Tuesday, December 05, 2006

best of 2006: manga/graphic novels

Now it’s time for the best manga and graphic novels of 2006. The Americans and Brits made a very strong showing this year, and for the first time since I've been doing these lists, a gaijin takes top honors! What the hell?

A few details before I begin:

  • Not all of these were originally published in 2006, but since this is the first time I’ve read them, they show up here.
  • I read all of these in English, but they aren’t all available commercially in North America. I’ve put an asterisk after the title if they’ve been published here.
  • These aren’t in preferential order, although I did make note of my favorite.

1. Tokyo Babylon* by CLAMP: A teenage boy with strong spiritual powers fights to protect Tokyo against evil spirits. The first few volumes are standard “freak of the week”, but eventually the story takes a dark and tragic turn.

2. Swamp Thing: Love and Death* by Alan Moore, Stephen Bissette, John Totleben, and Shawn McManus: When G told me I should read the Swamp Thing graphic novels, I laughed out loud. Come on, how could a story about a swamp thing be any good? Talk about cheesy! But this super-dark, hallucinogenic take on Dante, in which Swamp Thing must rescue the woman he loves, is brilliant. And oh my god, that "sex" scene? Not remotely erotic, but one of the most bizarre (and strangely touching) things I've ever seen in a comic, that's for damn sure.

3. Maka-Maka by Kishi Torajiro: This originally appeared in the Japanese version of Penthouse, which pretty much tells you everything you need to know.

4. Keep Out by Akira Kanbe: A man who's afraid to love finds his defenses being breached by a charming young man.

5. Fortune Fortune by Mizuki Jun: A man receives a lucky cat statue that turns into a real person...or, rather, a catboy. A very, very horny catboy.

6. Cancer Vixen* by Marisa Acocella Marchetto: A memoir about the author's battle with breast cancer. The art is pretty crappy---I've seen her work in The New Yorker, and she can draw, so I'm assuming she kept it simple due to the length of the book---but it's funny as well as heart-wrenching.

7. Fun Home* by Alison Bechdel: Written and beautifully illustrated by the woman behind alternative comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For, this brilliant memoir is about her closeted gay father, his apparent suicide, and her own sexual awakening. Lovely, melancholy, and occasionally quite funny, this is a prime example of the medium at its best...and my god, those last two pages took my breath away. My favorite of 2006.

8. Absolute Boyfriend* by Yuu Watase: A cheerful and charming story about Riiko, a teenage girl who, through a series of unexpected events, finds herself in possession of an android boyfriend.

9. Swamp Thing: The Curse* by Alan Moore, Stephen Bissette, and John Totleben: There's a great feminist fable in here, a la Ginger Snaps, that was so damn cool and observant I had a hard time believing a man wrote it. Yeah, I know that sounds sexist as hell.

10. Desire Climax by Ukyou Ayane: With her family desperately in debt, a teenage girl takes a job at a mansion where the teenage son has his own plans for her. Really twisty and rather hot.