Friday, December 20, 2013

Best Graphic Novels of 2013: Part 2 of 3

Best Graphic Novels of 2013 Part 2 of 3

The 10 best graphic novels I read this year that were published before 2013:

DMZ: Vol. 1: On the Ground (2005) Brian Wood, Riccardo Burchielli

In DMZ, a second American civil war has turned Manhattan into a demilitarized zone. A mostly clueless reporter named Matthew Roth stumbles into an assignment that literally opens his eyes to the ways of life and death in the DMZ. Part of my 2013 tour of Brian Wood comics, this was one of the best. 

Gotham Central, Book One: In the Line of Duty (2004) Ed Brubaker, Greg Rucka, Michael Lark

Gotham Central, put simply, is the Gotham Police working on crimes when Batman isn't around. Of course, it's more complicated than that, but that's a good starting point if you're considering whether you should pick this up (and you should). 

Rucka and Brubaker are both excellent writers and Lark's artwork is the perfect match for their stories. It becomes clear from the first story how difficult and frustrating it is for the police not only to solve crimes in Gotham, but also to work in the shadow of Batman (who does appear briefly). 

The Incal (1988) Alejandro Jodorowsky, Moebius

This is a mind-blower. You can read my previous thoughts on this one

Maus (1986/1991) Art Spiegelman

There’s not much I can tell you about Maus that you haven’t already heard. What I will tell you is how I saw a group of guys react to it for the first time. The Guys Book Club that I lead at our library read the first volume for our June selection. Most of these guys (ranging in age from teens to guys approaching their 80s) had never read a graphic novel of any kind. We talked about the story itself and how graphic novels work. Several of the guys said that the format took them awhile to get used to, but they soon realized how the format made the story more powerful than it perhaps would’ve been in a text only format. 

We also had some great conversation about the themes of the book, including family, survival, guilt, how difficult it is to escape from the past, and of course, the Holocaust itself and everything connected with it. Although I had only asked them to read Volume 1 (our library system has several copies of Volume 1 and not as many of Volume 2), most of the guys went ahead and read Volume 2 anyway. If nothing else, these guys now have a greater appreciation of what the graphic novel format can do. I’m quite happy with that. 

Queen and Country: The Definitive Edition, Vol. 1 (2007) Greg Rucka, Steve Rolston, Brian Hurtt, Leandro Fernandez

Thanks to my good friend John for recommending this one. Previous thoughts.

Rachel Rising: The Shadow of Death (2011) Terry Moore

Recommended by my friend Derek at The Comics Alternative, Rachel Rising is a horror comic that has now become a must-read. (And if anyone is still looking for a Christmas present for yours truly, volumes 2 and 3 would be most welcome!) In black and white (and all the creepier for it), Rachel is the creation of Terry Moore, whose Strangers in Paradise I enjoyed, but always felt if Moore got a little edgier, I might enjoy his work more. May I say that with Rachel Rising, Moore has delivered. 

Rust, Vol. 1: Visitor in the Field (2011) Royden Lepp

One of several great titles for young readers I encountered this year. Read more about it.

The Spirit Archives, Vol. 1 (1940) Will Eisner

Stumptown, Vol. 1 (2011) Greg Rucka, Matthew Southworth

I know it seems like a Greg Rucka love fest here at Graphic Novel Universe, but the guy can write a story, especially a noir one. Dex Parios is a Portland, Oregon private eye who’s trying to pay off a gambling debt and look out for her brother who has Down’s Syndrome. When Dex gets a call to find the missing granddaughter of a casino owner, she thinks maybe things are starting to go her way. Of course, she’s wrong.   

Greg Rucka has slowly but surely crept onto my list of “must read” comic book writers. Not only does he consistently write strong female protagonists, his sense of crime/noir fiction is well-grounded in tradition, yet willing to explore and push boundaries. Stumptown may be one of Rucka’s more conventional outings, but it’s nonetheless excellent storytelling. 

Super Spy (2007) Matt Kindt

Spies again, huh? Well, what can I say? I saw this awhile back and thought it might be a good diversion while waiting for Kindt’s next collected edition of Mind MGMT, another espionage tale. Published before Mind MGMT, Super Spy is a neat collection of interconnected short stories all focusing on espionage and the human element involved in deception. Kindt is always an interesting creator who gives you much to think about.  

Please tell me what you read this year that was published before 2013. 

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