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December 21, 2009

Favorite Graphic Novels of 2009

Still a neophyte comics lover, I am continually amazed at the quality of comics and graphic novels sent my way.

These are the graphic novels I have been raving about this year to friends, family, and blog readers. I am honored to have several of these books featured in the Book Notes series.

All links go to the authors' contributions to the Book Notes series, my 52 Books, 52 Weeks review. I have reposted my original review below each book.

What was your favorite graphic novel of 2009?

The Eternal Smile by Gene Luen Yang & Derek Kirk Kim

Gene Luen Yang burst into the comics world with his National Book Award-winning 2006 graphic novel, American Born Chinese. The Eternal Smile is his much-anticipated followup, a collection of three graphic short stories.

The amazing thing about these stories is their variety. A medieval prince defeats his greatest rival in the first, a gold-hungry frog exploits his fellow amphibians in the second, and a Nigerian e-mail scam is at the center of the third. The illustrator, Derek Kirk Kim, draws every story in a different style as well. These stories range from outrageous to utterly believable, but always present a world where fantasy and reality collide, worlds Yang excels in creating.

Funny Misshapen Body by Jeffrey Brown

Jeffrey Brown is one of my favorite cartoonists, and his autobiographical works are some of the most memorable comics I have ever read. Funny Misshapen Body follows Brown from high school through art school, and enchants with its honesty, simplicity, and humor. From his early love of drawing and reading comics to his bout with Crohn's disease to his struggle to find himself, this book is filled with surprises and reminders of how talented Brown is as both an artist as well as a storyteller.

Johnny Hiro by Fred Chao

A friend recommended Fred Chao's graphic novel, Johnny Hiro, and I cannot thank him enough. The story of a young, seemingly ordinary Japanese man in New York is wonderfully understated as he battles giant dinosaurs and ninjas in his quest to lead an ordinary life with his girlfriend. Often as touching as it is fantastic, Johnny Hiro is reminiscent of Bryan Lee O'Malley's Scott Pilgrim (another series I adore).

The subtlety in Chao's artwork and dialog makes this one of the year's stellar graphic novels, and one I cannot recommend enough.

Likewise by Ariel Schrag

For years I have been following Ariel Schrag's high school comics, both Awkward and Potential are among my favorite graphic novels. The finale of the "high school chronicles of Ariel Schrag" is Likewise, which follows the artist through her senior year.

Likewise is Schrag's most ambitious and impressive work yet, exploring themes of self-discovery, the creative process, and personal growth.

The Nobody by Jeff Lemire

The Nobody is Jeff Lemire's new graphic novel, a book that brings H.G. Wells' The Invisible Man hauntingly into the 1990's.

Stitches by David Small

David Small's graphic memoir Stitches is captivating, the most impressive autobiography graphically told since Alison Bechdel's Fun Home.

Small recounts his youth with his unpredictable mother and emotionally distant father in hauntingly dark panels that convey his isolation perfectly. Small is a Caldecott-winning illustrator and author of critically acclaimed children's books, and his talent for storytelling with both his brush and through dialog is evident in this autobiography. Stitches may just not only be the year's best graphic memoir, but the year's most stellar memoir in any medium.

also at Largehearted Boy:

online "best of 2009" book lists
online "best of 2009" music lists
Online Best of the Decade (2000-2009) Book Lists
best of the decade (2000-2009) online music lists

previous lists at Largehearted Boy
Book Notes (authors create playlists for their book)
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
guest book reviews
musician/author interviews
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2008 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2007 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2006 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2005 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2004 Edition)