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SuperMutant Magic Academy Paperback – April 28, 2015
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From School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—This quirky solo work from Caldecott- and Printz-winning graphic novelist Tamaki collects strips from her long-running webcomic about a school for mutants and witches into one mostly cohesive anthology. Riffing off popular phenomena, such as Harry Potter and the X-Men, this title sets teen angst-y situations in a world populated with cat-eared prom queens, the Everlasting Boy, and superpowered jocks. Most of the strips are a page-long, with the exception of the never-before-seen 40-page story arc that concludes the series. While at times these snippets may confuse readers because of their brevity and often weighty existential themes, these snapshots often center on the same cast of characters, each of whom teens get to know more deeply by the book's end. The mostly black-and-white art is divided in a range of single, full-page to six panels, and rare bursts of color are deftly used to moving effect. Marsha, the misanthropic witch with a crush on her female best friend; Frances, the boundary-pushing artist; and Cheddar, the athlete trying to find the meaning of life, among others, stand out as the more fully developed protagonists, but readers will find bits of themselves in many of the realistic characters. Poking fun at the "Chosen One" mythos, Tamaki has created a stellar graphic novel that combines her slice-of-life expertise and clean, uncluttered art style. VERDICT A must-have volume reminiscent of Alan Moore's Watchmen (DC Comics, 1987) and her and Mariko Tamaki's This One Summer (First Second, 2014) in sensibility and Raina Telgemeier's works in appearance.—Shelley Diaz, School Library Journal
“Tamaki's sense of comedy and pacing owes a lot to Charles Schulz's "Peanuts," although her subject matter is decidedly less innocent. And she delights in breaking her own rules: Her artwork is black-and-white except when she throws in impish splashes of color, drawn with broad, rough brush strokes except when it's composed of felt-tip scribbles or shimmering digital gray.” ―New York Times
“SuperMutant Magic Academy... exudes an irresistible wit.” ―The Guardian
“This collection is a great read for comic fans and genre newbies alike.” ―Bust Magazine
“[SuperMutant Magic Academy] is smart, thoughtful, and too hilarious to gobble down in just one sitting.” ―Bitch Magazine
“When it comes down to it, this is one of the best books... of any kind to come out in a long time.” ―Autostraddle
“The humor [in SuperMutant Magic Academy] is sometimes slapstick, but more often it offers ultra-dry observations on modern disengagement. Tamaki is playful and loose with her art, unafraid to be experimental as she draws us into a world where true feelings are the greatest danger.” ―Publishers Weekly Starred Review
“Though Tamaki's black and white panels shift from detailed and realistic to dreamy and atmospheric and back again, she consistently and expertly captures subtle emotion and subtext with only a few strokes of the pen. [SuperMutant Magic Academy is] simultaneously heartbreaking and hilarious.” ―Booklist Starred Review
“SuperMutant Magic Academy will reassure teenagers that high school is a weird place, even for humans, and will remind adults that it is an experience we never really outgrow.” ―Winnipeg Free Press
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I love that you can tell it began as an excuse for Tamaki to just let loose on the page. Tamaki is known for her crisp and clean line art that she uses for her books, but the art in a lot of SuperMutant strips -- and especially in the early ones -- are rough, almost sloppy, as if they were done quickly and in the moment. It fits the throw-away nature of the humor. The art style starts to get tighter as the strip goes on, and the light gags begin give way to darker jokes and meditations. Tamaki never chooses to permanently stay in one form or the other, though, neither in terms of art or story -- they never stop fluctuating. This gives the comic a kind of fluidity that make the strips range from the relatively straightforward to the surreal and the somber -- more or less on a strip-by-strip basis.
(My favorites of these are the ones featuring Everlasting Boy, her immortal, silent character, whose strips consist of what I can only call playful existentialism.)
The strips are mostly self-contained, one-shot things, although the last few dozen that end the collection feature a poignant take on the Chosen One story that is so wonderfully and beautifully done that it borders on frustrating (it is so short). It's so good that it could have been expanded to it's own graphic novel. Maybe one day.