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Get Rec'd: Eight great summertime comics to read
Although this summer is mostly about staying indoors (please, for the love of God), that doesn't mean we can't celebrate the summer in our own special quarantine way. In the immortal words of the Cat in the Hat, "I know it is wet and the sun is not sunny but we can have lots of good fun that is funny." Sure, a lot of typical summer activities have been on hold, but we can always throw on some sunscreen, push a lawn chair as close to the window as physically possible, and crack open a new book.
Fortunately for us, summertime and comic books go hand in hand. There are a lot of comics that just couldn't take place at any time other than summer, and we've assembled a list of some of our very favorites.
Poison Ivy: Cycle of Life & Death
Lately, Poison Ivy is getting a lot more attention with her role as an underappreciated queer environmentalist through avenues like the Harley Quinn animated series, but there was a long stretch where most Ivy stories painted her as nefarious and deluded. One of the first stories to truly break out of that narrative was writer Amy Chu’s debut, Poison Ivy: Cycle of Life & Death. This story shows Ivy’s inner world and how complicated her relationships have been. Her desire to push people away extends to Harley, who she condescends to and argues with. Alone and isolated from humanity, she struggles to reconcile the way people perceive her with her own inner world. In the end, what truly matters to Ivy is not death, but life. Her care and dedication to creation takes the spotlight in this beautifully written ode to growth in all its forms.
This One Summer
Cousins Mariko and Jillian Tamaki are both excellent creators in their own right that occasionally combine forces to become a legendary team, creating hits like Skim and, of course, This One Summer. Rose is a teenager who spends the summer at a lake house with her mom and dad, who are having a difficult time in their relationship due to a painful recent miscarriage a previous summer. Rose develops a crush on an older boy who ghosts his pregnant girlfriend. Rose’s friend Windy is a little less outwardly complicated and mostly wants to have fun and joke around, but over the summer her feelings towards her friendship with Rose change as she watches Rose villainize the older boy’s girlfriend and ultimately has to call her out about it. This story is more on the melancholy side, but that doesn’t change its message of hope or its distinctly summery feel.
Clueless: One Last Summer
There haven’t been that many Clueless comics as of yet, but it feels like an obvious platform for a continuation of Cher Horowitz’s story. Reaffirming this suspicion, we have One Last Summer, a book written by none other than FANGRRLS faves Sarah Kuhn and Amber Benson. This series is the follow-up to the Clueless: Senior Year story. Taking place during the summer after high school graduation and before college begins, this story lets fans of the film dip briefly back into the film that defined so many people’s mid-’90s high school experience. Cher, Dionne, and Tai all have separate dramas to experience, but the friendship between them remains the heart of the Clueless story.
Love & Rockets: Tonta
This series, for the most part, takes place in a small town in Mexico called Palomar and/or in Los Angeles. As a result of the warm climate, the comic carries the feeling of a perpetual summer throughout its many decades of publication. Still, the recent Tonta collection by Jaime Hernandez stands out as being particularly summer-oriented. Tonta is the main character of the book and a more recent addition to the Love & Rockets mythos. The younger sister of the abrasive Vivian, Tonta tries to navigate her complicated family life while crushing out on boys in punk bands. While all Love & Rockets stories are great, this one helped bring back the sense of finding surprising profundity in the teenage mundanity that once defined the series. Love & Rockets is one comic universe that only continues to expand, but it shows the cyclical nature of life better than just about any media out there. Tonta is a character who is easy to laugh with, but the story never forgets her underlying tragedies.
The Twilight Children
Though the Vertigo line ended forever in January 2020, it had a pretty great run. Books like Sandman, Fables, and Hellblazer remain some of the most important works of their era, but there are a lot of hidden gems in the Vertigo canon, too — for instance, this miniseries from creators Gilbert Hernandez and Darwyn Cooke, with some truly incredible colors from Dave Stewart. In The Twilight Children, enormous orbs of light keep washing up and bursting on the beach near a small town. Children witness one and are blinded by it, but no one can explain how this is true when their eyes are undamaged. This plot thickens when a visitor to the town becomes involved — Felix, a scientist who becomes entranced by a mysterious white-haired woman named Ela. For a little eeriness and horror alongside the summer sunshine, The Twilight Children is the perfect pick.
Prince of Cats
The number of Shakespeare adaptations in this world are many, but none of them have managed to do what Prince of Cats did. Initially published in 2012, the story follows Tybalt, the Prince of Cats, a classically antagonistic character from Romeo and Juliet. In this story, we learn of a more complex Tybalt who is an expert fighter in underground sword matches and loyal to his friends above all. The comic has been widely praised for successfully blending hip-hop and comics into a dynamic whole, but the reworking of Shakespearean language to sound modern and engaging is also an incredibly impressive feat that made this one of the most impressive comics. The icing on the cake? It has been recollected as an enormous hardcover that looks gorgeous on any bookshelf.
The first love of In Waves' protagonist, Kristen, was a woman he met in school, but their romance ended years later when she passed away after a long battle with cancer. Torn over losing her and struggling to find meaning, he walks us through the history of surfing, a sport that she adored and devoted endless hours to. The interest he feels to the historical tale throughout the book mediates his grief as he attempts to discover who Kristen, a mysterious and stoic person who nevertheless loved life, truly was. In Waves is a mournful ode to a lost partner, but it is a celebration of her life, as well. Feelings are never clean-cut in this story, but it tells its tale through impactful anecdotes, grounding itself with historical settings when it finds itself lost in emotions as deep and complicated as the sea itself.
Niobe: She is Life
This is a comic that blends all of the standard tropes of a great fantasy story together but through expert storytelling, incredible art, dynamic characterization, and plenty of twists to the genre along the way, creates something completely exciting and new. Niobe is an elven teenager who attempts to find a sanctuary among people like her only to see it attacked by her villainous father. Afraid at first, Niobe must find her bravery to fight back. Lush, gorgeous backgrounds give us a paradisical setting that sets a definitively summery vibe, and Niobe's tale of becoming who she was meant to be is a timeless tale for the ages.