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The 10 Best Kids Comics of 2017

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The 10 Best Kids Comics of 2017

Trying to keep up with kids’ comics these days is like trying to pick your favorite Pokémon: there’s a lot of competition. Not only do publishers First Second and Toon Books continue to publish at an aggressive pace, but big mainstream publishers know kids read comics, and the big two of the literary comics world (Fantagraphics and Drawn + Quarterly) continue to address the expanding audience. Here are some of the better releases that came out in 2017.
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Bolivar
Writer/Artist: Sean Rubin
Publisher: BOOM! Studios/Archaia
Sean Rubin’s Bolivar is as much a charming children’s book as a visual love letter to New York City. Rubin’s subtle cross-hatching and soft colors convey a sprawling, majestic panorama of the world’s most famous city, and the obvious delights its people are too busy to see. The titular dinosaur is one such wonder, a talking, mild-mannered T-Rex who enjoys corned beef sandwiches and anonymity, evading the public eye without much exertion. Only one little girl—Sybil—seems to notice the hulking, grey lizard waltzing around the Upper West Side. The book offers a more accessible reflection on mindfulness, urging the reader to live in the present moment without being consumed with life’s cyclical demands, lest surprises elude notice. That same focus should be applied to Rubin’s stunning art—these pages deserve to be studied and absorbed, not glanced upon. An especially meticulous subway mosaic of jazz musicians displays just how much care and time the artist has invested into this project. Bolivaris a gentle work in story and execution, and deserves a slot in any library for readers waiting to discover the unexpected. Sean Edgar
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Cucumber Quest 1: The Doughnut Kingdom
Writer/Artist: Gigi D.G.
Publisher: First Second
Maybe the most delightful surprise of the year, this cotton-candy puff of a book (the first in a series, originally published online) is fun from front to back. A mild-mannered, nonconfrontational bunny kid gets swept up in a grand adventure quest to save the realm; luckily, his plucky sister is up to the challenge. It’s packed with jokes that undermine the genre, and it moves at a zippy pace. Perfect for little nonconformists.
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Fred the Clown in the Iron Duchess
Writer/Artist: Roger Langridge
Publisher: Fantagraphics 
Want to get your kids into Buster Keaton but afraid they won’t watch a silent black-and-white movie? Langridge’s slim graphic novel is a good intro to the form, with a monochromatic palette and almost no words, but the simplicity of the book makes it an easy read for kids. Facial expressions and body language convey much of the humor, as Fred pines for a society lady, tangles with a mad scientist and experiences all manner of adventure.
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Garbage Night
Writer/Artist: Jen Lee
Publisher: Nobrow
Have you been longing for a semi-post-apocalyptic comic book about teenaged, humanized animals that evokes Over the Edge? Welp, Jen Lee has your number, and although her book wasn’t marketed as YA, it totally works for moody teens and tweens. After all, that’s what her characters are, and the way they interact with one another is both frustrating and accurate.
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If Found…Please Return to Elise Gravel
Writer/Artist: Elise Gravel
Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly
Elise Gravel’s simulacrum of the black notebooks in which she sketches all her work doesn’t have a plot, but it’s great encouragement for kids who love to draw. Gravel expends her energy in drawing farts and hedgehogs and all kind of anthropomorphized food in bright colors; her words constitute a kind of pep talk, countering any arguments you might have that your ideas are too stupid or far out.
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Mighty Jack and the Goblin King
Writer/Artist: Ben Hatke
Publisher: First Second
The second half of Ben Hatke’s take on Jack and the Beanstalk (following up on Mighty Jack) wraps up its fast-paced adventure tale with a great sci-fi twist. Hatke has a great gift for drawing acrobatics, and the book is full of swordplay and goblins. As with the first volume, it makes space for the neuroatypical in a lovely way.
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Peppy in the Wild West
Writer/Artist: Hergé
Publisher: Fantagraphics 
Peppy in the Wild West doesn’t exactly offer a realistic portrayal of Native Americans, but this early work by Hergé of Tintin fame is adorable. Peppy the bear and his lady-love Virginny succeed at haberdashery, but end up having to escape many perils in Warner Brothers-cartoon fashion. Take the opportunity to have a brief discussion with your wee one about how cultural attitudes change over time, but don’t miss the chance to introduce your kids to this gorgeously colored book.
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Shattered Warrior
Writer: Sharon Shinn
Artist: Molly Knox Ostertag
Publisher: First Second
This YA-aimed sci-fi book is fuel for young resisters, providing them with a narrative of how to maintain one’s strength in the face of powerful adversity. Shinn’s smooth plot and Ostertag’s intelligently designed characters work together like a perfect tag team, moving so fluidly that they make it look easy. The adventure is also well-designed, with strong visuals and an admirable lead.
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Star Scouts
Writer/Artist: Mike Lawrence
Publisher: First Second
Viewed abstractly, Mike Lawrence’s Star Scouts could have been made in a lab—strong girl characters, science, action, diversity, etc.—but it doesn’t read that way at all. The characters are engaging, the message focuses on teamwork, and the book is a lot of fun. Plus, there’s another one coming out next year.
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The Time Museum
Writer/Artist: Matthew Loux
Publisher: First Second
Here’s another franchise in the making, but one that stands on a foundation that demands more. Matthew Loux has already demonstrated that he knows how to keep a series going, with his wonderful Salt Water Taffy books aimed at a slightly younger audience. In this one, his wide-eyed Muppet-y characters argue and bond and solve problems together as they hop through time.

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