Best Graphic Novels of 2009
Here’s what I thought were the best graphic novels of 2009, in order. For more information on any of the following titles, the links take you to my reviews.
- Johnny Hiro — Thoughtful adventure and an impressive love letter to New York City.
- Masterpiece Comics — Amazing comic/literature mashups that had me marveling at R. Sikoryak’s skill at art mimickry.
- Sinfest — The best webcomic out there, collected into book form this year by Dark Horse.
- Nothing Better: Into the Wild — Philosophy and faith explored through a realistic (and often funny) look at college life.
- Drawn to You — This comic collaboration between Lucy Knisley and Erika Moen is like reading a combination interview and letter exchange.
- Kabuki: The Alchemy — David Mack’s story of an assassin has changed and grown as the artist has, concluding here with a mind-bending postmodern exploration of the nature of creation of both self and art.
Yeah, only six this year. I did more manga reading, fewer graphic novels, and those are the books that impressed me. If I was doing a combined list, I could easily make 10 by including some of the best manga of the year, but I thought I’d separate the two this year, given their different audiences.
What else should I have considered? Before you answer that, here are some popularly recognized books on lists of this type that I didn’t select, and why:
- Asterios Polyp — Impressive craft that lacks the narrative heart that would make it great.
- A Drifting Life — Terrific book, but it’s manga (and on my separate list), and it’s a bit overwhelming due to its size and historical scope.
- Parker: The Hunter — Too much a product of its time in its treatment of women and glorification of tough-guy violence. Beautiful illustrations, though.
- Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe — A terrific installment, but it didn’t strike me as wonderful as the earlier books. In part, that’s human nature, where “just as good” feels like “not as good” because we expect more and better every time. I’m also looking forward to the coming conclusion. Setting up for that just isn’t quite as satisfying.
- Stitches — Morose autobiography about terrible parents. Don’t we have enough of that in comics? Plus, every surprise in the story was revealed in the press material, making it feel like a slog to get to the point. Too much setup, not enough payoff. It may have helped the artist to tell his story, but it didn’t help me to read it.
I wouldn’t make an argument for this next title on an art or craft basis, but for pure enjoyment, The Middleman: The Doomsday Armageddon Apocalypse was one of my favorites. I was glad to get one more visit with these beloved characters.