Suggested summer reading lists abound on-line – there are guides for how to tackle Infinite Jest over the summer, or what paperback you should take with you to read on the beach. Really, there’s a very simple check list for what constitutes a “summer read” – 1) Is it summertime? 2) Do you like what you’re reading? If you answered “yes” to questions 1 and 2 then congratulations, you’ve successfully identified a “good summer read!” Don’t let anybody tell you anything different; the title of this post is a total lie, there are (almost) no requirements.
As a librarian, summer is my busy season at work. I don’t get to take much time off and often get stuck working extra Saturdays due to special events. When I get home in the evening, I want to decompress and read something FUN. What follows is a list of comics that I wish I could re-experience reading for the first time this summer while sipping a mojito on my patio – cause, man, that would be the best summer ever.
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl by Ryan North, illustrated by Erica Henderson
I’m a Ryan North fan; his humor is almost always 100% on the mark for me. I’m not alone in this adoration — my boyfriend and I don’t generally see eye-to-eye when it comes to comics, but we both love North’s long-running webcomic, Dinosaur Comics. If you’re unfamiliar with her, Squirrel Girl aka Doreen Green, has been kicking around in Marvel comics since 1992 and has squirrel-themed superpowers. Marvel has really been knocking it out of the park in the last few years with newbie-friendly titles; you don’t need to know 20+ years of convoluted backstory to pick up and love the current Squirrel Girl run. North and Henderson’s Squirrel Girl is pure, undiluted, goofy, young-superhero fun. In her current iteration, Doreen is a college student attempting to balance superhero-ing with a computer science course load, extracurricular clubs, and dorm-life. My favorite thing about Squirrel Girl is that it works in SO MANY nut and squirrel-based puns. (If that last sentence made you roll your eyes, this might not be the comic for you). There are currently three Squirrel Girl trade paperbacks out – plan on tearing through all of them in one weekend.
SuperMutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki
SuperMutant Magic Academy is the postmodern, feminist, X-men meets Harry Potter mash-up that I never knew I needed in my life until I read it. The book is a collected set of strips originally published by Tamaki on-line. A fellow librarian and comics-crusader described SMMA as, “a slightly more cohesive and erudite Perry Bible Fellowship;” a better and more succinct description than I could ever come up with and a great indication of the style of humor at work here. If you like reading about teens at boarding schools for superpowered and/or paranormally gifted youngsters and you’re up for some absurd humor, this is the book for you. If you’re looking for coming-of-age whimsy instead of absurd humor, check out Jillian and Mariko Tamaki’s quintessential summer story – This One Summer.
Bee and Puppycat by Natasha Allegri and others
If you haven’t already watched Cartoon Hangover’s Bee and Puppycat webseries, do that IMMEDIATELY. It’ll only take about 30 minutes to watch the whole thing. Done? Good. I simultaneously identify with Bee and rejoice in the fact that my life isn’t quite as big of a wreck as hers. I wish that, like Puppycat, my dog received assignments from a temp agency in another dimension. What I really wish is that we’d get some new Bee and Puppycat episodes, but until that happens the comic is a good holdover. In fact, it’s better than just a holdover — it’s great in its own right. I always enjoy seeing other creators’ versions of characters that I like and I love reading one-shots (especially in the summer when my brain isn’t up for processing longer stories); the first volume of Bee and Puppycat consists of short stories written and drawn by a variety of creators. I bought the second volume a while ago, but I’m saving it for some future day when I’m in need of serious cheering-up.
Prez by Mark Russell, illustrations by Ben Caldwell
Exhausted by the current political rhetoric clogging up your internets? Who isn’t! Take a break from reality with Prez. This story of politics run amok is set in the near-future where corporations have the same rights as people and viral video stars are unwittingly elected to the office of president. If that sounds a little too on-the-nose, don’t worry — Prez serves up its political satire with a healthy dose of humor and optimism. In this reboot of a short-lived DC title from the 70s, teenaged Beth Ross is elected president (via Twitter, of course) after becoming internet-famous for deep-frying her ponytail in a corndog fryer, but it quickly becomes clear that she isn’t the patsy Washington takes her for. I’m not a DC gal, but if they put out a few more books like Prez I could be convinced to change my tune (and luckily, it appears that Prez wasn’t cancelled in DC’s Rebirth restructuring – thank goodness).
The Nameless City by Faith Erin Hicks
If you liked Avatar: The Last Airbender (the cartoon, not that garbage movie), be prepared for this book to make you want to rewatch the show – or maybe that’s just me. Reading The Nameless City definitely made me want to rewatch Avatar; I think something about the titular city reminded me of Ba Sing Se. There’s definitely less humor in this one than in my other recommendations, but it’s still a fun book. Lots of action, world building, and hints of political intrigue. Hicks’ illustrations just keep getting better and having Jordie Bellaire do the color for this book was a stroke of genius (she’s always brilliant).
What are your summer reading plans? Let me know in the comments!
Until next time, find the stories that make you stronger. #WorkOutNerdOut