Steve Higgins | Graphic Novels

 

1. Adrian Tomine | Shortcomings (Drawn and Quarterly)

Simply put, Adrian Tomine is one of the best storytellers working in comics today. Previously known only for his short stories, Shortcomings is his first graphic-novel length tale, proving his versatility as a writer and artist. Also, it is the first work in which he addresses issues of race, creating a genuinely despicable protagonist in Ben Tanaka whose hang-ups about the racial relations between Asian-Americans and Caucasians guide us through the novel.

 

2. Andi Watson and Simon Gane | Paris (Slave Labor)

I’m writing a review of this book in a few weeks for Playback, but here’s a quick sneak preview: I love it. The story is one of Andi Watson’s best yet, and that statement comes from a guy who’s a big fan of Watson’s to begin with. Simon Gane’s art is also beautiful, and his attention to detail is meticulous.

 

3. David Lapham | Silverfish (DC/Vertigo)

Silverfish is the kind of work I’ve been missing from Lapham, what with Stray Bullets not having been published in years now. It’s a tight psychological thriller that really makes you feel like you understand the dementia of the murderer, literally putting you inside his head.

 

4. Jason Aaron and Cameron Stewart | The Other Side (DC/Vertigo)

Jason Aaron makes an impressive debut with this miniseries that shows the Vietnam War from the point of view of two foot soldiers, one on each of the two opposing sides. Stewart’s art also helps set the tone of the physical and psychological horror of combat very well.

 

5. Derek Kirk Kim and Jesse Hamm | Good as Lily (DC/Minx)

Good as Lily is clearly the best book that the new Minx line has released to date. Kim’s device of having the 18 year old Lily meet herself as a child, adult, and senior citizen elevates this book above the typical fare in young adult fiction. Instead it is about growing up, how it is not just the province of adolescence but a process we are always undertaking, a much more universal theme.

 

6. Matt Kindt | Super Spy (Top Shelf)

Matt Kindt’s new book falls in the same vein as his previous work 2 Sisters. On its surface it is an intricately woven tale of spies working in Europe during World War II, but in reality it is about the people themselves more than their vocation, the relationships they form and the hardships they go through.

 

7. Scott Chantler | Northwest Passage (Oni Press)

Set in Canada during frontier times, Northwest Passage is historical fiction mixed with an adventure yarn. But the character work, especially through the art, is what really makes this book shine. Chantler’s art style seems cartoonish at first glance, but it also is incredibly expressive, allowing the characters to say so much with just a facial expression or a gesture.

 

8. Will Eisner | Life, in Pictures (W.W. Norton)

Eisner was a master of the craft of comics, using his artwork to imbue every one of his stories with a gritty dose of humanity. Nowhere is that more evident than in his autobiographical works, found collected here in this hardcover. My favorite piece in this volume, and indeed my favorite work by Eisner, is "To the Heart of the Storm," chronicling Eisner’s early life leading up to his being drafted during WWII.

 

9. Matt Silady | The Homeless Channel (AiT/PlanetLar)

Matt Silady must be a fan of Aaron Sorkin, because The Homeless Channel has a dash of the behind-the-scenes romantic comedy flair of Sports Night mixed with an exploration of real world issues similar to that found in the best episodes of The West Wing. It’s a great debut, and I expect Silady has nowhere to go from here but up.

 

10. Joshua Hale Fialkov, Noel Tuazon, and Scott A. Keating | Elk’s Run (Villard)

A group of people, all bound together by their fear of the changes in the world, isolate themselves and try to set up a perfect society. As their utopia comes crashing down on them, we can see in the world that Fialkov and his artistic collaborators have created a mirror to our modern-day circumstances, so that the book works as an adventure and as social commentary. | Steve Higgins

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