SuperMutant Magic Academy: starred review

“SuperMutant Magic Academy” / Booklist / Sarah Hunter / April 15, 2015

Like an angsty mash-up of Harry Potter and X-Men, Tamaki’s Ignatz Award–winning SuperMutant Magic Academy, originally a webcomic, explores the thrills and banalities of superhuman teens at boarding school. The story begins with discrete sets of dryly witty six-panel pages focusing on individual characters, such as Everlasting Boy, who drifts through all time and space with little concern for worldly worries, and Frances, who creates absurd and antagonistic performance art (“Frances, feminist statement or not, throwing pig’s blood, followed by glitter, on male students is not acceptable”). Its true heart, however, is Marsha, a closeted bespectacled grump who pines for her best friend, Wendy. 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. The teens all face the usual hurdles—dating, self-esteem, homework, sports, and so on—but Tamaki, illustrator of the award-winning This One Summer (2014), never lets growth come easy. There are flickering moments of transcendent wisdom and kindness, but the overall tone is one of insouciant, salty resignation to the mundane realities of existence. Simultaneously heartbreaking and hilarious, this is perfect for fans of Daniel Clowes’ Ghost World (1997).

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