7 of the Best YA Novels (& Series) Featuring Your Favorite Comic Book Characters
Until Birds of Prey drops into theaters and blows our collective minds in 2020, we’re sorely lacking in superhero content. Why not take a break from waiting until your next pull list to find iconic comic book characters in their own novels? Full of drama, humor, and heroics, these YA novels will see everyone from Lois Lane to Loki living out brand new adventures.
Lois Lane Trilogy – Gwenda Bond
Army brat Lois Lane has seen the great big world out there (and some things she can’t explain), when she and her family settle down in Metropolis. In her new city, she promises that she’s going to fly on the straight and narrow. She will not get in trouble or have a Reputation with a capital R, as she did in the past—or, at least, that’s what she promises the people around her, including her online friend, SmallvilleGuy (guess who). If only things were that easy …
Bond, whose previous works include Girl on the Wire and Blackwood, takes DC Comics’ favorite intrepid reporter and makes her the hero of her own story. In this trilogy, teenage Lois Lane has a great wry sense of humor and bravery to spare. She will go to the ends of the Earth, or risk some serious punishment, in order to protect her friends, her family, and perfect strangers.
With thrilling plots, a likable lead, and a strong cast of supporting characters—including a really excellent version of Clark Kent and a non-evil version of Lex Luthor—this series is a fun, charming, and exciting read. There’s a definite understanding of why Lois Lane is way, way more than any “damsel in distress” label some might slap on her.
Black Widow Series – Margaret Stohl
Natasha Romanoff’s childhood in the Red Room is definitely one of the darker and more disturbing backstories in Marvel Comics. While there is a YA series that features the character, she is not the point of view character.
Teenager Ava Orlova was once rescued by the spymaster of the Avengers. Trying to live a low-key life in Brooklyn, Ava longs to reconnect with her rescuer. The Black Widow, however, is not really the type to be a big sister. When children in Eastern Europe start going missing, Natasha asks for Ava’s help in stopping who she believes to be her old teacher.
Written by Beautiful Creatures author Margaret Stohl, this two-book series follows Natasha and Ava as they dismantle the remnants of the Red Room and confront their shared history. Stohl does a great job capturing Natasha’s thought processes and her blood-spattered history. Ava is a compelling lead, feeling drawn to Natasha without ever really knowing her at first.
Stohl builds two excellent spy novels with cat-and-mouse games and betrayal around every corner. In the lead-up to the Black Widow movie, these are definitely worth checking out if you love the character.
DC Icons – Leigh Bardugo, Marie Lu, Sara J. Maas, Matt de la Peña
Written by some of the biggest names in YA, DC Icons is a project that tells one-off stories of the most popular characters in DC Comics. Following Wonder Woman, Batman, Catwoman, and Superman as teenagers in their own solo adventures, these novels promise new adventures and beginnings for these beloved characters. All the stories are pretty much coming of age fare with never-before-seen, novel-specific characters teaming up with the not-yet heroes in the adventures.
As four different authors take each of the four different characters, the novels are all about your own taste. Wonder Woman: Warbringer and Batman: Nightwalker are being made into their own graphic novels. The two stories are largely considered to be “the best” in the run. Catwoman: Soulstealer and Superman: Dawnbreaker should definitely be given a fair chance. All the stories perfectly capture these teenage versions of the classic characters, showing the path to the heroes that they will become.
Loki: Where Mischief Lies – Mackenzi Lee
Do you want a gender fluid and pansexual Loki in your life? Loki: Where Mischief Lies is right up that alley. Written by Mackenzi Lee (The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue), the novel follows a younger Loki, who yearns for acceptance from his family and wants to be seen as a hero. In Asgard, where deeds are measured by might rather than wit or magic, that is not often the case.
When Loki and his dear friend Amora cause the destruction of a prize artifact of Asgard, she is sent away, and Loki falls deeper into the shadows. Asgaridan magic is detected on Midgard and Loki is sent by Odin to investigate.
Lee definitely captures the duality and tragedy of the Loki. He so clearly yearns to be regarded and accepted by his own abilities and on his terms. Unfortunately, Asgard seems to be against him from the start. It clearly captures the struggle of anyone who’s ever felt different and not accepted because of those differences. The world of Asgard and of Victorian London are well set up, along with Loki’s sharp and devious mind. Even though Marvel fans know how Loki’s story will end, there is still a hope that he will be able to prove himself a hero in his own right.
Runaways – Christopher Golden
This original novel follows the events of the original comics more closely than the Hulu TV series. With news that their parents have apparently come back from the dead, Nico, Karolina, Gert, Chase, and Molly are on the run again. With new criminal factions rising up in L.A., the gang struggles to uncover the truth of their parents’ past in order to protect themselves.
Written by Christopher Golden (Ararat), the novel definitely requires more knowledge of the original comics run by Brian K. Vaughn for this followup tale. Golden captures the trauma that the Runaways went through as children of supervillains and reconciling their own actions. He also captures the family dynamic between the Runaways in a really believable way.
She-Hulk Diaries – Marta Acosta
In 2013, Marvel ventured into “chick lit” territory with two novels. She-Hulk Dairies is honestly the better of the pair. Rather than Jen Walters having control of her big, green alter ego as she does in comics, this version tends to be left to deal with the messes of “Shulky,” who is something of a tabloid darling. Kicked out of Avengers Mansion and at her rock bottom, Jen plans to get her life back on track with the help of her diary and some stern resolutions.
Acosta really shines with the diary format; Jen clearly feels overshadowed by her hulking counterpart. As she gets involved in a supervillain plot to take her down, she has to find her own inner courage and learn to accept her other half if she wants to survive. It’s really fun, with Jen as a likable and sweet lead, plus appearances from other Marvel characters in a new context, like Hellcat and the Fantastic 4.
Miles Morales: Spider-Man – Jason Reynolds
If you’re left craving more Miles Morales content ahead of the Into the Spider-Verse sequel, then this standalone YA novel will definitely feed your appetite. An already established Spider-Man, Miles finds himself with his powers on the fritz and trying to balance his double life. When his scholarship to his high school is at risk, he finds himself caught up in a plot that can hurt those around him if he doesn’t suit up.
Reynolds really focuses on Miles’ identity as a young African-American in a system that seems to want him to fail. He’s scared of going down the criminal path of his father and uncle. He works hard as a scholarship student at a prestigious high school. He has to deal with a teacher talking about the historical benefits of slavery and the modern-day equivalent in the prison system. It definitely captures Miles’ world in a very true-to-life sort of way.
(featured image: Switch Press, Random House Books for Young Readers, Marvel Press)
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