Writer: M.L. Smoker & Natalie Peeterse
Artist: Dale Deforest
Colorist: Adriano Augusto, Wendy Broome, Lisa Moore, & Omi Remalante Jr.
Letterer: Jokar Productions
Cover Artist: Oriol Vidal
Publisher: Dynamite Comics
Being a teenager is tough. It’s a time filled with insecurity, uncertainty, and an overwhelming desire to connect and fit in. For Aiyana in Thunderous, the need to feel part of something (particularly the “cool” group) is all she can think about, to the point where she is willing to push aside her family and indigenous culture to assimilate. Her journey becomes finding her own way, being proud of who she is, and accepting and standing behind her Lakota heritage.
Written by M.L. Smoker and Natalie Peeterse, the middle grade graphic novel offers young readers a relatable protagonist searching for herself. Even if the reader isn’t from a Native family, the turmoil and need for acceptance that Aiyana feels is universal for young people figuring out their path. We’ve all been there: wanting to be cool and feeling a little bit like an outcast. Maybe even hiding parts of ourselves that we aren’t sure will be accepted.
What sets this coming-of-age tale apart from others is that it offers an authentic look at indigenous culture and myth, Lakota specifically. As Aiyana learns about her people and how important her background is, the reader meets fascinating characters from folklore and learns a few words from the Lakota language (there is a glossary at the back to help with pronunciation and definitions).
Having stories such as this is vital on multiple levels. Not only do they provide diverse stories told by authentic voices, but they also help readers who may be struggling with their identity learn to accept who they are. For indigenous readers, there is a true reflection of themselves and their culture, and for those who are not indigenous, they have a hero to connect with and learn from.
As for the art, Dale Deforest’s interiors and the color team do an exceptional job at creating eye-catching visuals that bounce back and forth from the real world and the world of myth. The art is clean and the panels are easy to follow. Couple that with the seamless flow of Jokar Productions’ letters, and the narrative moves at just the right pace.
There is a lot of story in just a few pages and at no point did it feel bogged down or confusing. In fact, the way the creative team framed and packaged Aiyana’s personal tale and her experience in connecting with her culture is simple yet rich in detail and life.
Overall Thunderous is a good read for all ages. While targeted toward younger eyes, adults can learn a few things along the way. To back the Indiegogo campaign and snag your copy, click here.