Six teenagers are back for the first day at Phoenix Academy High since the incident last year. One horrible day saw an active shooter on their campus. Many of the school’s inhabitants saw friends, teachers, and coworkers die. Some of these teenagers ignited. For some reason, these six gained supernatural powers the day of, or shortly after, the attack. They don’t know why, and they’re scared. The adults around these kids want to keep them safe: by banning guns outright, by equipping teachers with them, or by any means in between. But what if… what if only these teenagers, with powers they don’t fully understand, can?

Wow. This is a superhero story, sure, but it has grounds in a very real problem: how do we keep our schools safe from gun violence in America? As such, we see many different viewpoints and philosophies throughout the book. It felt at times just like watching a newscast of yet another school shooting, or protest in the aftermath of one, which was uncanny and surreal, but also disturbing.

Because the book is dealing with a real-life issue, the art is realistic. There are only a few visual cues that indicate the supernatural and superhero elements of the story. There is a strong sense of lighting throughout, which helps the characters and backgrounds look that much more believable. The backgrounds are also paid just as careful attention as the characters themselves, which I feel is a rare find!

What really impressed me are the diverse cast of characters. The six main characters are white, Hispanic, African American, Asian, mixed race, and so on. We get a little glimpse of their very different backgrounds and home lives. The commitment to capturing America’s diverse youth is what really makes this graphic novel stand out. Since there are so many main characters, we don’t get to spend a whole lot of time with any one of them, but I am very much looking forward to the second volume in order to do so.

– Kathleen

Waid, Mark, Kwanda Osajyefo, Phil Briones. Ignited (Vol. 1): Triggered. 2019.