2017-favorites

Our favorite comics from this year spanned a host of narratives, from metafictional explorations of loss and belonging to ominous supernatural tales of terrifying forces at work. Some are formally inventive, while others make use of a lean storytelling approach to convey the narratives at their center. All of them opened our eyes to the tales being told, regardless of their nature.

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Kristen Radtke, Imagine Wanting Only This
(Pantheon)

Blending elements of memoir and biography, and weaving in references to other artistic disciplines ranging from avant-garde cinema to photography, Kristen Radtke’s debut graphic novel is a complex, moving meditation on loss, geography, and identity.

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Julia Wertz, Tenements, Towers & Trash
(Black Dog & Leventhal)

Julia Wertz initially landed on our radar with sharply observed slice-of-life comics; more recently, she’s been working on comics that delve into the cultural and architectural history of various neighborhoods in New York City. Tenements, Towers & Trash expands that into a book, and shows off another facet of Wertz’s talents even as it explores the secret histories of this city.

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Joe Ollmann, The Abominable Mr. Seabrook
(Drawn & Quarterly)

In his introduction to The Abominable Mr. Seabrook, Joe Ollmann details the ways in which its central figure – the mid-century American writer William Seabrook, hugely popular in his prime – appealed to him as a subject. This biography explains why, charting the reasons for Seabrook’s success along with his penchant for self-destruction. It’s an illuminating and sometimes harrowing read.

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Gabrielle Bell, Everything is Flammable
(Uncivilized)

At the center of Gabrielle Bell’s latest full-length work is a primal event: a fire which temporarily displaced her mother and caused Bell to spend an extended period of time in rural California. The work that it prompted is a powerful and humanistic one, exploring both Bell’s familial relationships and the subdued stories of the people she meets along the way.

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Jillian Tamaki, Boundless
(Drawn & Quarterly)

In this collection of short pieces, Jillian Tamaki demonstrates her command of the comics medium, along with a welcome willingness to explore and experiment. In these stories, bodies undergo mysterious changes, the relationship of panel to page alters from story to story, and technology takes on bizarre properties. It’s both uncanny and hauntingly familiar.

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Michael DeForge, Sticks Angelica, Folk Hero
(Drawn & Quarterly)

Sometimes satirical and sometimes surreal, Michael DeForge’s latest graphic novel tells the story of a quasi-celebrity residing in the woods with an assortment of bizarre characters around her. It shifts from laugh-out-loud funny to bizarre at a moment’s notice, and is another reminder of DeForge’s ability to balance seemingly contradictory elements within a single story.

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Jonathan Hickman & Tomm Coker, The Black Monday Murders, Vol.1
(Image Comics)

Jonathan Hickman’s work as a writer is frequently high-concept, and The Black Monday Murders is no exception: it’s got occult rites in the financial industry, sinister supernatural figures, a murder to be solved, and ominous corporate practices. It’s the kind of horror that’s dialed in to a host of contemporary concerns, and is all the more powerful for it.

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Dominique Goblet, Pretending is Lying
(New York Review Comics)

In telling parallel stories of childhood and parenthood, and exploring the intricacies of love and disappointment that both can bring, Dominique Goblet powerfully utilizes a host of artistic techniques, with nods to everything from medieval manuscripts to children’s scribbles, along the way. It’s a stunning creative achievement.

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Becky Cloonan, By Chance or Providence
(Image Comics)

Becky Cloonan’s neatly-designed, smoothly drawn artwork works nicely in a host of settings–but the medieval spaces in which these three stories of star-crossed lovers, sinister figures, and cursed relationships play out is a particularly brilliant choice. Cloonan brilliantly finds the middle ground between fear and desire here, and channels it memorably.

claveloux

Nicole Claveloux, The Green Hand and Other Stories
(New York Review Comics)

The work contained in The Green Hand and Other Stories was first published in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and the surrealism of these tales, where psychedelia has evolved into something more sinister, hearkens back to that moment in time. The innovations and strange transitions from tale to tale are every bit as evocative as they once were, making for an unsettling and thrilling read throughout.

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