OK, when I say comics I mean mostly in book form. I have neither the money nor the brain power to keep up with stuff as it is released the first time. Consequently what I call 2018 may well have been published individually in 2017 or even 2016. Do I care? No, I do not. I am one hundred percent whatever. I also refuse to make any distinction between cartoon strips, comics, and graphic novels, which I accept is ridiculous but again, I don’t give a hoot. I have sympathy with both the a-graphic-novel-is-self-contained-in-a-way-a-comic-never-can-be and the you-only-call-them-graphic-novels-to-make-them-sound-more-grown-up camps, but I have no interest in taking a side. It’s words and pictures, squdged together, often with pleasing results. Let’s not get bogged down in semantics. Let’s just celebrate some good stuff.
Why Art? by Eleanor Davis was possibly the best thing I read last year. How often does a book make you actually catch your breath? This did it twice. It’s incredible, but if I tell you anything about it, it will ruin it. You’ll just have to read it, I guess.
The other book that was possibly the best thing I read last year was On A Sunbeam by Tillie Walden. The ways in which the narrative, and the world, are slowly revealed are incredible. The characters are brilliantly rounded. Flawed and sympathetic in all the right ways. Real. I could happily read another dozen volumes of their adventures. And the art is fantastic. So good. If I found out you could by prints of some of the panels in this book I would bankrupt myself immediately.
Coyote Doggirl by Lisa Hanawalt is a Western, but a Western that plays out as you might expect when written by someone connected to BoJack Horseman. Which is not to say it is like BoJack, but that it attacks story in similar ways. It’s a big narrative, but it’s the details that break you. It’s funny and sad and all to brief.
The majority of Black Bolt by Saladin Ahmed appeared in 2017 but the second collected volume was published last year, so I’m counting it. The live action Inhumans series was a failure (though I would argue there was a lot they got right as well as wrong) so it is nice to see Black Bolt getting a story with a little more substance. Ahmed deals with some serious issues but never neglects the more outlandish aspects of superhero stories that make them such good value.
The genius of Bingo Love lies in its combining of story and artwork. A simple story of two people in love, forced apart by family then brought back together by fate, is presented in the artistic style that posits its protagonists as superheros. Jenn St-Onge’s artwork is extraordinary, and finds the beauty in every stage of human existence, and Tee Franklin’s story is deft and kind.
Sheets by Brenna Thummler (available on the excellent free ComicsPlus app, ask your librarian) is a girl meets boy except they are just friends and oh, yeah, he’s a ghost sort of story. It has all the right sort of heart and is beautifully written and illustrated.
The Three Rooms in Valerie’s Head by David Gaffney and Dan Berry is a kind of remix of some of Gaffney’s short short fiction with a linking-them-together-into-one-narrative twist. It pushes comedy and tragedy toward each other in the way that he does so well and has a perfectly judged ending.
The cartoons by Rosemary Mosco collected in Birding is My Favourite Video Game are smart and funny and, for want of a less condescending adjective, sweet. I’m thinking about getting one of the t-shirts.
I have mixed feelings about Sabrina by Nick Drnaso. At times I thought it painted too bleak a portrait of modern life, that it was too dark, and yet, it stuck with me in a way that very little I read last year did.
Goalless Draws, the latest by David Squires is, as you would expect, superb.
All The Answers by Michael Kupperman is a brilliant exploration of family and memory told through the life (or at least the early part of the life) of his father.