In selecting our picks for this year's best comics and graphic novels, there emerged a theme where the creators involved stand as prominently as the stories they tell. Whether they are comics, or books about comics, our favorites highlight achievements in form and narrative that could not have been replicated by anyone else.
Topping our list is a book that focuses on a prime example of one such creator: The Art of Jaime Hernandez: The Secrets of Life and Death by Todd Hignite. The Love and Rockets writer and illustrator's (ongoing) legacy is on full display: sketches, unpublished art, rejected pages, early notebook doodles, covers, ads, posters, photographs, and plenty more lie on thick, oversized pages. Yet, there exists an engaging and detailed biography amidst the visual celebration, making it a must-have for any Love and Rockets fan.
Meanwhile, on the superhero end of the comics spectrum, Batwoman: Elegy gives reason to consider Batwoman one of the prime players in Batman's overstuffed mythos: she has a heartbreaking, empowering backstory, as revealed by writer Greg Rucka, and then there’s the art by J.H. Williams III, whose work here may very well go down as one of the best runs in Batman’s history. Williams displays an astonishing authority over visual storytelling--a creator in creative control.
This year also saw new work from several critical and fan-favorite creators, including Charles Burns’ X’ed Out, the first volume in a paranoid look at teenagers, art, and fantasy (more here), James Sturm’s quiet, affecting story of commercialism and creativity in Market Day (more here), and the latest installment in Chris Ware’s Acme Novelty Library series. I don't know how Chris Ware can continue to turn out these depressing windows into the lives of even more depressing characters, but #20 is full of complex character relationships as well as dense page and panel structures. There is heavy repetition at work--tiny details continue to appear and build toward a total devastation-level event.
Proving that humor can be timeless, 40: A Doonesbury Retrospective turns the spotlight onto creator G.B. Trudeau’s celebrated newspaper strip, collecting 40 years of sociopolitical humor in a slipcased hardcover. Featuring 1,800 strips and 18 new essays from Trudeau, here are jokes and satirical commentary that hold up decades after their initial run--and some ring just as true in today’s political climate.
Editors' Top Ten Picks in Comics & Graphic Novels
- The Art of Jaime Hernandez: The Secrets of Life and Death by Todd Hignite
- Batwoman: Elegy by Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams III
- X'ed Out by Charles Burns
- Market Day by James Sturm
- King of the Flies: Hallorave (Vol. 1) by Mezzo and Pirus
- 40: A Doonesbury Retrospective by G.B. Trudeau
- Hellboy Volume 9: The Wild Hunt by Mike Mignola and Duncan Fegredo
- Acme Novelty Library #20 by Chris Ware
- Picture This: The Near-sighted Monkey Book by Lynda Barry
- Wednesday Comics by Various