The Official “I Read Comics Summer Challenge” Recommendation List!
You’re reading our adult & teen recommendations! For ages 8-12, click here.
If you want to participate in our I Read Comics Summer Challenge but aren’t sure where to begin, look no further. The BB staff collected 3 picks for EACH number of the challenge! Keep scrolling to get some awesome reccomendations.
1. Read a comic by a local author
Solace County vol. 1 by J. Marshall Smith
The warmth, clarity of purpose and spaciousness in this collection of comics and art is indeed solace. Plus, there’s humor. I would recommend this title for anyone who is a fan of graphic memoirs, authentic voices, and behind-the-scenes look at creators’ processes.
Where Black Stars Rise by Marie Enger and Nadia Shammas
Where Black Stars Rise
is a cosmic Eldritch horror retelling of The King in Yellow
that feels contemporary and original, resulting in a twisting tale about diaspora and mental health. The art, done by St. Louis-based creator Marie Enger is the perfect style for this sharp, shocking story.
The Remnants by Noah Jodice
Following the life of a mushroom collector in space, this comic is about questioning your work and the ethics and politics of what you’re doing. This story has a lovely narrative with an open ending, which really embraces the reality of growth and change taking time. The color and art style is great!
2. Read a graphic biography, memoir, or other nonfiction
On Tyranny by Timothy Snyder and Nora Krug
uses historic events and movements to create recommendations on resisting authoritarianism in our current times. From examining language and symbols to properly researching, this book uses an incredible art style that becomes beautiful and engaging throughout the whole story. A wonderful book and message about actively engaging and shaping our communities.
Big Black: Stand at Attica by Frank “Big Black” Smith and Jared Reinmuth Ameziane
If you’ve read March
and have been yearning for more graphic nonfiction thoughtfully depicting true stories of anti-racist resistance, this is a great pick for you. It tells the story of the four-day inmate uprising at Attica State Prison and Frank “Big Black” Smith, the man who found himself in the center of it all. Smith himself co-wrote the book, and the product is an impactful recounting of a moment in recent history we should all know about.
Accidental Czar by Andrew S Weiss and illustrated by Brian Box Brown
In Accidental Czar
, Andrew S. Weiss, a former White House Russia expert, and Brian “Box” Brown show how Putin has successfully cast himself as a cunning, larger-than-life political mastermind–and how the rest of the world has played into the Kremlin’s hands by treating him as one. They shatter all of these myths and expose the man behind the façade.
3. Read a comic by an author of color
Heart Takes the Stage: A Heart of the City Collection by Steenz
Local cartoonist alert! Heart Lamarr is a girl with big dreams who lives in Philadelphia with her single mom. She has her sights set on a life of theater, but she runs into plenty of drama off-stage, too. This collection of comics can be read independently from page to page, while also unfolding into a larger narrative about Heart and her friends. It’s perfect for a summer read, with the next collection Lost and Found
Witchy vol. 1 by Ariel Ries
Queer, Asian witches, a super creative magic system, and gorgeous art – what more could you want?! Witchy
takes place in the kingdom of Hyalin, where the strength of your magic is determined by the length of your hair, and where those with hair too long are deemed enemies of the kingdom. Our protagonist is a fledgling witch named Nyneve who must conceal the immense length of her hair, until confronted with choices that will change the trajectory of her life forever.
Hot Comb by Ebony Flowers
A collection of short stories that considers class, race, and identity told through Black women’s experiences with hair care. This book is excellent, but please note for those who have vision impairment that the hand lettering can be difficult to read.
4. Read a banned comic
Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe
In this biography, Maia shares eir feelings on gender that have developed with em throughout different relationships and experiences in life. This book is part relatable memoir, part existential questioning, but throughout it runs a thread of gentleness, love, and curiosity to the younger versions of ourselves as we learn how to best be who we are.
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
is a bonafide modern classic in the comics world, and despite that, we don’t sell many copies at BB’s! There couldn’t be a better time to read about Satrapi’s first-hand account of growing up in Tehran during the Islamic revolution, whether because book bannings are at an all-time high, the plight of Iranian women has recently taken center stage in world news, or just because it’s an amazing work.
Check Please! by Ngozi Ukazus
A warm, funny story of a pie baking, ice hockey playing, who navigates his freshman year in college all while dealing with his very crabby, but very cute team captain.
5. Read a manga
She Loves to Cook, and She Loves to Eat by Sakaomi Yuzaki
Cooking is how Nomoto de-stresses, but one day, she finds herself making way more than she can eat by herself. So she invites her neighbor Kasugato to eat with her. This is a great slow burn between two women as they learn the power that good food has. The story is sweet, realistic, and natural, filled with amazing food that will leave you craving a delicious meal.
Talk to My Back by Yamada Murasaki
If you’re new to manga and a bit hesitant, Talk to My Back
is an ideal place to start. The story of a housewife in 1980s Japan, and how through motherhood and marriage she’s slowly losing her sense of self, this book has no stereotypically “anime-ish” frills. The only hurdle you need to overcome is reading right-to-left, and we believe you can do it!
Mao (And More!) by Rumiko Takahashi
One of the all time mangaka, and Rumiko is a rare woman in the field. If you haven’t tried it yet, I recommend Mao,
which takes the adventure and unlikely team-up dynamic from Inuyasha
but matures it with more horror elements a la Mermaid Saga
. If you’re a romantic comedy type, I recommend Maison Ikkoku.
6. Read an LGBTQ+ comic
Mimosa by Archie Bongiovanni
This book gets into all the ways found queer families can be just as messy and complicated as members of said family age! It follows several best friends as they struggle with things like divorce, parenthood, career crises, and more. For a relatable and funny but impactful read, look no further.
Stone Fruit by Lee Lai
This tender and melancholy story follows the crumbling relationship of two women and how their subsequent escapes into their respective families unearths parts of themselves they’ve yet to confront. Stone Fruit
is deeply relatable and so full of love despite the sad nature of parts of the story.
Chef’s Kiss by Jarrett Melendez and art by Danica Brine
Enjoy the sweet treat that is this new adult, queer graphic novel! Ben Cook just graduated from college and is on the hunt for his first job. Getting a job is harder than he thinks, and he jumps at a temp job in a restaurant kitchen. When things heat up with one of his co-workers, and Ben finds his life plan beginning to change. This one is a great read-alike for Heartstopper
and Check Please
. It also won quite a few awards this season!
7. Read a comic that’s been adapted into a TV show or movie
Nimona by N.D. Stevenson
Nimona is a spunky shapeshifting sidekick to Lord Blackheart, the nemesis of the law enforcement agency of knights. But when Nimona starts becoming too much to handle, it’s hard to tell who’s really in charge. Follow along the messy journey of growing up and trying to destroy cities in the process with this lovely adventure comic. The story was picked up by Netflix to become a movie being released in June 2023!
Locke and Key by Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodriguez
In 2020, this amazing horror series was adapted into a depressingly mediocre Netflix show that somehow sapped all the intrigue and oomph from the original tale. Suffice it to say, stick to the books with this one. What you’ll get is a fantastic mystery with well-placed scares, memorable characters, and a core story that’s ultimately about family and love.
Spy X Family by Tatsuya Endo
This is a fun, action-packed comedy about a fake family that includes a spy, an assassin and a telepath. As far as mangas go, it is a manageable level of horniness, so you won’t feel like you’re back in middle school. But it’s still a bit of a romp and perfect to read for summer before catching up on the anime.
8. Read a new summer release
Cosmoknights book 2 by Hannah Templer
For this ragtag band of space gays, liberation means beating the patriarchy at its own game. This book is set in a galaxy where princesses are won like prizes in sporting-event jousts. Even though the public loves to rally around the competitions, there are some in the shadows working on its downfall. While being deeply political, the story is also lovely and fun, with great characters and relationships.
Anais Nin: A Sea of Lies by Léonie Bischoff
Warning! This book is only for ages 18 and up! It follows a small portion of famed writer Anais Nin’s life and affairs. The vivid illustrations gorgeously depict scenes inside Anais’s mind and outside her body, handling extremely difficult situations with care. (Trigger warning for some very dark sexual themes, including mention of childhood sexual assault.)
Juliette by Camille Jourdy
A young woman travels to her small hometown for a relaxing summer visit, and finds it anything but. Enjoy the dramedy while savoring the gorgeous watercolor illustrations that Jourdy is known for.
9. Read a trade comic
Wait, what is a trade comic anyway? In traditional comics publishing, like DC, Marvel, Image, etc., comics are initially released as “single issues,” which is a fancy way of describing what’s more or less a chapter. A “trade” is a paperback compiling several–usually five, but occasionally more–of these single-issue comics from the same story, comprising one complete “volume.” So basically, this number is challenging you to dip your toe into more “traditional” comics! Not all are superheroes, don’t worry.
The Many Deaths of Laila Star by Ram V
Humanity is on the verge of discovering immortality, which means the avatar of Death is out of a job… or is she? As a result of being fired, the avatar of Death is cast down to Earth to live a mortal life in Mumbai as twenty-something Laila Starr. How does a god make sense of life and mortality after a lifetime of overseeing the dead? And will she destroy the person destined to unlock the secret to immortality? Pick up this gorgeous comic for an amazing take on the meaning of life and the importance of death.
Bitter Root by David F. Walker, Chuck Brown, and Sanford Greene
Image has become known for publishing off-kilter and bold comics, as compared to DC and Marvel, and while some series like Saga and The Walking Dead have become legendary, titles like Bitter Root still remain underrated. This fantastic series follows a once-great monster-hunting family in 1920s Harlem, who have to dust off their skills in the face of a new threat. Throw in past family tragedy, institutional racism, and the generational trauma that results from it, and you’ve got the makings of a stellar story.
Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow by Tom King and art by Bilquis Evely
A fave of Colin’s, this character-defining sci-fi/fantasy masterpiece tells the story of Super Girl’s identity crisis and subsequent mission of vengeance. This trade was named one of NLPL’s best books for adults in 2022, and was named by James Gunn as a major influence for his new set of DC films.
10. Read a book from another local bookstore
It’s so important now more than ever to support as many local bookstores as you can. To finish up the Summer Challenge, read any book (doesn’t have to be a comic!) from another local shop.
Not sure where to go? Here’s a handy list of all the indie bookstores in the Midwest!
Happy Summer reading!