I love to read comics. Any form will do. I tend to favor “slice 0f life,” more realistic comics, but I definitely enjoy other genres as well. Below, I present my favorite 20 comics or graphic novels of 2010. Comments/ suggestions are welcome!
1) Body World by Dash Shaw
Dash Shaw’s surreal, head-trippy book tells the story of Paulie Panter, a writer cataloging the hallucinogenic effects of North American plant life. He discovers a plant that when smoked grants the smoker telepathic abilities. The drug soon wrecks havoc on the small town in which it was discovered. It’s a wild ride of a book, but Shaw’s unique sense of style and attention to detail make it a ride worth taking.
2) X’ed Out by Charles Burns
A summary of the newest work from the always brilliant Charles Burns (of Black Hole fame) is virtually impossible. Just take my word for it– you won’t be able to put it down, and you’ll want to read it over and over again to savor Burns’ sumptuous illustrations. He employs full color for the first time ever in this book.
3) Sweet Tooth #12 by Jeff Lemire
Sweet Tooth is my favorite on-going comic, and this “origin story” issue is a perfect jumping-on point for newcomers. Jeff Lemire captures human emotion as well or better than anyone else working in comics.
4) Chew # 15 by John Layman and Rob Guillory
Chew tells the story of Tony Chu, a detective who is cibopathic, meaning he gets psychic impressions from whatever he eats. He uses this skill to help him gather evidence to solve crimes. Chew never fails to entertain, and this issue moves the story ahead by light years. Can’t wait to see where things go next!
5) The Acme Novelty Library 20- LINT by Chris Ware
The ACME Novelty Library 20- LINT is a contributing chapter to ChrisWare’s brilliant ongoing graphic novel experiment “Rusty Brown”. This story stands up nicely on its own, so no worries if you haven’t read Ware’s other entries in the series.
6) How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less by Sarah Glidden
I find few things as interesting and as complex as the Arab-Israeli conflict. This book tells the story of Sarah Glidden, a progressive American Jew who goes on a “Birthright” Trip to Israel to attempt to objectively assess the situation. She soon finds objectivity to be nearly impossible, and the book masterfully chronicles her emotional journey. Read this along with Joe Sacco’s classic, Palestine.
7) Palookaville 20 by Seth
This issue of Palookaville features, among other treasures, some of Seth’s finest autobiographical work. His rich descriptions of his feelings of isolation, loneliness, and not quite feeling “in step” with the world around him really speak to me; and the worlds he creates in his drawings feel classic and warm while also achieving a transcendent sense of otherworldliness.
8 Mercury by Hope Larson
I love Hope Larson’s work. Her books are intended for a female teen/ young adult audience, but her storytelling is so engaging that I’ve returned to each of her books multiple times. Do yourself a favor and start with this one!
9) The Playwright by Eddie Campell and Daren White
This quiet little book about a successful middle-aged playwrights contains a depth of feeling that is perfectly captured by Campell’s gorgeous watercolor paintings.
10) Hey Princess by Mats Jonnson
Part of the recent “Swedish invasion” in indie comics (see 120 Days of Simon below also), this is an extremely entertaining autobiography focused on sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll. I was so taken by this book that I read it three times straight, and then I promptly loaned it to my buddy Vince who also enjoyed it.
11) Tonoharu Part Two by Lars Martinson
If you enjoyed the film Lost in Translation, you’re sure to appreciate this semiautobiographical story of an American English teacher adjusting to life in an isolated section of rural Japan. This second volume finds protagonist Dan Wells trying to form social relationships to break out of the loneliness and boredom surrounding him.
12) Market Day by James Sturm
This is a moody and beautifully drawn portrait of Eastern Europe in the early 1900s. You’ll read Market Day in an hour, but it will remain with you long after you’ve closed the book.
13) Wilson by Daniel Clowes
Clowes utilizes diverse drawing styles to tell the story of bitter, lonely Wilson as he attempts to engage with life before retreating back to the comfort of his self-imposed isolation.
14) Werewolves of Montpellier by Jason
Jason’s work is haunting and surreal. I love all his books, but this one earns high points for including a character based on Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Sookie made me watch this movie recently, and I really didn’t like it. However, there’s something undeniably compelling about the Holly Golightly character. I’m not sure if I hate her, pity her, or love her. Jason’s allusion to the complex film icon really elevates this book. Check it out along with the recently released collection of Jason work, What I did.
15) Strange Tales 2 #1 by Various
Having indie comics writers tackle classic Marvel characters is a gamble, but it works really really well. The best thing about this series is that the writers don’t restrict themselves to the superhero world. The best of these stories place such extraordinary super-beings as Spiderman, Wolverine, and the Black Widow in very human, very ordinary situations.
16) American Vampire by Scott Snyder, Rafael Albuqueruque, and Stephen King
Don’t miss out on this expertly crafted, beautifully illustrated retelling of the classic Vampire mythos set in the American West of the early 20th century.
17) Wally Gropius by Tim Hensley
This book is like Richie Rich on acid– one of the most original, visually exciting books I’ve read this year.
18) 120 Days of Simon by Simon Gardenfors
Swedish comics creator and rapper Gardenfors tells the story of his 120 days on the road, adhering to strict rules of never staying at the same place for more than two days. Fast-paced and filled with plenty of debauchery, this one is not to be missed.
19) Cuba My Revolution by Inverna Lockpez and Dean Haspiel
This compelling political autobiography chronicles the experiences of a young woman named Sonya during the Cuban Revolution. Sonya starts out as an idealist revolutionary studying to be a surgeon. She faces persecution based on both her political beliefs and also her gender and eventually realizes she must flee her beloved but troubled country.
20) King of the Flies- 1. Hallorave by Mezzo and Pirus
King of the Flies, the first part of a proposed trilogy, is surreal and unsettling. It requires repeat readings to unearth the interwoven secrets at play.