Thursday, November 14, 2013

best of 2013: graphic novels and manga

UPDATE 12/11/2013:  #7 was changed from Castle Mango by Muku Ogura and Narise Konohara to Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh.

With only a month and change left in the year, I figured I better get started on my lists of the things that rocked my face off in 2013.  First up, the graphic novels/manga list!

With only a month and change left in the year, I figured I better get started on my lists of the things that rocked my face off in 2013.  First up, the graphic novels/manga list!

A few notes before I begin:

  • Aside from the first three titles listed, these aren't in any particular order.
  • Not all of these were first released in 2013, but that's when I first read them.
  • I've included cover pictures for all titles in the past, but due to continued issues with Photobucket and Blogger (I shit you not, this is my 13th attempt at posting this), I'm not doing it this year.  My apologies, but I need SOME hair on my head.
  • G-Vo, please skip #2 as I'm going to make you read it. (Everything else is safe.)
  • I doubt that anyone still labors under the belief that "comics" are strictly for kids, but just in case: some of these include content that some people may find objectionable.  I've listed anything problematic.
  • And, as always, your mileage may vary.

1. Locke & Key by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez:  After their father is murdered, Tyler, Kinsey, and Bode Locke and their emotionally and physically damaged mother Nina move to their ancestral family home, which is called Keyhouse.  There's a reason for that strange name:  the house contains several keys that grant the user magical powers.  The kids are enthralled by these keys, but unfortunately there's an evil spirit who wants them too.

You know, it's funny; I picked the first volume of this series up a couple of years ago, read the first chapter, was all "meh", and returned it to the library.  But after I read NOS4A2 by Joe Hill and loved the hell out of it, I figured I'd give Locke & Key another shot.  Good choice, because Locke & Key is awesome.  Gabriel Rodriguez' art is gorgeous, the story is terrifying and touching and funny, and it's just fantastic.  I got G-Vo hooked on this series, and I hope I can get some of you hooked as well.

Content advisory: graphic violence, strong language, disturbing themes

2. Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples:  Marko and Alana should never have fallen in love, because they come from two different extraterrestrial races who are waging a bloody war against each other.  But Marko and Alana have ignored the prohibitions against their relationship and had a baby girl named Hazel.  This does not go over well.

Brian K. Vaughan has been one of my favorite comics writers ever since Y: The Last Man and Ex Machina (which still has one of the best endings of any series I've ever read), and he does not disappoint in Saga, because it's fucking great. 

Content advisory: strong sexual content, nudity, strong language, graphic violence, some REALLY weird shit

3. Green River Killer by Jeff Jensen and Jonathan Case:  The author's father, Tom Jensen, was one of the chief detectives working the Green River Killer case, trying to find the man responsible for the murders of at least 48 women.  In this graphic novel, he details the manhunt and the emotional toll it took on his father.

When I first saw this at the library, the Stephen King blurb on the front cover caught my eye.  When I turned the book over, I saw blurbs from Damon Lindelof, Gillian Flynn, and Brian K. Vaughan as well, and I immediately added it to my stack.  Fortunately, they didn't steer me wrong; the compelling text was beautifully accentuated by the simple yet haunting art.

Content advisory: language, violence, disturbing themes

4. Batgirl: The Darkest Reflection by Gail Simone, Ardian Syaf, and Vicente Cifuentes:  I can't really describe this without spoiling a ton of backstory, but rest assured, it's exciting and gorgeously illustrated, and a great addition to the New 52 series.

Content advisory: superhero violence

5. Girl Friends by Milk Morinaga:  Mariko is a high school student who's shy and keeps to herself.  She catches the interest of Akko, the most popular girl in school, who befriends Mariko and decides to make her over.  As they become closer, Mariko starts to fall for Akko, but is it just admiration or something more?  A very sweet story with lovely art. 

Content advisory: non-graphic sexual content, nudity

6. Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Search by Gene Luen Yang and Gurihiru:  This is another series that I can't properly review lest I inadvertently spoil things from the TV series (which, by the way, if you haven't seen it...get thee to Netflix immediately).  It was wonderful spending time with Aang and the gang again, and the ending of the first volume was a literal jawdropper.  If you loved the show, you need to pick this up.

Content advisory: suitable for all ages

7. Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh:  The best of the blog collected in one full color volume, in addition to some new stuff.  Her series on her battle with depression is one of the best things I've ever read on the internet.

Content advisory: strong language

8. Relish by Lucy Knisley:  In this graphic memoir, Knisley explores her relationship with food and how it shaped her life.  The art is very charming, and it will make you very hungry.  I also highly recommend her previous graphic memoir, French Milk, which made this list back in 2008.

Content advisory: there's a scene where a friend of hers buys a ton of porn magazines in Mexico, but I don't remember anything else offhand.

9. Kick-Ass 2 Prelude: Hit-Girl by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.:  Hit Girl is trying to settle into life as a normal high school student, but she can't suppress her true nature for long.  This graphic novel is a bridge between the events of Kick-Ass and Kick-Ass 2, and it does contain some things that wound up in the K-A2 movie, so I won't go into any more detail.  Suffice it to say that Hit Girl remains as awesome as ever.

Content advisory: graphic violence and, as you'd expect given Hit-Girl's infamously dirty mouth, a metric fuckton of swearing

10. I've Seen It All by Shoko Takaku:  The Saikawa Clinic specializes in treating men with penile disorders.  The doctor thinks he's seen everything, but when a gorgeous young man turns up for his appointment, he realizes just how wrong he is.  An extremely funny manga; I actually had tears running down my face at one point.

Content advisory: strong sexual content, crude sexual humor, some really gross descriptions of assorted medical conditions