cover image Djeliya


Juni Ba. TKO Studios, $14.99 paper (180p) ISBN 978-1-952203-24-4

Ba blends West African folklore and speculative futurism into a graphic novel debut studded with tech, mythological creatures, and lurking danger. After the mystical Wizard Soumaoro unleashes a devastating power that decimates the world, Prince Mansour Keita and Awa Kouyaté—his djeli, or royal musical and storytelling counselor—and ally Oriundo traverse a postapocalyptic landscape to find the ivory tower from which he destroys all fledgling kingdoms. Since surviving the destruction of their own kingdom 10 years before, Mansour and Awa have struggled with the responsibilities of their titles: Mansour tries to reconcile the disgrace of losing his ancestral armor with being the last heir to his family’s powerful dynasty. Narrator Awa, meanwhile, trained to provide guidance to the royal family, is unsure how to motivate and advise Mansour in dystopic circumstances in which other djelis do little more than entertain the rich. Via action-packed, thick-lined panels that engage concentrated pinks, purples, yellows, and greens with scarlet highlights, Awa describes the journey in vignettes paired with rich interludes that expand the characters’ world. Through text and art, Ba crafts a highly stylized, sometimes violent adventure while commenting on the bravery required to define one’s path, the influence of fear and superstition, and the enduring power of storytelling. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 12–up. (July)