After winning the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature—the first graphic novel ever to win an NBA—March Book Three has received yet another accolade, topping the annual PW Graphic Novel Critics’s Poll with five votes.
Published by IDW/Top Shelf Productions, the book is the final volume in the story of Rep. John Lewis’s part in the struggle for civil rights, and includes the historic events of “Bloody Sunday” and the 25-year-old Lewis’s historic role in the march across the Edmund Pettus bridge in Selma, Al. in 1965. Co-written by writer Andrew Aydin and rendered by artist Nate Powell, the bestselling graphic memoir is a stirring record of the struggle for racial equality, a message that resonated heavily with readers this year.
March Book Three “transforms the 1960s civil rights movement from abstract history to an immediate and human story. Seldom has the comics medium been such a powerful force for truth,” wrote Shaenon Garrity of the book.
The PW Graphic Novel Critics Poll is compiled by a group of participating critics who list the ten books they consider the best graphic novels of the year. We add up multiple votes for any title and the book with the most votes wins. Titles receiving an Honorable Mention received one vote.
Taking part in this year’s poll are PW graphic novel reviewers Shaenon Garrity, Glen Downey, John Seven, Maia Kobabe and Steve Bunche. Also participating are PW graphic novels reviews editor Heidi MacDonald, PW senior news editor Calvin Reid and PW bookroom editor Drucilla Schultz.
March Book Three had a powerful impact on readers. “This is one of the best comics I've ever read,” wrote Kobabe. “It made these events feel more real and immediate to me than any other book I've read about that era. But this book isn't just history. Some of Johnson's speeches feel as if they could have been given yesterday. The Voting Rights Act still needs desperate defense.” Wrote Downey, “Like its predecessors, an incredibly important book which reminds us that in the search for justice in the matter of civil rights, one’s vigilance can never afford to waver.”
Coming in second with four votes was Rosalie Lightning, author Tom Hart’s devastating memoir about the aftermath of the death of his two-year-old daughter, Rosalie. Reid called it “A work done with deep introspection and imaginative cartooning, created under the oppressive magnitude of unimaginable loss.” “What can you even say about a graphic novel like this?,” Downey asked, reflecting the searing pain of reading the memoir.
As usual, a wide ranging list of titles rounded out the top picks, from Daniel Clowes’s long awaited SF romance Patience to Isabel Greenberg’s myth making One Hundred Nights of Hero to the spunky adventures of five papergirls in Brian K Vaughan and Cliff Chiang’s Papergirls.
Here’s the rest of the list.
The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye by Sonny Liew (Pantheon).
“A masterwork of history, storytelling and imaginative cartooning, that tells the real political history of the nation of Singapore through the invented life and variegated comics works of a fictional cartoonist spanning the decades between the 1950s and the present.” – CR
How to Survive in the North by Luke Healy (Nobrow Press)
“This beautiful graphic novel weaves together three interconnected stories, two of which are based on actual arctic expeditions that took place a century ago. It’s a powerful narrative about what human beings search for and what they give up in the process.” –GD
One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg (Little, Brown)
“One is blown away by so many things in this book: the powerful line work, the attention to color, and Greenberg’s profound abilities as a storyteller.” – GD
Irmina by Barbara Yelin (SelfMadeHero)
“Inspired by a true story, this evocative chronicle of a young German woman's experiences in London as World War II has the effect of an engrossing, candid reminiscence of an individual's promise crushed by the bleak times they had the misfortune of being born into.” – SB
Arab of the Future 2: A Childhood in the Middle East 1984-1985: A Graphic Memoir by Riad Sattouf (Metropolitan Books).
“Sattouf depicts the futility and violence of his troubled childhood with a bleak humor as his family struggles for acceptance in Libya and Syria in the 1970s and 1980.” – HM
Demon by Jason Shiga (First Second)
“The simplistic art style belies a fiendishly complicated and thrilling locked room mystery as the man–or is he?–known as Jimmy must find out why he keeps dying.” – HM
Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier (Scholastic Graphix)
“YA goddess Telgemeier triumphs again with a bittersweet fantasy about two sisters facing death in a California town where the annual Day of the Dead festival is visited by real ghosts.” – SG
Patience by Daniel Clowes, Fantagraphics
“Weaving through time and dimensions, Clowes explores love and obsession through the journey of Jack Barlow, who obtains a time machine to go back and find his wife’s killer. What he discovers is that nothing is as perfect as a memory but the truth can be even more powerful.” – HM
Paper Girls Vol 1 by Brian K Vaughn, Cliff Chiang and Matthew Wilson (Image)
“This canny homage to Spielbergian science fiction outdoes (and predates) Stranger Things with its story of 1980s papergirls dragged into a time-bending future war.” – SG
Rolling Blackouts by Sarah Glidden (Drawn and Quarterly)
“Glidden captures many of the concerns of 2016 better than anyone in this expansive, sober examination of the way journalism works and the way human nature works during her travels in the Middle East several years ago.” – JS
Tetris: The Games People Play by Box Brown (First Second)
“Brown seems to have found a way to turn everything that might have been a weakness of this book into an advantage. His art beautifully captures the clunky graphics of early games and his writing turns closed-door trade deals into tense action sequences.” – MK
Wonder Woman: The True Amazon by Jill Thompson (DC Comics)
“Thompson's painted retelling/modernizing of the amazing Amazon's origin is a must-read for longtime Wonder Woman boosters and should be handed immediately to impressionable young female readers.” – SB
Angel Catbird by Margaret Atwood and Johnnie Christmas (Dark Horse)
Baggywrinkles: A Landlubbers Guide to Life at Sea by Lucy Bellwood (Toonhound Studios)
Beverly by Nick Drnaso (Drawn and Quarterly)
Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet Book One by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Brian Stelfreeze (Marvel Comics)
Blood Feud by Cullen Bunn and Drew Moss (Oni)
Compass South by Hope Larson and Rebecca Mock (FSG)
Cousin Joseph by Jules Ffeiffer (Livewright)
DC Comics: Bombshells Vol. 1 by Marguirite Bennett and various (DC Comics)
Doctor Strange Omnibus Vol. 1 by Various (Marvel Comics)
Everything Is Teeth by Evie Wyld and Joe Sumner (Pantheon)
Fantasy Sports Vol. 2 by Sam Bosma (NoBrow)
Fiction Squad by Paul Jenkins and Ramon Bachs (self-published/Boom!)
Geis Vol 1 by Alexis Deacon (NoBrow)
Giant Days Vol 2 by John Allison, Lissa Treiman, Whitney Cogar and Max Sarin (Boom! Box)
Invader Zim Volume 1 by Jhonen Vasquez (Oni Press)
Judge Dredd: The Cursed Earth Uncensored by Pat Mills, John Wagner and Brian Bolland (2000 AD)
Ms. Marvel, Vol 5: Super Famous by Wilson, Miyazawa, Leon and Alphona (Marvel)
Otherworld Barbara by Moto Hagio (Fantagraphics)
Panther by Brecht Evens (Drawn and Quarterly)
Paracuellos by Carlos Giménez (IDW)
Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat! Vol. 1: Hooked On A Feline by Keth Leth and Brittney Williams (Marvel)
Paul Up North by Michel Rabagliati (Conundrum Press)
Queen Emeraldas by Leiji Matsumoto (Kodansha)
Real Deal Comix by Lawrence Hubbard and H. P. McElwee (Fantagraphics)
Ro-Busters: The Complete Nuts And Bolts Vol. 2 by Pat Mills and Kevin O'Neill (2000 AD)
Shadoweyes by Sophie Campbell (Iron Circus Comics)
Soft City by Hariton Pushwagner (New York Review)
Someone Please Have Sex With Me by Gina Wynbrandt (2dcloud)
Space Mullet Vol. 1: One Gamble At A Time by Daniel Johnson (Dark Horse)
The End of Summer by Tillie Walden (Avery Hill)
The Ghosts We Know by Sean Karemaker (Conundrum Press)
The Incantations of Daniel Johnston by Scott McClanahan and Ricardo Cavolo (Two Dollar Radio)
The Osamu Tezuka Story: A Life in Manga and Anime by Toshio Ban, Tezuka Productions and Frederik L. Schodt (Stone Bridge Press)
Towards a Hot Jew by Miriam Libicki (Fantagraphics/F.U. Press)
Vision Vol. 1: Little Worse Than A Man by Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta (Marvel)
We All Wish For Deadly Force by Leela Corman (Retrofit Comics / Big Planet Comics
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly noted the number of annual PW Graphic Novel Critics's Polls. This is the 11th Annual Graphic Novel Critics Poll.