If you’ve been keeping up with the library, you know that our summer reading theme this year is “Oceans of Possibilities.” To tie in with this theme, we’ve selected some comics and manga from our collection that center around or heavily feature the ocean and water. While some of these works are appropriate for all age groups, others are better for older teens and adults. Each book mentioned below has a short description of intended age range and/or contents some readers may find objectionable, so you can make smart decisions about what you want to read.
For Young Readers
Queen of the Sea by Dylan Meconis
This 2019 book is loosely based on the life of Mary, Queen of Scots. It centers around a young girl named Margaret who grows up on an island convent off the coast of Albion, raised by nuns, until one day her life is upended by the arrival of the deposed Queen Eleanor. As Eleanor and Margaret grow closer and secrets from Margaret’s past are revealed, her loyalty to the sisters is tested. Illustrations are done in a lovely muted palette that belies the intensity of emotion that Margaret feels. For middle-grade readers.
Tell No Tales: Pirates of the Southern Seas by Sam Maggs (writer) and Kendra Wells (illustrator)
Tell No Tales is another historical comic for young readers that takes place during the Golden Age of Piracy and centers on Anne Bonny and Mary Read, two female pirates that sailed the Caribbean in the early 17th century. The main antagonist is another historical figure, Woodes Rogers, who wants to eliminate piracy altogether and spends most of the novel sailing around on an anachronistic—but really cool—steam-powered ironclad warship that wouldn’t be seen for another hundred years or so. The artstyle is somewhere in the venn diagram of Disneyesque and animesque, cute but not groundbreaking. For middle grade readers.
The Girl from the Sea by Molly Knox Ostertag
This comic is about a teenage girl living in maritime Canada who falls in love with a selkie named Keltie while trying to hide her same-sex attraction from her friends and family. The romance takes up a big chunk of the plot, along with Keltie trying and failing to blend in with human society, and of course, secret-sitcom-girlfriend hi-jinks, but there’s also an environmentalist bent to the story: Keltie has to protect the seals she lives with from the negative effects of a planned cruise line that could destroy the island’s fragile ecosystem. Another major theme in The Girl from the Sea is being true to yourself, which crops up in Ostertag’s other works like The Witch Boy. The art style is colorful and cartoony, although still expressive. For ages 12 and up.
You Brought Me the Ocean written by Alex Sanchez; illustrated by Julie Maroh
You Brought Me the Ocean is a genre-bender from DC Graphic Novels for Young Adults, about a Black teenager in New Mexico grappling with his sexuality—and his ability to control water. If you’re familiar with DC Comics, you can probably guess what heroes (and villain) tie into this one. If you aren’t a superhero buff, don’t worry, you’ll still be able to follow along; at its core, this comic is a love story, with the superheroes providing a backdrop similar to the other graphic novels from this imprint. The illustrations are rendered in muted pastels similar to illustrator Maroh’s Blue Is the Warmest Color. For ages 14 and up.
Children of the Sea by Daisuke Igarashi (5 vol.)
This series is a supernatural thriller that I’ll admit I still don’t 100% get. The main character is high school student Ruka, who befriends two feral children raised by dugongs that her marine biologist father is studying. These children are somehow involved in a mystery affecting all the world’s oceans and causing fish to disappear. Light and darkness and the vastness of the ocean itself all feature heavily in the slow, meandering plot as it unfurls like a current across five volumes. In black and white, with a few pages in color. Rated T+ for disturbing imagery.
Thirsty Mermaids by Kat Leyh
Thirsty Mermaids answers an age old question: what if the Little Mermaid was a wino? Three mermaids who are up to no good turn themselves into humans for a night on the town without realizing they have no way to change themselves back. Like The Girl from the Sea, this comic derives a lot of its humor from the culture shock of sea dwellers finding themselves on land for the first time; unlike Ostertag’s teen romance, Thirsty Mermaids is decidedly raunchy, set in a coastal party town. Illustrations are very colorful (almost to the point of expressionism) and have an ugly-cute charm to them. Contains drinking, language, partial nudity but no sex, and attempted suicide.
Mermaid Saga by Rumiko Takahashi (4 vol.)
While Takahashi is better known for works like Ranma ½ and Urusei Yatsura that can be a bit risqué, Mermaid Saga is tamer without being tame and follows the adventures of immortal Yuta, cursed from drinking the blood of a mermaid, across the centuries. The narrative structure is episodic rather than following a larger arc. Unsurprisingly, mermaids figure heavily in these stories alongside unscrupulous humans and the lengths they are willing to go to attain immortality. In black and white; Takahashi’s style is more rounded than many contemporary manga and as a result feels cartoonier. Rated T+. Contains partial nudity and horror elements.
WaterSnakes by Tony Sandoval.
This graphic novel is about a young girl who meets a ghost on summer vacation and becomes ensnared in a supernatural conflict. For fans of Neil Gaiman and Junji Ito, WaterSnakes is a surreal, dreamlike story that contains its fair share of disturbing imagery, including the almost obligatory snails. Artwork is reminiscent of Henry Selick’s filmography like Nightmare before Christmas and Coraline, with large, exaggerated faces. For ages 16+. Contains blood, violence, and body horror.
And…that’s what we have for y’all today. Please feel free to leave a comment or tag us on social media if you check any of these out and enjoy them. If you don’t enjoy them, you can reach out too, but I’ll be a little sad about it.