Hello all and welcome to the first (and hopefully annual) Top 10 Graphic Novels list! I had to do a list of graphic novels as well as my usual one of their pictureless brethren this year as I read so many great ones (thanks in no small part to my Comic Companions challenge). As my re-kindled love affair with comics continues I hope that I can make this list a regular part of my yearly awards to serve as recommendations to any comic-loving Bookbaggers 🙂
So without further ado here is my very first Top 10 Graphic Novels I Read in (insert year here) list:
by Neil Gaiman (writer),
Kelley Jones, Malcolm Jones III, Mike Dringenberg, Matt Wagner, P. Craig Russell,George Pratt, Dick Giordano (artists),
Daniel Vozzo, Steve Oliff (colourists), and Todd Klein (letterer)
I read Volumes 1-4 of The Sandman in 2013, which were all amazing but Season of Mists was definitely my favourite so far. Firstly the story of Morpheus/Dream/The Sandman trying to make amends for the revengeful punishment of his lover millenia ago leading him to being the reluctant new owner of Hell with beings from all over vying to be its new master was epic. Secondly it was really cool to see almost all of The Endless (Dream and his siblings) together, especially the gloriously coloured pages which described them. Thirdly the various beings which gathered in Dream’s realm to petition him for ownership of hell (including Gods from various religions, demons and agents of order and chaos) were so different in their methods and reasons for wanting Hell, making the final scenes riveting and wonderfully suspenseful.
If you are a fan of fantasy graphic novels you really must read this fantastic series 🙂
I learnt so much about The Beatles from this comprehensive biographical comic which goes through every significant moment in the band’s development as well as the personal lives of John, Paul, George and Ringo (plus a bit of background on important figures in their lives, such as Yoko Ono). As it’s written by a Frenchman the book also gives a unique perspective on the Beatles influence on Europe which I found really interesting, and as a fan he did short reviews of every album and single released, not only by the Fab Four, but solo and other collaborative projects, and he was very honest with his opinions. Definitely recommended for Beatles fans and people interested in musical bios.
3. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
This was another biographical graphic novel (autobio this time) which taught me a lot about Iran before, during and after the Iranian Revolution of 1979, but was also a touching, thoughtful and at times very funny coming-of-age tale. I decided to read Persepolis in honor of Banned Books Week and right away I empathised with the frustrated students who were robbed of this fantastic graphic novel. Yes, it was very confronting which I guess is why people felt it should be banned, but it was well worth it, and I think it would be especially poignant to kids the same age as the author when her story began. If you don’t know much about Iranian history and culture besides what is parroted by the media, or you want a unique perspective on life in a very different world, I would highly recommend Persepolis.
by Alan Moore (writer), Brian Bolland (artist, colorist, writer), Ellie De Ville and Richard Starkings (letterers)
This one is straying into more traditional comic territory, but this spectacular deluxe edition which I borrowed off my friend Scott, is far more than your run-of-the-mill Batman comic. Firstly, let me just say, I use to read any and every Batman comic that came into my local library, and would reread my favourites (namely anything with Harley Quinn) over and over. When I borrowed The Killing Joke it had probably been 10 or 15 years since I’d last dived into a Batman comic and yet it felt like I had never left, and it was even more engrossing than I remember. This may be thanks to the brilliantly twisted mind of Alan Moore, or to Brian Bolland’s amazing art, or maybe just because it delved deep into the past of the Joker like nothing I’d ever read before, but whatever it was made for a gripping read! I would of course recommend this to Batman fans (if they haven’t already read it of course) but also to people who like Batman but don’t really know where to begin in the huge backlog of comics – this one is not to be missed.
5. Clive Barker Omnibus (collecting The Thief of Always ; The Great and Secret Show ; and Seduth)
by Clive Barker, Kris Oprisko, Chris Ryall, Christopher Monfette (writers), Gabriel Hernandez, Gabriel Rodriguez, Ray Zone (artists), Robbie Robbins (letterer)
As a Clive Barker fan I was eager to read this omnibus, especially since I had read The Thief of Always earlier in the year, The Great and Secret Show was one of my first trips into the world of Barker and was starting to become a vague memory, and Seduth had never been published elsewhere. None of them disappointed either in the story-telling/adaptation or the artwork – hell, even the lettering was stunning and perfectly fit the mood of each story! I read each story on a different day (in fact I think I read The Great and Secret Show over a couple of days because it made up the bulk of the omnibus) so I was fully immersed in each story at the time, and even though I had read two of the three in novel form, I felt like I was experiencing them for the first time. I would definitely recommend this to Barker fans, but also to people who may have wanted to read his stuff before but prefer a graphic novel format.
by Joss Whedon, Jane Espenson, Becky Cloonan and others (writers)
Tim Sale,Doug Petrie, Leinil Francis Yu, Gene Colan and others (artists)
This was without a doubt one of the best presents I got on my last birthday, if not the best hands down and it definitely had to go on this list! My lovely workmate Scott gifted it to me around my birthday in October and I was in love from the moment I looked at it. It contained a treasure-trove of stories I never even knew about before, written by former writers of the show amongst a bevy of other talented writers, with each story beautifully, and uniquely brought to life by a cast of gifted artists. There wasn’t a single story I didn’t like (though some of course stood out more than others) and it made New Books November even more fun in its role of Official Mascot. I have already raved about it to my Buffy-loving friends (though I keep forgetting to loan it to my best friend Sarah, a Buffy fan from way back, as its so big and ironically gets missed whenever I give her a bunch of graphic novels to try) but I would highly recommend it to any Buffy fan out there, especially if you love comic art – there’s so many styles on offer here its a veritable smörgåsbord for comic-art geeks 😀
by Neil Gaiman (writer), John Bolton, Scott Hampton, Charles Vess and Paul Johnson (artists)
This one was read later in the year, just days before Christmas, but I enjoyed it so much I was willing to push earlier titles off the list in order for it to make my Top 10. Being written my Neil Gaiman, with a somewhat Sandman-esque feel to it and each section illustrated by a different artist to fit the mood of each realm, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that I loved this graphic novel. It was one of those stories that you just fall into, and for the minutes, hours, or days that you read it you are lost to another world. In the case of The Books of Magic I was gone for about an hour or so as it’s a sort of mini-series kind of graphic novel, with 4 parts. I have since put my brother on to it, and he was just as lost (I watched him read it so I can attest that he was definitely not all there anymore!) and I plan to find and add it to my growing comic/graphic novel collection 🙂 I would recommend this to Neil Gaiman fans, especially if you like the Sandman, and fans of epic, archetypal fantasy.
This one I have to admit was bought because of its bizarre title (I love me a weird title :P) but I was also intrigued because the author and artist is the mind behind Astro Boy and Kimba the White Lion, two of my favourite shows from when I was a kid (thanks in part to them being faves of my mum who saw them new, and the habit of Australian TV in the early 90’s playing lots of repeats of classic shows) but I had never read his graphic novels. The Book of Human Insects was worlds away from the cartoons of my youth, but I loved the juxtaposition of Tezuka’s big-eyed, round-faced characters in a world of sex, manipulation, fraud, violence and intrigue. The feel of the story was very film noir, with a classic femme fatale as the main character, and it was a fun blend of absurdity and relatability. I wouldn’t recommend this to everyone (I haven’t passed it on to my brother or friends coz I’m not sure if they’d like it) but if you like manga with a lot of depth, and many a dash of odd, or if like me you’re curious about Tezuka’s work beyond adorable kings of the jungle and robot boys with rocket books, give this a try.
by Edgar Allan Poe , Ian Edginton, Jamie Delano, John Reppion, and Leah Moore (writers) and D’Israeli, James (Jim) Fletcher, John McCrea, Shane Oakley and Steve Pugh (artists)I read Nevermore at a perfect time, right after my Poe.My.God! Challenge when I still had all the stories fresh in my mind. This anthology took 9 of Poe’s most famous tales (The Raven; The Pit and the Pendulum; The Facts in the Case of Mr. Valdemar; The Murders in the Rue Morgue; The Fall of the House of Usher; The Black Cat; The Oval Portrait; The Tell-Tale Heart; and The Masque of the Red Death) and re-tells them in modern (or sometimes futuristic) settings, each illustrated by a different artist in their style, but sticking to a moody black and grey colour scheme. I thought the adaptations were really clever and the black and grey ink work really put me in a dark, gothic, Poe sort of mood 🙂 Unfortunately because this was a library item I couldn’t hand it straight on to my brother (who is a huge Poe fan since he was a kid) but I hope to add it to my collection in the future, and in the meantime if he’s interested, I can always get it out from my work, since that’s the library it came from (albeit a different campus) and make him swear in blood that it returns unharmed. Very fitting for Poe, don’t ya think? 😛 I would recommend this to Poe fans, people who like classic tales interpreted into new settings, or anyone who likes a dark, broody graphic novel.
by Joss Whedon (writer), Karl Moline (penciler),Andy Owens (inker), Dave Stewart (colourist) and Michelle Madsen (colourist and letterer)This last one was tricky because I had a bunch of great contenders, but once I discounted parts in ongoing series’ (a rule that made compiling this list easier, but one I don’t think I’ll stick to next year) there was one amongst the final choices that stood out. Fray is another graphic novel loaned to me by my friend Scott, and another one set in the Buffy Universe, but far in the future after magic has left the world and Slayers aren’t even a blip on history’s radar. To me this felt almost like a Buffy reboot as it had some of the great elements of early episodes of Buffy when she was training and coming to grips with her destiny. The difference between Fray and early Buffy though is firstly it is set in a very different time and place complete with amazing futuristic scenery and interesting slang, and secondly Melaka Fray can already kick some arse as she is a sort-of cat burglar by trade. I really enjoyed the story, but what made it stick out in my mind was the art. Wow. The way Karl Moline and Andy Owens drew and inked the characters and backgrounds were stunning, and the colours by Dave Stewart and Michelle Madsen were glorious, especially Melaka’s multi-coloured hair. This is a big recommendation for Buffy fans but even if you’re not really familiar with the show (cue gasps and a look of horror from the author) this is a great stand-alone.