If you’re looking for a graphic novel that centers on the adventures of a strong, independent, and dynamic female lead character, then look no further than the five books featured in this roundup. From the past to the future to the deeply strange present, all five women have to battle against the odds and trust their own resources as they attempt to find their place in the world.
by Fernando Dagnino
Titan Comics, 208 pages, $29.99
In 2028, the first artificial intelligence processors suitable for mass production were introduced to the market, which gave rise to the development of the first generation of true androids. While this techno-evolutionary jump initially led to a new era of peace and understanding between humanity and androids, as well as to the unprecedented free exchange of knowledge and technology worldwide, corporate greed soon brought this harmonious situation to an end. The tech giant Gorgona crushed all its open-source competition and formed a monopoly with regard to human-computer interfaces. By 2075, Gorgona’s androids had become ubiquitous, including the Smart Girl model, an android servant used for anything the owner might desire. Yuki began life as a standard Smart Girl, but a malfunction caused her to be scheduled for destruction. However, contrary to every other android to date, Yuki doesn’t accept the end that humans have arranged for her and instead becomes self-aware. After fighting back against her abusive owner, Yuki is forced to flee from Gorgona as she attempts to find a way to secure her life and freedom. Fernando Dagnino’s Smart Girl is an exquisitely drawn black and white graphic novel that uses science fiction themes to examine what it really means to be alive.
Cheer Up: Love and Pompoms
by Crystal Frasier
One Press, 128 pages, $14.99
Cheer Up: Love and Pompoms by Crystal Frasier is a bright and zany graphic novel that offers a joyful portrayal of the lives of queer teens as they navigate the end of high school and the need to consider their future place in the world. Antisocial lesbian Annie is undoubtedly the smartest kid at her high school, but her likelihood of getting into a good college is limited by the fact that she plays no sports, is a member of no clubs, and generally doesn’t get on with anyone. She’s couldn’t even make it through her mock college interview without calling the guidance counsellor a “tool of a corrupt system.” Meanwhile, Annie’s former best friend Bebe, a people-pleasing trans girl who has finally managed to climb some way up the popularity ladder, is having trouble keeping her grades up and her social life balanced, which she must do if her parents are to continue to support her transition. When both girls are compelled to join the cheerleading squad—apparently for their own good—they unexpectedly find themselves rekindling their friendship as they struggle to balance the training, social pressures, and host of microaggressions that queer youth face while continuing to be true to themselves.
Malika: Warrior Queen Volume 2
by Roye Okupe
Dark Horse Books, 336 pages, $24.99
On the brink of death after fighting to save her people and empire, Queen Malika came into contract with the Dragon’s Destiny—the strongest weapon ever created—and was given the boost of power required to finally achieve victory over her mortal foe. However, before the dust had a chance to settle, the true evil power behind her enemies’ former success revealed himself and promised to return to destroy the Earth forever. In an attempt to stop this threat from ever coming to pass, Malika was put into the Divine Sleep so that she could rest until the time humanity needed her. That time turns out to be 2025, and in Roye Okupe’s Malika: Warrior Queen Volume 2, Malika is forced to stop hiding in the shadows of a strange future world and instead confront the evil sorcerers of the Olon Jin order, who had been imprisoned for centuries due to their use of dark magic. The Olon Jin are now seeking the Fire and Frost stone, which holds the power of two ancient dragons. When Malika travels to Egypt in search of the stone, she finds herself embroiled in a plot that predates even her own legend. It makes for an action-packed fantasy graphic novel woven from rich African history, culture, and mythology.
by Elizabeth Pich
Silver Sprocket, 256 pages, $29.99
As she obliviously lurches from one wacky misadventure to the next, never learning her lesson and never seeming to master the art of adulting, Fungirl appears to be the epitome of a hot mess, cheerfully leaving destruction and chaos in her wake wherever she goes. Yet, while her escapades might frustrate her roommate, terrify passing teenagers, and destroy any opportunity she has to secure employment, Fungirl maintains a positive, transgressive, and frequently hilarious façade throughout. Every shenanigan that she engages in seems crazy and over the top, but Fungirl’s life somehow still remains tragically realistic and deeply relatable. A lot of her exploits might be unpalatable, but they are still strangely compelling. Elizabeth Pich’s colorful art in Fungirl is simple and cartoonish, portraying a twisted world where reality is exaggerated to highlight the absurdities that all too often go unnoticed.
The Golden Age, Book 2
by Roxanne Moreil and Cyril Pedrosa
First Second, 192 pages, $29.99
A medieval saga packed with political intrigue and deadly danger, The Golden Age series began with Princess Tilda determining to end the drudgery and misery that had long characterized life in the Kingdom of Lantrevers. As the rightful heir to King Ronan, Tilda had intended to free her people for famine and conflict, but when her younger brother usurped the throne and forced her into exile, she had to go on the run with a loyal band of allies and seek a new way to help the citizens of Lantrevers. However, despite her lofty intentions, in Roxanne Moreil and Cyril Pedrosa’s The Golden Age, Book 2, Tilda has become consumed by her desire to reclaim the throne and so urges her army to keep fighting a seemingly futile war without access to food or pay. Tilda appears to have become the very thing she always despised: a brutal and heartless leader. It’s no surprise that rumors of a rebellion by her previously loyal followers are starting to spread. As Tilda’s friend Tankred attempts to broker a deal that could finally turn the tide of the war, she will have to decide if she is really able to relinquish power to the people and become the open-hearted ruler that she originally promised to be.