By Tom King et al. (DC Comics)
King, a CIA agent turned star comics writer, has an uncanny knack for blending visceral action with focused intellect — a dance of brains and brute force that pops off the page like genius choreography.
By Thi Bui (Harry N. Abrams)
Bui, a Vietnam-born Californian, delivers in her debut graphic novel a cinematic epic that poignantly tracks several generations through immigration and emotional dislocation. At its best, this memoir feels not just created but also deeply lived.
By Jillian Tamaki (Drawn and Quarterly)
Set along the fault lines of humanity and technology, this short-story collection disorients the senses even as it grounds us in the quirks of 21st-century life — all bundled with virtuosic visuals and slyly brilliant wit.
By Gabrielle Bell (Uncivilized)
Published shortly before the fall wine-country wildfires began, this Northern California story illuminates how fragile our relationships are and how quickly everything can go up in smoke. A graphic memoir practically rendered on flash paper.
By Roz Chast (Bloomsbury)
What began as a mother's illustrated mash note to Manhattan becomes a meandering map of Chast's hilarious mental approach to her beloved town, with all of its oddball shops, subterranean secrets and an abundance of visual stimulation.
By Guy Delisle (Drawn and Quarterly)
Delisle tells the true story of a Doctors Without Borders worker who was kidnapped in 1997. He deftly mines stillness and long stretches of inaction for uncomfortably taut drama. Delisle's monochromatic palette only heightens the sense of captivity as a brutal mind game of uncertainty.
By Jason Aaron et al. (Marvel)
Aaron's run on Thor is only getting more rewarding, and the adventures of Jane as Thor — cancer-patient mortal turned race-uniting god — are riveting as we witness the extremes of her leadership, loyalty and sacrifice.
By Emil Ferris (Fantagraphics)
This debut graphic novel from a 55-year-old Chicago artist is a revelation: a deeply textured tale of dark histories framed as a girl's diary and told through riveting art that is an homage to midcentury horror comics and film. A dark-horse winner that came out of nowhere.
By Cyril Pedrosa. Translated by Montana Kane (NBM)
The dreamy liquid lines of this translation of Pedrosa's French story — as much a triumph of atmosphere as action — propel a cartoonist's search for rejuvenation. The book's artist as a young man may be disenchanted, but the dazzling, meditative panels are entirely enchanting.
By Faith Erin Hicks and Jordie Bellaire (First Second)
This YA book is a visual stunner, with Bellaire's brilliant tints enriching everything from the anatomy under combat to the sweeping peaks of beckoning horizons. Hicks's flair for tangible fantasy makes this a standout.
Michael Cavna is creator of the "Comic Riffs" column and graphic-novel reviewer for The Washington Post.