13 Great Graphic Novels from 2013

By Peter SM RSS Tue, December 31, 2013

2013 was another great year for readers and fans of comic books, specifically graphic novels. While not necessarily a "Top 10" (especially since I selected thirteen!) and definitely not in any order of importance, the following are just thirteen really cool, fun, entertaining, and thought-provoking graphic novels I read and enjoyed in 2013.

Battling Boy by Paul Pope Battling Boy by Paul Pope

You could probably write and illustrate a graphic novel on the time and patience alone it takes to wait for a new Paul Pope book. Battling Boy has been bandied about now since 2006(!) and every once in a while fans would be teased with a splash page of art from Pope's blog. Of course, the wait was worth it, as Battling Boy exploded onto bookshelves this fall with a unique and original superhero for the modern age: a child adventurer who is thrust into an unknown realm and has to learn to not only fight to stay alive, but fight for the inhabitants of this new world. Its manga meets Jack Kirby in this all ages adventure filled with monsters, magic, and mythology, with some time travel thrown into the mix as well. One of the best graphic novels of this year or any year for that matter!

Mind MGMT by Matt Kindt Mind MGMT by Matt Kindt

Meru, a young journalist and true crime writer, stumbles upon the truth behind a mysterious airline flight crash and discovers a secret government agency called "Mind MGMT" made up of super spies, espionage, and psychic abilities. The artwork varies from loose and dreamy pen sketches to chaotic surrealism awash in water colors, all complimenting the story as Meru falls further and further down the rabbit hole. This is one of those books that if you go back a re-read certain sections, you uncover more layers and find new clues (and more questions) every time. Ridley Scott is already attached to produce a movie version of this series, so check out what all the hype is about!

March by John Lewis March by John Lewis and Nate Powell

The autobiographical comic medium meets the historical in March, truly showing the transformative nature of storytelling that is possible within the graphic novel format. Author and United States Congressman John Lewis's attendance at President Obama's 2009 inauguration sets up the framing device for a look back at his life and the civil rights movement as a whole. Lewis takes the reader back to his childhood in 1940's rural Alabama, his life-changing meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr., the birth of the Nashville Student Movement, and their battle to tear down segregation through nonviolent lunch counter sit-ins. This is book one of a planned trilogy, and with great and informative storytelling like this, the next volume can't come out soon enough.

RASL by Jeff Smith RASL by Jeff Smith

Let's say you discovered the lost journals of Nikola Tesla and from those writings were able to make a wearable jet-pack (that was also a time machine, of sorts), but there was some weird lizard-faced detective chasing after you through space and time and you had to fight yourself (or a version of yourself!) to get back home... What's an inter-dimensional art thief / scientist to do? While it may sound confusing and a little cluttered, RASL is the intersection of sci-fi mystery, crime thriller, film noir, and comic book antihero all rolled into one. Wholly original and thrilling with every turn of the page, RASL is definitely worth your time!

Sweet Tooth Wild Game by Jeff Lemire Sweet Tooth: Wild Game by Jeff Lemire

The final volume in Jeff Lemire's post-apocalyptic saga Sweet Tooth, about a hybrid (half boy / half deer) named Gus, a worldwide plague, government scientists, outlaw militias, and other freaks of nature abound. In this collection, the origins of Gus and the hybrid children, as well as the cause of the plague that decimated the world are revealed. Who will survive and is there still a chance to save the world and reverse the damage done? Very emotional storytelling, tense action, and heartfelt dialogue really raise this series up to one of the best in the medium. "Wild Game"  is a poignant and fulfilling end to a great series.

My Dirty Dumb Eyes by Lisa Hanawalt My Dirty Dumb Eyes by Lisa Hanawalt

Surreal, weird, uncomfortable, hilarious, smart, and beautiful are all great adjectives to describe Lisa Hanawalt's My Dirty Dumb Eyes, a collection of  her comics that have been previously published in publications such as New York Times, Vanity Fair, Glamour, Vice Magazine, and McSweeneys. Anthropomorphic existential crises, animals more human than animal and vice versa, movie reviews, outrageous lists, and short essays like “The Secret Lives of Chefs” make Lisa Hanawalt the laugh-out-loud artist and writer of the year hands down!

Fall Guy for Murder and Other Stories by Johnny Craig Fall Guy for Murder and Other Stories by Johnny Craig

Another EC Comics Library collection from Fantagraphics, this time focusing on the work of artist Johnny Craig, who gained notoriety for producing some of the ghastliest and gruesomest covers and stories for the infamous EC Comics in the 1950s. It's a testament to his clean and crisp line work and style that the images he was drawing seemed so life-like, making them even more horrific to audiences (made up mostly of kids) 60 odd years ago and that they can still shock readers today. The 23 featured stories here are mostly taken from the pages of Crime SuspenStories and Vault of Horror comic book series and consist of murderous husbands and wives, executioners, thieving surgeons, vengeful sword-swallowers, private detectives, vampires, werewolves, and ghouls, to name just a few creepy characters. This book also includes in-depth supplemental essays and historical notes on the stories and Craig's life.

Hand Drying in America by Ben Katchor Hand Drying in America and Other Stories by Ben Katchor

Time and NPR picked Hand Drying in America and Other Stories as one of their best books of 2013 and once you read one-page illustrated vignettes such as "The Insomniac's Mansion", "The Public Bench", "The Aisle of Debris", and "The Faulty Switch", you'll see why. Ben Katchor's graphic narratives, with a hurried-yet-detailed drawing style similar to cartoonist Bill Plympton, focuses on urban planning, product design, and architecture are surreal, funny, and a bit depressing in a sad-but-true kind of way. For a cartoonist, he has more vision for urban planning and trying to better society than most of our elected officials. A highly recommended read!

DC Universe Secret Origins by ??? DC Universe Secret Origins by Jack Kirby, Gardner Fox, Gil Kane, Carmine Infantino, Curt Swan, Joe Kubert, and various others

Who is The Martian Manhunter? How does The Flash run so fast? What are the words to the Green Lantern oath? The answers to these questions and many others reside in this essential comic book tome. The origins of Wonder Woman, the Superman/Batman team, The Challengers of the Unknown, the Justice League of America, Aquaman, The Flash, The Atom, Doctor Fate, and many others, told from the Silver Age of comics of the 1950s and 1960s with art by the legends of the medium including Jack Kirby, Carmine Infantino, and Joe Kubert.

Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang Boxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang

Boxers & Saints is a unique experience in graphic storytelling, as it tells two parallel stories of a boy and a girl, both caught in the middle of The Boxer Rebellion, and how through chance and fate wind up in opposite yet similar life-altering situations. Gene Luen Yang, creator of the award-winning American Born Chinese, turns his attention to historical fiction in this newest collection of work, but again as in his previous books, deals with the difficult issues of self-identity, family, politics, and cultural expectations through the eyes and lives of children. The striking illustrations with muted colors add to the overall sense of dread, but never take away from the moments of action and humor interspersed throughout. This is the kind of book that crosses genres and ages, a recommended read for everyone.

Jerusalem A Family Portrait by Tim Boaz Yakin Jerusalem: A Family Portrait by Boaz Yakin and Nick Bertozzi

Filmmaker and author Boaz Yakin's compelling story of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War told in striking black and white artwork. The story follows a Jewish family through three generations of chaos, war, faith, and politics leading up to the war and through the formation of the state of Israel. A very personal and intense work, like graphic novel pioneer Art Spiegelman's Maus before it, Jerusalem is the kind of book that once you are done reading it, you will want to pass it on to someone else and recommend it to others to read.

Relish My Life In The Kitchen by Lisa Knisley Relish: My Life In The Kitchen by Lisa Knisley

When a chef mother and gourmand father have a child, it's no surprise when that child grows up to be a "foodie". Lucy Knisley's entertaining autobiographical comics put the spotlight on her true love and lifelong muse: food. Throughout the book she illustrates how her relationship with food has shaped her family life, friendships, travel experiences, and art. Not only are the stories great, the recipe how-to's and accompanying step-by-step illustrations are even better! Also included in the afterword is a family photo album where much of the inspiration for her comics and stories came from.

Super Graphic by Tim Leong Super Graphic : A Visual Guide to the Comic Book Universe by Tim Leong

A great companion book to closeout my list this year, Super Graphic is a painstakingly researched and assembled collection of illustrated statistics, Venn diagrams, pie charts, timelines, and infographics about everything and anything having to do with the medium and history of comic books, superheroes, and the people who read their adventures. This book is an amazing collection of information from the trivial to the obsessive. Besides the fact, this book's colorful graphics and interesting layout is just great to marvel at (pun intended, natch!)

Search our catalog for these titles and to find more great graphic novels from superheroes and comic strips to autobiographical and manga titles, just to name a few.

Tell us in the comments what were some of your favorite graphic novels that you read in 2013!

Have a happy and well-read New Year!

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