincided with what would turn out to be the advent of a surge in middle-grade graphic novel publishing.  It was a veritable explosion.

In searching for feminist stories for my daughters (and honestly, I didn’t have to search too long), I easily found a swath of diverse characters, LBGTQ representation, protagonists of color,  subverted gender stereotypes, and fairy tale tropes turned on their heads.  I was looking for stories written by women, for women, with female heroes and female-centric story arcs.  And they were EVERYWHERE.  More important, they were NEW.  No one else had the advantage of history.  I didn’t feel behind the times.  I felt, for once in my life, on the cutting edge. I could go into the comic book shop and ask for the new release.  And I did, with such regularity that the shop guys now know me by name (full disclosure: at first I was ‘that women who’s always in here buying comics for herself and graphic novels for her kids’).  I’m still one of only a handful of women who frequent the shop.

So ladies, girls, fellow feminists, if you are curious and don’t know where to start, I’ve compiled a list of recommendations below. The list could be longer, but these are my absolute favorites.  I am inclined toward the fantasy genre as you will see. I’ve left off superheroes, even though I’m a huge fan, because their backstories and history can be intimidating.  I’ve noted the trade paperback volumes, which have past issues compiled, though some of these are ongoing and you can get in new issue form once you’ve caught up. Others are limited release and all the issues are out (and compiled in a trade paperback) already.

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Jessica’s Reading

Jesse’s Reading

Jesse and Jessica are Both Reading

Devin’s Reading