Man, 2015 was a killer year for the graphic novel format and especially for the library’s ever-expanding collection of graphic titles (thanks to LFPL’s graphic novel selector and manager of the Newburg Branch, Kerry Hunter).
I’ve been sitting on this top ten for so-o-o long because I keep on changing my mind about what should make it and what shouldn’t. Since it’s way beyond late for best-of lists, let me drop it on you as is…ten picks in alphabetical (rather than rank) order.
Many of the titles are ongoing series so I’ve just named each series as a whole rather than any specific volume. I have included artists when listing creators but some titles have multiple artists so then I’ve only listed the writer.
- Batgirl by Cameron Stewart/Brendan Fletcher — Barbara Gordon is off to college, living in a new part of town, and Batgirl is changing along with her! The stories are well-paced and the art by Brendan Fletcher is a fresh change of pace from typical superhero fare.
- Bitch Planet by Kelly Sue DeConnick/Valentine De Landro — Imagine The Handmaid’s Tale if it was a women-in-prison exploitation film…set in space! The art by Valentine De Landro perfectly reflects the 1970’s grindhouse aesthetic that co-creator Kelly Sue DeConnick is evoking. However, rather than titillating the male gaze, DeConnick serves up an entertaining kick to the groin of Patriarchy!
- Deadly Class by Rick Remender — Set in 1987, this tale of punk rock rebellion mixed with a twisted take on the classic boarding school setting is a non-stop thriller. Rick Remender once again deftly develops his outsider character, here named Marcus Lopez. Lopez clearly has a lot of heart, screwed up as it may be, as he trains to be an assassin and falls in love with the wrong girl.
- Finder by Carla Speed McNeil — Whoa! It is hard to describe this series as Carla Speed McNeil, both author and artist, has spent the better part of 20 years developing this sci-fi/fantasy tale about a futuristic society that may or may not be here on Earth. The main character, Jaeger, is the titular Finder, his aboriginal society’s title for a certain kind of shaman. Issues of race, class, the nature of work, the power of reading, magic, and sexuality are all explored as we follow Jaegar’s travels.
- Ms. Marvel by G.W. Wilson — Kamala Khan is a nerdy but cool first generation Pakistani-American teen just trying to get through school and keep up with her fan obsessions (one of whom is Carol Danvers, a.k.a. Captain Marvel) when she is exposed to the mysterious Terrigen Mist. Once exposed, Kamala finds herself with new powers, ones that she she uses to keep her hometown safe – even though she has strict immigrant parents, a curfew, and the constant monitoring of the Inhumans to boot.
- Nimona by Noelle Stevenson — Nimona is one heck of a little hell-raiser and don’t you forget it! She forces her way into the life of the villain Lord Blackheart so that she can become his apprentice. As Lord Blackheart battles his arch-nemesis Sir Goldenloin, he finds Nimona just may be too wild to guide. Noelle Stevenson’s art can be said to be simple and cute but is sophisticated enough to portray the darkness of the soul when needed.
- Outcast by Robert Kirkman/Paul Azaceta — Demon possession is tackled by Robert Kirkman, the writer who brought us The Walking Dead. Kyle Barnes’s life has been ruined by demons by the time he meets Reverend Anderson, who is trying – and failing – to successfully perform an exorcism. The art by Paul Azaceta is creepy, allowing the story to breathe as it unfolds at a psychologically compelling pace.
- Polarity by Max Bemis/Jorge Coelho — Can a drifting young man with bi-polar depression be a superhero? This question is explored in a visually stunning tale from Max Bemis and Jorge Coelho.
- Phonogram by Kieron Gillen/Jamie McKelvie — I’m a sucker for comics about music and Phonogram is just that. But it’s also about identity, magic, the nature of reality, and really great tunes! Kieron Gillen is an old hipster for sure but he’s got none of the out of touch boringness that such a label suggests…yes, Gillen knows how to keep you coming back for more. Jamie McKelvie renders the characters and the setting in crisp lines but the real magic is in his facial expressions…every character is clearly their own. This is a boon as many comics with what I call the “indie autobiographical style” of art fail to strongly differentiate anyone but the main character.
- Rat Queens by Kurtis J. Wiebe — Quick synopsis: four party-hardy women in a medieval world roam the countryside and slay monsters. Yeah, this could have been stereotypical sword and sorcery fluff but Kurtis Weibe slips in subtle, convincing character details for all four warriors along the way. He also is great with writing banter so I found myself laughing all the way, too. Roc Upchurch was the artist on the first few issues and his character designs are gorgeous.
If you are interested in talking about these comics or others, LFPL’s Graphic Novel Discussion Group is the place for you! The Group meets at the Main Branch on the second Monday of every month at 6:00 PM.
Formats Available: Graphic Novel
Reviewed by Tony, Main Library