Martin Casas spent years in city government, absorbing the ire of people whose trash hadn’t been picked up. Last September, he set out on a more heroic career. He opened Apotheosis Comics & Lounge (3206 S. Grand), a boutique comic book store and bar on bustling South Grand Boulevard. The name is a nod to the giant statue in front of the Saint Louis Art Museum, as well as to the literary process of becoming a hero. “I was ready to start helping the next generation of readers and kids become heroes themselves,” Casas says. The bar is geared toward adults, and there is plenty for full-grown kids in the comic offerings. But the shop has Saturday morning reading events and classes to teach parents how to share comics with their kids. (After all, it’s important to know when to say “Biff!” and “Pow!”) With an 8-year-old daughter of his own, Casas is wonderfully mindful of how to meet young readers where they are. Here are three of his favorite fun reads.

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Captain America: Home of the Brave

Written by Mark Waid, art by Chris Samnee, Marvel, ages 12–plus

“What’s great about this collection is that it has classic superhero stories,” says Casas. “When you read it, it’s like a warm blanket of positive inspirational storytelling. The art is very nostalgic and retro. If I was a kid, it would inspire me to read comics the rest of my life.”

El Deafo

Written and drawn by Cece Bell, colored by David Lasky Abrams Books, ages 8–12

El Deafo is a great book for kids who have been bullied, kids who do bully, and kids who aren’t involved in it at all,” says Casas. “It’s the story of a girl who is different and how she copes with her disability—she uses it not to define her but instead to strengthen her.”

The Unbeatable  Squirrel Girl Volume 4

Written by Ryan North, art by Erica Henderson, Marvel, ages 11–14

Squirrel Girl is one of my favorite reads, and I’m a 37-year-old man,” Casas says. Why Volume 4 specifically? Because Squirrel Girl uses binary code to defeat the villain, so you finish with a better understanding of coding.

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