Whatever high school formerly employed comic book savant Gene Luen Yang to teach computer science and math before he ascended into the comics stratosphere has one heck of an HR department. For those of us who haven’t received a lecture/detention from the lauded cartoonist and writer, works like the National Book Award-nominated American Born Chinese and Boxers & Saints have shown Yang’s unparalleled skills at crafting educational concepts—sociological and historical—through riveting narratives. Yang will merge his class room criteria with his comic book awesome next week with Secret Coders, a middle-grade graphic novel that pits the readers’ intellect against a gauntlet of HTML challenges. Illustrated by Mike Holmes and published by First Second, the comic gives readers hands-on experience in the story of Stately Academy, where students Hopper, Eni (and the reader) solve a series of head-scratchers guaranteed to land them a lucrative career a decade later. Yang may be tossing Superman into evil tech conglomerates and domestic meltdowns, but Big Red never faced off against the existential confusion of CSS.
In addition to suggesting some great S.T.E.M. comics, Yang was kind enough to provide some recommendations for his favorite middle-grade comics. And though Paste’s Comics Team has long grown past one-speed bikes and cartoons (OK, we totally haven’t), we’re equally huge fans of these picks.