The Best Graphic Novels of 2011

best-of-2011-gn A legion of heroes swathed in 60s hallucinogenic colour, a young gamer haunted by ghosts, grungy suburban Melbourne brought to life in stark black and white - these are just some of the fantastic publications that caught our eye this year. In the next installment of our ‘best of’ series, Fiona Hardy of Readings Carlton and Online Manager Andrew McDonald sum up the best of what was for comics and graphic fiction in 2011.

ORD Sensitive Creatures
Mandy Ord
Mandy Ord has a sharp (and singular) eye for the moments in our everyday life that are worth retelling, whether sweet, amazing, awkward, or rage-inducing. Her stark black line-drawings are a vivid and accurate picture of our beloved Melbourne and its leafy surrounding suburbs, as well as the grungy and good folk who inhabit it. – Fiona Hardy, Readings Carlton.


HARKcover2 Hark! A Vagrant
Kate Beaton
One of the internet’s best webcomics comes to print form: Kate Beaton’s illustrations, seen in publications like The New Yorker, are casual, loose sketches done to perfection. From Nancy Drew mysteries (based off the covers alone) to historical figures behaving badly to reality-based Mystery Solving Teens (they do a lot of smoking), you’ll laugh, you’ll learn, you’ll be glad you bought it. – Fiona Hardy, Readings Carlton.


hiddencover2 Hidden
Mirranda Burton
In a simple yet effective visual style reminiscent of Persepolis but wholly its own - and peppered with some pictures so vivid as to be photographic - local artist Mirranda Burton draws on her time spent as an art teacher for those with intellectual disabilities. Her tales are hopeful, dramatic, always emotionally involving, and never condescending. – Fiona Hardy, Readings Carlton.


LEAGUE3 The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Vo lIII): Century #2 - 1969
Alan Moore & Kevin O’Neill
With visual asides in almost every panel and enough trippy stuff happening to make you wonder if you’re getting high from the page fumes, graphic novelist extraordinaire Alan Moore brings 1969 - and his famous mystery-crushing League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (and women) - to life. Except with possibly even more sex and violence, and definitely more monsters. – Fiona Hardy, Readings Carlton.


Scenes-marriage2 Scenes from an Impending Marriage
Adrian Tomine
The sheer act of planning a wedding can be overwhelming for anyone on the outside, and now we have Adrian Tomine and his clean drawing style to lead us through the quirks and pitfalls (and name-censored conversations about who to invite) that come with getting hitched. Small, snappy and great fun. – Fiona Hardy, Readings Carlton.


leve2l Level Up
Gene Yuen Lang (art by Thien Pham)
With a simple, expressive and visually changing drawing style and a washed-out palette, Yuen (author of the excellent American-Born Chinese) and illustrator Pham tell the tale of a young gamer-type trying to find his own way in life while being haunted by the ghosts of his late father’s more gastroenterologist-oriented hopes for him. Relatable, funny, and quietly moving. – Fiona Hardy, Readings Carlton.


page2 Page by Paige
Laura Lee Gulledge
Paige’s family has moved from her beloved hometown to New York, and her entire world has shifted. New school, new people to meet, and worse still: the change has put a mental block on her drawing. Sounds clichéd, but Gulledge’s absolutely amazing, flowing artwork and Paige’s quirky personality and hilarious new friends make this a standout in YA graphic fiction. – Fiona Hardy, Readings Carlton.


habibicoverF Habibi
Craig Thompson
The author of Blankets returns with a stunning tome of a book. Habibi is an Islamic fairytale, a religious parable, a love story, an adventure tale and a confronting tale of sex, torture and nature vs humankind. The use of Arabic calligraphy throughout the book is exquisite, as are the sketches, the art and the design of the entire production. A beautiful book about some of the ugliest things in life. – Andrew McDonald, Readings Online Manager.


DeathraycoveF The Death-Ray
Daniel Clowes
First published in 2004 as a one-shot issue of Clowes’s serial Eightball, the film adaptation of The Death-Ray is already in development and it’s easy to see why. It’s a strange and brilliant story; as anti-superhero as you can get (our ‘hero’ Andy gets his superpowers after smoking a cigarette!). Like his classic Ghost World, this one will stay in your graphic memory for quite some time. – Andrew McDonald, Readings Online Manager.


payingforitcoverF*Paying For It*
Chester Brown
A graphic memoir about Chester Brown’s life as a john, Paying For It jumps headlong into the political, ethical, legal and other issues that surround prostitution. It’s a fascinating perspective of, and an argument for, the world’s oldest profession. We learn just as much about the inner workings of the author’s mind as we do his ‘life as a john’ and whether you agree or disagree with him, it’s one of the most honest memoirs you’re likely to find. – Andrew McDonald, Readings Online Manager.


Other 'best of 2011’ lists:

fiona-hardy-picFiona Hardy sells books and talks too much to customers at Readings Carlton, and puts together Dead Write for the Readings Monthly. She blogs haphazardly about movies and books (and sometimes music) and you can follow her on twitter - @readwatchtweet.

andrewm-pic Andrew McDonald is Readings' Online Manager by day, a children’s author by night and asleep the rest of the time. He is not the author of The Great Gatsby despite what he may tell you. - @andrewmcdonald