More action packed YA books for Girls (Celadore, Gunnerkrigg Court)

Many of the best comics produced today begin as webcomics.   The reason is simple, it costs little to nothing to post your content online seeking an audience, where back-in-the-day creators would self-publish only after maxing out credit cards for the initial print run, or going the ‘zine route and taking a job at a copy shop for the free print-outs.

Now the world is wide open, we’re in a renaissance for comics art as the technology provides both new tools for production and an instant outlet for an audience to find the work.

Granted the traditional publishing houses often overlook these series as they don’t fit the industry standards, however since the entire web-scape can track them down and lay eyeballs on the content, occasionally these books attract enough readers to encourage a real-world publisher to risk a print run.

(Better still, librarians who are searching for new books but want to get a preview may take a peek to see if the book fits their own standards).

Here are two in that category that I’d recommend you enjoy.

Gunnerkrigg Court by Thomas Siddell

British boarding school, students learning magic,  lost parents, hidden conspiracies, supernatural enemies — okay you may think you’ve heard this before, and you may be right.

But that’s not a bad thing.   One difficulty as a librarian lies in finding appropriate books to recommend to kids who loved the heck out of one book and who are seeking something new to grab their attention.   Gunnerkrigg Court (Archaia Studios Press) is happy to carry the torch where Harry Potter hands it off.

The story follows Antimony Carver, a first year student at the boarding school for which the series is named.  Her default setting is unfazed, but that never stunts her curiosity.  To the contrary her lack of fear and high tolerance for the eerie tend to spur her to discover trouble wherever it is lurking.  Naturally it lurks everywhere.

The school is peopled with animate shadows, defunct robots, possessed stuffed animals, erudite minotaurs– the usual lot.  Some of the story arc involves Miss Carter’s quest to learn more about her parents, who seem to have attended the school in long years past.  More than anything though in this first volume we get to watch over her shoulder as she pokes her nose into sections of the school where she doesn’t belong and find friends or make enemies of the inhabitants.  Readers will enjoy Antimony’s matter-of-fact bravery and general kindness in the face of adversity.

The art is stylized, iconographic, influenced perhaps by manga without borrowing directly from it.  Occasional renderings are awkward, but all the more charming for the occasionally primitive panel.  Mr Siddell improves as he works.

We keep this book in our all-ages collection, there’s no stark language, little violence and the cartoony rendering keeps it from being scary for little kids.  But the storylines will appeal to kids in the middle grades and up.

Celadore, by Canaan Grall

With similar themes (supernatural forces, tough and resourceful girl hero)  readers may also enjoy Austrailian (via Canada) artist Caanan Grall’s Celadore (DC Comics).

This comic was actually developed for DC Comics online experimental publishing/social media venture  The site is now defunct, and the comics published may soon be out of print (though as of today Amazon still had copies available).  Too bad, the comic deserves a wide audience.

If you liked the Buffy the Vampire Slayer franchise you may well love Celadore.  Butt-kicking woman warrior Celadore is slain in the course of tracking down bloodsuckers, but rather than dissipate into the afterlife she somehow body-hops into the comatose body of 11 year old Evelyn Massey.  She rises to wreak vengeance, but the problem is Miss Massey isn’t quite done year with her body, and life, and the whole nine yards.

Evelyn’s displaced spirit follows Celadore in her body, as does her neighbor and would-be friend the pesty and apparently nigh-indestructable Sam who has an unquenchable crush for the unfortunate Evelyn (and by extension for Celadore, the current occupant).

Together the three team up to defeat a cabal of vampires who seek to enact rites that will allow vampires to walk around in daylight, among other nasty things.

Action is fast paced, characters well written.  Banter and running jokes keep dialogue snapping like firecrackers.   The story is enjoyably convoluted.  Art is clean-lined and precise with bright crisp colors, realistic settings and backgrounds even if the characters are more cartoony.

‘Realistic’ means that the occasional scenes of violence promote this to our Young Adult collection (vampires get impaled, big honking demon-things are studded with snapped bones poking through their muscles, etc) though the breezy tone keeps the ‘ick’ factor light.

A fun book for middle grades and up.  I’m looking forward to more work by this artist.


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