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September 15, 2016 BOOKLIST
Find more Top 10 Graphic Novels
Most graphic novels collect sequential comic books or runs of particular strips, and when they collect work as good as Alison Bechdel’s, Gilbert Hernandez’s (see also Story behind the Story, opposite page), and Jim Woodring’s, they welcomely bestow permanency on fugitive material. But most of the 10 best graphic novels that came Booklist’s way during the past 12 months collect nonsequential comic books and stories from several sources, or were conceived to be freestanding books. Subscribing to periodicals is no way to acquire graphic novels anymore. Tempora mutantur, as Bob Dylan said in another language.
Bechdel, Alison. Dykes and Sundry Other Carbon-Based Life-Forms to Watch Out For. 2003. Alyson, paper, $13.95 (1-55583-828-6).
Twenty years after it started, Bechdel’s Dykes to Watch Out For, about smart, politically savvy lesbians in a mid-American city, remains one of the best continuing-narrative strips in comics history, easily as good as its prose-fiction analog, Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City.
DeMatteis, J. M. and Barr, Glenn. Brooklyn Dreams. 2003. DC Comics/Vertigo, paper, $12.95 (1-4012-0051-6).
Fortyish Vincent Carl Santini recalls his senior year (1970-71) in high school but digresses so much that he reveals his childhood, his family, and his soul, too. Richly detailed, this graphically distinguished, genuinely novelistic graphic novel is a classic of the form.
Hernandez, Gilbert. Palomar: The Heartbreak Soup Stories. 2003. Fantagraphics, $39.95 (1-56097-467-2).
From the pages of the alternative-comics magazine Love and Rockets, Hernandez collects all 15 years’ worth of his complex, sprawling chronicle of three generations of the inhabitants of a little Latin American town-a rich blending of passion and politics, of murder and magic realism. (See also Story behind the Story, opposite page.)
Inzana, Ryan. Johnny Jihad. 2003. NBM, paper, $9.95 (1-56163-353-4).
Crippled by a self-inflicted wound, American John Sendel waits in Afghanistan for the bomb with his name on it and tells how an anomic high-school kid came to join the Taliban. A powerfully drawn, alarmingly convincing portrayal of a recent front-page phenomenon.
Messner-Loebs, William and Kieth, Sam. Epicurus the Sage. 2003. DC Comics/Cliffhanger!, paper, $19.95 (1-4012-0028-1).
Bill and Ted’s adventures in history may have been excellent, but these shaggy philosopher excursions into major Greek myths, conducted by the sage who said pleasure was the highest good but urged moderation, are excellent-er, superlatively goofy.
Sacco, Joe. The Fixer: A Story from Sarajevo. 2003. Drawn & Quarterly; dist. by Chronicle, $24.95 (1-896597-60-2).
In 1995, as the Balkans war wound down, Sacco (Safe Area Gorazde, 2000) met a former fighter who doled out information and contacts to foreign journalists. The comic-strip journalist makes the man’s stories and fate as enthralling as any print journalism, more expressive than the most adept film documentary.
Satrapi, Marjane. Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood. 2003. Pantheon, paper, $17.95 (0-375-42230-7).
Satrapi’s drawing style, reminiscent of the great children’s author-artist Wanda Gag’s, eloquently conveys her ingenuousness and fervor at ages 10 to 14, during which time the tenor of the 1979 Islamic revolution turned, and her family eventually had to flee.
Thompson, Craig. Blankets. 2003. Top Shelf; dist. by Diamond, paper, $29.95 (1-891830-43-0).
Thompson’s autobiographical second graphic novel portrays growing up in rural Wisconsin, first love, and loss of faith in that love that presages later loss of religious faith. A romantic and honest, artistically assured, authentically novelistic work.
Ware, Chris. Quimby the Mouse. 2003. Fantagraphics, $24.95 (1-56097-485-0).
This almost-too-beautiful oversize album of Ware’s shorter work attests his comics mastery even more inarguably than Jimmy Corrigan (2000) as, for instance, he slices and dices a narrative into 168 postage-stamp-size panels, re-creating the look of vintage newspaper strips.
Woodring, Jim. The Frank Book. 2003. Fantagraphics, $39.95 (1-56097-534-2).
Frank is a feline anthropoid inhabiting a lush landscape with other, equally peculiar characters, among whom he has quietly bizarre adventures rendered in a style evocative of early animated films. Woodring’s wordless strip is as imaginative as George Herriman’s classic Krazy Kat.
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