75. Once & Future
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Dan Mora
Publisher: Boom! Studios
Description: Although Bridgette and Duncan stopped Arthur from retrieving the grail, their actions have accidentally thrown the Otherworld into shambles, allowing for new legends and characters to make their appearance – and bring a world of trouble along with them.
When a helmet at the British Museum is taken, Bridgette and Duncan are confronted by another hero of yore, one who will lead them to facing off against their most formidable challenge yet… a beast and his mother.
Why it Made the List: I knew reading Beowulf in high school would pay off one day. Did I expect that it would help me better understand a comic about a grown man and his mother fighting monsters? Actually, yes. My high school years were weird.
I love how this takes historical figures within British lore to approach major topics of the day like Brexit and other key issues. I am guessing the next volume will try to link up the Black Plague and today’s Covid crisis in some way. If you are concerned there is no fun to be had know this includes a woman in her golden years utilizing a chainsaw to fight monsters. Even as someone who has not into role-playing games I do enjoy the quick asides and references it makes to RPG’s withim the chaos.
74. The Dark Matter of Mona Starr
Writer/Artist: Laura Lee Gulledge
Publisher: Amulet Books
Description: Sometimes, the world is too much for Mona Starr. She’s sweet, geeky, and creative, but it’s hard for her to make friends and connect with other people. She’s like a lot of sensitive teenagers—but in the hands of graphic novelist Laura Lee Gulledge, Mona’s struggle with depression takes on a vivid, concrete form. Mona calls it her Matter. The Matter gets everywhere, telling Mona she’s not good enough, and that everyone around her wishes she would go away. But through therapy, art, writing, and the persistence of a few good friends, Mona starts to understand her Matter, and how she—and readers—can turn their fears into strengths. Heartfelt, emotionally vulnerable, and visually stunning, The Dark Matter of Mona Starr is a story that takes the inner life of a teenager seriously, while giving readers a new way to look at the universal quest for meaning and connection.
Why it Made the List: This books biggest strength is the way Laura Lee Gulledge is able to visualize what our main character Mona Starr is going through physically and mentally. When words are not enough to explain how we feel at a given time something like this book could be used as a guide to find the answers. Even as an adult I found this extremely helpful to better understand myself and those I interact with that may suffer from things like anxiety, depression, or other ailments that make living everyday life a challenge. Laura Lee Gulledge’s is now on my radar as an artist to look out for. Her character designs have thisunique animated quality to them. YA books can tend to have a similar art style. This breaks that mold.
73. Finger Guns
Writer: Justin Richards
Artist: Val Halvorson
Description: Two troubled teenagers discover they can manipulate emotions by firing finger guns. There will be laughs. There will be tears. There will be uncomfortable teen feelings and angst. Oh yeah… and chaos. So much chaos.
Why it Made the List: I love that Vault Comics is opening up their brand to include titles like Finger Guns. There are a lot of great books for kids or younger audiences but few of those books are released in the monthly format. Finger Guns was one that tried to do something a bit new. When I think about this comic the first thing that comes to mind are the colors. Bright and in your face the art has a pop-like feel. The concept of kids being able to control people with their fingers may seem silly but it is by no means childish. In fact, this delves into a number of serious issues including child abuse. The further this story went the more and more emotionally powerful it became. Never was a punch pulled.
Writer/Artist: Jessi Zabarsky
Publisher: Czap Books
Description: Jessi Zabarsky’s lushly illustrated shoujo-adventure comic that introduces Lelek the witch as she blows through town one day, kidnapping the peasant girl Sanja. The unlikely pair grow more entangled as they travel together, looking for the missing half of Lelek’s soul – the source of her true magical abilities. Both women are seeking to learn, in their own ways, how to be whole again. This book collects the serialized story all into a single volume, including the heart-gripping conclusion and other all-new material.
Why it Made the List: One of the more charming examples of Stockholm syndrome I have read recently as a estranged Witch and her captive form a more and more intimate relationship. Ultimately this becomes a story about the power of kindness and its power to heal and unite us. A perfect message for any time but today it is extra special.
Narratively this is pretty straightforward. Not the type of story that is going to engage you with out of the box surprises. Where it shines is in its ability to yield emotion. The personal tale comes through all the fantastical elements. Also, strong color choices as well that do so much in setting tone and mood.
71. Dancing at the Pity Party
Writer/Artist: Tyler Feder
Publisher: Dial Books
Description: Part poignant cancer memoir and part humorous reflection on a motherless life, this debut graphic novel is extraordinarily comforting and engaging.
From before her mother’s first oncology appointment through the stages of her cancer to the funeral, sitting shiva, and afterward, when she must try to make sense of her life as a motherless daughter, Tyler Feder tells her story in this graphic novel that is full of piercing–but also often funny–details. She shares the important post-death firsts, such as celebrating holidays without her mom, the utter despair of cleaning out her mom’s closet, ending old traditions and starting new ones, and the sting of having the “I’ve got to tell Mom about this” instinct and not being able to act on it. This memoir, bracingly candid and sweetly humorous, is for anyone struggling with loss who just wants someone to get it.
Why it Made the List: It is important to call out when you cannot remain objective. Earlier this year I also lost my mom so reading this was a bit surreal. Not to compare loss, but I really appreciated the way Tyler Feder approached grief. How it is messy and does not follow a specific pattern. I also admire anyone who will put themselves out there like this and discuss their loss to this degree. Reading this was a major help and that is something I will be forever grateful for. This year has brought so much suffering and anything that can help heal is worth celebrating.
Writer: Curt Pires
Artist: Alex Diotto
Description: YOUTH is a coming of age story that tells the story of two queer teenagers as they run away from their lives in a bigoted small town, and attempt to make their way to California. Along the way their car breaks down and they join up with a group of fellow misfits on the road. Embarking together in a van travelling the country they party and attempt to find themselves. And then something happens…
Why it Made the List: When Diamond shut down for some time earlier this year one of the positives was that it opened the door for digital comics like Youth to take center stage. At first, it appeared this was going to be a type of slice of life book about some teenagers rebelling against a system that clearly was not working for them. At the end of the first issue, there is a major change that brought in some supernatural aspects into the mix. That continued with each issue as these characters emerged from a major accident with crazy superpowers. An old-fashioned model is seen through a new lens and it works. As a major fan of the film Chronicle, this captures a similar type of tone. If you are a member of ComiXology Unlimited the best part is this issue is free and if you are not the price is quite reasonable as well. Price does not impact the quality of a book but if you are interested in trying something new it is good to know you can dip your toe in without breaking the bank.
69. Wonder Woman: Dead Earth
Writer/Artist: Daniel Warren Johnson
Publisher: DC Comics
It’s Wonder Woman as you’ve never seen her before—fighting monsters in a postapocalyptic Earth, as brought to life in a daring sci-fi epic by visionary writer and artist Daniel Warren Johnson!
Princess Diana of Themyscira left paradise to save Man’s World from itself. When Wonder Woman awakens from a centuries-long sleep to discover the Earth reduced to a nuclear wasteland, she knows she failed. Trapped alone in a grim future, Diana must protect the last human city from titanic monsters while uncovering the secret of this dead Earth—and how she may be responsible for it.
Why it Made the List: I could stare at Daniel Warren Johnson’s art all day. So far most of his work has been reserved for Indie books like Murder Falcon, but now DC is giving him a shot. Thank goodness for Black Label because he was able to tell this story his way. No need to worry about continuity or whatever else is happening. This could be its own thing.
Sure the dystopian future concept has been done before, but Johnson finds a new approach that focuses on Wonder Woman and her place between worlds. This was also the first Black Label book that really took advantage of the larger format. The scale for the battles is massive in scope, and when the creatures start showing up I was happy they were not confined to a normal comic page. I am all for DC using Black Label as an Imprint for Indie creators to give their version of superhero stories.
Writer: Simon Spurrier
Artist: Christian Wildgoose
Publisher: Boom! Studios
Description: Three teenagers, each an outcast in their own ways, stumble upon an unearthly entity as it’s born. As they bond over this shared secret and the incredible abilities of their new discovery, the trio soon realizes the truth: this creature is dangerous, powerful…and in need of prey. Guided by the best intentions at first, the teens’ decisions soon become corrupted by adolescent desires, small town jealousies, and internal rivalries, sending them into a catastrophic spiral of their own making. Collects the complete 6-issue series.
Why it Made the List: Often the best science fiction stories are those that have their characters deal with human problems despite the out of this world elements. Alienated followed that same model as a group of kids stumbled upon a powerful alien creature. As this story concludes those problems have escalated to the point where the fate of an entire town is at stake. By having that foundation of knowing who these kids are and what is driving them leads to a payoff that is both exciting and emotionally satisfying. One packed with heart, anger, and a bit of hope. As the title indicates feeling alienated and alone is a universal issue. and instead of it drawing us closer tragically it forces us apart.
67. The Autumnal
Writer: Daniel Kraus
Artist: Chris Shehan
Publisher: Vault Comics
Description: Following the death of her estranged mother, Kat Somerville and her daughter, Sybil, flee a difficult life in Chicago for the quaint — and possibly pernicious — town of Comfort Notch, New Hampshire. From NY Times best-selling author, Daniel Kraus (The Shape of Water, Trollhunters, The Living Dead), and rising star Chris Shehan, comes a haunting vision of America’s prettiest autumn.
Why it Made the List: I am not sure what is in the water exactly but we are seeing a lot of stories of people going back to their rural roots for the first time in a long time only to discover that town has some supernatural elements. Just within these last few months, we have had Stillwater, An Unkindness of Ravens, and of course The Autumnal. A few issues in and the overall narrative has not fully come into play. Despite that issue, the dedication to character is where it succeeded as this dysfunctional mother and daughter try to figure out their place in a world they clearly do not fit. Maternal themes will seemingly play a major role as Kat Somerville tries to work out her broken relationship with her recently deceased mother. The art also this seasoned texture as if you are reading through a story you have flipped through time and time again. Fantastic design is nothing new for Vault comics. They know making a good comic includes doing the little things as well.
66. Undone by Blood or the Shadow of a Wanted Man
Writer: Zac Thompson
Artist: Lonnie Nadler
Description: In the early 1970s, Ethel Grady Lane returns to her hometown of Sweetheart, Arizona with one thing on her mind: killing the man who murdered her family. But first, she’ll have to find him.
As Ethel navigates the eccentric town and its inhabitants, she learns that the quaint veneer hides a brewing darkness. She has no choice but to descend into a ring of depravity and violence, with her only ally an Old West novel that follows famed gunslinger Solomon Eaton. As both stories unfold simultaneously, a love of fiction informs choices in reality, for better or worse.
Why it Made the List: I am a big fan of when the story within the story technique can be pulled off well. The obvious go-to is Watchmen but that is one of many examples. Zac Thompson and Lonnie Nadler were able to do just that with this series. Not that this is Watchmen level good because that is unfair praise to put on anything, but I digress. A modern age western played against a classic tale helped deepen the themes of revenge and the price of violence. Often with this trick one of the stories can feel like it does nothing but get in the way of the more interesting tale. Here both make the other stronger. Easily one of the more underlooked books of the year. As a fan of the Western genre, I appreciate how this shows just how varied those stories can be within one comic.
65. The Stringbags
Writer: Garth Ennis
Artist: P. J. Holden
Publisher: Dead Reckoning
Description: Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, and Fascist Italy began World War II with aircraft that could devastate enemy warships and merchantmen at will. Britain’s Royal Navy squadrons went to war equipped with the Fairey Swordfish. A biplane torpedo bomber in an age of monoplanes, the Swordfish was underpowered and undergunned; an obsolete museum piece, an embarrassment. Its crews fully expected to be shot from the skies. Instead, they flew the ancient “Stringbag” into legend. Based on the true story of the Royal Navy’s Swordfish crews, The Stringbags is an epic tale of young men facing death in an aircraft almost out of time.
Why it Made the List: Garth Enis doing what Garth Enis does constructing compelling war stories designed to bring to light a part of the war often overlooked but played a major factor in the outcome. This is more academic compared to something like Sara that is more character-focused. The trio of characters here work as a cipher to the war as a whole moving from major skirmish to major skirmish. As indicated character growth is minimal but they are always compelling and play off each other well. Being the veteran he is Enis heavily avoids most war story cliché as well. The art excels in these massive battles that bring insight into the horror that occurred.
64. Blood on the Tracks
Writer/Artist: Shūzō Oshimi
Description: From the creator who brought you notable works such as The Flowers of Evil, Happiness, and Inside Mari, comes a new
suspense drama centering on the theme of a toxic parent.
Dive into this latest thriller by master storyteller, Shuzo Oshimi.
Ordinary middle school student Seiichi Osabe receives love and care from his mother Seiko.
Until one summer an incident changes the family dynamic forever.
This is a story of a mother’s love that has gone too far….
Why it Made the List: What a surprisingly slow burn that may be one of the only comics I have read recently that gave me that skin crawl feeling. Most of that comes from seeing this overprotective mom slowly hinting to how unhinged she is really. It was never in a rush making the final moments of the first volume hit hard. In those final moments, the severity of this story became present. Not to say it is not engaging until then. The slight hints and uneasy imagery elicit a constant eerie mood. Even as I think back to reading this the imagery flushes into my senses. How it uses things like animal carcasses is eerie in a disgusting way.
63. The Lab
Writer/Artist: Allison Conway
Publisher: Top Shelf
Description: The Lab is a wordless visual journey into the grim machinery of exploitation. Its nameless protagonist is held in solitary captivity, alternately poked, prodded, starved, drugged, and worse. Brief glimpses of other test subjects, undergoing their own ordeals, are few and far between. But is all this abuse and isolation purely arbitrary? Or is there a purpose?
Why it Made the List: You have to have a lot of faith in your cartooning if your debut graphic novel is completely wordless. Allison Conway comes out strong to show that is exactly the case. Much of that is due to the narrative of this comic. Being wordless works in its favor.
As the title indicates the book takes you through what life would be like for someone doomed to be a lab rat or person-like figure. Your identity and purpose removed so unknown forces can pick and prod you for reasons you cannot comprehend. On a sheer visceral level, it is a horror to witness. I believe you can take this on a sheer literal level as a remark against these practices. Although, I get a sense there is more here that can be applied in a allegorical sense. How we often get placed within these systems without realizing it and allow it to happen simply because it is the norm.
There is a bit of hopefulness here too for those concerned about a dire criticism with no answers. Nothing is said in a direct manner but clearly, the power must ultimately come from ourselves.
62. Strange Academy
Writer: Skottie Young
Artist: Humberto Ramos
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Description: The Marvel Universe’s first school for sorcerers throws open its doors! The world has mysteriously changed in such an alarming way that Doctor Strange has finally done what he has avoided for decades and established an academy for the mystic arts! Young people from around the world with an aptitude for magic are brought together in New Orleans to study under Stephen Strange, Brother Voodoo, the Ancient One, the Scarlet Witch, Magik, Daimon Hellstrom and all your favorite Marvel mages. From mindful Mindless Ones to pan-dimensional games of tag, the Strange Academy is definitely living up to its name. But the students’ first field trip lights a fuse that is going to blow up in a big way! School’s in session – and it’s going to be spellbinding!
Why it Made the List: Marvel needs more books just like this. Stories that are welcoming to new readers, filled with new characters with great potential, and yet they still tap into the vastness of the Marvel universe. Why this is working so well is due to the story keeping the problems small and relatable. These kids aren’t burdened with trying to save the world quite yet. They are simply trying to figure out how to manage their new school. Sure that school is filled with magic and super-powered beings but at the end of the day, their problems are very human. Humberto Ramos was the perfect artist for this book as well. He draws kids that look like kids and his style is ideal for a magical setting. Yes the concept may be derivative but the product is new and exciting.
61. J + K
Writer/Artist: John Pham
Description: J + K follows the misadventures of an inseparable pair of idiots (Jay and Kay) as they navigate life in the modern world. These simple-seeming stories weave in and out of themselves and give you unexpectedly sad twists and hilarious turns; imagine Seinfeld mixed with Peanuts.
Why it Made the List: Cute, clever, universally relevant, unapologetically weird, and surprisingly grotesque this contains a number of vignettes where J and K go on their sweaty mundane adventures with one another. Trying to live life-stealing one taco roll at a time. The best way to describe it would be grown-up Peanuts but the characters do not hate each other as much. Love the bold colors that make you feel as if you are watching a children’s cartoon despite the more mature storylines. The cartooning is solid especially when it comes to comedic timing. I do not believe there was a comedic beat that did not hit like it was designed. With the chaos of our world books like this are vital in remaining sane.
60. Glass Town: The Imaginary World of the Brontës
Writer/Artist: Isabel Greenberg
Publisher: Abrams ComicArts
Description: A graphic novel about the Brontë siblings, and the strange and marvelous imaginary worlds they invented during their childhood
Glass Town is an original graphic novel by Isabel Greenberg that encompasses the eccentric childhoods of the four Brontë children—Charlotte, Branwell, Emily, and Anne. The story begins in 1825, with the deaths of Maria and Elizabeth, the eldest siblings. It is in response to this loss that the four remaining Brontë children set pen to paper and created the fictional world that became known as Glass Town. This world and its cast of characters would come to be the Brontës’ escape from the realities of their lives. Within Glass Town the siblings experienced love, friendship, war, triumph, and heartbreak. Through a combination of quotes from the stories originally penned by the Brontës, biographical information about them, and Greenberg’s vivid comic book illustrations, readers will find themselves enraptured by this fascinating imaginary world.
Why it Made the List: Isabel Greenberg seems to enjoy telling stories about telling stories. Glass Town is a bit of an enigma that one can easily get lost in. For literary nuts, this is like an open feast on why the power of storytelling can engulf you to such a degree. I could easily see fans of books like Sandman or other meta-narratives enjoying this a great deal. Fantasy treated with a high level of elegance befitting a classic novel. A story about a world that comes to life and the destruction that follows.
59. The Plot
Writer: Michael Moreci
Artist: Tim Daniel
Publisher: Vault Comics
Description: In order to receive… first you must give. When Chase Blaine’s estranged brother and sister-in-law are murdered, he becomes guardian to MacKenzie and Zach, the niece and nephew he hardly knows. Seeking stability for the children, Chase moves his newly formed family to his ancestral home in Cape Augusta — which overlooks a deep, black bogland teeming with family secrets.
Why it Made the List: As someone who enjoys seventies horror especially those types of movies that mess with your mind The Plot is a fascinating read. The atmosphere is a big part of why keeps it moving from issue to issue. Even when people are just having a conversation there is an intensity to their words as they carry so much weight with their conversation.
We cannot choose our family and when your family is as literally cursed as the Blaines no truth may be harder to accept. When you have a story that travels generations there is a lot of work on the editing, coloring, and artist to keep everything straight, especially with how this series plays with time. Nothing works without comprehension and despite the avenues to become convoluted this book is remarkably readable.
58. Goblin Girl
Writer/Artist: Moa Romanova
Description: A dating site match goes really wrong in this troubling, funny graphic memoir. Things seem to be looking up when Moa Romanova ― broke, depressed, and living in a squat above an old store ― matches with a very famous celebrity on a popular hook-up site. Not only does the 53-year-old man like Moa ― he also immediately validates and motivates her in a way that not even her therapist does, even offering to help financially support her artistic ambitions. However, Moa soon discovers that there are strings attached. Drawn in a style that’s de Chirico by way of the ’80s, Romanova’s relatable graphic memoir is a thought-provoking debut.
Why it Made the List: This uses mystic characters to tell a very human story of navigating the world when suffering from anxiety and depression. An insightful take that was clearly coming from a very personal place. Moa Romanova had a strong command of the medium. Small things like using a multitude of panels when anxiety hit to show how slow time moves. The camera would come in high and tight with Moa engulfing each panel. We see how trapped one can feel compared to other moments where the page was far more open and free.
Which helped demonstrate both the isolation and pressure she was under. This doesn’t fall into the trap of trying to solve problems that aren’t quick fixes or that all answers are universal. Just a clever and effective way to create a window into an unknown reality.
57. Becoming Horses
Writer/Artist: Disa Wallander
Publisher: Drawn and Quarterly
Description: Was it always like this? What if your self portrait was a collection of weird shapes? Have you ever felt like an abstract painting? Do you ever simultaneously wish and worry that the boundaries of your body will melt away and you’ll become a magnificent horse? Becoming Horses is a book about squinting hard and looking from the right angle to find that everything around you sparkles—just a little—and the shapes of things are not firm but fuzzy. The You you know may shift and take form as a beautiful horse, a sunset, or something so special, so huge that you could never describe it.
Why it Made the List: I would be lying if I said I knew exactly what this book was trying to say. That is mostly due to the fact it is not designed to have one answer to that question. What is clear is that this works to bring you back to a place of childhood wonderment. One where you experience the world in a way so that not everything is clear but you are in awe of the journey you are undertaking. The use of different artistic mediums within the art directs that feeling. From photography to classic cartooning different words collide.
I also get the sense this is speaking to the creative process and how ideas operate within one’s mind. How they grow and evolve based on life experience. Lack of clarity does drive some crazy so if that is you this book could become a chore. There is also the risk of putting more into than is really there. But if you are open and willing to allow yourself to wonder in thought there is much to appreciate
56. Go with the Flow
Writer: Karen Schneemann
Artist: Lily Williams
Publisher: First Second
Description: Sophomores Abby, Brit, Christine, and Sasha are fed up. Hazelton High never has enough tampons. Or pads. Or adults who will listen.
Sick of an administration that puts football before female health, the girls confront a world that shrugs―or worse, squirms―at the thought of a menstruation revolution. They band together to make a change. It’s no easy task, especially while grappling with everything from crushes to trig to JV track but they have each other’s backs. That is, until one of the girls goes rogue, testing the limits of their friendship and pushing the friends to question the power of their own voices.
Now they must learn to work together to raise each other up. But how to you stand your ground while raising bloody hell?
Why it Made the List: I cannot deny the oddity of reading a YA graphic novel centered on High School girl’s menstruation but a good comic is a good comic. In a basic sense, it is at least informative on woman’s health and the micro injustices that exist. All of which is wrapped within a drama about surviving the doldrums of high school existence. It does read a bit young for the characters involved as they seem more junior high than high school but at least they enjoyable to read about and not beholden to cliché. The best YA books tend to be the ones that establish themselves as something more. This accomplishes that by having a unique point and a willingness to trust the reader to pick up on character elements that are explained in between the lines.
55. The Butcher of Paris
Writer: Stephanie Phillips
Artist: Dean Kotz
Publisher: Dark Horse
Description: In 1944, as Swastikas flew over Paris, one of the most notorious and prolific serial killers in history turned the war-torn city into his personal hunting ground.
Written by Stephanie Phillips (Descendent, Devil Within) with art by Dean Kotz (Mars Attacks), The Butcher of Paris is a historical, true-crime thriller about a killer wanted by both the Nazis and allied forces for the death of nearly two-hundred victims. Collects the five-issue miniseries.
Why it Made the List: One of my favorite things about The Butcher of Paris? It exists. I mean that because a monthly comic that is a piece of historical fiction with no supernatural twist is super rare. Just a crime procedural in the backdrop of the Nazi occupation of France that eventually turns into a courtroom drama. I am here for it.
I saw some had issues with how this series ended but I adored it. A lot is covered within that single issue–so much so it could have made for another new volume or comic itself. Courtroom drama is not as commonplace for comics as it is with film or television. Static dialog filled drama does not always translate well to the comic medium. Artist Dean Kotz nails it and draws in such a frenetic manner the courtroom comes alive. Perhaps seeing someone truly evil come to justice certainly hit the right chord this year as well.
54. BOWIE: Stardust, Rayguns, & Moonage Daydreams
Writer/Artist: Mike Allred, Steve Horton, Laura Allred (Colourist), Han Allred (Colourist),
Publisher: Insight Comics
Description: Bowie: Stardust, Rayguns, & Moonage Daydreams chronicles the rise of Bowie’s career from obscurity to fame; and paralleled by the rise and fall of his alter ego as well as the rise and fall of Ziggy Stardust. As the Spiders from Mars slowly implode, Bowie wrestles with his Ziggy persona. The outcome of this internal conflict will change not only David Bowie, but also, the world.
Why it Made the List: I’ll preface this by saying I am not a Bowie fan. I don’t dislike his stuff but have limited experience compared to others. (Please stop throwing things) Which is why I was looking forward to this to learn more about him plus the Allreds seem like the perfect team to tackle his life story. Turns out they are. The structure is for the most part a straightforward telling of his life you’d expect from a Bio Pic but where it differs is how those moments are represented on the page.
As Bowie’s career becomes more and more experimental so does the art to showcase his Larger than life status. It is apparent how much of an influence Bowie was to this creative team and they work to represent the spirit of his masterful creative nature. As a novice to his life, I feel much more enlightened as to why he was such a sensation and icon.
53. Skulldigger + Skeleton Boy
Writer: Jeff Lemire
Artist: Tonci Zonjic
Publisher: Dark Horse
Description: Teased in The World of Black Hammer Encyclopedia, this tale of dark tragedy finds Spiral City trapped in a vicious cycle of crime, corruption, and violence. With the heart of the city at stake, a vigilante rises in Skulldigger. However, when the nefarious Grimjim escapes from prison, will Skulldigger and his ward, Skeleton Boy, be enough to save Spiral City?
Why it Made the List: The Blackhammer universe continues to grow. There were two other mini-series that came out this year that I really enjoyed but since they only had one issue it was a bit hard to justify their placement on this list. Skulldigger + Skeleton Boy on the other hand finalized its run to become one of the best spin-offs yet.
What stood out the most was the shifting art styles from page to page and panel to panel. At times looking at a down and dirty classic noir and at others a more cartoonish children’s adventure. Despite being part of a the Black Hammer universe this series stands alone so it does not matter if you read anything else prior. Every mini-series that has come out of the Black Hammer universe has had its own distinct style and voice. Despite mostly coming from the same writer it is one of the most diverse lines currently in comics.
Writer: Rodney Barnes
Artist: Jason Shaw
Publisher: Image Comics
Description: Featuring the show-stopping talents of SPAWN series artist JASON SHAWN ALEXANDER and the writer behind such hit shows as Wu-Tang: An American Saga, Marvel’s Runaways, and STARZ’s American Gods-RODNEY BARNES. When small-town beat cop Jimmy Sangster returns to his Philadelphia roots to bury his murdered father, he stumbles into a mystery that will lead him down a path of horrors and shake his beliefs to their core. The city that was once the symbol of liberty and freedom has fallen prey to corruption, poverty, unemployment, brutality…and vampires. There’s a reason they say you can’t go home again. Welcome to Killadelphia.
Why it Made the List: In this second arc of Killadelphia we are seeing the lore of this world further expanded upon. Much of the first arc was explaining how we got to this point. Now we are seeing what exists right under our feet. In one issue we travel to the world of the dead in the creepiest way possible. So far this book has lived up to its name, yet in that moment we get a small glimpse of light. An actual sweet sequence of solace that showed happiness is still possible in the darkest of times. Of course, it was a bit fleeting. Making the journey back all the more important.
Jupiter is proving to be the best character in this entire series. We got a lot of his back story and tragic past. What we are seeing though is he is not allowing that tragedy to define him. Villain is too limiting of a word. How could anyone who has lived his life view humanity any differently than he does? That is what makes great characters. Unique stories that provide moral dilemmas for the reader to digest. No easy answers. Just great drama.
51. Almost American Girl
Writer/Artist: Robin Ha
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Description: A teen graphic novel memoir about a Korean-born, non-English-speaking girl who is abruptly transplanted from Seoul to Huntsville, Alabama, and struggles with extreme culture shock and isolation, until she discovers her passion for comic arts.
For as long as she can remember, it’s been Robin and her mom against the world. Growing up in the 1990s as the only child of a single mother in Seoul, Korea, wasn’t always easy, but it has bonded them fiercely together.
So when a vacation to visit friends in Huntsville, Alabama, unexpectedly becomes a permanent relocation—following her mother’s announcement that she’s getting married—Robin is devastated. Overnight, her life changes. She is dropped into a new school where she doesn’t understand the language and struggles to keep up. She is completely cut off from her friends at home and has no access to her beloved comics. At home, she doesn’t fit in with her new stepfamily. And worst of all, she is furious with the one person she is closest to—her mother.
Then one day Robin’s mother enrolls her in a local comic drawing class, which opens the window to a future Robin could never have imagined
Why it Made the List: One of the best ways to come to know the world we live in daily is to see it through the eyes of an outsider. Someone who is not accustomed to our way of life and can bring a perspective we cannot. That is where a memoir like this can come into play. To see how someone can go through the experience of living in America despite not having much desire to be there.
This is a memoir that has both a great story and is told very well. A fish out of water story where the fish is forced to leave their safe bowl because their mother is trying to find love on the other side of the planet. Yet she still loves and wants to respect her mom. It is that tension that keeps the book going.