Canadian Japanese cousins Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki have become quite the award-winning dynamic duo in the graphic industry with their bestselling collaborations, Skim (four Eisner nominations) and This One Summer (a 2015 Caldecott Honor). Both titles have been intensely honest, openly revealing, as well as uniquely engaging examinations of the many challenges of adolescent coming-of-age.
In her latest solo title, Jillian takes adolescence out of this world – literally. Culled from her webcomic of the same name which she’s been posting since 2010 (“minus the really, really bad ones,” she promises on her author website), Tamaki introduces an eclectic cast of prep-school students who, in spite of their supernatural powers, are perhaps not so different from the angst-filled, bored, searching students you might find pretty much at any American high school.
The teenagers here at SuperMutant Magic Academy push against authority, attempt to make their own rules, fall for the wrong person, play games, act up in class, question their identities, and debate existential realities. That Veronica has a cat head, Trixie might be a bald dinosaur, Evan can morph into a tree, Wendy has feline ears, Gemma is a mutant alien, Trevor resembles (albeit in looks only) the Last Airbender, and Marsha has a magic wand, are just mere additional details about these high school teens. Life goes on … complete with jealousy, admiration, loyalty, fickle fights, hierarchies, and more.
Amidst broom travel, skin shedding, time traveling, flesh melting, Tamaki delivers universal high school drama with quirky characters we may never actually encounter beyond the page. That said, strange as they may initially seem, recognition and empathy – not to mention nods, guffaws, tears, eye rolls and more – are also guaranteed. Ready to enroll? You betcha!