Level Up written by Gene Luen Yang and art by Thien Pham
Dennis Ouyang grew up loving video games, but his dad wanted him to be a doctor when he grew up. Medical school isn't so interesting for Dennis but his dad died two weeks before the end of high school. Dennis feels obligated. College life is tough. Dennis drops out. Four kewpie doll angels show up and force him to seek his destiny. They take care of the small stuff (laundry and cooking) and help with studies (making flash cards and enforcing study time). At a new college, Dennis finds some friends whose attention competes with the angels. Dennis has a hard time with the school work/social life balance, leading to some interesting results. Dennis struggles through the early stages of his life, hoping to level up to being a happy man.
The story is both fantastical and rooted. The four doll angels are weird but Dennis and the reader are fully on board with them. The complicated relationships between the new friends is very realistic. Yang is a master storyteller and he weaves a great yarn here. Dennis is an interesting and sympathetic character. He has flaws and many ups and downs. The story mimics a multi-level video game, where Dennis has to progress or lose lives. The video game metaphor fits perfectly with the story arc and leads to a great conclusion.