(And to check out Comic Riffs’s “best of 2016,” go here.)
Restraint is everything in this British cartoonist’s dryly spellbinding tale of a space officer who can’t get home. The monochromatic tones and deadpan language blend brilliantly for maximum impact when the jokes land.
The acclaimed novelist brilliantly turns to one of her first literary loves — comics — with her titular sci-fi superhero: a man who gains large wings and feline instincts. The scenes are engaging, the language is playful and the references read like a well-steeped ode to adventure comics.
Clowes examines familiar terrain — particularly when reflecting on inadequacies as husband and parent — but places these issues within a surreal, sci-fi time capsule of a story, as a man traverses the years to try to stop his wife’s killer. Is everlasting love durable enough to survive psychedelic time travel? Clowes’s hero is not without hope.
This is a parent’s memoir at its most poignant and heartbreaking. If this masterwork does not move you, then you’re all but stone. When a father gazes at his lost child’s drawings, the story becomes a profoundly raw refraction of emotional art.
Is it possible for the grief memoir to feel oddly leavened by the art? This Canadian cartoonist brilliantly boils down sibling loss to deceptively poignant line drawings that are as playful as childhood — but their cumulative force is strong. And then the afterword — rendered with a Roz Chast-like looseness — has the honest depth of a diary.
Healy is a master of stitching together narrative threads like a double helix of twinned realities. “North” blends real-life Arctic journeys with modern midlife perils. The warm- and cool-colored palettes draw us in to these hypnotically gridded pages, till we’re plunged deep into the sense of emotional chilliness, hoping for an honest thaw.
Recommending a “best of” book can seem similar to how awards shows themselves get nominated for awards (hello, Emmys). But the curatorial eclecticism here is worth celebrating, ranging from Lynda Barry’s funky “confessional” tales to Richard McGuire’s painting-like panels.
In the spirit of comics-journalism great Joe Sacco, Sarah Glidden travels to hot spots to document — through pen and watercolor brush — how battles affect the civilians who aim to stay and endure. With a keen ear, Glidden bears witness.
What’s even better than a big ol’ collection of “Big Nate” comics? Why, a thoughtful silver-anniversary treasury that includes Lincoln Peirce’s own witty and insightful asides in the margins. This book helps chart the careful evolution of the popular strip.
This Fantagraphics undertaking represents a deeply worthy mission — gathering all the “Peanuts” strips in one hard-bound series for the first time — and this look at the last years of Charles Schulz is a necessary prism for appreciating the feature’s finish anew.