Capping off a year of mounting accolades that include an Ignatz Indie comics award, and being named a PW Best Book, Emil Ferris’ debut graphic novel My Favorite Thing is Monsters, has topped the 2017 PW Graphic Novel Critics Poll with eight votes.

Set in Chicago in 1968, My Favorite Thing Is Monsters is the fictional narrative of a 10 year-old girl who sees movie monsters as the perfect metaphor for herself and for the people (including a murdered neighbor) she cares about the most.

Despite the author’s early struggles to complete the book and find a publisher, My Favorite Thing Is Monsters became both a literary success and a surprise bestseller. Ferris was only able to finish the work after recovering from a long and debilitating illness. Originally designed to be a three volume work—volume two will be published in 2018—My Favorite Thing Is Monsters was first cancelled after being acquired by a New York publishing house. The book was eventually published by independent comics publisher Fantagraphics—only to have its release delayed when the initial printing was stalled offshore on a bankrupt container ship for months.

“Ten-year-old Karen Reyes sees herself as both a monster—like the ghouls in the 1960s monster fanzines she loves—and an amateur detective, in this book that is by turns a haunting murder mystery and a deeply affecting spiritual portrait of the rich social underbelly of 1960s Chicago,” writes PW senior editor Calvin Reid. The narrative, Shaenon Garrity, a PW graphic novel reviewer says, “slides gracefully between past and present, reality and imagination, with arresting ballpoint-and-pencil artwork.”

“Ferris's dense, boundary-breaking art swirls around matters of race, sexuality and coming of age. It's an astonishing debut that fuses everything from EC [1950s comics] to Harriet the Spy to the Holocaust, ” adds Heidi MacDonald, editor in chief of The BEAT (and former PW graphic novels reviews editor). Readers responded to Ferris’s “lushly illustrated diary form, with visuals heavily influenced by the B-horror movies and lurid monster movies that the protagonist devours,” says PW reviewer Steve Bunche. He described the book as, “an evocative masterpiece that possesses a level of depth and introspection that other graphic novels could only hope to maintain.”

Taking second place with five votes is Gabrielle Bell’s Everything is Flammable (Uncivilized Books), a “powerful and insightful work about mothers, daughters, and the fraught ties that bind them,” according to PW reviewer Chris Barsanti.

Acclaimed for her taut observational autobiographical comics, Bell reached a new level of creative maturity in a memoir that addresses themes of mortality, trauma, and the social negotiations around being an independent woman. In her “sketchy, deadpan and bemused style, Bell writes about helping her mother put her life back together after her house is destroyed by a fire. It's a book that in many ways begins to reconcile Bell's paradoxical need for solitude and deep connection,” writes Rob Clough, a PW reviewer.

The PW Graphic Novel Critics Poll is compiled by asking participating critics to list up to 10 titles they consider the best graphic books of the year, and we tally the results. The book receiving the most votes wins; and we share the remaining top vote-recipients. Titles listed as Honorable Mentions each received a single vote. Taking part in this year’s poll are PW graphic novel reviewers Chris Barsanti, Steve Bunche, Rob Clough, John DiBello, Glen Downey, Shaenon Garrity, Rob Kirby, Maia Kobabe, Eric Norton, and Sam Riedel. Also participating are PW Graphic Novels Reviews editor Meg Lemke, PW’s More to Come Podcast Co-hosts Heidi MacDonald, Kate Fitzsimons and PW senior news editor Calvin Reid.

The Critics Poll also highlights trends in the graphic novel category. Among them:10 of the top vote-recipients in this year’s Critics Poll are women. In a year of political turbulence that opened with the historic global Women’s March and closed with the media-industry upending and ongoing revelations of the #MeToo movement, our poll also reflects the power of women artists to speak their truths via literary comics. And our critics hailed the growing diversity of creators coming from mainstream publishers as well as the diversity long present in the indie and underground publishing sectors.

“Each newer crop of cartoonists continues to get younger, queerer, more female and features more people of color,” reports Rob Clough. In reference to a year of online debate about diversity in comics publishing, Sam Riedel says, “Though it's certainly resulted in turmoil within the mainstream market, the resulting books have made the industry as a whole that much better.”

Four Votes

Garnering four votes each and tying for third place, Thi Bui’s The Best We Could Do (Abrams ComicArts) and Tillie Walden’s Spinning (First Second) emerged from the experiences of immigrant and LGBTQ creators, respectively, whose powerful stories have found common ground with a breadth of fans.

Spinning is a “a queer coming-of-age memoir that's hauntingly, vividly resonant,” writes critic Sam Riedel. Although a young-adult title, Riedel says the book speaks to all ages: “she tells so much more, diving into the myriad painful complexities of being a gay teenager. At twenty-one, she's already a force to be reckoned with, on par with the Tamakis and Raina Telgemeier."

Described as a “beautifully drawn and emotional memoir,” by Kobabe, The Best We Could Do is the story of Bui’s family’s harrowing escape from Vietnam and immigration to the U.S. “Bui's childhood in America was shadowed by the traumas of her parents, but she grew into an understanding of what they did for her and their family--everything they possibly could.”

The rest of the list.


Sunburning by Keiler Roberts (Koyama Press)

“Roberts brings her powder-dry sense of humor to bear on her odd neurological symptoms, her bipolar disorder, and life as a professor, artist and mother. Her gestural pencil art is blunt and expressive, each little vignette is arranged and ordered to contribute to a tighter overall narrative that above all else, is about the importance of play.” - RC

My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness by Nagata Kabi (Seven Seas)

“A heart-breakingly honest story of isolation, identity, depression and mental health. The author overcame years of destructive behavior before she was able to come out to herself and begin to find freedom and a sexual life as an adult.” - MK

Boundless by Jillian Tamaki (Drawn & Quarterly)

“An oblique and irresistible collection of short stories that showoff Tamaki’s gift for capturing a drifting generational social texture. Her quirky collection of vignettes expertly incorporate all manner of responses to gender, sex and love, and the persistently murky influence of technology and pop culture media on all of it—like the long story, “Sex Coven”, one of Tamaki’s best.” - CR


Verax: The True History of Whistleblowers, Mass Surveillance and Drone Warfare by Pratap Chatterjee and Khalil Bendib (Metropolitan Books)

“Chatterjee's investigative journalism draws clear connections between troubling mass surveillance and the terrible consequences of drone warfare failures.” - EN

Hostage by Guy Delisle (Drawn & Quarterly)

“Delisle always manages to tell a story that is as much about the possibilities of the visual narrative form as it is about the place he's exploring. This time, he does it within the suffocating walls of solitary confinement.” - GD

Sex Fantasy by Sophia Foster-Dimino (Koyama Press)

“Don't be fooled, the "fantasy" in the title is the self delusion that most of the protagonists in these ten stories cling to in their search for intimacy. While some of the stories are quite oblique, in the best of them, Foster-Dimino conjures the terrifying journeys, real and interior, people make to find love.” – HM

I’m Not Here by GG (Koyama Press)

“Small-town anomie has rarely been as haunting as in this spooky mediation on loneliness and surveillance by Canadian artist GG.” - CB

House of Women by Sophie Goldstein (Fantagraphics)

“Four women from an interstellar empire attempt to colonize a remote planet in a haunting story that's half science fiction, half dark fairy tale.”

Shade, the Changing Girl Vol. 1: Earth Girl Made Easy by Cecil Castellucci, Marley Zarcone, Ande Parks, Ryan Kelly, Kelly Fitzpatrick (DC Comics)

“This winning reconstruction of a Steve Ditko character jettisons the original's gender and adulthood to focus on a teenage girl possessed by an alien and thrust into a mad world. In a year where DC finally seemed to regain its footing with its Rebirth initiative, Loma Shade is the sensational new character find of the year.” – JD


All Star Batman Vol. 1: My Own Worst Enemy by Scott Snyder, John Romita Jr., Declan Shalvey (DC Comics)

Alone by Christophe Chabouté (Gallery 13)

Anti-Gone by Connor Willumsen (Koyama Press)

Architecture Of An Atom by Juliacks (2D Cloud)

Arclight by Brandon Graham and Marian Churchland (Image Comics)

As the Crow Flies by Melanie Gillman (Iron Circus Comics)

Baking with Kafka by Tom Gauld (Drawn and Quarterly)

Batgirl: Stephanie Brown Vol. 1 by Bryan Q. Miller et al. (DC Comics)

Big Book of Bisexual Trials and Errors by Elizabeth Beier (Northwest Press)

Bitch Planet Vol. 2: President Bitch by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine de Landro (Image Comics)

Black Hammer by Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston (Dark Horse Books)

Black History in Its Own Words by Ron Wimberly (Image Comics)

Check Please! by Ngozi Ukazu (Self-published)

Condo Heartbreak Disco by Eric Kostiuk Williams (Koyama Press)

Education by John Hankiewicz (Fantagraphics)

Everyone's a Aliebn When Ur a Aliebn Too: A Book by Jomny Sun (Harper Perennial)

Fantagraphics Studio Edition: Jaime Hernandez (Fantagraphics)

Father and Son by E.O. Plauen (New York Review Comics)

Fetch: How a Bad Dog Brought Me Home by Nicole Georges (Mariner Books)

Francine by Michiel Budel (Secret Acres)

Fütchi Perf by Kevin Czap (Uncivilized Books)

Going Into Town: A Love Letter to New York by Roz Chast (Bloomsbury)

Grosz by Lars Fiske (Fantagraphics)

Hookjaw: Archive by Pat Mills, Roman Sola, et al. (Titan Comics)

How to Survive in the North by Luke Healy (Nobrow Press)

I am Alphonso Jones by Tony Medina, John Jennings, and Stacey Robinson ((Lee & Low)

I, Parrot by Deb Olin Unferth and Elizabeth Haidle (Black Balloon Publishing)

Jonesy, Vol. 3 by Sam Humphries and Caitlin Rose Boyle (BOOM! Box)

Kill All Monsters! Omnibus, Vol. 1 by Michael May and Jason Copland (Dark Horse Books)

Language Barrier by Hannah K. Lee (Koyama Press)

Lumberjanes/Gotham Academy by Chynna Clugston-Flores et al. (BOOM! Box)

Mirror Mirror II edited by Julia Gfrörer and Sean T. Collins (2d Cloud)

Mister Miracle by Jack Kirby (DC Comics)

Mockingbird Vol. 2: My Feminist Agenda by Chelsea Cain and Kate Niemczyk (Marvel)

Monograph by Chris Ware (Rizzoli)

Moonshine, Vol. 1 by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso (Image Comics)

Morton: A Cross Country Rail Journey by David Collier (Conundrum Press)

Motor Crush Vol. 1 by Brenden Fletcher, Cameron Stewart, and Babs Tarr (Image Comics)

My Brother’s Husband by Gengoroh Tagame (Pantheon)

Nameless City: Stone Heat, Vol. 2 by Faith Erin Hicks (First Second)

Nighthawk: Hate Makes Hate by David F. Walker and Ramon Villalobos (Marvel)

One More Year by Simon Hanselmann (Fantagraphics)

One! Hundred! Demons! by Lynda Barry (Drawn & Quarterly)

Paknadel & Trakhanov’s Turncoat by Alex Paknadel and Artyom Trakhanov (BOOM! Studios)

Portugal by Cyril Pedrosa (NBM)

Power and Magic: The Queer Witch Comics Anthology edited by Joamette Gil (P&M Press)

Pretending Is Lying by Dominique Goblet (New York Review Comics)

Primahood: Magenta by Tyler Cohen (Stacked Deck Press)

Rickety Stitch and the Gelatinous Goo by Ben Costa and James Parks (Knopf Books for Young Readers)

Roughneck by Jeff Lemire (Gallery 13)

Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 by Marcellino Truong (Arsenal Pulp)

Savage Town by Declan Shalvey, Philip Barrett, and Jordie Bellaire (Image Comics)

Spider-Woman: Shifting Gears. Vol. 3, Scare Tactics by Dennis Hopeless, et al. (Marvel)

Strange Growths by Jenny Zervakis (Spit and a Half)

Summer Magic: The Journal of Luke Kirby by Alan MacKenzie and John Ridgeway (2000 AD)

The Abominable Mr. Seabrook by Joe Ollmann (Drawn & Quarterly)

The Customer Is Always Wrong by Mimi Pond (Drawn & Quarterly)

The Facts of Life by Paula Knight (Penn State University Press)

The Flintstones Vol 1. & 2 by Mark Russell and Steve Pugh (DC Comics)

The Girl from the Other Side: Siúil, A Rún Vol. 1 by Nagabe (Seven Seas)

The Hunt by Colin Lorimer (Image Comics)

The Hunting Accident: A Story of Crime and Poetry by David Carlson and Landis Blair (First Second)

The Realist: Plug & Play by Asaf Hanuka (Archaia)

The Science of Things Familiar by Johnny Damm (The Operating System)

The Vision Vol. 1: Little Worse Than a Man by Tom King, Gabriel Hernandez Walta, and Jordie Bellaire (Marvel)

To Have and To Hold by Graham Chaffee (Fantagraphics)

To Your Eternity by Yoshitoki Oima (Kodansha Comics)

Towers, Tenements, and Trash: An Unconventional Illustrated History of New York City by Julia Wertz (Black Dog & Leventhal)

Uncomfortably Happy by Yeon-sik Hong (Drawn & Quarterly)

Voices in the Dark by Ulli Lust (New York Review Comics)

What is a Glacier? by Sophie Yanow (Retrofit Comics)

You & a Bike & a Road by Eleanor Davis (Koyama Press)

Zonzo by Joan Cornellà (Fantagraphics)