This year brought a welcome bounty of comics, from collected strips (the revivified “Nancy”) to anthologies (the stunning “Drawing Power”) and illustrated educational works (the inspiring “Making Comics”) to beguiling literary adaptations (“The Handmaid’s Tale”).
Since 2019’s scroll of recommended comics in all forms would run long, here’s a representative roster specifically of top graphic novels, memoirs and story collections that combine uncommon originality, plotting and artwork.
By Ezra Clayton Daniels and Ben Passmore (Fantagraphics)
Gentrification horror and sociopolitical satire play out with sharpness in this visually brilliant thriller set in a fictional Chicago South Side community.
By Seth (Drawn and Quarterly)
The Canadian creator puts two decades of thoughtfully plotted work on dazzling display in this “picture novel” - a career achievement that masterfully toys with time.
By Raina Telgemeier (Scholastic)
Telgemeier has mastered the art of mining her traumatic real-life experiences from kidhood for YA memoirs that appeal to millions. This story of grade-school anxiety is a creative high point for her that will double as a discussion tool for suffering young readers.
By Lucy Knisley (First Second)
Knisley follows up her memoir of navigating the marriage-industrial complex with this textured account of pregnancy, mixing honest personal moments with interludes of compelling medical knowledge.
“Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me”
By Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O’Connell (First Second)
Teen relationships are rendered with remarkable depth, as members of an expansive cast speak their own truths about bullying, toxic connections and romance.
“Middlewest: Book 1”
By Skottie Young and Jorge Corona (Image).
Young’s sprawling imagination meets Corona’s lush cinematic art in this dark stormy fantasy. Gather ‘round, fans of filmmaker/animator Don Bluth.
By Tom King and Mitch Gerads (DC Comics)
King, a former CIA agent, scripts the title character, an escape-artist superhero, with wrenching depth - a depressed god racked by trauma that he cannot elude. Jack Kirby would be proud.
By Jerry Craft (HarperCollins)
The “Mama’s Boyz” cartoonist draws on his own life for this story of a student suddenly adapting to a predominantly white middle school, with the serious social challenges intercut with winning humor.
By Chris Ware (Pantheon)
A modern master delivers a multi-narrative epic - nearly two decades in the making - that delves into existential themes as weighty as the meticulous physical book itself.
“They Called Us Enemy”
By George Takei et al. (Top Shelf)
The actor-activist shares his gripping story of enduring World War II internment as a child, setting powerful personal details against the backdrop of large-scale American atrocity.
• “A Fire Story,” by Brian Fies (Harry N. Abrams)
• “The Structure Is Rotten, Comrade,” by Viken Berberian and Yann Kebbi (Fanta)
• “Hot Comb,” by Ebony Flowers (D&Q)
• “CosmoKnights,” by Hannah Templer (Top Shelf)
• “Pittsburgh,” by Frank Santoro (New York Review Comics)
• “The Immortal Hulk, Vol. 2: The Green Door,” by Al Ewing, Joe Bennett et al. (Marvel)