Here are three telling incidents that occurred when I was 14 years old: During a Drama Club rehearsal, I was talking to a boy named Simon when I realized I was staring way too much at his lips; around the same time, I noticed how much time I was spending comparing the physiques of different Supermen; and then not long after I woke from a dream that the Olympic men’s swimming team needed my help finding their way to the pool.
All three of these incidents occurred at least two years before I was willing to consider the possibility that I might be gay, which is why Times I Knew I Was Gay is such a relatable comic. Also tapping into some deeply potent nostalgia in our comic book round-up this week are some comic books involving '80s toy commercials, a book all about wanting desperately to be popular at an age when you are at your most awkward, and a throwback to Norse gods. Read on for the latest best new comic book releases, selected in partnership with our friends at Phoenix Comics:
Put this book on your reading list now, and also on your holiday shopping list for all the queer teens in your life. (And if you do not have teen queers in your life, are you even living?) A wonderful memoir, it began as a zine that creator Eleanor Crewes stitched by hand and delivered to comic shops on her bike. It’s not hard to see why it took off: It’s a funny, confessional reflection on moments in the author's life when she confronted and struggled with identity, from having complex feelings about Willow on Buffy; to her awkward attempts at dating boys who liked the same anime she did; to coming out of the closet four or five times before it really stuck. It is an intensely relatable and at times eye-opening portrait of befuddling queerness, given additional intimacy by Crewes’ sketchy pencil art and the book’s wonderfully rough paper (seldom do I rave about the paper on which a book is printed but this one just feels wonderful to the touch).
Back in 2017, Neil Gaiman released an adaptation of Norse myths that was probably the most exciting page-turner that I read all year—I guess there’s a reason those stories have endured for a thousand years. The new comic book adaptation with P. Craig Russell is similarly a thing of great delights, with an action-adventure artistic treatment that feels like a throwback to pulpy comics of the ‘80s… when in fact the story itself is a throwback to the 1200s. It’s a beautifully done adaptation, and the perfect way to learn about those Norse myths you’ve always heard about but might have felt a little too dry and academic to enjoy in other forms. Issue #1 is a quick read, and you’ll come out of it feeling you’ve actually learned a bit while also enjoying an instantly-engrossing adventure.
To be honest I don’t think it’s possible for me not to recommend a Sina Grace book. The author-illustrator is responsible for bringing us the most refreshing/romantic/gay take on superheroes in years with his Iceman series, and his new Getting It Together series is a wonderful look at the inescapably messy relationship drama that characterizes everyone’s early 20s. It’s clearly inspired by Friends—the cover shows the characters frolicking with umbrellas around a couch and a fountain—but with the diversity that show never seemed interested in, and a sexual daring that feels much more relatable and grounded in reality than a shark-jumping sitcom. With breakups, gossip, open relationships, and indie rock galore, there’s a touch of Scott Pilgrim throughout but with a bit more maturity. And sexiness. It gets steamy!
For a younger take on relationship drama, consider Class Act, a companion book to the award-winning New Kid by Jerry Craft. Targeted to tween readers, Class Act follows eighth-graders who each feel like outsiders at their prestigious private school. The book is unafraid to tackle issues of body image, race, and socio-economic class in a way that’s appropriate for younger readers without shying away from topics that adults will recognize. The story is at its most compelling when acknowledging the additional pressures that young Black students face, in spite of—and sometimes because of—well-meaning white adults.
Take a little post-apocalypse, throw in some hunter-gatherers, add a robot or two, splash it with deep saturated blood-reds, and ta-da, you’ve got the enthralling First Knife trade paperback, a collection of issues that was worth waiting for. America is long gone, and nomadic survivors wander the wastes, unearthing terrible secrets about the fall of humanity and the forces that could save those who remain. As I was flipping through the book, I thought, “I can’t decide whether to compare this to Conan the Barbarian or Castle in the Sky,” and then I got to the blurb on the back cover that compared it to Conan, Nausicaa, and Zardoz — all of which is fair. This is an engrossing far-off sci-fi story in a setting that’s ever so slightly recognizable and a plot that bounces along so fast and fun you might re-read it as soon as you reach the end.
A few more fun comics out this week: A bonkers mashup of Transformers with Back to the Future is exactly as weird and wonderful as it sounds. Imagine if the events of the film unspooled in the company of robots in disguise—sure, why the hell not. You will perhaps not be surprised to hear that a collectible transforming DeLorean is available to purchase along with the book.
Continuing the theme of toy commercials as entertainment, this week also sees the release of My Little Pony/Transformers: Friendship in Disguise. Yes this is exactly what it sounds like, and yes it’s charming and adorable and a lot of fun—I can’t believe it took this long for these two franchises to melt all over each other.
Also worth a look is Spiderman 850, a milestone megabook. It’s probably not a great place for new readers to dive in, but this extra-long story will be a delight to fans.
And consider a look at Penultiman #1, a new series from Ahoy Comics (publisher of Paul Constant’s The Wrong Earth.) A glorious superhero from another time and place is called upon to save the Earth, but he’s wracked by doubt and self-loathing. Might be a little too real for some readers, or a cathartic amount of realness for others.