Graphic Novel Friday: Best of the Year in Comics and Graphic Novels

The selections for this year’s highlights reflect the variety of options for readers in the medium, from seasoned veterans like Daniel Clowes, whose Mister Wonderful: A Love Story proved yet again that the indie artist remains at the top of his technique (and that he isn’t afraid to try new layouts or happy endings) to relative newcomers like Scott Snyder, whose collaboration with artists Jock and Francesco Francavilla on Batman: The Black Mirror showed that there are still shocking and smart stories to tell in the life of the Caped Crusader.

For readers who enjoy a book as heavy as its subject matter, two large tomes loomed over most: Habibi by Craig Thompson and Big Questions by Anders Nilsen. The latter takes a grand look at a small pack of birds who discover far more than food in the field where they live when a plane crash upsets their fragile lives and psyches to the point of disaster and revelation. Meanwhile, Habibi (our top pick this year) is a complex, fantastical adventure that spans religions and lifetimes. Thompson’s artwork is sweeping and lush, but its rewards can also be found in the minute details that frame panels.

Perhaps most rewarding, though, are Jaime Hernandez’s short stories in Love and Rockets: New Stories Vol. 4. The longtime creator completes a long-running narrative without grandiose preening, and the art is full of expression and effortless charm. The final pages speed toward a finish that will satisfy new readers and bring bittersweet conclusion for fans. It’s the best feeling for a Love and Rockets devotee: not wanting the decades-long love story to end but being so pleased with the way it may have (if this truly is the conclusion).

That’s the way it always goes in comics, an inevitable and reassuring “To be continued…”--and our list is no different, with plenty more to explore. See all editors’ picks in the Best of Comics and Graphic Novels and our Best of 2011 store.


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