One of our specialties here at Betty’s Books is helping people of all ages get started with comics, graphic novels, and manga. If you’re new or shopping for a newbie in your life, the New to Comics! Series of posts is for you. This post features recommendations for readers new to comics who are younger teens, which we are defining here as 14+.
Thanks to the recent DC movies, many readers are already familiar with the character Harley Quinn, but the next book in our lineup shows a different side to Harley, or should we say Harleen. In Harley Quinn Breaking Glass, written by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Steve Pugh, we follow our protagonist as a teen struggling with poverty, her parents’ divorce and subsequent absence, and the impending gentrification of her neighborhood. When faced with the decision to join her best friend Ivy in campaigning to save the neighborhood, or the Joker, who prefers more drastic measures, what will Harleen do?
You’ve likely heard of Wonder Woman, but have you heard of her hero twin sister, Nubia? In this fresh and modern take on the decades-old character, Nubia, despite her hero-like strength and abilities, is typically seen more as a threat than a savior because of her race. Still, Nubia can’t resist acting on her heroic instincts even when it lands her in hot water, and when her best friend Quisha is in trouble, Nubia finds herself willing to risk everything to help her.
When Will’s brother Shawn is shot and killed, Will does what he’s supposed to, according to The Rules of his neighborhood: don’t cry, don’t snitch, and do get revenge. But in his attempts to comply with the third rule, Will encounters other victims of brutality and begins to expose the inner workings of cyclical violence. Ultimately, Will must make a decision: to go through with it or not?
New York Times Bestseller and winner of multiple literary awards, This One Summer by cousins Mariko and Jillian Tamaki is the perfect place for a reader looking to start reading graphic literature. The down-to-earth story follows young teens Rosie and Windy, friends who spend every summer together when Rosie’s family makes their annual trip to Awago Beach. This particular summer, however, throws more at the girls than ever before, and the pair find themselves confronting things they’ve never dealt with. Full of mystery, heartbreak, and catharsis, this coming-of-age story feels simultaneously specific and universal.
Noelle Stevenson takes on some of the most classic fantasy tropes and subverts them left and right in her smash hit comic Nimona. The titular character seeks out supervillain Lord Ballister Blackheart and attempts to become his apprentice, to which the warlock begrudgingly agrees after learning of her shapeshifting abilities. Expertly infusing non-stop humor with little bursts of character development and tension, Stevenson weaves a hilarious tale of friendship, adventure, and twists on the types of heroes most fantasy tales lift up. Join Nimona and Blackheart on their quest to take down the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics if you dare!
This intergalactic tale featuring car-loving aliens Lupe Impala, El Chavo Flapjack, and Elirio Malaria is the perfect way to introduce readers to non-traditional comic art styles like the beautiful work of illustrator Raúl the Third. He and author Cathy Camper take you through space along with our three heroes as they enter a contest to turn a junker into the coolest low-rider in the universe. Join our protagonists on their quest and learn about the Spanish language and science to boot! ¡Vamos!
A list of accessible comics for beginners in the graphic literature world would be incomplete without a webcomic, and we feel that Alice Oseman’s delightful gay high school love story, Heartstopper, is the perfect choice. The ongoing plot follows Charlie, a gay student at an all-boys British high school and his classmate Nick, who he soon develops feelings for. As their relationship evolves, the two boys find themselves dealing with all kinds of teen drama, mental health struggles, and obstacles as a couple. Heartfelt and delicate in its handling of some heavier issues, this online story is perfect for newcomers to the comics medium. Read it here.
Renowned comic author Gene Luen Yang turns the comic spotlight onto himself in this personal look at his own past and present. Little Gene never understood the appeal of sports, an opinion carried into his adult life. But now as a grown-up, this particular hold-up is challenged as The Dragons, the boys’ basketball team at the high school he works at, inch closer and closer to winning the California State Championships. The further they get, the more Gene learns about the young players and about himself.