A success in both conceit (Spiegelman's father haltingly relates how he survived a concentration camp, with Jews rendered as mice and Nazis rendered as cats) and craft (Spiegelman explores shades of survivor guilt, father-son frustration and the way the Holocaust forever reshaped the lives of those who made it through — and their children). A stunning work whose astounding success, including the first Pulitzer Prize awarded to a graphic novel, helped move the medium out of dingy comics shops and into the literary mainstream.
The lyrical, mournful tale of growing up in Iran during and after the Islamic revolution of 1979. Ten-year-old Marji struggles with wearing the veil, yet wants to be a prophet when she grows up. But as revolution and war turn her world upside down, she becomes increasingly rebellious. Satrapi uses her own story as a backbone to tell the larger story of her family and of Iran itself, its rich culture and oppressive politics.
An autobiographical memoir, Pyongyang charts Delisle's time in the North Korean capital while working as an intermediary between a French animation company and the North Korean studio actually producing the work. Offering a rare glimpse inside the notoriously secretive nation, Delisle's depictions of everything from mundane daily life to more unsettling observations such as the absence of disabled people paint a sinister picture of life in a totalitarian state. Writ through with an air of paranoia and unease – Delisle's near-omnipresent translator becomes a spectre haunting his every move – Pyongyang is one of the finest travelogues you'll encounter.
Alison Bechdel's painfully funny — and frequently just painful — memoir of growing up with her closeted father has been made into a hit musical. But no stage show can capture the intricate, non-linear nature of Fun Home, which loops in and out of Bechdel's childhood, incorporating pop culture references, literary references, family photos and letters all rendered in her dense, textured line work. Like all great graphic novels, Fun Home's art demands to be read with as much care as its text.
Congressman and civil rights hero John Lewis tells his life story in the National Book Award-winning March, scripted by Andrew Aydin and expressively illustrated by Nate Powell. Lewis is the last person alive to have spoken at the 1963 March on Washington, and he offers a ground-level view of the civil rights struggle, packed with sympathetic but unsparing portraits of the movement's movers and shakers. Modeled on a comic that inspired Lewis himself — 1958's Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story — this is required reading for everyone who has only seen those years in old news footage. And everyone else, too.
Everything you've heard about this graphic novel, first published as a 12-issue series in 1986 and 1987, is true. It broke the ground; it changed the game. There is a reason people still press it into the hands of those who've never read a comic before. Alan Moore's jaundiced deconstruction of the American superhero — "What if they were horny, insecure sociopaths?"— is showing its age, given that it continues to inspire hordes of lesser, grim-and-gritty imitators. But Dave Gibbons' art, laid out in that meticulous, nine-panel grid, still works astonishingly well, whether he is capturing the intimate (a fleeting facial expression during a couple's argument) or the cosmic (a crystalline clockwork castle rising out of the red dust of Mars).
Our heroes — she has wings, he has horns — are star-crossed lovers from opposing sides of an endless war, on the run across the galaxy with their infant daughter. There is magic, profanity, television-headed robots, intergalactic bounty hunters, ghostly baby-sitters and spaceship trees, all beautifully realized in Staples' distinctive digitally painted style. Saga will punch you right in the feels, and you will love every minute of it.
A pale, tormented, goth-tacular Lord of the Dreaming who is rebuilding his kingdom after 70 years of occult captivity. Soapy, dramatic, mythic, gorgeous and sometimes terrifying, Sandman is the comic that fluttered the hearts of a million baby fans. (Plus, Death is adorable.)
Hayao Miyazaki's groundbreaking Nausicaa series is about a headstrong young girl who becomes a military leader in a post-apocalyptic world. There is no denying its popularity or its enduring influence, and its theme of humanity's corrupting influence on the pure power of the natural world is an essential Miyazaki touchstone.
Nimona unfolds like a flower, growing from a lighthearted tale about an irrepressible girl with mysterious powers who worms her way into a gig as sidekick to her town's designated villain into something much richer and deeper. Noelle Stevenson's spritely line work gives the story even more lift, building a world where temp agencies handle evil-sidekick gigs and fantasy-armored bad guys plot to attack modern-looking city skylines with genetically modified dragons.
This is possibly the cutest, sweetest thing you'll read all year — and we absolutely mean that as a compliment. Ngozi Ukazu writes and draws this Web comic about Eric "Bitty" Bittle, a former figure skating champion (and avid baker) who joins his college hockey team and finds love with his handsome team captain — and loving acceptance from his fellow players.
Relatively few comics have taken up the transition from girlhood to womanhood, and none have done so as sensitively and searchingly as This One Summer. The story, about two girls whose families have been spending summers at the same lake for years, perfectly captures the moment when everything changes — when feelings, both expressed and unexpressed, begin to color and distort a childhood friendship, when long-simmering jealousy, fear and rage finally bubble over. It's nothing so pat and simple as a coming-of-age story; it's a beautifully wrought, bittersweet and achingly real examination of two young women — one who believes herself ready for adulthood, one longing to remain a child for just a little longer.
Minna Sundberg sets her story in a post-apocalyptic Scandinavia, 90 years after a plague turns most of Northern Europe into "The Silent World," teeming with monsters and magic. No one wants to venture outside the few safe spaces ... until now, when one ragtag research crew sets off into the unknown.
Alastair Sterling, robotics pioneer, has been dead for 16 years. And now he is somehow alive again, in a synthetic replica of his original body, in a world where robots have advanced in a way he never dreamed of — and where his old partner and lover has made yet another version of him ... this time as a young girl. Blue Delliquanti's warm, organic lines and frequently wordless panels blur the same boundaries between machine and human that her characters are carefully, painfully trying to work out.
Evan Dahm's mesmerizing tale of a nomadic tribe — Those Marked in White — whose unchanging existence is turned upside down by the arrival of a colonizing empire. Imperial soldiers take a young tribal girl, Vattu, as tribute; back in their capital city, she learns there's far more to the world than endless marches through the grasslands after game. The comic moves slowly; some panels are completely wordless, but you'll be drawn in by its story of culture clash and colonization, and Dahm's wildly imaginative world building.
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