(as Stephie is autistic, plus transgender people telling their own stories in a positive light, and not just about their transitioning or having transitioned, are not seen as much. Stephie is a normal kid getting through school, friendships, babysitting, growing up, dating and more.)
If you ever find yourself reading anything by Sophie Labelle’s Assigned Male comics know this: the greatest thing and the worst thing about them is the same thing: They are in your face. They make you uncomfortable. They make you think. So, Labelle is a bada$$ writer/artist/person who is wonderfully controversial and on the right track to getting all of us in the know. They are sarcastic, thoughtful, humorous, serious and knows a thing or two about a thing or two, and shares that with us. They say even cisgender people can enjoy their work (after all they love cis people, their parents are some!) so do not be afraid of jumping into the excitment.
And because Gender Pirates: An Assigned Male Comics collection is a collection of previous released comics, they are no exception. These comics (some are one panel, some several panels together) are really about being yourself. Nothing is held back. You follow the journey of Stephie, a transgender girl, and her friends as they go about finding their place in this world. Some are bisexual, some transgender boys, some intersex, and others are non-binary. There are siblings, bullies, fathers, mothers, teachers, and the community at large that are also involved.
Since these comics cover several years, the journey these characters take unfolds slowly, but you can see that they change, grow and explore. This helps fill in places I was not sure about when I read them “one at a time” when found online. They also show how characters have changed looks over the years (perhaps due to their personal journey or Labelle’s vision for them has changed. I was not completely sure). And while the stories can be difficult to read (some plots might trigger someone going through the same thing) the work is accessible really to all ages.
This also is seen in The Best of Assigned Male. Labelle’s work is collected in a large volume that has extras for the die-hard fans. Therefore, this time it has sections the younger reader might want to skip as it can contain information about the process, things happening at the time, or in general, dull adult stuff (or at least I felt that way sometimes). Some of the comics you will have seen in Gender Pirates or one of the other collections, or online/their website. Yet, some are new for the collection. It has one area near the end that while informative, it deals with sex, sexuality identity with gender. It is done tastefully, but it is there, so buyer has been told. In The Best of there is even a story arc that was once seen in a solo printing you could (at the time) only get through Labelle’s website.
You might not like everyone or the journeys the characters take. Everyone will come out of these readings with different information. You might want to collect other books by the author (such as Ciel a book about one of the main characters seen in Assigned Male) or you will be good at one or both books.