I was honored to be asked to participate in the Publishers Weekly Comics Week Critics’ Poll for the second time. Here are my choices for the best graphic novels of 2007, with commentary.
- Doctor 13: Architecture & Mortality by Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang
- Cairo by G. Willow Wilson and M.K. Perker
These two books surprised me most this year. The first presented an up-to-date yet completely new take on forgotten superheroes, reassuring me that there were still imaginative things to be said with that tired old genre without resorting to sordid sex and excessive violence. Gorgeous art by someone with a solid grasp of all the necessary skills helps. The second came out of nowhere (at least for me, who hadn’t heard of it or the creators previously), tackling a Middle Eastern adventure in a modern, exciting way with distinctive, emotional characters and a thought-provoking take on a significant part of the world.
- Nothing Better by Tyler Page
Everyone thinks they can do a story of college life, because it seems so simple, especially to the majority of the audience who’ve been through academia. That’s not the case, because realistic characters, and especially dialogue, are harder to do than you might think. Page gets it right. He even covers a subject most are afraid to tackle in depth, religious belief, with sensitivity and understanding through the story of two first-year roommates getting to know each other and themselves.
- Alice in Sunderland by Bryan Talbot
Not as much a graphic novel as a happening, made up of bits and pieces of every kind of image and graphic design. An unusual blend of pictures and text that eschews the usual panel borders or page grids to immerse the reader in a phantasmagoric trip through Talbot’s mind and the history of this particular area of Northeast England. Nearly impossible to describe accurately, it must be experienced.
- Exit Wounds by Rutu Modan
A quiet exploration of family in the face of Tel Aviv terrorism told through deceptively simple styling. The most “novelistic” of the books on this list.
- Age of Bronze: Betrayal Part One by Eric Shanower
- A Treasury of Victorian Murder: The Saga of the Bloody Benders by Rick Geary
Both of these are just plain old good comic storytelling with juicy subjects. Age of Bronze retells the Trojan War with detailed, precise linework and emphasis on the people politics of the day. Victorian Murder is the historical equivalent of a tacky talk show, exploring what drives people to graphic crimes in long-ago times. This time, it’s a murderous family in frontier Kansas knocking off travelers in Geary’s distinctive thick-lined style.
- First in Space by James Vining
An impressive debut that reminds us of the contributions animals have made to science through the story of the first chimpanzee in space.
- Re-Gifters by Mike Carey, Sonny Liew, and Marc Hempel
The best of DC Comics’ Minx line, aimed at teenage girls, follows the same “young woman finding herself” formula, but it does it so well.
- The Annotated Northwest Passage by Scott Chantler
This reissue collects the adventure series in a handsome hardcover with author’s notes. It covers the struggle over possession of a key fort on the Canadian wilderness frontier just before the Seven Years War. Chantler’s art combines the best of a simplified, cartoon-influenced style with historical research for the story of an old-fashioned hero.
And then there’s my favorite manga of 2007 or my best of 2006 list for comparison.