By Jason Lutes (Drawn and Quarterly)
Lutes spent two decades carving out his historical-fiction epic about citizens who try to survive after the fall of the Weimar Republic. The towering “Berlin” reads like not just a masterwork but also a life’s work.
By Jarrett J. Krosoczka (Graphix)
Krosoczka’s precisely loose lines and evocative sepia-and-gray brushwork stunningly pair with a memoir about the vicissitudes of the author’s childhood — one spiced with moments of wonder and shadowed by a parent’s inescapable addiction.
By David Small (Liveright)
Whether crafting memoir (“Stitches”) or fiction, few creators mine the pathos of a dark midcentury childhood like Small, who paints a sense of toxic masculinity as masterfully as he brings characters to life in sparse, chilling prose.
By M. Dean (Fantagraphics)
Dean’s beguiling art pulls the reader trippingly into a 1960s teen romance that begins with the “I Want to Hold Your Hand” stage. But where can a relationship that mirrors the Beatles’ own go by the time the band breaks up?
By Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda (Image Comics)
This fantasy epic brilliantly peels back questions of humanity and friendship set against the perils of war and racism, all illustrated in a style that nods to East and West.
By Tillie Walden (First Second)
Walden showed in her Eisner-winning graphic novel “Spinning” that she can tenderly render love and loss. In “Sunbeam,” she conveys such feelings while tripping between timelines — and her interstellar boarding school is a beautifully realized world.
By Jen Wang (First Second)
Leave it to such a gifted artist to create this love letter to aesthetic design set against the story of a relationship blossoming between seamstress and prince. Universal has wisely already scooped up the feature film rights.
By Nick Drnaso (Drawn and Quarterly)
Drnaso is a master of controlled, panel-to-panel pacing as his clean linework and muted palettes only intensify how deeply unnerving a tale of trauma, mourning and Internet “fake news” can be. His talent landed this title as the first graphic novel to be longlisted for the Man Booker Prize.
By Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta (Marvel)
King’s brilliant writing of this Avenger as he wrestles with matters of domesticity and authentic identity only heightens our high anticipation for DC’s King-authored “Mister Miracle” graphic novel, due out in February.
By Ed Piskor (Marvel)
Piskor is a one-man tour de force as he reimagines Marvel’s X-history with deep cuts, knowing nods and a magnetic passion for the source.
Michael Cavna is creator of the “Comic Riffs” column and graphic-novel reviewer for The Washington Post.