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December 31, 2011

Favorite Graphic Novels of 2011

These are the six graphic novels I have most recommended to friends, family, and anyone else who has crossed my path this year.

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 2011?

21: The Story of Roberto Clemente by Wilfred Santiago

Wilfred Santiago's graphic novel 21: The Story of Roberto Clemente follows the Hall of Fame baseball player from his humble roots and family life in Puerto Rico through his climb to the major leagues, stardom, and early death. Santiago dwells on each of these facets equally, and in doing so creates a well-balanced, yet striking, portrait of the man and his times.

This is a book to be enjoyed by teens and adults, baseball fans, and anyone who wants to read an epic story.

Daytripper by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba

Daytripper is a stunning graphic novel, both in its narrative and artwork. Collecting ten mini-comics by twin brothers Gabriel and Fabio Ba, the book centers on the life of writer Brás de Oliva Domingos. Brás's death at the end of each chapter comes on a significant day in his life, and taken as a whole this comic is a powerful exploration of mortality as well as humanity.

Kiss & Tell by MariNaomi

MariNaomi's graphic memoir's title says it all: Kiss & Tell: A Romantic Resume, Ages 0 to 22. She recounts every romantic relationship of her first twenty-two years in this graphic novel, every crush, bad decision, and her skill is impressive as both illustrator and storyteller in this compelling coming of age story.

Level Up by Gene Yuen Lang and Thien Pham

Gene Luen Yang became one of my favorite cartoonists when I read his graphic novel American Born Chinese in 2008. His book The Eternal Smile also impressed me, so his new graphic novel Level Up was one of my most anticipated comics of this year.

Written by Gene Yuen Lang and illustrated by Thien Pham, Level Up lived up to my lofty expectations. Lang and Pham cleverly explore the pressures of growing up alongside the expectations of immigrant parents, with a dash of magical realism thrown in (angels come to life from a greeting card).

Thien Pham's artwork, understated pen and watercolors, provides the perfect accompaniment to the tale. Reverting to monochrome for flashbacks to the past and color for the present, its marriage to the narrative speaks highly to the power of graphic storytelling.

The Listener by David Lester

David Lester's The Listener is one of the year's most impressive graphic novels. This compelling book offers an insightful glimpse into the Nazi party's 1933 election in Germany as well as the connection between modern art and politics.

Lucille by Ludovic Debeurme

Ludovic Debeurme's Lucille is an epic, compelling story of young love. Two troubled teenagers, one with anorexia and the other with OCD, fight through their dysfunctional family pasts to work toward building a future together.

Debeurme's simple line drawings are elegant and emotive, adding complexity to both the characters and their relationship.

At over 500 pages, this at first seems a daunting graphic novel, but the book flies by, and is one of the most thought provoking and unforgettable graphic novels I have read since Dash Shaw's Bottomless Belly Button.

also at Largehearted Boy:

online "best of 2011" book lists

Largehearted Boy favorite graphic novels of 2010
Largehearted Boy favorite graphic novels of 2009
Largehearted Boy favorite graphic novels of 2008
Largehearted Boy favorite graphic novels of 2007

Largehearted Boy favorite nonfiction books of 2011
Largehearted Boy favorite novels of 2011
Largehearted Boy favorite short story collections of 2011

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