Whether you're heading back to the confines of academia yourself, handing your children off to their new teachers, or just enjoying taking advantage of all the "back to school" sales to stock up on your favorite white-out pens, extra stacks of paper, and colorful highlighters like me, there is no denying that autumn has become synonymous in our culture with The Hallowed Halls of Learning
. We here at Comix Connection
are great fans of reading
of course, so what better time to talk about some great comic books whose stories revolve around the subject of education?
First up we have Gunnerkrigg Court
, a book with particular appeal to Harry Potter
fans. This story all takes place within the bowels of a school, in this case a sprawling castle-like complex known as the Court. Unlike Hogwarts, this school focuses more on the sciences than on magic--but on fantastic, impossible, weird science, not the ordinary sort of thing you learn in chemistry class! Where our world's students would build a baking-soda volcano, the first project our protagonist, Antimony Carver
, engages in within these pages is the construction of a robot to help a living shadow cross a brightly-lit bridge and escape the Court. Across this forbidden bridge lies Gillitie Forest
, where all the magical and mythical creatures that were once allies of the people of the Court reside. While the story starts out with something small and simple, it's almost a deceptive beginning because with each page you turn you discover more and more layers, secrets, and surprises hidden within Gunnerkrigg Court
. What is the history of Antimony's dead mother and the wolfgod-turned-stuffed-animal Reynard? What kind of strange powers does Antimony have and how is she tied to the creatures of the Forest? What happened to separate the Forest and the Court? What is Antimony's best friend, Kat the mad-scientist-in-training, going to do with that secret room full of old robots they just found? And just what kind of school is Gunnerkrigg Court
If you're up for a fantastic adventure of mad-science and hidden magicks, come to this mysterious boarding school and follow Antimony
on their journey through the secrets of the Court
. The story isn't over yet so I can't even guess where it's going to end, but I have absolutely no doubt that I'm going to be both shocked and delighted several times over along the way!
For a bit less magic (maybe) but no less mystery, consider our next secretive old school: Gotham Academy.
In a city where a masked man dressed as a bat is the epitome of heroic crime fighting and laughing clowns are the most horrific murdering maniacs imaginable, what kind of school could the children of Gotham
possibly attend? One every bit as strange and shadowy as the rest of the city, of course! This story's protagonist, Olive Silverlock
, has just as many secrets as Antimony Carver, but this time they're secrets she's
keeping. What happened to her over the summer? Why is she so sensitive when her mother is mentioned? Is she as crazy as they say? And what is up with her beef against Batman
? Of course, Olive isn't the only one keeping secrets at Gotham Academy
. For starters, there's the question of who--or what--is haunting the school, and what lengths are some of the students going to go to in order to find out the truth? Does the journal of the long-dead Cobblepot daughter hold the answers, and just how closely is Gotham Academy
tied to Arkham Asylum
, anyway? And how can that
kind of connection be good for the students?
Welcome to school under the shadow of the Bat
! If you've ever wondered what it would be like to be a normal kid in Gotham City
, you'll have to keep wondering because in Gotham, there is
no such thing. If you'd like to discover what it's like to grow-up as a freak in the capital city of freakdom, then this is definitely the book for you! Especially now that the school's newest student has arrived: Damian Wayne
If you're looking for more "standard super-hero fare," turn your eyes from Gotham to New York City, specifically the charter school that young Miles Morales
has just gotten into. The stress of a new school is the least of his worries though, because Miles was also
bit by a radioactive spider
...just like Peter Parker
! Of course, Miles only knows Peter's name because he just died
, leaving poor Miles to contemplate the meaning of "with great power comes great responsibility," and his choice to step-up and continue the legacy of Spider-Man
. That's not a choice that sits well with everybody (such as Peter's clone, Spider-Woman!) but Miles is ready to try and be a hero...as long as his super-villain uncle doesn't get in the way! Getting kidnapped by S.H.I.E.L.D. isn't a great start for this new Spider-Man, but after meeting Peter's family--Aunt May, Gwen Stacy, and Mary Jane Watson--he decides to do his best anyway. He just has to make sure his super-hero-hating dad doesn't find out, his strict charter school doesn't kick him out for breaking the rules too many times, and his very excited best friend doesn't blow his cover with their new roommate...on top of learning how to actually use
his incredible new spider-powers, all while Norman Osborn
, unbeknownst to Miles, is searching for the secret of the spiders. It's a wild ride from start to finish, and with Miles just about to enter the Marvel Universe Proper
following the destruction of the Ultimate Universe
, there is no better time to dive into the life of this new wall-crawler.
As far as super-hero origin stories go, this is one of the absolute best I've ever read. Not only does it transition seamlessly from the earlier stories about Peter Parker
, doing the almost impossible feat of switching protagonists mid-story without losing any of the passion or pathos, but it also redefines what it means to be Spider-Man
by taking us on the journey through the eyes of someone trying to live-up to the legend of Peter Parker while dealing with his own disastrous "great responsibility" lessons and losses. Miles Morales
is one of my favorite new super-heroes, and I can't wait to see what his new universe has in store for him.
If you're looking for an even newer new super-hero, why not the new Ms. Marvel
? Our young hero, Kamala Khan
, has always been a total super-hero fangirl and her favorite hero of all time is Carol Danvers
, now Captain Marvel
. When Kamala develops powers of her own thanks to her latent Inhuman
genes, it thus should surprise no one that she immediately decides to emulate the original Ms. Marvel
. Of course, things like that are easier said than done as Kamala quickly learns when she tries to put her newfound and untried powers in action to save the day. Even more than the spectacular adventures of Miles Morales, the stories of the Marvel Universe
's newest Ms. Marvel
are grounded in the realities of real life--in her case, a high school in New Jersey. As if Kamala didn't already have enough of a culture-clash in her life between her strict-but-caring parents and her own burgeoning adolescent sense of rebellion, now she has superpowers to boot, and in her eyes that translates to an immediate responsibility to save the world. Kamala knows that by taking the name she (sort of accidentally) did she's given herself big shoes to fill, so it's a good thing she can change size to fit them!
The first issue of this book is perhaps the best new-character-introduction-issue I've ever read: by the end you're not only interested in the story of this brand new hero, you're already emotionally attached to young Kamala Khan
. The rest of the series doesn't disappoint afterward, and neither does Kamala
; she has an irrepressibly "old school" attitude toward super-heroics that makes every issue a joy to read and the underlying heart of Kamala
herself makes this new Ms. Marvel
one of the brightest stars in the whole genre.
If you prefer more straight-up schoolyard antics without the distraction of capes, tights, or magical powers, then come take a gander at Nutmeg
. This is the story of two teenage girls and their burgeoning life of crime. When Cassia Caraway
moves to town, she convinces her new friend Poppy Pepper
to stop taking grief from the rich, popular, powerful "mean girl" Saffron Longfellow
and sabotage her brownie fundraiser. It's a tale that might have been taken from the pages of Nancy Drew
, but this time the roles have been switched, and we're rooting for the "bad guys" instead of the blonde! Not that eighth-graders Poppy
are really what one would call "hardened criminals" anyway, but will that protect them when their "criminally addictive brownies"
start drawing attention from teen detectives Ginger
? In this all-ages story of baked goods and revenge the reader is kept hopping almost as much as our criminal cooks, especially once the potential deadliness of their scheme is revealed. Do the girls have what it takes to stand-up to Saffron once and for all, even if it means risking lives? And what's the story behind all those cop cars and flashing lights from the flash-forward at the start of the first issue?
In this upside-down crime caper, we may know who the criminals are, what their motivation is, and even how they're going to execute their crime--but just because that's what one normally has to discover in a mystery doesn't mean we have all the answers, because everything in Nutmeg
is reversed, not just the roles of hero and villain. Try a bite of this sweet mystery story, but be careful what you eat; these brownies
Another dangerous girl goes to school in Princess Ugg
. This story of a barbarian princess going to "princess finishing school" is at once heartwarming and hilarious. In a perfect "fish-out-of-water" story, the fierce warrior princess Ülga
decides that in order to be worthy of one day ruling her people, she needs an education in diplomacy--and everyone knows the best place for a young noble lady to get an education is the Atraeskan Princess Academy
. Unfortunately Ülga isn't the sort of princess the people at the academy are used to! Her fellow princesses come from a variety of diverse kingdoms but what they all have in common is that they're all ladies and Ülga
. One thing she is, though, is determined, and while her initial struggles to tailor her rough warrior lifestyle to the delicate and dainty behavior expected of a "proper" princess are naught but failures, the people of Grimmeria
are used to fighting giants and don't know how to give up. While Ülga
would rather fight giants--or fight anything!--than try to dance in fancy dresses or master elegant table manners, she soon proves that there's plenty of things her
people do better than all the "civilized" folk in the valley. When danger threatens the princesses it's up to Ülga
to save the day--and maybe teach the other girls a thing or two about what it really
means to be noble.
This gorgeously-illustrated story takes the trappings of a traditional fantasy setting and pokes them with a big stick by throwing dyed-in-the-untanned-hides barbarian Ülga
into the silk dresses and pointy hats of proper pretty princesses. Imagine "Conan goes to Princess School,"
but totally without irony, because while this story will certainly make you laugh, it also takes itself seriously and treats all
the princesses with respect...even if some of them have a lot more to learn than Princess Ülga
If you want a more modern spin on your school-days, hop ahead a few centuries to 1987 with Deadly Class
. At Kings Dominion School for the Deadly Arts
, our protagonist Marcus Lopez
is having trouble. He has terrible grades, his friends are always being bullied by the jocks, and he has an unrequited crush. But this isn't any ordinary school. This is where the world's top crime families send their next generation of assassins for training. The teachers are all members of an ancient league of assassins, the classes have titles like "Dismemberment 101,"
the jocks are the children of Stalin's top killers, and that girl he has a crush on already has a body-count in the double digits. The world of Deadly Class
is desperate and violent, but still nothing bothers Marcus
like his own loneliness, addictions, and social inadequacies. His high school might be full of murderers, but nothing makes being a teenager worse than...well, being a teenager!
Fueled by a love of music and a disdain for authority, Deadly Class
explores the darkest and deepest gutters imaginable for youth in Reagan-era America
, whether or not you're wielding a samurai sword. Not for children, this book is heavy on bloodshed and bodily dismemberment--despite Marcus's failing grades--but if you're looking for a mirror that perfectly captures the dark side of high school
, you've found it.
*content of this review
stolen from provided by John because Nicky hasn't actually read Deadly Class yet--lame I know! I'm getting there!
Not ready to let go of your summer yet? Then take one last vacation day with Lumberjanes
. At this scouting summer camp, "HardCore Lady Types" learn all the important skills girls need to get by in their daily lives: how to fight sea monsters from aboard a canoe, what to do when you're surrounded by magical foxes, and how to overpower ancient gods with the power of friendship to the max
! These campers are ready for anything (except perhaps cookie-loving yetis, but fortunately they have some friends among the Scouting Lads
who are excellent bakers!) and that's a good thing because there is no telling what may happen next at Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet's Camp for Harcore Lady-Types. From old ladies who turn into bears to mermaids, the Lumberjanes have seen it all--and either fought or befriended it, sometimes both at once! Our heroes Jo, April, Molly, Mal, and Ripley are butt-kicking best pals who aren't going to let a few mystical quests or murky mysteries interfere with their best-summer-ever...even if some days earning badges is harder than saving the world!
This story won my heart with its very first issue, and now that it's an ongoing series I could not be more delighted to be reading more of the magical, madcap adventures of these ferocious and adorable young ladies. They have a lot to learn about the secrets behind their much-more-than-it-seems summer camp, but whatever they discover I'm sure it will be amazing, and I'm happy to be doing along for the adventure.
All these school-centric stories (and many more!) are currently being featured at Comix Connection Mechanicsburg on our new back-to-school endcap. In The Woods an entire school finds itself abducetd to an alien world...in Wayward a teenage girl joins her mother in Japan only to discover she's tied to the demonic mythology of her mother's homeland...and in Unbeatable Squirrel Girl the toughest heroine of the Marvel Universe (no, really! She fought Galactus once and everything!) faces her biggest challenge yet: college! Whatever kind of story you favor, come join us as we celebrate the end of summer and plunge into the fall. Regardless of whether you're heading back to school for real or just feeling
nostalgic for the days of books and backpacks, these stories are perfect seasonally-appropriate adventures. (As well as being lots of fun during the rest of the year too, of course!) Whether your version of autumn comes with textbooks or not, there's no better weather for curling up with a good book than during the brisk days of autumn, so why not find some pages to turn and celebrate the season with a new comic?
Labels: back to school, Counter Monkey Nicky Review, great graphic novels