* 2017’s Most Acclaimed Graphic Novels
* From memoir to mainstream
* Plus, He-Man and the Thundercats, together at last
While it’s true that graphic novels have never more decisively surged into the mainstream of culture than they do today, the form of the graphic novel remains a youthful one, and is home to some of the most interesting, boundary-pushing and creative new storytelling out there in any genre. Here are ten of the best graphic novels of 2017.
1. Black Cloud
A sharp and vivid urban fantasy, “Black Cloud” achieves the rare feat of covering new ground in one of the most familiar genres in comics. While steeped in relevant, contemporary issues, it always puts the story and characters ahead of those issues, calling attention to the fact that while politics is an uncomfortable subject for some, there are many more for whom it is an inescapable reality.
2. Shade The Changing Girl
A semi-revamp of an old Steve Ditko comic, Shade is one of those comics that uses the visual medium to perfectly capture the strangeness of adolescence. It’s part of DC’s Young Animal line, the Gerard Wray (of My Chemical Romance fame) co-published imprint aimed at recapturing some of the 1990s Vertigo Comics magic.
3. Moon Knight: Reincarnations
While Marvel’s noir superhero, Moon Knight, doesn’t have the household-name sort of following that some other superheroes do, he still gets some of the most interesting writing in the whole superhero genre, thanks to Times-bestselling author Jeff Lemire. A reality-bending trip that explicitly foregrounds mental health issues in a way few superhero books dare, “Moon Knight: Reincarnations” shows us there can be more to caped crusaders than chiseled jaw lines and teen angst cliches.
4. Batman: I Am Suicide (Rebirth)
Collecting the second volume of Tom King’s groundbreaking Batman run, “I Am Suicide” is one of the rare Batman stories that feels truly original. Not only does King pull off the seemingly-Quixotic feat of casting the Dark Knight in a romance, he brings a truly refreshing level of empathy and character development to bit players like Kite Man. (Yes, Kite Man!) Batman stories are almost always at their best when the tough-guy facade falls and we are asked to enter the lonesome world of Gotham unmasked, so to speak: a world of unhappy billionaire vigilantes, orphans and desperate criminals whose own humanity brings the requisite pathos to this most human of superhero mythologies.
The dreams of fan-fiction do come true, in this crossover team-up comic. The beloved campy 1980s cartoon hero He-Man teams up with everyone’s favorite anthropomorphic cat-alien superheroes to stop the villainous Mum-Ra from taking over the planet Eternia and gaining the power of the Masters of the Universe. It’s like Saturday morning again whenever you want, when He-Man and a super buff sword-wielding cat take on a spooky Mummy.
A dazzling graphic story, “Spinning” has been lauded as one of the most beautiful coming-of-age tales of the year in any medium. Ignatz Award-winner Tillie Walden’s memoir details with poise and grace the often harrowing process of following one’s own path in the high-pressure milieu of figure and synchronized skating. Both quiet and deeply moving, Spinning mixes a naturalistic storytelling style with Walden’s dazzlingly precise art.
7. Nothing Lasts Forever
This graphic memoir is a touching testament to the unique power of the medium and its ability to capture the richness, and the heartbreak, of an everyday life.
8. Wonder Woman: Year 1
Whether you’ve been a Wonder Woman partisan since the ’40s or are just discovering DC’s most enduring female lead thanks to the movie starring Gal Godot, this hardcover collection serves as the perfect update for Diana of Themyscira, as she takes her rightful place in the superhero pantheon.
9. The Best We Could Do
Thi Bui’s brilliant semi-autobiographical novel details a minute, touching and profoundly evocative history of her Vietnamese-American refugee family. “The Best We Could Do” makes a great case for the immediacy of the graphic novel form, lending a poetic sense of humanity to a situation that all too often gets simplified in headlines.
“Boundless” is a searchingly lyrical graphic novel– actually a graphic short story collection–that takes some uniquely 2017 elements and strains toward timelessness. Touching on the mysterious ways in which the virtual world becomes more and more surreal and seemingly magical the more sophisticated it gets, “Boundless” presents us with the gripping and heartrending tale of a woman who finds the Facebook profile of her somehow happier, better, alternate dimension self. Through it all we’re treated to Eisner Award-winner Jillian Tamaki’s sharp, wry humor and uncanny ability to illuminate the strangeness of our familiar world.
11. Everything Is Flammable
This poetic and raw story, drawn from a personal narrative of a fire-destroyed California home, merges Bell’s unique take on the quietly-surreal with a hauntingly lucid and spare storytelling style.
12. I, Parrot
Written by acclaimed fiction author Deb Olin Unferth (“Wait Till You See Me Dance “), “I, Parrot” is a surreal story of dedication, passion and personal meaning set amid a society that is steadily unraveling. Described by artist Molly Crabapple as a “deftly observed, sad and ultimately hopeful fable about civilization,” this graphic novel is a modern-day picaresque, rendered with subtle charm through Elizabeth Haidel’s understated, unique art.
David Rubin and Santiago Garcia’s riveting new “Beowulf” takes one of the oldest stories in English Lit and with the help of the graphic form finds new angles on it. Who says you can’t teach an old sea dog new tricks? This masterful volume makes it seem as though the 8th century Anglo Saxon battle epic was meant to be a graphic novel all along.
14. My Favorite Thing Is Monsters
Drawn in a lush, painterly style that evokes old EC comics horror genre masterpieces and an era that many called a high water mark for comic illustration, Emil Ferris’ Fantagraphics debut conjures up a Twilight Zone world set in a 1960s whose paranoia and haunted secrets parallel those of our own time.