Graphic novels & comics we loved in 2018

Our staff share some of their favourite comics and graphic novels from the past year.

‘Lisa Hanawalt’s Coyote Doggirl is a surreal western that is fierce, silly and kind of bleak. So funny, and lots of swearing and beautiful colours too! I also loved Aminder Dhaliwal’s Woman World. Set in a future world where men are extinct, this cleverly crafted story is filled with heart-warming and absolutely hilarious observations about how all kinds of women might get along without men around.

And Vera Brosgol’s Be Prepared is a great autobiographical children’s graphic novel about a young girl from Russia going to her first summer camp in the USA. It’s executed beautifully and has such pertinent themes for young readers including family, friendship and fitting-in – or not!‘

Kim Gruschow

The Lie And How We Told It is a graphic novel from Tommi Parrish, art editor of The Lifted Brow, and it’s a wonderfully written, bittersweet story of two old friends who meet by chance, and try to rekindle their relationship, which had fallen apart years ago. This is an emotionally poignant, beautifully produced book that thoughtfully talks about what happens when we grow and change as people.

I’ve already written for the Readings blog about how much I loved Onibi: Diary of a Yokai Ghost Hunter by Atelier Sentô, but I’ll say it again – this is a gorgeous book. It follows two adventurers as they search for ghosts and other supernatural beings in Japan’s countryside. I loved all of the depictions of the spirits, who are mostly cheeky, but occasionally more sinister. I honestly feel that this graphic novel could be enjoyed by people aged from 9-109, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.’

Ellen Cregan

'The Saga comics have been compared to Star Wars, Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings and Romeo & Juliet, and I beg everyone to read this singular work. I read the second half of the series so far this year and it is only getting better. The tale of two soldiers from opposing armies and different species falling in love and protecting their daughter from the ensuing fallout is such an accomplished and imaginative world that it appeals across the board – managing to be the best of genre with its spacefaring swashbuckling plot, while the literary flourishes dotted throughout are enough for even the most sophisticated tastes. Find the first book in the series here.

Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta is an older release but as relevant in 2018 as when it was published. Inspired by the threat of populism in Thatcher’s Britain, Evey is rescued from certain death by V, a mysterious but charming figure hell bent on dismantling the authoritarian party ruling the United Kingdom following a devastating nuclear war. Moore’s characters demonstrate what so few do in fiction: that they are more than themselves and they are a product of their times and the thousands of years of knowledge and art that came before them. It’s as enigmatic and beguiling as V himself, and a real joy to figure out.’

Paul Goodman

‘One of the sweetest and most enchanting books I read this year was My Beijing: Four Stories of Everyday Wonder, the first graphic novel by established Chinese artist Nie Jun to be translated into English. It has a simple structure – four short stories about a young girl Yu’er and her devoted grandfather, set around the bustling hutongs of Beijing.

Jun creates a truly magical atmosphere with watercolour and ink, depicting the narrow laneways and traditional courtyard houses with sunshine, nostalgia and attention to detail. Reality mixes with fantasy and whimsy, as Yu’er (who uses a cane to walk short distances) imagines what it would be like to swim in the Special Olympics, visits a secret place full of musical bugs with her friend, finds out about her grandfather and grandmother’s early romance and wins her way into the heart of a grumpy artist. I loved the blurry line between youthful imagination and reality, the sweet relationship between Yu’er and her grandfather, and taking in the many tiny neighbourhood details, like laundry hanging out to dry, dragon roof decorations, old bicycles and women preparing vegetables out in the streets.’

Leanne Hall

‘I picked up Nick Drnaso’s Sabrina after it became the first graphic novel to be longlisted for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction and I found it a rewarding, albeit deeply upsetting, read. An ominous contemplation of the internet age, this is a richly atmospheric work which will appeal to Chris Ware fans.

I also got two terrific recommendations for comics this year from my most excellent colleagues. Part travelogue and part ghost story, the charming Onibi: Diary of a Yokai Ghost Hunter follows two tourists as they search for yôkai (the supernatural beings from Japanese folklore), while The Case of the Missing Men is a fantastically creepy supernatural mystery that mashes up teen detective stories with Twin Peaks.

Some of my favourite comic artists also released new books this year. Lisa Hanawalt gifted fans her first full-length work: Coyote Doggirl is a pop-soaked and subversive take on the Western adventure tale. In her trademark thoughtful and generous style, Eleanor Davis reflected on the process of making art and what is all means in Why Art?. And Tommi Parrish stunned anew with The Lie And How We Told It. This is the story of two formerly close friends trying to salvage what is left of their decaying relationship and it’s evocative, dream-like, unsettling, and all-too-relatable.’

Bronte Coates

‘I’m a fan of graphic novels, but for some reason I haven’t read many this year at all, which is sad for me! I did pick up and stare longingly at a lot of titles though, and next year, I’ll hopefully be able to squirrel away and read more of them.

This caveat aside, I did love the collection Neither Here Not Hair. This anthology explores how people see their relationships with their hair – both body and head and all of it, really – and I barrelled through with hairy-legged interest. I also came late to, but enjoyed, Luke Pearson’s Hilda series, which I picked up after watching the thoroughly excellent Netflix show of the same name.‘

Fiona Hardy