Tuesday, July 3, 2018

10 Notable Graphic Novels Published in 2017

This list was created from the results of a poll administered through the Art Libraries Society of North America (ARLIS/NA) Graphic Novels Special Interest Group’s listserv and the ARLIS/NA listserv. Respondents of the poll were asked to select titles they believed were “innovative, memorable, or significant in the field, especially in terms of their artwork.” Selections for the list were published in 2017 and are considered “graphic novels,” defined by the Oxford Companion to the Book as “book-length works in the comics form, usually but not always offering a sustained narrative.” The list has been compiled alphabetically by title. Reviews were written by ARLIS/NA members and edited by the Graphic Novels SIG Co-Coordinators. The primary objective of this list is to assist fellow (art) library workers in improving their own institutional collections of graphic novels/comics.

PDF version available here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1arA4J_irzB9JkxBAadE_wm1spmCZaUvf/view

Rebecca Bruner ▪ Marc Calhoun ▪ Janis DesMarais ▪ Kamaria Hatcher ▪ Nicole Lovenjak Stephanie Noell ▪ Virginia Roberts ▪ Walter Schlect ▪ Jessica Spears ▪ Holly Wilson

Olivia Miller
Arts and Humanities Librarian, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth | omiller@umassd.edu
Tara Spies Smith
Research, Instruction & Outreach Librarian, Texas State University-San Marcos | ts20@txstate.edu
Andrew Wang
Instructional Design Librarian, Ringling College of Art + Design | aandrewwangg@gmail.com

The Best We Could Do

By Thi Bui
Abrams ComicArts

The Best We Could Do is an illustrated memoir by Thi Bui, a woman who, as a young child escaped the violence of late 1970s Vietnam with her parents and siblings. Through the mechanism of telling her family’s story, Bui addresses themes and struggles of individuality, identity, loss, disappointment, and sacrifice against a backdrop of war, displacement, and uncertainty. Bui longs to understand her parents as the people they were before they met, before they were parents, when they became parents, and as immigrants whose foreign educations meant nothing in the United States. Bui considers her role as child and as mother and works through letting go of resentment and expectation as she moves toward liberation.

The author’s two-color East Asian inspired ink wash illustrations are stunning, borrowing a historic tradition to add an additional layer of visual interest to her story. Layouts vary with each page and complement the text. It is hard to believe that this publication is Bui’s first graphic novel.

The Best We Could Do has garnered much praise and has already become required reading at the college level; it was this past academic year’s first year experience read at UCLA. Immigration and refugee struggles are timely topics and this book helps to humanize displaced peoples encouraging the reader to empathize. No public, K-12, or academic library should be without a copy.

Janis DesMarais
Visual Literacy & Arts Librarian College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, MA

Black Panther: World of Wakanda

Written by Roxane Gay, Yona Harvey, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Rembert Browne
Inked by Roberto Poggi, Afua N. Richardson, and Alitha E. Martinez
Color by Tamra Bonvillain and Rachelle Rosenberg
Letters by Vc Joe Sabino
Penciled by Joe Bennett, Alitha E. Martinez, and Afua N. Richardson

This trade paperback (2018 GLAAD Outstanding Comic Book Award), a spin-off prequel to Ta- Nehisi Coates and Brian Stelfreeze’s, Black Panther, Volume 1 (ARLIS/NA Notable Graphic Novel Published in 2016), includes three stories in this definitive World of Wakanda series: "Dawn of the Midnight Angels" (#1-5); "Death of the White Tiger" (#6); and "The People for the People."

The main story explores the personal growth of an intimate relationship between two women, Ayo and Aneka, who happen to be warriors from the elite group of all-female personal bodyguards of the Black Panther. The final issue was written by award-winning poet, Yona Harvey (Hemming the Water), and centers around the villain from Black Panther, Volume 1.

In the first six issues, penciler Alitha E. Martinez provides nuanced, detailed facial expressions and features for all characters, which expertly illustrates romance and tension. Colorist Rachelle Rosenberg uses a palette of deep reds, purples, and earth tones. In contrast, one of the most memorable and beautiful components regarding the art is the yellow/orange color theme for Ayo and Aneka: a glow, illustrated by various objects and backgrounds, signals their passion.

World of Wakanda is truly an important and historical book: the story focuses on black queer women warriors and it boasts a diverse creative team, including Roxane Gay and Yona Harvey as the first Black women to write for Marvel. To celebrate this Richardson designed into each of the five backgrounds Adinkra Symbols of the Akan Peoples of West Africa, inspired by King Adinkra’s calabash-stamped dyed cloth.

It is a great addition to libraries looking to diversify their collections or libraries with patrons interested in the Marvel Universe. It would also appeal to those interested in gender studies, queer theory, popular culture, Black and African American studies and more.

Nicole Lovenjak
Librarian, London District Catholic School Board & Library Technologist, Fanshawe College Library and Media Services


By Jillian Tamaki
Drawn & Quarterly

Jillian Tamaki’s graphic short stories cover a wide range of subjects. From the imaginary cultural phenomena of “SexCoven,” to the beginnings and ending of a pornographic sitcom, Tamaki can find the most human elements in the strangest of scenarios. Boundless is the visual equivalent of chamber music; these existential vignettes about shrinking away to nothingness or experiencing animal consciousness balance the fantastic with the all-too- realistic experiences and emotions common to us all. Tamaki’s illustration style falls somewhere between the lyricisms of Cocteau’s drawings and the starkness of Raymond Pettibon. Like the narrative, the drawings are minimal but highly effective, usually done in black and only one other hue. Tamaki also varies the illustration style from story to story. These subtle changes add to the wonderful strangeness that makes her narratives so effective. Tamaki’s lines and framing are very cinematic and complement the narrative well.

would be recommended to anyone having difficulty making sense out of the world in the 21st century. These exquisitely crafted stories focus on small moments and the hard edges of life we all experience, but through a strange and marvelous lens. Profound in the most subtle ways, Boundless would also serve as good introduction to contemporary women writers. From a visual perspective, any institution with a collection of modern graphic novels would be wise to add this to their collection.

Marc Calhoun
Catalog/Reference Librarian
RISD Library

The Customer is Always Wrong

By Mimi Pond
Drawn & Quarterly

The Customer is Always Wrong, by Mimi Pond, is a semi-autobiographical tale that is a follow- up to 2014’s Over Easy. The story, set in the late 1970s, finds Madge still working at the Imperial Café in Oakland to pay the bills while she works on launching her career as an artist. She has some success at selling pieces for publication which reinvigorates her dream to relocate to New York City. As we see Madge interact with coworkers and customers, we get to know intimate details about these characters with no sugar-coating. These are real people living through some tough situations. There are moments that are really funny and others that are tragic. We’ve all had that friend that makes poor decisions and suffers the consequences, but we still love them and try to support them as best we can. This book illuminates those friendships. It shows real people living their lives, which can be messy and painful, but also incredibly touching. The artwork is primarily line drawings highlighted with greyscale washes and restricted to a limited palette which conveys tension and emotion without being overly formal. This graphic memoir deals with several adult topics and situations, so it is suited for more mature teenagers and adults. Recommended for public and academic libraries.

Holly Wilson
Associate Professor and Research & Instruction Librarian
Pratt Institute 718-636-3685 hwilson5@pratt.edu

House of Women

By Sophie Goldstein

Four nuns travel to an undeveloped planet to bring the Empire’s learning to the natives. As in so many other stories of encounters with the Other, the women slowly break down under the pressure of forbidden sexuality, racism, hatred and violence. The crookedness that the women bring from the Empire poses one threat in the story, but the author presents another major threat: a full-grown native male.

The black and white art visually quotes many of the cultures that disturbed Western European sensibilities during the nineteenth century. The women transform into demons and geisha from Japanese woodblock prints, and Tibetan guardian figures beckon the nuns with long curved nails and erections. Even the sinuous, vegetal forms of the art nouveau and arts and crafts movements seem sinfully sexual. Goldstein creates the sense of a treacherous space with blacks that swallow whole figures and the edges of spaces. Doorways and shadowed walls merge with cowls, vines and black waters. The lines and type are precise and deliberate. Even the binding is carefully chosen to evoke the quality bindings of the late 19th and early 20th century with its embossed, gilded cover and marbled endpapers.

This would be an excellent addition to an academic art library, especially one with a strong design or illustration program.

Jessica Spears
Young Adult Librarian
Brooklyn Public Library

Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation

By Octavia Butler
Adapted by Damian Duffy
Illustrated by John Jennings
Introduction by Nnedi Okorafor
Abrams Comic Arts

Octavia Butler’s (1947-2006) landmark novel, Kindred, was originally published in 1979. Adapted to the medium of comics by Damian Duffy and John Jennings, this groundbreaking time-travel story is set in both 1976 California and on an early nineteenth century Maryland Plantation. Dana, an African American woman married to a white man in modern times, finds herself repeatedly travelling back in time to the plantation where the slave owner’s son is her own ancestor, Rufus.

This graphic novel loses little in its translation of story and brings new and important attention to the original novel. Jennings’ artwork is visually stunning and contributes to a narrative no less shocking than that provided in the original novel. Jennings employs sepia tones to depict the contemporary era, and brighter colors to bring historical Maryland to life. Paradoxes found in Butler’s Kindred are still poignant and kept intact in both narrative and visual ways.

Ultimately, this graphic novel approaches the very best of the form in terms of important topic and meticulously detailed representation. Comparisons, in terms of subject matter and execution, to some of the most revered graphic novels—such as Art Spiegelman’s Maus (1980-91)—are not out of line.
Highly recommended for all graphic novel collections, for young adults and adults, alike.

Virginia Roberts
Rhinelander District Library
715-365-1082 (work)

My Favorite Thing is Monsters

By Emil Ferris

Anyone looking for the sublime in art should spend a day (or a sleepless night) binge- reading Emil Ferris’s hefty debut My Favorite Thing is Monsters. Drawn from the perspective of Karen Reyes, a delightfully ghoulish ten-year-old girl obsessed with monster movies and detective stories, the images leap off of the notebook paper they were painstakingly drawn on. Karen lives in an apartment with her mother and older brother Deez, and the story sets into motion when Anka, her troubled upstairs neighbor is found dead. Like many teen detectives before her, she decides to try to solve the mystery herself and uncovers Anka’s painful past as an abused orphan in Nazi Germany. Meanwhile, Karen begins to learn more about the cruel, painful world that her family has tried to protect her from, and the forces of oppression she must try to resist. With visual references ranging from the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago (which Karen visits often) to pulpy monster magazines that Karen devours, the illustrations are full of drama and feeling. A single portrait can evoke an entire persona, and though some appear at first grotesque, Ferris draws each character with deep sympathy and warmth. It is hard to think of a library where this book doesn’t belong, but it’s anarchic visual punch is especially suited to art school libraries, where it can serve as an endless source of inspiration.

Walter Schlect
Goethe-Institut New York

My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness

Written by Kabi Nagata
Translated by Jocelyne Allen
Adapted by Lianne Sentar
Lettering and layout by Karis Page
Cover design by Nicky Lim
Seven Seas

My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness is a frank, autobiographical manga written by Kabi Nagata. Although the narrative begins with Nagata’s awkward first sexual encounter, this is not your typical yuri (girls’ love) coming-of-age romance. The focus of the story is Nagata’s difficulties with mental illness, family tensions, and social isolation. This is a frank, introspective, and intimate portrayal of Nagata’s journey toward self-acceptance and maturity. The book details the strides she took toward finding a more fulfilling adult life, including her efforts to rehabilitate her mental health and the unique path she chose in exploring her burgeoning sexual feelings.

Nagata’s deadpan narrative style, which occasionally comes across as analytical and dissociative, sometimes struggles to communicate the true depth of her feelings. Nevertheless, her story is brave, earnest, and heartfelt. Moreover, it is in the loosely drawn, two-toned chibi-styled (typically short and cute) characters that the real heart of the story lies. When reading the panels, oriented in the traditional Japanese back-to-front, right-to-left, it becomes obvious that the manga’s original language, Japanese, is best expressed through illustrations. Her artwork adds a much-needed lightness to the heavy subject matter, while skillfully conveying every ounce of emotion that Nagata was feeling. This is a must have for any library wanting to build a sophisticated LGBTQ manga collection.

Nagata’s follow-up novel, My Solo Exchange Diary Vol. 1: The Sequel to My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness, was published in English by Seven Seas this year.

Rebecca Bruner
Library Technician Smithsonian Libraries


By Tillie Walden
First Second

Tillie Walden’s graphic memoir Spinning details the author’s transition from childhood to adolescence. In addition to coming of age changes, young Tillie also moves across the country during the summer between fifth and sixth grade, leaving behind her childhood home in New Jersey for a new home in Texas. Much of the story revolves around her extracurricular ice skating and how her attitudes towards her hobby change as she makes sense of her own identity. Outside of ice skating, Tillie navigates being bullied, falling for her first girlfriend, coming out, figuring out her future ambitions, and fielding unwanted advances.

Walden’s writing is very accessible, making this book appealing for adults and teens alike. She switches back and forth between the dialogue of the moment and narration from her future self. As for the art, Walden’s line work is clean, her colors are often muted, and both are minimalistic, which makes the images easily readable. One of the highlights of the book was the art at the beginning of each chapter detailing a specific ice skating maneuver and her feelings about it. This book would make an excellent addition to any library with a graphic novel collection, especially those that cater to teenagers and readers with a strong interest in YA, LGBT, or sports literature.

Stephanie Noell
Research and Instruction Librarian Savannah College of Art and Design

You & a Bike & a Road

By Eleanor Davis
Koyama Press

You & a Bike & a Road by Eleanor Davis is an illustrated journal made by the author during her solo bike trip through the southern United States. Beginning in Tucson, Arizona, Davis sets off for her home in Athens, Georgia. Along the way she records her challenges, which are mental, physical, ethical, social, and sometimes all of the above. Lacking regular human company, Davis turns elements of the road into recurring characters like the wind that either effortlessly guides her forward or else tries to knock her down. Her experiences with people are similarly inconsistent. In Texas, she witnesses a deeply demoralizing incident involving the US Border Patrol and then is taken in by kind strangers less than a week later. These episodes are described in Davis’s distinct voice: oddly humorous, poignant, and existential.

While this book is an artistic departure from Davis’s usual style (which is vivid and striking, like the cover image), the unfinished pencil sketches and the absence of color create a feeling of intimacy and immediacy. The few pages that contain more detailed drawings have more impact because they aren’t often seen. With well-executed visual subtext and the effective use of gestural line, Davis’s travel journal makes an engaging narrative. This is a great piece of literary nonfiction for humanities libraries, especially for illustration studies. It would also make a great addition to sociology collections.

Kamaria Hatcher
Kress Fellow for Public Services
New York Art Resources Consortium

Appendix: Nominations

Other titles nominated by ARLIS/NA members. Listed alphabetically.

Connor Willumsen | Koyama Press

As the Crow Flies
Melanie Gillman | Iron Circus Comics

BLACK, Volume 1
Kwanza Osajyefo, Jamal Igle, Robin Riggs, Tim Smith III, Khary Randolph, and Derwin Roberson | Black Mask Comics

Black Panther: The Complete Collection, Volume 1
Reginald Hudlin, Peter Milligan, John Romita, Jr., Trevor Hairsine, David Yardin, Scott Eaton, Kaare Andrews, Salvador Larroca, and Klaus Janson | Marvel

California Dreamin': Cass Elliot before The Mamas & the Papas
Pénélope Bagieu and Nanette McGuinness | First Second

Crawl Space
Jesse Jacobs | Koyama Press

Everything is Flammable
Gabrielle Bell | Uncivilized Books

Fante Bukowski Two
Noah Van Sciver | Fantagraphics

Fetch: How a Bad Dog Brought Me Home, A Graphic Memoir
Nicole J. Georges | Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Fire !!: The Zora Neale Hurston Story
Peter Bagge | Drawn & Quarterly

The Flintstones, Volume 1
Mark Russell, Steve Pugh, Chris Chuckry, and Dave Sharpe | DC Comics

The Forever War
Joe W. Haldeman, Marvano, Gay Haldeman, and Cat Connery | Titan Comics

Going into Town: A Love Letter to New York
Roz Chast | Bloomsbury

I Am Alfonso Jones
Tony Medina, Stacey Robinson, and John Jennings | Lee & Low Books

My Brother's Husband
Gengoroh Tagame and Anne Ishii | Pantheon Graphic Novels

No Small Plans
Gabrielle H. Lyon, Devin Mawdsley, Kayce Bayer, Chris Lin, and Deon Reed | Chicago Architecture Foundation

One More Year
Simon Hanselmann | Fantagraphics

Nidhi Chanani | First Second

Playground of My Mind
Julia Jacquette | Prestel

Poorcraft: The Funnybook Fundamentals of Living Well on Less
C. Spike Trotman and Diana Nock | Iron Circus Comics

Poppies of Iraq
Brigitte Findakly, Lewis Trondheim, and Helge Dascher | Drawn & Quarterly

Pretending is Lying
Dominique Goblet and Sophie Yanow | New York Review Comics

Ravina the Witch?
Junko Mizuno | Titan Comics

Rise of the Dungeon Master: Gary Gygax and the Creation of D & D
David Kushner and Koren Shadmi | Nation Books

Run For It: Stories of Slaves Who Fought For Their Freedom
Marcelo D'Salete, Andrea Rosenberg, and Kristy Valenti | Fantagraphics

Spaniel Rage
Vanessa Davis | Drawn & Quarterly

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