Tuesday, January 1, 2013

My Top Graphic Novels from the Last Year

I read a lot of comics and graphic novels over the course of a year, and I review the majority of them on this blog. What follows is a list of my favorites that I wrote about here, plus two whose reviews are to come in the new year. Most are from 2012, but I could not resist including a couple from 2011 that I did not get to reading until this past year.

From 2012:

My Friend Dahmer
A deeply creepy and thought provoking book, this graphic novel haunted my thoughts for days and weeks after I read it. Not really voyeuristic, instead it depicts a slow descent into depravity by painstakingly small degrees. This book disturbed me by how much I could relate to some of the characters and situations as well as how they would all lead to eventual horror. Derf's art is incredible in its mix of realism and cartoon. His storytelling is also dead on, with tension-filled sequences, humorous interludes, and painful observations. Maybe the best thing I read in the past year, this graphic novel is an impressive masterpiece.

This graphic novel was a close second in my brain. I really enjoyed Ed Piskor's tragic and compelling account of a fictional super-hacker whose exploits were based on real-life events perpetrated by others. The story beats and art were so expertly laid out they kept me intrigued, while the blend of fiction and reality left me fascinated and wanting to learn more. The story focus, style, and delivery all combined to make this book a highly satisfying reading experience.

Friends with Boys
Faith Erin Hick's tale of adolescence, family drama, friendship, school, and a ghost was one of the most heartfelt and evocative books I read all year. Her character work is strong in terms of her art design but even stronger when it comes to her writing. Each person feels three-dimensional and also intriguing. I was sad to come to the end of the book and realize I could not spend more time with them.

One Dead Spy
The first volume of Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales hopefully augurs a long series of sequels. This book is at once informative, entertaining, and inventive. It made me laugh at loud while also teaching me much about the American Revolution. Intelligent in delivery and rich in details, it may just be the best historical adaptation I have ever read in graphic novel form.

Cruisin' with the Hound
Sadly, we lost comix institution Spain Rodriguez this year, but we also saw the publication of his works I most appreciate. This book collects various stories that have appeared in anthologies over the years about his formative years as a gang member and roustabout in the 1950s in Buffalo, NY. The artwork is masterful and the stories pop with energy at once sexy, rough, familiar, funny, and bittersweet.

Glory: The Once and Future Destroyer
I just read this book in the past week, and it is everything that superhero and episodic comics should be. Ross Campbell's art suits the wide range of bloody battle scenes, alien creatures, and quiet, emotional moments. Joe Keatinge's writing takes a tired Wonder Woman knock-off and reinvents her as a hulking and formidable character while surrounding her with a fantastic supporting cast and intriguing narrative situations. Every chapter ended with a cliffhanger that kept me wanting more.

The Graphic Canon, Volume 1
Russ Kick's edited book of literature, myths, and legends includes works from many nations and eras and has as diverse a cast of comics creators adapting them. Not everything in this volume is A-1 material, but the hits far outnumber the misses, and the ambitiousness of this first of three volumes cannot be denied.

Here are my couple of books published last year that I could not resist including:

Freshman: Tales of 9th Grade Obsessions, Revelations, and Other Nonsense
One of my greatest comics joys in the past year has been finding the work of Corinne Mucha. I love her mini-comics, and this book is an excellent look at adolescence that is evocative, empathic, and not cloyingly nostalgic. The characters are familiar and real; the situations awkward and memorable. Mucha's cartoonish style, comic pacing, and storytelling chops are excellent.

Infinite Kung Fu
Kagan McLeod's epic combines the best aspects of kung fu movies, supernatural fighters, undead adversaries, and legendary tales. The action sequences are incredible, the cast of characters intriguing, and there is a guy who can punch you so hard you cough up centipedes. Extremely fun and engaging.

There you have it, not a top ten, but my Best of Last Year.

Thanks for reading my blog. Happy New Year!


  1. Thanks for your blog!! I love it.
    I also really, really loved My Friend Dahmer - it made me so sick to my stomach on lots of levels. I'm glad to see it had your number one spot!

    Thanks, again.

    1. You're welcome! It troubled me very much and I couldn't not have it at #1. Still, I really enjoyed all these books.

      Thanks for the feedback :)