Skip to main content


December 13, 2012

Feature Story: The Best Graphic Novels of 2012













Abelard is a bird in love. And to prove his love and win the heart of the fair Epily, he’ll venture to America, land of flying machines and endless opportunity. But, as he soon discovers, it’s also a land of fearful twists and turns that can lead to violence and a sense of being outcast. Renaud Dillies achingly beautiful and poetic Abelard is a mesmerizing book and a truly powerful one at that.














Alison Bechdel followed up the award-winning Fun Home with Are You My Mother?, a fearless look at her own life and her quest to resolve the many questions that arose from her relationship with her mom. She takes on the challenge with a lot of honesty and humor and boldly questions how the maternal relationship has affected her entire life.














Chris Ware once again pushes boundaries and redefines what a graphic novel is…and what it can be. Building Stories is an immersion in storytelling devices that you take, piece by piece, to make a whole. There are a multitude of ways you can put it all together, and whichever route you choose, somewhere along the way it will hit you: This is no gimmick. This is an interactive piece of art that grips you in the lives of multiple characters and both inspires and devastates with its plain, unfettered humanity.














Ah…middle school. A time fraught with changes and possibilities. For theater-loving Callie, it’s a time of crushes and heartbreak and, perhaps most important of all, the stage. Raina Telgemeier crafts a charming look at youth in Drama, which, after the painfully honest memoir Smile, firmly cements Telgemeier as a giant of the genre.














Maggie’s been home-schooled her entire life, but that’s about to change. In fact, a lot of things are about to change, and dealing with a bricks-and-mortar school is only the half of it. In addition to that, she’s picked up a ghost, which means that things are about to get really weird really quickly. That’s only the beginning for this smart, funny, endearing YA book.














It’s been a year since Charles Burns’ riveting X’ed Out. Burns follows that up with The Hive, a nonlinear story that warps time and space and makes the reader work to achieve its many rewards. Read X’ed Out first, then pick up this one, and treat yourself to an enjoyable, psychedelic ride.















What seems as though it could be an exploitative book is actually a very poignant one. There are no scenes of blood or gore in My Friend Dahmer, no tastelessness or raunch. Instead, it’s a reflection on youth and on an era long gone by that dares to ask: What happened here? It’s very telling that when artist/writer Derf Backderf received the call that a former classmate of his had been arrested for murder, Jeffrey Dahmer was actually his second guess. This book captures the weirdness of the ’70s in a pitch-perfect way.















When Brian K. Vaughan launches a new series, comics readers pay attention. And rightfully so. The Y, The Last Man creator ventures into blazingly good sci-fi territory here, and he utilizes the redoubtable artwork of Fiona Staples to drive it home. Two star-crossed lovers from opposing sides of an eternal galactic war fall in love and have a child, and then try to forge a path for themselves in this boldly told series.














Follow the siren song of the mermaids to Sailor Twain. You’ll get wrapped up in this tale of 19th-century life on (and in) the Hudson. Mark Siegel’s story is addictive, and it’s brilliantly supported by some stunningly evocative charcoal art. Sailor Twain is truly a gem from beginning to end.













Tina is a high school sophomore who, because of an assignment, becomes obsessed with the work of Jean-Paul Sartre. It couldn't happen at a better, or more “real,” time, because she’s about to experience what it’s like to lose a best friend, get kissed, and learn who she really is in the smart and funny Tina’s Mouth. (The book also works as a nice refresher on the works of Sartre, which is another plus.)


 Jeff Lemire again proves himself one of the best handlers of the quirkily human in The Underwater Welder. The trippy story begins as expectant father Jack Joseph takes on one more working gig before the birth of his child. The book then takes a surreal turn toward sci-fi as Jack experiences a time-traveling episode underwater. When Lemire brings the story home, it hits with powerful force.














When DC decided to relaunch its entire line with The New 52, the entire comics universe was turned on its head. The new universe gave writer Brian Azzarello and artist Cliff Chiang an opportunity to remake DC’s cornerstone heroine. For decades, Wonder Woman has worked better as an idea than a comic, but now, Azzarello made the Amazon truly amazing. And relatable. And kickass. All of these qualities shine in this first collected volume, which really shows how fun a good superhero series can be.












It’s a monumental task to take one of the most beloved stories of all time and re-present it as a graphic novel. But Hope Larson took on the challenge and succeeded with an abundance of grace and charm, adding a new dimension to Madeleine L’Engle’s classic A Wrinkle in Time.



-- John Hogan