Although it’s often said that comedy has a disadvantage when it comes to winning recognition, that was not the case with this year’s PW Comics World Critic’s Poll: the book with the most votes was Kate Beaton’s webcomic compilation Hark! A Vagrant, a laff riot of frustrated admirals, over-zealous girl detectives and baby-dropping F. Scott Fitzgerald characters that cemented Beaton's ascent of one of North America's top cartoonists. Begun as a webcomic running on Live Journal, Beaton’s witty, learned strips skewering literature and obscure facets of Canadian history soon gained an eager following. This year’s collection, published by Drawn & Quarterly has been a consistent best-seller since it arrived in September, and it gained a spot on Time magazine’s list of the top ten fiction books of the year. Beaton has become an all-media star with cartoons in the New Yorker and an Adventure Time cartoon adapted from one of her characters.

Publishers Weeklys’ own critics were equally charmed by Beaton’s book—equally informed by classic New Yorker cartooning and modern superheroes—as Johanna Draper Carlson wrote “Beaton's unique work is one of the best examples of good humor being universal.”

Beyond Beaton’s win—with five votes from the critics panel—the selections showed the usual exhilarating range of styles and topics, from Carla Speed McNeil’s deep-rooted fantasy Finder: Voice to Joe Ollmann’s novel of 40-something crisis, Mid Life, with stops for almost abstract meditations on life from Olivier Schrauwen and Yuichi Yokahama. And everything in-between. With more than 50 picks from our critics, there’s something to explore for everyone who likes comics on the below list.

This year’s voters consisted of Chris Barsanti, Steve Bunche, Johanna Draper Carlson, Danica Davidson, Glen Downey, Bill Kartalopoulos, Dan Kois, Heidi MacDonald, Calvin Reid and Janet Weber.


Finder: Voice, Carla Speed McNeil (Dark Horse)

This science fiction series uses another culture to focus, in this story, on questions of gender identity and belonging, as an androgynous young woman with parents from different tribes fights for recognition from her clan. McNeil is one of the most imaginative and skilled artists working in comics today, and her author's notes are always enlightening. —JDC

Habibi, Craig Thompson (Pantheon)

Captivating and inventive despite its retro orientalism, Habibi is structured around relentlessly beautiful drawing and Islam-inspired calligraphy. This oddball love story about the love between two slaves—a young poor Arab girl and an even younger black boy—sends the reader on a journey through a fairytale Middle East. Combining the timeless wonder of the Arabian nights, intense sexuality and the drab, relentless degradation of Thompson’s never-never world and its trash-swamped cities.—CR


Big Questions, Anders Nilsen (Drawn & Quarterly)

Lytical, ephemeral and riveting—Nilsen turns the “funny animal” trope of comics into a 600-page exploration of the meaning of life, with stops along the way for dread, horror and laughter.—HM


A Bride's Story, Kaoru Moru (Yen Press)

Kaoru Moru, the mangaka behind Emma, returns with this beautifully illustrated manga. The story may be simple so far, but the artwork draws the reader in and leaves an impression.—DD

Farm 54, Galit Seliktar and Gilad Seliktar (Fanfare Ponent Mon)

Three autobiographical stories that focus on the coming of age of a young girl in rural Israel by the Israeli brother and sister team of Galit (writer) and Gilad. Beautiful and understated, yet powerfully emotional stories that follow the experiences of a young girl from her teenage years through time spent in the Israeli army.—CR

Garden, Yuichi Yokoyama (Picturebox)

The world of incongruities that Yokoyama creates in Garden is so bizarre and so completely captivating.—GD

Love and Rockets: New Stories Vol. 4, Gilbert Hernandez and Jaime Hernandez (Fantagraphics)

Jaime Hernandez tops his 30 years of peerless storytelling with the conclusion to “The Love Bunglers” in which two characters we’ve watched stumble through life make a final lurch—that may bring happiness or doom. Heartbreaking yet without a trace of manipulation.—HM

Mid Life, Joe Ollmann (Drawn & Quarterly)

What makes this graphic novel so exemplary is that everything it says is completely and utterly true. This should be required reading for every dude turning 40.—GD

Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths, Shigeru Mizuki (Drawn & Quarterly)

Set in World War II on a pacific island, this fictionalized memoir offers a detailed and comic record of life in the Japanese Imperial army as a prelude to a horrific and tragic account of the awful fate of its soldiers. An unforgettable account of the nightmare of war.—CR

Paying For It, Chester Brown (Drawn & Quarterly)

The foreword by Crumb is great, and Brown's matter-of-factness in telling the kind of story he's telling is something to behold.—GD

Pinocchio, Winshluss (Last Gasp)

An exuberant, take-no-prisoners act of folklore reclamation, Pinocchio drags the comfortable archetypes of the little wooden boy, his lovelorn father and the Blue Fairy into weird, explicit wonderlands of sex and violence — worlds not that different, in fact, from the dark and dangerous traditions from which they were born, over 100 years ago. “—DK, writing for

The Death-Ray, Daniel Clowes (Drawn and Quarterly)

The superhero myth is taken to a it’s logical, bleak conclusion in a tale of emotionally stunted white-trash kids who encounter a force beyond their moral abilities. Although Clowes is aware of how small-minded his protagonists are, he never entirely loses sympathy for their plight.—HM

The Man Who Grew His Beard, Olivier Schrauwen (Fantagraphics)

This graphic novel is exceptionally inventive, with each story being so very different from the one before.—GD

Who Is Jake Ellis Vol. 1, Nathan Edmondson and Tonci Zonjic (Image)
“A mercenary with a blank spot where his past should be, Jon Moore makes his way across Europe, staying one step ahead of the multitude of bad guys (or are they?) on his tail. What's his secret? A voice in his head that seems to know everything. The only problem is that the voice has a name — Jake Ellis — a past, and a deep well of sadness about what he's lost.”—DK, writing for


1-800-Mice, Matthew Thurber (PictureBox)

20th Century Boys, Naoki Urasawa (Viz Media), Blaise Larmee, ed. (online)

Americus, MK Reed and Jonathan Hill (First Second)

Anya's Ghost, Vera Brosgol (First Second)

Astral Talk, Aidan Koch, ed. (Publication Studio)

Astronaut Academy: Zero Gravity, Dave Roman (First Second)

Avengers Prime, Brian Michael Bendis and Alan Davis (Marvel)

Bake Sale, Sara Varon (First Second)

Batman: The Road Home, various (DC Comics)

Benjamin Bear in Fuzzy Thinking, Philippe Coudray (Toon Books)

Color Engineering, Yuichi Yokoyama (Picturebox)

Countdown 7 Days, Kemuri Karakara (Digital Manga Publishing)

Criminal, Vol. 6: The Last of the Innocent, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (Marvel)

Daytripper, Fábio Moon & Gabriel Bá (Vertigo)

Discovery Channel’s Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Predators, various (Silver Dragon Books)

Evelyn Evelyn, Amanda Palmer, Jason Webley and Cynthia von Buhler (Dark Horse)

Forming, Jesse Moynihan (AdHouse Books)

Graphic Shakespeare Series, various (Stone Arch Books)

Horror Hospital Unplugged, Dennis Cooper and Keith Mayerson (HarperCollins)

I'll Give It My All...Tomorrow 3, Shunju Aono (VIZ)

Infinite Kung-Fu, Kagan McLeod (Top Shelf)

Kramers Ergot 8, Sammy Harkham, ed. (Picturebox)

Lewis & Clark, Nick Bertozzi (First Second Books)

Life with Mr. Dangerous, Paul Hornschemeier (Villard)

Love and Capes: Wake Up Where You Are, Thomas Zahler (IDW)

Luz Sees the Light, Claudia Davila (Kids Can Press)

MetaMaus, Art Spiegelman (Pantheon)

Mister Wonderful: A Love Story, Daniel Clowes (Pantheon)

Nursery Rhyme Comics, various (First Second)

Nuts, Gahan Wilson (Fantagraphics)

Of Lamb, Matthea Harvey and Amy Jean Porter (McSweeney’s)

Page by Paige, Laura Lee Gulledge (Amulet Books)

Picket Line, Breena Wiederhoeft (Easel Ain’t Easy)

Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon 1, Naoko Takeuchi (Kodansha)

Squish, by Jennifer & Matthew Holm (Random House)

Stargazing Dog, Takashi Murakami (NBM)

The Cabbie Vol. 1, Marti (Fantagraphics)

The Cardboard Valise, Ben Katchor (Pantgheon)

The Disgusting Room, Austin English (Sparkplug)

The Finder Library, Vol. 1 and 2, Carla Speed McNeil (Dark Horse)

The Grave Doug Freshley, Josh Hechinger and mp Mann (Archaia)

The Influencing Machine, Brooke Gladstone and Josh Neufeld (W.W. Norton)

The Last Unicorn, Peter S. Beagle, Peter Gillis, Renae DeLiz and Ray Dillon (IDW)

The Someday Funnies, various (Abrams ComicArts)

Balloon Toons: The Super-Duper Dog Park, Aron Nels Steinke (Blue Apple Books)

Troop 142, Mike Dawson (Secret Acres)
The City of Shifting Waters: Valerian Vol. 1, Christin Pierre and Jean-Claude Mezieres (Cinebook)

Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse: Race to Death Valley, Floyd Gottfredson (Fantagraphics)

Zahra's Paradise, Amir and Kahlil (First Second)

Zita the Spacegirl, Ben Hatke (First Second)

[Matt White contributed to this story.]