Nothing makes me groan with dread more than a comic book that is written and illustrated by the same person. Generally speaking, I believe writers can write and artists can art, but seldom can an individual do both.

As luck would have it, though, this week we have three excellent new titles that prove me wrong. And delightfully, one (Fox and Great Boar) is suitable for young readers, another (Blue Box) is for teens, and a third (Voyagis) is more adult. 

Also worth a look this week: You’re Funny for a…, an illustrated guide to trans, women, and enby comedians; Failure, a collection of comics that you may recognize from countless Internet memes; Einstein, an impressively thorough biography of the scientist; and a new Star Wars title. There are also two massive, new omnibuses for those who like owning 300-pound books: Die, which is a sort of Jumanji-with-vampires story; and Grayson, which presents Dick Grayson as a sort of gay James Bond.

Thanks as always to Phoenix for sorting through this week’s releases!

Voyagis Issue #1

A fast-paced action-adventure that’s just a little hard to follow, Voyagis thrusts the reader into the middle of a post-apocalyptic alien desert where blue-skinned scavengers eke out a meager existence and a sinister overseer sends minions out in search of lost riches. Of course, it appears that our heroes may have a link to those riches, one that they’re not yet aware of. Any fan of chosen-one hero’s-journey literature will be unsurprised by the hint that our humble protagonists are destined for greatness. It’s not hard to see that coming, but what IS a real strong surprise is the thing that sets our heroes apart: a connection to something so otherworldly it should be impossible, hinted at briefly in orbit around the planet and in visions. It’s a nicely drawn romp that calls to mind Alan Moore’s The Ballad of Halo Jones, and my one quibble is the volume of jargon up top. There are a lot of names, terms, locations, and made-up works to absorb, a feat that many readers (including me) will find challenging. But I think it’s worth it to try.

Rating: 🛰️🛰️🛰️🛰️(4/5)

Writer and illustrator: Sumeyye Kesgin.
Editor: Shanna Matuszak.
Publisher: Image Comics.

Tiny Fox and Great Boar Book 2: Furthest

In this continuation of a delightful series for young readers, two forest friends set out on an adventure to explore the world, living very much in the moment and learning to appreciate fleeting experiences and themselves. The stories are simply told children’s parables, but the real star is the lovely watercolor art that presents a world swimming with dream-life color. Every page is a pleasure to turn and behold. Children who are particularly squirmy may not find their attention fully held by the peaceful pace of the storytelling, but the book is likely to be a winner with kids who appreciate a more patient, meditative approach to their entertainment. An added bonus: the simple shapes of the characters, paired with the well-rendered emotional faces, may prove inspirational to budding young artists. A nice title to keep on your gift-getting list if you have any youngsters in the six to ten range.

Rating: 🦊🦊🦊🦊 (4/5)

Writer and illustrator: Berenika Kolomycka.

Publisher: Oni Press.

Blue Box

I was not expecting to enjoy a lengthy series about high school badminton, but Blue Box won me over with its unexpected emotional depth. This star-crossed manga pairs Taiki, a badminton player, with his crush Chinatsu, a basketball player who comes to live with Taiki when her family moves away. A tentative teenage relationship starts down a meandering path, sweetly observed with all the expected awkwardness, embarrassment, and starry-eyed optimism one might expect, with sports sequences that nicely punctuate scenes of our two main characters figuring out their feelings (and each other’s). It’s a pleasure to read a teen-targeted shonen manga with a female lead who is bold and capable, rather than falling into the awkward-girl trope. Even better: rather than coveting the object of his affection as a prize to be won, Taiki has nothing but respect and admiration for her, which makes for a genuinely engaging conflict as he tries to measure up to what he thinks she wants. Wholesome and cute, Blue Box is likely to be a hit with teen readers of any gender.

Rating: 🏸🏸🏸🏸🏸 (5/5)

Writer and illustrator: Kouji Miura.
Translation: Christine Dashiell.
Touch-up and lettering: Mark McMurray.
Publisher: Viz Media.