2020 has been a long, distressing, and memorable year. It was also a year full of some great comics and graphic novels, particularly nonfiction works. Check out this list of my favorites (and follow the links to the full reviews):
Favorite Book OverallDragon Hoops is that, plus a personal history, plus a look at the identity politics of high school students, plus a commentary on making comics, plus a meditation on balancing your life. It's a massive, incredible work.
Kurt Vonnegut is one of my favorite authors, and this adaptation of Slaughterhouse-Five uses comics in interesting and innovative ways. Most adaptations don't enhance the source material, but this one does.
Favorite Nonfiction History (Younger Readers - Not by Nathan Hale)
Favorite Nonfiction History (Younger Readers - by Nathan Hale)Blades of Freedom, the tenth(!) entry in his Hazardous Tales series, shows just how fresh and interesting his work still is while covering a topic (the slave revolt in Haiti) that unravels a complicated web of 18th century US and European history. Another book that opened my eyes to a topic I was sadly ignorant about.
Favorite Nonfiction (Older Readers)Kent State is well-researched, based on lots of original documents, interviews, and oral accounts of the massacre of student protestors in 1970. It is a book that highlights the victims who died, showing their humanity while also exposing a system of paranoia and prejudice that sadly persists today.
Favorite Fictional BiographyLon Chaney Speaks pieces together a compelling narrative that melds vaudeville, silent movies, the early days of Hollywood, and plenty of monster movie special effects. The artwork perfectly captures the time period while recreating the movies and movie posters of the day.
Favorite Superhero BiographyJack Kirby is not technically a superhero, but he created enough of them in his lifetime that I am counting him as one. I loved this biography that covers his lifespan and accomplishments in a style very similar to his own. The artwork is bombastic, quite fitting for the "King of Comics."
Favorite Superhero BookSuperman Smashes the Klan. Even if I had not talked to him, I would rate this work very highly. Based on a serialized radio show from 1946, this book modernizes the tale and hits on the best aspects of the classic superhero while also commenting on racism and the resilience of immigrants.
Favorite Series for Younger ReadersInvestigators series so far, and my oldest child has read them with me multiple times. It's full of puns, cheesy jokes, and inventive mash-ups of characters (including a radioactive bakery-based villain named Cracker-dile, a plumber who literally has a snake for an arm, and a doctor who turns into a news copter when anything news-worthy occurs around him). Fun and addictive!
Funniest Book, AKA Best Book Featuring Guys in Bear OutfitsEddie's Week begins with the main character having an inmate (complete with cell) installed in his living room and just gets weirder and more surreal from there. It's a unique and darkly funny book that speaks about modern life wile containing some madcap adventures.
Favorite YA BookThe Magic Fish speaks to the power of stories to convey meaning and build brides that cross time and culture. The main character Tiến is one of the sweetest and most sympathetic protagonists, and his struggles with coming out to his parents gnaw at him. The ending left me tingling.
Favorite YA BiographyFights chronicles a rough childhood where he had to learn to take up for himself, often in physical ways. It's a heart-rending and inspirational work that captures the confusion and ambiguities of childhood.
OK, that's my list. Happy 2021!