Well, time has rolled around again for my annual best of list. This year, I’m going to go about it a little differently. I’m choosing one selection from each of the 2016 meetings of the Graphic Novel Discussion Group.
The list is in chronological order by month rather than any ranking by preference. I have included the topic we covered for that month as well. There are some of the selections where I have only listed the stand-alone work or the series as a whole.
All right, let’s get to it…
- Dystopian Narratives – The Wrenchies (by Farel Dalrymple)
Craziness, that’s all I’ve got to say! If you like the tough-kid Borribles series (a major influence on writers like China Mieville) and the twisted narratives of David Lynch‘s movies then you will love this graphic novel by Farel Dalrymple.
- The Art of War – The Great War: July 1, 1916: The First Day of the Battle of the Somme (by Joe Sacco)
This is an incredibly detailed 24 foot-long panoramic drawing by Joe Sacco that tries to capture the full events of just one day of battle in World War I. The set also includes a 16-page booklet to give viewers some historical context.
- The Sandman series (by Neil Gaiman and J.H. Williams III) – Sandman Overture
Neil Gaiman finally returns to his award-winning, beloved Sandman series with a prologue tale that explains just how Morpheus was captured in the very first issue of the series. The art by J.H. Williams III is gorgeous and appropriately psychedelic as befits the adventures of the Lord of Dreams across the galaxy as he attempts to right a wrong from long ago.
- Marvel Comics’ Civil War – Civil War: The Road to Civil War (by Brian Michael Bendis)
This volume of the first Civil War series collects the prequels to the main tale. In it we get to see how key players such as Doctor Strange, Mister Fantastic, Namor, Professor X, and Iron Man form the ultra-secretive Illuminati, as well as how Spider-man is drawn into the conflict between the forces of government control and those superheroes who wish to retain their autonomy.
- May 2016: We did not have a meeting in May so I’m going to put up a comic that I read in 2016 and just loved, Gotham Academy!
Gotham Academy is a prestigious boarding school with a ton of secrets. Mystery, magic, and the bonding of a special group of students make for a creepy thrill-ride.
- The Private Eye (by Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin)
Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin have beautifully crafted a future where all our expectations about privacy have been turned upside down after a major event that shuts down the Internet for good. In this world, our main character, a private investigator, and his femme fatale client break rule after rule in search of her missing sister. Along the way they stumble into a conspiracy that threatens to shake the very foundations of this new social order.
- Strangers in Paradise (by Terry Moore)
Strangers in Paradise was the 13 year project of indie comic writer and artist, Terry Moore. It was a complicated series of interlocking stories told in a realistic style with a dedicated fan-base addicted to the intensely personal quality of the main characters’ interaction. It mixed several sub-genres – romance, crime drama, and autobiography – while always feeling fresh and compelling.
- Valiant Comics – Harbinger (by Joshua Dysart)
Honestly, I could have picked a few other titles such as The Death-Defying Doctor Mirage, Archer & Armstrong, or The Eternal Warrior as my favorite Valiant Entertainment selection but Harbinger is the title that originally attracted me to their line of comics. It is the tale of Peter Stanchek and other teens like him who have psionic powers and are trying to escape Project Rising Spirit, who have been holding them prisoner and conducting experiments on them. Joshua Dysart‘s pacing is tight and his dialogue is crisp, letting the reader get to know the characters while keeping thrills coming one right after the other.
- Understanding Comics (by Scott McCloud)
A classic and a cornerstone of many introductory Comic Studies courses, Scott McCloud‘s Understanding Comics is more than just that. It is also an entertaining comic in itself.
- The Hellboy series (by Mike Mignola) – Hellboy: The Right Hand of Doom
Mike Mignola has created one, excuse the pun, hell of a quintessentially quirky supernatural comic character with Hellboy. This trade is a collection of the various one-offs and other ephemera about Hellboy that were published in other titles. Also, there is a short story, King Vold, that was created especially for this particular compilation.
Well, what can I say? Doctor Strange is one weird dude and so are most of his stories. I honestly can’t pinpoint a particular one that I’d suggest because I tend to like him best when he is part of a team, be it The Defenders, the Illuminati, or as Dr. Doom’s sidekick in Jonathan Hickman‘s Secret Wars.
- The Love and Rockets series (by Los. Bros. Hernandez)
This series is hard to quickly summarize because there have been three different creators, all brothers, with different visions who have participated across the 30+ years of its existence. The primary two creators have been Jaime Hernandez, whose focus has been on the punk scene of a primarily Latino community in California (presumably East Los Angeles), and Gilbert Hernandez, who has spun out a rich set of stories about a mythical Latin American town called Palomar (and the immigrants in the U.S. who’ve hailed from there).
My personal favorite are the stories that focus around the characters Maggie and Hopey, also known about town as the Locas. You can see them in action in the above now-iconic picture from Love & Rockets #24.
If you are interested in discussing these titles or other works of sequential art, please join LFPL’s Graphic Novel Discussion Group. Meetings are held at the Main Library on the second Monday of every month, starting at 7:00 PM.
Upcoming meetings will take place on the following dates:
- February 13, 2017 – DC Comics in Other Media (movies, cartoons, and TV shows)
- Monday, March 13, 2017 – Savory Stories: Food and Comics
- Monday, April 10, 2017 – Telling My Story: Comic Biographies
- Monday, May 8, 2017 – IDW Publishing
Formats Available: Graphic Novel
Reviewed by Tony, Main Library