I have been asked recently by more than two people for graphic novel recommendations and while I’m far from being an expert on all things graphic novel-ey, I have read enough (I think) to know my own tastes in it. So this list will contain titles that you have probably already heard me waxing poetic about and some you may not have heard me talk about. They are all books that I’ve read in this year and the last and have liked enough that I want to recommend them to others. Without further ado, the grand recommendation list:
1. Lola by Elbert Or , J. Torres
This is a story about Jesse who sees things, supernatural things and when he finds himself in the Philippines to visit his extended family, he finds that the scary creatures have multiplied. It’s nice to read a book set in the Philippines. I don’t think I’ve ever read one set there. And the mythological creatures are awesome.
2. Mystery Society – Steve Niles, Fiona Staples
The art is by Staples who did the much lauded Saga (which appears next on in this list). The story is about a couple whose interest in the occult leads them to people and places they don’t expect. From governments mired in conspiracy to gruff bike riders who subvert the stereotype, this one was fun and intriguing but I just found out this is supposed to a standalone and that’s such a shame because the story has such potential.
3. Saga – Brian Vaughan, Fiona Staples
This one is graphically explicit but if you don’t mind that, this one is fantastic. The story focuses on another couple who have defied the odds (species, planets, family members) to be together. They have just had a child and suddenly, the entire universe is against them. The art is beautiful, the writing perfect and the pace just right. I definitely recommend this.
4. The Undertaking of Lily Chen – Danica Novgorodoff
I did a whole review of this on Cuddlebuggery, in case you need reasons, but the art is awesome and the story, concerning a guy who accidentally kills his annoying brother and has to look for a ghost bride for him, is amazing. Lily, the titular character and the chosen ghost bride (except that she’s very much alive) is sassy. This is a fun read.
5. Relish – Lucy Knisley
A memoir focused on food in graphic form. If you like food (and seriously, who doesn’t?) you ought to like this one – this is about both eating and cooking so it’s okay if you are in the appreciating group and not so much the cooking group.
6. A Game for Swallows – Zeina Abirached, Edward Gauvin (translator)
This one is set in war torn Lebanon and the tone is quietly contemplative as most of the pages are set in the front room of a shelled building – the safest room in the building – where most of the inhabitants of the building are sitting to wait out the night’s violence. I really liked the tone in this – no flashes or heroes but a grim reality softly presented.
7. Daytrippers – Fabio Moon, Gabriel Ba
This one is about a man, his life and the many ways he dies. The story is a mind rush and the art is supremely gorgeous. Presented in little vignettes, the story focalizes on one man and his life as he dies at different times in the life he is leading. Definitely a quirky book and the gorgeous art elevates it more. This one is set in Brazil.
8. Fairy Tale Comics – Various ed. by Chris Duffy
This one is a collection of fairytale retellings in comic form. Yep, you heard it right. And the artists/authors are of renown. They include Jillian Tamaki and Brett Helquist.
9. Hark! A Vagrant – Kate Beaton
Oh my goodness, this is funny and I need a copy of it on my shelves. This is more a collection of comic strips with no relation to each other (per se). Satire, snark and just all the joyous awesomeness that you’d expect from Kate Beaton. A little snippet here:
10. Tina’s Mouth – Keshni Kashyap, Mari Araki (illustrator)
Okay, I kinda love this one a lot. It seemed a lot like my life with some details changed. Tina’s an American of Indian heritage and is finding it difficult to find a balance between her Indian self and her American self. Throw in some philosophers, love boats and a brother who has got cold feet two weeks or so from his engagement, and you’ve got Tina’s Mouth. The tone is humourous and the art fun.
11. This One Summer – Jillian and Mariko Tamaki
An honorable mention to Skim by the same duo who are cousins. This One Summer is a gorgeous novel about two friends who meet one summer before they are completely teenagers and how their lives expand. Not just lives but thoughts too. Beautifully written and even more beautifully drawn, this graphic novel just may be my favourite for the entire year.
12. Lumberjanes – Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Brooke Allen
This one is about a group of friends at camp in the summer who find odd things happening to them. I’ve just read the first two issues but the humour, the relationships and the art have gained it a firm spot on this list.
13. Tokyo on Foot – Florent Chavouet
A travel memoir in graphic form. The art in this one is absolutely scrumptious. This is more a description of the things seen and heard in the neighbourhoods of Tokyo than a graphic narrative but dudes and dudettes, this is so beautifully drawn and done that I recommend it anyway.
14. Zombillenium – Arthur de Pins
Oh, I love this one! Two people driving along the road pick up an associate of theirs who just happens to be a mummy. On their way back to Zombillenium where they all work (one is a vampire, the other one, I don’t remember), they hit a pedestrian and rather than letting him die (that would complicate matters), they decide to make him a member of the undead. And this is our introduction to Zombillenium, an theme part that excels at its makeup and realistic renderings of the monsters who work in it – or so the humans think. They don’t realize that the workers are not wearing any masks and the zombie selling peanuts outside is really a zombie. Told with wit and humour, the slim novel charms and intrigues and leaves you waiting more. Originally in French, this is a translated version (yay, translated books!) and the second one will be available in August.
15. Courtney Crumrin – Ted Naifeh
Courtney’s parents move to stay with her uncle in a great big house in a new town and Courtney finds out interesting things about the uncle and the forest around their house. As Courtney discovers her powers and learns about human nature, she finds friends and allies in unlikely places. The art is beautiful and Courtney one of the most intriguing and fun characters to read about. The story is beautiful as well.
16. Bink & Gollie – Kate di Camillo, Alison McGhee, Tony Fucile (illustrator)
Okay, so this is technically not a graphic novel in the true sense of the term but this combines art and prose into a charming story about two best friends. Meant for younger readers, this little series will nevertheless charm readers of all ages. Plus, it’s di Camillo you guys. I shouldn’t have to say more.