It’s dangerous to go alone! Take this.
In his latest semi-autobiographical tale, Paul Up North, Rabagliati turned his attention to the period surrounding the 1976 Montreal Olympics. This time we were treated to a teenage Paul and all of the bad hair, emotional angst and Prog Rock that we would expect of this age and era. We see the young Paul’s emotional journey from child to adult mirroring the deep political changes that were happening in contemporary Quebec. While Paul drinks his first beer and smokes his first joint, we also see Rabagliati write a love letter to Montreal’s urban landscape, Quebec’s countryside and the province’s political evolution. The last Paul album for the foreseeable future, this was a touching and funny way in which to bid farewell to these characters and the series.
PMIF not only made me giggle helplessly every month, it hit me right between the eyes more than once. It’s not often that something so laugh-out-loud funny also has this much heart, but beneath Danny’s hyperactive shenanigans and Luke’s self-bowderlized swearing lies a genuine friendship between two decent men just trying to live the best lives they can. Greene’s utterly charming takes on the characters leap off the page with a breakneck kineticism that always leaves you wanting more, and Walker’s meanderings down the Marvel Universe’s less-traveled byways are both nostalgic and utterly fresh. I love the fiddle-faddle out of this book.
Princess Sadie is about to be rescued, but the dashing young royal who releases her from her tower is no prince. Princess Amira is brave, bold, and determined to be a hero. The Princesses team up, discovering their individual talents, true friendship, and yes, even love. O’Neill’s art is as charming as her story is touching. Originally a hit webcomic, Princess Princess is known for being a classic fairytale made gay, but it is as much about learning to have faith in your abilities and compassion for others (even giant ogres who are bad dancers). Perfect for every age, this is the queer fairytale we all needed.
Kids need more comics about queer kids. It certainly doesn’t hurt if those comics look absolutely gorgeous. As the theater stage crew at a mysterious all-boys high school, the Backstagers deal with magical obstacles like giant spider, tool-stealing monsters, and ever-changing hallways. Rian Sygh’s backgrounds and Walter Baiamonte’s colorwork really drive home the strange, often eerie elements to the world James Tynion IV is writing. Perhaps best of all, the heroes of the book are sweet teen boys who blush and care about each other and wear their hearts on their sleeves. The Backstagers is a very sincere sort of book, and I love every issue.
I’m working with a character limit, so let’s call this book TUSGBUTMU. And TUSG really does BUTMU, in ways that are delightfully clever (and all-ages violent) without cramming in unearned cameos. I can’t imagine anyone but Henderson drawing TUSG, and it’s such a treat to see her versions of so many MU characters. There’s one particular page that debuts a USG look that made me cry and cheer in equal measure. That was actually me throughout reading TUSGBUTMU. As in several heroic tales, self-sacrifice is a big part of the resolution. But TUSGBUTMU is ultimately about self-compassion (especially for the side of you in command of a squirrel army).
This is the best way I know how to describe this comic: If like if Saga was crossed with Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Girl with All the Gifts then given the aesthetics of Time Bandits and Solar Babies. A bananapants horror fantasy set in an alternate 1900s Asia where women rule, Monstress is about a teenager who has survived many horrors of war only to discover there is something special about her. Inside her, really. And it is hungry. With the help of unusual friends, she must find out what it is if she is to control it. Takeda’s fantastic artwork compliments Liu’s superb storytelling. It is a delight for both the brain and the eyes.
A Silent Voice was nearly silenced itself – after a one-shot version of the story ran in a Japanese magazine in 2011, Oima had to fight for the full serialization that had been promised. Publishers weren’t sure they wanted a series told from the perspective of a bully who, years later, tries to make amends to the girl he tormented – nor did they want to acknowledge the depiction of Deaf marginalization. But now a gentle, intelligent translation has ensured that readers around the world can see Shoko Nishimiya smile and cringe and sign – the girl who can’t hear, silenced for so many years, finally heard by her friends.
Joyride is exactly that, a wild ride full of wonder and humor. Join Uma, Dewydd, and Catrin as they escape a sucky Earth and look for a better life. It’s a sci-fi comic, as well written as Saga, but with the heightened emotional tone of teenagerdom. Punk rock space fun! Let’s go for a ride.
Lucy Knisley is a queen of graphic memoirs, and nowhere is that more evident than her latest, Something New. Knisley is skeptical at the idea of marriage, but proceeds with planning her own somewhat unexpected nuptials in this gorgeous memoir full of splashy color. Readers experience everything from Knisley’s attempts to create handmade favors to her anguish over whether committing to a man erases her bisexuality. Every page contains a new delight, a new emotion, a new wonder; Knisley is one of the best creators working in the graphic memoir form today, and this amazing work is proof.
When you ask about Charlie Chye, you are asking a question so loaded you’d better get a comfy chair and a weekend ready, because you’ve got the greatest historical tour on your agenda.
Consider the life of Chye himself – an easygoing artist who strives to create something with impact. He knows he could rest on his laurels and draw mindless fluff for easy approval, but finding one’s voice in Cold War Singapore is a challenge worthy of a master, and so Chye’s artistic journey takes his work through homages of masters. Chye’s friends and family support him at different times, in different ways, but only the wielder of the ink can decide its form. Tezuka, McKay, Kelly – Sonny Liew is able to simulate them all and more, as he uses them to craft an artistic life that never was. Charlie Chan Hock Chye is a would-be cartoonist Singapore needed but never had. Planted historical documents sprinkled throughout the book further cement the simulation of Chye’s life, a what-if of versatile talent that we can enjoy in the present day. Facsimiles of a life that hasn’t gone by expose to readers the eras that have.
I want to declare Sonny Liew’s art style entirely his own, but his homages are so spot-on that comics historians’ eyes will pop out of their heads recognizing the techniques and styles at play. Of course Chye wrestles with publishers’ coloring limitations – actual “red book” manga collections of old had to deal with the same restrictions. Of course Chye’s approaches to narrative mature over time – the comics world kept and keeps evolving, too. However, readers do not need to be trivia lords to appreciate Chye’s goals in each of his artistic endeavors. Here’s a cartoonist who wants to change the world, but also needs to pay the bills. He discourses with a reader in the margins, polishing his righteous subtext, but his friend wants to read for pure enjoyment. Here comes an artistic/historical treatise that manages to do both.
Chye’s arc as a cartoonist realizing his talent always orbits around the lives and times surrounding him. Just as his trade can be cruel and unforgiving, so are the political movements in Malaysia/Singapore. A hero of the people one day, such as real-world Communist leader Lim Chin Siong, is an exile the next. Today’s best seller is on tomorrow’s discount rack. Last March’s greatest graphic novel release is this year’s best graphic novel. Hey, at least let Liew enjoy some of the spotlight if Chye’s never going to get it!
2016 brought us an unprecedented four “early years of Wonder Woman” tales, but The Legend of Wonder Woman was the clear stand-out. There’s so much to love here, from De Liz and Dillon’s stunningly beautiful art, to their character-focused story, to Diana’s friend and confidante Etta Candy, who steals the show every time she’s on panel. The Legend of Wonder Woman is the perfect starting place for new readers of all ages, as well as a refreshingly original take on Diana for old fans. I can’t wait for volume 2 so that I can keep reading.
The Vision has saved the world 37 times but can he save his family from themselves? That’s the inherent conceit of this tale of suburban horror, androids and superheroes. King plays with the concept of the nuclear family in the superhero world, issues of identity and acceptance, what it means to be alive and the lengths we’ll go to keep our families safe. Walta’s pencils evoke simple home life and over-the-top heroics equally well while Bellaire’s colors pop with visceral reds and pinks and yet feel drained by the creeping terror that is life in the suburbs. It’s Frankenstein meets The Royal Tenenbaums and yet so much more.
I will stop being sad about this book being cancelled….oh never probably. Here’s the thing: Mockingbird is super interesting, funny, feminist, and it is chock full of corgis. What more could you possibly want from your comic? This comic also is a puzzle box, which means you may not always know what is going on at the time, but the journey is so, so worth it. Cain and Co take you on an amazing adventure with a kick-ass, sarcastic heroine who needs to be my new best friend.
Every time I see Always Human update, I happy sigh before reading it. It’s so good and pure. It makes me so happy. For one thing, the art style makes everyone look adorable. The colours and lines are soft and comforting. There’s even soothing music playing for every page! The love story between the two girls is sweet, but there’s also complexity to the story. Besides being a fascinating sci fi future, the girls also have to grapple with the privileges that differ between them—and this can sometimes be uncomfortable. It’s adorable, it’s complex, it’s diverse, and it’s a sci fi love story between two girls! What more could I want?
After a year of living the consequences of questionable journalism, it’s refreshing and heartening to read a comic like Rolling Blackouts, which offers an inside look at how a journalism non-profit does its international work. Glidden tags along with her journalist colleagues and records their discussions, interviews, ethical quandaries, arguments, and debates, becoming herself an ever more effective comics journalist. As good as the narrative is, it’s worth noting that Glidden’s watercolour style is exceptional and her subtle, nuanced images are often deeply moving. This ambitious book is a perfect read for fans of Joe Sacco and Guy Delisle.
The pixelated line work in Gigi D.G.’s Lady of the Shard evoke knife carvings across an obsidian canvas. With precise lines and sometimes frenetic slashes, D.G.’s story shares the romance of an acolyte and a goddess. It’s often cute, with rounded expressions and smiley pancakes as plot point. It’s often horrifying, where fearsome gods reign and ordinarily monochromatic lines stab deep and bleed searing shades of red. D.G. hosts the story on indie gaming platform itch.io, which grants it a near-infinite vertical scroll and unnerving negative space. It reads like a cosmic tapestry plucked straight from the stars, a legend begging to be read.
I knew two things about Animosity when I picked up the first issue: that it was written by Marguerite Bennett, who was fast becoming my favorite comics writer, and that it had a dog and a girl with a gun, both things that I appreciate. Picking up the first issue was one of the best decisions I made in 2016, because this comic is absolutely fantastic.
In Animosity, the Animals woke up – thinking, talking, and taking revenge on the humans who had hurt them and the world. As the world as we know it begins to fall apart, one dog and his girl try to escape out of New York City and return to the only person who might be able to protect them.
With beautiful art by Rafael de Latorre, Animosity is incredible – full of unexpected moments with a plot that will keep you turning pages (and then, inevitably, leave you frustrated when you realize you don’t have the next issue on hand immediately). Laced with moments of humor – the sequence with the hamsters right when the Animals wake up in the beginning of issue #1 still makes me laugh – it’s one of the best comics I’ve read in recent history, and a must for anybody who loves innovative worldbuilding and excellent storytelling.
And dogs and girls with guns.
My choice for Best Comic of 2016 was an easy one. Princeless – Raven: The Pirate Princess is the comic I pine for every month. Whitley, Higgins, and Brandt have created a cast of characters that speak to the lives of so many women I know. In a political environment where LGBTQ+ representation is literally saving lives, this book should be on everyone’s go-to list. As a teen title, Raven’s message of queer, body-positive, racially diverse, feminism is even more important. It’s also a sweet romance-adventure-revenge story with swords and explosions and science. Go. Now. Read.
I’ve cried over a handful of books in my life, but Rosalie Lightning is the only work that made me bawl for all the right reasons: the beauty Rosalie got to experience while she was alive; the pain her parents experienced—and continue to experience—after her passing; and for the new joy those who loved her have found by holding her in their hearts. The power of this graphic memoir is in its ability to make you feel—grief, sorrow, rage, joy, nostalgia. It will make you want to hold your loved ones close and tell them you love them. It will make you want to work harder and create more. And it all stems from the love of a little girl.
Kim & Kim are punktastic, intergalactic bounty hunters flying around in a van that would make the Scooby-Doo gang and Spaceballs’ Lone Starr and Barf jealous. And if that wasn’t amazing enough Visaggio has created a comic that fully delivers on being awesome, hilarious, kick-ass, fun, and creative as these two best friends try to bring in bounties amid gorilla robots, sandworms, shape-shifting octopus, and family drama. See, it’s stuffed with awesome fun adventures!
Saga is the reason I started a pull list. With every new issue I think “I wonder if they can keep pulling this off,” and every time they do. Staples’ art is unparalleled: her lines, her colors, her composition, make every single page a pleasure to look at (even the many gory ones). Vaughan’s control over the plot is astounding; every plot point and every piece of dialogue feels deliberate and purposeful, even 40 issues in. Above all, I can’t stop caring. Saga has broken my heart time and time again: favorite characters are lost, fall behind, fall from grace. But then a new twist comes, and I can’t wait to find out what’s next.