Last year might just have been the greatest ever for graphic novels. Although the stunning achievement of Chris Ware’s multidimensional Building Stories led the way, it was only the tip of a vibrant iceberg of books by turns thoughtful, exciting, comic and tragic.
Which is another way of saying that 2013 has a lot to live up to. Although some long-awaited opuses by Bryan Lee O’Malley and Paul Pope await later in the year, the first half of 2013 is a little less showy; yet it boasts the return of two past winners of the PW Graphic Novel Critics Poll: Dash Shaw and Rutu Modan. There’s certainly no dearth of good reading this season.
While as usual it’s a blend of fact and fiction, fantasy and reality, one recurring theme of the season’s best books is an examination of childhood; often thought of as being kid’s stuff, comics are also an ideal medium for observing the momentary joys and terrors of an average child’s day with both the detachment and sympathy of passing time.
Such is the case in Sunny, Vol. 1, the first in an unsentimental yet moving new manga series by Taiyo Matsomoto (Tekkonkinkreet). Far from the genre conventions of many manga, this is an indie-style look at a group of Japanese children in an orphanage who use an abandoned yellow car as the vehicle for their flights of fantasy. Comics, instead of a car, provide the relief in Marble Season, a semiautobiographical memoir by the much-revered comics master Gilbert Hernandez. The book paints the magic yet brutal world of children and the objects they look to for security. Dash Shaw (Body World) looks at an older stage of development in New School. Sixteen-year-old Danny is sent to X, an isolated island culture where the construction of a new theme park is changing mores—and Danny.
At the other end of the experience spectrum, The Property, Rutu Modan’s first graphic novel since 2007’s acclaimed Exit Wounds, follows an old woman and her granddaughter who return to Warsaw to reclaim a property abandoned after WWII, where they confront mysteries and surprises from the past. Modan’s ability to connect history with the personal is as strong as ever.
Two of the most notable young cartoonists of the past few years get career-thus-far defining anthologies. Lisa Hanawalt’s My Dirty Dumb Eyes is a sidesplitting, beautifully drawn collection of her animal-infused humorous pieces and movie reviews. Michael DeForge combines the experimental edge of the legendary Fort Thunder art collective with the sweet exploration of Adventure Time. His new Very Casual collection gives a wider audience a chance to sample his disturbing, genre-bending comics.
In the nonfiction area, Jim Ottaviani (Feynman) continues his run of thought-provoking and well-researched science biographies with Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas, covering the lives of the three great primate researchers. Daryl Cunningham’s coldly dispassionate How to Fake a Moon Landing: Exposing the Myths of Science Denial is a much-needed takedown of such fake science stories as climate change denial and homeopathy.
Finally, it wouldn’t be comics without superheroes. The second collection of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman run, Batman, Vol. 2: The City of Owls, finds Batman in a rollicking battle against a secret society, enlivened by Capullo’s pulp-inspired art. And Matt Fraction and stylish art collaborators David Aja and Javier Pulido turn the Avenger’s bowman into a delightful antihero in Hawkeye, Vol. 1: My Life as a Weapon.
PW’s Top 10: Comics & Graphic Novels
Sunny, Vol. 1. Taiyo Matsumoto. Viz Media, May
Marble Season. Gilbert Hernandez. Drawn & Quarterly, May
New School. Dash Shaw. Fantagraphics, June
The Property. Rutu Modan. Drawn & Quarterly, May
My Dirty Dumb Eyes. Lisa Hanawalt. Drawn & Quarterly, May
Very Casual. Michael DeForge. Koyama Press, May
Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas. Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wick. First Second, June
How to Fake a Moon Landing: Exposing the Myths of Science Denial. Darryl Cunningham. Abrams ComicArts, Apr.
Batman, Vol. 2: The City of Owls. Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, and Rafael Albuquerque. DC, Mar.
Hawkeye, Vol. 1: My Life as a Weapon. Matt Fraction, Javier Pulido and David Aja. Marvel, Mar.
Comics & Graphic Novels Listings
How to Fake a Moon Landing: Exposing the Myths of Science Denial by Darryl Cunningham (Apr. 2, hardcover, $16.95, ISBN 978-1419706899)/ Is hydro-fracking safe? Is climate change real? Did the moon landing actually happen? Cunningham looks at these and other hot-button science topics and presents a fact-based, visual assessment of current thinking and research.
Good Riddance: An Illustrated Memoir of Divorce by Cynthia Copeland (May 7, trade paper,$17.95, ISBN 978-1419706707). When you think you live in a Norman Rockwell painting—married 18 years, three kids, beautiful old house, successful career as a writer—you don’t expect another side to the canvas. Until you read a lovesick e-mail to your husband... that didn’t come from you.
Simon’s Cat in Kitten Chaos by Simon Tofield (Apr. 16, trade paper, $15.95, ISBN 978-1617751585). Half the size, double the trouble. Simon’s cat has a new little friend who may be even more accident prone. An outgrowth of the enormously popular short films featured on YouTube. 20,000-copy announced first printing.
Strange Attractors by Charles Soule and Greg Scott (Apr. 24, hardcover, $19.95, ISBN 978-1-936393-62-6). A man studying for his Ph.D. discovers Complex Theory, the idea that one can use mathematics to predict the large-scale outcomes caused by minute changes in environment—and it might be the only thing keeping New York City from destroying itself.
Mouse Guard, Vol. 3: The Black Axe by David Petersen (June, hardcover $24.95, ISBN 978-1-936393-06-0). This is the third collected volume in the continuing saga of the Eisner Award–winning and critically acclaimed fantasy comic series. This story serves as a prequel to the two previous volumes.
Drawn & Quarterly
Marble Season by Gilbert Hernandez (May, hardcover, $21.95, ISBN 978-1770460867). A semiautobiographical novel by the acclaimed cartoonist Gilbert Hernandez. It tells the untold stories from the early years of these American comics legends, but also portrays the reality of life in a large family in suburban 1960s California.
Co-Mix : A Retrospective of Comics, Graphics, and Scraps by Art Spiegelman (May, hardcover, $39.99, ISBN 978-1770461147). A comprehensive career overview of the output of the legendary Pulitzer Prize–winning creator of Maus includes essays by film critic J. Hoberman and the dean of the Yale University School of Art, Robert Storr.
The Property by Rutu Modan and Jessica Cohen (May, hardcover, $24.95, ISBN 978-1770461154). Savvy and insightful, elegant and subtle, Rutu Modan’s second full-length graphic novel is a triumph of storytelling and fine lines. After the death of her son, Regina Segal takes her granddaughter Mica to Warsaw, hoping to reclaim a family property lost during WWII, but she ends up facing her past.
My Dirty Dumb Eyes by Lisa Hanawalt (May, hardcover, $19.95, ISBN 978-1770461161). The highly anticipated debut collection from the award-winning cartoonist. Hanawalt’s intricately detailed, absurdly funny comics have appeared in venues as wide and varied as the Hairpin, VanityFair.com, Lucky Peach, Saveur, the New York Times, and The Believer.
Letting It Go by Miriam Katin (Mar., hardcover, $24.95, ISBN 978-1770461031). Katin’s 2006 debut graphic memoir, We Are on Our Own, was a unique portrait of how one family survived WWII. A companion to this book, Letting It Go shows Katin, now an adult, dealing with her son Ilan’s recent move to Berlin.
Adventures of Superhero Girl by Faith Erin Hicks (Mar., hardcover, $16.99, ISBN-13 978-1-61655-084-4). What if you can leap tall buildings and defeat alien monsters with your bare hands, but you buy your capes at secondhand stores, have a weakness for kittens, and a snarky comment from Skeptical Guy can ruin a whole afternoon?
Mind MGMT, Vol. 1by Matt Kindt (Apr., hardcover, $19.99 ISBN 978-1-59582-797-5) is a bold new espionage series from one of the most original voice in genre comics. Reporting on a commercial flight where everyone aboard lost their memories, a young journalist stumbles onto a much bigger story—the top-secret Mind Management program.
The Massive, Vol. 1: Black Pacific by Brian Wood and Kristian Donaldson (Mar., trade paper, $19.99, ISBN 978-1-61655-132-2). In Wood’s sprawling postapocalyptic epic, follow the crew of the Kapital from the flooded remnants of Hong Kong to Unalaska, with stops in Antarctica and Mogadishu, as post-Crash ethics and economics are explored across a broken world.
Husbands by Jane Espenson and Brad Bell. (Apr., hardcover, $14.99, ISBN 978-1-61655-130-8). The comic book continuation of the sitcom phenom. Husbands tells the story of famous gay newlyweds Brady and Cheeks, who sparked a media firestorm when they woke up legally wed after a drunken Vegas weekend.
Batman, Vol. 2: The City of Owls by Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo, and Rafael Albuquerque (Mar. 26, hardcover, $24.99, ISBN 978-1-4012-3777-6). A continuation of the popular Batman story line, Batman must stop the Talons that have breeched the Batcave in order to save an innocent life... and Gotham City.
Dial H, Vol. 1: Into You by China Mieville and Mateus Santolucco (Apr. 23, trade paper, $14.99, ISBN 978-1-4012-3775-2). Hugo Award–winning novelist Mieville breathes new life into a classic. In the small rundown town of Littleville, Colo., a troubled young man stumbles upon the lost H-Dial and all of the secrets and power it possesses.
Joe the Barbarian by Grant Morrison and Sean Murphy (Mar. 12, trade paper, $19.99, ISBN 978-1401237479). Joe is an imaginative young kid of 11 who happens to suffer from type 1 diabetes. Without supervision and insulin, he can easily slip into a delirious, dissociative state that presages coma and death. One fateful day, his condition causes him to believe he has entered a vivid fantasy world.
Punk Rock Jesus by Sean Murphy (Apr. 9, trade paper, $16.99, ISBN 978-1-4012-3768-4). A reality TV show starring a clone of Jesus Christ causes chaos across the U.S. of the near future. J2 causes both outrage and adulation.
Good Dog by Graham Chaffee (May, hardcover, $16.99, ISBN 978-16069963620). The welcome return of alternative cartoonist Chaffee. Ivan, who is plagued by terrible nightmares about chickens and rabbits, is a good dog—if only someone would notice.
Wake Up, Percy Gloom by Cathy Malkasian (May, hardcover, $24.99, ISBN 978-1606996386). Cartoonist and animator Malkasian follows up her minor classic from 2007, Percy Gloom, with the further adventures of the small, immortal man with a light-up head. Kindhearted Percy awakens from (what he thinks is) a 200-year nap and finds himself in a strange new land.
Lost Cat by Jason (June, hardcover, $24, ISBN 978-1606996423). Jason’s full-length detective graphic novel revolves around a missing cat—and a missing woman. Another deadpan tale from the author of I Killed Adolf Hitler.
New School by Dash Shaw (June, hardcover, $35, ISBN 978-1606996447). In this new graphic novel from the acclaimed author of Bottomless Belly Button and BodyWorld, Shaw dramatizes the story of a boy moving to an exotic country and his infatuation with an unfamiliar culture that quickly shifts to disillusionment. A sense of “being different” grows to alienation, until he angrily blames this once-enchanting land for his isolation.
Fran by Jim Woodring (June, hardcover, $19.99, ISBN 978-1606996614). For the past 20 years or so, Jim Woodring’s beloved Frank has enjoyed one mind-bending catastrophe after another. In this new graphc novel, we learn more about his soul mate, Fran.
Red Handed: The Fine Art of Strange Crimes by Matt Kindt (May, hardcover, $26.99, ISBN 978-1596436626). Welcome to the city of Red Wheelbarrow, where the world’s greatest detective has yet to meet the crime he can’t solve. But lately there has been a rash of crimes so eccentric and random that even Detective Gould is stumped.
Templar by Jordan Mechner, LeUyen Pham, and Alex Puvilland (July, hardcover, $39.99, ISBN 978-1596433939). When the king of France and the pope conspire against the Knights Templar, it’s up to one renegade knight to avenge his slain brothers in this sprawling historical adventure by the creator of Prince of Persia.
Genius by Steven T. Seagle and Teddy Kristiansen (July, trade paper, $17.99, ISBN 9781596432635). Quantum physicist Ted Marx finds his life turned upside down by the revelation of Einstein’s last, most terrifying secret.
Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wick (June, trade paper, $19.99, ISBN 978-1596438651). Ottaviani (Feynman) offers an action-packed account of the three greatest primatologists of the last century. These three groundbreaking researchers were all students of the great Louis Leakey, and each made profound contributions to primatology—and to our own understanding of ourselves.
Genius Illustrated: The Life and Art of Alex Toth by Dean Mullaney and Bruce Canwell (Feb. 12, hardcover, $49.99, ISBN 978-1-61377-024-5). Covering the years from the 1960s to Toth’s poignant death in 2006, this oversized book features artwork and complete stories from Toth’s latter-day work at Warren, DC Comics, Red Circle, Marvel, and his own creator-owned properties.
The Rocketeer: Cargo of Doom by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee (Mar. 5, hardcover, $21.99, ISBN 978-1-61377-565-3). Cliff Secord and the Rocketeer take to the skies once again. A ship docks in Los Angeles harbor from a far-off and exotic locale—with a big, mysterious, and living cargo. Danger and mayhem abound as our hero leaps into the fray.
John K. Presents: Spumco Comic Book by John Kricfalusi (Feb. 26, hardcover, $34.99, ISBN 978-1-61377-490-8). Fabulous, frenetic, and fun comics from famed animator John Kricfalusi are compiled by Eisner Award–winning editor Craig Yoe.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Works, Vol. 1 by Peter Laird & Kevin Eastman (Apr., hardcover, $49.99, ISBN 978-1-61377-625-4). The first seven issues of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series plus the Raphael Micro-Series issue are collected in this hardcover collection, reproduced in full color.
Happy! by Grant Morrison and Darick Robertson (Apr. 2, paperback, $12.99, ISBN 978-1607066774). Meet Nick Sax, a corrupt, intoxicated ex-cop turned hit man, adrift in a stinking twilight world. With a hit gone wrong, a bullet in his side, the cops and the mob on his tail, Nick and his world will be changed this Christmas—by a tiny blue horse called Happy.
Maximum Minimum Wage by Bob Fingerman (Apr. 2, hardcover, $34.99, ISBN 978-1607066743). The definitive collection of the ’90s comic that presaged the “cringe comedy” of shows like Louie and Girls. This is the workaday saga of cartoonist Rob Hoffman and his firebrand girlfriend, Sylvia, who forge a path against the brutal indifference of their hometown.
Saga, Vol. 2 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (July 9, paper, $14.99, ISBN 978-1607066927). The smash hit epic continues. Thanks to her star-crossed parents, Marko and Alana, newborn baby Hazel has already survived lethal assassins, rampaging armies, and alien monstrosities, but in the cold vastness of outer space, the little girl encounters something truly frightening: her grandparents.
Very Casual by Michael Deforge (May, paper $15, ISBN 978-0-9879630-7-9). Culled from mini comics, online comics, and anthology contributions, Very Casual collects notable short stories from DeForge’s prolific oeuvre, creating the defining collection for one of the medium’s most exciting young talents.
Journal by Julie Delporte (May, trade paper, $20 ISBN 978-0-9879630-9-3). The first English translation of Montreal artist Julie Delporte’s autobiographical comics. Cataloguing an emotional breakup, an artist’s residency at the Center for Cartoon Studies, and the anxieties and joys of everyday life, Delporte’s elegant illuminated diary is a private life made public and poetic.
Hawkeye, Vol. 1: My Life as a Weapon by Matt Fraction, Javier Pulido, and David Aja (Mar., trade paper, $16.99, ISBN 978-0785165620). With ex-Young Avenger Kate Bishop by his side, the breakout star of the Avengers movie is out to prove himself as one of Earth’s mightiest heroes.
Oz: Road to Oz by Skottie Young and Eric Shanower (Apr., trade paper, $24.99, ISBN 978-0785164043). Dorothy and Toto are back on the road to Oz. This time Dorothy’s companions are strange—an old homeless guy with a magic magnet and a mentally challenged child named Button-Bright, transformed magically by the king of the talking foxes.
Uncanny Avengers, Vol. 1: The Red Shadow by Rick Remender and John Cassaday (May, hardcover, $24.99, ISBN 978-0785168447). The lead title of the Marvel Now relaunch is collected. Captain America creates a sanctioned Avengers unit comprising Avengers and X-Men, humans and mutants working together... so why is Professor Xavier’s dream more at risk than ever?
The Initiates: A Comic Artist and a Wine Artisan Exchange Jobs by Étienne Davodeau (Mar. 1, hardcover, $29.99, ISBN 978-1561637034) insightfully investigates two fascinating fields, exploring each man’s motivations and revealing that their endeavors and aspirations are not much different.
Family Ties: An Alaskan Crime Drama by Eric Hobbs and Noel Tuazon (May 1, paperback, $14.99, ISBN 978-1561637294). Hoping to secure a future for his three children, an aging Alaskan crime boss plans to retire and divide his empire among his heirs. An epic tale of betrayal and loss, this graphic novel is a mix of King Lear and The Godfather in the dramatic setting of Alaska.
Army of God: Joseph Kony’s War in Central Africa by David Axe and Tim Hamilton (Apr. 2, trade paper, $14.99, ISBN 978-1610392990). Combining firsthand reporting with in-depth research, a stark work of graphic journalism depicts the murderous rise of Joseph Kony.
Adventures of a Japanese Business Man by José Domingo (Apr., hardcover, $29.99, ISBN 978-1-907704-53-6). As a Japanese businessman heads home after a regular day at the office, a long succession of strange and fantastical events is thrown at him. A free flowing adventure captured with eye-catching artwork.
Destination X by John Martz (May, hardcover, $15.95, ISBN 978-1-907704-68-00). Sam is the grandson of a world-renowned space adventurer. Marveling at his ailing grandfather’s stories of interstellar travel and alien romance, he models his life after these tales, unaware of his own reality.
Double Fine Action Comics, Vol. 1 by Scott C. (Apr. 17, trade paper, $19.99, ISBN 978-1620100851). Double Fine Productions is renowned for making videogames such as Psychonauts, Brütal Legend, and Iron Brigade. Scott Campbell (or Scott C) came on as art director for Psychonauts and started drawing comics as a morning warmup. These comics were then uploaded to doublefine.com and the world was made amazing.
The Secret History of D.B. Cooper by Brian Churilla (Apr. 24, hardcover, $29.99, ISBN 978-1934964910). The most infamous airline hijacker of all time, D.B. Cooper remains on the FBI’s most-wanted list almost 40 years after the crime. For the first time, the secret history of the missing man is revealed.
So Long, Silver Screen by Blutch (Apr., hardcover, $22.95, ISBN 978-0-9851595-1-1). The influential, award-winning French cartoonist Blutch look at the history of film in a series of interlocking short comics that combine scholarly history with ribald romanticism.
The Passion of Gengoroh Tagame by Gengoroh Tagame (Apr., trade paper, $29.95, ISBN 978-0-9845892-4-1). Violent, visceral, and provocative, Gengoroh Tagame’s gay BDSM comics show an unquestionable talent for story and illustration’ edited and designed by Chip Kidd.
Walrus by Brandon Graham (May, trade paper, $19.95, ISBN 978-0-9851595-9-7). PW called Brandon Graham “one of the most inventive action cartoonists working.” Walrus, his first art book, serves as a handbook to his visual and verbal world, a punning, humorous, and sexy metropolis.
Hair Shirt by Patrick McEown (Mar. 5, hardcover, $24.95, ISBN 978-1906838270). John and Naomi were childhood sweethearts—and then they grew up. When their two lives intersect again, they decide to have another go at love. But no simple romantic rekindling, this graphic novel debut is by an Eisner-winning artist.
When David Lost His Voice by Judith Vanistendael (Mar. 5, hardcover, $24.95, ISBN 978-1906838546). A moving and visually stunning graphic novel about a multigenerational family struggling with cancer, in the tradition of David Small’s Stitches.
Black Paths by David B. (Mar. 5, hardcover, $24.95, ISBN 978-1906838331). When surrealism ruled—and not just in the art world, this tale is inspired by a true story of WWI Europe, when “Pirate King” Gabriele d’Annunzio, an Italian poet, stormed the city of Fiume. He envisioned a utopian city-state, but Fiume quickly became a surreal center of violence, looting, and decadence.
Parecomic: Michael Albert and the Story of Participatory Economics by Sean Michael Wilson and Carl Thompson, intro. by Noam Chomsky (Mar. 12, trade paper, $18.95, ISBN 978-1609804565) is a graphic novel about the system we live in—what’s wrong with it, and how we might be able to change it for the better.
Nemo: Heart of Ice by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill (Feb., hardcover, $14.95, ISBN 978-1603092746). A new, stand-alone adventure in the bestselling League of Extraordinary Gentlemen series. In 1925, 15 years after the death of Captain Nemo, his daughter Janni Dakkar launches a perilous submarine expedition to H.P. Lovecraft’s Antarctica.
We Can Fix It by Jess Fink (May, trade paper, $14.95, ISBN 978-1-60309-065-0). This “time-travel memoir” from the author of Chester 5000 is raunchy, charming, and deceptively deep.
A Matter of Life by Jeffrey Brown (June, trade paper, $14.95 ISBN 978-1-60309-266-1). The acclaimed master of small-scale emotional memoir (and Vader and Son) returns with his most ambitious book to date: a full-color meditation on fatherhood and faith.
Incidents in the Night: Vol. 1 by David B., trans. by Brian Evenson (Apr. 9, hardcover, $19.95, ISBN 978-0984681440). A major work from David B. (Epileptic), one of the world’s great cartoonists. On a trip to one of Paris’s famous book shops, the author is consumed by a dreamlike quest for a mysterious journal 3,000-copy announced first printing.
Trans Terra: Toward a Cartoon Philosophy by Tom Kaczynski and Kevin Huizenga (Feb., trade paper, $15.95, ISBN 978-0-9846814-1-9). A mutant memoir that melds comics, politics, and philosophy into a heady brew exploring work, creativity, emergence of the new, and the possibility of utopia.
Utsubora by Asumiko Nakamura (June, trade trade paper, $18.95, ISBN 978-1935654766). A young author is about to make her debut when she is found dead. And somehow the manuscript she had been working on has been published by an established author... who also happens to be the last person seen with her.
Archer & Armstrong, Vol. 1: The Michelangelo Code by Fred van Lente and Clayton Henry (Mar., paper $9.99, ISBN 978-0979640988). After years of meditation and training, 18-year-old Obadiah Archer has been dispatched to New York City to carry out the sacred mission of his family’s sect—locate and kill the fun-loving, hard-drinking immortal known as Armstrong.
Sunny, Vol. 1 by Taiyo Matsumoto (May 21, hardcover, $22.99, ISBN 978-1421555256). The latest manga masterpiece from the innovative Eisner Award–winning creator of Tekkonkinkreet. What is Sunny? Sunny is a car, a car you take on a drive with your mind, taking you to the place of your dreams.