First Trade: Comic Reviews for Booksellers - December 2018

DBD introduces a new graphic novel review series by bookseller Bianca Walters. Every month, Bianca will provide reviews of three graphic novels, providing information on suitable audiences for each title, artistic comparisons, and sell-through suggestions.


CONTRIBUTORS: Vita Ayala, Lisa Sterle, Stelladia
PUBLISHER: Vault Comics
ISBN: 9781939424426
ON SALE: 12/25/2018
GENRE: Psychological Supernatural Thriller

Submerged is the story of Elysia, a latinx lesbian and her descent into the NY subway system to save her wayward brother, Angel. Through voicemails and flashbacks, their family dynamic shows a gender based rift between the two siblings. Elysia is La Princesa, an image of the perfect daughter in her father’s eyes. Angel is the boy, protected from consequences in youth but expected to take up his father’s violent business practices as a young adult.

In reality, Elysia consistently gets her brother out of jams in between hiding her relationships with women. Meanwhile their mother struggles to do right by her children without incurring abuse from her husband. For a horror comic, the representation of what it’s like to grow up in a world where gender roles are enforced with physical and emotional violence is written with depth and drawn with empathy.    

After a big fight, Elysia ignores Angel’s calls. When she listens to his messages her big sis instincts kick in at the sound of her brother’s voice. The clues lead her out into a terrible storm and down into the subway system, only to be greeted by a modern New York iteration of the entrance to Hades. It soon becomes clear that 1) the storm outside is a woeful one and 2) Elysia is being followed by creatures unknown.  

There is care taken to include that wild storms due to climate change are on the rise, they’re a part of the alternate world that is built. Ayala’s use of real life threats as the paint and wood of their nightmare scape is masterfully creepy. Familial and internal homophobia, climate change, centipedes - these are all things that already keep me up at night and here they are, realized and validating and scary af.           

For Fans of: Infidel, The Wilds, I’m Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika Sanchez, Becky Cloonan stuff, Warriors the movie (if only for the stellar use of subway systems as a spooky set for misdeeds)

Art: The strength of concept is proven with the visual product. Lisa Sterle dresses Elysia in the clothes and expressions that are authentic, and then surrounds her with dubious, eerie creatures and structures. Stelladia’s breathless blues and purples keep the tension and tone consistent. They come together to make a world that looks like concrete but shifts like the smoke of dreams - perfect for the modern Orpheus vibe of the book.  

Sell it: To people looking for emotional, well-constructed spooky content from non-binary and femme creators.


CONTRIBUTORS: Joe Keatinge, Ali Bouzari, Woo Jin Clark, Tamra Bonvillain
PUBLISHER: Image Comics
ISBN: 9781534308824
ON SALE: 11/27/2018
GENRE: Food, Adventure, Young Adult, Fantasy

Xoo cooks. Her parents’ restaurant is where she grew up and she’d prefer that everything stay the same there. Unfortunately, life has other plans. Her parents are ill, prompting an uncle to come to town and assist with Xoo’s upbringing and running of the store. See, Xoo is an unlicensed chef in The Bowl, where food is the trade, the culture, and pride of the people who live there.

Flavor is delightfully epic, with dangerous underground and extravagant official cooking tourneys, an ominous mountain spirit with an appetite, and a very well read dog named Buster.  

For Fans of: Bone, Adventure Time, Lumberjanes, and the Avatar cartoons.

Art: Bright, clean, busy cartoon style. The thing that made this comic memorable to me is Xoo’s autonomy and control when she’s cooking. It’s just good to see and Woo Xin Clark nails it in the middle of a fantastically loud world.  

Sell it: To middle and high schoolers who read Bone and love Cartoon Network stuff, and everyone else.

Cellies Volume 1

CONTRIBUTORS: Joe Flood, David Stewart II
ISBN: 9781941302941
ON SALE: 1/15/2019
GENRE: Comedy, Slice of Life

Cellies starts off looking like an anti-tech Shaun of the Dead story but is actually a wholesome slice of retail life comedy about some people who work at a cell phone store.

Devin, the protagonist, is 21 year old guy who just wants to work his 8 and go home to play video games. Parker, the CEO’s daughter has a casual racism problem and a gaggle of friends that show up at the store to take up space. Rey, a Muslim teenager, tries to stoke a social life in between strict parents, mountains of homework, and her job. Jerry used to be a journalist and often has the dropsies. Christian, the manager, who is actually using Tom Cruise lines to train employees when he’s not posing for selfies. Elena is overqualified, a new employee who somehow knows and does more than all of the people I just listed.    

For Fans of: Moonstruck, Over Easy.  

Art: Cartoon style, heavy inks.  

Sell it: To tired retail workers and folk who used to be tired retail workers.


Bianca is a bookseller, a polite troublemaker, an eventual time traveller, and a graphic novel evangelist. She and her two cats are from Berwyn, IL and she currently works at The Book Table in Oak Park. Read more of her reviews are here: or catch her on the interwebs @beewaltz. 


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