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The Reading Pile – April 4

Welcome to another edition of The Reading Pile! This week, fellow GC4K contributors Snow Wildsmith and Mike Pawuk join me for a roundtable discussion about new and noteworthy titles for teens. On the agenda: X-Men,  Star Wars, and Dave Roman’s eagerly anticipated new series Astronaut Academy.

SNOW: I’ve been reading a wide variety of graphic novels for a project I’m working on, but the one that is sticking in my head is X-Men: Magneto Testament (from Marvel; written by Greg Pak, with pencils by Carmine Di Giandomenico). Somehow I missed this one when it came out in 2009 and now I’m sorry I waited so long to read it. Pak and Di Giandomenico take the fact that Magneto, the mutant who has been both enemy and friend to the X-Men over the years, was raised Jewish and sent to a Nazi concentration camp as a teen, and turn it into a powerful bit of historical fiction. They downplay his mutant powers in favor of focusing on historical accuracy. Teens who love superhero titles but might otherwise avoid historical fiction are the perfect audience for this, while librarians and teachers will be especially pleased at the extensive source notes and the lesson plan suggestions.

MIKE: I’ve been reading the final volumes of Star Wars: Legacy published by Dark Horse Comics. The series tells of the adventures of Cade Skywalker, a distant relative of Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia who is being hunted by the new generation of Sith for his unique healing abilities. The problem: Cade doesn’t want anything to do with his Jedi heritage and would rather to continue living as a pirate, but his past seems to always catch up with him no matter where he goes. Set approximately 138 years after the events of the movie Return of the Jedi, the cast of the series is really vibrant — like what a Battlestar Galactica TV series would have been like if it had been set in the Star Wars universe — and so much fun to read. The story is co-written by John Ostrander and Jan Duursema, who also does the majority of the artwork in the series. Every time I’m looking for something good to read, this series is my comfort book that’s guaranteed to satisfy every time. Sadly, the series is coming to an end soon, but I’m going to enjoy it while I can.

KATE: I also have space on the brain! I’m reading Astronaut Academy: Zero Gravity, which First Second will be publishing in June. There isn’t much plot to speak of — at least not in the first half of the book — but the script is studded with terrific sight gags and quotable one-liners that wouldn’t be out of place in a Leslie Nielsen movie. (Sample: “Take this medallion. Anytime you need our help, just press it and say the word ‘ARRGGH!’ and we’ll come running when we get a chance to.”) What I like best about the book is the way in which Dave Roman pokes fun at genre conventions. Roman’s obvious affection for transforming robot stories and high school melodramas keeps things light and snappy; the tone never shades into snark, even when Roman is tackling the hoariest of tropes. In short, it’s good, clean, hyper-verbal fun for slightly nerdy teens.

Katherine Dacey About Katherine Dacey

Katherine Dacey has been reviewing comics since 2006. From 2007 to 2008, she was the Senior Manga Editor at PopCultureShock, a site covering all aspects of the entertainment industry from comics to video games. In 2009, she launched The Manga Critic, where she focuses primarily on Japanese comics and novels in translation. Katherine lives and works in the Greater Boston area, and is a musicologist by training.

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