Thursday, December 06, 2007

best of 2007: manga/graphic novels

And now for the best graphic novels, manga, and comic collections from 2007. A few disclaimers before I begin:

  • Not all of these were first published in 2007, but since that’s when I first read them, they belong on this list.
  • Aside from the first two, these aren’t in preferential order.
  • As ever, your mileage may vary.

1. Lost Girls by Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie: Just before World War I, the three heroines of Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, and The Wizard of Oz meet in a secluded hotel. Alice, now old, is a snobby lesbian; Wendy is trapped in a sexless marriage; and Dorothy is a free-spirited young woman in a beautiful pair of silver shoes. This graphic novel takes the stories we all know and turns them into astounding narratives of sex, love, and loss, captured in Moore’s masterful prose and Gebbie’s beautiful illustrations. To say the least, this is NOT a book for the prudish or easily offended; it is very explicit, and pretty much every sexual peccadillo you can think of is either graphically shown or described. But although you may occasionally get a pleasant tingle in your nethers while reading Lost Girls, it’s not pornography, but (to borrow the title of Dave Eggers’ memoir) a heartbreaking work of staggering genius that perfectly encapsulates that moment of stepping through the looking glass of sexual awakening.

2. Shortcomings by Adrian Tomine: The protagonist of this graphic novel is a cranky young Japanese-American man named Ben, whose girlfriend doesn't appreciate the way he's always looking at white women. Finally, she gives up on ever changing him and leaves for New York City, causing him to wonder whether he can change...and if he even wants to. The art is simple and beautiful, and the dialogue is sharp and realistic. An example of the graphic novel form at its best.

Side note: In an example of perfect timing, today’s Salon talks about Shortcomings if you’d like to read a more detailed review.

3. Bittersweet Cafe by Akira Kanbe: The manager of a cafe takes in a pastry chef, and romance blossoms. Beautifully drawn and very cute.

4. Dramacon by Svetlana Chmakova: A teenage girl is excited about attending her first anime convention, especially since she and her boyfriend will be selling their new comic book in the artist's alley. But when her boyfriend starts being a dick and flirting with every cute girl that comes to their table, she starts thinking about a possible romance with the guy at the next booth. I wasn't expecting much when I picked this up at the library, but I wound up reading it in one sitting because it's surprisingly funny and occasionally very dramatic.

5. A Sex Therapist by Kazuma Kodaka: An enigmatic young man provides impromptu therapy to the lovelorn men who visit his bar. This therapy, as the title states, involves lots of sex. Obviously not for the yaoi haters, but if you like this kind of thing, Kazuma Kodaka is one of the geniuses of the genre.

6. Sand Chronicles by Hinako Ashihara: In this poignant manga series, a woman and her teenage daughter Ann move to a small town, where Ann finds love and tragedy in equal measure.

7. The Squirrel Mother by Megan Kelso: There are two stories in this collection, "Meow Face" and "Split Rock, Montana", that still haunt me months after reading them.

8. The Best American Comics 2006 edited by Harvey Pekar and Anne Elizabeth Moore: Whether you're already a fan of comics and graphic novels, or you're just starting to explore them, you'll find something to love in this diverse collection.

9. American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang: This graphic novel is made up of three separate plotlines---a Chinese folk hero, a lonely teenage boy who wants to belong, and another teenage boy who's embarrassed by his visiting cousin "Chin-Kee"---that wind up being part of a greater story. The artwork is simple and clean, and the story is thought-provoking.

10. All the Rage by Aaron McGruder: An excellent selection of some of the most controversial strips from The Boondocks and interviews with its creator.