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Find more Top 10 Graphic Novels
Six of the 10 best graphic novels Booklist reviewed since the March 15, 2009, Spotlight on Graphic Novels come from general publishers, not comics specialists—another sure indicator of the medium’s coming-of-age.
Asterios Polyp. By David Mazzucchelli. 2009. Pantheon, $29.95 (9780307377326).
A sparse, cartoony drawing style and complex storytelling ensure the success of Mazzucchelli’s portrayal of a celebrated but wretched “paper architect” (he’s never actually built anything) who rediscovers his humanity.
The Book of Genesis Illustrated. By R. Crumb. 2009. Norton, $24.95 (9780393061024).
Archetypal alternative-comics creator Crumb’s ambitious literary adaptation is rather caption heavy, but the solid sensuality he gives the myriad pious and wicked characters of Genesis make them as compelling as any he’s ever drawn.
Just before the 2003 Iraq invasion, Sacco researched two 1956 mass murders in Gaza. He folds survivors’ memories into his process of finding them and the tensions of everyday Gaza, conjuring an atmosphere of constantly impending savagery.
A Good and Decent Man: You’ll Never Know, v.1. By C. Tyler. 2009. Fantagraphics, $24.99 (9781606991442).
Alt-comics veteran Tyler fully demonstrates her artistry in a book about her father’s WWII experiences, her childhood and present struggles raising her daughter, and her growing realization of war’s long-term effects on soldiers and their families.
Grandville. By Bryan Talbot. 2009. Dark Horse, $17.95 (9781595823977).
In this steampunk murder mystery featuring Scotland Yard Inspector LeBrock, a badger with a penchant for fisticuffs, and Detective Ratzi (think Sherlock Holmes meets The Wind in the Willows), every panel is a work of art.
Johnny Cash: I See a Darkness. By Reinhard Kleist. Tr. by Michael Waaler. 2009. Abrams ComicArts, paper, $17.95 (9780810984639).
Expressionist visuals galvanize Kleist’s starkly beautiful framing of the country-music star’s life within the story of a convict who wrote a song for him and then within the haunting scenarios of “Folsom Prison Blues” and “Ghost Riders in the Sky.”
Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth. By Apostolos Doxiadis and others. 2009. Bloomsbury, $22.95 (9781596914520).
The story of the half-century-long attempt to establish the foundations of mathematics, told with Bertrand Russell as the focal figure, is so successful as a novel that you barely notice you’re learning philosophy from it.
A Mess of Everything. By Miss Lasko-Gross. 2009. Fantagraphics, paper, $19.99 (9781560979562).
With washed and faded and wildly varied artwork and writing that sounds utterly like a teen’s voice, Lasko-Gross makes high-schooler Melissa’s late-teen experience real enough to nip incipient nostalgia in the bud.
The Photographer. By Emmanuel Guibert and others. Tr. by Alexis Siegel. 2009. First Second, paper, $29.95 (9781596433755).
Guibert brilliantly melds his European-realist comics and the late Didier Lefèvre’s photographs of a 1986 Doctors without Borders mission in Afghanistan to near-palpably convey what it is to deliver “human services” in a war zone.
Syncopated: An Anthology of Nonfiction Picto-Essays. Ed. by Brendan Burford. 2009. Villard, paper, $16 (9780345505293).
A sterling showcase of 16 stylistically varied pieces on subjects including Freedom Tunnel under New York’s Riverside Park, psychologist Erik Erikson, Guantánamo’s interrogation chambers, the 1921 Tulsa race riot, and subway buskers.
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