2017 has been a hella good year for comics. Here are our top picks…
My Favorite Thing is Monsters by Emil Ferris (Fantagraphics)
It’s fair to say that this is one of the best comics I have ever read, 2017 or not. Simply put, it’s one of the most awesome-looking graphic novels I’ve ever seen. It’s aesthetically jaw-dropping. It’s huge; a heavy, satisfying, colourful thing that gives you some kind of other-world portal that’s full of horror comic Frankensteins, freaks, zombies, and vampires in bikinis. It follows Karen, a school-age monster detective as she investigates the death of her upstairs neighbour. I wrote about it in more depth here if you want to know more. Part II is out next year.
I love This Part by Tillie Walden (Avery Hill)
I love Avery Hill and their entire list. Their comics are smart, original and just really bloody good. It’s been hard to pick a favourite from the 2017 list but I’ve settled on the hardback edition of I Love This Part by Tillie Walden. I’m a huge fan of Tillie’s and this story is one of the reasons why – it centers on two girls in small town America whose friendship develops into a queer relationship. It’s poignant, nostalgic, and candid, and her artwork is beautiful. This is Avery Hill’s first hardback and it is a brilliant thing. Sidenote: next year Avery Hill are publishing Tillie’s space epic On a Sunbeam and I cannot WAIT.
Body Music by Julie Maroh (Arsenal Pulp Press)
From the creator of Blue is the Warmest Colour (the masterful comic book, not the questionable film), Body Music is a collection of short stories about queer love in all its many forms. It’s honest, and sexy, and funny, and thoughtful. Maroh’s artwork is completely dreamy and captivating. I know it’s a bit of a cliché to say this, but the comic really does stay with you after you’ve read it.
Venice by Jiro Taniguchi (Fanfare)
If you’ve travelled to Venice before you’ll notice the expert likeness Jiro Taniguchi has created in his beautiful watercolour paintings of the unique city. This stunning edition has been specifically published on what would have been Jiro’s 70th birthday in order to commemorate his life’s work. Venice captures Jiro’s personal journey as he travels to the city to discover more about his family’s past; a haunting graphic novel, with its soft beauty and nostalgic atmosphere. Find out more here.
The Lighthouse by Paco Roca (NBM)
I was fortunate enough to pick up The Lighthouse at the beginning of this year; set amidst the Spanish Civil War, Democracy vs. Facism was a prominent element around that time. Francisco, a wounded, despairing 16-year-old Republican guard flee’s to freedom by crossing the French border, and through fate meets Telmo, the aging operator of a lighthouse… The Lighthouse will leave you believing in the generosity and goodness of others again. It is one that will tug on your heart strings and reignite your faith in achieving your dreams. Find out more here.
Bird in a Cage by Rebecca Roher (Conundrum Press)
Bird in a Cage is a bittersweet tale of family and identity, and is one of the most touching graphic novels I have ever read! (You may want to prepare a couple of tissues… for tears of sadness and of joy). Roher’s tale celebrates the life of a mother, grandmother and a woman who is at the very heart of her family but one that also begins to suffer from dementia. Bird in a Cage encourages awareness of those affected by dementia and how the disease can also affect the surrounding family, as well as being a proud tribute of a devoted and special woman. Find out more here.
The Facts of Life by Paula Knight (Myriad Editions)
This is the first graphic novel that I read (a) by choice (b) at Turnaround, and it has a very special place in my heart. Paula Knight’s semi-autobiographical story about the role that family and having kids traditionally play in a woman’s life is poignant, witty, at times heartbreaking but totally life-affirming. The beautifully subtle artwork conveys the inexpressible in a way that text sometimes just can’t. This book isn’t just for those who don’t want or can’t have children, it’s a critical book for examining the pressure on women, whether or not they have children, by society, their families and friends and perhaps especially themselves.
A Thousand Coloured Castles by Gareth Brookes (Myriad Editions)
This is another graphic novel with a medical theme that I absolutely loved. Myriam is a woman losing her sight and suffering (although she doesn’t know it yet) from Charles Bonnet Syndrome – a condition which causes visual hallucinations: strange figures in power ranger helmets accompany her to the post office, wild exotic plants sprout from supermarket shelves and phantom walls rise up to block her path. Her husband thinks she’s gone mad, especially when she claims to see a little boy in next door’s garden. This is a surprisingly riveting story and Gareth Brookes’ ‘crayon-scrape’ artwork is truly extraordinary.
The Graphic Canon of Crime and Mystery, Vol. I by Russ Kick (Seven Stories Press)
What do Baudelaire, Dostoevsky, Poe, Kafka, Patricia Highsmith, Anthony Burgess, Truman Capote, Stephen King, Iceberg Slim, the Marquis de Sade, Jo Nesbo, Agatha Christie and Sophocles have in common? They all (along with many more) have been adapted in this marvellous compendium of short, crime-based, graphic stories. A huge range of artists and styles coupled with classic stories as well as lesser-known adaptations spanning centuries, make this volume ideal for crime fiction fans, comic book fans, and literature students and teachers. And Volume II is on its way next year… yay!
Comics For A Strange World by Reza Farazmand (Plume)
Not being the biggest of comics fans, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this small but thick collection of witty comics. Commenting on the state of things today, this is perfect for the most cynical of readers (yes, that’s me guilty). It’s easy to dip in and out of as there isn’t one set storyline – rather there are lots of characters satirising common thoughts, worries, and situations belonging to the modern age. Full of funny observations and characters that crop up, disappear, then make a welcome re-appearance (such as the ghost), this is a great way into comics if like me you are a novice.