3 comics to read in May: Grappling with a changing world
Time feels broken in quarantine, but we are indeed one week into a new month. The distribution problems plaguing the comic industry are still in effect as coronavirus lockdown continues across the United States, so this month's recommendation list is once again going to be a bit shorter than usual. The good news is that most comic publishers (including Image, Marvel, and DC) have announced plans to return to more normal distribution starting in June.
For now, here's our roundup of three comics to read in May.
Stepping Stones (Random House Graphic)
Lucy Knisley (writer/artist)
This column tends to recognize a lot of comics featuring mind-blowing sci-fi or colorful superhero action, but it’s just as important to remember that the format is particularly good at telling slice-of-life stories that get inside kids’ heads. Stepping Stones is a fantastic example of this kind of storytelling, focusing on a young girl named Jen whose parents’ divorce is followed by an even more frustrating move to farm country. Faced with a stepfather who’s all smiles and condescending orders, stepsisters who are talented in all the areas Jen falters in, and a mom whose desire for her daughter to grow up surrounded by nature has become tangled in several other threads, Jen learns to embrace her burgeoning artistic skills to figure out her place in the world. In between heartwarming moments, Knisley (whose previous graphic novels include French Milk and Kid Gloves) isn’t afraid to dive into the emotional tornado of kids going through life changes, making Stepping Stones a cathartic and relatable read both for young people currently experiencing it and those who remember doing so.
Stepping Stones is available now from booksellers.
Superman Smashes the Klan (DC)
Gene Luen Yang (writer), Gurihiru (artist)
One of the most famous and impactful Superman stories of all time didn’t even take place in the pages of a comic book. Back in 1946, the radio serial The Adventures of Superman did a story line called “Clan of the Fiery Cross." This saga pitted the Man of Steel against barely disguised stand-ins for the Ku Klux Klan, dealing a major blow to the Klan’s national reputation and recruitment. Perhaps you read about this story in Freakonomics, or watched the Drunk History episode about it. Strangely enough, it took more than seven decades for the story to appear in comic form — but the adaptation by Gene Luen Yang and Gurihiru, soon available in collected edition, is well worth the wait.
Yang centers the story on the Asian-American Lee family, bringing to life the myriad ways that people can find themselves persecuted by hate groups like the KKK — er, the Clan of the Fiery Cross. Gurihiru’s art pays tribute to the ‘40s fashion that listeners of the original radio broadcast would have been wearing, while also creating a timeless aesthetic. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more uplifting superhero read these days, and a reminder that comics can sometimes change minds — and therefore the world.
Superman Smashes the Klan publishes May 12.
Youth (Comixology Originals)
Curt Pires (writer), Alex Diotto & Dee Cunniffe (artists)
Comixology is a platform for reading comics online, which has become particularly useful when brick-and-mortar comic stores are shut down. But like so many digital platforms these days, Comixology is also producing its own original content. The latest comic from the Comixology Originals line is Youth, which lives up to its evocative title in many ways. It's a story about two young queer men who decide to hit the road to escape their dead-end job and overbearing stepfather (respectively), and find soon find themselves in a world of drugs, parties, frantic escapes from the police, and most importantly, superpowers.
Comixology is also experimenting with comic releases. The first four issues, or "season," of Youth will become available on the site on a weekly basis. A second season is already greenlit, and Youth is also in development as a TV series at Amazon.
Youth #1 hits Comixology on May 12.