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December 3, 2010

Favorite Graphic Novels of 2010

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 or my 52 Books, 52 Weeks review. I have reposted my original review below each book.

What was your favorite graphic novel of 2010?

Bodyworld by Dash Shaw

I first reviewed Shaw's Bodyworld when he shared his Book Notes music playlist for the webcomic:

"BodyWorld is a serialized graphic novel by Dash Shaw, one of my favorite cartoonists, and its fast-moving storyline and Shaw's attention to detail set it apart from other webcomics and make it a regular Tuesday read as new installments are posted."

The webcomic in book form is just as impressive (though it lacks the online version's innovative right-scrolling feature) and beautifully produced, arguably the most visually striking book I have seen published this year. Shaw is one of comics brightest young talents, and Bodyworld's surreal dystopian storyline is both fascinating and enveloping. This book should attract comics fans who also enjoyed David Mazzucchelli's Asterios Polyp.

Dark Rain by Mat Johnson & Simon Gane

After reading Dark Rain, I can honestly say that Mat Johnson has become one of my favorite comics writers. His graphic novel Incognegro wowed me a couple of years ago, and Dark Rain is equally impressive.

Dark Rain is more than the story of two ex-cons and their New Orleans bank heist in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Johnson draws both the good and bad of the post-Katrina landscape in his characters, while illustrator Simon Gane's pen and ink artwork enhances the story without ever overpowering it.

How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less by Sarah Glidden

Easily my favorite graphic novel of the year, How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less is Sarah Glidden's unflinchingly honest account of her birthright trip to Israel.

Revolver by Matt Kindt

Matt Kindt's graphic novel Revolver splits one man's life into two worlds. One is the mundane drudgery of dead-end work and an unfulfilling life, the other a fantastic existence where he can truly make a difference in a land troubled by terrorism and chaos.

Kindt's artwork propels the story with its sketch-like qualities, and the addition of news tickers (as well as radio and television announcements) add depth to the story. Revolver is a gripping psychological thriller, filled with suspense about the true nature of the two worlds. Kindt expertly shares his protagonist's tensions (both mundane and fantastic), easily making Revolver one of the year's most surprising and thought-provoking graphic novels.

Temperance by Cathy Malkasian

I have been creating a list of my favorite graphic novels of all time, and as the list grows smaller, one title remains near the top of the pile. Cathy Malkasian's debut, Percy Gloom, skillfully told (and illustrated) its story, and wholly transported the reader into an alternative world.

Malkasian is back with another stellar graphic novel, Temperance, a dark and literate dystopian fable centered on themes of violence and control.

Wilson by Daniel Clowes

Of all the comics and graphic novels coming out this year, Wilson is easily the one I anticipated most. I have read Daniel Clowes' comics for years and am a great fan of his work, so my expectations were high. Then my friend Benn Ray from Baltimore's Atomic Books praised the book as part of this site's weekly new comics previews.

Wilson exceeded my lofty expectations. In a series of one-page comic strips of varying styles, Clowes tells the tale of the misanthropic Wilson. In a book filled with dark humor, Clowes builds empathy for the curmudgeonly Wilson and draws the reader into his life as this portrait grows in both depth and richness. Masterfully told and deceptively engaging, Wilson is a marvelous and ambitious graphic novel.

also at Largehearted Boy:

online "best of 2010" book lists
previous lists at Largehearted Boy
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Book Notes (authors create playlists for their book)
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
guest book reviews
musician/author interviews
52 Books, 52 Weeks book reviews