Best Graphic Novels of 2010

Here’s what I thought were the best graphic novels of 2010, in order, based on what affected, entertained, and enlightened me. For more information on any of the following titles, the links take you to my reviews.

  1. Castle Waiting Volume 2 by Linda Medley — Exceptionally illustrated fantasy revolving around everyday life among a stunning cast of unusual characters who make their own unusual family in an abandoned castle.
  2. Beasts of Burden by Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson — Gorgeous and scary, charming and creepy, as a neighborhood gang of dogs tackle ghosts and monsters.
  3. Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword by Barry Deutsch — “Yet Another Troll-Fighting 11-Year-Old Orthodox Jewish Girl”, as the subtitle has it, demonstrating the complexity of this modern fable.
  4. Two Generals by Scott Chantler — A skilled graphic memoir (with outstanding design) of a time thought to be ethically simple but shown to be as complicated as the modern day.
  5. Smile by Raina Telgemeier — Adolescence as symbolized by dental trauma in an easy-to-read story approachable by all ages.
  6. Scary Godmother by Jill Thompson — Thank you, Dark Horse, for bringing these beautiful painted Halloween tales back into print.
  7. Underground by Jeff Parker and Steve Lieber — Thrilling adventure in an extreme caving environment few readers will ever see.
  8. Drinking at the Movies by Julia Wertz — This volume showed me that a genre I thought was played out through overuse, the autobiographic diary comic, just needed the right hand — and a good selection of events — to make it fresh and involving.
  9. Moving Pictures by Kathryn & Stuart Immonen — Starkly affecting portrait of an art worker in France during World War II.
  10. Blacksad by Juan Diaz Canales and Juanjo Guarnido — Another Dark Horse reprint rescue, this time of an anthropomorphic noir that’s just lovely to look at, with the benefit of thought-provoking messages under the adventure.

In very pleasant contrast to last year, where I couldn’t even fill out a top ten, I had more good books to choose from than slots. Runners up, in alphabetical order, included

For previous lists, see my page of must-read comic classics.


13 Responses to “Best Graphic Novels of 2010”

  1. Diana Green Says:

    Just curious: is there any more info on why Castle Waiting Vol. II lacks Linda’s name in most places you’d expect it? I suspect it’s because Fantagraphics put it into print before the last chapter was out, but I have nothing to base it on.
    Blacksad is at the top of my when-I-have-money-again list!

  2. The best of the best of the year lists | Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources – Covering Comic Book News and Entertainment Says:

    […] Johanna Draper Carlson names the 10 best graphic novels of 2010 — Raina Telgemeier’s Smile, and Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson’s Beasts of Burden, […]

  3. Grant Says:

    Of the ten on that list, the only one I’ve even seen, let alone heard of is Blacksad. Guess I need to get out more.

  4. Johanna Says:

    Grant: I’m actually tickled to hear that. It’s a lovely thought that I’m telling people about good books they aren’t already familiar with.

    Diana: I haven’t heard anything about it. I’m curious as well, but I figure if it were good news, we’d have heard something already. We may never know the details.

  5. Don MacPherson Says:

    I’m working on my Best of 2010 list, and I enjoyed quite a number of the works you listed. However, some I don’t consider to be graphic novels, since they were originally published in an episodic format (such as Beasts of Burden and Underground).

    It`s not that those aren`t great comics; it`s just that they`re constructed differently.

    Just posting this to spur discussion, Johanna; I`m not taking issue with your assessment process or views. You know I love ya.

  6. JeffG Says:

    I have 2 and 3, with 6 just being ordered now – it’s been on my wish list but not available when you originally posted on it from amazon.ca, and I’ll probably pick up Blacksad as well shortly.

    My favourite, I guess from this year, was “I Kill Giants”. My wife and daughter (11) both loved it as well.

  7. Johanna Says:

    Dan, you raised the same question in 2008, so yay for consistency! I don’t do a periodical list any more, because I read so few of those, and I want to recognize good comic works in permanent form. Also, saying “Underground isn’t *really* a graphic novel” is like saying we can’t call Dickens a novelist because his books were serialized first. IMO.

  8. Grant Says:

    I’m going to say that my favorite releases in comics this year were “Collections”. The 10 best being…

    Marvel Masterworks: Avengers vol. 10

    Marvel Masterworks: Atlas Era Jungle Adventure vol. 1

    Great Darkness Saga

    Batwoman: Elegy

    Wednesday Comics Hardcover

    Batgirl Rising

    Marvel Masterworks: Inhumans vol. 2

    Marvel Masterworks: Defenders vol. 2

    Power Girl: A New Beginning

    Power Girl: Aliens and Apes

  9. Don MacPherson Says:

    The Dickens analogy is a strong argument, especially given the author’s reputation. One could cite Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as another example. Let me counter with the following: one wouldn’t say Lost was one of the best movies of the year, seeing as it was designed for an episodic format.

    Of course, I have to acknowledge that some creators are telling stories they see as graphic novels in an episodic format so as to get them to market. Often, they’re telling a single story over the course of several issues, with the specific goal in mind of the collected format, intending that as their graphic novel. On the other hand, writers in those circumstances who ignore the original episodic format can render poor scripts that fail to hold a reader’s attention. Individual issues need to be satisfying on their own.

    I’m not taking issue with your choices, obviously. I might suggest referring to them as the best *comics* of the year as opposed to the best graphic novels.

  10. Johanna Says:

    If I was going to do a “best comics” list, I’d also include webcomics and periodicals, but that wasn’t what I was aiming for here. As you say, creators don’t always write to make individual comic issues satisfying — I’d argue that these days, very few succeed at that, unfortunately.

    Grant, thanks for reminding me how much I enjoyed Conner & Palmiotti’s Power Girl this year. It’s a shame the series didn’t end with them.

  11. *Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword — Best of 2010 » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] it’s so fresh and unusual a subject, told with such affection, and providing such an unusual perspective on the world, that I made it one of my best of last year. The first 15 pages are available to read at the book’s website. […]

  12. *Castle Waiting Volume 2 — Best of 2010 » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] outstanding, and I wasn’t disappointed. I found Volume 2 so strong, in fact, that it was my best graphic novel of 2010. Castle Waiting Volume […]

  13. Revised Edition of Castle Waiting Volume 2 Termed “Definitive” » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] take on a fairy tale world, a lot. In fact, the first edition of this second collection was my best graphic novel of 2010, when it was […]




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