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Debut YA Graphic Novels – Fall 2023

On October 19, the CBC Graphic Novel Committee presented their graphic novels at a debut YA Buzz Panel. Watch the video today and find here the great books recommended by the panel.

Blackward, by Lawrence Lindell (Drawn & Quarterly)

Black, weird, awkward, and proud of it. Welcome to the club! Tired of feeling like you don’t belong? Join the club. It’s called the Section. You’d think a spot to chill, chat, and find community would be much easier to come by for nerdy, queer punks. But when four longtime, bookish BFFs—Lika, Amor, Lala, and Tony—can’t find what they need, they take matters into their own hands and create a space where they can be a hundred percent who they are: Black, queer, and weird. The group puts a call out for all awkward Black folks to come on down to the community center to connect. But low attendance and IRL run-ins with trolls of all kinds only rock everybody with anxiety. As our protagonists start to question the merits of their vision, a lifetime of insecurities—about not being good enough or Black enough—bubbles to the surface. Will they find a way to turn it around in time for their radical brainchild, the Blackward Zine Fest? Lawrence Lindell’s characters pop from the page in playful Technicolor. From mental health to romance, micro—and macro—aggressions to joy, our crew tackles everything life throws at them in this heartwarming tale about building a place to belong and the power of community.

Malcolm Kid and the Perfect Song, by Austin Paramore; illustrated by Marika Cresta; lettered by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou (Oni Press)

What does the perfect song sound like? Normally, Malcolm Kid wouldn’t give this type of question the time of day. As a straight-B student with a heart of copper, he is far more concerned with overcoming mediocrity than he is with achieving perfection. But that all changes when he stumbles across the LK-2000—a strange keyboard cursed with the soul of an old jazz musician. Malcolm soon learns that the only way to free this musician’s soul is by performing the perfect song. With much hesitation, and the help of his lifelong friend January Young, Malcolm embarks on a musical journey across the city of New Bronzeville in the hopes of discovering the perfect song and finding himself as a musician along the way.

Confetti Realms, by Nadia Shammas; illustrated by Karnessa; colored by Hackto Oshiro; lettered by Micah Meyers (Mad Cave Studios / Maverick)

On Halloween night, when the moon is full, teenagers get up to mischief. But when an encounter with a giant, sentient puppet in a graveyard sends five teens to a mysterious dimension called the Confetti Realms, they must overcome obstacles in their own friendships–and collect the debted teeth owed to the puppet–in order to make their way home. But the allure of staying in a fantasy world is a hard one to beat, and going home to their normal lives is starting to sound less and less appealing for some. Will these friends return home?

The Faint of Heart, written and illustrated by Kerilynn Wilson (HarperCollins Children’s Books / Greenwillow Books)

What would you do if you were the only person left with a heart? The only person left who felt anything at all? Would you give in to the pressure to conform? Or would you protect your heart at all costs? Part Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and part Severance, this debut teen graphic novel is a vivid and haunting read for fans of Nimona and This One Summer.

Arcade Kings, by Dylan Burnett with Walter Baiamonte and Sara Antonellini (Skybound Entertainment)

For fans of Murder Falcon, Invincible, and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, comes the first creator-owned series from writer/artist Dylan Burnett (Cosmic Ghost Writer, Ant-Man). Joe, a mysterious new face in Infinity City, has suddenly become the hottest new player at the Round House arcade. Anyone can challenge him, but no one can win. Joe’s secret past is about to catch up to him when his most formidable challenge yet rolls into town, forcing Joe to combo his powers with a joystick, his fists… and his fighting family legacy!

Vern: Custodian of the Universe, by Tyrell Waiters (NoBrow)

A thought-provoking and hilarious romp through time and space from debut creator Tyrell Waiters that explores what it means to be human in a world fraught with uncertainty. On the edge of burnout, Vern decides to return to his family in the Sunshine State to start over. Starting a new dead-end job as a custodian at Quasar—a local science facility with a shady motive—he shrugs on his uniform, grabs a mop and bucket, and trudges off to clean up… Black holes? Space-time anomalies? Galactic ooze? Things aren’t entirely what they seem at Quasar, and when Vern accidentally plugs in a mysterious machine and finds himself standing on the brink of the destruction of every planet in the Multiverse, he’s presented with the greatest question of all: what is the point? Fans of Ben Passmore’s personal and political comics—as well as classic sci-fi comedies like Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Rick and Morty—will enjoy this world of hyper fantasy with a touch of humor, as told by a Black creator.

Hidden Systems, by Dan Nott (Random House Graphic)

We use water, electricity, and the internet every day–but how do they actually work? And what’s the plan to keep them running for years to come? This nonfiction science graphic novel takes readers on a journey from how the most essential systems were developed to how they are implemented in our world today and how they will be used in the future. What was the first message sent over the internet? How much water does a single person use every day? How was the electric light invented? For every utility we use each day, there’s a hidden history–a story of intrigue, drama, humor, and inequity. This graphic novel provides a guided tour through the science of the past–and reveals how the decisions people made while inventing and constructing early technology still affect the way people use it today. Full of art, maps, and diagrams, Hidden Systems is a thoughtful, humorous exploration of the history of science and what needs to be done now to change the future.

Soul Beat, by Morganne Walker and Saturday AM (The Quarto Group / Rockport Publishers)

Dante Alfonse is a promising boxer who’s more than capable of taking on any opponent, inside or outside of the ring. Whether it’s a bully in his neighborhood or even stopping a robbery, he’s quick to step in and hold down his city. Of course, when your name means “to endure,” being an unstoppable force for good comes naturally! But sometimes, good deeds attract unwanted attention…Such is the case when Dante tries to defend his friend and mentor, Ben, from being killed by the worst person imaginable: the Devil himself! Now targeted by the forces of evil for his interference, Dante must use the knowledge his mentor left him and hone his newfound spiritual powers, not only to save his own life but to destroy the Devil before more lives are ruined. To his surprise, he’s not alone. A centuries-long feud between Heaven and Hell begins to surface in the Mortal World, and both sides have their reasons for wanting Dante on their side of the fight. Caught in the crossfire, he’ll have to figure out which side he’s on, uncover the truth surrounding his mentor’s mysterious past, and ultimately show the afterlife what it really means to have a soul!

Voyage De Gourmet, by Paul Tobin, Jem Milton, and Micah Meyers (Mad Cave Studios / Maverick)

Layne Green is a social media cooking sensation–and so is his best friend, Jang-Mi Pipper. When their friendship ends over Layne’s actions, he assumes that that’s the end. But Jang-Mi chooses him as her teammate in Voyage de Gourmet–a globe-trotting cooking competition. Will the two be able to rekindle their flavorful friendship? Or has this duo lost their taste–and their way?

Ava’s Demon Book One: Reborn, by Michelle Fus (Skybound Entertainment)

A pact is made… When a young, shy girl named Ava discovers that the demon who haunts her is actually the spirit of an ancient alien queen named Wrathia, the two form a powerful pact—in exchange for a better life, Ava must help Wrathia seek revenge against TITAN, the god-like being who destroyed her empire. To aid in the fight, Ava must first assemble Wrathia’s most trusted warriors along with their host lifeforms. The only problem is, she doesn’t know how to find them. Renowned author Michelle Fus presents their groundbreaking YA webcomic in graphic novel format for the very first time.

Watch the full panel today!

Check out our previous post on Debut Middle-Grade Graphic Novels.

Learn more about the CBC Graphic Novel Committee.

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